Friday, June 24, 2016

Utility: Razzmaster Configures Raspberry Pi Over the Network (And It’s Free!)

Razzmaster Configures Raspberry Pi Over the Network (And It’s Free!)

 Here is a nice little, useful utility that helps you configure a number of Raspberry Pi boards quickly, say in an educational or hackerspace environment. No need to hook up keyboards and monitors one at a time to get them running.

Utilities like this are always quite useful as someone else has gone through the trouble of automating the process. All you have to do is use it. Sometimes, we can all go "down the rabbit hole" of taking so much time to create a utility it actually takes more time than it saves. No worries here.

PubNub is a startup, and like many startups we use a lot of open source software. We are also huge fans of the Raspberry Pi. We’ve even built a Pi workshop because it’s so flexible and easy to get started with. Setting up Raspberry Pis for workshops and projects can be a pain, though, especially if you have a lot of them to set up. To address this I created a small open source tool called Razzmaster which lets you find and configure Raspberry Pis over a local network, even if you don’t know the IP address. 
Read the entire article
Get Raspberry Pi Boards and Components from Amazon
Get Raspberry Pi Boards and Components from eBay

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Project: Otto - build you own robot in two hours! (Advanced/3-D Printing)

Here’s a more advanced tech project for those of you with access to a 3-D printer and looking to stretch their skills a bit. Making your projects move is another great step to both fun and learning, just like the use of seniors and lights I mentioned in previous projects.


Otto iso

Who is Otto?
An interactive robot that anyone can make!

What can Otto do?
Otto walks, dances, makes sounds and avoids obstacles.

Why Is Otto special?
Otto is completely open source, Arduino compatible, 3D printable, and with a social impact mission to create an inclusive environment for all kids.
Otto was inspired by another robot instructable BoB the BiPed and programmed using code from another open source biped robot called Zowi.

Read and Watch More

Friday, June 17, 2016

Reuse/Recycle: Connecting a Garmin eTrex GPS to Your Arduino Projects

I have an old Garmin eTrex GPS device sitting around, left over from my early Geocaching days. As I started learning more about Arduino projects, I had the thought of using the eTrex as a GPS input for some project instead of using one of the neat, tiny, GPS modules already out there. I thought this might be a great way to recycle this unit back into something useful and fun.

Turning to the internet, of course, I found several articles on doing just this, including this one (Interfacing RS-232 GPS to Arduino) from Bot Thoughts. One of the first things I learned, thank goodness, was that RS-232 uses a 12v logic and not the 5V used in most Arduino project. Just connecting the 2 together via serial would probably have shorted out my Arduino board. That said, there are ways of stepping down the serial voltage and making it more compatible with Arduino.

In the article linked about, the author decided to build his own circuit to accomplish this, although they also mention an IC that could make the process simpler for those of us who don't want to delve into creating our own electronics from scratch.

I am going to look into this further and see how I might get my Arduino Yun and my eTrex talking to each other and how I might use that data in a project. A great learning project in any case.

From Bot Thoughts...
Interfacing RS-232 GPS to Arduino 
If you missed prior posts, I have entered the 2011 Sparkfun Autonomous Vehicle Competition (AVC). 
For reliable navigation around the Sparkfun building in Boulder, CO, I plan to equip the RC truck I purchased with a GPS, interfacing it to a microcontroller.

Garmin eTrex Legend 
It so happens I have a Garmin eTrex Legend that I can use for prototyping until I buy a much better GPS module  for the robot. Like most GPS units, the Legend outputs NMEA 0183 serial data using RS-232 protocol. RS-232 uses +/-12V signals that will burn your average microcontroller's input pins to a crisp. 
Read the entire article
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Monday, June 13, 2016

Education: Computerphile on YouTube: Technology History and More!

I have found YouTube recommendations to be a great source of new videos on all sorts of topics and this week I started to see a selection of videos from the channel Computerphile out of the School of Computer Science in Nottingham, UK. The first I saw had to do with the early days of computer science including teleprinters, 5-bit paper tape codes, Enigma machines, Bletchley Park code breaking and more.

