AdaBox007: Spy

When Adafruit hinted that AdaBox #007 would have a spy theme I was excited. I did a time-lapse of the unboxing this time since they do their own unboxing (scheduled some time next week) which is much better than listening to me talk.

This box has more content than any other box so far.

  • Large Padlock & 9 Piece Lockpick Kit
  • Software Defined Radio USB Receiver with Antenna
  • Adafruit GEMMA M0
  • USB Cable – 6″ A/MicroB
  • AAA Battery Holder with On/Off Switch
  • 3 AAA Batteries
  • Fast Vibration Sensor Switch
  • Piezo Buzzer
  • Panel Mount 10K Potentiometer + Knob
  • Invisible Ink Pen
  • 5mm Purple UVA LED
  • IR (Infrared) Receiver Sensor
  • 5mm Super-bright IR LED
  • 0.1mm Magnet Wire
  • Digikey Digi-Keyer Puzzle
  • Digikey Web Cam Cover
  • EFF Multisticker Sheet
  • 2600 Magazine: The Hacker Quarterly
  • Hackspace Magazine
  • Boldport Club Cad Sticker

I’ve always wanted a lock pick set and the clear padlock seems like a cool way to learn. I’ll have to make some videos once I start learning how to pick locks.

Even with this box being one of the better ones, I think I’m going to cancel because I have built up quite a collection of Adafruit microcontrollers and other components. I need to start building projects that I actually use around the house instead of just tinkering and taking everything apart after I learn. I like the subscription, but they’ve left me wanting more because it really is focused on the beginner. Not saying I’m an expert by any stretch of the imagination but I have so many of the things included in most of the boxes now.

I can’t help myself and have already subscribed to a different monthly electronics kit. More on that in a few days.

Catching up on Electronics Projects

I’m behind on a bunch of electronics subscription boxes and projects, so I’m just going to list out a bunch of stuff. None of its worthy of its own post anyway.

One of the projects for HackerBox #0023 was to build a custom antenna out of PVC, copper wire, and glue. I did a pretty piss poor job of drilling my holes in a straight line (as you can see in the picture), but I connected it to a microcontroller and was able to scan for Wi-Fi networks in the area. Success?

img_0591.jpg

I need to make more time to work with the pan and tilt system built with HackerBox #0024.

The camera that came with the project can only do 640×480, which sucks. One of these days I’ll connect the system to a Raspberry Pi and use one of my unused Pi cameras instead. Would be neat to mount at the front door to track anyone who comes to the house when I’m not home. The face tracking stuff is pretty awesome, even with the shitty camera. Here’s a really rough video of it.

I had to modify the code a lot to get everything working and I put it all on GitHub. If I work on this project more I’ll update that repo.

There wasn’t a lot to do with HackerBox #0025. It was mostly a soldering and look at the blinky lights project. Here are the 3 badges I made. I turned the star and rectangle (with a “Let’s Party” sticker in place) into pins and gave them to my nieces.

The skull badge has a buzzer on it, so I wrote some code (it’s on GitHub) to make it play the Star Wars theme and display some light animations.

Over the holidays I messed with AdaBox006 a bit. The 38 I posted on my birthday was a light painting taken with the Slow Shutter iOS app. I got it the light paintbrush working on both the Circuit Playground classic via a customized Arduino sketch and on the Circuit Playground Express through MakeCode. Both are available in the adabox-006 repo on GitHub. Using MakeCode is a fun way to program and I think it’s going to change the way people learn. Look at how simple and visual that version of the program is…

adabox-006-make-code-light-paintbrush.png

I did solder everything for HackerBox #0026 and verified some of the functionality, but haven’t done much with it. It was one of the most fun projects so far from HackerBoxes because of how many components were on this PCB. I find soldering to be so relaxing and satisfying.

I added the code for the temperature sensor I mentioned and showed in my post Why Are Thermostats Still on the Wall? to a new dht11-low-pass-filter repo on GitHub. Very simple, but useful.

AdaBox006: CircuitPython

The last AdaBox of the year was delivered yesterday. I was able to avoid spoilers so I did a quick unboxing video.

I’ve been wanting to try the AdaFruit M0 boards like the Circuit Playground Express, but figured they’d be including one soon in an AdaBox. Pays to wait, especially when I have a backlog of projects. This is a really neat microcontroller with a lot to explore. It works with the MakeCode block editor, which will be fun to hack around with.

More info on the box can be found in Adafruit’s Learn guide for AdaBox006.

AdaBox 005: Break For Pi

This quarter’s AdaBox is a welcome switch away from the Adafruit feather line of boards. While I’ve created my own retro gaming device with a Raspberry Pi before, this is a nice kit with everything you need except a screen (you could use a TV). It’s a bummer that they didn’t opt for the Pi Zero W.

adabox-005-contents.png

The box came with a set of Hammer Headers, which I’ve been skeptical about since I first saw. I have no issues soldering, actually enjoy the task, and prefer it so I have solid connections to the pins. I figured I’d give the headers a try though. Plus it was good excuse to try out the garage sale hammer I bought. Take a look at the 8x speed time-lapse…

I appreciate the idea and can see that hammer headers would be a good option in schools where they can’t have soldering irons, but I’ll never use them again. It took me 6 minutes and I felt like I was destroying the Pi Zero.

