AdaBox 011: PyPortal

Yesterday I received AdaBox 011: PyPortal.

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Similar to AdaBox 010, there isn’t much here in terms of assembly or physical experimentation using different parts, but the PyPortal is a really cool new device from Adafruit. It’s built for IoT projects, with:

  • 3.2″ touchscreen to display info and interact with the device
  • ESP32 co-processor to handle Wi-Fi connections
  • Analog Devices ADT7410 temperature sensor
  • SAMD51 to handle all of the processing, compatible with CircuitPython, which makes it fun and easy to program
  • Laser cut acrylic enclosure/stand

They’ve also included a 1 year pass to adafruit.io. I’ll likely turn this into something that interfaces with my Home Assistant server to control different devices around my house.

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Took 5-10 minutes to remove the protective paper from the acrylic pieces and assemble the stand

I haven’t done much in terms of electronics, woodworking, or making in general for the last couple of months. I think I burned out a bit when I caught up on so many projects over November, December, and January. I’ll get back to making soon!

Papier Machine Vol.0

I finally received a reward for a crowd-funded project, which arrived on December 31st.

Papier Machine Vol.0 is the first interactive electronic paper toy that unveils the mysteries of electronic black boxes.

Kickstarter

I first heard about the project in July of 2017 and I made a super early bird pledge in January of 2018. The original estimated delivery for my reward was July of 2018, so it was about 5 months late. Not bad considering in that July 2017 post I had just backed a 3D printer on Kickstarter that is over a year late with no updated delivery timeline.

My nieces were down this weekend, so Kennedy and I made the first project.

This piano was an easy one. You use the varying amounts of graphite from a pencil to make a connection as you can see from the filled in areas around each of the keys. On the back side you connect a small circuit board with an integrated chip, a coin cell battery, and a piezo buzzer.

8x8x8 LED Cube

My last HackerBox, #0030: Lightforms, came with an 8x8x8 LED cube kit. I started building it in May, when I assembled the PCB and made a jig for assembling the grids.

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8×8 jig

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I got busy over the summer and the thought of soldering 512 LEDs didn’t excite me. After catching up on all of my other kits, it was finally time to dive back in.

I thought I took some video of assembling the board, but I must have deleted it. So I didn’t bother with any video while assembling the grids either. The repetition would have been quite boring. I thought I’d do a gallery with captions for a change.

While assembling the 8×8 grids I settled on a pretty good system, so I recorded myself doing a couple of rows to show my method.

This is definitely my longest electronics kit in terms of hours spent and it had so much repetition. Pretty cool result. Here is someone’s demo showing what can be done with the cube.

I’ll need to upgrade the firmware so I can program the board with my own animations.

Boldport Club: Capaci-meter (#31)

This is the penultimate project from Boldport Club before they move away from the subscription model. It is called Capaci-meter and is project #31. I’m really sad to see the Club changing because I’ve enjoyed the projects a lot more than any of the other electronics kits and the PCBs are so beautiful. It’ll be interesting to see where it goes.

After having issues with my Hakko FX-888D soldering iron, I finally did some troubleshooting and by using a meat thermometer I determined the tips weren’t getting hot enough. Then I found the device actually has an adjustment mode which lets it compensate. Works great now and is so much better than that cheap iron I’ve been using for other recent projects.

It’s great when the project produces a useful device like this for testing the value of capacitors.

AdaBoxes 8 & 10

More catching up on electronics stuff that was piled on my desk. Here I unboxed AdaBoxes 8 and 10. Then I assembled 10, which is a sweet device, and loaded some of the code examples. Skip ahead to 17:23 if you only want to check out the demos.

In the past I mentioned I might cancel my AdaBox subscription, which I did after box #8. On social media and in their YouTube shows Adafruit has been pretty much telling you what’s in the next box, which has been nice. I knew #9, based on their HalloWing board, didn’t interest me. Then when I realized #10 was going to be the NeoTrellis and subscriptions were still open late in the quarter I jumped in. I plan to make a game-time decision each quarter from here on out.

SparkFun Dumpster Dive

About once a year SparkFun does a special sale to sell off “customer returns, damaged products (physical or cosmetic), overstock, production samples, or anything that’s not selling well enough on the site to keep around.” Fittingly, they call it the Dumpster Dive. I missed out on it last year, but was near a computer and able to place an order this year. It costs $15 for a box of what could literally be all trash and came out to $25.32 after tax and shipping. Here’s what I got…

  • Random wires and shrink tubes ($0.50)
  • Slide Pot – X-Large – 10k Linear Taper ($2.95)
  • 30-LED Bargraph – PCB only ($3)
  • Load Cell Amp ($1.95)
  • Mini Photocell (2X $1.50)
  • Toggle Switch ($1.95)
  • LinkSprite JPEG Color Camera TTL Interface – 2MP ($27.50)
    • Retired product but I was able to find what might be a newer model for $55 in several places, so took 50% of that price
  • Some kind of display with a connector I’ve never seen
    • I couldn’t find out what this was and 99.9% sure I’ll never use it, so won’t give it a price.
  • 6 terminal block ($2.95)
    • Cracked in one corner, but completely useable
  • LED Mixed Pack ($8)
    • They sell a 26 pack for $10.60
  • Force Sensitive Resistor – Long ($20.95)
  • 4 AA battery holder ($1.95)
  • 2 AAA battery holders (2x $1.95)
  • Gearbox Wheel ($1.50)

Total comes out to about $80, so I’d say I did well with my box. I’ll actually use quite a few of these things.

Revive a Ryobi Battery

I’ve been able to revive a dead power tool battery before, but Ryobi has some extra protection so you can’t trickle charge them from the contact points on the outside of their batteries. I was able to use a method I found on YouTube to trickle charge from the inside and the battery is working again.

When I say “dead battery” I mean the charger status shows the battery is defective. It can do this if the battery completely loses all of its power or the cells become imbalanced. The charger has built-in safety measures that prevent it from charging batteries in this state.

Be aware that opening the battery like this will void the warranty. Due to the special screws (T10 with a hole) I bought a security bit set from Menards for $5.

Update: A second battery went dead the day this was published. This method resurrected that one as well.

Rewired MacBook Pro Charger

One end of the cable on this cheap charger had worn out to the point where it would only work if held in the exact right position. Or so I thought. After a little rewiring and heat-shrink tubing I found out that it’s actually something on the inside portion of the connector. I’ll have to see if I can open up the case.

Electronics Backlog

Most of my free time has been spent working on the truck for the last month and I’m starting a wood working project that’ll take me a week or two. Hopefully I can get back to some electronics projects before August, because they’re literally piling up.