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My Favorite Arduino, the Nano


The Arduino Nano is my favorite version of the Arduino. Pictured here in my breadboard next to a custom made FTDI adapter, more on that later.

The Modern Device Educato might be a close second but I don’t have one to play with yet.. The reason is simple.  I use the Arduino with solderless breadboard all the time. The Nano plugs into my breadboards with some room to spare on both sides. Provides easy access to all the I/O and is a full speed Mega328, my favorite AVR chip


Posted in Arduino, Development Tools, Discovering, Microcontroller, Parts, Review, Tips.

Arduino POE

5057970 I’ve started playing with an Arduino Ethernet board with POE.  This board is well suited to IOT projects where you can run an Ethernet cable to the device.  POE stands for Power Over Ethernet so the only connection we need to the device is an inexpensive CAT5 cable. Both a data connection and power are provided via the cable.

I got my Arduino Ethernet board from Newark/Element 14. It looks like a normal Arduino with an several extra goodies.  Ethernet RJ45, micro SD, and a second board attached to handle the POE feature.

Since the board is setup with Ethernet the “Thing” can communicate directly with IOT servers.

My first project plan was a hydroponic tomato garden. Unfortunately I was a bit delayed and learned that the local squirrels like green tomatoes.. My plants will not be able to produce for me so I scrapped that plan. Anyway…

I was going to monitor soil moisture and temperature with data sent into the cloud. A separate application would monitor the data and send back commands to open a water valve to fill the reservoir in my Earth box. 

I still plan to explore IOT using this Arduino POE module and will blog about it as I go. First step will be figuring out what to use on the inside for connection to the CAT5 cable going to the Arduino.  I know it will need to connect to the outgoing RJ45 and have a way to connect to my network (another RJ45) and a wall wart power input.  The device will combine the power and Ethernet signals into the cable for the Arduino to consume.

What should I get for the inside connection?  Have any advice, please post it in the comments.

Posted in Arduino, Development Tools, Discovering, Microcontroller, Projects.

UDOO Up and Running

2014-07-23 13.52.18 Just fired up a UDoo to play with in the lab.  A UDoo is a combination of a Raspberry Pi and an Arduino. But4 X the speed of a Pi and the Arduino is really an Arduino Mega built into the same board. It’s not a Linux board emulating an Arduino, it’s a LInux board with a built in Arduino.

The great thing about this combination is that the Arduino is great at handling all the hardware interfacing, lets you plug in Arduino shields even.  You get all the speed of the microcontroller for bit-banging in real-time. And you get all the network Swiss army knife of an embedded Linux board. Best of both really

My first impression is that Linux runs nicely on the board. I have a version of Ubuntu running now and it’s smooth and responsive in the GUI.  There is an Android OS for the board as well, I hope to play with that soon.

Of course the UDOO Ubuntu includes the Arduino IDE so you can write code for the Arduino. I’ve not done that step yet, probably do another article this weekend after I play with that feature set.

Related Links:

  • UDoo Linux SBC with built in Arduino Mega
  • Arduino Super popular microcontroller platform
  • Ubuntu Super popular Linux OS Distribution

Posted in Arduino, Development Tools, Discovering, Microcontroller, Raspberry Pi, Review.

Raspberry Pi in the Lab

IMG_0528 Here is my model B, days before it’s going to be replaced with the B+.

It’s in the Adafruit case with an Adafruit T-Cobbler Breakout to my solder-less breadboard.

I’m using an Apple keyboard as it has a built in 2 port USB hub where I connect the dongle for a wireless mouse. Connected to the Pi’s other USB is a WiFi dongle where I can watch it’s activity LED flash.

On the breadboard there are two LEDs. One (red) shows that power is on. The other will be connected to a GPIO. This will be used like the default LED on an Arduino for things like the Blink demo.

Lastly there is an XMEGA Xprotolab micro O-Scope on the board, currently in voltmeter mode checking the 5V and 3.3V supplies.  I noticed my 5V was only 4.83 so I switched around the USB power warts till I found one that got the voltage up to 4.95.

The Xprotolab will come in handy as I play around with the I2C and SPI GPIO. It includes some logic analysis, including decoding I2C and SPI.  Looking forward to playing with that.

Posted in Uncategorized.

Inexpensive Soldering Tools Review #2

image In the fist soldering iron review at uCHobby we played with a low cost soldering station from MPJA.  That iron cost $15 and was quite usable. Here is a quick run-down for this one.

The fist point is that while the iron claims it work on 220AC it also works fine on 110AC. I found it takes about 2 minutes to heat up. Perhaps it would heat up faster on 220. Honestly this was a mistake on my part, I totally missed the 220 spec until I tried it out.


