Lifelong Learning a blog of all the things I've learned about…

8Oct/090

Finally built my first Arduino

Basic ArduinoI finally got my order in from SparkFun.com this morning and couldn't wait to try my hand at building out my Arduino boards. I've talked about them before here. The challenge was the USB to Serial chip which is a SMD chip. With my new iron and some good quality solder wick, I was able to get them on the first time with little to no effort. The iron is a HUGE leap forward for me. I can't rave enough about how much I love it, granted I'm comparing it to my Radio Shack iron which is lovingly called a "fire starter" by most. Anyhow, built these boards and plugged them in to see if all was good, whatta ya know, right off the bat I was able to upload sketches to them both! I've got a few tweaks I'm going to make to this design tho, I"m going to add SMD leds for USB RX/TX activity and rearrange the boards just a bit. If you are wondering why on earth I'd have a vertical USB plug, it's because I plan on using these boards for another project and that's the orientation I wanted. You can easily switch the part out for the vertical one in Eagle. If you want the schematic or board files, they are attached to my previous post here. As for costs of these, I've got less than ~$15 US in each.

6Oct/090

Those pesky SMD parts always seem out of reach….

Aoyue Soldering Iron 2901So, I decided after ruining a few boards that I'd research soldering SMD parts to see how I could possibly be messing up these boards so badly. After all, it never crossed my mind that it would be this difficult to solder SMD chips...Once again (I know, I know, I praise these guys too much), I ran upon a series of tutorials on SMD soldering from those fantastic guys over at SparkFun.com. They provided invaluable information on exactly what I was doing wrong as well as how I could make my designs and my life much simpler my learning the fine art of SMD soldering. I bit the bullet and picked up a nice analog soldering iron, my radio shack special was not gonna cut it any longer. They sell a nice Aoyue 2901 for ~$79, more than other online sellers but I'm fine with giving them a few dollars more for supporting the communality as they do! I picked it up with some other essentials, like de-solder braid and tweezers...I should have the order Thursday and I can't wait to see how easily SMD soldering can be with the right knowledge and tools! I'm also adding the Aoyue 968 SMD rework system to my wish-list! At any rate, I'll be added those seemingly out of reach SMD discrete components to my designs going forward!

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6Oct/090

Saving Power With an AVR

I've been consumed lately with saving power with my designs and I decided to focus my obsession on my new "FakeFireLEDDriver" design I got inspired to build from this example. I knew that I wanted to hand out Halloween gifts, in this case Jack-O-Lantern fake fire boards to my family who always pacify my obsessions du-jour. I knew that the first version worked and worked quite well, but I couldn't stand the thought that it was definitely a battery hog. Much could be done to improve upon it's energy consumption. Knowing that AVRs are known for their power saving design, I set out to figure out how to squeeze out more efficiency from this design. What is attached below is my first attempt at power savings with the "FakeFireLEDDriver" design. I've basically implemented a WDT (Watchdog Timer) to tell the system to wake up (if the system is asleep) every ~8 seconds and check the photocell, if it's dark, flicker away, if not, go back to sleep. This simple change in logic should save considerable energy. My next step is to only give power to the photocell during that check, which is about as much energy as I can see saving with this design. Check out the attached code and as always, feedback is most welcomed!

FakeFireDriver1.2
Title: FakeFireDriver1.2 (411 clicks)
Caption: AVR Power Saving Example
Filename: FakeFireDriver1.2.zip
Size: 2 kB

FakeFireDriver1.2
Title: FakeFireDriver1.2 (411 clicks)
Caption: AVR Power Saving Example
Filename: FakeFireDriver1.2.zip
Size: 2 kB

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4Oct/090

So I begin my week of furlough…

Bleh, my company decided to shave some cash and put many of it's workers on furlough. One week, isn't too bad and I'm quite glad to have a true vacation without any email or phone calls. I guess by law they can't allow employees to work at all, so it's gonna be a real vacation! I'm expecting to get quite a few things done this week, perhaps I'll finally get the ventaliation installed in the bathroom. I'm definitely gonna go shooting at least once this week, practice makes perfect! Anyhow, expect lots of updates this week!