Monthly Archives: May 2019

Friday Product Post: Electric Slide

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

Hello everyone, and welcome back to another new product Friday! This week we have three new products, starting with a capacitive touch board. The SparkFun Capacitive Touch Slider brings a new way to physically interact with your next project! We also have the new SparkFun LiPo Charger Plus to help recharge all of your batteries.

You've got to groove, groove, groove!

SparkFun Capacitive Touch Slider - CAP1203 (Qwiic)

SparkFun Capacitive Touch Slider - CAP1203 (Qwiic)

SEN-15344
$5.95

Do you want to replace a slider or button on your art project or science experiment with a more interesting interface? This Capacitive Touch Slider is a "Qwiic" and easy way to add capacitive touch to your next project. With the board's built-in touch pads, you can immediately start playing with the touch capabilities as three unique touch inputs or as a slider. You can also enable a touch input to act as a power button, customize the sensitivity for your own touch pads, and play with the interrupt alert LED. Utilizing our Qwiic system, no soldering is required to connect it to the rest of your system. However, we have broken out 0.1"-spaced pins in case you prefer to use a breadboard or create your own touch pads.


SparkFun LiPo Charger Plus

SparkFun LiPo Charger Plus

PRT-15217
$9.95

The SparkFun LiPo Charger Plus is the souped-up power option in the SparkFun line of single-cell lithium polymer (LiPo) battery chargers. With this iteration, we've changed the input charge connector to USB-C, and provided charge rate selection as well as optional thermal protection. "Charge," "power" and "done" LEDs clearly indicate the status of your charging process. This board can be used for any of the 2-pin JST connector single cell LiPo batteries we carry.

Unfortunately, Rob had a jury duty selection this week and didn't have time to film a video of this charger in action. Expect one next week!


That's it for this week! As always, we can't wait to see what you make! Shoot us a tweet @sparkfun, or let us know on Instagram or Facebook. We’d love to see what projects you’ve made!

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Enginursday: DIY Videoconferencing Wall Project

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

Earlier this month, I had the chance to attend the Google I/O extended event at the Boulder campus. My initial plan was to hear about the latest and greatest, and enjoy what I assume would be an amazing food selection (it was). What I didn't expect was how drawn in I was by the work being done with Google Home. Most of the functionality of these products is incredibly close to high-end home automation systems from five years ago, with incredible advances in AI allowing easier ways to interact with the systems (think of the voice recognition and interaction available through Google Assistant and the Home Hubs).

I'm a pretty big Apple fan, so the fact Google hardware was getting me excited was a pretty big deal. Thanks to the sale that day, I went home and ordered a Home Mini and Nest Hub from Google (technically Nest now). After playing around with them, getting comfortable with the always-listening mics, and playing around with some custom commands, I was ready to take this to my realm: by putting it on a Raspberry Pi. It never crossed my mind that Google didn't have a version of Home Hub that worked on the Pi. Chromium OS and browser works on the Pi, Duo works on the Pi, even their AIY and Vision Kits are based off the Raspberry Pi, so of course I figured I could get the Home Hub software onto a Pi. Sadly, I was wrong. Among the many great things Google has put on the Pi, Home Hub wasn't one of them.

This was a bit crushing. I had grand plans of using a Pico Projector and turning a whole wall of my bedroom into a display for a Nest Home Hub, using an old receiver and floor speakers for audio (yes, a bit overkill, but it was part of the theme of the project). In addition, it was a major setback on writing this piece (After six years of Enginursday, I'm running low on topics and projects).

So with my mind still on projecting video on walls, I turned my attention to one of my favorite projects I've never been able to accomplish: the wall phones from the movie Spaceballs. If you're unfamiliar with the movie, it's a comedic play on the original Star Wars movies. The bad guys have a large spaceship that features video walls you can call people on. The best part about the walls (and a great bit in the movie) is that there isn't a mechanism to answer the call, so the call automatically goes through, leading to great lines like, "I told you to never call me on this wall!"

Spaceballs! The Thermostat

The decor in Spaceball I is "on brand."

Those familiar with the SparkFun building will know that our conference rooms are named after fictitious spacecraft, one of which being the spaceship from Spaceballs, Spaceball I. Ever since the room was named, I've wanted to recreate one of the video-call walls. But there have been two large snags: video conferencing on the Pi and auto-answer. Seeing as a conference room isn't the greatest spot for a device that can tune-in whenever, auto-answer wouldn't be something I'd need to overcome, but the video conferencing options up until recently had been a bit scant.

