Arduboy Review and Hands-On

What's great about combining Arduino with Retro Video Games

Arduboy Review Combing Arduino and Gameboy Banner

When it comes to Kickstarters, I have been relatively lucky. Most of the projects I back have shipped, even if years after I forgot. However, few Kickstarters are something I use on a regular basis. The Arduboy has been a pleasant surprise. This Kickstarter-backed project packages the ease of programming an Arduino into a game playing friendly form factor. Here’s my first Arduboy review, impressions and hands-on experience.

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A couple of weeks ago I wrote about four current flow direction myths. As a follow up to that popular post, I decided to dedicate this month’s AddOhms electronics tutorial video to Current Flow. In episode #19, I tackle the question of which way does current flow.

You might have heard about “conventional flow” and “electron flow.” In conventional flow, we assume that current flows from the positive voltage towards the negative voltage. In digital, the “negative voltage” is usually called ground. However, that’s not how the electrons move nor is it how they carry the charge around a circuit path.

Electron flow is the description of how electrons carry a charge. Which is the negative voltage towards the positive? This confusion is a result of Ben Franklin mistakingly identifying how electrons moved so many years ago. Yet, we have kept the “positive” and “negative” labels as they are today.

The key though is that it doesn’t matter which method you use to analyze a circuit. Electrons move in a closed path. So whether they travel from positive to negative or from negative to positive, doesn’t matter!

AddOhms #19: Current Flow Direction

Check out the full AddOhms Electronics Video Tutorial on Which Way Does Current Flow on the AddOhms YouTube Channel.

Arduino Bootloader, What is it?

This simple code does important things

arduino bootloader

Almost all microcontroller (and microprocessor) development systems use some form of a bootloader. Often called firmware, mistakenly, the Arduino bootloader is one example. Since it is a rather popular platform, let’s use it as an example. Let’s talk about what a bootloader does and how it works.

When a microcontroller turns on, it only knows how to do one thing.  Typically, that one thing is to run an instruction found at a specific memory location. Often this location address 0x0000, but not always. Usually, this memory location will contain a jump instruction to another place in memory, which is the start of the user program. The bootloader, however, exists in a slightly separate memory space from the user program.

On power-up or reset, a bootloader is a section of program memory that runs before the main code runs. It can be used to setup the microcontroller or provide limited ability to update the main program’s code.

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KiCad BOM: Don’t Bomb your BOM!

3 methods to manage your KiCad BOM from the start

kicad bom introduction

A KiCad BOM is a list of all the parts your design is using. The term BOM, or bill-of-materials, is standard for supply chain management and does not just apply to electronics. KiCad’s eeschema has a BOM export feature. Unfortunately as of Version 4.0, this feature is still somewhat lacking. Given the limitations, here are some tips to take your KiCad BOM from Schematic to Mouser.

Spending a few extra minutes while capturing (drawing) your schematic thinking about your KiCad BOM can save you a ton of time later on. Moreover, as you build up a database of parts, these extra minutes turn into seconds. Here are a couple of ways to describe your parts, especially passive components, better while drawing schematics in KiCad.

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I was invited to speak at the 11th Hardware Developers Didactic Galactic group at the Supplyframe office in San Francisco. I talked about the misconception that capacitors are a simple device.

Chris Gammell recorded the discussion and posted it via PHY Media. This video is about 50 minutes.

In this talk, I break down a few things to know about Ceramic, Aluminum, Tantalum, and Supercapacitors. You can see the full video via PHY Media’s YouTube Channel: They’re JUST Capacitors. For links and the slides, check out this post.

6 Electronic Safety Tips I learned while Mountain Climbing

Sometimes a new activity reminds you about some old ones

electronic safety tips

Electronic safety tips from mountain climbing? Yes! After spending two weeks in Europe for work, I had the chance to spend a weekend with friends in Germany. We hiked up Kampenwand in Bavaria. While working my way through the snow and rocks, I realized mountain climbing safety tips were the same as electronic safety tips. Really! Here’s how.

Grabbing a soldering iron and throwing polarized components around a circuit board is something I often do. So often, I don’t even realize I’m using some of these electronic safety tips. However, a new activity gives you a chance to exercise the safety portion of your brain. Especially when there are no guard rails.

While constantly wondering “why am I doing this again?” I thought about these 6 electronic safety tips that I learned while climbing a mountain.

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pcim 2016

Do you happen to be around Nuremberg this week? If so, check out the Power Electronics Show, PCIM 2016. I’ll be floating around the show all week. Most of my time I’ll be at KEMET’s booth in building 7. The booth number is 7-302. Just ask for James. You can ask me about capacitors, electronics stuff, or just come to see that I really am bald!

Date:May 10, 2016—May 12, 2016
Event:Baldengineer at PCIM 2016
Venue: Exhibition Centre Nuremberg
Location:Nuremberg
Germany
Public:Private

Four Current Flow Myths Addressed

Just what is "electric current flow?"

what is current flow?

Current flow (direction) is the topic I’m planning for my next AddOhms tutorial. While preparing the script, I started to realize there are some myths or misunderstandings about electricity and current flow.

Ben Franklin Father of Current Flow

via Wikipedia

Everyone probably knows Ben Franklin. He discovered electricity, of course! Yet, he didn’t. Franklin was the first to prove that lightning was composed of electricity with his famous kite experiment. He was also the first to provide electricity’s well-known labels: positive and negative. And somewhere in there Franklin became famous for “inventing” conventional current flow.

This convention creates a lot of confusion around conventional and electron current flow. It’s a concept that has been covered by many others and may even be covered by an Electronics Tutorial Video Series in the future.

Instead, I want to explore some common current flow myths even I believed at some point.

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Why do engineers (love to) hate Arduino?

Engineers love or hate Arduino, but why?

why engineers hate arduino

A couple of months ago podcast I listen to interviewed an embedded engineer. Eventually, the topic of Arduino came up, and all three people on the show let of sighs of disgust. This lead to me to start thinking about why do engineers hate Arduino?

On this particular show, they said Arduino had too many abstraction layers to be useful. All three members of the panel agreed that direct hardware access was critical to success in embedded designs.

On the same episode, the same people talking, the topic changed to using a new chip or sensor. Then this comment was made: “I won’t design for a chip with no high-level software API and detailed examples.” (I’m paraphrasing to protect the innocent.) Everyone on the episode agreed.

Wow. Just what is Arduino then? One view is that it’s a well-documented board, with a high-level API, and lots of detailed examples. But somehow, these features on other platforms is desirable? So why do did these engineers hate Arduino so much when it is what they said every vendor should offer?

Are they haters? Are they trolls? Or are they just engineers who show a behavior common to humans. Let’s take a look at why engineers hate Arduino using other examples and concepts from psychology.

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