The best introductory Arduino book just got better


#1

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#2

On Hackaday and other blogs, there tends to be a surprising amount of hate towards Arduino-based projects in the commens. Given that it is nothing else than a bog-standard microcontroller with low barrier-to-entry dev environment, it comes to me as quite a surprise. Ideas, anyone?


#3

Anything that encourages newcomers should be welcomed as a way to spread awareness, but people like to gripe about the damnedest things just to feel like their group is better than yours. Childish elitism is all it is.

I don’t care what level of experience anyone else has, what team they support, or what kind of OS their computer is running on; varied approaches make for a much more interesting landscape. People who understand that are much more interesting to hang out with.

But then again:


#4

So while we’re on the topic of Arduino - does anyone know if they’re actually planning on releasing the Tre? It’s said ‘coming soon’ on their page for many moons, now, which doesn’t bode well.


#5

I certainly don’t hate Arduino. But sometimes I do hate hearing about Arduino! In the context of some internet boards people can be discussing any other embedded work and ask or suggest why it shouldn’t be done on an Arduino. Either it’s not suitable for an ATmega, uses a different language or IDE, involves peripheral chips, etc. People who have some experience with embedded projects tend to decide what they need around it’s capabilities - rather than whether or not it happens to be an Arduino. Some people likely have to explain why they used a DSPic or Blackfin or whatever hundreds of times. Some are probably saints, but I imagine many just get sick of it.

Might not be ideal, but I prefer this scenario any day over years ago everything being expensive SDKs and compilers, high voltage programming, minimal code libraries, etc,


#6

Looks like they already had some and they sold out in an eyeblink.
http://blog.arduino.cc/2014/12/12/arduino-tre-developer-edition-2nd-round-of-beta-testing/


#7

I think those were just dev boards.


#8

They were the almost-finished boards. Developer edition, as almost-there can-have-bugs you-have-been-warned.


#9

Yes, but is that how it “just got better”?

Being unfamiliar with either edition, and without a change log, I was expecting a ‘how’. I appreciate that a notification of an event does not promise an included description, but still …


#10

How easy a read is this book?
My kids(all ADHD) speak reasonably native English but are ESL for reading and writing.
I would love a Tintin level comic book which explains arduino, my kids love playing with their analog electronics set but they mostly just follow the connection checklist and wire diagram, not unlike me at their age.


#11

Obligatory XKCD. Left side, halfway down.


#12

question for folks who have read this book: what would you say is an approximate age range for the material?


#13

just for completeness: https://xkcd.com/521/


#14

Thanks for asking; I’m one of the editors, and there are two big changes: the book now includes a section on the Arduino Leonardo, and the plant/garden watering project is all-new.

(And thanks, Mark, for the kind review!)


#15

Well, here’s my POV. I work at a major engineering company. One of the software developers here has been making his own circuit boards going way back. He’s also involved in the Explorers group here and has assisted with a lot of student projects - like last year this group built their own 3D printers. This is a guy I’ve worked with and definitely a maker type person.

He told me that he has gone to all Arduino boards for his projects because it does so much and is so much easier than making his own.

His latest project? Setting up his salt water fish tank environment for remote cell phone monitoring and control using an Arduino controller.


#16

@dobby @Sqyntz I have this book. My daughter is 17. I’m fairly technical (work in engineering but not an engineer myself and I have some computer programming experience at a hobby level but not used in recent years). She iss not at all technical; her only programming experience was working with Lego robots in 5th grade. We successfully set the board up and got the first project (getting an LED to blink) completed using the book. It was helpful that I knew how to code a little.

I would say the writing level is about 5th grade, 6th grade. It’s not a real technical book and it’s not a “cookbook” although it does have several projects. It’s a good introduction to Arduino but not a resource you’ll use again and again.

The best way to actually put in the code is to go to the book’s website and copy and paste the code into your program. However, you should try to write it out as the book tells you in order to understand the commands and show them to your kid.

If you can get this from a library, that would be ideal since you probably won’t be referring to it once you get started. But it is a very good getting started book.


#17

I consider them too expensive (for prototype work I usually use a handwired copper-clad perfboard with preetched pattern, gives more compact results and you have to wire the peripherals anyway). But I see the logic in here.

