What the flux: buy it or brew it yourself

Flux generally makes our lives easier. It’s the best bet when trying to prevent solder bridges with fine-pitch components like you see here. But it is also indispensable when it comes to desoldering components from a board (we’re talking just one component without disturbing all of the others). But have you ever looked at what it costs to pick up a syringe of liquid flux from an online retailer? In addition to the cost of the product itself there’s usually a hazardous material handling fee that is rolled into the shipping cost. So we were happy that [Christopher] sent in a link to the DIY flux page over at Dangerous Prototypes.

The concept is simple enough. Mix some rosin with some solvent. Turns out these items are really easy to source. The solvent can be acetone (which you may have on hand for removing toner transfer from freshly etched PCBs) or plain old rubbing alcohol. And an easy source for rosin is your local music store. They sell it to use on bow hair for String players. Grind it up, throw it in a bottle and you’re good to go. Now does anyone know where we can source needle-tipped bottles locally?

For those that still just want to buy flux we highly recommend watching part one and part two of [Ian's] flux review series.

[Ian] shops Akihabara

Hackaday alum and Dangerous Prototypes founder [Ian Lesnet] is in Japan and he’s been spending a lot of time at Akihabara Electric Town. For those that don’t recognize the name, this is an electronic components extravaganza with buildings packed full of small shops each specializing in different merchandise. For instance, we love this picture of a shop that carries every kind of protoboard, breakout board, and copper clad sheet imaginable. The stall next door might have nothing but LEDs, or be full of cords for every purpose.

We’ve been following [Ian's] regular tweets about the trip. Luckily, he just posted a roundup of the Akihabara posts. Surprisingly, he restrained himself to purchasing just a few items. Part of this is a limit on the amount of stuff he can get back to the States with him. The other reason is that the prices are not necessarily less than you’d find in a catalog. He mentions that the nice thing is you can see the parts before buying them. This is useful for sizing knobs, transformers, cases, etc.

The most exciting thing in his bag is a half-dozen nixie-like VFD tubes for just $12. How much would you give to have this shopping attraction down the street from you?

If you’re interested in a video tour of Akihabara check out this one from the Tokyo Hackerspace.

[via @dangerousproto]

Addressing Microchip’s open source problem

microchip_call_for_open_source

Hackaday alum and owner of Dangerous Prototypes [Ian Lesnet] recently wrote an editorial piece calling out Microchip on some of their less than friendly attitudes towards open source.

[Ian] and his company use PIC microcontrollers extensively in their projects, and they have quite a high opinion of their products overall. The gripe that he has (and thinks you should have too) is regarding Microchip’s approach to open source.

You see, Microchip invested in the Arduino IDE and released the chipKIT, a 32-bit Arduino compatible development board, along with big promises of “playing nice” with the open source community. The problem, according to [Ian], is that while Microchip’s compilers are based on GCC, they “keep some special sauce locked up”, which means that certain parts of the chipKIT toolchain are not open. Many in the community, including [Ian] had high hopes for the chipKIT based on the successes seen by Atmel’s open source initiatives, but many things are still locked up behind closed licenses.

An example of this unfriendly attitude towards open source can be seen in Digilent’s recently released network shield. It supports Ethernet and USB features of the chipKIT MEGA, but the TCP/IP and USB stacks are completely closed source. Digilent pushed hard to get the ability to release open drivers for the board, but it was a battle they ultimately lost. This behavior creates roadblocks for seasoned developers of open source products such as Dangerous Prototypes, as well as the curious beginner, which is why [Ian] is making a point in bringing these issues to light.

[Ian] urges Microchip to give something significant back to the community they are tapping, a result which can only be achieved by speaking up. Be sure to check out his editorial, and if after reading it you have any interest in letting your voice be heard, drop Microchip a line and let them know that their one-way relationship with the open source community is something you would like see change.

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