Everything for Electronics

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December 2014

Nuts and Volts Magazine


Features

Improved Efficiency 13.8V Power Supply

Many hobbyists use or repair equipment intended for automotive use, so require a power source. The linear design presented here is modernized with MOSFET pass elements that improve efficiency with no switching noise.


Synchronized Light Displays

Ready to give Clark Griswold a run for his money with your next holiday display? Then, you’ll appreciate these tips on the creative process and an overview of putting together a basic lighting system.


An Easy Two-Wire LCD

Inexpensive LCDs show up all the time on the surplus market, but they usually require either four or eight data lines in addition to several control lines. Of course, you could always dip into your wallet and spring for more advanced displays. However, with just a pittance of external parts, it is easy to reconfigure even the humblest LCD to run well on only two port lines of a microcontroller. This article describes just such a technique.


The Inner Workings of Rock Golem

Coming from years of taking things apart, hacking kid’s toys, owning a copy of Forrest Mims’ Getting Started in Electronics, and plenty of trial and error, this is my story of how I hacked the Golem’s electronics to life.


The (Nearly) Universal Process Monitor

While the circuit described here is specifically for showing system parameters in an electric truck conversion, you can utilize it as a process monitor and display for analog and pulsed signals in a variety of applications.


Do-It-Yourself Surface-Mount Printed Circuit Boards

Continue your learning journey in electronics by making your own surface-mount PCBs. t’s not as hard as you might think it is.


All About Clocks for PICs

Taking the time to understand how clock options really work in a microcontroller will make implementing them that much easier.


A Full Motion Home Simulator

Go “virtually” anywhere with your own homebrew flight simulator.


Behind the Boo With Scare for a Cure

Learn firsthand what it takes to run FX for a charity haunt.


Breaking the Arduino Speed Limit

Admit it, we all like to do it — break the speed limit. Usually, it's just a little bit. Just how fast can you push the Arduino platform before it releases that magic smoke? Very fast, actually.


1963 Zenith MK2670 Stereo Repair

Vintage gear is very special, and has the advantage of simplicity so that even hobbyists can work on it. See how this particular stereo console got a facelift with a mix of old and new technology.


This is Radio Disaster Calling

When natural disasters occur and phone service goes out, it’s ham radio operators who keep communications open.


MakerPlot — The DIY Software Kit ... Part 7

Graphical plotting, data acquisition, and control software for your microcontroller.


Prop Dropper 2

Check out this upgrade to a favorite project that will give you twice the scare power for Halloween.


Tools of the Trade

Whether you’re a professional or hobbyist (or both!), having the right equipment to accomplish what you’re doing makes all the difference in the world. Here’s a look at some of the “must-have” tools for a workbench.


MakerPlot — The DIY Software Kit ... Part 6

Graphical plotting, data acquisition, and control software for your microcontroller.


Calculators as Coprocessors

Turn a TI calculator into a computing machine.


MakerPlot — The DIY Software Kit ... Part 9

Graphical plotting, data acquisition, and control software for your microcontroller.


ISaAC — A New Add-on Adapter for the Raspberry Pi

Enhance your RaspPi projects and add functionality with this ultimate interface board.


Haunting with Video Projectors

A new trend in creating holiday displays is using digital decorations.


Boxed Kit Amps’ Gobo Stereo Amplifier

This is a fun to build desktop stereo amplifier kit that is appropriate for any experience level.


Leonard Pickel On Haunting

I come to haunting from a completely different direction that most of my colleagues ... many of whom have some theatrical or set building background. I didn't start out as a home haunter and grow into the pro ranks like many others.



Projects

MakerPlot — The DIY Software Kit ... Part 10

Graphical plotting, data acquisition, and control software for your microcontroller.


Haunting 101: The Basics of Boo

Here are 13 prop ideas to get you started in haunting.


Build the Peek-A-Boo Ghost

Not all decorations have to be scary. Have some fun with this quick build.


Build the BaTESLA Coil

How would of Nikola Tesla have designed his famous coil if he had been able to access modern day electronic parts? Here’s one idea.


Build an Inexpensive 12 volt/12 amp Modern Digital Solar Charge Controller

This reader-requested solar controller for charging 12 volt lead-acid batteries is very simple to build and will help keep your batteries in tip-topped off shape.


Giving Life to the Adafruit 32x32 RGB Matrix Panel

You’ll have a great time making a cool graphical display of Conway’s Game of Life with this colorful array.


Zener Diode Tester

The tester described in this article is a simple two-transistor circuit operating from a 9V battery which tests zener diodes with breakdown voltages up to 52 volts. Nothing more than a multimeter is necessary to build, test, and use the circuit.


