When learning to use an Arduino, you have two things to learn: programming and hardware. In the past, I’ve taught some classes on how to program the Arduino. These are the slides I used to explain what the Arduino “Language” is, basic debugging concepts, how to use variables, and basic structures.

 

An Open Source IDE for TI’s line of MSP430-based boards. Based on the same software as the Arduino project, Energia brings easy of use to an awesome family of microcontrollers.

Today “regular” people will start receiving their pre-ordered Apple Watch. Whether they spent $350 or over $10,000 dollars, they’ll now have a device that connects to their iPhone and tells time. Like their iPhone does. But with Bluetooth!

What if you don’t want an Apple watch, but want to celebrate a real computing achievement? Check out this video on an Apple ][ watch. Oh and it is real.

That’s right, this isn’t just some clever movie-magic hoax. Following this Instructable, you can build your own Apple ][ Watch.

Energia and MSP430: Arduino Alternative

Does Energia stack up as one of the Arduino alternatives?

Energia - An Arduino Alternative

With all the recent noise around Arduino LLC and Arduino SRL, I felt like I needed a break from Arduino. So I decided to come back to a platform I set aside a while ago: TI’s MSP430.

Previously I wrote it off because of the Windows-centric software. In fact, I made my first “review” video based on it. (I’m a Mac / Linux guy.)

In this post, I’m looking at an open source IDE that’s available called Energia. It makes using the MSP430 series boards a snap.  And, by the way, makes for a great Arduino alternative.

Arduino pinMode on Analog Inputs

pinMode analog input tip

All Arduino boards contain analog and digital pins. The Arduino functions have different calls depending on the pin type. For example, when analogWrite() is called, an analog input pin is automatically changed from a digital input (or output) into an analog input. For this reason, it isn’t actually necessary to call pinMode() on the pin. However, when I write Arduino Sketches, I still put a pinMode(INPUT, A0) in setup anyway.

Keep reading to see why I use pinMode on Analog Inputs. (more…)

Most of the major electronic blogs have covered the controversy between Arduino LLC and Arduino SRL. My first deep look into it was from Hackaday’s Arduino v. Arduino. Since it has been covered so well by others, I won’t re-hash the already known facts.

If you want to join in giving feedback to these companies, please tag your posts, tweets, and content with “#OneArduino“.

Click to keep reading and see the letter.

(more…)

Don’t be afraid of learning a new tool

Behind-The-Scenes of AddOhms #14

After moving from learning a new tool to mastery, the resistance for me to switch becomes very high. This can apply to hardware tools like a drill, saw or CNC milling machine. It can also apply to software tools like EAGLE, Programming Languages or video editing software. In AddOhms #14, I gave an overview of the VirtualBench from National Instruments which I’ve covered on this blog as a hands-on, written review and video review.

learn a new tool

Photo courtesy of smuay/Shutterstock.com

For this AddOhms Behind-The-Scenes look, I talk about my experience with changing my tool set, the most critical tool in fact, I use for creating AddOhms Videos. If you’ve ever wondered how I do those hand animations, keep reading for the deepest look yet into my workflow.

Can a 1µF decoupling capacitor be too much?

1uF Decoupling Capacitor Circuit

Using a bread board Arduino see what happens when you skip a decoupling capacitor or two

To save time, breadboard pins, or just lack of knowledge people try to skip adding decoupling capacitors to a circuit. Either on IRC or in Forums you can almost always see it coming: “randomly, my stops working” And then, “what do you mean decoupling capacitors”, question.

This isn’t the most scientific testing, but here are some really unexpected measurements with just a breadboard Arduino. The only capacitors I started with were the two 22pF from crystal to ground and the capacitor connected to RESET for Auto-RESET.

Keep reading to find out what happen when I added a 100nF and a 1µF cap. A bunch of scope traces and surprising results follow.

Breadboard Arduino with no Decoupling Caps

Breadboard Arduino with no Decoupling Caps

Case Study in Optimization: Faster SPI on AVRs

Nerd Ralph
March 29, 2015

The Arduino Library provides functions like shiftOut() and digitalWrite().  These functions are simple and effective, but they are slow. Of course, they’re doing a lot more than just toggling bits. Faster isn’t always necessary and can sometimes lead to more difficult debugging.  And as Donald Knuth said,

…premature optimization is the root of all evil.

So what happens, when you do need to optimize? For example, if shiftOut() is too slow for your project, what do you do?  In Ralph’s post, Fastest AVR software SPI in the West, he breaks down different SPI code implementations into their assembly code.

To make the best optimization, you need to change compiler flags. So this is, in my opinion, an interesting case study in what kind of performance benefit you can get when you do some serious optimization.

Of course, you really shouldn’t, unless you need it…

Check out his post: Fastest AVR software SPI in the West

Knuth quote from his paper “StructuredProgrammingWithGoToStatements.”

element14 is running a Design Challenge called Enchanted Objects. The idea is to add magic, or modern technology, into older objects, enchanting them. How could you turn an ordinary household object into something extraordinary?

You can see the content intro video here.

With my recent interest in retro-electronics, an entry by Jan Cumps caught my eye. He’s repaired a vintage record player (turntable) using an Arduino and Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) control. For more information on his work, the project page is here. Jan’s YouTube channel is at pitface123.