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December 2012

Nuts and Volts Magazine

Create A Choose Your Own Adventure Game For A Boredom-Free Commute

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Features

DDS and the Electronic Music Box

Make Music With Digitally Generated Analog Signals.


Return to Transistor Land

This article describes Keith’s process of designing a no-IC, high voltage power supply for his updated Nixie-Transistor clock.


The Edison Cell

Rediscover the secrets of a 100 year old “green” battery whose time may finally have come.


Add USB Devices to Your Projects

Data storage, user input, printing, audio, video, and network communications are just a few of the functions that off-the-shelf USB devices can perform. Learn how to include USB devices in your creations with the BeagleBoard-xM.


A Proper Ringing of the Bells

See the art of engineering at work when an older system for ringing church bells needed a makeover.


The Radio Whisperer

A unique circuit, a few feet of wire, and some powerful software combine to make an amazing communications tool capable of spanning the world.


How To Succeed At Circuit Design By Learning From These Mistakes

Getting better at a craft often requires you to learn from your mistakes. Follow along with this circuit design to see where the problems and pitfalls occurred, so that you can accelerate your learning from someone else's errors.


Using Color Graphics and Widgets with the 32-bit Micro Experimenter

Discover and harness the power of widgets to use on your Experimenter board.


Electronic Schematic Diagrams for Experimenters and Technicians

Read about some of the options you have to create your own professional looking diagrams.


Design a Customized Security System Using RobotBASIC

Implementing a custom security system for your home can be intimidating — unless you have the right software. This article guides you through the basic principles so you can design exactly what will work for you.


Build Your Own Wireless Sensor Network Using XBee and the 32-bit Experimenter

Our 32-bit Experimenter board is back with two different wireless sensor network applications you can include in your next project.



Projects

Build Your Own Magnetometer

One of the neatest gadgets made possible by modern IC technology is the magnetometer. For less than $25, you can construct a fun and durable tool to measure magnetic fields (static or varying) produced by currents, permanent magnets, pieces of iron, or the Earth itself.


Steampunk Planetarium Clock

This unique timekeeper will have you seeing stars ... even the same skies the Spanish missionaries observed back in the 1600s!


Build a Stereo Gain Controller

Tired of being blasted off your seat by excessive audio volume when you switch television channels or when the commercials come on? To mitigate such unnerving changes in program audio, a popular automatic volume controller from the vacuum tube era was updated to today's technology. This circuit is also useful in home recording.


Build the Voltage Mirror

A glass mirror gives an exact copy of an image but with left and right swapped. A voltage mirror gives a copy of the input voltage but with the polarity swapped.


Build Your Own Wi-Fi Internet Radio

Get access to literally thousands of radio stations world wide to customize your very own play list. Plus, you get to control the unit from the comfort of your armchair with an iPod Touch.


Choose Your Own Adventure Game

This entertainment system for bored daily commuters lets you play while stuck in traffic and keep your eyes on the road.


Build the Solar Sequencer

Build a solar sequencer that enables a single solar panel to charge multiple batteries of different sizes and capacities, keeping them isolated from each other.


Channel Surfing With An Arduino

The Arduino is perfectly suited to emulate the IR remote controls associated with many modern appliances. If your TV recorder and tuner are different devices, this will allow you to change channels between scheduled recordings on whatever schedule suits you.


Build the Poor Man’s Seismograph

A PIC-based, DIY seismograph that uses old school pendulum technology.


Build the Mystery Solar Powered Pendulum

This device is a wonderful demonstration of clean, green solar power and is based on BEAM technology. It was inspired by the Magbot pendulum project in Dave Hrynkiw’s book titled, Junkbots, Bugbots & Bots On Wheels - which you can buy in the Nuts & Volts Web store!


Talking T-Shirt Responds to Your Touch

Make this interactive costume for exciting Halloween thrills and chills.


Build a MIDI to Logic Controller

Convert MIDI on and off signals to logic levels without having to deal with assembly language, complex programming circuits, or microcontroller architectures.


Build the Chirper — The Best Turn Signal Monitor Ever!

Inadvertently leaving a turn signal on is both confounding and downright dangerous. Let this simple analog device keep you in the driver’s seat.


