Monthly Archives: November 2012

New Product Friday: Bright New Products

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We’re back from Thanksgiving break, so now we need to talk about all the products from the past 2 weeks. We’ve had some new stuff show up, so let’s get right to it and see the video.

We had a lot of fun writing ‘secret’ messages on the glow in the dark panels. When I was playing around with one of the panels, I turned to Nick to ask “what do we have that’s brighter and more concentrated than an LED” and of course it hit me, a 75W laser! It’s good to have toys.

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Who doesn’t love glow in the dark? We saw these large photoluminescent panels and just had to have them. We really don’t know what people will end up using them for, but they’re still pretty cool. We have them in 3x5", 4x6", and 8.5x11" panels. They have a self-adhesive backing so they can be used like stickers and they cut quite easily. The thing that surprised us more than anything was how bright they are. ‘Charge’ them up under a bright light and be amazed at how bright they are when the lights go out. They rival an EL panel in brightness with the lights off.

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The Cerberus has proven to be a very popular cable. We have a new addition to the ‘you shouldn’t make a cable like that, it’s not the right way to do it’ lineup of SparkFun original abominations, the Hydra. The Hydra has a standard USB-A on one side, and breaks out to a barrel jack, JST PH, and pair of alligator clips. How many times have you wanted a simple way to get 5V and didn’t feel like slicing up a USB cable?

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Need a tiny GPS module? You might want to check out the new GP-635T. It’s just 35x8x7mm and actually works. Isn’t technology wonderful?! Now you can embed GPS in just about anything!

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If measuring acceleration is what gets you going, check out the new ADXL362. It’s a full 3 axis accelerometer that has low power consumption and even a ‘wake-on-shake’ feature. And did we mention that it’s TINY? No? Well, it’s tiny.

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For all of our lady hackers, we now have t-shirts that fit your more sinusoidal waveforms. We have them in two colors, gray and red. They also make great presents, hint hint.

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This week we’ve also got a new version of the Fio V3 with the ATmega32U4. It now has fancy new firmware, so be sure to check the firmware notes if you want to see what has changed in this revision.

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For anyone looking to mess around with their phone, or other devices that use a TRSS connection, we have a basic TRSS audio cable. It’s 18" long and comes unterminated on one end.

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We have both our 10k and 330ohm resistor packs back in stock. We switched to thicker leads, so they’re easier to push into breadboards. They still come in packs of 20 (they’re really packs of 25, but sometimes they miss one or two, so we’re just calling them 20, and you might get some extras).

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We’ve also got a new revision to our XBee Shield. The new version does away with the simple diode level shifter in favor of a more robust MOSFET level shifter. Now you can reliably use it with various logic levels.

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And lastly, we’re now shipping the SparkFun mini-B USB cable in retail packaging instead of the old black ones.

Well, that concludes yet another Friday New Product Post. We’ll be back next week with more new products, a video, and whatever else we come up with from now until then. Thanks for watching and reading. We’ll see you again next week.

USB Buying Guide

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If your desk looks anything like mine, it’s covered in various types of cables. I have some old stand-bys, like an ethernet cable, headphone cable, and my laptop power cord. And then there is a whole bunch of USB cables – a mini-B for my FTDI Basic, a micro-B for my cellphone, and a B for my Arduino Uno. So what gives? What’s the difference between all these USB cables?

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That’s where this guide to USB cables comes in handy. In this guide, we go over the different types of USB cables, what makes them different, what devices typically use what, and list all the cables (like the new Cerberus cable!) we currently have. It might not sound too interesting (USB cables? Really?), but you might find you’ll learn something. You can also check out our other buying guides like the RF connector buying guide, the Arduino buying guide, or the Accelerometer, Gyro, and IMU buying guide. Check it out!

SparkFun Kickstarter Update

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It has now been a full week since we launched the SparkFun National Tour Kickstarter, a Kickstarter aimed at funding a tour across the country teaching electronics to educators in schools, libraries, and after-school programs.

Today, we want to pass on some updates. It’s been really exciting to watch the initial wave of early adopters make their donations and we offer our sincere thanks! We’re also excited to announce a couple additions to the Kickstarter backing levels (including a new t-shirt level!). Check out the video for more:

As I write this, we’ve raised just a touch over $16,000 of our $150,000 goal – so we’ve got a long ways to go, but we’re on our way! Please join us by donating or simply spreading the word to your friends. Help make electronics part of the classroom!

