Everything for Electronics

Show issues for


December 2016

Nuts and Volts Magazine


Features

Take a CAN Bus for a Spin

Learn how to use a Controller Area Network (CAN) bus with a Propeller MCU.


Getting Down to Earth

Get grounded in the proper facts about working on equipment that is powered directly from the AC power lines.


The Remarkable CSS555

The CSS555 is a micropower programmable version of the 555 family of timer ICs.


Techniques to Improve Your Signal-to-Noise Ratio

Learn some simple techniques to improve the signal-to-noise ratio in your projects.


Replacing The 555 With A PIC — Part 1 — A Digital Analog

Learn how to emulate a 555 or 556 using a PIC microcontroller — with no special programming required!


SmartThings and the Device Maker

How about a home automation platform with a cloud-based development environment that lets you create custom apps and microcontroller-based devices to talk to over Zigbee that you can control with your smartphone.


Vintage Computing — Simple Hardware Interfaces for Your Mentor’s Friend

Venture outside the Amigo retro computer and Color BASIC to interface with a couple of simple hardware circuits.


A Solar Energy Story — Design, Installation, and Performance

The Solar Revolution is here whether we like it or not. I came to this realization last year when it became apparent how many solar companies were going out of their way to annoy me by calling night and day.


The Personal Computer in Amateur Radio

A discussion about ham radio contesting programs, with an additional overview of all the myriad uses of computers in ham radio.


Reliable IoT Data On Your Desk

Here's a unique panel meter which features the look and feel of analog with the functionality of ZigBee and SmartThings technology so you can measure all kinds of different stuff.


Why You Need an Analog Front End and How to Set It Up

How to make your sensors talk nice to your microcontroller.


Make Your LED Dance Just Like a Candle

Modulate an LED to respond to the world around it with this simple technique.


The Beginner’s Guide to Digital Electronics

Learn how the numbers “1” and “0” changed the world of analog and digital electronics.


Name That Part!

Test your electronic components knowledge with this photo quiz.


Old Heathkits Never Die, They Just Get Restored

If you enjoy restoring old electronic equipment, then you’re gonna love this story of bringing a Heathkit EC-1 back to life.


Choosing an Oscilloscope

15 tips that can make selecting the appropriate oscilloscope for your task at hand a lot easier.


Computer Control and Interfacing with the NI MyRIO

National Instruments’ MyRIO is one of the best units available for computer interfacing and data acquisition. Plus, it can be utilized for a variety of teaching applications in controls, robotics, mechatronics, and embedded concepts.


Hail, the Lowly Substitution Box

Capacitor and resistor substitution boxes are very simple, yet handy pieces of test equipment. Here’s how they work and what’s available.


Vintage Computing — Five More Projects for the Mentor’s Friend

Five more learning projects for the Amigo retro computer that will keep the fun going for you and your young protégé.


FPGAs for the Hobbyist: OpenCores

How to use open source hardware IP-cores from OpenCores.org on the Mojo V3 development board.


Beyond the Arduino — Part 8

Power: Less is definitely more here as we focus on ways to reduce the power consumption in our projects so they can run for longer on less.


Name That Part!

Test your electronic components knowledge with this photo quiz.


In-Circuit Testing Techniques

There is a technique taken from automatic test equipment called guarding that lets you calculate the exact value of an individual resistor in-circuit.


Name That Part!

Test your electronic components knowledge with this photo quiz.


Name That Part!

Test your electronic components knowledge with this photo quiz.



Projects

ESP8266 NTP Clock

The ESP8266 family of devices makes inexpensive access to the Internet a non-issue, so it’s perfect to use to build a digital NTP clock.


Tricky Train Control with an Analog VOX

Use voice control to manipulate your model train set. This circuit is also perfect to implement on other types of projects you’d like to command with your words.


Low Cost PC Two-Channel Oscilloscope

Build an easily portable and cost-effective two-channel oscilloscope that hooks up to a PC.


ESP8266 Weather Clock

Build a Weather Clock with the ESP8266: a low cost Wi-Fi chip with full TCP/IP stack and MCU (Micro Controller Unit) capability.