Build the Garage Door Closer

Leave your garage door open? No problem! This handy device will close it automatically for you. (Plus, you don't even have to remember to replace batteries in this unit.)


Cracking PDF File Passwords With a BeagleBone Board

Instead of installing third-party software to crack passwords of encrypted files, try this inexpensive off-the-shelf embedded system that you don’t have to connect to your computer.


Build the Pi Scrolling Display

This versatile display lets you have your pi and see it too! With 15 available digits, you can also use it to create your own desktop National Debt clock.


Build the Alarm Autodialer

This device will detect and report several common failures with household systems, so you can deal with them while they are still easy to fix. It's inexpensive ($60 or less, depending on your parts collection), easy to build, and doesn't require any contracts with monitoring services.


The Desktop Contemplator

Looking for some inspiration, electronic style? Well, this is the device for you! Gaze into its palette of colorosity to both amaze and calm yourself.


Build a USB Volume and Mute Controller for Your PC

Now you can do things like listen to music on your laptop with the lid closed because volume control is now accessible externally.


Build A Little Electronic Mischief

Try one or both of these two fun devices to astound and confound your engineering pals this April Fool's Day.


Build a Sound-Activated Laser Parking System

If you’d like to break free from your “hanging tennis ball” method of parking, check out this approach which utilizes two ordinary low power laser pointers.


Remote Data Logger & Surveillance Cam

Need to keep an eye on something but can’t be there in person? This remote monitor features visual and messaging feedback.


Compiled Basic for the PIC On a Shoestring

Free yourself from Assembler and learn how to set up a complete integrated environment for writing, compiling, and burning Basic programs into just about any PIC — for “basically” free.


Turn Your iPhone into a Plant Moisture Sensor

Convert an iPhone or iPad into a quadcorder and use it to “scan” for intel, like how wet or dry your plant soil is.


Streamline Your Home Studio With a Sound Card Switcher

Get to the business of making music instead of messing with cords with this extremely useful and simple device. Makes a great beginner’s project too!


A High Voltage Halloween

A powerful Van de Graaff generator can make for some hair-raising Halloween fun!


Creating a Virtual Serial Port With the 32-Bit Micro Experimenter

Need a serial port but don’t have one on your computer? No problem! We’ll show you how to use your Experimenter to provide virtual serial communications.


Upgrade Your 16-bit Micro Experimenter to 32-bit for 16x2 Processing Power

With Microchip’s PIC32MX2/MX1 chip and the new MPLAB X IDE and free PIC32-bit C compiler, you can easily transition your 16-bit Experimenter to 32-bit processing.



Columns

PICAXE Primer
by Ron Hackett
PICAXE Primer
Interfacing the DS18B20 Digital Thermometer.

PICAXE Primer
by Ron Hackett
Measuring a PICAXE Processor’s Internal Temperature
In this month's Primer, we're finally going to take a look at the new M2-class readinternaltemp command.

The Design Cycle
by Fred Eady
Building an Intelligent Data Radio
Before we’re done, I am going to show you how to scratch-build a data radio using an RF IC that is melded with a microcontroller.

Open Communication
by Louis E. Frenzel
Near Field Communications
What do we mean by "short?" For cellular, short may be a mile or so. For Wi- Fi, short means less than 300 feet. Bluetooth and ZigBee are even shorter with a maximum range of about 30 feet.

Q&A
by Russell Kincaid
Q & A
Help with a random number generator, battery tester, LED dimmer, and a nonsense circuit are just some of the topics covered in this month’s column.

TechKnowledgey
by Jeff Eckert
TechKnowledgey 2012
Find out how to upgrade your iPad 2 with a keyboard case, take 4-D photos, and if Bing is losing big (it is), along with other pretty interesting stuff.

TechKnowledgey
by Jeff Eckert
TechKnowledgey 2012
Read about a battery that offers a 25 year operating life, Clouds with ears, and seeing sound, to name a few. Plus, Pong turns 40.

TechKnowledgey
by Jeff Eckert
TechKnowledgey 2012
Read about plugs that seem to defy physics, a DIY PC, a high-def surveillance camera, plus a camera you can attach to your dog, and some other interesting stuff.

