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empowering creative people

Which littleBits Kit is for me?

One of the most asked questions we get is "what's the difference between the base, premium and deluxe littleBits kits?". A picture says a thousand words, so hopefully the image below helps if you were wondering!

littleBits kits compared

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- By Brody

Littlebits in Australia

littleBits productsIf you have made it here you must have heard about littleBits along the grape vine at some stage and are now looking for where to buy in Australia. Look no further as we've got the entire littleBits colletion right here!

All kits come with individual Bits and detailed, step-by-step instructions for building your very first inventions. The littleBits system is modular so every Bit works with every other Bit in the library.

The littleBits collection are found within these categories:

Educational orders are welcomed and we can arrange purchase orders if needed. Get in touch with us to get your purchase order started.

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- By Graham

Some great tips for setting up your own electronics lab at home

This week I have been traversing youtube and the makersphere for some great information on the wide-world of testing and measurement. Dave Jones from the EEVBlog has a fantastic Youtube channel that makes videos on almost anything and everything to do with electronics including some great teardowns of different tools. I recently found a fantastic video where Dave gives us a very quick summary of what you should be looking out for when grabbing tools for your electronics lab.

Dave covers off on multimeters, oscilloscopes, waveform generators, soldering stations, static protection devices and so much more. A truly wonderful summary of what you will want/what you need to look out for when buying for your electronics lab. You can't move past Rigol when it comes to great tools for your workbench

See the EEVBlog here, you'll be subscribing in no time!

Interested in grabbing some of this stuff for your own bench? check out our Tools and/or Testing Equipment categories out for some great products!

 

 

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- By Aidan

USB Port Electrical Protection

Nowadays most people are pretty cautious and aware when it comes to computers and malicious software; avoid dodgy sites, only download applications from verified sources etc… But perhaps one of the biggest threats to your computer can come from that harmless looking USB port. USB drives offer the greatest window of control over your computer, so much so that offices, corporations, even airlines go to extreme lengths to protect against hacker threats via USB ports. But whilst protecting against cyber-attacks is all well and good, most people often overlook the electrical ramifications of foreign USB devices.

USB killer productWhich brings to light to story dubbed the ‘USB Killer’. Designed to test commercial products against electrical attacks, the USB Killer is definitely not a toy. Long story short, it draws power from the USB port to charge a capacitor bank up to 240V, and then discharges it back through the USB bus, unleashing a lethal voltage and current that not only fries the USB bus, but runs rampant through the motherboard, potentially destroying the computer.

It’s the D-Day equivalent of USB technology, however it does draw to attention the importance of protecting USB ports against both software, and electrical attacks. To check out more info and tech specs on the USB Killer, check out the website here.

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- By Sam

This guy built a working computer, one transistor at a time

Modern Processors are built using millions upon millions of transistors on tiny silicon chips. But there's no way you could see them with the naked eye, let alone how they are working in unison. 

British man, James Newman decided that he wanted to know how they worked, up close and personal. Realising he would never be able to shrink down and walk around a silicon chip, he decided to scale up the computer instead.

The resulting project is called the Megaprocessor, a 40,000 discrete transistor, 10,000 LED, hand soldered computer. It fills a room, took him 1 year and around $70,000 AUD to build. This thing is impressive to say the least. 

See a guided tour of the monolith below

If that wasn't impressive enough, James' new mission is to create a series of videos on YouTube that go into explaining the finer points of CPU functionality. See those videos here 

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- By Aidan

Return of the Floppy Disk

A long time ago, in a computer far, far away, floppy disk drives were useful. Fast forward to 2016 and floppy disk drives belong in a museum. In fact, the only remnants of the floppy disk era left in my house is my much loved copy of Sim City 2000.

However, much like undercuts and denim jackets, people around the world are using vintage technology to create incredibly cool projects with it. One of the best examples of this I’ve seen recently is this epic recreation of the iconic Star Wars theme by YouTuber Paweł Zadrożniak. Named the ‘Floppytron’, along with putting together the 64x floppy disk drive array, 8x hard drive array, and whatever else he is using, there is the custom circuitry to drive it all from a PC and code designed to run the floppy disk drives at the desired frequencies.

