Help with LED strips

Long story short, I need 10 strips of these Digital RGB LED Weatherproof Strip - LPD8806 32 LED : ID 306 : $149.75 : Adafruit Industries, Unique & fun DIY electronics and kits LEDs, each 1 meter in length circling a column.

I just bought my first arduino and want to modify the default patterns if possible. I'm new to both programming and electronics, so I'd just like some basic pointers to not damage my new project before I even learn how to use it. How many LEDs can I power without overheating the arduino? Should I power the strips separately from the chip?

Thanks with any input, as I actually get going on this project, I'm sure I'll have more questions.

You need to power them separately. They pull a lot more current than the Arduino can provide. Power them separately, connect the Arduino GND to the strip GND, and use the signal lines from Arduino to drive the color patterns. Much like what I did here:

very nice! I'm guessing those little 'droplet' effect moving downwards with the tail dimming was pretty difficult. I hope I can get mine to do something that cool :slight_smile:

Not really. Everything is based on loops across the string. Assume you start with the entire string OFF:

Set LED 1 to color and full intensity.

Now loop the following:
move the current data down one spot, so LED 2 now has the information that LED 1 just had
set LED 1 to the same color and (intensity = intensity - 50%)

With the intensity decaying 50% with each loop and the data being pushed down one spot each time, you get the dimming effect as if the "drop" travels the string.

Same thing for the double decay (where it starts in the middle and travels both up and down) Just need to break the string in half and push data out accordingly.