Sunday, November 22, 2009

64-bit Windows 7 and the AVR ISP USB programmer

Just a very quick note about this.

I upgraded my laptop to 64-bit Windows 7 a week or so ago and have just gotten round to setting it up for AVR programming. I thought for a while that I'd never get my USB programmer to work (AVRStudio couldn't auto detect my AVR ISP even after installing/reinstalling). After a little bit of searching I found this thread on I followed the directions, allowed windows to discover the correct drivers at the end of the process and, badabing-badaboom, everything now works fine (other than the fact that I installed a 32 bit Eclipse that isn't happy...).

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

LED Tester Mark II

Ok, so the last one I made had a serious flaw... it'd burn out any LED that couldn't take 3V... Oops! I recently bought a new soldering iron (variable temp, xytronics from and wanted to play with it, so I thought it was time to replace the LED burner with an LED tester.

Basic ingredients: wire, some resistors, an 8 pin DIP socket, a pushbutton and some perfboard. I treated myself to an automatic wire stripper the other day ($8 from Fry's), it's great! I've been using it quite a lot. No need for it in this project really, but I like to show off my toys.
Here's the basic wiring and soldering for the resistors and socket (this is what I messed up in the first iteration):

At midnight I ended up with the following "finished" product (I should have learned by now not to start late at night...):

The problem was that I'd completely wired the push button wrong. In the above wiring, the power lines are connected to the positive and negative rails on the DIP socket, which meant the LEDs lit up as soon as they came in contact with the DIP. On pushing the switch the LEDs would turn off because the positive and negative leads from the battery holder were shorted... bah!

A few days later, I came back and repaired it (button connects and disconnects +ve terminal, -ve terminal is wired directly):

A view from the top.

Single LED test. You can see the multi-LED test picture at the top of this post.

The soldering iron is much better than the Weller I'd bought (it was a bottom of the line weller min you). It heats up fast and the tip is noticeably better quality. The power cord, however, is very thick and reduced the maneuverability of the iron.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Flashing Bat Eyes

Very simple project. You just need a 555 timer a couple of resistors, a capacitor, a couple of LEDs and a talented wife to provide a bat ;) I think she'll be adding a post on making the Halloween bats so I'll link to it once it's up.

I used the following online calculator to work out the values for R1, R2 and C1 for the standard astable 555 set up. I ended up with: R1 = 3K Ohm, R2 = 570 Ohm and C1 = 100uF (mainly because that was the combination of components that I had lying around and that gave an acceptable output wave). I didn't bother adding a switch to this one, I'm not sure why as it'd be very easy... here's the fully wired up project:

Did you notice the 9V battery clip onto an 2xAA holder? Weird eh? Useful though. I think I picked up the battery case at radioshack. You'll also have noticed that I decided to try a free-form (no perf-board) approach. It was a bit fiddly, but worked out ok. I still haven't found a combination of 3rd hand/clamp/foot/nose that works for me for these fiddly soldering projects...

Here's a couple of close-ups of the soldered 555 itself:

Most of the time I had the 555 held with a crocodile clip (on the 3rd hand). Unfortunately, I bought a really cheap 3rd hand from a market and the crocodile clips are not stable so everything kept moving around whilst I was trying to work on it... bah. At points I ended up jamming the chip into a corner of the 3rd hand base whilst pushing at it with the soldering iron. Not very elegant or skilled... any advice is greatly welcomed!

All that's left was to poke out some holes for the bats eyes and to mangle it all into the available space. I made the holes big enough for the dome of the LEDs to fit through but small enough to prevent the rest of the LED housing from pushing through.

And here it is outside our house (flashing on the opened door frame), waiting to welcome the trick-or-treaters :)