Arduino shield standards

Fri, Feb 26 2010: Filed under News

Posted by Jonathan Oxer

A few weeks ago I wrote about Andrew Oke's efforts at standardizing comms for Arduino shields, which many people have since told me is a great idea. Andrew has now written up his guidelines and put it up on his website, so if you're doing any shield design I highly recommend you check it out:

Arduino Shield Design Standards

Andrew's guidelines are oriented around making sure shields are stackable by keeping them physically low and also using comms that don't make shields mutually exclusive. I've written in the past (and ranted a bit in video blogs) about other rules I think all shield designers should observe, such as marking pin use on the overlay. Hopefully we'll see more shields start to observe these sorts of Best Practice guidelines - many already do, but an awful lot don't. Including many of my early attempts, but at least I'm getting better! 

Hugh and Jon video interview by Marcus Schappi of Little Bird

Tue, Jan 19 2010: Filed under News

Posted by Jonathan Oxer

Right after the Arduino Miniconf ended Marcus Schappi of Little Bird Electronics trapped Hugh and I in a corner and asked us a few questions.

Arduino Miniconf at LCA2010

Tue, Jan 19 2010: Filed under News

Posted by Jonathan Oxer

Wow, it's all over! The Arduino Miniconf at LCA2010 was a blur of craziness but I had an absolute blast. It was the most fun conference event I've been to in, well, ever. It started with a hardware assembly session to give all the software geeks a chance to use a soldering iron (some for the very first time) and build their own Pebble shield.

By lunchtime about 30 people had finished assembling their boards, and there were a lot of happy hackers around when they powered up their Arduino and got messages up on the LCD.

Both Vik Olliver and Patrick Herd brought along RepRaps to entertain the crowd. The morning assembly session and the early-afternoon "Introduction to the Pebble" sessions were run by Andy Gelme (seen in the white T-shirt and blue cap with his back to the camera above) who did an awesome job, and he was followed by a great line-up of speakers. A big thankyou to those who spoke at the miniconf:

  • Andy Gelme
  • Justin Mclean
  • Philip Lindsay
  • Peter Chubb
  • Nathan Seidle
  • Vik Olliver
  • Marcus Schappi

Truly a 5-star line-up, and with a great range of interesting topics that sparked lively discussion.

Thanks also to all the helpers: the reason the hardware session worked out so well was that we had about 16 experienced people willing and able to give their own time to help out those with less experience. We ended up with a helper:participant ratio of about 1:2 and paired up participants, so every pair had at least one helper and nobody was left floundering around on their own.

Two participants got minor solder burns (not enough to need proper first aid, more of the "ow, that hurt!" variety) so to make it up to them they both received prizes.

Speaking of which, we were lucky enough to have Apress provide a few copies of Practical Arduino and Nice Gear provide vouchers for two Duemilanoves and a pair of XBee modules, which we then distributed to participants. There are a bunch of other people who contributed to the success of the Miniconf including many members of Connected Community Hackerspace in Melbourne who pre-assembled many of the hardware packs. Mitch Davis, in particular, chased down cheap deals on parts so we could make it as cheap as possible for everyone to take part.

Finally, but perhaps most importantly of all, a big thankyou to Luke Weston who put in so much work preparing the Pebble hardware and then didn't even get to attend the Miniconf. The Pebble PCB is his design, and while everyone at the Miniconf in Wellington was having fun assembling his creation he was sitting in Melbourne watching it on a live stream and wishing he was there. Luke, your efforts are greatly appreciated by a lot of people.

I'll follow up later with links to slides and other resources for the various talks delivered during the Miniconf.

Would you be interested in kits for Practical Arduino projects?

Fri, Jan 8 2010: Filed under News

Posted by Jonathan Oxer

Something that surprised me is how many people have told me they'd be interested in kits for projects in Practical Arduino. Hugh and I just assumed that people would arrange their own parts, particularly if they're intending to use the book as a starting point and then put their own personal twist on the designs.

But I can understand why a kit would be convenient even for an experienced maker, and as someone mentioned it would be nice to be able to give a gift of the book plus a kit. That way the recipient would have everything they need to get started right away rather than being frustrated at not having the parts.

So, what do you think? If we put up a little online store with a few kits, would you be interested in them? If so, which ones? What I have in mind is to bundle up something like a prototyping shield along with all the parts required for the project. Ultimately we could do kits with specific PCBs to suit each project, but as a starting point just having a prototyping shield with all the parts is probably enough to give people a head start. Talk to me, people!

Interesting book pricing strategies

Mon, Jan 4 2010: Filed under News

Posted by Jonathan Oxer

Dan Berry (@introdus) tweeted:

I think I have to wait a while for the book. I'm not ready to shell out $211.64 for a "Used or Rare" copy.

Seems there are some interesting pricing strategies out there in web-land. This is from the Chapters listing for Practical Arduino:

And Practical Arduino on Amazon:

Anyone found any other funny ones?

Parts for Arduino Miniconf hardware assembly tutorial

Thu, Dec 31 2009: Filed under News

Posted by Jonathan Oxer

Organisation for the Arduino Miniconf at LCA2010 is coming along well, with the schedule now pretty much set. We're lucky enough to even have Nathan Seidle of SparkFun coming over from the USA to present a session. Andy Gelme has put in a huge amount of time (and money) arranging the parts required for the hardware assembly / soldering tutorial for the miniconf, which will pair participants up to assemble a Pebble general purpose I/O shield initially designed by Andy and turned into a neat PCB by Luke Weston.

