empowering creative people

Transistor Amplifiers Explained

So the modern computing age that we all know and enjoy is pretty much all thanks to the development of the transistor by Bell Labs. The semiconductor enabled this technology to take off and it’s only been on the up and up ever since. Transistors are the backbone of electronics and are found inside every electronic device, from discrete components to the billions that are crammed into your computer. But for a lot of makers, transistors can be quite tricky, and using them in projects and circuits often seems daunting. But it doesn’t have to be that way!

Essentially, a transistor is an electronic switch where you can use an electronic signal to control another. This allows them to be used to create audio amplifiers among many other uses, however getting an understanding on exactly how these devices can be used to amplify signals often eludes makers and DIY enthusiasts. Many of you might have heard of, or seen audio amplifiers labeled as Class A, Class B, Class C, Class AB etc. and wondered what it actually means. Well, fortunately, the wonderful YouTuber Allan (known as W2AEW) has created a great video on how transistors work and how the different operating modes in amplifiers affects the ‘class’ of the amplifier.

I’m the first to admit that you have to be a certain type of person to find these type of videos engaging, but it’s an incredibly valuable lesson on understanding more about the components that make our world tick.

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- By Sam

Build a Life-size BB-8 with Arduino!

I’m a Star Wars nerd it’s true, and so when JJ Abrams goes and releases a new movie with what is possibly the coolest robot/droid in Hollywood history, it just speaks to me. So of course I’ve had in the back of my mind to make one. I had to stop my wife impulse buying one of the Sphero BB-8 toys when they first came out, however Angleo, who is an amazing inventor on Instructables (goes by ASCAS), has taken the term ‘toy’ a step further and created a life-size replica BB-8 that moves and looks the same as his movie counterpart. It’s based on the Arduino platform and built with easily available, affordable electronics, and typical household parts. One of the best things about the Star Wars movies is the amount of props and electro-mechanical creations that they use rather than resorting to CGI effects. That’s right, that loveable, rolling ball of metal you see on screen is a real life robot. But anyway, here is a link to Angelo’s amazingly thrifty instructable which gives you all the steps you need to create your very own BB-8!

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- By Sam

A new ATmega board on the horizon

A new board was recently announced utilising Arduino's "Arduino at Heart program, the 4Duino-24 from 4D systems right here in Australia.

Essentially, it's an Arduino compatible 240x320 Resolution, TFT LCD display module with Wi-Fi and graphics processing on-board. It aims to make creating GUI's for your Arduino projects super easy and it all runs on a ATMega32u4 and ESP2866. This board looks super exciting to us here at Core!

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- By Aidan

The coolest keyboard ever

This is undoubtedly the coolest keyboard I have ever seen, so much so I have just committed to making one for my own setup. The idea of the keyboard has pretty much remained untouched over the years, sure we have macro keys and software that helps out automating tasks, some of the higher end keyboards even have an OLED screen in them. But this keyboard from Hackaday user AnonymouSmst is in a league of it's own.

keyboard-backlit-gif

The idea spawned when he heard a talk during a Hackaday meetup in 2014 about how fun it was to hack a keyboard to play snake on it. He went one step further and decided to create his very own keyboard, quoting

"People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware." - Alan Kay

In his project logs. The logs on the hackaday project are in-depth with every decision point being carefully considered and researched. Take a look here if you want to see those, an interesting read if anything. The basis of the idea was that he wanted a keyboard that was entirely wireless and was loaded with features like bluetooth, wifi etc. And it all runs on an ATMega2560!

fsociety-keyboard-features

The keyboard is backlit using programmable RGB LEDs to drive the lighting (which of course you can program yourself to be whichever color you'd like. The switches are all Cherry MX Blue Mechanical switches, and there is something extremely satisfying about the tactile feedback you get with a mechanical switch. The keycaps are all transparent, giving you a true representation of the RGB color profile you select.

To talk to a PC without wires, AnonymouSmst uses an Adafruit Bluefruit Key for HID bluetooth control. A NFC module was added to the keyboard to pass a Admin password or what ever you like using an NFC ring. Wireless capability includes an ESP2866, A HM-11 for Bluetooth and a DRF1278F for LORA. Theres also a 128x64 OLED display onboard so you can display some info there. On each side of the keyboard theres a joystick for mouse/arrow key control too. This thing is just out of this world ridiculous!

