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Making it nice

Ofcourse, driver software by itself isn't enough for a nice display; you actually have to feed it an image to make it show something. I decided to go for a minimalistic tickertape style of imagery: I whipped up something using libmosquitto, Cairo and Pango. The end result is a program that accepts multiple text definitions over MQTT and then displays these texts in a scrolling fashion on the display. The effect is quite nice, allows for a lot of information to be able to be shown on the display without it looking crowded, and because all the text is moving, the chances of burning in more pixels is lessened.

A nice VFD like this also needs a nice case, obviously. I had some help in this: a friendly colleague didn't mind designing a 3d model of a case for me, and Taobao led me to a shop that could CNC the design out of wood. A few days later I had the case in my hands.

While the case is nice, with every component fitting precisely in the bit it was designed for, it is still made of wood, which can dent and scratch somewhat easily. I decided varnishing it would probably be good for it. In the end, I think I put five or six layers of silk-finish varnish over the wood, and the end result looks somewhat darker and shinier than the original, and more importantly is water-repelling and scratch-resistant.

With the box finished, I only needed to put everything in. For most of the things, that went okay, but I decided I also wanted a light sensor in the box. While I pre-drilled a hole for that before varnishing, I had no way of keeping the sensor itself and the board it sat on in place. Ah well, epoxy to the rescue; it's a good thing there's some space left under the VFD PCB.

The VFD and Raspberry Pi can be screwed in place, and all that needs to be done is the wiring harness. I did all my tests with DuPont wiring, but those wires were too short. Some IDC connectors and flatcable make a better wiring harness.

And with that added, all that was left was screwing the back cover on and giving it a nice place in my house.

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