72 Watt Constant Voltage/Constant Current Power Supply

This cost-effective unit will help prevent catastrophic events to components and keep your batteries charged up, as well.


A 150 MHz RF Signal Generator for Your Test Bench

No test bench is complete until it has an RF signal source of some type. Here is a sweet general purpose RF signal generator that won’t take up much space and can be built on the cheap.


Build a PIC-Based Remote Temperature Sensor

You can never have too many remote sensors, right? This circuit lets you set up a homemade weather station to monitor the most popular of all parameters: temperature.


A Multi-Stage High Speed Input Monitor

This neat little device will help you make those close calls in high speed competitive events.


The Dryer Minder

While originally created for a specific purpose, this basic “notification” circuit can be implemented in many different applications.


Frequency Counters and Retrofitting

Even the lowest grade frequency counters are often the most accurate instruments on the bench. Here, we'll describe their general principles of operation, construction and retrofitting into existing equipment, all the way to a full blown universal counter.


Hotrod Your Electric Guitar with Active Tone Controls

Retrofit your plain Jane guitar with the controls it deserves to give you a fuller range of bass, mid, and high end color.


Building Your Own PICAXE Download Cable

Ready to transfer a program from your computer to a PICAXE chip but don’t have the necessary (and sometimes pricey) USB cable? Well, here's how to make one!


Three-Axis Hockey Puck Accelerometer Data Logger

Accelerometers can be used in many applications, and this unique device is no exception — especially when it’s combined with our poor man’s seismometer from a previous issue.


Build the 3D Christmas LED Tree

Brighten things up this holiday season with your own home-built LED tree.


A Unique LED Clock

Just when you thought there were no more cool electronic clocks to build, this Arduino-controlled version showed up.


The Decade Box Revisited

Decade boxes allow users to dial in precise amounts of electrical resistance to be inserted into a circuit they’re designing. Original boxes had faceplates with the values printed on them, but extra math was always involved. Here’s a handy update to that reliable piece of equipment.


Build the Light Appliance

This IR remote controllable 32x32 RGB LED display does way more than just flash pretty lights.


A Parametric Amplifier

Get into the swing of mechanical resonate oscillators by constructing this simple pendulum.


Build the Cat Away!

Are your furry friends going places they shouldn’t? Help them to control themselves with this fun project.


The Versatile Wireless Doorbell

Advances in technology often decrease price points, but not usefulness. See how to turn one circuit into several devices that most homeowners would find invaluable.


An Arduino Controlled Digital FM Radio

While you can always listen to the radio from some newfangled device, why not do it the old-fashioned way — over the air from a desktop unit. (Plus, you get to control it with a remote!)


Make These Unique Xmas Earrings

If an LED Christmas tree is simply not enough bling this year, then you’ll want to whip up a bunch of these sparkly earring sets to make things even more festive. Plus, they make great gifts.


Toss the Toggle

Don't let your projects be embarrassed by their old-school toggles and slide switches! Upgrade them to the power of push buttons!


Game Programming for the Arduino

Not only is it simple to write game programs, it’s downright fun.


BASIC Stamp Module Tester

This easy-to-build-and-use tester will help you quickly troubleshoot problems like bad I/O pins, issues with RAM, and other headaches you might be having with the Stamps you’re using in projects.


USB, LEDs, and Some Sensors

Turning LEDs on and off is fun and all, but why not add a sensor or two that would be useful for something other than the usual light show?


MakerPlot — The DIY Software Kit Part 4

Graphical plotting, data acquisition, and control software for your microcontroller.


Desktop Rocket Fireworks

Have a blast making this simple circuit with your kids to brighten up your desk all year round.


PumpkinFX

Learn how to animate a character’s mouth to match music or speech.


Wishing You a Very Random Christmas

This flexible eight-channel light controller uses random number generators to make sure your holiday displays never look the same.


MakerPlot — The DIY Software Kit Part 5

Graphical plotting, data acquisition, and control software for your microcontroller.


MakerPlot — The DIY Software Kit ... Part 8

Graphical plotting, data acquisition, and control software for your microcontroller.


Trio de los Muertos

Mix animation and psychology with this fun prop to liven up your next “Day of the Dead” celebration.


Monster in a Box

Give your treaters a nice trick with this prop that’ll keep ’em wondering what’s trying to get out.


Automating Your Haunt Using PICAXE Microcontrollers

Instead of actors running your haunt, use electronics instead.


