Dr. Scott M. Baker

GE iTwinkle 36 LED Christmas light teardown and hacking

by admin on Nov.22, 2014, under Electronics Projects

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I’ve been fun hacking GE G35 color effects light sets for this Christmas. Unfortunately, these sets seem to have dried up for this season, but fortunately a newer version, the iTwinkle is available. You can find the iTwinkle sets at Lowes for $70. I stopped at my local Lowes on 11/21, and there were dozens of boxes of the things. What a relief, it’s a much better price per bulb than paying $130 for an old GE35 set on Amazon. The following series of shots shows me unboxing the set, and then disassembling the controller to get a look at the electronics.

To get to the punchline about hackability, just skip to the bottom of the page.

The box is not unlike the 50 bulb “GE35 color effects” sets. The key difference is: 36 bulb vs 50 bulb, no included RF remote, and bluetooth compatibility.

Unboxed:

The PSU should look familiar:

Lots of internet sources talk about the difficulty in removing the weird triangle screws and needing to buy a special screwdriver. This flathead precision screwdriver, purchased from Harbor Freight in a set for $3, fits the triangle just right and removes them with ease.

What’s inside the controller:

Although the order of wires as they enter the bulbs is the same as the older color effects sets, note that the order as they enter the controller is different:

Now, the big question… Can these be hacked in exactly the same way as the older bulbs? The answer appears to be YES. I cut off the controller and wired the set to my Parallax Propeller board just like the older GE35 sets. It worked fine.

Some resources:

My article on building my Propeller / Raspberry Pi based controller

Robert Quattlebaums excellent article that explains the protocol to hack GE35 color effects bulb sets (this will tell you everything you need to know to interface these bulbs to an arduino or propeller)


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