Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Update and Signing Off...

Okay, first off... BIG apologies to anyone still checking in here occasionally. As you can see, it's been some time since I posted anything for Hands-On Arduino, and an explanation is in order. So, here are some details (and excuses mixed in).

1. I lost interest. That's the most honest statement I can make. I still wire up circuits and do some Arduino programming, but at some point I just hit a wall and the remaining experiments left in the book were interesting but I had so much else going on in my life that time was a rarity and I had to pick and choose carefully where I spent it.

2.  Two young boys. Given a free hour to spend at my desk tinkering with the Arduino or outside (or inside) with my boys playing... I chose my family. Believe it or not, performing all these experiments, debugging, wiring up, tearing down, photographing, and writing each project up... takes a lot of time. When I started the Hands-On Electronics blog (handsonelectronics.blogspot.com), my oldest boy was my only boy... and he was 3. Took lots of naps and went to bed really early. Now I have a 6 year old and a 3 year old and my time is even more valuable.

3.  My writing career took off. This is a good thing, but it also means that 6-8 hour of my day I'm sitting in front of a computer (or a laptop) typing away like mad. I try to write 5-6 books per year (now) and that means starting and finishing a book every two months (on average). And writing is only half of it... I'm a technology writer, so a lot more of my time is spent researching, teaching myself, and basically testing whatever subject I'm writing about. At the end of each day, I began to find less and less interest in going back to my desk and doing MORE writing.

So, Hands-On Arduino made it about halfway and then sputtered. For a while, I felt really guilty. I felt like I'd let my readers down, especially anyone following along and teaching themself the Arduino. I'm not a person to start a project and then not finish it... just ask my wife. But this one has bugged me and bugged me for some time now... but now I'm okay saying goodbye to it and moving on.

I did actually finish most of the book (Beginning Arduino), but I just didn't document it. I had some personal projects that required me to get a bit deeper with Arduino so I finished up about 85-90% of the book before closing it and nodding to myself that I had gotten what I needed from the book. Hopefully those of you teaching yourself have done the same. The Arduino is still immensely popular, and I think there must be about 10x as many books out there on the subject as when I first started.

So, please accept my apology for an unfinished blog and consider this a signing-off (of sorts). If you're looking to teach yourself how to program and use an Arduino, you cannot beat this book. (Maybe you'll even start a blog and finish all the projects!)

I do have two final books to recommend to you (one was sent to me very recently) -- Arduino Workshop  and Arduino Robot Bonanza.

The first book (Arduino Workshop) has 65 projects... I've not worked through them all, but I've read most of the book and it's another outstanding resource for novices wanting to teach themselves.

The Arduino Robot Bonanza book is also a great book to have on the shelf. I read it all and am blown away by the amount of information on integrating Arduino with robotics. I've even been asked to teach a camp next summer (2014) that would teach kids (ages 8 and up) to build a robot with an Arduino microcontroller. Nothing final yet, but this book will be my Go-To-Book for ideas and tech support.

Thanks to all my readers who followed along as I worked on the Arduino projects. Maybe one day I'll be able to update this blog if one of my boys shows an interest and wants to learn Arduino. But that's a few years away...

James Floyd Kelly
Atlanta, GA
July 2013

ps.  What's next? Well, I'll totally understand if people are gun-shy about following me again on any future projects, but yes... I do have a couple special projects that I've been asked to consider blogging about. That's one of the reasons I found this blog and chose to update it and sign off and turn off the lights -- I had just about forgotten about it, but it is quite possible I will be doing a new blog on a very interesting subject soon. If it gets the green light, I'll update this blog and Hands-On Electronics to point the way.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Back to work...

Sorry for the delay in getting to the next project but I can now share with you why I've been a little tardy. I was asked by Make: to host a new video series called "The Latest in Arduino," and it's taken a bit of my free time to get it rolling, but now that episode 1 is out (and raw video for episode 2 is submitted) I can get back to the Beginning Arduino projects.

Before I move on to the robot project, I needed to solder up the MotorShield. It wasn't difficult, but look close and you may see an error I made... it's not critical and I can still work with it, but it'll always stick with me as a reminder to go EVEN SLOWER when soldering up these shields!

