BiblioPixel supports a wide array of hardware through its driver system but one of the biggest annoyances was always having to actually have that hardware in order to test your code. That’s why, very early on, we added the visualizer to the library which worked well for small displays, but was never great with high pixel counts or fast framerates. For over two years we’ve wanted to replace it with something better but could never settle on something that would have high performance and run on every operating system that BiblioPixel already does.

But at the 2015 SparkCon, here in Raleigh, we met Michael Clayton who I actually now work with at Red Hat. At SparkCon, Michael showed off his awesome Kimotion project which shows high performance, WebGL-based, animations in a browser using data captured from an XBox Kinect sensor via a Python server. This was clearly perfect for replacing the visualizer in BiblioPixel but the idea remained just an idea for another year while other things were worked on.

But after some further discussion with Michael we decided that, mainly because he is a WebGL wizard, we could probably knock out a new visualizer in a day. So we met up one Saturday and, in about 9 hours, threw together something that put the original visualizer to extreme shame. We call it SimPixel.

This baby will do buttery smooth 60 frames per second with thousands of pixels without skipping a beat. We actually use it to stress test BiblioPixel!

Being that it’s written in JavaScript and WebGL, all you need to run it is any relatively modern web browser. BiblioPixel communicates with it over super fast websockets which actually means you can even connect to another system on the same network for the pixel data.  Check out Michael’s blog post for more information about how SimPixel works. In general, we use it locally on the same machine. This is what enables the bibliopixel demo command in the new BiblioPixel v3.0 to show off the functionality of BiblioPixel without any required hardware. It’s so easy even, that you can go from nothing installed to seeing awesome pixels in 16 seconds!

And because SimPixel is web-based there’s not even anything to install. In the video above, BibliPixel simply opens a browser to SimPixel.io which is all you need. If you do, however, want to see the code (it’s open source, of course!) or run it locally you can find all the details at the SimPixel GitHub repo.

Because of SimPixel, you can easily see BiblioPixel in action with absolutely zero code.

pip install bibliopixel
bibliopixel demo

That’s it! Install BiblioPixel and then run the demo! http://SimPixel.io will automatically launch and connect to the BiblioPixel animations that are now running. SimPixel is also fully supported in BiblioPixel’s new “Projects” feature, meaning you can create your own setup with nothing but some basic configuration.

Stay tuned as we’ll be highlighting more of BiblioPixel’s great new features soon 🙂

It’s amazing to think that nearly 5 years ago, before Maniacal Labs even, I released RPi-LPD8806, which would eventually become BiblioPixel, our pure Python pixel animation framework. Back then it was only for the Raspberry Pi and only for LPD8806 LEDs… and I barely knew Python at the time!

Over the years, it has morphed and grown into a massively capable framework with support for so much more than that original library. But no year in BiblioPixel’s history has been more significant than this last year. I’d always had future plans for it but mainly updates happened as necessary to support other projects I was working on. The most significant, of course, being the AllPixel. But for more than a year now, Tom Ritchford (who actually first contacted me because of RPi-LPD8806 way back in 2013) has taken the vision of BiblioPixel to a whole new level. And if you’ll believe it, this is just the start.

So, who’s Tom? In his own words:

Tom Ritchford has been writing computer programs for a living since 1979. His alter ego Tom Swirly does music, lights and sound with computers for fun. He currently lives in Amsterdam where he is writing a book.

After thousands of emails and hundreds of commits, BiblioPixel 3.0 is faster, cleaner, stronger, happier and in every conceivable way better than it’s predecessor. You will go from zero to blinking lights in under a minute!

What’s new? Just to name a few highlights…

  • Full Python 3.4+ support! (In fact we dropped Python 2 support)
  • Near complete core rewrite that’s faster than ever!
  • Run BiblioPixel with nothing more than a config file, zero code!
  • SimPixel, our all-new WebGL based visualizer. Get started with no hardware at all!
  • Tight integration with BiblioPixelAnimations, our repository of pre-made animations.

Even with all this, it’s still about 90% compatible with all your old code and only requires minimal modifications.

Get started and install now!

Footnotes

  • Talk about blast from the past, here’s a demo video I posted of RPi-LPD8806 from October, 2012:
  • Original post (on a defunct website) I made about the RPi-LPD8806 library which is how Tom got involved.
  • So, what does nearly 5 years of work on BiblioPixel look like? Thanks to gource we get this pretty video:

The recent questioning of if Arduino was fully complying with open source standards reminded us of something… in all the excitement of releasing the new and improved AllPixelMini we forgot to release the new designs! Oops.

Well, fear not as the KiCAD design files for the AllPixelMini are available for your viewing pleasure over on GitHub. And don’t worry, the original AllPixel designs are still available too 🙂

For as long as I can remember I’ve had a strong fascination with renewable energy sources. Not just out of a sense of eco-responsibility (though I did watch a ton of Captain Planet as a child) but also because of the dichotomy between the advanced technology involved and simple elegance of wind, hydro, and solar power. So, my plan has always been to gain grid independence and carbon neutrality and, on March 29th of this year, I’ve finally taken the first step by having solar panels installed on my house.

The above was shot throughout the single day required for NC Solar Now, a local Raleigh company, to install my new 7.15kW solar system. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ve had so many questions about the system, finances, hurdles, etc. that I really should back up a little…

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