Ruby’s Flame Extended Online Version - Part 1

Add “fire” to your next display with Ruby's flame, a four foot tall faux flame prop. Part 1


Ruby’s Flame Extended Online Version - Part 2

The power supply, electrical, and wrapping it all up. Part 2


What Do You Want On Your Tombstone?

Save time and money making decorations with CNC.


The Crypt Creature

This entombed skeleton prop is startling good fun.


Beware the Ghost Phone

Build a Ghost Phone for your Halloween Trick Or Treaters.



Columns

TechKnowledgey
by Jeff Eckert
Events, Advances, and News (01.2014)
Read about a transistor that learns, secure wireless access, the Smellophone, plus some other cool stuff.

PICAXE Primer
by Ron Hackett
PICAXE-Pi Communications — Part 1
Get answers to questions about the behavior of the cylon10.py program from last time, and begin an exploration of PICAXE-Pi communications.

TechKnowledgey
by Jeff Eckert
Events, Advances, and News (3.2014)
Topics to read about this time include squeezing out leakage; faster, cheaper SSD; a real crock; plus some other interesting stuff.

PICAXE Primer
by Ron Hackett
PICAXE-Pi Communications — Part 2
We’ll continue with our PICAXE-Pi communications experiments, and cover the basic techniques that can be used to send a PICAXE ADC reading to the Pi from any analog sensor we choose.

TechKnowledgey
by Jeff Eckert
Events, Advances, and News (05.2014)
Learn about reverse solar generation, digging up dirt on neighbors, teeny-tiny MCUs, plus some other timely topics.

PICAXE Primer
by Ron Hackett
Construct a Battery-Backed UPS for Your Pi
Protect your Pi during power outages for a fraction of the cost of commercial uninterruptable power supply units.

TechKnowledgey
by Jeff Eckert
Events, Advances, and News (07.2014)
Read about the tower of power, building your own gaming machine, free disposable email, plus some other cool stuff.

Q&A
by Tim Brown
Reader Questions Answered Here (11.2014)
Read about solutions to fix a broken laptop, a VCR that eats tapes, and sound system hum.

PICAXE Primer
by Ron Hackett
Build an Auto-Off Continuity Tester
Follow through a few experiments to construct a PICAXE-based auto-off continuity tester that will help save money on batteries.

TechKnowledgey
by Jeff Eckert
Events, Advances, and News (10.2014)
Some of this month’s topics include different types of refrigerator magnets, better satellite images, adding Wi-Fi to your Arduino, and wearable cameras, just to name a few.

TechKnowledgey
by Jeff Eckert
Events, Advances, and News (12.2014)
Topics of interest this time include the world’s fastest electric motorcycle, getting your own cloud, taking your own ECG, preserving the CRT, plus some other cool stuff.

The Spin Zone
by Jon McPhalen
Shifty Business
Sometimes the simple tried-and-true solutions are overlooked because of the ever-increasing sophistication of microcontrollers. Case in point: shift registers.

The Spin Zone
by Jon McPhalen
More Shifty Business
Expanding quadrature encoder inputs using the 74x165.

Smiley’s Workshop
by Joe Pardue
The Arduino Classroom. Arduino 101/Chapter 5: Analog Output
Get your fill of the serial class of functions, the differences between analog and digital signals, and how to use these signals to control LEDs and servomotors.

The Spin Zone
by Jon McPhalen
Getting Fancy With LANC
Focus in on what can be accomplished with a LANC port, the Propeller, and a camcorder.

PICAXE Primer
by Ron Hackett
Introducing the RazzPi PCBs
Learn about two new printed circuit boards you can use in either PICAXE-Pi projects or pure PICAXE applications.

Q&A
by Russell Kincaid
Reader Questions Answered Here (02.2014)
Inquiries about trickle chargers, ham mobile radio setups, and electronic player pianos are asked and answered this time.

Q&A
by Tim Brown
Reader Questions Answered Here (10.2014)
It's Back! Issues regarding measuring current with a clamp-on ammeter and outdoor reception of TV audio are discussed.

Q&A
by Tim Brown
Reader Questions Answered Here (12.2014)
Questions cover a battery monitor circuit, NiMHs over NiCads, and using an audio synthesizer IC with an eight ohm speaker.

Open Communication
by Louis E. Frenzel
The Internet of Things and Machine-to-Machine Communications Emerge as Internet Drivers
In case you haven’t heard, the Internet of Things (IoT) and Machine-to-Machine (M2M) are the next big things in Internet growth and new communications applications. Both technologies are expected to enable billions of new devices in the coming years.

The Design Cycle
by Fred Eady
Finishing Touches
We have finally eaten most all of that elephant we started cooking a couple of issues back. This month, we will add touch and audio routines to our FT800 driver. By the time you have digested this edition of Design Cycle, you will be able to command the FT800 to draw buttons and text, detect touch events, and generate audio.

