Soldering Tool Upgrade Paths

element14 - Workbench Wednesdays

Right after the digital multimeter, or DMM, a soldering iron is a must-have tool for electronics work. Like most tools, there is a vast variety of options available. In this episode of element14’s Workbench Wednesdays, I look at a range of instruments from Weller. They offer everything from a cheap $10 “fire starter” (sorry, it is what we call them!) all the way up to a full-blown surface mount rework station.

Whether you don’t have a soldering iron or you have a  $100 station, this video will show you options to consider when thinking about an upgrade.

After you watch the video, head over to element14 and tell me for you favorite solder tips! (Or your most burning questions!)

Send James your Solder Tips



Answering BJT questions with Karen on element14’s The Learning Circuit

element14's The Learning Circuit

Over on element14, Karen hosts The Learning Circuit. It is a tutorial show geared towards learning STEM basics. So far she has covered subjects like soldering, diodes, and how to make a DIY electromagnet. She did a great job on introducing BJTs and how they work. While I thought she provided a clear explanation of the internal workings, some members of the element14 community still had questions.

She invited me on to revisit BJTs and transistors to (hopefully) clarify the connection between how transistors physically work and how to use them.


What is the Apple IIgs? – AddOhms Live Clip

Bald Engineer Twitch Channel

Watch What is the Apple IIgs? Highlight | AddOhms Live from 

During a live stream, I was asked: “What is the Apple IIgs?” In this AddOhms Live Twitch Clip, I answer the question.

The Apple IIgs was the last of the highly successful Apple II line of computers. The “GS” stood for “graphics” and “sound.” Compared to previous Apple II computers, the IIgs was a fully 16-bit machine. When connected to its proprietary RGB monitor, it rendered a gorgeous display. Sadly, not much software took advantage of the improved graphics and sound capabilities. The IIgs was fully backward compatible with the older 8-bit line of Apple II computers. Its compatibility was so good that most IIgs users only used it in the compatibility mode.

How did the Apple IIgs achieve backward compatibility?

The IIgs contains an ASIC called the “MEGA-II.” (Which has nothing to do with the “Mega” Arduino boards.) It includes all of the individual logic chips from the original Apple II design as a single IC. Well, in addition to that IC you also need to add a CPU, RAM, and a ROM.

In my opinion, the Apple IIgs is best of the Apple IIs. In fact, of computers in that era, it is my overall favorite. When I got the IIgs, it replaced my previous pick: a Macintosh SE/30.

Looking through my parts boxes, I have counted at least 15 distinct “Arduino boards” in my collection. Either they are variants of the Uno form factor or they have different processors from the 8-bit boards. That number easily goes to 30 if I include boards with just the “Arduino header” on them. This pile of microcontrollers got me thinking, how does anyone ever choose the right board?

For example, I have had several people tell me the ESP32 is the “ultimate Arduino.” But is it? Well, yes and no. Extra hardware you do not need can lead to complexity and unexpected behavior. When using an advanced module like the ESP32, it is important to learn how to use sleep modes to limit current consumption, especially for battery applications. But if you need WiFi, Bluetooth, I2C, SPI, UART, and high-performance processing, capacitive touch, GPIO, and analog inputs then the ESP32 is an obvious choice.

As for the other boards, I have written a guide to picking the right Arduino. You can find it over on the blog.

Read: Picking an Arduino

Appearance: How to pick from all the Arduino boards
Outlet: Blog
Format: Magazine

Learning to use a new oscilloscope can be daunting. In this video, I show 5 measurements you can make using just an Arduino as your DUT. Learn how to offset voltage, setup measurements, enable infinite persistence, save reference waveforms, AND trigger (and decode) serial signals. For this video, Rohde & Schwarz was kind enough to send me an RTM3004. This video is a follow-up from an ealier blog post which featured 6 scope measurements you can make with an Arduino.

Check out the AddOhms Episode 28 Show Notes for links related to the episode.

Watch On YouTube

Making tutorial videos and project videos is a very different process. It is very easy to script a tutorial. In fact, I think it is a necessary step. Project videos, on the other hand, are more organic. In this project, I build a capacitive activated coin bank, based on this Coin Acceptor from Adafruit. It uses an MSP430 to do capacitive sensing and then a Pryamiduino to control the rest of the electronics. In the end, I do some classic AddOhms special effects to demonstrate how the project works. For detailed notes and design files, hit the button below for the element14 project page.

Bank to the Future on e14


Date: August 24, 2018
Appearance: Bank to the Future on element14 presents
Outlet: element14 Presents
Format: Vlog

As promised, the Arduino team shipped the MKR 4000 VIDOR by the end of July. The graphical editor is still missing in action, but you can check out the board now. I received mine. In this AddOhms Live Stream, I turned it on and checked it out.

This video is a “working” live stream. Generally, I try to set up some demos and run through some canned actions. Not this time. I used the board once, on another computer. You get to watch how I attack a new board…live! Warts and all.

Key things I check out:

  • How do you program the FPGA? (what does that even mean for the VIDOR.)
  • The VidorTestSketch (communicate between the SAMD21 and the Cyclone FPGA)
  • LogoDraw (the VIDOR draws the Arduino logo over HDMI)
  • The include files for each of the VIDOR libraries

I’m writing up my experience so far, along with what I’ve learned. Until then, click below to see the 1-hour live stream.

Watch Full Live Stream

This AddOhms episode is part 3 of the “design your own Arduino” series. In this one I populate a bare PCB, reflow solder it, debug a few issues, and load the Uno bootloader. Originally, I designed 2 versions of the board. One version contained an error that I planned to fix in the episode. Well, turns out, the “correct” board had two issues which were more interesting.

Check out the #27 show notes for links to a bunch of stuff in the episode, including the design files.

Watch on YouTube

Pretty often I am asked about how I create the AddOhms animations. Currently, I’m working on the final part of the DIY Arduino Series. In the first part, I showed the elements of an Arduino schematic. The second part showed an overview of the PCB design. Finally, I will take the finished board and explain how to turn it on the for the first time. Lucky for me, there was a “mistake” on the board. This error gives some context for the episode.

I needed to explain how the Arduino Uno’s (and Mega’s) “auto-reset” circuit works. I did a live stream showing how I created the animation sequence for this explanation. Well, I started to explain. After almost three hours of streaming, I was only about half-way through the one-minute explanation.

Watch on YouTube

While long, I think the stream helps to illustrate the kind of work I put into my videos. Speaking of which, I need to get back to finishing this one.

Watch Video On YouTube