Circuit Playground – An electronics reference app from Adafruit

It’s not everyday that we review software around here, but the folks at Adafruit recently put together an iOS app that I figured might be of interest. Their iPad/iPhone compatible application is called “Circuit Playground”, and it includes all sorts of handy electronics reference tools. For the context of this review, it should be noted that I paid for the application myself, and that I have had no communication with the Adafruit team regarding my assessment of the app.

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Electronics tutorial two-fer: soldering skills and wires

electronics_tutorial_twofer_soldering_skills_and_wires

There is a plethora of electronics tutorials scattered about online. Sometimes it can be hard to separate the good ones from the bad, and the enlightening from the misinformed. We recently came across a pair that we found helpful, and thought they would appeal to anyone starting off in electronics.

In this video tutorial, [Dave Jones] at the EEVblog covers soldering, detailing good practices and common mistakes to avoid when working with through-hole components. As the second video in a series he picks up where part one left off, excitedly demonstrating the ins and outs of good soldering skills.

Hackaday reader [grenadier] is working on a series of beginner’s electronics tutorials, and this week’s entry covers wiring. He discusses wire types, gauges, and even provides a nifty self-computing chart that calculates power loss based on the length and gauge of the selected wire. Before wrapping things up, he briefly touches on fuses and the pitfalls of choosing wire that’s not up to the task at hand. While you’re over there looking over his tutorial, be sure to check out the Junkbox, there’s plenty of awesome stuff to be had!

Electronics lessons for beginners

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Hackaday reader [grenadier] wrote in to share a series of tutorials he is working on, where he discusses the basics of electricity and electronics. The first lesson titled, What is Electricity?” has been wrapped up, and is available for free on his site.

For any of our regular readers, the lesson will seem pretty basic (and likely full of things to nitpick). However, we imagine his lessons would be quite helpful to anyone looking to expand their electronics know-how.

Now don’t get us wrong, we love the series of electronics tutorials that Jeri has been periodically releasing, but we think there’s plenty of room on the Internet for other willing teachers as well. If his first lesson is any indicator, his tutorials will be easy to understand, sprinkled with a little bit of humor, and chock full of fun videos that demonstrate the subject at hand.

Take a quick look his way if you get a chance – you or someone you know might find his tutorials and reference guides insightful.

[Image courtesy of Electronicsandyou]

Equipment Needed to Get “Started” in Electronics

[Kenneth] is a Mechanical Engineer who likes to dabble in electronics. Besides providing us with an excellent picture of his workbench, he has put together a list of things that you’ll need as you learn to work with electronics. A beginner electronics kit from one of a number of different sources may work for some, but others may not be interested in a kit.

[Kenneth] gives links and recommendations for categories of: books, electrical equipment, development tools, components, digital electronics, and analog chips. As he puts it, this post is a “gigantic list of everything I would buy right now to replace my entire workshop if mine were to disappear.”  This is a great list of things you may need if you’re starting out.  If you have some experience, this list may introduce you something new. Check out some of [Kenneth's] other projects like his cloud chamber or the Chumby webserver that he made.

Help identify this vintage electronics component

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[Windell] over at Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories has reached out in order to help them identify a mystery piece of electronics equipment they came across a few years ago. Discovered at an electronics surplus store, the mystery component looks like a cross between an over-sized chess board and a breadboard. Failing to identify it they eventually disposed of the board, snapping a couple of pictures for good measure before it was gone for good.

Recently while visiting a local electronics flea market, they came across what looked to be a similar, though much smaller board. This piqued their curiosity and compelled them to dig out the pictures of the mystery board in hopes of finally discovering what it was. Using markings on the new board they found, the team at EMSL located some images of a patchboard cartridge that looked quite similar to their mystery object. Upon closer inspection however, they think that the two pieces might be related, but are not quite the same item.

Swing by their site and chime in if you happen to have any good leads – we’re sure they will appreciate it.

Open Hacker Conference Badge Project Needs Your Help!

[Aestetix] writes in to tell us that the OpenAMD (Attendee Meta-Data) project is working on a new revision of their hardware, to be debuted at CCC Camp this fall.

For the uninitiated, OpenAMD combines an Active RFID tracking system with social networking, and is completely open-source. You walk into the conference, put on the OpenAMD badge, and suddenly you can see yourself as a dot moving around on a map. Or you can log into the social networking site, create a profile, and watch as your personal information is pulled into the mesh, which then tells you talks you might like, people you might like, where those people are, and more. There’s even an open API where you can create your own ‘killer’ apps, which may include games or other interesting aggregates of the attendee information.

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Fiberoptic mouse prevents stray magnetic fields

[Ben] needed an input device that would operate where electrical signals and magnetic fields wouldn’t be tolerated, so he ended up running fiberoptics instead of electricity to a mouse.

[Ben] ran some glass fiber from the mouse to quadrature encoders to get the x and y velocity. Mouse clicks are read by modifying the existing buttons with a small shutter to block light from shining through the button frame. This isn’t the first time [Ben] adapted fiberoptics to an input device. Last year, he also built a fiberoptic joystick using the same principles.

We covered [Ben]‘s DIY Electron Microscope last month, and we’re wondering if these two projects are related. His project log said he was getting distorted images from the electric field coming from his cooling fan and heater. Maybe he solved that problem and is now just tracking down every last unwanted electromagnetic emission.

Video of the mouse after the break.

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