The Adafruit Joy Bonnet is a cute little add-on for the Pi. The first thing I noticed when holding it was how cheap the thumbstick feels and sounds. I wouldn’t expect much out of such a small controller that’s only $15 and snaps on to a Raspberry Pi though.


When I get my 3D printer later this year I’ll make a case for this 7″ screen I bought a couple of years ago, maybe even with a way to clip in the Pi Zero. Or better yet, a Pi 3B, which is better suited for a retro gaming device.

This is now my 8th Raspberry Pi. The 7th was named grasshopper, but what type of pie should I use for the letter H? Comment with your suggestions because the Wikipedia list I usually reference has two “H” pies I’ve never heard of.

 

AdaBox004

I received the latest Adafruit AdaBox last Thursday and made this unboxing video.

 

As you may have guessed, AdaBox004 has a music theme. I’m excited because I’ll be using several of these parts in my current project. I need to finish it before the weekend so I guess I better get my ass in gear.

When you lay it out, this one seemed a light compared to the first 3 AdaBoxes, so I added up prices from the Adafruit store. It came to $73 without factoring in the empty white box for making a custom project enclosure, collectible “Boomy” pin, SD card, Make volume 57 signed by LadyAda, and free shipping. Probably about a $90 value for $60 as a subscriber, which is worth it. The $25 Music Maker FeatherWing with the $20 Feather HUZZAH really drove up the price, limiting what else could be included.

If you enjoyed the music in the video, it was released by Adafruit’s in-house musician to go along with this box. Check out “ADABOX004” on SoundCloud. BartleBeats also has a full album I’ve been listening to a lot while working at my hobby desk. “Frequency” is available on SoundCloud or via iTunes.

Next up… this morning I received the tracking info for HackerBox #0020. Note that AdaBox uses a 3 digit identification system, while the HackerBox uses 4 digits. The difference between a quarterly and a monthly subscription I guess.

AdaBox003

AdaBox003 arrived! It’s my first box as an official subscriber. I bought 001 and 002 through the Adafruit store, but as a subscriber you get:

  1. The new box automatically each quarter.
  2. A cheaper price – $60 with free shipping.
  3. Extras!

Each AdaBox has a theme and this one is right up my alley…

THE WORLD OF IoT – CURATED BY DIGI-KEY

IoT is short for “Internet of Things” and covers a wide range of devices, including home automation. I had actually saved several of these items on my wishlist and planned to buy them when I’d finished some other projects, so it’s a very cool surprise.

A New Hobby

My recent Raspberry Pi project combined with more and more interest in home automation led me down a road I didn’t expect. I find some of the home automation products out there limiting. What if I could mess around and build some of my own devices?

I’ve been thinking about putting some type of temperature sensor in the garage for a while. I heat the garage up in the winter for workouts quite often and never know when it’s warm enough. I’d found my first project! I’d need another Raspberry Pi and at least a temperature sensor. I didn’t really know much about extending the functionality of a Pi, other than I’d need to do some soldering and learn a more about electronics, circuits, etc. Enter AdaFruit. It’s a very cool company with an awesome store and a ton of resources to learn.

Adafruit was founded in 2005 by MIT hacker & engineer, Limor “Ladyada” Fried. Her goal was to create the best place online for learning electronics and making the best designed products for makers of all ages and skill levels. Adafruit has grown to over 50+ employees in the heart of NYC with a 50,000+ sq ft. factory. Adafruit has expanded offerings to include tools, equipment and electronics that Limor personally selects, tests and approves before going in to the Adafruit store.

I saw Ladyada’s Electronics Toolkit in their store, which looked like a great way to get started. My favorite item is the “solder sucker” even though I may never use it. Such a cool name.

ladyadas-electronics-toolkit

Then I came across AdaBox.

AdaBox is a quarterly subscription service from Adafruit, centered around products from the Adafruit ecosystem. Each AdaBox will contain a curated set of Adafruit products that will help you get started with do-it-yourself electronics.

Introducing AdaBox!

The second box is shipping out to subscribers soon, but I was too late to jump on board. Lucky for me, they had some AdaBox001 – Welcome to the Feather Ecosystem still in stock, so I ordered one.

adabox-1-contents

It has a wide variety of components. Should help so that I don’t start randomly buying items. I’m hoping to get in on the third subscription, which opens up on the 19th and I will pick up AdaBox002 when it’s available in the store.

Once everything arrived, I started playing around on my kitchen table. I quickly realized it wasn’t the ideal place. I needed a workstation. When I get into something new, I tend to go all-in, which I believe helps me stick with it. So I set a plan to put a second desk in my office and bought more stuff:

I’m excited and really happy with how everything came together.

electronics-workstation.jpg

I found these organizers for about $4 each at Walmart. They work really well for storing all of the tiny pieces.

organizers.jpg

I haven’t built anything yet, but I’m learning a lot and enjoying the process. My list of project ideas is growing and will keep me busy for as long as I want. As a bonus, I now have a standing desk in my office where I can get actual work-work done when I need a break from sitting.