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Digital Electronics: Vixen for Parallel-Port Control

If you want to create elaborate scripts for controlling devices connected via a computer’s parallel port, you should look into Vixen, a free software program that makes it easy to sequence your parallel port with music.

Vixen is a very powerful program that’s designed to work with many types of output devices — not just parallel ports. Its main use is for creating elaborate Christmas lighting displays. When used with a parallel port, Vixen can control up to eight output channels — one for each data pin on the parallel port.

It can handle as many as 3 parallel ports on a single computer, so in theory, you can control up to 24 separate circuits by using parallel ports. Vixen also interfaces with other output devices, some of which are capable of supporting hundreds of ports.

The user interface is essentially a big grid, with each row in the grid representing an output port and each column representing a time interval. Depending on how much precision you want in your sequence, the time intervals can be as small as a fraction of a second or as large as a minute.

After the grid is set up, you program the ports simply by clicking the grid to indicate when each port should be on or off.

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