So we're in the middle of staging - literally - 7 weeks down, 7 weeks to go til soft opening. Which means practising transitions between scenes. And that means loading artists to fly, waiting for 5 minutes while Stage Manglement change their minds, decide not to go, decide to go after all, and finally flying people.

The trouble is, of course, we have hard limits on how long we can keep an artist suspended. After 10 minutes, they come down, no matter what Stage Manglement say. Thus far, we've been relying on Matt's mobile phone, which is fine until he leaves it in his locker, or forgets to look at it, or whatever.

So I built us a nice big bright 7-segment LED timer to count to ten.

And then I stuck Hello Kitty wrapping paper on it. As one does. I call it engaging with the local culture. Now it looks just like the little modded cars they drive here!

The heart of it is a Boarduino from the incomparable Lady Ada. The Boarduino is absolute overkill, but given that I have little patience for assembly language these days, and even less patience for setting up and massaging microcontroller programming environments, the Boarduino or Arduino saves me time and effort. A good rigger is a lazy rigger! There are some 74HC164 shift registers in there to keep it company, because they're what I had lying around. Version 2 will have a MAX7221, or at least some proper shift registers, but hey, you work with what you have.

The shift registers allow me to use a single data line for all the 7-segments, and then a dedicated clock line per 7-segment. It would have been nice if they daisychained, but if they do, I missed it.

Note the nice knob on the pot for brightness control. We are, after all, a highly professional operation. And I didn't have pink.

And, of course, the Big Red Button. Now all Matt has to do is slap the button on top and the timer starts:

Slap it again, and the screen clears, except for the 2 LEDS in the middle, which turn blue:

After 8 minutes, the central LEDs turn red, which is my compromise between alerting us and alarming the artists. They are, after all, such delicate flowers....

At some point, I'll make v2.0, which will have proper 7-segment LED drivers, and cleaner code. Should I stick with the Hello Kitty enclosure, or move on to something else? If something else, what? Comments to the usual address