Build a Sump-Fill Level Controller

Need to monitor the high or low level of a fluid? Choose from these two versions of a sump/fill level monitor/controller.


Build an ESR Meter for Your Test Bench

Test your stash of capacitors with this ESR Meter and weed out any bad ones before you install them in your projects.


Build a Digital Decade Box

Having the right tool makes any job easier. This decade box allows you to select a required resistance with a couple of switches — so no more checking with an ohmmeter to see the actual resistance value.


A Volume Controller Using Any Infrared Remote Control

Unlock better volume to your flat screen TV using any infrared remote control and your own speaker system.


Medical Grade Bedwetting Alarm and Sensor

A step-by-step build of an alarm and sensor to detect moisture levels in beds.


DIP Meter with Digital Frequency Display

Need a DIP meter? This device (with digital display) covers a frequency range of 1 MHz to 56 MHz, and can also be used as a frequency counter.


PiBooth — A Raspberry Pi based Photo Booth

Build the PiBooth — a Raspberry Pi based photo booth.


Battery Backed Lighting System

Battery Backed-Up LED Illumination System.


Build the Numitron — A Six-Digit Clock

This beautifully designed timepiece showcases cold war era components (Numitrons) along with modern LEDs.


Build a Fun Wind Speed Tracker with a Raspberry Pi

The tiny plot on my Davis weather station’s LCD screen is not very resolved and I wanted it to be better ... a whole lot better. The solution: a Raspberry Pi!


A 3-in-1 Tester for Your Lab

This DIY piece of test equipment combines a variable DC voltage reference, a programmable function wave generator, and a fully functional frequency counter, and it costs less than $150.


Rock It with a MIDI Keytar

Using a Rock Band 3 keyboard, you can construct a very inexpensive, yet very capable MIDI controller for use in the studio or on stage.


1/f Random Tones — Making Fractal Music with an Arduino

Making fractal music with an Arduino utilizing a unique dice program.


A Router Restarter

This device is actually a universal on-off machine that can be used remotely and also be controlled via a smartphone.


Build the Toilet Sentinel

Build a Toilet Sentinel circuit that alerts you when the toilet flapper has not sealed properly, allowing water to continue to run.


A MIDI Controlled Analog Synthesizer on a Shoestring

Build a MIDI controlled analog synthesizer for under $40 and start making electronic music right away.


Water Pump Protection System

You will be “well” served by this five-component (or less!) project that helps protect your water supply pump.


Make Your Own Portable Media Center

With a few pieces of hardware and a Raspberry Pi, you can have a traveling entertainment system that fits in the palm of your hand.


Using Programmable RGB LED Strips in Arrays

I’ve always wanted to build an LED table, and using LED strips made it super easy. Here’s how to do it.


Adjustable Electronic Load Using Incandescent Lamps

To properly test a power supply, an adjustable load is just the ticket. See how I saved some of my light bulbs from extinction by using them as visual indicators in this adjustable electronic load.


Vintage Computing — Five Easy Projects for Your Mentor’s Friend

Utilizing the Amigo retro computer, here are some fun projects to get you started on a technology adventure, exploring computers and programming.



Columns

PICAXE Primer
by Ron Hackett
Controlling an Electric BBQ Smoker — Part 1
As I mentioned at the end of the February Primer, we're now going to turn our attention to using a thermocouple sensor and a solid-state relay (SSR) to monitor and control the temperature of an electric smoker.

PICAXE Primer
by Ron Hackett
Controlling an Electric BBQ Smoker — Part 2
Controlling and monitoring an electric BBQ smoker with a PICAXE data logger.

TechKnowledgey
by Jeff Eckert
Events, Advances, and News (05.2016)
Information on current events, advances, and news in various technology fields.

The Ham’s Wireless Workbench
by H. Ward Silver
Waves and Propagation: Part 2 — Radio Horizon
Not only hams can take advantage of radio propagation — everybody has a chance to experience some very interesting ways of interacting with the natural world through wireless.