The Spin Zone
by Jon McPhalen
Propeller Reanimator
Bring your Halloween (or any holiday) props to life with the magic of circuits and code using the Propeller.

The Spin Zone
by Jon McPhalen
Putting a Button On It
Think there’s not a lot to say about implementing buttons into your electronic projects? Guess again.

Q&A
by Russell Kincaid
Reader Questions Answered Here (01.2014)
Questions on LED drivers, remote control, and video and power over cable are answered.

Smiley’s Workshop
by Joe Pardue
The Arduino Classroom: Arduino 101
Even though the Internet is flowing with tutorials on how to use the Arduino microcontroller, sometimes it’s nice to have everything put together into an easy-to-follow introductory course. That’s what we’ve done here.

Open Communication
by Louis E. Frenzel
Software-Defined Radios Everywhere.
Virtually all radios today — cell phones and Wi-Fi WLAN, for example — are software-defined radios. Find out exactly what SDRs are and how they work.

The Design Cycle
by Fred Eady
PICs and a Stick Pack Big Computing Power in a Small Package
The Rapid USB prototyping stick is powered by an enhanced PIC16 microcontroller that can do the work normally relegated to PIC32 silicon. The PIC16F1459 under the USB stick's hood can spout USB lingo at one end and spit RS-232 bits out of the other. No external clock crystal is required to utilize the stick's ADC, comparators, DAC, SPI module, and timers. This installment will show you how to take advantage of the tremendous amount of computation power stuffed into a very small package.

Smiley’s Workshop
by Joe Pardue
The Arduino Classroom — Chapter 3: How an Arduino Program Works
Get introduced to the basic concepts of an Arduino program, then use those concepts to keep counts and times so you can blink some LEDs in a pattern.

The Design Cycle
by Fred Eady
Learning Core Values
In the previous Design Cycle offering, we walked around the 32-bit EVE support hardware. This time, we will put that hardware to work. By the time your eyes encounter the final period of the final sentence of this month's column, we will have written and verified all of the FT800 core firmware needed to drive our LCD panel.

Smiley’s Workshop
by Joe Pardue
The Arduino Classroom. Arduino 101/Chapter 4: Digital Input ... Pushbuttons.
Learn how to design circuits with pushbuttons and how to utilize them to get your system to take action when they are pressed (or not).

Near Space
by L. Paul Verhage
Wiring and Testing the BalloonSat Extreme Flight Computer
More progress is made on our platform that will give advanced students practice integrating experiments into a single near space vehicle.

Smiley’s Workshop
by Joe Pardue
The Arduino Classroom. Arduino 101/Chapter 8: Displaying Information.
Learn a bunch while blinking a lot of LEDs, then see how to make the world’s smallest moving message sign with seven-segment displays.

Smiley’s Workshop
by Joe Pardue
The Arduino Classroom. Arduino 101/Chapter 11: Sound
In order to make sounds using the Arduino, you need to know about arrays and interrupts.

Smiley’s Workshop
by Joe Pardue
The Arduino Classroom. Arduino 101/Chapter 6: Analog Input
This time, learn about inputting analog signals using the analog-to-digital converter built into the Arduino, plus some basic electrical concepts to help understand what it is that’s being input.

Smiley’s Workshop
by Joe Pardue
The Arduino Classroom. Arduino 101/Chapter 10: Sensing Light and Temperature
Expand what you can sense with an Arduino utilizing light and temperature values as data.

Open Communication
by Louis E. Frenzel
DSL and Cable TV Broadband Internet Access: How Do They Work?
Chances are you’re already using at least one of these technologies, but recent upgrades have made them faster. Read about the technical details of each system and the most recent new features and specifications.

The Spin Zone
by Jon McPhalen
Oh, Say, Can you I2C?
Sometimes programming aficionados assume concepts that are simple to them are understood by everybody when, in reality, they are not. I2C is one of these topics. Get up to speed on this protocol so you can spin circles around fellow enthusiasts.

The Design Cycle
by Fred Eady
Building a ZigBee HAN
ZigBee has finally come home. This month, we will lay the groundwork for installing a ZigBee Home Automation Network. Our HAN can be accessed from the living room LAN or from anywhere in the world via the Internet.

Near Space
by L. Paul Verhage
A New Airframe Design for Near Spacecraft — Part 2
Building a new airframe is only part of creating a near spacecraft. There are things like post burst chaos that have to be considered.