  • Cost: About ($10)
  • Space Saving (save bench and tool box)
  • Temperature Controlled


  • Large wand (not as delicate in the hand as a Weller or Hakko)
  • Bulky cord (not a supple as a top end tool)
  • About 2 minutes to heat up (not a big deal, a Weller is ready in about 20 seconds)
  • Two prong power connection means you have a separate ground lead. (Most irons have a three prong power connection so that the tip is grounded.)
  • Takes a while to get to you (shipping from China)

The negatives are similar with the other inexpensive iron as well. They both suffer in the wand compared to a Weller or Hakko.

Overall the quality seems good. I will know better how well it works when I put it to the test of a few projects, will let you know.

907 Constant Temperature Electric Soldering Iron Lead-free 22OV 60W (Link)

2014-07-17 16.23.41

The extra wire with the alligator clip is for grounding.  The iron does not have a three pong power connection so you could do a static discharge from you to the board when you solder. To prevent this you can connect to ground on your board or bench. This could be an advantage, you might even be able to solder on an active circuit as the tip should be isolated when the ground clip is disconnected.

I will keep using my Hakko mostly because of the better wand and well I paid for it…


2014-07-17 16.21.18I don’t know if I like the see through nature of the wand. It’s nice that the “Heat-On” LED is easily seen, on the wand itself. But this plastic seems out of place on a soldering iron. It’s strong, but would melt so easy if touched with an iron.. Not really an issue for a home electronics bench. 

BEST BST-5G Soldering Iron Tips Resurrected Cream (Link)

image Tip Fixer.  This stuff is great. If your like me, you often forget to turn off your iron. The tips get dirty and stop working, you can scrub them and re-tin but it’s a pain and soon the tip is painful to use. This tip refresh does wonders to fix up a dirty tip. Just stick the hot iron tip in the paste and let it sizzle a bit, then re-tin and your tip is great again. I am glad to find this finally, have been hunting for this stuff for some time. Just found this at Banggood and I’m very hopeful that it works as well as my treasured tiny can of the stuff I’ve finally worn out after years of use.


10pcs Solder Iron Tips For Hakko Soldering Rework Station  (Link)

image Do you have a Hakko iron?  Banggood has tips for a good price. I will do a review of these tips once I get some time with them. They look very good so far.


Want to get a Hakko? adafruit sells one for $110. I got mine there a few years ago, works great. Looks like they have done some improvements since I received mine.


Cheap Stuff at uCHobby?

I have to take a moment here and praise companies like adafruit, sparkfun, and the Maker shed. They have great products and do a lot for the maker community. Take a look around, especially at the tutorials at each of their sites. They don’t always have the lowest cost on things but they do put back into our community.

There are a lot of other similar companies, don’t mean to leave anyone out. I just shop at these place more often then not. Go ahead and plug the companies you think provide great products and give back to the community in the comments here. I will delete any obvious spam though…


I think the low cost tools reviewed in this and other post at uCHobby are fine for general hobby use or I would would not be featuring them. But, with that said, a serious maker should buy serious tools from providers like adafruit, sparkfun, and the Maker shed. They (we) are all in this to make money but they do give some back for the greater good. If you want to make things and need to sacrifice a bit for a great deal, then go ahead, competition is good.

Posted in Uncategorized.

Scrounging out a Printer

IMG_0501As part of the spring cleaning mentioned in the previous post, I had an old all-in-one printer/scanner that I saved from the trash a while back. I kept it around, planning to scrounge out any useful parts before I let it go to it’s grave. Maybe some of the parts would be useful in another project.

Driving home on trash day, I saw this printer sitting on top of a garbage can, I snatched it up. This is it’s final story…

IMG_0504 Stage 1. After removing ever screw I could see, I pulled the unit in half. The center of the picture shows the printer parts, the scanner is facing down. First impression is Wow, there is almost nothing in there. Looks like modern printers use no stepper motors, just a few DC motors with encoders.


IMG_0506 The main board has a power supply, the big inductors (coils in the lower center) are typical for a switching power supply. I saved this PCB to scrounge out those inductors. Just tossed it into a box of other boards I have marked for scrounging.

IMG_0515 In the end, here are the bits I saved. Three DC motors, an optical interrupt detector, a small board with a button and LED and some wire.

The scanner glass is nice for the work bench, it’s strong glass and makes a perfect surface for cutting paper with an Exacto knife. I kept large white plastic piece to use in the Laser Cutter at our Tech Shop.  I still have to confirm that that plastic is OK to cut with a laser…

All in all, there is not much in a printer theses days. Not for the hobbyist anyway.

Posted in Discovering, Parts, Scrounging, Scrounging Parts.