 

fsociety-keyboard-in-action

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- By Aidan

Square Off: Automated Chess

Wacky and wonderful world that is IoT has breathed life into all areas of maker electronics, and now it’s found its way into ancient games. That’s right, IoT chess is here!

And not just any IoT chess, but a board/app combo that allows you to vs. someone anywhere in the world, and the board automatically moves the pieces for them. If you’re not convinced, take a look at their promotion video:

Yep it’s way cool, and it’s based on Arduino! Yep that means that the project is based on open-source hardware that you can do yourself. The project page can be found here and it goes through the equipment and components used to build it. The board works so well that it looks like the pieces are simply gliding across the board. It uses magnetic chess pieces and magnetic technology underneath the board to allow the pieces to move.

One of the best parts about it is that the pieces don’t collide with each other as you’d expect. Instead they move between in other in a clever way to avoid collisions. Sure you could play against someone just using an app or a computer, but it doesn’t even compare to the feeling that you get of playing on a real board, with real pieces.

Hopefully this serves as some inspiration to go and integrate the fantastic IoT sphere into existing ideas!

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- By Sam

The MeArm Robot Arm, build it for $50

Initially designed to bring the fun of robot arms into the hands of everyone, the MeArm is a robot arm you can build for less than $50, using 4 servo motors, some screws and acryllic. The acryllic isn't entirely necessary too, you can 3D print or CNC mill your arm housing! 

It began as a small project uploaded to Hackaday back in 2014, winning the Hackaday award in 2015 and then went on kickstarter to fund its own independant control board. Now version 1.0 is available as a complete kit in the UK. The build it yourself version uses a Raspberry Pi or Arduino for control and is extremely simple to make yourself, the designs are all open source and you can grab a PDF of the stencil for the frame here.

As you can see the MeArm is exactly as you'd expect and for such an inexpensive little project, it's worth a shot!

Pickup some servo's here.

3D print the housing with STLs from here.

Screws for assembly can be found here.

This blog post was brought to you by Core Electronics - your home for Sparkfun and Adafruit in Australia!

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- By Aidan

Vintage Controllers Made New with Makey Makey

With the recent surge of interest in Makey Makey, I had a bit of a look around to see what people were doing with it, beyond the famous ‘banana piano’, and was amazed at some of the ways people had integrated Makey Makey into pre-existing designs.

One of my favourites so far is Guilermo Amaral’s creative revival of a dead SNES controller as features on Hackaday. Whilst seeming to be a shift register that had died, he decided that his controller might better serve him as a class-compliant USB HID device. He used header pins to create contacts for the existing button pads, and then connected those to the Makey Makey. The best part is that a project like this requires no coding at all, and can be done with a Makey Makey straight out of the box!

I know a few old bits and pieces around my house which might end up getting the same treatment!

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- By Sam

Arduino vs Arduino: A thing of the past

If you have been living under a rock since last year you might not have noticed the gigantic, confusing rift that cleaved the maker world apart. The Arduino vs Arduino debacle has been waging behind the scenes for quite some time, if you want to know more about it see this post from Makezine.com in March 2016, where Massimo Bansi has his say on the whole situation.

peace-at-last

A welcome twist in this drama took place at the New York Maker Faire over the weekend. Massimo Bansi (Arduino.cc) and Federico Musto (Arduino.org) took the stage to announce an official merger between the rival companies. Arduino LLC (arduino.cc) and Arduino SRL (arduino.org) will combine at the end of the year under the solitary name of Arduino Holding. There have been legal battles taking place between these two companies since early 2015, leaving the maker world confused and conflicted!

But rejoice! It's all over, or at least it will be soon. The single company (Arduino Holding) will be source of contact for all Arduino distribution. A seperate, non-profit called Arduino Foundation will be formed to keep the IDE open-source and provide the community with everything they need to enjoy developing with the Arduino environment.

Read Arduino's official post about the merger here: https://blog.arduino.cc/2016/10/01/two-arduinos-become-one-2/#more-15167

Brian Benchoff from Hackaday had some great coverage from the Maker Faire too, if you're interested: https://hackaday.com/tag/arduino-foundation/

The specifics of this settlement aren't yet clear, but rest assured the Arduino wars are over and by the end of the year we will have one IDE, one website and one brand. The brand we all know and love, Arduino!

 

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- By Aidan

A Palm Sized Window 10 PC

Have you ever wanted a Raspberry Pi sized computer with the capability of running Windows 10? Not the IoT version, but actual, full-blown Windows 10? Well you're in luck, we just got the LattePanda into stock.

