Freetronics TwentyTen is here

Wed, Jun 16 2010: Filed under Cool Stuff

Posted by Jonathan Oxer

It's kinda old news now but I totally forgot to post about the Freetronics TwentyTen! Things have been so busy that I haven't been updating the Practical Arduino site as often as I should, so sorry about that.

So without further ado, here it is: our version of the Arduino Duemilanove, but with a bunch of improvements applied.

Freetronics TwentyTen

The basic philosophy we followed when designing the TwentyTen (which is named in homage to the Arduino Duemilanove, which means "2009" in Italian) was that we wanted to stay true to the original spirit of the Duemilanove while fixing a few things that bugged us about it. Our little thought-experiment was "what would we want the successor to the Duemilanove to look like?"

I could write a heap more about it, but it's already well written up on the Freetronics site so please check it out there!

Talking Poker Timer

Wed, Jun 16 2010: Filed under Cool Stuff

Posted by Jonathan Oxer

Practical Arduino reader Pat James has used the Speech Synthesizer project in a creative way: he's linked it to a timer for tracking poker game rounds. He and his buddies have a weekly Texas Hold 'Em tournament with 20 minute limit per round, and they needed a way to keep track of how long each round has taken.

See more on Pat's blog.

Modelling river systems with Arduino water flow gauge

Tue, May 4 2010: Filed under Cool Stuff

Posted by Jonathan Oxer

Yet another spin-off I could never have predicted is a group in Illinois who have used the water flow gauge project in a river-system simulator. This is uber-cool:

As Steve Gough mentions in the blog post "Open source science tools at LLRD", river simulators normally require use of US$600 flow gauges and being able to do the same thing for about $75 with an Arduino and a few other parts is a big deal. Check out their excellent work at

Slides and code from Justin Mclean's Arduino Miniconf talk

Mon, Feb 15 2010: Filed under Cool Stuff

Posted by Jonathan Oxer

One of the many excellent presentations at the recent Arduino Miniconf in Wellington, New Zealand, was Justin Mclean's "Putting your device in the browser and on the web". Justin's talk demonstrated use of a Flash object in a browser displaying data acquired by an Arduino, and also controlling the Arduino based on user actions.

It was a really impressive demo because the latency was so small: in one demo, quite rapid analog samples were pushed to a dynamically updating graph that scrolled across the screen. Justin has put his slides and example code up on his blog. He's also doing a talk at the Web Standards Group in Sydney on February 24th, so if you're in town make sure you go along. He's a great speaker with some excellent tech to demonstrate so it'll be well worth it. 

Standardizing comms for Arduino shields

Sun, Jan 31 2010: Filed under Cool Stuff

Posted by Jonathan Oxer

A couple of weeks ago I came across Andrew Oke's interesting DIY Labs blog showing some of the cool stuff he's working on with Arduino. His main project is currently Arduarium (an Arduino-based aquarium controller) which looks really neat in itself, but what got my attention is a series of shields he has designed.

One of the problems with typical shields is that not only do they use a wide variety of methods to communicate with the host, but most of the time they don't even indicate on the header which pins they use. This is a personal bugbear of mine that I've ranted about in the past, and often it renders shields mutually exclusive: if there's contention on the pins required you may not be able to stack certain combinations of shields together.

Andrew's very sensible solution to this problem is to standardize on I2C comms between the Arduino and all shields, and to use consistent pin assignments. That way all you need to do is make sure each shield has a unique I2C address, plug them all together, and away you go. Check out these shields he's already designed:

pH / ORP shield

Port Expander shield

I2C / SPI / OneWire shield

RTC / EEPROM shield

Very, very interesting. I'm seriously thinking about adopting Andrew's I2C / pinout standard for my own future shield designs. It would certainly be a big improvement on the current ad-hoc shield pinout situation if more people started using his idea consistently. 

Erdem's Google Reader keyboard

Thu, Jan 14 2010: Filed under Cool Stuff

Posted by Jonathan Oxer

Reader Erdem Yildrimer emailed me a few days ago with a question about a key-bounce problem he's had with buttons he's using for the Virtual USB Keyboard project, and he's now solved that problem and finished assembling a virtual keyboard. The end result is rather funky!

He's used a red Sparkfun cardboard packing box as the project case, and mounted nine buttons in it to let him control Google Reader using his custom keyboard.

I love it! He's posted about it on his blog in Turkish:

ProtoStack AVR prototyping board updated

Thu, Jan 7 2010: Filed under Cool Stuff

Posted by Jonathan Oxer

You know those really annoying ads where some random person says "I thought of making icons clickable, so Windows 7 was my idea!" as if they single-handedly wrote millions of lines of code and were gracious enough to allow Microsoft to use it?

Yeah, I hate those ads too.

I hate the way they pander to the egos of people who once had a random $OBVIOUS_IDEA that had only been thought of about 13.2 million times previously, and imagined that somehow they were the first person to ever think of it. Anyhoo, enough ranting. Coz this time somebody really did revise a product, and I really did think of it. But at least I don't imagine I was the first!

Way back when I still had hair I did a video product review of ProtoStack's AVR prototyping shield. A couple of things I mentioned in the video were that it would be nice to have clearer marking on the power busses and a pre-defined power supply to save having to DIY a PSU on part of the prototyping area. Well, Daniel at ProtoStack has done it!

He's taken an already very sweet board and dipped it in the magic water, and when he pulled it out it was even better than before. This is a brilliant board for prototyping with 28-pin AVRs, so if you like to roll-your-own Arduino prototypes you should definitely check it out:

I'm not being paid for this post, honest. I just really like these boards. 

Video of rocket launch with Arduino payload

Mon, Jan 4 2010: Filed under Cool Stuff

Posted by Jonathan Oxer

One of the projects I really wanted to include in Practical Arduino was Artemis (Arduino Rocket TEleMetry and Instrumentation System) designed by Andy Gelme, Luke Weston, Michael Borthwick, and Pete Yandell, with assistance and advice from a number of other Connected Community Hackerspace members.

Last week a few of us managed to sneak off to a launch location near Melbourne and do a couple of launches with Artemis in a de-powered class-G rocket (to keep it under the airspace clearance limit) and a class-C carrying an Arduino Pro Mini with an accelerometer. We had 4 video cameras on the launches (two on tripods, two hand-held) and Andy has just posted some of the video he took on his iPhone.

More video and info to follow once we've deciphered the GPS, pressure sensor, and accelerometer data collected from Artemis. 

Toddler + Arduino + Twitter = Twoddler

Mon, Dec 14 2009: Filed under Cool Stuff
Posted by Jonathan Oxer Thanks to @arjenlentz for pointing me in the direction of this project! Combining a Fisher-Price Activity Center with a couple of Arduinos and an XBee module allows it to sense activity and send Twitter updates as it is used. Creepy or cool? Read more on the original site to find out more.

Knock-pattern door lock

Wed, Nov 4 2009: Filed under Cool Stuff
A work colleague just pointed out this cool project to me. It uses a piezo element to detect knocks on a door, and then processes the pattern to figure out if it matches a pre-set acceptable "secret knock". If the pattern is acceptable it uses a motor to turn the lock handle and unlock the door. The original project site is here but the traffic level seems to have knocked it offline, so in the meantime you can read more about it at Gizmodo and Make. Very nice work.

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