As of the last few years, there has been a surge in projects that have made video calls or conferencing more feasible. A lot of work has gone into the likes of UV4L and Jitsi Meet, and should definitely be looked into should you want to do video calls on the Pi. But for this project, Google Hangouts seemed to be the best fit. It would allow the users who could call the wall to be limited within our organization, and would allow for a more permanent, linkable solution.

The Project

The project itself is fairly simple and about as plug-and-play as it gets. In the past, set up of the Pi would have required some command line work, and this project still will a little bit, but the Rasbian image has come so incredibly far that most of these tasks either happen automatically or can be set from the desktop or browser.

I used the following parts for this project:

Once the Rasbian Image is on the MicroSD card, the majority of the setup is getting the Pi hooked up and booted. As a good rule of thumb when working with the Pi, everything should be connected when powering on so the peripherals are recognized by the system. In the past, you would want to update the Pi in the command line with sudo apt-get update and sudo apt-get dist-upgrade, but this seems to happen on boot now. In addition, a prompt comes up to change the password for the device; it's important for most uses of the Pi and this is no exception.

Once the Pi is up and running, Hangouts needs to be set up within the Chromium browser. Obviously a Google account is needed for this, but it's pretty straightforward on Chromium, like other browsers. I used my own Google account for this, but you could also create one for the wall specifically, so it's actually the wall you're calling. Once Hangouts is all set to go, you may have to change the mic and speaker sources if they're not your default. You can do this in the settings in the video call the first time, which should then default to these settings in subsequent calls. Finally once everything is set, you can make the browser window full screen by hitting F11. There's a command to make this happen with Chromium on startup as well. There's even a way to put it into kiosk mode. However, since I'm not the equipment administrator for said conference room, I'm going to make it as easy as possible to disable for now.

Video calling my dog from the conference room.

Imagine the projector being much more pico..."

Obviously this wasn't the project I wanted to showcase, and it kind of amounted to just a Hangout machine, but I felt it was a good start in the direction of video conferencing, which has a ton more useful applications than replicating movie gags. I do hope to get this project into a much more finished form as a staple of the Spaceball I conference room, but I think auto answer will be forever off the table. If you do want to replicate this with auto answer, I was going to take the direction this gentleman took with his video doorbell project using Python commands (PyUserInput) to replicate mouse movements and clicks.

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Winner, Name that Ware April 2019

via Hacking – bunnie's blog

The Ware for April 2019 is a roto-molding machine. I’ve seen these machines in various sizes, but this is by far the biggest one I’ve seen to date. It’s used to mold furniture-sized objects. One thing that you don’t get from just watching an animated GIF is feeling the sheer amount of heat coming from the machine. The whole assembly is shoved into a gas furnace and heated so that the plastic is molten, and then taken out to cool over a period of 30-45 minutes, so it can get quite hot around the molds as they cool. Adi guessed this one right away, congrats and email me for your prize!

"Archives Exist to Keep Things Safe but not Secret" – Kevin Young

via SparkFun: Commerce Blog

Over the years, SparkFun has changed standard operating procedures on how we craft our tutorials, in order to provide the best customer experience. Our tutorials team regularly reviews our archives to make sure that we are keeping the hard work of our past team members relevant with the new content we release alongside our products each week. For today's tutorial update, these things range from small (.gif instead of a picture) to very useful; see below.

  • The tutorial is now searchable on sparkfun.com where you can read and comment.
  • There are links to all products and required materials used in the tutorial, as well as other color options.
  • There is video background content on the hardware – "How LCD Works."
  • We added additional features on RGB LED Backlight Control, which we curated since the original tutorial went live.
  • The overall formating matches the way we do things now (#OCDandproudofit).
New!

Basic Character LCD Hookup Guide

May 28, 2019

Liquid crystal displays (LCDs) are a great way to output a string of words or sensor data to a display for visual feedback. In this tutorial, we'll learn about LCDs, how to print a strings of words to a 16x2 basic character LCD, create custom characters.

You can still find our archived tutorials page, so keep an eye out for more additions and updates on learn.sparkfun.com as we revise and release them!

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Distributor Active Robots attends micromouse challenge at Swansea University

via Pololu Blog

One of our UK distributors, Active Robots, recently had the opportunity to attend a micromouse competition at Swansea University in Wales. Students at the competition used many Pololu parts purchased through Active Robots including our laser-cut RRC01A chassis, 50:1 micro metal gearmotor LP, 42×19mm Wheel Pair, and 3/8″ Plastic Ball Caster.

Traditional micromouse competitions usually involve small autonomous robots competing to see which one can solve a maze the fastest. Swansea University’s competition didn’t include maze solving, but instead involved three tasks that the robots had to complete: line following, obstacle avoidance, and combat. You can read more about what the micromouse competition entailed and Active Robots’ visit on their blog.