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China Goodies – – Arduino Bits

A review for some Arduino related items we recently received from A cheap Arduino Mega compatible board, LCD/Keyboard shied, Acrylic mounting plate for Arduino and a simple cable.  Each one with some details on cost and function. Click on the pictures to visit the product page at Gearbest.

Generally, I’m amazed at the variety and often surprised at the quality of the products from China, considering the price paid.  Yes much of it is lower quality, you are not going to pay $1 for something that would normally cost you $100 and be happy with the result.

One of the major differences you will notice when purchasing from China is the time it takes to receive your items. Typically you will wait 2 or three weeks but it could take longer. You will also notice that most suppliers don’t charge for shipping which surprises me.

The language barrier is evident on the Chinese sales sites. You will notice that everything seems to be Arduino compatible, even things like LEDs… They have picked on the Arduino craze and milk it like crazy.  The descriptions of  the products is often strangely worded and it’s often clear the writer does not understand the product or the market.  But it’s good enough that you can find what you need.

I wonder about starting a consulting gig, where I would go to these sites and get paid to clean up the product descriptions.  They ought to hire some Arduino nerds to clean up things, they would benefit in more sales.


LCD1602 Character LCD Keypad Shield: $4.47/each

Pretty much exactly what you see.  A standard 1602 2×16 character display with backlight and 6 buttons.  The LCD is interfaced using 4 DIO signals and the keyboard is done using a resistive ladder trick so that only one A/D input is used.

One of the switches, on the far right, is a reset button. One complaint on this.. it’s easy to hit reset when you mean to tap a regular key.  Also, it can take some tweaking to get the values just right in your code to read the switches.

There are other sources for the same design, I feel that this lower cost version works fine.

Arduino Compatible DIY Mega 2560 R3 Board and Keypad Shield 1602 LCD Board: $22.95

This is a combination of the above LCD Shield and an Arduino Mega 2560.   Read above for more about the shield.

The Arduino Mega works fine and seems to be of high production quality. The quality on this is apparently equal to any board I’ve ordered without regard to the supplier.

My biggest concern here is that it feels wrong to get so much for so little in cost. I personally would order my Arduino boards from a local registered supplier such as Sparkfun for $50/each.   With that said this board works great and is very inexpensive, if you are on a tight  budget and don’t mind waiting…


Arduino UNO R3 Compatible Acrylic Platform Plate: $2.08/each

This acrylic plate is convenient to use with your solderless breadboard to keep your wires from pulling out of the Arduino connectors when things move.  Not much else could be said about this product. It works as designed. Simple and inexpensive.



Extension Cable for Arduino – 8.5 Inch / 21.5cm:  $2.04/Each

Another simple product, just an 8-pin header connector cable. Funny they mention Arduino in the name but no Arduino I know of has an 8-pin header. Some have a 6-pin one…

The quality is good and the price is amazing. These kinds of cables require hand assembly which drives the cost. In China, labor cost are low, obviously.

Comments Please: Let me know in the comments what you think.  Have you found a great deal, bad quality, etc…

Posted in Arduino, Development Tools, Discovering, Electronics Links, Interesting, Review, Tips.

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VoltLog Blog Shout Out…

VoltLogLogoMy old friend Florin has a very neat video blog called VoltLog. Looks like I’m going to be spending a few hours catching up. Maybe he will be as famous as David Jones’s EEVBlog some day. Go Florin, Go!

Posted in Discovering, Interesting, Uncategorized.

ESP8266 IoT Paired LEDs

ESP01breadboard This project/experiment uses two ESP8266-1 modules to make a set of paired LEDs. Each module has a button and an LED. They connect to an MQTT broker to share  the LED status. Press the button on one module and it’s LED comes on, it sends that button to the other module and it’s LED comes on. Press again and both go off.

Think of this like a signal system. You want your wife to call you, instead of interrupting her, you signal. One of these modules would be placed in the kitchen, the other  at the office on your desk, yes, sexist I know. But for this example, assume we are talking about June and Ward Cleaver.

Ward wants June to call but does not want to interrupt her, he presses the button, his light goes on and seconds later the paired module lights up.  June notices her’s go on as she is making cookies for the kids. She presses the button to let Ward know she got the message. Ward’s light goes out seconds later, he knows his good wife will call when she has a moment.

I imagine there are a lot of uses for a signal pair like this…


Posted in Development Tools, Ideas, Interesting, IoT, Projects.

IoT News: Google Brillo an OS for IoT devices

Google recently announced “Brillo” an operating system based on Android, for IoT devices. The new OS is small, about 25MB and includes OS features such as Bluetooth and Networking. Messaging is a major part as well, called “Weave”.