Learning about the technology that preceded our current day is greatly enlightening and can give a deeper understanding of modern technology than you might expect. Along with the technological education comes great stories from history on how technology was discovered and the effect it had on society.

My favorite videos so far have been those with Professor David Brailsford. He gives clear explanations of early technologies and how they functioned and how they affected the technology that followed. Here are a couple videos on early programming and data storage technologies to get you started. You'll find more great videos like these on the channel.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Project: Hotspot Poet via Adafruit

I love when you can combine technology and art and this project highlighted over at Adafruit is a great example. Using a little Arduino tech, important poems and a big dose of creativity, this project turns the ubiquitous WiFi SSID into a poetry delivery platform. If you have your Wifi selection screen open, you’ll see a new line of the poem every few seconds.  What a great repurposing of existing technology in the service of art!

You can see a great demonstration in this video.

Project: Hotspot Poet via Adafruit

::vtol:: hotspot poet from ::vtol:: on Vimeo.

Autonomous micro-device which distributes wi-fi masked as wireless network, visible at any gadget such as a smartphone or a laptop. The device is automatically renaming its network every 10 seconds, taking as its name various lines of poems by famous poets. The device is using an information channel which is accessible and visible to everyone through mobile devices, thus being a non-standard transmitter of poetry. There is no possibility to connect to this network (which is actually a dummy disconnected from Internet) - the message being the name of the network. If one would leave the wi-fi settings menu open, then gradually, line by line, all the poems programmed into the object will be revealed.

There are 4 objects in the set, each of them contains poems of one of the poets: Basho, Goethe, Pasternak and Petrarka. In fact, the apparatus is an ironic device in the spirit of hacktivism, searching for alternative ways of distribution of information in the public spaces. Theoretically, these devices can be programmed to transmit messages with any content, they will be visible in a certain space and will be refreshed even if the whole country is disconnected from Internet. These devices can be also called generators of network/information noise which displaces the real network by a fake one, but with a certain aesthetic aim.

Radius of action of the module is a few dozens meters. The names of networks are shown in a bit different ways on different gadgets: for example, on certain modern android devices, poetic lines are visible only as one network, which is continuously and quickly refreshed; on ios devices there appears a new one, while a few previous ones are still visible, but gradually the new ones replace the old ones; and on mac computers, all names are appearing line after line, and they stay there until the arrow is removed from the network selection menu.

more info -

Monday, June 06, 2016

Education: Hobby Servo Tutorial via Sparkfun

Education: Hobby Servo Tutorial via Sparkfun

Here is some more information on building some movement into your projects using Hobby Servos, like those used in remote control airplanes and vehicles. Learn how servos work, how they can be modified and how you can use them in your projects with this excellent tutorial.

Servo samples

Get Hobby Servos at Amazon

Get Hobby Servos at eBay


Servo motors are an easy way to add motion to your electronics projects. Originally used in remote-controlled cars and airplanes, they now crop up in all sorts of other applications. They’re useful because you can instruct these small motors how far to turn, and they do it for you.

A typical hobby servo

You ordinary, small DC motor has two hookup wires and simply turns continuously when power is applied. If you want it to spin in the opposite direction, you reverse the power. If you want to know how far it has turned, you’ll need to devise a way to measure that.

Read the entire tutorial on Sparkfun

Servo guts 1

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Saturday, June 04, 2016

Join us for Arduino NIght at Hackerspace LA! - Wed, June 8, 2016

I'll be at this upcoming Hackerspace LA meetup showing off what I've learned about Arduino in the last few months. Join me for demos and discussion. Bring your own projects to share!

Join this free meetup as we learn about more and tinker with the Arduino electronic microcontrollers and learn about building all types of circuits. Arduinos are small electronics boards that can be used to create easy to sophisticated circuits with wires and sensors. Bring your own laptop, Arduino and bread board.  This is for anyone, at any level, to come and have some fun tinkering, learning, and showing off your own projects.