Engineering Roundtable – Critter Cam/Automated Terrarium with Joel

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Before we get into the meat of today’s post, I want to announce the winner of last week’s caption contest. Here goes nothing…

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Go home, Dave. You’re drunk.

Congrats, jdavidbush! You’re the proud owner of a Sphero. Keep an eye on your email for further instructions! Now, on to today’s post – “Engineering Roundtable.” Today, Joel will talk about his “critter cam” and his automated terrarium.

Vimeo version can be found here.

If you want more information of creating the controllable outlet in the second half of the video, check out this tutorial. Here’s a fairly complete list of the parts used in the “critter cam”:

Joel uses this Easy Cap Viewer software.

For the automated terrarium, Joel used the following:

For more videos of the terrarium in action, check out Joel’s YouTube channel. You can find the code Joel used for the terrarium here and for the critter cam here. As always, feel free to leave any questions or comments below. Hope you enjoyed this edition of “Engineering Roundtable.”

Catarina Mota on Open Hardware

The TED Blog posted an interesting interview with Catarina Mota on open hardware. She talks about how she came to be involved with open hardware, why it’s a good thing for us be in control of our hardware, and why some people still see open source and open hardware as a bad thing. She also talks about hackerspaces and their contributions to the open source and open hardware communities.

Today is Cyber Monday!

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Well, today is officially “Cyber Monday” – so if you’ve been holding off on getting your order in, now is the time. We are offering free shipping on all qualifying orders until midnight tonight (November 26, 2012).

Vimeo version can be found here

The rules are pretty basic:

  • Both international and domestic orders qualify. Depending on your order’s value/weight, different shipping methods may be free. The free shipping option will be clearly marked during the checkout process. Simply select the shipping method that says “FREE” next to it.
  • Sorry distributors – we love you guys, but you’re not eligible.
  • The free shipping will only be for orders placed from 12:00:01 a.m. Mountain Time on November 26, 2012 to 11:59:59 p.m. on November 26, 2012.

That’s pretty much it! We hope the free shipping helps you build your next awesome project. Cheers!

SparkFun National Tour Kickstarter

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One thing SparkFun has realized over the last few years is that when it comes to embedded electronics, the earlier you start learning, the better. We marvel to think about the question, “What if we had learned about some of this stuff in 6th grade, instead of in college (or beyond)?” That question led us to create our Department of Education and, now, we want to take it to the next step. Which is why we would like to announce the SparkFun National Tour Kickstarter.

Kickstarter is an amazing crowd-funding website and the SparkFun National Tour is our way of harnessing the power of Kickstarter to bring electronics education to teachers, afterschool programmers, librarians, and other educators across the country. We want to help bring the “A-ha! moment” of DIY electronics to kids all over the U.S.

Our goal is to travel to all 50 states (yes, Alaska and Hawaii too!) bringing along a team of highly-skilled instructors and a SparkFun Inventor’s Kit labpack. At each stop, we will “train the trainers” on how to teach the SIK in their own classroom/library/afterschool program and they will keep the SIK labpack for use with their students.

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This is a campaign we are extremely excited about. The funding goal of our Kickstarter is $150,000 – an amount which would enable us to make a stop at every state. If we exceed that goal? We’ll add more stops, rent an extra RV if necessary, and train additional workers on teaching the SIK.

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For more details on the backing levels or to make a donation, please visit our Kickstarter page. Briefly, at the $75 backing level you will receive a Learn to Solder: Simon Says Kit and at the $150 backing level you will receive a special Kickstarter Edition of the SparkFun Inventor’s Kit (plus help fund our tour!). We hope you join us in making electronics part of the classroom! As always, please feel free to leave any questions in the comments section below.

Lastly, we will be closed Thursday (the 22nd) and Friday (the 23rd) this week for Thanksgiving. But don’t forget about free shipping on Cyber Monday!

Don’t Forget Cyber Monday

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Hey! Listen! SparkFun is closed Thursday and Friday, 11/22 and 11/23.
Deadline to place an order that will ship this week: 12pm (MST) Wednesday, 11/21! Not all shipping methods apply. See our shipping policy for more details.

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As you may know, next Monday (November 26, 2012) is Cyber Monday – the internet shopping equivalent of Black Friday. This year, SparkFun is getting in on the fun!

