Eagle vs KiCad: first thoughts

      No Comments on Eagle vs KiCad: first thoughts

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

      No Comments on The joy of the scope

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

      No Comments on Fault finding: the aha! moment

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

      No Comments on Dreambox: change of plan

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

      No Comments on Dreambox: switching to plan A

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 »

Computing with arthritis – keyboards, mice and more

My doctor keeps telling me to stop typing. As a professional writer and enthusiastic coder that’s not going to happen any time soon. But it’s true that, for me, typing is a pain – literally. I have osteoarthritis in all the joints of both hands (and many other places) so constantly hitting keys is not a joyful experience. What I… Read more »

Building a 6502 computer – a place to start

We all have to start somewhere. Almost as soon as I’d decided I would build a 6502-based micro I realised that the learning curve is steep. It’s not like embarking on a new programming language where you can write a ‘Hello world’ program and go from there. When building a computer, there are many pieces that have to come together and… Read more »

Mechanical keyboards: Plum 87 RGB

Topre switches are a divisive issue in the mechanical keyboard community. To some they are the apogee of keyboard switch development. To others they are rubber domes with hype. Topre switches combine the slider mechanism of mechanical switches such as Cherry MX with a spring plus rubber dome capacitive actuator. So some people like to refer to them as ‘semi-mechanical’…. Read more »

From the archives: Good Software Guide

Like the Good Hardware Guide (here, here and here), this 1991 publication was an attempt to produce a book listing all the most important products on the market. Yes, one book. Can you imagine trying to do that now? These are just the items I wrote – my mate Steve Gold covered far more, and there may have been other… Read more »