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Dale’s Theme for 2020 is “Writing”

Pick a Theme

Instead of a “New Year’s Resolution”, CGP Grey suggests picking a broader “theme” for the year:

This year’s theme for me is “Writing”. If you asked me what I do for a living, I’d tell you with a straight face that I was a writer. Your reaction is almost always either a smile, a twinkle in your eye or, at minimum, a raised eyebrow. I know you’re deciding between Ernest Hemingway, J.K. Rowling, Isaac Asimov or Steven King, but then I stop you by saying, “No, no that kind of writer.” The twinkle fades. I then go on to explain that I am a technical writer, dealing in computers, electronics, robots and such. That’s usually the end of the conversation about what I do for a living.

But the last several years have seen no time for proper “writing”, per se. I’ve been much too busy teaching, designing and selling kits on my web site, travelling and taking naps to get any serious writing done. After taking some time to think about these things in more detail, I’ve decided to focus more on writing this year. To do this, I’ve set myself some measurable goals:

“Smart” Writing Goals for 2020

  • A minimum of one book a year for five years
  • A minimum of two magazine articles per year, also for the next five years
  • One major blog post (or mini-series), ~10,000 words, 3-4 posts, per month for twelve months
  • One minor blog post (3-5 paragraphs) per week for 52 weeks

Can you see what I’ve done? I’m accomplishing one of my goals (the last one in the list) right now by telling you this. The good thing about these goals is that they are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based (i.e., “smart” goals). At year end, I will be able to look back and see which of these goals were attainable. In any case, I get to write more, and that mostly means that I get to make time to write more, and those are both things that I enjoy doing.

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Chibi Dale is a serious writer

At the prompting of friend and inspiration Brady Pamplin W5LH, I sat for and passed both the Technician and General Class exams for amateur radio operator at HamCon last month. I now have limited privileges on limited frequencies. This has been something I have wanted to do since I was a Scout (they were called Boy Scouts in my time).

While I was originally issued a ‘systematic’ call sign of KI5FDS (kilo india five foxtrot delta sierra, aka “First Dale in Space”), I applied for and was granted a modification for what is known as a ‘vanity call sign’, which came in today. I can now get ‘Radio Operator’ license plates that say “KI5SME”, as well as participate in important disaster preparedness exercises such as Field Day.

A short dissection: The prefix “KI5” is the currently available code for new licensees in Region 5 (Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas). The suffix “SME” could stand for “subject matter expert”, but it really stands for “someday, maybe Extra”, referring to the “Amateur Extra” class that is the next higher level after General. The official definitions are available at the FCC web site.

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Why the Yellow Banner? This is Why:

The more observant amongst you may have noted a striking, yellow banner emblazoned across the top of each and every one of the pages of this, your favorite web destination. What could be behind such a serious and dire notification? Rest assured, nothing was amiss. I simply wanted to let you know that I would not be able to ship your orders until Monday, because I had slipped the leash, jumped on a plane and jetted to Seattle to help celebrate my granddaughter Olivia’s third birthday. Now I am returned, everything is as it was, orders are shipping as scheduled and I hope you agree with me that it was totally worth it.

Grandpa Dale helps Olivia celebrate her third birthday
Grandpa Dale helps Olivia celebrate her third birthday. Photo by Elizabeth Wheat.
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New Product: 12 LED circle


Today I’m happy to announce a new addition to my blinky LED kit line-up, the aptly-named “12 LED circle“, or 12LEDcircle for short. It’s a small, round PCB with 12 bright blue LEDs around the edge. It comes with a pre-programmed microcontroller that lights up the LEDs in various mesmerizing patterns. You can see a demo of the various blinky modes on my YouTube channel.

The assembly instructions, schematic and source code are all available as well.

Kits are in stock and ready to ship today for $12.95.  Check them out in our store!

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I Wrote Another Book – Building Your Own Electronics Lab

Building Your Own Electronics Lab
Building Your Own Electronics Lab

I wrote another book.  This time it’s about building your own electronics lab, titled Building Your Own Electronics Lab.  It gives the reader a gentle introduction to electricity and electronics and how to safely learn and play with them.  Basic tools and components are discussed and some simple starter projects are presented.  The main idea that I tried to put forward is that the electronics hobby is fun.  It’s also fun to share with others.

The softcover edition is available in my store! You can also find paperback and e-book versions on, or find it at your favorite bookseller using the ISBN 978-1430243861.

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Lux Spectralis 2 Now Available

I’ve updated the popular Lux Spectralis kit! The new Lux Spectrlais 2 kit uses three separate LEDs for the red, green and blue color channels. The circuit still does exactly the same thing (blinks multi-colored LEDs).  This will make it much easier to modify for custom color combinations.  Check out the Lux Spectralis 2 Kit in the store!

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.

Other improvements:

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 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 – Arduino Internals

Over the summer, I wrote a book about Arduino internals, called Arduino Internals. It is being published November 16, 2011 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 can buy your very own copy from our store! It’s also available from Amazon. 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.

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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!