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Lux Spectralis 2 Now Available

I’ve updated the popular Lux Spectralis kit.  The circuit still does exactly the same thing (blinks multi-colored LEDs).  I simplified the whole thing and reduced the component count.  This will make it easier to assemble.  You can download your own copy of the assembly instructions.

The new Lux Spectrlais 2 kit uses three separate LEDs for the red, green and blue color channels.  This will make it much easier to modify for custom color combinations.  The new PCB is a little bit smaller than the previous version.  It uses electroless nickel immersion gold (ENIG) plating on all the electrical contacts, which has its own advantages, electrically, but I did it because it’s more beautiful and contrasts well with the black solder mask.

The kits still comes with a 3xAAA battery holder with a built-in power switch.  The lighting modes are identical to the previous version.  The price remains the same.

Lux Spectralis 2

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I Wrote a Book

Over the summer, I wrote a book about Arduino internals, called Arduino Internals. It is being published today by Apress. It has a lot of detailed information about Arduinos as well as Atmel AVRs. There are several projects in the book that illustrate some of the topics. It’s a paperback book that runs to just over 350 pages. There’s also an “ebook” available in several popular formats.
You should be able to buy your very own copy today from Amazon with a nice little discount and free Super-Saver shipping. You can also go to your favorite book seller and buy a copy. Just use the ISBN number 978-1430238829. To buy the ebook, go to the book’s page on the Apress web site,
This was a very exciting project for me. It’s my first book. I hope you enjoy it.

Update:  The publication date has been bumped to November 16, 2011.  I don’t know why.

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Going to Maker Faire!

I’m going to Maker Faire this weekend, May 21st & 22nd! Most of the time, I’ll be in or around the Maker Shed, explaining how vitally important it is to have more blinky LEDs in your life. I’ll also be making a couple of short presentations. Saturday at 11am I’ll be talking about the Breadboard Arduino project. Sunday at 4:30pm I’ll demonstrate the Tiny Wanderer robot. If you can, please come out and say hi!

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Blue is the New Black

I ran out of black jumper wire for the Breadboard Arduino kits. This was entirely a planning failure on my part. I started using blue wire. I hope you don’t mind too much.

In no particular order, here are my reasons (justifications?) for making the change. I didn’t want to hold orders until more black wire could be obtained. I didn’t want to continue buying Velleman hookup-wire sampler kits as this was not cost-effective. The blue wires are prettier, in my opinion. The red+blue motif matches the printed stripes on the power rails of the breadboards.

For those of you that are even more resistant to change than I am, let me reassure you: Blue Wires work the same as Black Wires. I promise.

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Build a Wee Blinky Using Incandescent Bulbs

You can build the Wee Blinky kit using incandescent bulbs instead of the supplied LEDs.  Just omit D1, D2 (the LEDs) and R1 and R4 (the current-limiting resistors for the LEDs).  Connect one lead of an incandescent bulb to the bottom lead of where the LED was supposed to go, then the other lead to the bottom lead of where the resistor was supposed to go.  Repeat for the other side.

Here is a YouTube video using 12V incandescent bulbs:

It gives a very warm, retro look to the Wee Blinky!  Let me know what you think.

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Lux Spectralis Sold Out

The beautiful copper-on-black Lux Spectralis PCBs are all gone.  Whimper.  This actually caught me by surprise.  Well, time to make some more.

I’ve re-designed the Lux Spectralis to make it simpler to assemble.  I’ve omitted all the extra transistors and replaced the hard-to-find RGB LED with three individual, high-output LEDs.  Now you can mix & match!  How about a “Purple Haze” Lux (red, blue, UV)?  Under-the-Sea Lux (green, cyan, blue)?  Or a toasty Fire Lux (red, orange, yellow)?

I’ve got prototype PCBs coming in the mail and as soon as I’m happy with the new, simplified circuitry I’ll have a big batch of them built.  This will take about a month, so please be patient!

If you’re heart is set on one of the older Lux Spectralis kits, a few are still available at the Maker Shed.  Until the end of February 2011, buy one Lux Spectralis for $10 and get a second one for half price ($5)!  Use code SHINY.

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Dale Wheat’s USB to TTL Adapter

Photo of Dale Wheat's USB to TTL adapter
Dale Wheat's USB to TTL adapter

Yes, that’s what it’s called. I’m not too creative when it comes to naming products. I try to be descriptive; sometimes I succeed.

This is a minimalist USB-to-TTL adapter for use on a solderless breadboard. I designed this to use with my Breadboard Arduino class. It’s based on the FTDI USB UART chip, which is the same, identical chip used on “real” Arduinos, so it uses the same, identical drivers and works on most PCs. The only differences are that it is tiny, it plugs into a breadboard and lines up with the RESET, TXD and RXD pins of an ATmega328 chip (the Arduino main-brain) and it says “Dale Wheat’s USB to TTL” when you plug it in the first time. I make these here in the lab, by hand.

Here is the schematic (PDF, EAGLE) and the PCB layout (EAGLE). I program each chip with a unique serial number to prevent COM port build-up. I use the MPROG 3.5 utility from FTDI with these settings.

Originally I was only selling these USB-TTL adapters with the Breadboard Arduino kit, but due to popular demand, I am now selling it separately in my online store. You’re more than welcome, however, to make your own using the files provided above. The entire design is placed by me in the Public Domain. Go nuts.

There have been some USB-TTL failures in the field from the very first batch of 100. These are being investigated to try to improve their reliability. Every disappointing and frustrating failure is an opportunity for improvement. If you are having problems with your USB-TTL adapter, please feel free to contact me to see what might be the matter with it. I expect machines and tools to perform their function without a lot of fuss. I’d also like people to use these little gizmos to build interesting and fascinating things and not have to spend lots of time trouble-shooting the components.