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. 

Project kits from Toys Down Under - with a twist

Mon, Feb 8 2010: Filed under Projects

Posted by Jonathan Oxer

This morning while looking for other things on the Toys Down Under site I discovered that they've now listed kits for a few Practical Arduino projects: the Appliance Remote Control, the Virtual USB Keyboard, the PS/2 Keyboard / Mouse, the Touch Control Panel, and the Speech Synthesizer. That in itself is quite cool but what's really interesting is that they're offering them as "spec your own kit" fully customisable packages.

Rather than just a regular kit containing every part as you'd expect, they've set a base price of $0 for every kit and then made all the parts in the kits optional. They've also listed a few extras such as a Duemilanove and an Arduino Starter Kit as optional parts. That's really cool because it gives you lots of flexibility. If you already have an Arduino and most of the parts required for a specific project you can order just what you're missing, or at the other end of the scale you can start with nothing and order every single part plus an Arduino, giving you everything you need all in one convenient package.

Clever. Check it out:

It must be a total pain for them to manage inventory (not to mention pick-n-pack) when doing it this way, but from the customer's point of view it's brilliant. 

Weather Station Receiver project modified for Jaycar weather station

Thu, Feb 4 2010: Filed under Projects

Posted by Jonathan Oxer

Reader Kayne Richens from Melbourne/Australia built the Weather Station Receiver hardware as described in the book, but because he has a different type of weather station the original software wouldn't work. With the assistance of Marc Alexander (one of our Tech Reviewers for the book and author of the original Weather Station Receiver software) he modified the software to allow it to process data from a BIOS/Thermor DG950R weather station purchased from Jaycar.

You can learn more about it on his blog at Great work, Kayne! 

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. 

Hugh and Jon video interview by Marcus Schappi of Little Bird

Tue, Jan 19 2010: Filed under News

Posted by Jonathan Oxer

Right after the Arduino Miniconf ended Marcus Schappi of Little Bird Electronics trapped Hugh and I in a corner and asked us a few questions.

Arduino Miniconf at LCA2010

Tue, Jan 19 2010: Filed under News

Posted by Jonathan Oxer

Wow, it's all over! The Arduino Miniconf at LCA2010 was a blur of craziness but I had an absolute blast. It was the most fun conference event I've been to in, well, ever. It started with a hardware assembly session to give all the software geeks a chance to use a soldering iron (some for the very first time) and build their own Pebble shield.

By lunchtime about 30 people had finished assembling their boards, and there were a lot of happy hackers around when they powered up their Arduino and got messages up on the LCD.

Both Vik Olliver and Patrick Herd brought along RepRaps to entertain the crowd. The morning assembly session and the early-afternoon "Introduction to the Pebble" sessions were run by Andy Gelme (seen in the white T-shirt and blue cap with his back to the camera above) who did an awesome job, and he was followed by a great line-up of speakers. A big thankyou to those who spoke at the miniconf:

  • Andy Gelme
  • Justin Mclean
  • Philip Lindsay
  • Peter Chubb
  • Nathan Seidle
  • Vik Olliver
  • Marcus Schappi

Truly a 5-star line-up, and with a great range of interesting topics that sparked lively discussion.

Thanks also to all the helpers: the reason the hardware session worked out so well was that we had about 16 experienced people willing and able to give their own time to help out those with less experience. We ended up with a helper:participant ratio of about 1:2 and paired up participants, so every pair had at least one helper and nobody was left floundering around on their own.

Two participants got minor solder burns (not enough to need proper first aid, more of the "ow, that hurt!" variety) so to make it up to them they both received prizes.

Speaking of which, we were lucky enough to have Apress provide a few copies of Practical Arduino and Nice Gear provide vouchers for two Duemilanoves and a pair of XBee modules, which we then distributed to participants. There are a bunch of other people who contributed to the success of the Miniconf including many members of Connected Community Hackerspace in Melbourne who pre-assembled many of the hardware packs. Mitch Davis, in particular, chased down cheap deals on parts so we could make it as cheap as possible for everyone to take part.

Finally, but perhaps most importantly of all, a big thankyou to Luke Weston who put in so much work preparing the Pebble hardware and then didn't even get to attend the Miniconf. The Pebble PCB is his design, and while everyone at the Miniconf in Wellington was having fun assembling his creation he was sitting in Melbourne watching it on a live stream and wishing he was there. Luke, your efforts are greatly appreciated by a lot of people.

I'll follow up later with links to slides and other resources for the various talks delivered during the Miniconf.

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:

Would you be interested in kits for Practical Arduino projects?

Fri, Jan 8 2010: Filed under News

Posted by Jonathan Oxer

Something that surprised me is how many people have told me they'd be interested in kits for projects in Practical Arduino. Hugh and I just assumed that people would arrange their own parts, particularly if they're intending to use the book as a starting point and then put their own personal twist on the designs.

But I can understand why a kit would be convenient even for an experienced maker, and as someone mentioned it would be nice to be able to give a gift of the book plus a kit. That way the recipient would have everything they need to get started right away rather than being frustrated at not having the parts.

So, what do you think? If we put up a little online store with a few kits, would you be interested in them? If so, which ones? What I have in mind is to bundle up something like a prototyping shield along with all the parts required for the project. Ultimately we could do kits with specific PCBs to suit each project, but as a starting point just having a prototyping shield with all the parts is probably enough to give people a head start. Talk to me, people!

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. 

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