Make Magazine's definitive guide to open source hardware 
Sunday, November 30, 2008, 01:11 PM - Electronics
Make Magazine's blog has a great list of opne source hardware projects for 2008. The list includes most flavors of Arduinos (although not the stickduino, that we mentioned before), as well as various UAV autopilots, synths, and other projects.

Perhaps it is worth reminding our esteemed readers of the existence of the Beagleboard, a $150 board available from Digikey with a super-powerful OMAP3530 chip from Texas Instruments. The OMAP contains a super-scalar 600MHz ARM Cortex-A8 core and a 430MHz TMS320C64x+ DSP. The Beagleboard can run Linux.

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Lady Ada's Xbee carrier board and tutorial 
Sunday, November 9, 2008, 09:15 AM - Electronics
Lady Ada from Adafruit Industries has a nicely detailed tutorial on configuring a pair of Xbee wireless modules to talk wirelessly to an Arduino. It is an expanded version of another tutorial by Rob Faludi, a researcher in the Interactive Telecommunication Program at NYU

Adafruit conveniently sells (for $10) an Xbee carrier board which contains the level shifters, voltage regulator, and pin headers required to easily talk to an Xbee.

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Using an Xbee for R/C 
Saturday, November 8, 2008, 11:33 PM - Electronics
Effet de Bord is a French blog (written in English) that talks about using an Xbee module as the basis of an R/C system. Xbee Pro modules establish a bidirectional serial communication link with a range of roughly 1.5 km.

The blog is connected to the O24RCP project whose purpose is to build an open design for a 2.4GHz R/C system out of off-the-shelf components (such as the Xbee).
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Stickduino: A nice addition to the Arduino family 
Saturday, September 27, 2008, 03:54 PM - Electronics
Over the summer I have been playing with a new member of the Arduino family, the Stickduino, and have become quite fond of it.

The Stickdiono's main advantages are: it is very small, it plugs directly into the USB port of a computer, it costs less than $20 assembled, and $4 for the bare circuit board.
Even better, it gives you 8 analog inputs instead of just 6 like the original Arduino. It uses a 16MHz Atmega168 like the Arduino Decimilia.

The only downside is that the pc board USB plug is a little too thin to fit snuggly into a typical USB socket. It doesn't seem to cause any problem with electrical contacts, but it still makes me nervous. I simply glued a piece of thin plastic (cut from an ABS or styrene sheet) underneath the pc board.

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Arduino Pro: 3.3v 8MHz 
Monday, August 25, 2008, 05:19 PM - Electronics
Sparkfun is offering a new version of the Arduino: the Arduino Pro, which
is lighter, cheaper, and slightly more compact than the Decimilia.
The supply voltage is 3.3v, which makes it compatible with things like gyros and accelerometer sensors. Too bad news is that the clock is only 8MHz, instead of the 16MHz od most other Arduinos.

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Using Piezo Sensors for a Drum Pad 
Monday, June 16, 2008, 12:18 AM - Electronics
The Drum Master is a DIY "brain" for an electronic drum pad.
The web site has some data on how to process the output of piezo-electric sensors used in drum pads.

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Wireless ARMmite 
Sunday, June 15, 2008, 06:42 PM - Electronics
at $40, the Wireless ARMmite micro-controller board from Coridium has a pretty high coolness/price ratio: a 60MHz ARM7 (LPC-2103), and a space for optional ZigBee (XBee), USB, or Bluetooth serial modules.

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Boarduino: breadboard-compatible mini Arduino 
Monday, October 8, 2007, 01:46 AM - Electronics
Over the last few months, I have become rather fond of the Arduino microcontroller board concept. I like its simplicity, its open design, and (last but not least), the fact that the development environment runs seamlessly on Linux.

One shortcoming of most Arduino boards is that they are rather bulky (not good for putting them onbard a small airplane). While the Arduino Mini has been available for a while, it is not as convenient as the new $17.50 Boarduino kit from Ada Fruit.

The Boarduino has everything a regular Arduino has, but it is much smaller and can plug into a breadboard.