RSVP for Arduino Night via Meetup
RSVP for Arduino Night via Eventbrite

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Project: Voice-Activated Patrol Lamp via

Project: Voice-Activated Patrol Lamp via

This is a great little project using a number of components including Arduino board, motor driver, LEDs, microphones and more. I am going to take a lot away from this one. One idea is to have it drive an 8x8 LED matrix to create a variety of designs when responding to the ambient sounds around it. There are a lot of ways that this can be adapted to any number of projects of your own. I’m not looking to animate anything with a motor, but just seeing how they detect the ambient sound and turn it into an action was useful for me.

Voice activated light anim

Project: Voice-Activated Patrol Lamp via

Components used in this project:

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Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Education: Interfacing Motors with Arduino by Flavian Pegado via Instructables

Interfacing Motors with Arduino by Flavian Pegado via Instructables

It is only a matter of time before you want to start using motors in your Arduino projects and Flavian has a great overview, including parts and code on how to connect all sorts of motors and make them do you bidding,

Each type of motor has a unique way of being controlled and some, like DC motors, require a little extra hardware, too. Learn about all of this in this Instructable.

Get your own Arduino Gear via Amazon
Get your own Arduino Gear via eBay

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Arduino Life 5: Arduino Yun and ftp client/server

One of the main reasons I purchased an Arduino Yun as my first Arduino board was it’s inclusion of WiFi right out of the box. This means you can start making Internet of Things projects immediately. As I have introduced myself to Arduino, I have also looked to learn more about the Linux side of the Yun, how it bridges to the Arduino side and how I can interact with it using standard Internet tools, like SSH and FTP.

Arduino yun

An Arduino with SSH

Once the Arduino Yun is connected to a network, it is possible to use the Macintosh Terminal or other SSH client to log into the Yun and use it as you would any Linux computer.

You’ll need an SD Card on the Arduino Yun to do much with SSH or ftp access, though, as you need a place to store the files you will be uploading or creating.

Arduino ssh 1

This is fine if you just want to view files on the SD Card or other basic terminal operations, but as I was playing around, I realized i wanted to do more than use the built-in vi editor. I use a Mac OS X text editor program called, TextWrangler for a lot of things, including coding. My first thought was to use an ftp client on the Yun to connect to my local computer, so that I could push data over to the Mac from projects like my temperature, humidity and light level sensor. After many searches, it looked like there wasn’t an ftp client for the Yun, but you could install an ftp server and then access that from the Mac. I also had another user for this ftp server, which I’ll show in a moment,

Textwrangler icon

TextWrangler for Mac OS X

An ftp server for the Arduino Yun

Installing an ftp server on the Arduino Yun is actually quite simple. SSH into the Yun and execute these two commands:

opkg update
opkg install openssh-sftp-server

You may need to reset the Yun using the reset button or by cycling the power in order to get the server started. After that, it will be automatically started on each boot. You’’ll now be able to use your favorite ftp client to connect to the Yun. 

Here’s a view of the Yun’s ftp server using Cyberduck on the Mac.

Ftp screen 1

One of the reasons I was so keen to have direct file access to the Yun was that I was trying to develop a short Python program to run on the Yun, but using my ancient (i.e. 30+ year old) knowledge of vi was quite limiting. TextWrangler supports direct reading and writing of text files to any FTP server, and I have used that when editing files on my web server, so I figured there had to be a way to install an ftp server on the Yun and then use Textwrangler to write code directly onto the Arduino.

Textwrangler 1

I can read and write directly to the server using TextWrangler. This means I can write my code, click Save and then immediately switch to my Terminal window and execute the code to test it. That makes it very convenient.

Going Further - Pushing files to ftp server using Python

Of course, once you find one use for the ftp server, more are sure to follow. One of the common beginner projects for the Arduino Yun is a motion-activated security camera. You an find complete instructions in this post from Adafruit.

Wireless Security Camera with the Arduino Yun
Build your own wireless security camera using the Arduino Yun & a USB webcam!

This example using the Temboo service to forward the photos and stream video from the Yun directly to the Internet. When I was looking at the project, though, I was thinking that, since I have my own web server available, I would rather forward the photos to a directory on the server where I could view them at my leisure. This, in fact, is what sent me on the original search for an ftp client for the Yun. While I didn’t find a full-blown client, though, I did find a programatic way to ftp files to the server of your choice using a Python program. This was a little more manual, but it got the job done.