Vimeo version can be found here

SparkFun will be offering free shipping on all qualifying orders placed on Cyber Monday. Here are the basic rules:

  • Orders that qualify (based on weight/value restrictions) will be eligible for either domestic Economy Light shipping or for international orders, USPS First Class Mail International.
  • If your order doesn’t qualify for either of those shipping methods, the next level up of shipping will be free. You’ll be able to tell what shipping level your order will be eligible for when you check out. It will be clearly marked, so don’t worry about choosing the wrong option!
  • Sorry distributors – we love you guys, but you’re not eligible.
  • The free shipping will only be for orders placed from 12:00 a.m. Mountain Time on November 26, 2012 to 11:59:59 p.m. on November 26, 2012.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments section below! Cheers!

November Caption Contest

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Hey! Listen! SparkFun is closed Thursday and Friday, 11/22 and 11/23.
Deadline to place an order that will ship this week: 12pm (MST) Wednesday, 11/21!
Not all shipping methods apply. See our shipping policy for more details.

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Get ready folks – it’s time for a caption contest! The rules are pretty simple – leave your best caption to the picture below in the comments sections. The contest will run until Tuesday, November 20th, 2012 at 10 a.m. Mountain Time. Update: because of the number of captions and the holiday, we’re going to be announcing the winner on Tuesday, Nov. 27. Here’s your photo:

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The winner of this contest will receive a (drum roll, please)…Sphero! The Sphero is an awesome little robotics platform that is Bluetooth compatible. Connect it to your smartphone and get rollin' (…sorry).

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So there you have it! Good luck and may the best caption win!

Electronics and Embedded Design Books

Here’s a quick status update on the site. I’ve started revising the old resource pages, beginning with the Books and References page. Most of the books listed were out of print or old editions, so I’ve started replacing them with comparable books that are currently available. The list is pretty short at present, I’d love to get some input on recommended books you’d consider essential for an open hardware designer. Post a comment below and let me know what to add. Some CC or GFDL licensed ebooks would be really nice if anyone knows of any.

Also, I’ve put up a poll to get some input on what sort of Open Hardware project readers are most interested in seeing. This first poll is to find a general direction for a project and once we get enough input, I’ll put up another to narrow down some features. You can find the poll in the right column of page. If you haven’t picked an option yet, please do.

New Product Friday

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Hello everyone and welcome to Friday, where we talk about new stuff. We’ve got a few things this week, so check out the video as well as the list of products.

Vimeo version can be found here.

I will admit, the colors of the storage boxes are less than desirable (we had no choice), but they do come in pretty handy. The sizes are pretty good for most smaller components and the ability to snap them together is quite nice.

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Remember the weatherproof USB panel mount connector we had earlier this year? Many of you wanted the mating USB cable, and here it is. It screws into the panel mount connector to form a water and dust tight seal into your enclosure. Use your project in harsh conditions or even underwater!

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These modular plastic storage boxes are pretty neat. They have spring-loaded lids and they all snap together to form whatever size you have room for. They come in a total of 4 different sizes. The small comes in a 10 pack, the medium come 4 to a pack, the large includes 2, and the extra large is sold in singles. They are good for small parts organization (LEDs, diodes, resistors, small breakout boards, etc) and can be easily configured for your needs.

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Looking for a way to hook up your new Raspberry Pi? This 6' long HDMI cable is just what you need to get all the video goodness from your Pi. You can also use it for anything else that uses a standard HDMI cable.

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If you don’t need HDMI (or don’t have a HDTV) and just want good old-fashioned composite, we also have a nice shielded RCA video cable for you. It’s also 6' long and is nicer than the ultra-thin ones that come free with modern electronics. You can even use them for audio applications as well.

That’s all I’ve got this week. We will be skipping the new product post next week as it will be Thanksgiving and we will be closed for the holiday weekend. But, we do have some surprises next week, so it might be a good idea to check the homepage periodically throughout the week. Thanks for reading and see you again in a couple of weeks!

Reworking with Hot-Air

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When you’re building your own embedded electronics, it is pretty much inevitable that eventually you are going to solder something in backwards/upside-down/in the wrong place. It’s going to happen. If it’s never happened to you, color me impressed. But for those of us mere mortals, there are times when a bit of rework is necessary. That’s where we often turn to our trusty hot-air rework stations.

So today we wanted to share the above video (and this tutorial) to help you learn how to use hot-air to rework with the best of them. We’ve found that using hot-air is one of the fastest, least destructive ways to do rework. We hope you find the video useful! What tricks do you use to do rework? Let us know in the comments!