The LattePanda is the only single board computer that can run Windows 10, as well as Linux and Android OS'. It also comes in two different varieties, the 2GB RAM/32GB on-board flash memory version and it's juiced-up brother with 4GB RAM and 64 GB on-board flash memory. Both run on the same backbone of a Intel Atom 1.8GHz Processor with the usual Wi-Fi, Bluetooth etc we've come to expect. There's a whole list of specs to take a look at below, but essentially this board is an Arduino/PC combo with plenty of hardware to get you going with Windows 10 Development.

lattepanda-features

An Arduino/PC combo? That's correct. The LattePanda has an ATmega32u4 co-processor, giving you native Arduino support and programming capability. You can pick up a whole bunch of sensors that work directly on your LattePanda. Further specs for the LattePanda are:

  • Processor: Intel Cherry Trail Z8300 Quad Core 1.8GHz
  • Operation System: Pre-installed full edition of Windows 10
  • Ram: 4GB DDR3L
  • Storage Capability: 64GB
  • GPU: Intel HD Graphics, 12 EUs @200-500 Mhz, single-channel memory
  • One USB3.0 port and two USB 2.0 ports
  • WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0
  • Built-in Arduino Co-processor: ATmega32u4
  • Video output: HDMI and MIPI-DSI
  • Onboard touch panel overlay connector
  • Supports 100Mbps Ethernet
  • GPIO:
    • 6 GPIOs from Cherry Trail processor
    • 20 GPIOs from Arduino Leonardo
    • 6 Plug and play Gravity sensor connectors
  • Power: 5v/2A
  • Dimension of board: 88 * 70 mm/ 3.46 * 2.76 inches
  • Packing Size: 110 * 94 * 30 mm/4.33 * 3.70 * 1.18 inches
  • N.W.: 55g
  • G.W.: 100g

LattePanda also provides a screen that connects directly to the onboard display connector. A 7" IPS Panel and an optional 7" Capactive touch overlay for that screen. 

It's powered by a micro-USB 5V/2A power supply too. The LattePanda could be perfect for your next single board computer and associated projects!

 

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- By Aidan

ESP32 Wi-Fi +

Technology is advancing at a rate that is almost impossible to keep up with these days. The internet community is still getting used to the ESP8266, which is a $10 programmable Wi-Fi enabled MCU with GPIO pins and a broad peripheral set. So while this board is still cooling down from the production line, the company behind the ESP8266, Esspressif have announced a new board called the ESP 32. It builds on the ESP8266 in every way including beefed up specs, Wi-Fi and most importantly; Bluetooth LE (4.2) connectivity. This board can be used as a standalone microcontroller, or as the connectivity hub for your platform of choice over serial, I2C or SPI communication. Bear in mind that like the ESP8266, the tool chain and supporting software is a bit light on so it’ll require some time for the broader community to create a maker friendly space for it before it becomes truly universally usable for DIY project.

Both Sparkfun and Adafruit have put considerable effort into working with these modules to make them available to makers everywhere. Ladyada has created a great video of her experience getting started with the ESP32 breakout board.

Jimbo from Sparkfun has spent a fair amount of hands on time with both chips from Esspressif and has written a great article on his experience and what to look forward to with these platforms. Check out his write up here.

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- By Sam

Vintage MIDI Mood Lighting

Hey guys, as a musician and electronics enthusiast it’s always been my passion to find creative ways to merge music and technology to create awesome things. So when I saw this project from ‘Capricorn One’ over at Instructables, I loved it immediately. Something like this could be awesome to install in a small bar with a live musician to really create an atmosphere. It’s created using an Arduino Uno and a bunch of supporting circuitry.

MIDI Lights from Capricorn One on Vimeo.

The actual MIDI-trigger conversion is quite simple, it’s the circuitry and power requirements to integrate tightly timed logic signals with 60Hz mains voltage globes that is the challenge, although this walkthrough provides schematics and great explanations of every step. If you were to recreate this project using LED lighting it would be infinitely simpler, and you could perhaps use NeoPixel LEDs assigned to each individual note, however for now, just sit back and enjoy the creativity and beauty of someone’s fantastic project. It’s a simple, yet effective way to great a dynamic environment to enhance musical expression.

If you’re keen to have a crack at this project yourself, check out the Instructable guide here.