Here is my test code — with no error checking or any other niceties — but I figured you might find the example useful. Many thanks for the folks at EFFBot that provided the great — and easily modified — code which I could build on.

import datetime
import ftplib
import os
# Function to provide easy uploads of appropriate type (Text/Binary)
# Taken from
def upload(ftp, file):
ext = os.path.splitext(file)[1]
if ext in (".txt", ".htm", ".html"):
ftp.storlines("STOR " + file, open(file))
ftp.storbinary("STOR " + file, open(file, "rb"), 1024)
# Get Date
today =
# Get Time
now =
# Build webcam capture filename in YYYYMMDDHHMMSS format
# Call fswebcam capture with resolution parameter
from subprocess import call
call(["fswebcam","-r 1280x720",fname])
# Open FTP session and change directory
ftp = ftplib.FTP(“")
ftp.login(“user", “password")
# Upload picture file
upload(ftp, fname)
# End FTP session

You might have noticed in the ftp screen shot above, this code does work. It snaps a picture from the webcam, stores it locally on the SD Card with a unique date and time--stamped name and  then uploads it to my web site. I plan on setting up this security camera as a test in one of my upcoming learning sessions and replacing the Temboo calls with this ftp script (or perhaps an improved version of it.) I’ll report back on how well it works in an upcoming post.

There is so much to learn about the Arduino world and the Arduino Yun especially. It’s obvious now that many people have wanted a board like the Yun, as Arduino has now introduced a shield that can turn an Arduino Uno — one of the most popular boards — into a functionally equivalent Arduino Yun.

Arduino Yun Shield on eBay

Arduino Yun Shield on

I hope you’ve found this edition of Arduino Life useful. Please send along your questions and comments.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Project: Arduino and OLED based Cellular Automata via

Arduino and OLED based Cellular Automata via

This is a great near-instant gratification project if you have one of the OLED screens I mentioned earlier here on TechnologyIQ. I don't think I had to alter the code at all to get it working with my screen and away it went.

Now I can start digging into the code and see how it creates the game and learn a bit about game logic as well as ways of managing the screen.


Blue 0.96" I2C IIC 128X64 OLED LCD Display Module For Arduino UNO R3 Breadboard

Arduino Yun via eBay

You can easily purchase your own via AmazoneBay and other sources.

Get your own Arduino Gear via Amazon
Get your own Arduino Gear via eBay

Saturday, May 28, 2016

More Readable Arduino Project Display from TechnologyIQ

Working and learning with my Arduino Yun (also via eBay)and a new OLED 128x64 pixel display. This is such a tiny display that I needed to bump up the font size to make it a bit more readable and scroll through the data instead of trying to present it on one screen, like I had before.

I am using the Adafruit SSD1306 library as the u8glib library was hanging after a few minutes of the running. The program would continue running in the background but the screen would stop updating. Frustrating and I found no easy answers to what it was happening.

 More Readable Arduino Project Display from TechnologyIQ


You can read about this project in previous posts here on TechnologyIQ for a bit more detail.

Blue 0.96" I2C IIC 128X64 OLED LCD Display Module For Arduino UNO R3 Breadboard

Arduino Yun via eBay

You can easily purchase your own via AmazoneBay and other sources.

Get your own Arduino Gear via Amazon

Get your own Arduino Gear via eBay

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Project: Easy Arduino Laser Tripwire Security System via Instructables

A great little learning project to use some of the components that might have come as part of your sensor starter pack.

I wonder if you need the specific laser light detector or could use a photoresistor or phototransistor on the detecting end of the system, especially since my set didn't come with the former.


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Project: Arduino Musical Weather Station via Adafruit

Arduino Musical Weather Station

This is a very cool project using a wide variety of sensors and input to create something fun for the garden or yard. I have toyed with similar ideas for wind chimes driven by environmental conditions like sunlight and wind, but this takes my ideas to an entirely different level. 

