Computer Hardware

Using the Arduino serial console to monitor your Sketch

(July 6, 2017)

The most useful debugging tool many programmers have is the Print statement. They insert Print statements throughout their code, to see if the program got to certain points and if so what was the values. While there are fancy schmancy debugger packages available, the Print statement is extremely useful and simple. An Arduino presents a challenge because the software executes over on that teensy board, there's no computer display, no direct connection, where would the print statement send its output? Turns out the Arduino software stack includes a Serial console that you can view from inside the Arduino IDE. What we'll do in this article is go over a trivial example of reading an analog value to print on the serial console.

Arduino board and accessories buying guide.

(June 17, 2017)

The Arduino marketplace includes a long list of controller boards and add-on accessories. This guide shows some of the best Arduino-compatible products available.

Displaying text on LCD screen from the Arduino UNO

(June 17, 2017)

The Arduino doesn't have an intrinsically native display. Programmers frequently debug their software by printing stuff to a screen, or they need a human-machine-interface to show what's happening, and even a simple text display can be quite handy.

With this article we'll install a particular kind of LCD display, and learn how to drive the LCD display using the LiquidCrystal library. This particular LCD requires wiring up a little circuit that uses a potentiometer to control brightness. While we might yearn for a simple-to-connect-display, we do learn a little electronics along the way. At the end of the day the Arduino is about encouraging us to fire up our soldering iron and making things.

Once you've wired the display, the LiquidCrystal library makes it easy to display text on the screen.

Arduino UNO first step, connect to your laptop, run a simple application

(June 17, 2017)

The Arduino is an extremely popular microcontroller for open source DIY hardware hacking projects. There are many flavors of Arduino, and for this project we'll use an Arduino UNO. All Arduino's have a well-defined GPIO interface supporting "Shield" boards providing customized capabilities. The GPIO pins can be connected to your DIY hardware, or to 3rd party Shields, for which there are many suppliers. That's what makes the Arduino so interesting to regular folk like you and me. There's a whole slew of microcontroller chips and boards targeted to commercial and industrial systems. That's not who we are, we're hacking away in a spare bedroom.

With this article we'll take a first step or two to get an Arduino connected to our computer, get accustomed to the IDE, and upload a couple simple programs. Down at the bottom are a few videos.

In China you can build your own iPhone from spare parts

(Apr 12, 2017) This American entrepreneur goes to Shenzen China frequently. As he observed the scene over several months, it came to mind the electronics shops carry enough spare parts one could assemble their own iPhone. From spare parts, plus specific shop workers with the specialized skills for correct assembly. The big time-saver is to buy a working logic board, rather than soldering components onto an unpopulated logic board. But, with perseverance, and the willingness to traverse chaotic crowded markets, the parts are not only available, but it's possible to find iPhone-compatible backs with designs Apple never thought of. The video takes us on the journey, showing us the insides of not only the Shenzen markets but some snippets of electronics disassembly/recycling operations.

SSD drive technology, MLC, TLC, SLC

(March 26, 2017) SSD drives are awesome, they're extremely faster than spinning drives, lower weight, lower power consumption, no noise, and are a direct plug-in replacement for spinning drives. Making the best choice between the available SSD's means understanding what MLC, TLC and SLC means. These acronyms cover different types of SSD drive, and tradeoff's between speed, performance, data storage and reliability. The 'C' in each acronym means 'Cell', and each refers to a different architecture.

SSD drive lifetime expectancy explained

(March 26, 2017) SSD drives are awesome, they're extremely faster than spinning drives, lower weight, lower power consumption, no noise, and are a direct plug-in replacement for spinning drives. Thanks to technology advances the price is falling rapidly making them more feasible every day. The problem is they're known to suddenly die giving us a fear of losing our data and suddenly having to replace the drive. This video does an excellent job of explaining the reality, and tells us to not panic but instead to make sure to leave lots of free space on the drive.

Upgrading or replacing battery pack, SSD and other parts on Acer C720 Chromebook's

(July 21, 2016) How many of us, if the trackpad on our laptop stops working, get frustrated, set the computer aside, and buy a new one? That costs money to replace the computer, more 'stuff' piles up, it disrupts our lives, but somehow it's easier to just replace than figure out how to fix it. Turns out this specific issue, the trackpad puzzlingly not working, could be easily fixed. In my case the battery pack had swollen pushing against the trackpad making it not work correctly. The swollen battery pack itself is very dangerous and I wouldn't have known of it otherwise. Further, the replacement was next to trivial and a lot cheaper and less disruptive than replacing the whole computer.

Steve Wozniak Debunks One of Apple's Biggest Myths

(December 3, 2014) Steve Wozniak takes us on a walk down history lane, retelling how much he loves designing computer hardware, and that he designed the Apple 1 for fun. Then Steve Jobs came along, and turned that hobby into a big business, making several people into multijillionaires. Wozniak says he just wanted to be an engineer at the bottom of the Org Chart, and left Apple in 1987.
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