I received an Azevedo NWTS module last week, and got around to building it today, following the clear instruction manual. More about this later.
NWTS is a "NTP to WiFi Time Synchonization" module, primarily intended for Nixie Clocks, but you could also use it for any other purpose where you want a reliable source of time, over a GPS like interface. Azevedo devices worked with Mr.Nixie to come up with a small, neat device that plugs into Mr.Nixie clocks as well as PV Electronics clocks. It's not just limited to those clocks. It should work with any clock that uses the GPS NMEA protocol and standard electrical characteristics (and most clocks do).
I can answer that one: I live in a tall building, with poor line of sight access to a GPS signal. If I try really hard, and put the clock close to the window on the right side of the house, I can eventually get a GPS lock. It takes time, and it's not very reliable. If you're out in the country, it may be way easier to get a good signal, but in a densely populated part of town, it's a problem. At least it's a problem for me.
Apart from that, I don't want my clock near the window on the wrong side of the house. I want it to be where I am most of the time, and where I can see it.
So, in my house, I don't have a good GPS signal, but I do have a good WiFi network, and out there on the net there are NTP (Network time Protocol) servers, which are synchonized to the same atomic clocks as the GPS satellites.
Azevedo and Mr.Nixie came up with an idea to have a WiFi connected device, which pretends to be a GPS module. Neat... Problem solved!
It's a cute little module, and the build was very straightforward using the excellent instructions. You can find the latest manual here. For me, the total build time was about 20 minutes (but I am quite fast). All of the components are through hole, and don't really require any special tools or skill. There is only one thing that requires extra care: the voltage regulator and the transistor have very small TO-92 pads, and you'll have to be careful not to make solder bridges on these.
Apart from that the build is very straightforward and easy to follow. The component count is not huge, and all of the complexity is really on the tiny ESP-8266 module. The ESP-8266 is a tiny "maker" module which combines a micro-controller, (like the one in the clock itself, but more powerful), and a WiFi interface. The ESP-8266 is a miracle of modern electronics. The squiggle on the left of the board is the WiFi antenna, the black chip on the bottom is the controller, and the 8-legged chip above it is the flash EEPROM.
Here is a time lapse of the build process:
After completing the build, I plugged in the module to one of my PV Electronics QTC clocks. Disappointment. Nothing happened. No time synchronization and no difference in the time the clock showed. The build had been so simple that I had skipped over the rest of the manual and had not bothered to read it. Everyone hates reading the manual, but this time I had to do it. There were two things to configure:
Because of where I live, I had never bothered to configure the clock with a GPS interface. Going into the clock configuration, I had to configure the "Radio time signal source" to use GPS (option "4" in my case), and set the baud rate of the interface to 9600 baud (option "1" in my case). Neither of these were the default settings, so you will need to do this step on your clock.
After that, I had to configure up the nwts module. To do this, you have to log into it with a phone, tablet or PC, and tell it the SSID ("WiFi name") and password of your home WiFi network. To do this, you have to connect to the WiFi access point provided by the nwts. I found the task of logging in the first time to be a little fiddly. At first my phone didn't want to connect to it and kept falling back to the WiFi network. After I told the phone to "forget" the home WiFi network it connected correctly and I was able to configure the unit.
After turning everything off and back on again, the tiny blue LED on the ESP-8266 started to blink correctly, and within two seconds, the time was synchronized on the clock!
Here is a video of the process of starting up the clock, and how quickly the time is synchronized:
I use the module on my clock now, simply because it's fast to synchronize and I don't need to touch the clock again. For me, GPS was not an option, as noted before, and I had stopped using the PV Electronics clock because it wasn't as accurate as the phone I carry around with me all the time. The phone is not as cool as the clock, but I don't need a clock that tells me the wrong time. I love the "fit and forget" nature of the module, and now that I have a cool clock that knows the time, I have put the PV Electronics clock back where it was in my living room.
If you want to get one of the Azevedo nwts modules, you have find them on Tindie or by clicking on this button:
Welcome to the Black’n’wood review. I’ve reviewed several other Nocrotec clocks before and this one comes to us from a combination of sources. Dieter of Nocrotec worked with YanZeYuan (严泽远) to develop the electronics for this device. The tubes are sold by Nocrotec.com and the kit components are sold though nixiekitworld.com.
The first thing that you notice is that this device uses end view tubes. The default set are Chinese QS30-1 tubes. These are uncoated tubes with proper 5s and 2s. These are 30mm diameter tubes that use a standard base. Consequently, there are multiple tubes that can work as substitutes. For example, I have swapped out my tubes for the orange-coated GN-4 tubes (more on this later). Nocrotec has a list of substitutes that I have included at the bottom of this review for reference.