I also heard about some industrial machinery using Arduinos as controllers. The underlying logic was that the form factor became so standard that in the future it should be easy to source a replacement in case of failure, and recompile the code for the chip that will be in use then. I like this approach. Too few things, including the long-life ones, are engineered with serviceability in mind.


#18

I don’t know much about the cost of it versus making your own, but I imagine if you are doing a lot of electronics projects being able to re-use them for another project also makes them a more reasonable investment.

In the book it talks about how they are good for prototyping because they are standardized and that you aren’t stuck with this one-off board you have to throw away or re-do but can stick in wires and such as needed and tinker with your design.

One of my biggest regrets in my career is that my last job was offering professional soldering education and I learned about the classes too late to get into them; I really wished I’d learned to solder.


#19

That depends. If it is for just-a-try, then an Arduino (or a solderless-breadboard with a bare chip) is a superior choice. If it is for permanent or semipermanent installation, or there are size constraints, making a board (even hand-wired) is the better choice.

You still can. Maybe not an official course, but either you could get help from some nearby hackerspace, or, if not available for whatever reason, just get a temperature-controlled soldering station (temperature control and decent power (at least 40-50 watts, avoid the crappy cheapest, but the expensive ones are too expensive for little additional gain; aim at the low-ish cost sweet spot) makes things more comfortable), some good flux, and lead-tin solder wire (the lead-less alloys are grossly inferior; higher temperature needed, poorer wetting, harder and more fragile, oxidizes during soldering, and so on and on and on). Keep in mind that the flux is the important part there, the solder is there just for the party; you may like to keep two fluxes around, one a conventional rosin, one something more aggressive (and corrosive, so use only when needed or wash well or accept chance of corrosion of the joint over the years). I keep the tip relatively cold at about 220 'C, sometimes at 240-250 if working on bigger joints or taking things apart or reworking the lead-less crapola they peddle now.

(Lead and lead-less solders are compatible, except with the bismuth-containing ones. The bismuth-lead phases are very low-melting (many fusible alloys contain lead-bismuth), and heated up parts may fall off at runtime. But these alloys are rarely encountered. The Sn-Ag or Sn-Cu are way more common.)

The rest is about practice. When I was a kid, I learned on a piece of wooden board with nails around its edge, and copper wire in criss-cross pattern. Lots of joints to make and then check. (This connection is inferior mechanically, so avoid for deployment, but good for learning.)

Generally, heat the part you want to join with the tip of the soldering iron, possibly with a little of flux to assist heat transfer. Carefully dose the needed amount of solder (and flux) with the solder wire (the flux is stuffed inside the wire and tends to be pretty good). Inspect the joint if the parts are well-wetted; if the solder sits on the surface like a mercury drop on glass, it is wrong. If you can, test the strength of the joint by pulling it apart.
Edit: Try making some joints and tearing them apart, testing to destruction. That will give you a feel for what is normal and what is not.

The details of the self-learning process depend on what you want to achieve first; if it is soldering through-hole or SMD parts to boards, or attaching wires, or repairing cables and connectors. It is all similar, with only details differing. The important parts are wetting the surfaces with solder (presolder in advance if you have doubts); then joining the wetted parts and not moving them until the alloy sets (the Sn63Pb37 alloy is eutectic and better to work with, the Sn60Pb40 is close enough).

Edit: As a beginner, prefer activated fluxes. They are harsher on the oxide layers. The cost is that they are also corrosive over time in higher humidity environments. For a beginner, until you get the practice, optimize for immediate success; the corrosion is usually rather slow and by the time it fails you’ll have enough practice to rework it in a way that can last for a century.
For wires and cables, stock up with heat-shrink tubes. You can hide even an atrocious-looking joint (if it is ugly and cannot be reworked, pull-test it; if it lasts, it may be good enough) that way rather neatly.

If you run into problems, take macrophotos of the joints and show me and I’ll try to divine the cause.

If you want a real luxury, or work on really fine stuff, get a cheap stereomicroscope. I don’t understand how I could’ve lived without it for all the years.

How-to videos on youtube are also helpful; while my dad taught me most of the soldering (with the big transformer solder-gun, which is quite different from the temperature-stabilized luxurious pens common today - once I got mine I never looked back), I had to resort to youtube and books to self-teach welding.


#20

Added to my wishlist!
Anyone can recommend a good intro to Raspberry Pi? I’m looking into building a small Spotify-connected sound system for my bedroom.