Near Space
by L. Paul Verhage
A New Airframe Design for Near Spacecraft — Part 3
Securing the more expensive internals of a near spacecraft to the airframe is the final — and perhaps most important — step in finishing the new design.

Near Space
by L. Paul Verhage
The BalloonSat Extreme
Sometimes a simple flight computer isn’t enough. With the Extreme, you’ll have enough memory for 15 separate near space experiments.

The Design Cycle
by Fred Eady
Utilizing Embedded Web Development
Remember drilling that slightly off-center toggle switch mounting hole for your project's front panel then have it be a bit too large? Those days are long gone. Trade in that drill and dull set of metal bits for some silicon versions that machine a perfect virtual front panel every time.

The Design Cycle
by Fred Eady
Setting Up Linux With Bones is a Piece of Pi
I'm a Microchip PIC kind of guy. However, when it comes to Linux, almost any flavor will do. The Raspberry Pi and BeagleBone Black are getting lots of press. So, instead of deciding whether to bake a Pi or walk the Dog, we are going to do both. In this installment of Design Cycle, we will make the crust and put a leash on the Dog.

Smiley’s Workshop
by Joe Pardue
The Arduino Classroom. Arduino 101/Chapter 7: Analog Input — Part 2
Dial into potentiometers, Ohm’s law, and circuits.

Smiley’s Workshop
by Joe Pardue
The Arduino Classroom. Arduino 101/Chapter 9: Keeping Time
Take a much higher level look at computer time keeping, and learn to use some very novice-friendly applications available for the Arduino.

Smiley’s Workshop
by Joe Pardue
The Arduino Classroom - Chapter 2: Digital Output - LEDs
As we continue our curriculum on computing and electronics basics, learn how to design circuits using light emitting diodes, and then how to use these LEDs with Arduino software to indicate events to people using your system.

The Design Cycle
by Fred Eady
Total Eclipse of the Cross Compiler
The BeagleBone Black and Raspberry Pi are different in many ways. They are also alike in many ways. However, when it comes to programming them, the equalizer appears in the form of a Linux-based GNU cross compiler toolchain running under the umbrella of an Eclipse IDE.

Near Space
by L. Paul Verhage
A Thermometer for the Totable Thermal Vacuum Chamber
I needed to know the temperature of what was going on inside my TVC while I was running tests, instead of after the test was done. I couldn’t find an affordable thermometer that mimicked near space conditions, so I turned to a homebrew solution.

The Design Cycle
by Fred Eady
The Dawn of a New EVE
This is the first in a series of tutorials aimed at enabling FTDI's new Embedded Video Engine technology using a PIC microcontroller. Along the way, we will use Microchip's XC32 C compiler to code the various elements of our EVE firmware driver. Plus, with the help of a PICkit3, we will exercise this driver onboard a Digilent MX3 which is based on the PIC32MX320F128H.

Open Communication
by Louis E. Frenzel
White Space Wireless Ready for New Services
It is no secret that we are running out of spectrum space for certain new and/or improved wireless services. One potential solution for this can be found in the white space spectrum.

Open Communication
by Louis E. Frenzel
Video Monitoring Over the Internet
Video has gotten so good and cheap lately, everyone seems to be using it. One growing trend in this area has been video monitoring or surveillance, and with the Internet of Things movement, what used to be expensive and tricky is now common place and affordable.

Getting Started With 3D Printing
by Chuck Hellebuyck
Briding the Gap of Packaging With 3D Printing.
The three main areas to designing a project are: hardware, software, and packaging. While hardware and software have come a long way over the years, replicating custom enclosures has been on the expensive side ... until now.

Near Space
by L. Paul Verhage
CubeSats — Part 1
There’s a new breed of satellites in town with a lot of potential to cost-effectively and boldly go where no man has before.

Departments

A MAKER’S DOZEN: Designing Around Failure
by Bryan Bergeron
I just finished a major production run of simulators for training physicians on how to examine the eye. Based on my failure rate, I'd say that a proper maker's dozen is 13.5 units. But, when it comes to DIY, it's not really a "failure rate" but a learning opportunity.

The Internet of Things
by Bryan Bergeron
Since the birth of the Internet, there has been talk of total connectivity — between people, people and their possessions, and things to things. Today, the Internet of Things (IoT) is a practical reality in many settings.

Know Your Basics
by Bryan Bergeron
To master the art of electronics, it's important to learn the basics. I'm talking Ohms Law, serial and parallel discrete components, and simple signal sources.

Can’t Get There From Here
by Bryan Bergeron
Children and younger adults often have an easier time picking up microcontrollers, relative to someone with years of experience with analog circuits. This is — in part — because they have no legacy knowledge to get in the way