It sounds the creator has tied the Arduino into a music synthesizer, which allows the Arduino to control a wide range of sounds and effects.

Here is a demonstration video showing it in action.

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Monday, May 23, 2016

Make With: Blue 0.96" I2C IIC 128X64 OLED LCD Display Module for Arduino

Make With focuses on a collection of parts that can be used with Arduino, Raspberry Pi and more!

Blue 0.96" I2C IIC 128X64 OLED LCD Display Module For Arduino UNO R3 Breadboard

You can easily purchase your own via Amazon, eBay and other sources.

Thl with oled

My Temperature, Humidity and Light Level Sensor Project with OLED Screen.

Blue oled

A cool, tiny, OLED display for your Arduino and Raspberry Pi projects. While I often like to send my data to “the cloud”, sometimes having a display on your project works well. With the u8glib, you can draw graphics and text in a large number of different fonts.

See the setup and display at work in this video from Julien Ilett, one of my favorite channels on YouTube.

Get your own Arduino Gear via Amazon

Get your own Arduino Gear via eBay

Project: Tiny Arduino Music Visualizer: Maximum blinkenlights, minimum effort! via Adafruit

Get your own Arduino Gear via Amazon

This looks like something I might try to adapt to my own monochrome Led Matrix. It was an idea I was already thinking about and I hope I can draw some example from their code to develop my own. I love projects that interact with the real world, whether they are art pieces passively delivering information of some sort. It is a fairly complex project, but that often means there is a lot to learn within.

Arduino music viz

Project: Tiny Arduino Music Visualizer: Maximum blinkenlights, minimum effort! via Adafruit

Here’s an easy-to-build project that really packs a lot of blinkenlight for the effort: a little pocket-size music visualizer we call “Piccolo.”

Set Piccolo next to the telly or some speakers and you’ll see the lights respond to music and sound — lowest notes toward the left end of the graph, highest notes toward the right.

Technically this would be called a “spectrum analyzer,” but as this is not a precision scientific instrument, we’re more comfortable labeling it a “visualizer.” It’s strictly for show.

Check out the entire project on Adafruit


Arduino Components from Amazon:

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A Font to Make Programming Easier? Yes! - Mononoki

Reading here on TechnologyIQ, it should be clear that I have been doing a lot more coding than usual recently. Whether it's putting together Arduino code, python apps or PHP pages, life has had me staring at the computer screen trying to tell if that's a 1 or an l, a 0 or an O, a ( or a { or a [. Blowing up the font size only takes you so far, though.

Having worn glasses since I was 10 years old, I can use all the help possible when reading my screen. A few days ago I came across a post about a new font, specifically designed for coding -- Mononoki.

Mononoki addresses many of the issues I mentioned above right out of the box. 1'a and l's look entirely different as do 0's and O's. With the, now common, proliferation of braces, brackets and parentheses in all modern programming language, those are also addressed and made clearly different from one another.

Can a new font make coding easier? It certainly has for me. Sure I push the font size a few more points just to ease my way, but Mononoki has certainly made my coding life just a not easier.

Link: Mononoki on github

Noted: Open Robots With Open Roberta via HackADay

HackADay reports on the OpenRoberta project to help kids learn more about building and operating their first robots.

Read Open Robots With Open Roberta at HackADay

Or header

Visit the Open Roberta site for more information. You can also try out a simulated robot there.

Open Roberta

The Open Roberta project continues the Fraunhofer-Initiative »Roberta – Learning with Robots«. For more than ten years, this initiative enabled girls and boys to explore the world of robots and to learn about computer science, natural sciences and technology (STEM). The aim of Open Roberta is to overcome technical and professional barriers for teachers and students alike. The free cloud-based Platform »Open Roberta Lab" can be used at any time from any device using standard Internet browsers.

Open Roberta Lab

The programming environment »Open Roberta Lab" enables children and adolescents to program Lego Mindstorms EV3 robots. A variety of different programming blocks are provided to program motors, sensors and the EV3-Brick. Open Roberta Lab uses an approach of graphical programming so that beginners can seamlessly start coding. As a cloud-based application, the platform can be used without prior installation of specific software but runs in any popular browser, independent of operating system and device.

