Monday, December 2, 2013

A giant magnet's 3200 mile voyage

Muon g-2, the world's largest electromagnetic ring, is traveling in one piece from Brookhaven National Laboratory on New York's Long Island to Fermilab outside Chicago. It's arrival may lead scientists to the next big discoveries in particle physics.

Provided by the Natiional Science Foundation

Monday, September 30, 2013

Phil Plait at TAM 8: Don't Be A Dick

If you are already a skeptic then you will find a lot of good points in this talk. If you are not a skeptic then you will find some very scary notions. It will challenge you to re-examine your belief system. But this us actually a good thing. I don't mean to tell people what to believe but I still think that everyone should question everything and learn to become a critical thinker.

Monday, September 16, 2013


Our community is the largest of it's kind in the world, making it the perfect environment for the turning even the smallest seeds of inspiration into big ideas that shape the future.

Monday, September 9, 2013

LCD Serial Display - Parts List

First draft of a working prototype

  1. Arduino UNO
  2. Breadboard
  3. 10K POT
  4. 2K Resistor
  5. Single strand hook-up wire
  6. USB Cable
  7. LCD Display 5 x 7 dots plus cursor, 5 x 8 dots or 5 x 11 dots, dot matrix LCD (TN and STN mode.)
  8. Break-away male header strip

My decision to use the UNO was purely convenience driven. Any of the available arduino boards can be used for this project. At the end I will convert to using a bare processor in place of the development board. A typical arduino development board can be had for as low as $9. Some, like the nano, are breadboard pluggable.

There are a veritable glut of LCD display modules available. I paid $6 for mine at a local electronics retailer here on Toronto. You can get them from any of the on-line electronics stores as well. Chances are you'll pay more for shipping than for the display. Orion Daewoo 16x2 LCD Display Module 16216L-B-F30 is available for $2.99 plus shipping. This version does not include a backlit display. Here is a typical PDF data sheet for this type of display.

One of the things you will need to plug the display into the breadboard is a 16 pin header strip. 40 position break away headers can be purchased for less than $1 each. I'd suggest you get 4 male and 4 female headers if you are ordering on-line. They are extremely useful in all type of projects and you'll find you use them up rather quickly.

If you do not already have a breadboard, you can purchase kits that include a breadboard and a selection of pre-cut jumper wires. A good starter breadboard is the half-sized breadboard from AdaFruit Industries in New York City. A good supply of jumpers can also be had.

The USB cable usually comes with the arduino development board while the resistor and the POT can be purchased from any electronics supply. Digi-key has a good selection of resistor kits.

Here is a wiring diagram of the basic circuit.
Wiring Diagram

First you will need to solder a 16 pin male header to the display board. This will allow you to plug the display into the breadboard. The header pins look like this when you get them.
Typical 40 pin Male Header Strip
You will need to cut a length of 16 conductors using diagonal cutters. The shorter side inserts in the the row of sixteen holes in the top left corner of the display board from the bottom. They should look like this.
In the next post I'll start to cover the software required for both the MCU and the Python code.

Virtually yours,

Wee Willy Wonderful

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Our first project - The serial display

The Purpose of Bumbling Electron

I decided to create this blog to document my journey through making useful devices using micro-controllers. My rational is that other people will benefit from my mistakes as I fail my way to success.

I will build projects that span multiple blog entries. At first I am going to write a blog entry when ever I finish some work on a project. I might have one or more projects on-going at any time. If warranted I'll post on some regular schedule.

My First Project

My first project is a 2 line by 16 character LCD display that connects and is powered via USB. This can be used to display status information about the computer or even help in displaying debugging information while developing software. If you want to get creative you could easily write a script that pulls weather information from the world wide web and displays the current temperature, humidity and other weather related information. Getting excited?

When attached to the computer, the display will appear as a serial device. I am using Linux but you could develop under Windows or Apple OS. If you have an android device with a host USB adaptor you can use that.

Choice of language includes the ubiquitous Windows BAT file, Python, JavaScript; basically any language that can write to the serial port. What you write is up to you. Controlling the output will depend on certain ASCII codes that are non-displayable characters. These are interpreted by the display as commands. For example, ASCII code zero (0) will cause the display to clear and the cursor to position itself at the beginning of the first line. An ASCII code of one (1) will allow you to position the cursor to any position on the two lines of the display. The next two ASCII codes following the ASCII one will be the line (0 or 1) and the column (0 to 15).  Other codes will allow you to scroll left or right, turn the back light on and off, blank the display or even reboot the device.

I am also thinking on adding a piezo electric beeper to allow the ASCII bell character (8) to sound a beep. That way you can signal an event audibly.

I look forward to building the LCD display and sharing it with you.

Wee Willy Wonderful