Brillo does not seem suited for small micro-controllers like the Arduino but I would expect to see a lot of small Arduino like boards to come very soon running “Brillo”.

Weave, looks to be based on JSON which is a good thing. But also could be a problem for micro-controllers to deal with. My money would be on MQTT for small devices.

I’d bet the “Brillo” boards would work with Android development tools like Android Studio, let you create code in Java, with full remote debugging and Arduino like I/O features.  This could be awesome.

Source: Project Brillo   |   Google Developers

Posted in Development Tools, Discovering, Interesting, IoT.

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Digital Oscilloscope Kit from China


We recently built the Digital O-Scope kit from BangGood in China. It is based on the STM32F ARM processor and includes a nice color LCD. It’s single channel and not very fast but plenty fast enough to look at audio signals.  For about $30 and an hour of assembly time (yours) it’s a good deal.

It’s not all easy though. The kit includes both through hole and surface mount parts. There is a major error in the documentation because the surface mount parts are never even mentioned in the assembly instructions. The PCB comes with the the STM32 soldered on but there are a lot more surface mount parts you have to install.  These other parts are easy enough to solder by hand so it’s not a major issue.  But it is a challenge to look up all the parts one by one from the schematic. If you get one of these kits, start by installing all the SMT parts, its much easier to get them on without working around the other parts.

I did talk to the original maker company and they will fix the documentation.  I was impressed with the quick response. Apparently they have a version of the kit with all the SMT parts installed and the documentation in my kit was the wrong version.

I have bought several items from BangGood and have not been disappointed. Usually I’m surprised at the quality. The prices are so low it’s hard to believe on some items. I don’t expect the quality to be good but often it is.

The real pain with shopping via China the lead time. It takes weeks to get some items.

Posted in Development Tools, Discovering, Interesting, Projects, Review, Workshop Tools.

Oak Kickstarterby Wi-Fi for all things! 

Basically an ARM based Arduino with built in Wi-Fi. I often use the digiSpark module from digiStump so I’m sure this will be awesome as well.

Recently I’ve been playing with the module and have been waiting (forever) for the new Proton. Supposedly it’s shipping soon.

I have also played a fair amount with the various ESP8266 modules.

Still looking for that ultimate solution for making an Internet connected IoT device, maybe this is it…

Posted in Arduino, Development Tools, Discovering, Kickstarter, Microcontroller, Parts, Uncategorized.

nScope Kickstarter. A O-Scope for the breadboard

O-Scope, Signal Generator, and power supply all on your breadboard!  If you are a hobbyist you need this. I have an O-Scope and power supplies etc.. but having it on the breadboard will be so convenient. I could not resist backing this Kickstarter. I’ll let you know how it works…


Posted in Development Tools, Discovering, Kickstarter, Uncategorized, Workshop Tools.

Pretty Smart Lamp: Kickstarter – Bluetooth Lamp

Here is another Kickstarter we have backed.  A lamp with Bluetooth talking with your phone to do light and color based notifications. Check out the video to see what it does.

I know the creator on this one as well.  Antonio is a great guy and has been working on his “Pretty Smart Lamp” for some time now. He has done a few kickstarter’s but this one has been successful.

I am looking forward to receiving my “Pretty Smart Lamp”

Posted in Discovering, Interesting, Kickstarter.

Esquilo: Simple IoT Development – WiFi + Web IDE + Cloud by Esquilo Corp — Kickstarter

The Equilo is awesome, I know the guys doing this one and they have presented at the Austin IoT Hardware Sub-Group which I lead at the Tech Shop in Round Rock.  You can read more about the IoT meetup here.

I got to play with an early Equilo board. It’s very easy to get started with, just open a browser to access it’s built in IDE. They chose to use Squirrel language to get some very nice debugging capabilities. Debugging is something which is very limited on systems like the Arduino.  Typically you need to use a big IDE and a JTAG or other emulator hardware to do low level debugging, not with the Esquilo.

Posted in Development Tools, Discovering, Interesting, Kickstarter, Microcontroller, Workshop Tools.

Kickstarter-CHIP – Nine Dollar Linux Computer

Lots of interesting things on Kickstarter these days.  At uCHobby we love to look at all the Maker/Mico-controller projects hitting kickstarter. We will start sharing the ones we find interesting here. We usually back the ones you see and will start doing quick reviews of the items when we receive ours…

We backed this but can’t see how it’s possible to get so much for $9. This could be some kind of trick but we took the chance.

Posted in Development Tools, Discovering, Kickstarter, Linux.