Wouldn’t it be fun to add bright, beautiful NeoPixels to your Raspberry Pi project? However NeoPixels, and the WS2811/2812 LEDs that make them up, require a data signal with very specific timing to work correctly. Because the Raspberry Pi runs a multi-tasking Linux operating system it doesn’t have real-time control over its GPIO pins and can’t easily drive NeoPixels. Typically a small microcontroller like a Trinket or Teensy can be used to communicate with the Raspberry Pi and generate the NeoPixel data signal. However thanks to the excellent rpi_ws281x library created by Jeremy Garff, you can now control NeoPixels or WS2811/WS2812 LEDs directly from your Raspberry Pi!
Jeremy’s library solves the real-time control problem by using the PWM and DMA hardware on the Raspberry Pi’s processor. The PWM (pulse-width modulation) module can generate a signal with a specific duty cycle, for example to drive a servo or dim an LED. The DMA (direct memory access) module can transfer bytes of memory between parts of the processor without using the CPU. By using DMA to send a specific sequence of bytes to the PWM module, the NeoPixel data signal can be generated without being interrupted by the Raspberry Pi’s operating system.
Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on code.org, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, or even use Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for MakeCode, CircuitPython, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.
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