Q&A
by Kristen McIntyre
Reader Questions Answered Here (10.2016)
Questions regarding how to build a gate and a case where battery polarity is not important are addressed, plus help is provided regarding a set of Archer ICs.

Q&A
by Tim Brown
Reader Questions Answered Here (03.2016)
Problems with Commodore 64 video issues and a mini tutorial on the reliability of electronic and mechanical devices are featured this time.

Near Space
by L. Paul Verhage
Supporting Near Space Missions with Quadcopters
Quadcopters can’t reach near space altitudes; the air is just too thin. However, quadcopters can still be instrumental in supporting near space exploration.

Q&A
by Tim Brown
Reader Questions Answered Here (8.2016)
Discussion on solar heating system controls and inertial navigation system basics.

Q&A
by Tim Brown
Reader Questions Answered Here (9.2016)
Get some enlightenment on modern lighting (LEDs and CFLs) and whether green energy is truly “green.”

The Ham’s Wireless Workbench
by H. Ward Silver
Shielding and Shielded Cables
An overview of shielding and shielded cables, including some practices you should know as a defense against gremlins that can mess up your circuits.

Open Communication
by Louis E. Frenzel
Spectrum Shortage Threatens the Future of Wireless
With the grown of wireless technologies, spectrum usage demand is on the rise. The problem is, there’s only so much spectrum to be had.

Near Space
by L. Paul Verhage
A New Vision of BalloonSats
A new vision for standardization of BalloonSats.

Q&A
by Tim Brown
Reader Questions Answered Here (5.2016)
Low battery indicator/battery life.

Open Communication
by Louis E. Frenzel
What’s in the Works for Wireless?
Wireless is so ubiquitous these days, we take it for granted. However, there are even more things to expect for/from it in the future.

The Ham’s Wireless Workbench
by H. Ward Silver
Transmission Lines and SWR
Any conductor carrying an AC current can be treated as a transmission line. Here, we'll talk about a basic element of transmission lines: the standing wave ratio. Find out why it’s important and how to measure it.

PICAXE Primer
by Ron Hackett
Building A Simple Data Logger
Implement a simple 08M2 based data logger that monitors and records the real time temperature of a backyard grill.

Q&A
by Tim Brown
Reader Questions Answered Here (7.2016)
Discussion on problems with a digital clock’s backlight and “miracle” energy sources.

Q&A
by Kristen McIntyre
Reader Questions Answered Here (11.2016)
Repurposing X10 cameras and the real reason op-amps are called what they are head up this month’s discussion.

Near Space
by L. Paul Verhage
Cheap Multispectral Imaging for Amateur Science
Quadcopters and amateur BalloonSats are the “poor man’s” version for satellite-based Earth imaging.

The Spin Zone
by Jon McPhalen
More Hot & Sticky — Temperature And Humidity Measurement With The DHT11 Sensor
If you haven't explored humidity and temperature measurement due to the higher cost of precision sensors, the DHT11 is an inexpensive gateway to a lot of fun.

Q&A
by Tim Brown
Reader Questions Answered Here (4.2016)
Hand tools for servicing electronic devices.

The Ham’s Wireless Workbench
by H. Ward Silver
Common Antennas You Need to Know About
Everything acts like an antenna — sometimes, the antenna is you! Knowing about common antennas is a good step toward effective data link and other wireless system design.

The Ham’s Wireless Workbench
by H. Ward Silver
Waves and Propagation: Part 1
Radio and wireless are all about waves and how they link distant points together. Learn about RF propagation, which is the way radio signals get from Point A to Point B.

The Design Cycle
by Fred Eady
ARMed and Dangerous
If you’ve ever written code for any other microcontroller, you can write code for an ARM microcontroller.

The Spin Zone
by Jon McPhalen
Strings & Things
Working with strings in the Spin language for the Parallax Propeller is not as hard as you might think.

The Design Cycle
by Fred Eady
Getting Graphic(s) with the A40 Mesh Networking Alarm Controller Project
If you can generate a standard 24-bit BMP image using a graphics editor program, you can integrate that image into a professional touch screen application.

Near Space
by L. Paul Verhage
My First Near Space Payload to Need an FAA Waiver
Setting “records” with a particular secret near space payload that required special FAA clearance.

