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New Product: 12 LED circle

12LEDcircle

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 Amazon.com, 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, apress.com.
This was a very exciting project for me. It’s my first book. I hope you enjoy it.

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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:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8_blYCyt_8

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

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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

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.

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Welcome MAKE Readers!

MAKE vol 25 features a little article I wrote about building a “Breadboard Arduino”.  You can buy a kit that contains all the parts for $40.  Click on the giant “Buy Now” button to order one today!

The kit includes everything you need:  a solderless breadboard, jumper wires, a pre-programmed ATmega328P with pin label, USB adapter and basic components to perform the basic “software experiments” in the article.  You need:  a computer with a spare USB port that can run the free Arduino IDE software and a USB A to mini-B cable.

The first 99 buyers also get the “Li’l Larson LED Scanner Expansion Pack”, for free!  OK, it’s just 5 red LEDs and some more jumper wires but you do get a really nice, custom laser-cut LED bezel for maximum Cylon (or K.I.T.T.) action!


Breadboard Arduino Kit
Breadboard Arduino Kit contains all the parts you need to build a Duemilanove-compatible microcomputer with your bare hands - no tools required!

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12V Dimmer Kit V2 Now Available

12V Dimmer Kit V2
12V Dimmer Kit V2

Here it is, finally! The 12V Dimmer Kit V2 is now available.  You can buy one in my on-line store for only $14.95.  They are also available from BG Micro in Dallas TX.

What is a 12V Dimmer Kit V2, you ask?  It’s an especially efficient PWM (pulse-width modulation) controller for 12V loads up to 60W.  Use it to variably dim LEDs or control the speed of DC motors.  It comes as a kit and you solder it together.

Have a look at the User Manual and Assembly Instructions (1MB PDF).  I’ve also got a schematic diagram available for your inspection.  The source code for the microcontroller is also freely available, if you’d like to tinker around with its innards, or just take a peek.

The 12V Dimmer Kit V2 is both new and improved.  “How can it be both?” you ask.  I’m glad you asked.  This is a redesign of of my previous 12V Dimmer Kit and includes several improvements in both the hardware and the software.  I’ve also added some completely new features that were not present in the original kit, so that makes it new as well.  See?  Aren’t you glad you asked?

This kit started out as a simple dimmer for one of my IR Spotlights.  A customer in the UK wanted to photograph bats at night and needed a variable infrared source for his camera.  I built two of those dimmers and they worked well for the intended purpose, but I was never really sure how well it would work in other applications.  Another customer showed me a kit he was buying from overseas and I thought I might try making my own.  It worked pretty well at about 25W and sold out every time I built a batch of them.  Unfortunately, I had designed in a component that was once cheap & plentiful in the surplus chain but one day ran dry.  It took a long time to find an adequate replacement that I could count on.  Once I did, I sat down and started designing the new version, hoping to basically duplicate the success of the previous circuit and make a couple of small improvements while I was at it.

Then yet another client wanted a custom version of the dimmer that was operated by a simple push button instead of a dial.  I could get so much work done if it wasn’t for these pesky customers!  (tee hee hee)  The push button version worked well enough, and it made me want to add that as a feature to the existing dimmer kit.  That was kind of tricky!  The upshot is that the new (and improved!) 12V Dimmer Kit V2 will work with either the dial adjustment (a potentiometer) or the push button – or both.

I also wanted to up the power-handling capacity to at least 50W.  I added an extra amplifier stage to the output driver, and was able to get the new kit to handle up to 60W without a heat sink on the output transistor.  It gets a little warm but not much (i.e., you can leave your finger on it).

Thanks to all my beta testers for helping me test the unit in the field, point out obvious bugs and even blow units up.  Your help and attention to detail (and abuse of poor, innocent electronics) has made this a much better product than I could have possibly made by myself.

Let me know what you think in the comments.