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Pow! Schematics!

Posted 2012.06.14 17.32 in Computers/Internet/Technology, Hobbies

Ok so Eagle is tough and the learning curve starts off very, very steep. But it seems like if you can get past the first 2 hours, it suddenly tapers off after that.

(Or click here for PDF version)

To get the above schematic to come out, not only did I need to figure out how to make a schematic in Eagle, but I had to make my own parts library and create four devices – the Pro Micro itself (as a discrete device rather than its own board and schematic), the OLED board, the compass module, and the Lilypad LED boards.

The reason I did this rather than laying out all those individual components was that I’ve assembled the ISEB6 out of these boards. That’s what it is. So it didn’t make sense to chart out the separate bits that go into each board – just get the boards. Or if you want to look at their schematics, get them from the source (Adafruit, Sparkfun.)

Note that 3 modifications were made to the Pro Micro board directly: the diode D2 was removed, which cuts the connection between UVCC and RAW. This prevents the LiPo from being exposed to 5vdc when a USB cable is connected. The Amber and Green LEDs were removed and hookup wire soldered to them, to connect to the two Lilypad LED panels. Oh and I removed the red power LED since it wasn’t needed. 4 modifications, then.

So if you’re looking to reproduce the ISEB6 yourself, hopefully the schematic alongside the build notes and the code (available here) should be enough.

Finally – I am already working on a Mark 2 version of the ISEB6 which in fact will do away with the Pro Micro board, and will have its own PCB (hopefully) allowing me to make it all neat and tidy and eliminate the rats-nest of hookup wire that forms the backbone of the current ISEB6.

Ok, Gonna Try Learning Eagle…

Posted 2012.06.13 13.35 in Hobbies

I’m going to have another shot at learning this Eagle thing. I’ve tried twice before and both times it made me want to cry (why does it have to be so difficult!) but enough people are using it that it seems to be the standard when it comes to schematics and pcb layouts.

Still, what ever happened to hastily-drawn pencil sketches on the backs of napkins?

Anyways, it would really, really be nice to get my own custom PCBs made now and then, for some of these projects. And it would be equally nice to be able to have a schematic to share.

If anyone can suggest a good tutorial, please let me know! I know there’s dozens of tutorials but I don’t know which ones are any good and which ones are crap.

┬áIf I do manage to figure this beast out, then I’ll give myself two rewards – first, I get an Eagle badge from Adafruit! And second, I’ll get a custom PCB made for my ISEB-6 Mark II which will be loads of fun to assemble.

No deadline for any of this – maybe ‘end of summer’ but maybe not.

 

The Fun of It

Posted 2012.06.04 22.25 in Computers/Internet/Technology, Pointless Blather

So last week I did a write-up about my ISEB6, parts of which ended up making the rounds on various maker / tech blogs. I noticed a lot of people were wondering why someone would bother doing this? Why ‘waste’ so much time, money, energy, and effort making something like this?

The simplest answer is, for the fun of it.

Sure, there’s a level of enjoyment to be had from simply having the finished product, from using it. There’s the utility of it – it was designed to do a thing, and it does that thing. There’s the sense of novelty, that one might get from any new toy, be it a cellphone, computer, tv, or whatever. In this case all that is augmented or magnified by the fact that I built it myself.

When you build something yourself, you have the sense of achievement, in seeing something through from initial concept to final build. You have the knowledge and experience gained, from learning the hows and whys and whats. And you have the pride of knowing that you made something – you set a goal for yourself, and you accomplished it.

And there’s the sheer fun of solving problems and challenges. Physical computing projects like these give you the opportunity (or the challenge) to work with very limited resources. How many functions can you include, how many features can you code, when you are limited to 32kB in which to fit your entire program? And when you have only 2.5kB of RAM in which to execute that code?

Wearable projects add two more dimensions of limitations: Size and Power. How many features / peripherals can you add without making the whole thing too big / heavy / unwieldy? And how much power does everything draw? How long will it run before you need to recharge, or do you need bigger batteries?

I’ve seen a few comments that basically asked, why not just strap a smartphone to your wrist? The simplest answer there is, that’s not what I wanted. That might work for some people, of course. Find something that someone else has built that’s close enough, or good enough, buy it, settle for it.

Why settle though? I live in a world where if you want a specific product to do something the way you want it, if noone else has built exactly what you want, you build it yourself. Build it yourself and you have exactly what you want, the way you want it. And if it ever breaks, you have the know-how to fix it.

(A close runner-up is, buy something that’s mostly there, then hack it to make it perfect. Add those features, fix those functions, and get exactly what you want that way.)

Stuff does break of course. Especially when you’re building and experimenting and learning, all at the same time. Sometimes it’s part of the fun of the challenge, sometimes it’s less fun but you still roll with it. Last week the OLED screen died, I never figured out why but luckily I had a spare so I just replaced it.

Two days ago the Micro-USB port snapped off the LiPo charger. I consider that a component failure since it’s supposed to withstand plugging and unplugging. I didn’t have a spare charger board, so I’ve contacted the manufacturer to ask about a replacement, and in the meantime I did some delicate solder-surgery to enable me to keep using the broken one, for now. (That was less-fun.)

And since that write-up last week, I’ve made a dozen revisions and upgrades to the software, changed / improved some of the leather work, switched out the dull dark hardware for shiney brass, and added brass snap closures to keep it on my wrist instead of the elastic string I had started with. I still plan to redo the top leather layer to make it more attractive.

That’s part of the fun too – projects like these are never really finished. You can go on improving them, enhancing them, upgrading them, until the next big idea comes along.

Tinkerers’ Rules

Posted 2011.05.15 10.34 in Computers/Internet/Technology

Brought to us by Wondermark.com

Quoth the Maker: If you can’t open it, you don’t own it.

Why Blog?

Posted 2009.07.26 10.23 in Computers/Internet/Technology, Pointless Blather

Here’s a meta-type question that has rattled around for a while. Why am I doing this? That is to say, why do I write this blog? And that could be extended a bit more to include, why do I even have this website? Obviously a lot of work has gone into it, and continues to go into maintaining, updating, and adding to it. So… why? What’s the point?

It isn’t for money – there are no ads or affiliate links or anything of the sort here. There’s no hidden pay-to-access section. It’s not so much that the idea of monetizing the blog/site hasn’t occured, but I mostly don’t like ads and haven’t felt the need to monetize anything. It isn’t for some kind of self-aggrandizement. To be honest, I’m actually a rather shy individual and sometimes get embarassed at the thought of people actually reading all this stuff.

I think ultimately there are a few reasons why I do all this. It really boils down to the fact that I like to learn and share knowledge; I like funny things and like to share the funny; I sometimes forget things and the blob is a good place to save information so I can find it again later. Finally, I like to create, and writing is an inexpensive way to be creative. In some cases, it’s also somewhat theraputic for myself, this writing stuff.

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