Parts Bin Organization

SamplePartsBinLabelsSpring cleaning at the uCHobby lab. I got a few of these parts bins to hang at my work bench to organize things. It’s amazing how many of the lost parts you find when you organize what you have into drawers.

I made some nice labels to place on each drawer with large text and pictures. Some are shown below. I’ve included the PDF file in case you have use for the labels.

photow1 I plan to create another more specific set of labels for my other cabinets. I have one with 64 small drawers to hold things sorted out like resistors and caps. When I’m done I should have a full set of labels for a serious electronics home hobbyist.

Posted in Development Tools, Ideas, Parts, Workshop Tips.

Doing stuff with the Raspberry Pi

998-02 At the NAG Hackers meeting last night we (the group) decided to work with the Raspberry Pi. The general idea is that we all get an R-Pi (Raspberry Pi) setup and start working together on a project. The actual project is TBD but we know an R-Pi is involved.

I volunteered to provide some initial pointers to help everyone get started…

First step is buying a kit. I recommended the Adafruit Starter Kit $105.

Get a 32GB class 10 SD card, the kit comes with a 4 or 8GB which is bare minimum.

Install the Raspbian Linux image per the instructions here. Some might suggest that we do the NOOB install but I have done a fair amount with Raspbian and Adafruit seems to focus tutorials on this distro for the R-Pi.  They have made their own distro called Ocidentals and that would be fine too. 

On first boot, be sure to enable SSH, and expand the partition to fill your card. Just select these options at the setup menu.

For Windows users, get Putty for your SSH access. Mac and Linux users already have an SSH client.

After your Pi is up and working in a basic way, I recommend that you copy your SD card back to an image on your PC. Just for safe keeping. The same utility used to make the SD Card should be able to copy it too.

The Adafruit kit I comes with a breadboard adapter cable but I like this version better: Breadboard Adapter,  It cost an extra $7.

For  WIFI, this adapter is known to work: wifi adapter

Google has made their own Pi development image! It looks interesting. Google Coder for the R-Pi. I think the group should continue with Raspbian as they want to learn more about networking and basic code development. The Google thing looks to be more about web development.

As a first project, I recommend each group member follow the Raspberry Pi WiFi Radio tutorial. Don’t have to add the LCD panel as that would increase the cost by $25. But this tutorial should serve as a good getting started point.

Posted in Development Tools, Electronics Links, Projects, Raspberry Pi.

Cypress PSOC4 kit for $4!

You can really get a lot for $4. I just received a PSoC 4 CY8CKIT-049 4xxx Prototyping Kit.

What is a Cypress PSOC? (from their site)
PSoC® 4 is Cypress’s newest ARM-based PSoC, featuring the low-power Cortex-M0 core combined with PSoC’s unique programmable mixed-signal hardware IP, resulting in the industry’s most flexible and scalable low-power mixed-signal architecture.

PSoC® 4 Highlights

  • ARM® Cortex™-M0 CPU up to 48MHz
  • Up to 32 kB Flash, 4 kB SRAM
  • Programmable Analog: Op-Amps, 12-bit 1Msps SAR ADC
  • Programmable Digital: Four PLD-based Logic Blocks
  • CapSense® Touch Sensing
  • Low Power 1.71 to 5.5V Operation
  • 150nA Hibernate Mode, 20nA Stop Mode

The interesting part is that it’s a single chip with an ARM CPU, configurable logic blocks and analog goodies all in one! 

The IDE is very nice. I’ve played with the other $30 Eval kit but could not resist getting this kit as it’s much more compatible with the breadboard.


I soldered headers into the board for plugging into the breadboard. It’s jus about too wide, if you plug it in like an IC, you have one row on one side and two on the other for connections. I decided to plug it across the power rail on a big breadboard. The power and ground signals are connected with jumpers underneath the board so it’s ready to go. This trick gives me easy access to all the signals. The USB connector hangs off the end just fine for connection back to the PC.

I love the Ardunio but I can see this board supplanting the Ardunio in my projects. The IDE is great to work with and I’m hoping to have source level debugging but I’m not sure that’s possible, will know soon.  The other PSoC board I have does do source debugging but this one calls that smaller interface board a USB serial connection, rather then saying it’s a debugger connection…

Posted in Arduino, Development Tools, Discovering, Microcontroller, Parts, Review.

N.A.G-Hackers Meeting

Had a great time at the North Austin Gadget Hackers meeting last night. We met at Opal Devine’s near Fry’s Electronics a very noisy place with good food. Even with all the noise we managed to have a good discussion about the Raspberry Pi, Arduino and other platforms for hacking around.

If you are in the North Austin area, join up and come to the meetings…

Here are some links related to the discussion.

Posted in Arduino, Development Tools, Discovering, Electronics Links, Microcontroller, Parts.