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.

 

From China

I placed a big AliExpress order several weeks ago for various parts to use in some project ideas. Small padded envelopes appeared in my mailbox daily for over a week, which is always exciting. I’ve been really impressed with the quality of the items for the prices.

Unboxing – HackerBoxes #0023: Digital Airwaves

I was able to avoid spoilers on this month’s HackerBox again, even though something happened with my shipping over the weekend. It arrived Monday instead of Saturday like it was originally scheduled.

Unique box. I’m excited to go through the Instructable for this box and learn some stuff about antennas and WiFi. The PVC pieces and copper wire are for making a custom antenna, which will be fun. I checked my box of goodies to see which WeMos board I had recently bought and it was the Mini Lite. I think I have one of each of their tiny boards now.

I tried to come up with a value for the box again. All prices are from Amazon (with my Prime account) unless noted.

  • HackerBoxes #0023 Collectable Reference Card – $1 (estimate)
  • USB Wi-Fi Interface Device with RT5370 Chipset – $5.89
  • WeMos D1 Mini Pro-16 – $5 + 1.81 shipping (AliExpress)
  • WeMos I2C OLED Shield – $4.50 + 1.58 shipping (AliExpress)
  • WeMos ITX to SMA Antenna Coax – $4.95
  • Exclusive PCB Yagi-Uda Antenna Kit – $5 (estimate)
  • Exclusive CPVC Yagi-Uda Antenna Kit – $1 (estimate)
  • SMA male to RP-SMA male Coax Adapter – $5 (estimate)
  • Mini Tripod with Shoe Mount – $7.79
  • USB Extension Cable – $3.35
  • MicroUSB Cable – $4.16
  • Exclusive Yagi-Uda Antenna Decal – $1 (estimate)
  • Exclusive Digital Airwaves Iron-on Patch – $2 (estimate)

This was a hard box to price out, so there are a lot of estimates. I didn’t see the PCB antenna anywhere and the parts for the PVC antenna are obviously DIY. The random bag of connectors doesn’t seem to be from a kit of any kind. There was also another antenna in my box not on this list. So I’ll add another $10, which all adds up to $64.03.

Unboxing: HackerBoxes #0022 – BBC Micro:Bit

The latest HackerBox came in the mail yesterday. I managed to avoid any spoilers so thought I’d see how dumb I can sound as I figured out what was in the box.

I’m looking forward to checking out the Micro:Bit and its blocks editor. The 128×64 OLED and WiFi modules will definitely get used in projects at some point.

Knowing the Micro:bit sells for less than $20, this box seemed light on value, so I had a look. Like last time, all prices are from Amazon unless noted.

  • HackerBoxes #0022 Collectable Reference Card – $1 (estimate)
  • BBC Micro:Bit – $16.99
  • BBC Micro:Bit Connector Breakout Kit – $5.38 (kitronik.co.uk)
  • Twin AA Battery Holder – $2.79
  • OLED 128×64 pixel I2C Display – $6.99
  • Alligator Clip Jumper Wires – $1.50 (estimate)
  • Miniature Solderless Breadboard – $3.26
  • ESP-01 Wi-Fi Modules – $2.60
  • Six LED Indicator Module – $1.10 (2 for $2.21 on aliexpress.com)
  • Passive Piezo Buzzer – $1 (estimate)
  • AMS1117 3.3V Regulator Module – $1 (estimate)
  • Header Pins – $1 (estimate)
  • DuPont Jumpers – $1 (estimate)
  • Micro USB Cable – $5
  • Micro USB Breakout Module – $1.84
  • Exclusive Micro:Bit Decal – $1 (estimate)

Several of these items are extremely cheap and only sold in multiples so I gave generous estimates. Total comes to $53.45. Things in that $3-7 range really add up quickly. Still a good value for the $44 subscription.

If you’re interested in learning more about this particular box, check out the Instructables guide or leave a comment and I’ll try to answer.

 

5v Relay Module – Part 3

I had no plans for a part 3, but in part 2 of this series, I mentioned how I messed up the wiring several times when I was assembling the module. Instead of fixing it at the time, I started from scratch since I had extra parts. Well, I made some time to disassemble the non-working module and build a new one. I quickly set up a prototype on a breadboard to make sure I didn’t make the same mistakes and then I soldered it all together on a permanent board. Was smooth sailing, even with squeezing everything in as much as I could.

Now I have a two different spare relay modules, depending on power requirements, when I need one for a project.

Sound Card Oscilloscope

Earlier this year I came across an old Make post about building your own oscilloscope. I messed around with it a little bit at the time, but I didn’t have the necessary potentiometers, so I set it aside. Then the topic came up again when the tutorials accompanying HackerBox #0018 made use a 3.5mm audio breakout module and some PC oscope software. So in my next Digi-Key order, I got the pots I needed and I picked up some cheap test leads on Amazon. It’s several months later, but I got around to building my own sound card oscilloscope.

First, a couple of notes…

You’ll definitely want to read through the Make post to get familiar with the project. As mentioned in their guide, there really isn’t any good oscope software for the Mac like there is for the PC. With Audacity, which is what I used, at least you can see the signals in wave form.

I spliced an old audio cable. There are several different styles of 3.5mm connectors, but if you’re doing 2 channels, you’ll want to make sure you your cable has the tip, ring, and sleeve.

3.5mm-Male-Connections.png
Source: blog.audio-technica.com

A lot of MacBooks only do mono microphone input. Several Mac bummers in this build! It wasn’t easy, but I found a USB adapter on Amazon that does stereo mic input (most of them only do mono). It’s pricey at almost $30 for something I’m not even sure I’ll use after this build.

Enough of that, on to the build…

I added the LEDs to my build as a visual reference a signal was coming through, but they can be left out, just like in the Make build. If you’re interested in the Fritzing I showed in the video, head over to sound-card-oscilloscope on GitHub. Whenever I’m soldering up a final project I prefer to have the Fritzing for reference instead of looking at my prototype, which typically has a lot of extra wires hanging around. Having a nice clean diagram helps me from making mistakes.

I also found another guide on a site called Home DIY Electronics, which I didn’t end up following.

If you have any questions or build your own version of this, let me know in the comments.