Now that the MotorShield is done, I need to solder some wires to the motors on the robot base... so I'll try and tackle that tonight so I can get another project completed before Friday.

I'm also going to be attending Maker Faire in San Mateo, California, in a few weeks... if you're going to be there, come by the MakerShed tent - that's where you'll find me. I've been asked to tag team between my own booth (showing off the 3D Printer that goes with my new book "Printing in Plastic: Build Your Own 3D Printer" with my co-author Patrick Hood-Daniel) and a booth where visitors can test out the MintDuino and wire up a few cool things. Should be fun.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Learning Processing Blog

It's always nice to find a fellow blogger working his or her way through a book and documenting results, good and bad. Related to the Arduino, I'd like to point you to Will Price's blog where he's currently working through both the Make: Electronics book and Learning Processing, a book certain to be of interest to all of us just learning to code for the Arduino.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Arduino Books - 50% One Day

O'Reilly has a one-day 50% eBook sale for its Arduino titles... you can find more information here. I've been going through the Arduino Cookbook, myself... it's a worthy title for your bookshelf, and at 600+ page and tons of sample code, it's well worth the $16 price today.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Stepper Issues

This stepper motor is driving me crazy... I've tried all the iterations (I think) and it gets power, the axle won't rotate, it buzzes... but no rotation. I'm going to spend a few more minutes with it tonight... maybe tomorrow... and then move on to the robot project which is next.

I've checked my wiring... double-check it... it's not the wiring. I'm pretty certain something weird is going on with this motor. I have a LOT of stepper motors (4 for my 3D printer and 3 for my CNC machine) but they have unique connectors that I'd have to cut and I'm not going to do that for this project... these are BIG steppers and not cheapies at all.

In the meantime, I've got to solder up a MotorShield that I'll be using for Project 29... will try to get to that tomorrow...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Project 28 - Need Some Help - UPDATE

For those of you with access to the book and/or a better understanding of the Uno, I have a question - Figure 10-1 shows a wire running from what appears to be a numeral 9 near the 5V and GND wires at the bottom left corner of the figure. This wire goes into the positive power column/row at the top of the breadboard which then connects to the stepper motor.

On my Uno, this is labeled Vin (I think) - the author says to use external DC power for this project so I'm wondering if that's how power is being applied to the motor. It's just never been mentioned in the previous projects so I'm a bit confused.

Also... a bit of checking online reveals that the Uno wants a 9V AC-to-DC power supply adapter which I don't have... but I do have a variable one that can be set to 9V. The only problem is I cut off the end to expose the wires for the Make: Electronics book (so it can be plugged directly into the V and GND breadboard rows). I'm thinking I should be able to just plug in the Arduino to the USB for its own power needs and, while still running the 5V and GND wires from the Arduino to the breadboard for the chip's power needs (5v or less I'm guessing) I can just skip the "9" or whatever that is and provide power to the motor with my variable adapter's leads... right?

Update: And wouldn't you know I'd buy the one stepper motor that doesn't seem to have any kind of help in terms of data sheet when it comes to sorting out the six wires and what goes where! Argh...

Friday, April 15, 2011

While I Wait Some More...

Still waiting on the servo so in anticipation of an upcoming project involving building a line following robot, I decided to go ahead and put together the 4-Wheel robot base that was loaned to me by MakerShed...

It's a solid base... this thing is designed well. I did find that the online instructions for building it didn't match up exactly to the parts I have (the black metal frame pieces are slightly different in the number of holes but that wasn't a problem) and the photos don't really show the motors being held to the frame with the long machine screws that came in my kit... but it's not difficult to figure out anyway.

The upcoming project uses a 2-wheel robot frame along with a caster, but since I have a 4-wheel version I'll probably have to modify the code a bit to control 4 wheels... or just hike the base up on a home-made caster of some sort... will cross that bridge later... I may actually break down and buy this thing from MakerShed as I can see it being a really nice base to have for future projects... BTW, there's a bunch of small add-on parts for holding sensors and such that I haven't attached in the final image here.