Archive for the ‘News’ Category.

Closed for a Week

I’ll be gone from Saturday, 15 October 2011 to late Monday, 24 October 2011. There’s really no good way to get in touch with me in the interim.

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!

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.

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.

Errata for Breadboard Arduino Article in MAKE vol. 25

See the correction on the MAKE magazine web site:

The text on page 65 concerning hooking up the right-side power connection is reversed.  The photos are correct.  Thanks to all the sharp-eyed readers out there that caught this for me!

Breadboard Arduino Class at Pumping Station: One

Patrick Callahan of Pumping Station: One, a Chicago hackerspace, will be presenting a “Breadboard Arduino” class on Saturday, 12 February 2011 at 4PM.  Follow this link to find out more about the event or to sign up (4 seats left as of this writing):

Short Vacation – Today’s orders shipped on Monday

I’m taking my loving, talented and overworked wife on a short road trip.  We leave this morning and will return Sunday.  Orders placed today, Friday, 28 January 2011 will ship Monday, 31 January 2011. If you placed an order yesterday, Thursday, 27 January 2011, your order is on its way to the Post Office, but you will not receive a shipment notification (from me) until Monday.

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!

12V Dimmer Kit V2 Now Available

12V Dimmer Kit V2

12V Dimmer Kit V2

Here it is, finally! The12V 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.

Asymptotically Approaching Graduation

Recently I’ve described myself as a “full-time freelance writer and part-time student”. This semester (Fall 2010) it turns out I’m a full-time student. I just counted up my hours and after exhausting all the available digits, I removed one shoe and discovered I was taking 14 hours, which most people consider full-time status. I have had the pleasure of knowing younger, more ambitious students who were taking 20 and 24 hours in a single semester, but I think we can agree those people are crazy. Or doctors by now.
After reviewing my scholastic accomplishments with one of the fine counselors at the local community college, it occurred to me that I could graduate in the spring if I just worked a little harder. I must admit that this idea holds a certain amount of fascination.
Wish me luck!