Practical 3D Printing
by Chuck Hellebuyck
3D Printed On-Air Flashing Sign
Tired of being interrupted when you’re recording videos? Alert people when you’re on the air with this flashing 3D printed sign.

The Design Cycle
by Fred Eady
JumpStart Your ARM Development
JumpStart your coding with ARM microcontrollers and ImageCrafts’ special API.

The Design Cycle
by Fred Eady
Basic Training for All Programming Languages
Test driving the new M.E. Labs trainer. Everything you need to enhance your coding skills is included!

The Design Cycle
by Fred Eady
Let Your PIC Push the Buttons in this IoT Device
Use a PIC32MX575F512H to monitor and control the A40 network.

Near Space
by L. Paul Verhage
North American/Guatemala Near Space Alliance
When an amateur radio operator from Guatemala asked for help in kicking off his first launch, the near space community couldn’t resist but help out.

The Design Cycle
by Fred Eady
Portable RF Mesh Alarm System Can be Monitored from Anywhere
Combine an easy to set up and use RF alarm system with a 32-bit IoT node and you get a portable 40-node RF mesh alarm system that can be monitored from anywhere in the world.

The Design Cycle
by Fred Eady
Help is Finally Here for 32-bit PICs
Microchip has released a new 32-bit microcontroller that is now supported by the MPLAB Code Configurator.

Practical 3D Printing
by Chuck Hellebuyck
Resistor/Diode Tester
Modifying a previous 3D print into a different kind of component holder.

The Design Cycle
by Fred Eady
Exploring the Nuances of Nordic Semiconductor’s nRF52832’s Timer and GPIO Peripherals
The nRF51 Series is a family of highly flexible, multi-protocol, system-on-chip (SoC) devices for ultra-low power wireless applications. This time, we’ll focus on treating the nRF52832 as a very powerful microcontroller.

Open Communication
by Louis E. Frenzel
Virtual Instruments Improve Electronic Experimentation
Virtual Instruments: How to get a bench full of test equipment for only a few hundred dollars.

The Design Cycle
by Fred Eady
Nordic’s New nRF52832 Gets You On Track with BLE Apps
Design the hardware and write the code for Nordic Semiconductor’s ubiquitous nRF5 SoCs. The nRF51 Series is a family of highly flexible, multi-protocol, system-on-chip (SoC) devices for ultra-low power wireless applications.

Practical 3D Printing
by Chuck Hellebuyck
3D Print A Breadboard Base With Sidecar Supports
This 3D printed breadboard base with sidecar supports makes projects portable when all that connects the boards together is wires.

Open Communication
by Louis E. Frenzel
So, You Think You Know Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi is just about the most widely used wireless technology in the world. However, there is a lot you may not know about Wi-Fi. Here is a primer to bring you up to date.

Open Communication
by Louis E. Frenzel
How Wireless Signals Propagate
Learn how different types of radio wave signals propagate. It may not be quite as simple as you think.

The Design Cycle
by Fred Eady
Get Up and Running Quickly with BLE
Use Microchip’s new BM70 Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) radio module and you’ll be able to communicate with your smartphone without any low-level BLE programming or expensive compilers and programmers.

The Ham’s Wireless Workbench
by H. Ward Silver
Impedance Matching
Impedance matching is not mysterious, it is really just about controlling reflections in transmission lines.

The Spin Zone
by Jon McPhalen
Game Time
Game countdown timer for use in applications like escape rooms.

Open Communication
by Louis E. Frenzel
The Internet of Things. Who Needs It?
Now that most of the affluent world is connected to the Internet, why not connect everything else?

The Spin Zone
by Jon McPhalen
Simple. Practical. Propeller.
Designing your own custom templates for programming the Parallax Propeller is the way to go.

Practical 3D Printing
by Chuck Hellebuyck
Adding an LCD and SD Card to a 3D Printer
Want to break away from your computer's USB connection and run your 3D printer independently? Find out how.