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Single-chip 6 DoF IMU from Analog Devices 
Monday, October 8, 2007, 01:07 AM - Electronics
Speaking of Jeff Han: Jeff pointed me to this new device, recently announced by Analog Device. Many people were anxiously waiting for something like this to appear: single chip that contains 3 accelerometers and 3 gyroscopes that can be used to build a full, 6 degree of freedom inertial measerument unit (IMU).

The part is called the ADIS16355.
It uses an SPI interface, and even includes an auxillary 10-bit A/D converter, an auxillary D/A converter, and two digitial I/O
(see data sheet).

Now for the bad news: the price is $360 in 1000 quantity (ouch!).

It's still a lot cheaper to buy a 5 DoF break-out board for $110 from sparkfun (3 accelerometers, 2 gyros), plus another gyro, and a cheap micro-controller.

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Kestrel Autopilot for Micro UAVs 
Monday, March 19, 2007, 12:47 AM - Electronics
Procerus Technologies offer the Kestrel micro UAV auto-pilot. It weighs 16.5 grams and contains a 6 degree of freedom inertial measurement unit, a magnetometer, an absolute and differential altitude sensor, and an airspeed sensor. It's built around a Rabbit micro-controller. The only thing that's not light about it is its price: 5 kilodollars.

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New ARM9-based Linux board from KwikByte 
Thursday, March 8, 2007, 12:24 PM - Electronics
KwikByte is rolling out the KBAT9261 single-board computer based on the 200MHz Atmel AT91SAM9261 with DSP intruction set. The board has 128MB RAM, 8MB boot flash, CF interface, ethernet, 2xUSB 2.0 ports, VGA port, PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports, audio in/out. It comes with Linux/Gnome. The price is $190, and the 13x12x2.5cm case is optional.

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Desoldering Surface-Mount Devices 
Tuesday, January 30, 2007, 04:12 PM - Electronics
Instructables shows a nice method for desoldering surface-mount devices . The idea is to bend a piece of copper wire all around the SMD so that it touches all the pads. Heating the wire with an iron distributed the heat to all the pads.
Watch the video.

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USB Digital Oscilloscope w Open Source Software 
Thursday, January 25, 2007, 01:46 AM - Electronics
SyscompDesign is selling a USB digital storage oscilloscope for $190, which comes with open protocol specs and open source software on Linux and Windoze. It has 2 channels and can go up to 20 million samples per second.

Finally, someone has realized that hardware hackers are also likely to be Linux/open source freaks. It took a while.

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Powerful/lightweight speaker 
Tuesday, January 16, 2007, 12:07 AM - Electronics
Several people (my dad and I among others) have been experimenting with engine sound generators for electric R/C airplanes. Those generators make the plane produce the sound of the real plane. With all the chatter about this topic, there is a need for a compact, lightweight, but powerful loudspeaker that can be mounted in an airplane. It needs to be powerful enough to be heard from the ground. The necessary power seems to be around 40 Watts.

Some of us have so far been using cheap 10cm speakers, such as the Visaton R10S-4 (4 Ohms, 20 Watts, 10cm diameter, 150 grams).

Interestingly, Blaupunkt seems to have a range of powerful and lightweight speakers, such as the THx 402: 10cm diameter, 40W continuous (120W peak), 4 Ohms. The magnet weight is 30 grams (not sure about the total weight).

The only problem is that it retails for $55 to $90 (compared to about $10 for the Visaton).

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High Power LEDs for cheap 
Tuesday, January 9, 2007, 12:41 AM - Electronics
High-power LEDs have been available for some time, but most web stores have huge markups on the price. Lumiled Future Electronics sells them for (relatively) cheap. For example, their 3 Watt Luxeon III Stars are $3.50 to $4.50 depending on color.

Instructables has a tutorial on an RGB light controller that uses them.

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F. Thobois's R/C Electronics Site in English 
Wednesday, December 27, 2006, 12:45 AM - Electronics
French author Francis Thobois has published numerous articles on how to build your own R/C set since the early 60's. His web sites has instructions for building receivers, transmitters, and various R/C-related circuits. Some of his pages have been translated into English.

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