Apt-get and the curse of IPv6

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Well that’s two hours of my life I’m never getting back. You know how sometimes you try to do a simple five-minute job and the damn thing just snowballs…? Well that was today. First a quick summary so you know what this is about – I was having problems with apt-get stalling when trying to use it on a Raspberry… Read more »

ESP8266 and MicroPython: first scripts

So I have MicroPython installed on an Adafruit Huzzah ESP8266 dev board. The next step is to get it to run something. MicroPython establishes a basic filesystem using the board’s flash memory. This is handy for storing configuration and data files. And it supports a directory structure. But there are two files in particular you need to get to grips… Read more »

Initial steps: MicroPython on ESP8266

Some time ago I witnessed people getting all kinds of excited about ESP8266 devices. Worth checking out, I thought, and promptly ordered about five boards – specifically the ESP8266 Huzzah boards from Adafruit. They’re not the cheapest, but with Adafruit you always know you’re getting quality and it has features like level-shifted (ie, 5V safe) RX pin and 3V3 output…. Read more »

AVR: Battling bizarre bugs

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Do you ever get the feeling that a compiler is acting weird just to mess with your head? That’s how it felt yesterday. I was tinkering with the code for my HexMonitor. This uses an ATMEGA328P microcontroller to read values in from an eight-bit data bus or a 16-bit address bus (selectable via a switch) and display them on a… Read more »

Eagle vs KiCad: first thoughts

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There’s a tough decision awaiting anyone who, like me, is about to get into designing their own printed circuit boards (PCBs) – what software to use. An Electronic Design Automation (EDA) package is pretty much essential for any serious PCB work, and quite a lot of non-serious work too (which is where I come in). For those not familiar with… Read more »

Debugging AVR ATMEGA code with Atmel Studio and ICE

One of the more challenging aspects of writing code for microcontrollers is not being able to liberally sprinkle your code with PRINT statements to show the state of variables and whatnot at particular moments. If you’re working with Arduino-type devices you can always fire up the Serial library and print stuff that way – back down the wire to a… Read more »

The joy of the scope

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Most of the books about electronics for beginners in my library say something like this in the first chapter: ‘you don’t need an oscilloscope’. Yes you do. Well, maybe need isn’t the right word. Yes, you can laboriously chart voltage levels from a capacitor by measuring at regular intervals with a multimeter (at least two of the books have you do… Read more »

Fault finding: the aha! moment

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Well, maybe not so much aha! More like FFS. Weird as it sounds, debugging errors is one of the things I enjoy about both coding and electronics. I’m an amateur in both fields and waste little time on planning my projects. I prefer just to delve right in. Rather than sketch out a circuit first, for example, I just get… Read more »

And now for something completely different…

Photography has always been my primary passion, even during those times when I’ve become besotted with aviation, robotics, electronics and cycling. So I hope you don’t mind if I take a brief break from tech posts to mention that I will soon be showing my landscape photography work in an exhibition, alongside the sculptures and 3D work of my friend Sue… Read more »

From the archives: Computers in photography

Having written two long articles for Personal Computer World on one of my great passions, aviation (here and here), it was perhaps inevitable that I would sell them a piece on an even greater obsession of mine – photography. The article mentions the Sony Mavica. This wasn’t a digital camera – it was a still video camera, with an analog NTSC… Read more »

Dreambox: change of plan

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Okay, so here’s a tip for anyone who, like me, prefers to make up their electronics projects as they go along – who simply doesn’t have time for all that planning and designing nonsense. Buy yourself a desoldering station. Seriously – buy it before you even buy a soldering iron, just to be safe. A quick recap: I decided that… Read more »

Dreambox: switching to plan A

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Planning is a good thing. Having your project mapped out before you start saves time and avoids wasteful detours and last-minute kludges. I should definitely do that some day. My approach to electronics is the same as my approach to writing software: just get started – it’ll all work out somehow. Luckily, I don’t write code or build electronic devices… Read more »

AVR basics: reading and writing GPIO pins

Once you’ve set up a pin, or a whole port’s worth of pins, as inputs or outputs, it’s time to start writing and reading values. This series is part of my learning process and I hope it will help others who, like me, are embarking on projects such as programming AVR chips. The way I learn things is to write… Read more »

AVR basics: ports and direction registers

Pretty much the first thing anyone does with a microcontroller, whether it’s a naked AVR chip or something fancy like an Arduino, is flash an LED. This series is part of my learning process and I hope it will help others who, like me, are embarking on projects such as programming AVR chips. The way I learn things is to… Read more »