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- By Sam

Digital Sculpting the world around you with 3D Printing

We've heard some people claim that whilst 3D printers are great, you inevitably just end up printing STLs from thingiverse to suit your needs. There was even an article written by inc.com claiming that 3D printing is dying. Well, I like to think if you think thats true, you might just be lacking some creative spark.

Greg Petchkovsky decided he would combine 3D scanning, photography and 3D printing to create these awesome modifications to the world around him.   

He starts with multiple pictures of the object he wants to model, then creates a high quality 3D model of the object with the relevant software. 123D Catch is great, easy to use application you can use to turn photos into 3D models. Then he simply subtracts the section of what he wants to modify from the model he is adding to it.

Check out the video where you can see how easy he makes it look. You might get inspired to try something similar and spruce up your environment. 

It's truly awesome to see people being able to bring these awesome effects to the world us using this exciting new technology.

Wanting to get started in the wide world of 3D printing? Take a look around our tutorials to get started. 

 

This blog post was brought to you by Core Electronics - your home for SparkfunAdafruitArduino and Raspberry Pi gear in Australia!

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- By Aidan

Infinity Mirror Table

You may have seen some pictures of infinity mirrors recently. The idea is pretty simple but the effects are mesmorising! You essentially use 1 normal mirror and a 1 way mirror to sandwich lights, creating the illusion of neverending depths filled with lights. The phrase "It's bigger on the inside" comes to mind when you see one of these mirrors in action. 

yellow-infinity-table

If you wanted to make your own you don't have to create a brand new table or mirror, but you can likely repurpose an older one to give it a fresh sci-fi makeover. 

Check out this from-scratch build of the Infinity Mirror Table for all the steps and guidance you need to create your own.

If you wanted to get some LEDs that would work great for a potential living room upgrade check out this awesome product from Adafruit. As always Adafruit have a number of LED strips available with full, comprehensive walkthroughs on how to use them. 

This blog post was brought to you by Core Electronics - your home for SparkfunAdafruitArduino and Raspberry Pi gear in Australia!

 

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- By Aidan

Blynk, IoT to Your Smartphone

How amazing is the Internet of Things?! It just keeps growing and growing and growing! It promises the ability connect your creations to devices like your computer and smart and allow interfacing between them to do incredible things. For many people though, there is a huge hurdle with using your smartphone to communicate to platforms like Arduino, Raspbery Pi, Particle, ESP8266 etc… and that is that most people are unable to write the smartphone app they imagine in their head. Well that’s all about to change.

Blynk is born out of the goal to bridge the divide of software and hardware to allow you to create apps using a simple graphic interface which lets you monitor sensor data, control outputs, create data graphs, and heaps more. You can then turn it into a standalone app on the App Store or Google Play, with your own branding and images. Pretty cool huh?

The best thing is that it isn’t tied to a specific hardware platform, it can connect to any maker board that has an internet connection. Brands like Sparkfun have created boards specifically designed to integrate tightly with Blynk, so it’s an incredible exciting time to be alive.

 

This blog post was brought to you by Core Electronics - your home for SparkfunAdafruitArduino and Raspberry Pi gear in Australia!

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- By Sam

Enjoy Inventing

Ever heard of the KISS principle? Keep It Simple Stupid? Well that’s all well and good sometimes, but every now and then, I prefer to go by the MTACAPJB principle. Make Things As Complicated As Possible Just Because. What’s more fun than creating something immensely intricate and complicated to fulfil a mundane and boring part of everyday life? Perhaps you disagree, but one of my favourite internet channels at the moment is Joseph’s Machines. This guy is the king of everyday Rube Goldberg inventions, and if you’ve ever wanted to streamline your academic pursuits, we’ve found the perfect way with this elaborate, study power snack machine.

The beauty of these machines isn’t at all about the actual outcome, but how you reach it, and this gravity powered, leverage drive contraption satisfies my inner nerd in a way I just can’t quite explain. Highly impractical, and ridiculously elaborate, Joseph’s Machines is an amazing demonstration of creativity gone wild. Now as a bonus, if you’re struggling a bit on the commute home this afternoon, may I also suggest his latest contraption that will have you wondering how you didn’t think of it first; the Power Nap Machine.

Nap well, and enjoy inventing!

This blog post was brought to you by Core Electronics - your home for SparkfunAdafruitArduino and Raspberry Pi gear in Australia!

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- By Sam

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