While we’re on the topic of tubes it is worth talking about viewing angle. Side view tubes typically have a wider viewing angle (both vertically and horizontally) than end view tubes. On end view tubes, the digits are stacked on top of each other in a small cylinder. This means that the numeral 9 is easier to see than a 6 because the 9 is at the front of the tube and the 6 is at the rear (digits are not stacked in numerical order). This clock is no exception. Because of this, the clock will ideally be mounted somewhere around eye level. I don’t consider this a problem because it is the nature of all tubes like this.
The enclosure clearly follows the design of some of the original Nocrotec clocks. The wooden base and metal plate look nearly identical to my X2000 [http://www.tubeclockdb.com/numitron-clocks/139-video-review-nocrotec-x2000.html]. I am a huge fan of this design; it gives the clock a nice luxury feel. The case itself is 287mm wide, 49mm deep, and 75mm tall (11.3” x 1.9” x 2.9”). The tubes protrude slightly but only by a few millimeters.
A small feature that I wanted to call out is the colon indicator tubes. They are not led; they are tiny neon bulbs. This was done to match the color of the nixie tubes but it also gives the device some subtle detail. For example, the top of the tubes are crimped and this causes the light pattern to be different from any led bulb. The tubes flicker somewhat; you can see the flow inside of the tube bouncing around. You don’t notice these details at first but when you start staring at them you quickly appreciate them.
The tubes are illuminated with blue LEDs which fade on/off every two seconds by default. You can order other colors (ocean green, deep green, white, purple) and if you don’t like the backlights, you can simply disable them. Earlier I mentioned that I swapped out the tubes with orange-coated GN-4s. The tubes are surrounded with foam padding to prevent light leakage from around the tube. With this surround and the orange coating, the backlight is almost completely blocked. Considering that orange and blue are opposites, this is not really surprising but it does mean that if you want to use the backlight feature, you should stick to uncoated tubes.
Keeping track of the time can be done a few different ways. The device comes with an internal crystal so you can simply set this clock like any other and let it run. You can also use a GPS receiver or a DCF77 receiver to set and maintain the time. The DCF77 and GPS options are external devices that you can purchase at a later time. Enabling them is as simple as changing a menu option on the device.
There is another interesting feature that may be of interest to some users. The Mini DIN connector can be uses to switch con and off other devices when then alarm sounds. You will need to add a relay to switch anything but the +5 V output may be interesting to some users.
Overall, this is a solid design. It offers a robust feature set and looks nice at the same time. I’ve been able to play with this clock for a few weeks and I thoroughly enjoy it.
10TU26, 122P224, 154-0327-00, 1970-0002, 5031, 50347, 5037, 5092, 5092A, 6770, 6844A, 8037, 8037(B-5031), 8421, 8421(B-5092), 8421/5092, B-5031, B-5031/6844, B-50347, B-5037, B-5092, B-5092/8421, B-5092A, B-6844A, BD-302, CD102, CD18, CD24, CD26, CD32A, CK6844A, CK8037, CK8421, CV5278, CV9316, CV9732, F9057, F9057A, F9057AA, GN-3, GN-4, GN-4A, GN-4D, GN-4E, GN-4P, GNP-4A, GR10M, HB-106, JAN-6844A, JAN-8037, JAN-8421, JAN-CB-6844A, JAN-CZ-6844A, LC-511, LC-513, LC-513A, M2726-102500, M2726-102600, NE-50347, NL-5031, NL-50347, NL-5092, NL-6844, NL-6844A, NL-8037, NL-8421, ST12C, SZ1-1, SZ3-1, SZ-8, Z510M, Z520M, Z5600M, Z560M, ZM1020, ZM1020/01, ZM1022, ZM1022p
Here is a cool 4 digit numitron clock based off of what appears to be an ardunio. Based on the GitHub description:
Good news, the USB powered Magic Eye Winker from NixieKits.eu is finished! It is based on the same dimensions as the tube board from the Magic Eye VU-Meter (50 mm diameter) this gadget does only one thing: "Winking".
It is powered via USB * and all 6V heater tubes can be fitted. Solder bridges on the bottom side will connect the signals according to the socket needed for the tube.
These tubes can be fitted:
EM80 / EM81 / EM84 / PM84 / EM85 / EM87 / EM800 / EAM86 / 6BR5 / 6DA5 / 6E2 / 6E3P / 4FG6 / 6FG6 / 6DH7 / 6HU6
* it can also be powered from an external battery pack up to 18V, so it is possible to fit tubes with different heater voltages like the UM80 with 19V for example
Want to know more? Ask Jürgen in the forums.