How to solder like a pro

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.

Source: MightyOhm via Tinkerlog

CircuitLab helps you sketch, simulate, and share schematics

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.

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We’re baaaaaaaaack

Whoa… what happened? We blacked out for a second there. Ok, a few seconds. EngBlaze has been quiet recently, but we’re back, and there are lots of good things in the pipeline for spring. To use a completely antiquated analogy, stay tuned!

Data logging with Arduino

Super sweet sensor sexiness over the serial stream.

Tom Igoe’s blog code, circuits, and construction has posted a tutorial on how to log data from your Arduino and put it into your platform or format of choice. As Tom explains, there’s a few common pathways once you’ve read a sensor or accepted some other form of input:

  • Serial transmission to a personal computer, and serial capture to a file.
  • Saving data to an SD card mounted on the Arduino.
  • HTTP upload to pachube.com via an Ethernet shield or Ethernet Arduino.

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iPhone serial communication with external devices

Haxoring the iPhone with ancient but reliable protocols.HC Gilje has posted an excellent guide to serial communications with external devices using the iPhone. There are lots of resources out there for setting up serial devices, but the landscape is fragmented. And as always, Apple is not exactly falling all over themselves to let you hook up peripherals. As Gilje succinctly puts it:

Apple has not made it easy to let the iphone communicate with external devices. Basically, you need a jailbroken phone to do anything.

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Faster code Fridays: Understand division and speed of operations

Hello there and welcome back! Faster code Fridays is our weekly series that doesn’t ever fall on a Friday, unless our laziness becomes so strong that it interferes with our disregard for naming conventions. We figure we’ll forgetfully publish one of these things on a Friday at some point. Even a broken clock is right twice a day, eh?

If you’re a first-time visitor, Faster code Fridays highlights code optimization techniques that are useful for embedded systems. Embedded applications often deal with time critical applications that require maximum performance and minimum execution time. In fact, good coding practice is often more apparent when working with microcontrollers, because you don’t have four 4GHz cores and 8Gb of RAM to get you out of trouble. We’ll use Arduino-compatible code for most of our examples, though these techniques are applicable to AVR, PIC, or any number of platforms.

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The best embedded systems books to improve your development process

Microchip fun for everyone.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.

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Green DIY: Make a vertical axis wind turbine (VAWT) with 55 gallon plastic drums

GreenTerraFirma has some very cool links regarding DIY power generation and sustainability projects. This page deals exclusively with wind turbines, and posts several videos on how to make your own out of two 55 gallon drums. The project is dirt cheap if you can source parts well, and doesn’t take a lot of specialized tools either. The author machines gears out of some cheap cutting boards, but mentions that you can make an equivalent drive system out of belts and pulleys, which can be store-bought.

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Faster code Fridays: Avoid floating point math

Everyone seems to have a snazzy weekly feature these days, and we didn’t want to feel left out.  Unfortunately, we could only think of a few catchy names for our series, and it’s not Friday today.  Oh well.  Consider it a preview publication.

Embedded systems often deal with time critical applications that require maximum performance and minimum execution time.  Writing efficient code requires solid study of language and platform fundamentals, and there’s no substitute for concentrated practice.  However, there are small tips and tricks to squeeze the last drop of performance out of your programs.  Faster code Fridays highlights these techniques so you can implement them into your repertoire. We’ll use Arduino-compatible code for most of our examples, though these techniques will work on a number of platforms.

Alright already, we’ll all float on

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