DSO nano oscilloscope reviewed

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We’ve been eyeing Seeed Studio’s DSO nano digital storage oscilloscope with a mix of intrigue and skepticism. A pocket-sized $89 storage ’scope? This is a joke, right? Hack a Day reader [Blair Thomson] has written a thorough review based on his experience with one of the beta test units, and it might be a winner after all.

[Blair] feels the unit compares favorably to buying a similarly-priced secondhand analog oscilloscope. The DSO nano wins major points for ease of use, a good range of functionality, and of course the whole portability thing (the enclosure is a repurposed portable media player). Can’t say we’re entirely convinced though. As a single-trace ’scope with 1 MHz bandwidth, the DSO nano may be extremely limiting for anything but basic hobbyist use…which, to be fair, is exactly how they’re marketing it. We can see a place for this the same way there’s a place for $10 multimeters — an inexpensive, toss-in-the-toolbag second ’scope to quickly test for vital signs, something that might complement but not replace a good bench unit.

Pocket multimeter review

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Reader [Mikey Sklar] told us about a review he wrote covering 3 different models of pocket multimeters. We’re sure that you’ve had the same experiences we have being the go-to-guy or got-to-gal  for all things electrical. For our sort, having a multimeter on hand at all times has become an expectation.

[Mikey] looks at a model from ebay, Harbor Freight, and Radio Shack. Not surprisingly, the ebay offering doesn’t rate too well but does get the job done. We were surprised to read that he picked up the Cen-Tech model for about $10 at Harbor Freight. Although it may no longer be sold there (we haven’t checked) [Mikey] seems pretty happy with it so we’ll be on the lookout during our next tool-buying trip. We’re unfamiliar with the tiny Radio Shack 22-820 but we’ve always been happy with our larger 22-811. The 22-820 allows the probes to be folded up inside of the case cover for a truly pocketable package.

You can never have too many meters at your disposal and we’ll have to keep this article in mind the next time we’re shopping for another. Never used a multimeter before? Take a look at the tutorial [Mikey] linked to over at ladyada.

Tools: Proxxon drill press TBM115/TBM220

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A decent drill press is a crucial tool for an electronics lab. We use our drill press to make holes in our own circuit boards, and tap or break traces on existing circuit boards. We’ve used a lot of tools to drill circuit boards — power drills, power drills in “drill press stands”, and high-speed rotary tools — but when we started doing projects on a schedule, it was time for something more reliable.

We first spotted the Proxxon TBM115/TBM220 drill press in the window of a local shop.  Its tiny size and adjustable speed seemed ideal for drilling circuit boards. At $200, this is one of the pricier tools in our lab, but quality bearings and smooth drilling action aren’t cheap.  Read about our experience with this tool below the break.

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How-To: Hack a ThingamaKIT

The ThingamaKIT is an anthropomorphic analog synthesizer kit from Bleep Labs. Using “LEDacles”, photoresistors, knobs, and switches, it generates interesting high pitched vocalizations. Bleep Labs sent us a review unit and this article shares our experiences building and using the kit. We’ve also included a tutorial on making some hacks, modifications, and circuit bends to it. Skip to the end to see a video of our hacked kit in action.

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Eye-Fi Explore review

The WiFi uploading Eye-Fi SD card made a big splash when it was first introduced, but now Eye-Fi has a whole line of different products. The top of the line is the Eye-Fi Explore, which supports geotagging without using a GPS. Instead of GPS hardware, it uses the Skyhook Wireless Wi-Fi Postitioning System, which correlates the position of the Eye-Fi’s access point to GPS locations, creating virtual GPS functionality. This allows photos taken with the Eye-Fi to be be geotagged. Of course, the accuracy of the system is noticeably lower than true GPS and seems to be affected by a number of external factors, but it is still accurate enough to tag the photo within the immediate vicinity of where it was taken.

WiFi positioning is great feature, but certainly not limited to photography. Since the Eye-Fi is at its core SD storage media, you could probably have it geotag data saved to the card, even if it wasn’t created by a digital camera..

OpenSUSE 11.0 reviewed


Download squad has posted a thorough review of OpenSUSE 11.0. Previous versions of the Linux distro were plagued by thorny and confusing installations, but OpenSUSE 11.0 installs much more easily and cleanly. After a few standard configuration screens, the user has several options for admin accounts, disk partitions, dual-boot setups, and more. The installation of the OS files takes about 20 minutes from there, followed by a quick reboot and first boot, making for a highly customizable yet speedy install from start to finish.

The other major problem with previous versions was the inconsistent speed of their package handling system. In 11.0, though, a new command line app called Zypper makes installing updates, patches, and other packages much faster.

The final verdict is that OpenSUSE 11.0 has become a viable alternative to Ubuntu; the overall quality of the open source distro was never in question, but now that speed has gone from being its biggest deficiency to being one of its biggest strengths, we expect to see a lot more chameleons in the wild.

Xbox 360 first impressions

I feel the need to include a disclaimer before getting into this: I don’t own an original Xbox, I own a Playstation 2, I consider myself a casual gamer, I’m a fan of Open Source and not Microsoft.

I purchased this box on the first day because early versions of consoles are generally easier to modify. With the PSP ver. 1.0 it was easy to run homebrew code, but with each successive firmware version, Sony makes it harder. The original Xboxes that are being sold now make it almost impossible to run Xbox Linux because of a hardware change.

Before we get to my experiences, here are some links that you might find interesting.

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