Open roberta

Arduino parts start to arrive via Instagram [Photo]

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Arduino Life 4: Visualizing Your Project's Data with Ubidots

Back to the basics with my learning project, a temperature, humidity and light level sensor with the Arduino Yun.

While text printouts to the Serial Monitor, viewing text files via SSH and login the data to a Google Spreadsheet are fine, wouldn’t it be cool to be able to see your project’s data visualized in near real time? Sure it would. 

Enter Ubidots, and IoT (Internet of Things) visualization service that can receive data from your Arduino projects and graph it in a number of ways.

I was first made aware of Ubidots via this YouTube video from Acrobatic - Visualize Sensor Data Using ESP8266 (ESP-12E)

While I haven’t yet made the jump to using the ESP8266 myself, it was introduction to Ubidots as a service. They have a variety of libraries and code examples for connecting your Arduino projects and, in my case, there was a specific library for the Arduino Yun. While this library worked fine for sending 1 variable of data to the service, I ran into significant problems when I tried to send the 3 variable from this project (Temperature, Humidity and Light Level). If I added a second variable, the sketch would seem to hang when it connected to the Ubidots API.

Thankfully, a quick message to the Ubidots forums resulted in an updated library only a day later, and now — as you can see from the screen shot below — all 3 variables are being received and graphed.


Using the Arduino Yun Library made it exceedingly easy to send my project data. I only needed to include the library...

#include <UbidotsYUN.h>

Define some constants for my API key and the key for each variable I was sending.

#define TOKEN “API Token Here"
#define TEMP “Variable Token Here"
#define HUMID "Variable Token Here"
#define LIGHT "Variable Token Here"

Start the Ubidots library

Ubidots client(TOKEN);

Initialize the Ubidot client


Then send the current data along to Ubidot each time through my loop

// Update Ubidots
client.add(TEMP, temperature);
client.add(HUMID, humidity);
client.add(LIGHT, lightlevel);

Complete Sketch Available Here as Ubidots.txt

Once I had a working Arduino library from Ubidots, it was easy to add these statements to the project and start feeding data.

On the Ubidots side, before you make your first call to the Ubidots API, you set up a “Data Source”. A Data Source is a collection of variables from a specific project. This creates the necessary variable tokens you need to include in your sketch that connect each piece of data in your sketch to a specific luggable and graphable piece of data in the Ubidots Dashboard.

Ubidots data source 

Ubidots data source detail

Once the Data Source is set up, you can set up your dashboard with various widgets to present the data however you wish.


Here I have set up 2 widgets for each of my variable — one showing a current gauge of the data values and then a bar chart of recent data. You can change the scales on either access to show more or less data or set your own min/max data levels to get exactly the graph you want. Other widgets include Metrics — showing Min/Max, Averages and more — Maps, if you are using GPS or measurement data — Tables — and Control buttons.

Give Ubidots a try as a front end for your next Arduino IoT project and I think you will be pleasantly surprised with its features.

Please send along your questions and comments.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Salvage Parts For Your Projects and more! - iFixit 64 Bit Driver Kit - 30% off at Geeky Gadgets

Salvage Parts For Your Projects and more! - iFixit 64 Bit Driver Kit - 30% off at Geeky Gadgets

I have started to disassemble old technology like printers and such to harvest parts for my Arduino projects. My first foray into this, though, left me a bit disappointed, as many of the screws used in assembling these products are specialized pieces, designed to prevent disassembling them. 

Enter the iFixit 64 Bit Driver Kit, something I have known about for a long time, but never actually purchased. It comes with a host of specialized bits and drivers used to build a lot of today's technology. While this kit is truly designed to help you repair your own technology, as you might imagine, it also helps a lot in tearing apart older, non-functional tech to get at the good bits!

When I saw that Geeky Gadgets had the kit on sale today for 30% off -- and I had some funds in my PayPal account -- it was time to get one of my own. I have my eye on some stepper motors and sensors in an old printer already. Can't wait for it to arrive.

Make something cool today! via Instagram [Photo]