Getting more serious about DIY electronics and circuitry but don’t have an extensive workbench setup yet? Test equipment is an important part of any workshop, and a digital multimeter (DMM) is one of the most important pieces of test equipment you can own. From measuring current and voltage, to testing capacitors, to waiting for the reassuring “beep” of continuity, you’ll pull out your multimeter for almost every project you build.
GPS trackers are always interesting because they’re so versatile. Location-based services have exploded in the last couple of years, and are poised for more growth as we get further into the 2010’s. At the heart of all of these services is a GPS tracker, and a method of transmitting position data to a server, where a provider (or hacker) can do something useful with it.
A post on Embedded Lab that discusses using a CMOS camera for sensing applications caught our eye today. Traditionally, to process the output from a CMOS you need some serious number-crunching power, and common lore holds that most 8-bit microcontrollers aren’t up to the task. However, Ibrahim Kamal from IKALOGIC has written an article that explains how you can use a CMOS to replace rudimentary image or light sensors such as photo diodes.
By reducing the captured resolution, discarding color data, and potentially converting the pixel values to binary information, you can still receive useful input but can parse it with a low-cost, low-power processor. In this way, an 8-bit chip can open the door to basic image processing, allowing for lots of possibilities in robotics or other projects.
The article includes an example that hooks up a CMOS available on Sparkfun (the TCM8230MD) to an AVR XMega. For $10, you have no excuse not to try it in your next sensing project.
Electronics is relevant to our modern lives like almost no other field of science. On the one hand, we have the physical world, with objects and phenomena that we touch, see, and interact with. On the other, we increasingly spend time with the digital world, where we log data in spreadsheets or apps, solve complex problems with the help of computers, or rely on various devices to make our lives easier.
Sitting in between these two worlds and bridging the divide is electronics. Without it, there would be no microprocessors, no grids of tiny transistors to switch on and off and do our bidding millions of times per second. No way to power our homes or gadgets, or even manufacture many of the non-technical goods we take for granted. It has truly revolutionized every facet of our existence. Much emphasis today is placed on programming and application development, but it is important to remember that these things are abstractions sitting on top of a physical and electrical foundation.
In case all of this talk of revolution has you fired up, we’ve collected some of the best books to help you learn electronics. Whether you’re a total beginner or advanced engineer, check out the resources below to find a learning guide that’s right for you.
Soldering is a skill that electronics newbies often find intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Jeff Keyzer, Mitch Altman, and Andy Nordgren put together an excellent guide called Soldering is Easy. It’s packed with information on how to make good solder joints. Better yet, it’s illustrated in comic book format, so every explanation comes with clear pictures on exactly how to do things.
If you’re new to electronics and circuits, check out the guide to get up and running in no time. Even if you’re experienced but feel like you could shake off some rust, give it a glance. Good soldering technique is a lifelong skill that saves time and energy by creating cleaner, more reliable projects.
In a previous post, we covered online IDEs for embedded software development. In order to run embedded programs you need to, well, embed them in something, so we also included a paragraph on Upverter, a tool for collaboratively editing and sharing circuit schematics. Hardware design is an area that’s still relatively untouched by the web application revolution, and we always love to see new innovation.
More recently, we ran across CircuitLab, an alternative schematic tool with some unique features. On the surface, the site seems extremely similar to Upverter: fire up an online editor, create your circuit in the browser, then save it to your account. At any point in this process, you can share a link to your circuit to let others view it and collaborate.
Embedded systems have never been more important. With the growth of trends such as Arduino, the “internet of things”, and inexpensive wireless connectivity, even seemingly simple devices can process data and communicate with the outside world.
Whether you are looking to gain a basic knowledge of circuits and electrical engineering or build on an established career, it’s important to learn from the right resources. The following books have been selected by the EngBlaze editorial team as some of the best guides to embedded systems development. These are only a taste of what’s available, but they provide a good introduction for various skill levels and backgrounds.
In a previous post, we highlighted a DIY oscilloscope project that used an Arduino Pro Mini and an old Nokia cell phone LCD to create a quick and dirty oscilloscope. That build is great for a portable solution. However, what if you want a bit more power and polish?
Recently we’ve seen a few options for compiling and programming your processor of choice in the cloud. Online IDEs offer a lot of convenience, as you don’t have to worry about OS idiosyncrasies or implementation details on your specific machine. You simply put in source code and get compiled files out. Power users may want alternatives with more features, but just like other app categories, we’re guessing online development environments will get more polished as time goes on. Most online environments are limited to standard desktop languages, but lately some online options have popped up in the microprocessor arena.
Filear.com posted a cool hack that can be done in an afternoon if you have the parts handy. The author built a DIY oscilloscope using an Arduino Pro Mini and the LCD from a Nokia 3310. The Arduino is wired up to sample from an ADC port and writes those values to the screen to create a waveform. Two potentiometers control the sampling speed and input voltage for approximate time and amplitude scaling just like the real thing.