Introduction: An Arduino RSS Feed Display

About: Bugtesting from here to infinity and beyond.
This Arduino project will display RSS feed headlines on an LCD via an Arduino and a USB cable. It works quite well, and lets you keep up with the world news while you're sitting at your desk. Many of the values in the code can be changed, and the system can be adapted to display Twitter and other information as well. It uses Python to interface with the Arduino.

All of the code and instruction provided is done so with no guarantee of success. I've bugtested the code to the best of my ability, and it should work in most cases, but certain things can throw it off. Details of such are within.

Step 1: Required Pieces/Parts for the Project

The project requires very few parts, generally things that most people with Arduinos will have lying around somewhere:

(1) Arduino Uno board
(1) Breadboard (I used a MakerShield prototyping shield instead, but a breadboard works just as well, albeit less compact)
(1) LED, your choice of color
(>12) Breadboard cables
(1) 16x2 Character LCD display, compatible with the LiquidCrystal library (works with larger LCD's with tweaking)
(1) Potentiometer, preferably 10K ohms.
(1) USB to USB-B cable (standard USB-to-Arduino cable)

Step 2: Wiring Up the LCD and the LED

The LCD should be wired up as is shown in this picture (given it's a 16x2 LCD that uses the HD44780 driver). Potentiometer controls the contrast. It should also be noted that most LCD's use pins 15 and 16 on the LCD as the +5v and GND for the backlight.

Picture is from Make sure you test it using the "Hello World!" program described. The screen may need to have the contrast turned all the way up for it to display properly.

The LED just goes in digital pin 13 and the GND pin next to it. Make sure the polarity is correct (Longer leg should be the + leg, short legs goes to ground).

Step 3: Getting the Required Software and Libraries

2 pieces of software and 2 Libraries/Extensions are needed for this project to work. The first library is an Arduino Library called LiquidCrystal440. It is available here: It is an updated version of the LiquidCrystal library, and helps deal with some issues when it comes to addressing memory that isn't currently visible on the screen.

Obviously to use the LiquidCrystal440 Library, you will need the first piece of software: The Arduino coding interface, which I assume all Arduino users have (if not, just check the website)

The second piece of software you will need is Python. Python is an easy to learn programming language for the PC, Linux, or Mac. It is available for free here:

The final thing you need is the extension that will let the Python computer program work with the Arduino itself, via the serial cable. The required extension is Pyserial, available here: Make sure you get the correct version of Pyserial to work with your version of Python (2.7 to 2.7, 3.1 to 3.1, etc).

Step 4: The Arduino Code

// This code is for the Arduino RSS feed project, by Fritter
// Read the comment lines to figure out how it works

int startstring = 0;     // recognition of beginning of new string
int charcount = 0;     // keeps track of total chars on screen
#include  <LiquidCrystal.h>  // import the LiquidCrystal Library
LiquidCrystal lcd(12, 11, 5, 4, 3, 2);

void setup() {
         Serial.begin(9600);     // opens serial port, sets data rate to 9600 bps
         lcd.begin(16,2);            // Initialize the LCD size 16x2. Change if using a larger LCD
         lcd.setCursor(0,0);     // Set cursor position to top left corner
         pinMode(13, OUTPUT);

void loop() {
        char incomingByte = 0;   // for incoming serial data
         if (Serial.available() > 0) {        // Check for incoming Serial Data
                 digitalWrite(13, HIGH);
                 incomingByte =;
                 if ((incomingByte == '~') && (startstring == 1)){            // Check for the closing '~' to end the printing of serial data      
                   startstring = 0;                                                                  // Set the printing to off
                   delay(5000);                                                                     // Wait 5 seconds
                   lcd.clear();                                                                         // Wipe the screen
                   charcount = 0;                                                                   // reset the character count to 0
                   lcd.setCursor(0,0);                                                          // reset the cursor to 0,0
                 if (startstring == 1){                                                             // check if the string has begun if first '~' has been read
                   if (charcount <= 30){                                                        // check if charcount is under or equal to 30
                     lcd.print(incomingByte);                                                // Print the current byte in the serial
                     charcount = charcount++;                                             // Increment the charcount by 1 yes I know it's awkward
                   if (charcount == 31){                                                         // if the charcount is equal to 31 aka the screen is full
                     lcd.clear();                                                                        // clear the screen
                     lcd.setCursor(0,0);                                                         // set cursor to 0,0
                     lcd.print(incomingByte);                                                // continue printing data
                     charcount = 1;                                                                 // set charcount back to 1
                 if (incomingByte == '~'){                                                    // Check if byte is marker ~ to start the printing
                   startstring = 1;                                                                  // start printing
                 digitalWrite(13, LOW);
                 delay(10);                                                                            // 10ms delay for stability

Step 5: The Python Code

#import library to do http requests:
import urllib2
#import pyserial Library
import serial
#import time library for delays
import time

#import xml parser called minidom:
from xml.dom.minidom import parseString

#Initialize the Serial connection in COM3 or whatever port your arduino uses at 9600 baud rate
ser = serial.Serial("\\.\COM3", 9600)
i = 1
#delay for stability while connection is achieved
while i == 1:
     #download the rss file feel free to put your own rss url in here
     file = urllib2.urlopen('')
     #convert to string
     data =
     #close the file
     #parse the xml from the string
     dom = parseString(data)
     #retrieve the first xml tag (<tag>data</tag>) that the parser finds with name tagName change tags to get different data
     xmlTag = dom.getElementsByTagName('title')[2].toxml()
     # the [2] indicates the 3rd title tag it finds will be parsed, counting starts at 0
     #strip off the tag (<tag>data</tag>  --->   data)
     #write the marker ~ to serial
     #split the string into individual words
     nums = xmlData.split(' ')
     #loop until all words in string have been printed
     for num in nums:
          #write 1 word
          # write 1 space
          ser.write(' ')
          # THE DELAY IS NECESSARY. It prevents overflow of the arduino buffer.
     # write ~ to close the string and tell arduino information sending is finished
     # wait 5 minutes before rechecking RSS and resending data to Arduino

Step 6: Getting It to Work.

Upload the Arduino Code to the Arduino itself. Put the Python code into a .py file. If all goes according to plan, if you run the .py file, you should see the text start appearing after about 10 seconds. Every time a word is outputted, the LED should flash as well.

If it doesn't work:

Check the port in the python file. Your Arduino may be labeled differently or be numbered differently.

Check that the RSS feed doesn't have a ~ in the data. That will throw things out of whack.

Try running the .py file from the command line as an administrator. Sometimes the script doesn't have proper permissions to access the COM ports.