Wednesday, February 12, 2014

New Guilty Pleasure

Not sure whether to title this post "New Guilty Pleasure," or "Confessions of a Shopaholic".

I have discovered that you can order gizmos and doodads directly from China on eBay.

All of these items were purchased on eBay from alice1101983 for about $50.00.  I am going to have a lot of fun!

Projects in Progress:
         Picking an Arduino Starter Kit for Newbies (20% completed)

         Mailbox Notifier (30% completed)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Latching and Non-Latching Hall Effect Sensors

Did you know that there are two types of Hall Effect Sensors; latching and non-latching?  

I didn't! 

Boy, when you think you have a non-latching hall effect sensor and you actually have a latching one it is really hard to figure out what the heck you did wrong.  

I created the simple circuit below out of frustration and quickly learned that I had purchased the wrong sensor.

The difference between latching and non-latching is that when you move the north pole of a magnet near a latching hall effect sensor it will switch to HIGH, completing the below circuit, and lighting the LED.  The switch will remain set to HIGH and the LED will remain on until you move the south pole of the magnet near the sensor, it will then switch to LOW turning the LED off.

From what I understand, a non-latching circuit will switch to HIGH when the north pole of a magnet is near. When the magnet is moved away from the circuit it will switch to LOW. (Can you picture a mailbox door opening and moving the magnet away from the Arduino in the mailbox???)  Time to go shopping!

Use a Hall Effect Sensor and a magnet to complete the circuit and light the LED

Monday, January 27, 2014

In Progress - Article: Arduino Starter Kits

I know I've said that I am new to Arduino, but I don't think I mentioned that I got my starter kit (I am purposefully not saying which one) just about three weeks ago, Jan 3rd. At that time, I searched for a comparison of starter kits, but either there does not seem to be one, or I couldn't find it. Anyway, I thought it would be a good idea to write a comparison for my blog. However, it's turned into much more of an ambitious endeavor than I thought. I am going to write it, but it's just going to take a while. I hope when it's completed that it will be good enough to share in other places, rather than just my "newbie" blog.

The starter kits I am currently planning on reviewing (in no particular order) are:
  1. Arduino - The Arduino Starter Kit
  2. Makershed - 
    1. Getting Started with Arduino Kit v3.0
    2. Ultimate Arduino Microcontroller Pack
    3. Microcontroller Quick Launch Pack
  3. Seeedstudio - ARDX - The starter kit for Arduino
  4. Sparkfun - Sparkfun Inventors Kit v3.1
  5. Adafruit 
    1. ARDX - v1.3 Experimentation Kit for Arduino
    2. Starter Pack for Arduino
    3. Budget Pack for Arduino
  6. Fritzing - Creator Kit, available in America from I originally dismissed this kit thinking it was childish, but after giving the Fritzing Creator Kit a second look I decided it deserves a spot on the review list.)
  7. Sainsmart
    1. Uno R3 Inventor Kit with Joystick
    2. Uno R3 Starter Kit
  8. Osepp
    1. 101 Basic Starter Kit
    2. 201 Arduino Basics Starter Kit
    3. Arduino Basics Companion Kit
  9. Sunfounder (ebay) Various flavors of kits (with and without SunFounder branded Arduino)
  10. Sintron (ebay) - Various flavors of kits.
12. Assembling your own. With some thoughts on whether to  purchase an Arduino branded board, a domestic clone, or clone from Asia??

If you know of any other kits out there that you think should be on the list please let me know.

Projects in Progress:
         Picking an Arduino Starter Kit for Newbies (5% completed)

         Mailbox Notifier (25% completed)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

So, why Arduino?

So, why Arduino?

I first heard of Arduino in 2012 while attending a lecture on the invention of mobile credit card readers.  (like the Square or Paypal's blue triangle). These devices simply plug into the audio port on smartphones or tablets and allow users to accept credit card payments almost anywhere. The gentleman giving the lecture (I'm sorry his name escapes me) explained that his goal had been to invent a card reader that would work on any cell phone or tablet. This is not an easy task when you consider that an Apple iPad does not have much in common with a Samsung Galaxy, or an LG phone. About the only item that all smart phones, whether it be Apple, Samsung, LG, etc., have in common and that function almost the same across all devices is the audio jack.

So, here is the puzzle, how do you read the magnetic strip from a credit card, containing numbers, into an audio port which only transmits sound? The answer, drum roll please, is you convert the credit card numbers into musical tones, and create a sort of individualized credit card song. This "song" is then transmitted through the audio port to an app or website on the device, which in turn runs a program to translate the musical tones back into numbers. The platform they used to experiment with and eventually prototype this device was, of course, the Arduino. 

At that time, I was more intrigued by the idea that an average person could invent something so cool than by the Arduino platform that they had used. But, the idea of being able to build things so easily with electronics and a microcontroller stuck in my head.

So, now let's fast forward to December 2013, just last month, and let me introduce a new character to my story… my mailman. My mail delivery service is so erratic that I never know when my mail is going to arrive.  Some nights we can go to the mailbox 2 or 3 times to check, before the mail is actually delivered. One day, out of frustration, I googled "snail mail notifier". And, up pops a YouTube video created by Felix Rusu of LowPowerLab.

Felix uses an Arduino clone of his own called a Moteino. Moteino's are very small, relatively inexpensive and use an RF signal to communicate.

With 2 Moteinos (one to send the signal and the other to receive), a sensor and a few other components, Felix receives a text message on his cell phone whenever the mail is delivered. Oh my, I want to build a mailbox notifier!!!

I quickly decided that Felix's gizmo is just a little too advanced for me, so I started out on my journey to learn Arduino.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014



My name is Marion and I am a computer programmer in Orange County, California. I am new to Arduino and electronics. But, with the wealth of knowledge on the internet and vast amount of resources I find that learning Arduino is easy and loads of fun! I have quickly progressed from knowing absolutely nothing to knowing just a little more than nothing. ;)

After posting my first attempt at soldering (don't worry, the Arduino is designed so you never have to solder if you don't want to) on Facebook many of my friends wanted to know what Arduino was and how they could get started on it too.

Also, I realize that knowing what I know now I would probably have done things a little differently to save some money up front. So, I plan on sharing some thoughts on that and hope you will too.

And, finally, sitting at my kitchen table getting my first circuit to work is very exciting, but not very social. And, frankly, my family is not as excited as I am by the little yellow LED happily blinking away while I jump for joy and run through the house showing everyone that I built my first circuit.

So,  join me, and let's build gizmos and learn Arduino together and have some fun while we're at it!

-- Marion