The truly awesome part is that not only has he recreated the melody, but Zadrożniak has used various devices to play the many different instrumental parts which makes Star Wars well… Star Wars. We can only imagine the wonder of seeing R2-D2 dance to the robotic orchestra, but for now, take a look at a fantastic tutorial on the internet showing how you can use an Arduino to create your very own floppy disk symphony.

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- By Sam

Circuit Playground - Available in Australia!

Circuit Playground is the newest board from Adafruit in the US. It's an all-in-one board aimed toward education and beginners. It features 10 NeoPixel LEDS, a motion sensor, a temperature sensor, a speaker, a sound sensor, a light sensor, 2 push buttons and a switch! Theres absolutely no breadboarding, soldering or sewing required!

It's loaded up with all these sensors and controlled using an Arduino-compatible ATmega32u4, so it can be programmed using the IDE we all know and love. Additionally the onboard JST connector can be used to power the board and take your circuits on the go!

Adafruit have really gone above and beyond in providing the maker/educator community with a magnificent board. These great sensors and features come with a fantastic price tag, the Circuit Playground board is only $30.00!

 

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- By Aidan

Future of Eagle PCB Design

If you’ve been in the electronic DIY area for a while, you might have heard of Eagle. Eagle is a PCB design software tool that has become incredibly popular in the maker space because of its powerful, if somewhat counter intuitive interface, and inclusive free licenses. It was owned by Element 14, however Element 14 has now been sold, and the new owners have decided that it doesn’t really fit into the business model. So that sold it to Autodesk.

Autodesk own several hugely popular CAD design tools including AutoCad, Fusion, and Maya (just to name a few). What it was missing, was a powerful PCB design tool. Now this acquisition is dividing the maker community somewhat, but I personally am excited for the change and feel that it’s going to bring a much needed refresh and makeover to what is a promising platform. They’ve also committed to retaining the fantastic student, educator, and hobbiest licenses, as well as overhaul the entire product.

Dave from EEV blog provides his thoughts in the video above, and when I first heard the news I immideiatly thought that I might have to jump ship from Eagle (rendering my hours of painstaking library creation null and void), but then I did a bit more reading and I’m quite excited to see what comes of this. One of the best things will be if Autodesk provide tight integration with their other products. I’m imagining being able to create lifelike 3D renderings of board designs, easily create 3D printable circuit boards to fit testing, and intuitive circuit simulation.

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- By Sam

Enjoy Inventing

Ever heard of the KISS principle? Keep It Simple Stupid? Well that’s all well and good sometimes, but every now and then, I prefer to go by the MTACAPJB principle. Make Things As Complicated As Possible Just Because. What’s more fun than creating something immensely intricate and complicated to fulfil a mundane and boring part of everyday life? Perhaps you disagree, but one of my favourite internet channels at the moment is Joseph’s Machines. This guy is the king of everyday Rube Goldberg inventions, and if you’ve ever wanted to streamline your academic pursuits, we’ve found the perfect way with this elaborate, study power snack machine.

The beauty of these machines isn’t at all about the actual outcome, but how you reach it, and this gravity powered, leverage drive contraption satisfies my inner nerd in a way I just can’t quite explain. Highly impractical, and ridiculously elaborate, Joseph’s Machines is an amazing demonstration of creativity gone wild. Now as a bonus, if you’re struggling a bit on the commute home this afternoon, may I also suggest his latest contraption that will have you wondering how you didn’t think of it first; the Power Nap Machine.

Nap well, and enjoy inventing!

This blog post was brought to you by Core Electronics - your home for SparkfunAdafruitArduino and Raspberry Pi gear in Australia!

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- By Sam

Blynk, IoT to Your Smartphone

How amazing is the Internet of Things?! It just keeps growing and growing and growing! It promises the ability connect your creations to devices like your computer and smart and allow interfacing between them to do incredible things. For many people though, there is a huge hurdle with using your smartphone to communicate to platforms like Arduino, Raspbery Pi, Particle, ESP8266 etc… and that is that most people are unable to write the smartphone app they imagine in their head. Well that’s all about to change.