Practical 3D Printing
by Chuck Hellebuyck
Soldering Wires with a 3D Print
Design a versatile “third hand” with your 3D printer to hold various sizes of wires. A little bending and the ends of the wires are touching, ready for solder.

Practical 3D Printing
by Chuck Hellebuyck
MakerBot Customizer for 3D Print Creations
Makerbot Customizer software makes modding a Thingiverse downloaded design a breeze.

The Spin Zone
by Jon McPhalen
The Key to the Code
Matrix keypads are very useful for stand-alone embedded projects.

TechKnowledgey
by Jeff Eckert
Events, Advances, and News (07.2016)
Information on current events, advances, and news in various technology fields.

Q&A
by Tim Brown
Reader Questions Answered Here (1.2016)
Scanner frequency change, a simple remote control, and a telephone off-hook indicator.

Q&A
by Tim Brown
Reader Questions Answered Here (2.2016)
Questions on Cat-5 cabling, plus the mysteries of electronic filters are explained.

TechKnowledgey
by Jeff Eckert
Events, Advances, and News (03.2016)
Information on current events, advances, and news in various technology fields.

Q&A
by Tim Brown
Reader Questions Answered Here (6.2016)
Microwave Oven or Death Ray and Modem Commands.

Near Space
by L. Paul Verhage
Quadcopters to the (Near Space) Rescue
Quadcopters can help make a huge difference in the time required to recover near spacecraft after landing.

TechKnowledgey
by Jeff Eckert
Events, Advances, and News (09.2016)
Planar lens for smartphones; optical clock accurate in the attosecond range; the new Asus’ ZenBook 3 laptop; how to run a quantum computer; what to do if you really need a lot of storage; a supply for your Pi; never losing anything again; and what happened to Bell Labs.

TechKnowledgey
by Jeff Eckert
Events, Advances, and News (11.2016)
Information on current events, advances, and news in various technology fields.

Q&A
by Kristen McIntyre
Reader Questions Answered Here (12.2016)
Help with VCO devices and a design, padding 70 volt audio, and dealing with an ICOM antenna tuner problem are the hot topics this time.

Departments

Make History: Keep a Logbook
by Bryan Bergeron
Notes, sketches, and snapping photos of your circuits/projects can be a time-saving reference, as well as historical documentation for yourself and others.

Developing Perspectives — When All You Have is a Hammer
by Bryan Bergeron
Sometimes expertise in one area unnecessarily narrows the range of options to be considered when assessing a problem.

Indestructibles: The Lure of Tube Audio Equipment
by Bryan Bergeron
My Sony integrated amp with copper chassis and huge toroidal transformers was a tour de force in my audio setup before the power mains took an indirect lightning hit. Because the microcontroller was fried, I couldn’t even get the unit to power up.

The Art of Electronics: What Constitutes the Atomic Level?
by Bryan Bergeron
When teaching electronics to others, how do you determine the atomic level?

So, Exactly What is Electronics?
by Bryan Bergeron
Given the rapid evolution of the electronics field over the past few years, exactly how do you define electronics today?

Self-Monitoring Made Easy
by Bryan Bergeron
It’s never been easier or more affordable to self-monitor everything from your heart rate to your body fat composition.

Leaded Components: Reports of their death have been greatly exaggerated
by Bryan Bergeron
If you’re just getting into electronics, don’t be dismayed — or distracted — by the world of SMT. A traditional perfboard, a good supply of leaded components, and a few schematics to work from will get you started.

Easing Into STEM
by Bryan Bergeron
I’m often asked what the best way is to support STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education with electronics.

Wall Light Switches: Relics of the Tungsten Age?
by Bryan Bergeron
Given the increased popularity of multi-function light bulbs, it’s clear that the traditional light-only bulb and the associated 110V circuitry are on their way out.

Superfluous Technology: Avoiding the Binge
by Bryan Bergeron
Do you “binge” when it comes to buying electronics for your hobbies?

Spy Gear
by Bryan Bergeron
Spy technology is a fun vehicle for learning basic electronics

Vinyl Flashback
by Bryan Bergeron
There’s a resurgence of interest in vintage vinyl, turntables, and old-school tube amps.