post #11 of 11
What, wiring up an Arduino to run the strips? Not all that hard. Arduino is really easy to learn. If you know nothing about Arduino, it is a small microcontroller board with a USB connection and pin headers with inputs and outputs. Some I/O are digital (on or off), while others are analog (and can be fed a PWM value). PWM is how you vary the power going to a channel of LEDs. In essence, it is turning the power on and off very rapidly. The longer the gaps between power on, the dimmer the LEDs will be. Since the Arduino isn't capable of driving more than a couple LEDs directly per channel, you switch the power through a transistor. It's all pretty easy if you break it down piece by piece, use Google Search, look for Arduino tutorials, etc. You could even find Arduino code for doing lighting patterns.

I've only barely begun messing around with the Arduino myself, and I certainly don't count myself as an electronics genius. I'm certainly competent to hook things up without letting out the magic blue smoke. My playing with the Arduino so far has consisted of making some rather cool strobe light patterns for sci-fi police vehicles which I couldn't do without a microcontroller, and loading up a program to make floppy drives play music. It's a blast to play with, and I highly recommend it.

Programming can be as simple as [wait XX milliseconds] [send PWM value (0-255) to PIN4]. It's really pretty simple to do the basic stuff. Once you go beyond the really basic stuff, you can add sensors and have it react to sensor input by displaying different colors or patterns on the LEDs.