TechKnowledgey
by Jeff Eckert
TechKnowledgey 2012
This month, read about an alarm that combines light and sound, the magnetic memory limit being attained, a tablet to take without water, plus some other interesting stuff.

TechKnowledgey
by Jeff Eckert
TechKnowledgey 2012
This month, read about really twisted radio, no-compromise sound from your PC, a sonic screwdriver, plus some other interesting stuff.

TechKnowledgey
by Jeff Eckert
TechKnowledgey 2012
This month, there’s a spotlight on bacteria, a scanner that features Wi-Fi memory, a big telescope for the big bang, plus some other interesting stuff.

TechKnowledgey
by Jeff Eckert
Events, Advances, and News
Read about the world’s largest digital camera, gigabit Wi-Fi, digital drinking, and the death of an industry pioneer ... plus some other interesting stuff.

TechKnowledgey
by Jeff Eckert
Events, Advances, and News
Read about a new PC for bottom-feeders, an automotive mystery that gets solved, the vacuum tube as the next high tech breakthrough ... plus some other interesting stuff.

TechKnowledgey
by Jeff Eckert
Events, Advances, and News
Read about a virus generator being developed, a radio scrambler/descrambler, if Panasonic is sinking ... plus some other stuff you’ll want to know about.

TechKnowledgey
by Jeff Eckert
Events, Advances, and News
The world’s lightest material, batteries that offer 20+ years of operation, and deals on used equipment are just some of the items discussed.

TechKnowledgey
by Jeff Eckert
Events, Advances, and News
Read about a USB magnifier that aids inspection, an ion engine for mini satellites, a device that can make anything a speaker, plus some other cool stuff.

TechKnowledgey
by Jeff Eckert
Events, Advances, and News
There’s a dark energy survey underway, an LED lamp that features liquid cooling, and a way for you to drive the Mars rover, Curiosity. Read about all this and some other cool stuff.

Near Space
by L. Paul Verhage
Near Space
Global Positioning System Simulator, Ver 2.0.

PICAXE Primer
by Ron Hackett
PICAXE Primer
Constructing a two-digit seven segment LED project board.

The Spin Zone
by Jon Williams
The Spin Zone
CAN We Talk?

PICAXE Primer
by Ron Hackett
PICAXE Primer
Developing software for the LED-2x7 project board.

The Spin Zone
by Jon Williams
The Spin Zone
Back to the Beginning.

The Spin Zone
by Jon Williams
Track’em Danno!
While many are uncomfortable with the fast pace of technology, for hobbyists like you and me the speed at which things change means that more interesting components become available for us to experiment with.

PICAXE Primer
by Ron Hackett
Further Explorations With PICAXE Temperature Measurement.
In this month's Primer, we're going to continue our explorations of temperature measurement with PICAXE processors, but before we get to that, I want to give you an update on my "Freezer Alarm" project.

Near Space
by L. Paul Verhage
Balloonsats and Attitudes Toward Science
began my investigation by becoming acquainted with what other people had to say about STEM in today’s world. Three issues made the greatest impression on me: the aging science and engineering workforce; the increasing competition from overseas; and the increasing importance of STEM in everyday life.

Near Space
by L. Paul Verhage
Approaching the Final Frontier
A Simpler-to-Make Near Space Flight Computer.

PICAXE Primer
by Ron Hackett
Sharpening Your Tools of Creativity
Wrapping Up and Moving On: The MCP9700A and Battery-Powered Systems.

Q&A
by Russell Kincaid
Reader Questions Answered Here
Answers to questions on a pet-safe invisible fence and a solar phone battery charger, just to name a few.

Q&A
by Russell Kincaid
Reader Questions Answered Here
Send all questions and comments to: [email protected]

Q&A
by Russell Kincaid
Reader Questions Answered Here
A driveway system hack, fan speed control, and an LED array driver are some of the topics discussed this time.

Q&A
by Russell Kincaid
Reader Questions Answered Here
Burned parts on a weed whip charger, a wireless listening device, and a model train speed controller are some of the topics covered this month.

Q&A
by Russell Kincaid
Q & A
Questions on flickering lamp circuits, water softeners, and USB testers are just some of the things talked about this time.

Q&A
by Russell Kincaid
Q & A
Some of the topics covered this month include a water level monitor, radio repair, and a phototransistor amplifier.