Over the last couple of days I've been helping half-assemble a pile of Pebbles so that participants won't be overwhelmed by a huge soldering job.

The pic above shows a half-assembled Pebble on the top right, the LCD module in its bag on the bottom right, and my inventory check-list for the parts for participants to assemble. As each Pebble is half-assembled I've put all the extra parts on the inventory sheet to be certain I haven't missed anything, then bag it all up ready to ship off to Wellington. So if you're coming along to the tutorial and ordered a half-assembled Pebble, what you see above is what you'll be getting!

Update: Andy pointed out that I failed to mention all the work put in by other members of the Connected Community Hackerspace. Andy and Luke have been the leads on the Pebble project but he's quite right: many other people have put in late nights and long hours on it as well. Mitch Davis did most of the parts purchases, and various other people have done assembly, testing, software development, sorting, bag packing, and all the other things along the way. I don't even know for sure how many people were involved, but it also includes Pete Yandell, Paul Szymkowiak, George Patterson, Michael Borthwick, Rob Brittain, Grant Diffey, and Rowan Doherty.

Actual hard copies have arrived!

Wed, Dec 30 2009: Filed under News

Posted by Jonathan Oxer

They're here!

Hopefully any day now they'll be arriving on the doorsteps of everyone who placed a pre-order. And if you haven't ordered it yet, here's a subtle hint

The acknowledgements page we actually wrote

Wed, Dec 30 2009: Filed under News

Posted by Jonathan Oxer

Somehow things managed to go downhill very rapidly with Apress right at the end of the writing / pre-press process, and unfortunately the end result as it went to press was in many ways not what Hugh and I had intended. It got so bad at the end that we even discussed what options we might have to prevent Apress going to print, but that's a story for another day.

One of the many things that was messed up in the version that was sent off to the printer against our loud protests was the acknowledgements page. What Apress used was the very first draft of the page, not the final text that we prepared. And to really rub salt in the wound they then edited that version themselves to add in someone who neither Hugh nor I knew by name but whose impact on the book was, we felt, highly detrimental, and who had made changes against our protests and introduced errors that did not exist in the text as we submitted it. But once again that's a story for another day.

So, to set the record straight, here is the full text of the Acknowledgements page as the authors intended it, not how it was printed.

From the Authors, our thanks to:

The tech reviewers who provided us the benefit of their expertise and years of experience: Andy Gelme, Marc Alexander, Nathan Seidle, Trent Lloyd, Scott Penrose, Thomas Sprinkmeier, and Philip J Lindsay.

The core Arduino team whose vision conjured the whole Arduino ecosystem into existence: Massimo Banzi, David Cuartielles, Tom Igoe, Gianluca Martino, David Mellis, and Nicholas Zambetti.

The parts suppliers who were so helpful when it came to sourcing the random assortment of bits needed for developing these projects: SparkFun, AsyncLabs, and NKC Electronics.

Arduino developers everywhere. The amazing success of Arduino is due to the strong community that has blossomed around it. It's a beautiful thing when imaginative people have new tools placed in their hands, and the results have been inspirational to us both.

Michelle Lowman and James Markham, our editors at Apress who had to turn out of bed early to catch us in a totally different timezone on our weekly update call.

From Jon:

More thanks than I can express to Ann, Amelia, and Thomas. Their patience during this project has been amazing.

Thankyou to my parents, Michael and Jenny, who never imposed restrictions on my wild ideas and taught me that no dream is too big to pursue. And for buying me a subscription to an electronics magazine when I was just a little tacker with a burning curiosity about the way things work.

And to Hugh Blemings, my partner in crime whose patient discussions during many late-night phone calls helped me understand far more about Arduino.

From Hugh:

A profound thankyou to Lucy and Rachael for their love and support, for tolerating the smell of solder from the end room and for making the greater journey so worthwhile.

My thanks also to my parents, Brian and Rosemary Blemings, who raised Kay and I to have enquiring minds and happily answered innumerable "Why..?" questions during the formative years. My father also helped me take that first alarm clock apart :)

Thank you Jon for inviting me to be a part of this project and for kind words during some tricky periods in the writing process.

Arduino Miniconf coverage in iTWire

Wed, Dec 23 2009: Filed under News

Posted by Jonathan Oxer

The Arduino Miniconf that I'm helping organise as part of 2010 in Wellington, New Zealand, in January just got a really good write-up by Sam Varghese in iTWire. Check it out:

Sam also managed to throw in mentions of the Connected Community Hackerspace here in Melbourne, Practical Arduino, Lunar Numbat (as part of White Label Space), a previous article about Geek My Ride, Linux Australia, Internet Vision Technologies (my software business), and even my previous books. Thanks Sam!

Registrations open for Arduino Miniconf at LCA2010

Tue, Dec 22 2009: Filed under News

Posted by Jonathan Oxer

Well, for the hardware assembly / soldering tutorial, anyway. The Miniconfs at LCA are normally just "throw open the doors, see who walks in" events, but because coordinating the hardware assembly / soldering tutorial means we have to provide space, tools, and materials it's important we have some clue how many people will turn up. The call went out on the LCA chat mailing list yesterday and so far we have 11 people registered, which is great. For more info on the Arduino Miniconf check out the LCA wiki:

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