Blinky Programming Troubleshooting Guide


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Here is a troubleshooting guide for blinky programming. Most issues can be solved by trying these things.

  1. Absolutely most important: Ensure that your display’s brightness is at 100%. Even 99% isn’t good enough, as most displays use a high-frequency switching of the backlight off-and-on to simulate reduced brightness, and this switching (while invisible to the eye) can totally mess up the blinky programming.

  2. Are you following the programming process correctly? Here is an animated Blinky Programming How-To Guide. At which step does your experience differ from the animation?

  3. What do you see at the end of the programming process?

  4. An alternating pattern on the 3rd and 4th LEDs - This “checksum error” indicates an issue with the data sensor, that it is recording incorrect data values that is messing up the transmission safety checks. Ensure there are good solder connections to the data sensor, the two resistors, and the chip’s pins.

  5. Nothing happens - This type of error indicates that the clock sensor is missing clock square transitions, and is still expecting more clock transitions. Try increasing your delay to something absurdly large like 3000. If it works, then gradually decrease the delay until you find the smallest value that works reliably. It might help to prop-up the kit on a box or something instead of holding it up to your monitor, especially when using large delay values to troubleshoot the programming process.

  6. If you have a voltmeter or multimeter, try measuring the voltage between ground and the pin marked + on each of the sensors in turn. You should measure a larger voltage when the sensor is pointed at a white square, and a lower voltage when the sensor is pointed at a black square. The voltage varies based on the quality of the soldering connections, the 5% variance of the resistor, and even the sensors have some variance in their conductance. The exact voltage expected doesn’t really matter, as the kit self-calibrates each time you start the programming process (when you press the button while pointing it at the screen, it takes the largest of 16 quick samples to determine each sensor’s “black” value, and then knows that a higher voltage indicates “white”. The threshold is set to 16 higher than the largest observed “black” sensor reading, for each sensor independently. “16 higher” equates to approximately 0.1875 volts) As long as there are at least 0.2 volts difference between black and white (and hopefully 0.5 volts or more difference), you should be fine. You also want to use a really large delay value while measuring voltages, so that your meter has time to auto-range each time it changes.

  7. Try increasing the programming delay to something very large, like 3000. If it works at 3000, then gradually decrease the delay until you find the smallest value that works reliably.

If you need more help, please contact us or post below. Be sure to include the following information:

  1. At which step does your experience differ from the animated programming guide? How does it differ? What do you observe at the end of the website programming process?
  2. What kind of operating system (win/mac/linux/ios), browser (Chrome/Firefox/etc), and screen (LCD/CRT/iphone/etc) are you using?
  3. Have you tried the blinky programming on a different device? Did it work on that device?
  4. What color LEDs does your kit have?
  5. Does the kit work normally (not in programming mode) to display the original messages?
  6. What kind of batteries are you using? Are they fresh? What’s the measured voltage across the capacitor?
  7. Send us high-resolution but still focused photos of both sides of the kits, plus a close-up but still focused photo of the sensors, so we can check that they are installed correctly.

We’re planning to pin this topic on the new forums, and update the troubleshooting guide as we go. Please make suggestions on how to improve the troubleshooting guide, we’re always looking to improve it.


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