Q&A
by Russell Kincaid
Q & A
Get answers about LED flasher circuits, lighthouse lamps, PCMCIA memory cards, and multi-station intercoms.

Q&A
by Russell Kincaid
Answers to Questions
Send all questions and comments to: [email protected]

Q&A
by Russell Kincaid
Reader Questions Answered Here
Topics this time include an extra loud car turn signal, a regenerative shortwave radio, and a stethoscope amplifier, just to name a few.

Q&A
by Russell Kincaid
Q & A
AC ammeters, battery internal resistance, and transformerless power supplies are discussed this time.

Q&A
by Russell Kincaid
Q & A
Solar converters, speaker protectors, and transformerless power supplies are just some of the topics discussed this time.

Smiley’s Workshop
by Joe Pardue
Smiley’s Workshop 52: Fritzing With the Arduino — Part 4
Going a bit deeper into Fritzing to make our own parts with this novice-friendly electronics hardware design package — useful for things like designing shields for an Arduino. Part 52

Fundamentals For Beginners
Build a Variable Timer
This is an adjustable timer circuit.

The Design Cycle
by Fred Eady
The Design Cycle
CLC Culture.

Near Space
by L. Paul Verhage
Near Space
Flight 100: A Report and a Reflection.

The Design Cycle
by Fred Eady
The Design Cycle
Control Gadgets With Your Smart Phone.

Smiley’s Workshop
by Joe Pardue
Smiley’s Workshop 47: Arrays, Persistence of Vision Wand
Done with C pointers and moving on to arrays. As a reward for our patience with the theory, we'll build another project using the chaser lights kit: a POV (Persistence Of Vision) wand. Part 47

Smiley’s Workshop
by Joe Pardue
Smiley’s Workshop 49: Fritzing With the Arduino — Part 1
Easy hardware design using Fritzing. Part 49

Smiley’s Workshop
by Joe Pardue
Smiley’s Workshop 42: Breadboard LCD Navigator — Part 1
Breadboard LCD Navigator — Part 1-42 the LCD

Smiley’s Workshop
by Joe Pardue
Smiley’s Workshop 48: It’s About Time
Some C theory for structuring data and then some hands-on lab work using a DS1307 real time clock IC on a breadboard. Part 48

Smiley’s Workshop
by Joe Pardue
Smiley’s Workshop 53: Fritzing With the Arduino — Part 5
Finishing up our Fritzing workshops, Arduino proto shield, breadboard battery backuo, Arduino RTC. Part 53

Smiley’s Workshop
by Joe Pardue
Smiley’s Workshop 45: Chaser Light Marquee
C Pointers, Arrays, and Structures — Part 2-45: Chaser Light Marquee

The Spin Zone
by Jon Williams
Let There Be Colorful Lights!
It wouldn't be an end-of-year (well, my end-of-year) column without a discussion on lighting, would it? I really enjoy animated lighting control and the Propeller is an excellent platform for it. This month, I'm going to show you how to use the Propeller to control RGB LEDs with an interesting little driver chip called the WS2801.

The Spin Zone
by Jon Williams
The Spin Zone
Prop Talk.

The Design Cycle
by Fred Eady
The Design Cycle
It‘s All About the Uno32 Hardware.

Near Space
by L. Paul Verhage
Near Space
Making One Camera Do the Work of Three.

The Spin Zone
by Jon Williams
Show Time!
Those that know me well know that this is my favorite time of year. Halloween is right around the corner and that's followed up by the Christmas "season" — a couple months where prop displays flourish and indoor/outdoor decorators feverishly work to eclipse their creations of years past. I love this season.

Smiley’s Workshop
by Joe Pardue
Smiley’s Workshop 43: Breadboard LCD Navigator — Part 2
Breadboard LCD Navigator — Part 2-43 The Navigator Buttons.

Open Communication
by Louis E. Frenzel
Open Communication
What is 4G Wireless? 3G/4G ... Does it really matter?

Open Communication
by Louis E. Frenzel
M2M —Machine-to-Machine Communications
M2M is essentially automatic communications between two “things.” An example is a vending machine sending data to a remote computer indicating that it needs refilling and the money box needs emptying.

Open Communication
by Louis E. Frenzel
White Space Spectrum Benefits All Wireless Applications
Spectrum, of course, is the electromagnetic radio spectrum that all of our wireless devices occupy. This free space spectrum is allocated by governments to the various radio/TV broadcast and wireless services to avoid interference and conflicts between users. After years of wireless progress and growth, there is precious little spectrum left for further development.

Fundamentals For Beginners
FUNdamentals For Beginners
Build Railroad Lights.

The Design Cycle
by Fred Eady
The Design Cycle
MPLAB's X Factor.

Open Communication
by Louis E. Frenzel
Open Communication
Comm Kits — A radio kit is a great way to get familiar with electronics and communications.

Open Communication
by Louis E. Frenzel
Open Communication
How to get your ham license.

Smiley’s Workshop
by Joe Pardue
Smiley’s Workshop 46: Chaser Light Marquee
C Pointers, Arrays, and Structures — Part 3-46: Chaser Light Marquee

The Design Cycle
by Fred Eady
The Design Cycle
Some IEEE 802.15.4 Transceiver Magic.

Near Space
by L. Paul Verhage
A New BalloonSat Airframe Design
I had a chance to fly my new BalloonSat on April 22, 2012. The launch took place at the Physics department of Ft. Hays State University (thanks Dr. Adams and Dr. Maseburg).

The Design Cycle
by Fred Eady
Putting Basic4android in the Driver’s Seat
I'm a programmer and the Android devices are programmable. If you're interested in plugging into that intelligent Android brick you call a phone, get in the truck.

Smiley’s Workshop
by Joe Pardue
Smiley’s Workshop 50: Fritzing With the Arduino — Part 2
Take that breadboard prototype, generae a schematic design, convert it to a printed circuit board (PCB) layout that can be manufactured — all using Fritzing. Part 50

The Design Cycle
by Fred Eady
Give Your Data Radio the AX8052F100.
There are microcontrollers that specialize in motor control and those that excel in number crunching. In this installment of Design Cycle, we are going to closely examine a microcontroller that was designed to drive RF ICs.

Smiley’s Workshop
by Joe Pardue
Smiley’s Workshop 44: Simple Chaser Lights Kit
C Pointers, Arrays, and Structures — Part 1-44: Simple Chaser Lights Kit

Smiley’s Workshop
by Joe Pardue
Smiley’s Workshop 51: Fritzing With the Arduino — Part 3
So, after three weeks our PCB arrived and it works! Let’s take a look at it and then go a bit further with Fritzing to start learning how to make parts. Part 51

The Design Cycle
by Fred Eady
Using the MPLAB X Factor With Data Radios
The PIC18F46J13 was chosen for this project because of its unique capabilities and absence of built-in USB.

Fundamentals For Beginners
Build a Moisture Detector
If you’d like to test plant soil for moisture, you can use this circuit to do so. The more moisture there is, the faster the LED will blink.

Fundamentals For Beginners
Build an IC Electronic Organ
Play your favorite tunes with this month’s experiment.

Fundamentals For Beginners
Build a Nose Beeper
With this circuit, when you touch your friend’s nose you can make the speaker sound.

Fundamentals For Beginners
Build a Morse Code Oscillator
Try your hand at an “old school” communications method that is still practiced today.

Fundamentals For Beginners
Build a Screaming Box
Use this simple light detector circuit to make a Screaming Box to use as a gag or to catch late-night snackers in the act!

Departments

How Old is Old Enough?
by Bryan Bergeron
One of the most often asked questions in my inbox is ‘how old is old enough to begin working with electronics?

When Less is More: Designing for Minimum Mass
by Bryan Bergeron
If you’re a typical N&V reader, then sizing a component means defining its value, precision, power handling capacity, operating voltage, physical size, and precision.

Hand-Wired Electronics
by Bryan Bergeron
There's been an odd movement in the music electronics industry toward hand-wired and point-to-point circuitry. We're talking terminal strips, solder tabs, and discrete components — no circuit boards or chip carriers.

How do they do that?
by Bryan Bergeron
Reverse engineering is one of the most challenging and rewarding endeavors in electronics. I’m talking about replicating the functionality of a device that you’ve seen or read about but that’s too expensive or otherwise unavailable.