Blynk is born out of the goal to bridge the divide of software and hardware to allow you to create apps using a simple graphic interface which lets you monitor sensor data, control outputs, create data graphs, and heaps more. You can then turn it into a standalone app on the App Store or Google Play, with your own branding and images. Pretty cool huh?

The best thing is that it isn’t tied to a specific hardware platform, it can connect to any maker board that has an internet connection. Brands like Sparkfun have created boards specifically designed to integrate tightly with Blynk, so it’s an incredible exciting time to be alive.

 

This blog post was brought to you by Core Electronics - your home for SparkfunAdafruitArduino and Raspberry Pi gear in Australia!

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- By Sam

Infinity Mirror Table

You may have seen some pictures of infinity mirrors recently. The idea is pretty simple but the effects are mesmorising! You essentially use 1 normal mirror and a 1 way mirror to sandwich lights, creating the illusion of neverending depths filled with lights. The phrase "It's bigger on the inside" comes to mind when you see one of these mirrors in action. 

yellow-infinity-table

If you wanted to make your own you don't have to create a brand new table or mirror, but you can likely repurpose an older one to give it a fresh sci-fi makeover. 

Check out this from-scratch build of the Infinity Mirror Table for all the steps and guidance you need to create your own.

If you wanted to get some LEDs that would work great for a potential living room upgrade check out this awesome product from Adafruit. As always Adafruit have a number of LED strips available with full, comprehensive walkthroughs on how to use them. 

This blog post was brought to you by Core Electronics - your home for SparkfunAdafruitArduino and Raspberry Pi gear in Australia!

 

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- By Aidan

Digital Sculpting the world around you with 3D Printing

We've heard some people claim that whilst 3D printers are great, you inevitably just end up printing STLs from thingiverse to suit your needs. There was even an article written by inc.com claiming that 3D printing is dying. Well, I like to think if you think thats true, you might just be lacking some creative spark.

Greg Petchkovsky decided he would combine 3D scanning, photography and 3D printing to create these awesome modifications to the world around him.   

He starts with multiple pictures of the object he wants to model, then creates a high quality 3D model of the object with the relevant software. 123D Catch is great, easy to use application you can use to turn photos into 3D models. Then he simply subtracts the section of what he wants to modify from the model he is adding to it.

Check out the video where you can see how easy he makes it look. You might get inspired to try something similar and spruce up your environment. 

It's truly awesome to see people being able to bring these awesome effects to the world us using this exciting new technology.

Wanting to get started in the wide world of 3D printing? Take a look around our tutorials to get started. 

 

This blog post was brought to you by Core Electronics - your home for SparkfunAdafruitArduino and Raspberry Pi gear in Australia!

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- By Aidan

Vintage MIDI Mood Lighting

Hey guys, as a musician and electronics enthusiast it’s always been my passion to find creative ways to merge music and technology to create awesome things. So when I saw this project from ‘Capricorn One’ over at Instructables, I loved it immediately. Something like this could be awesome to install in a small bar with a live musician to really create an atmosphere. It’s created using an Arduino Uno and a bunch of supporting circuitry.

MIDI Lights from Capricorn One on Vimeo.

The actual MIDI-trigger conversion is quite simple, it’s the circuitry and power requirements to integrate tightly timed logic signals with 60Hz mains voltage globes that is the challenge, although this walkthrough provides schematics and great explanations of every step. If you were to recreate this project using LED lighting it would be infinitely simpler, and you could perhaps use NeoPixel LEDs assigned to each individual note, however for now, just sit back and enjoy the creativity and beauty of someone’s fantastic project. It’s a simple, yet effective way to great a dynamic environment to enhance musical expression.

If you’re keen to have a crack at this project yourself, check out the Instructable guide here.

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- By Sam

ESP32 Wi-Fi +

Technology is advancing at a rate that is almost impossible to keep up with these days. The internet community is still getting used to the ESP8266, which is a $10 programmable Wi-Fi enabled MCU with GPIO pins and a broad peripheral set. So while this board is still cooling down from the production line, the company behind the ESP8266, Esspressif have announced a new board called the ESP 32. It builds on the ESP8266 in every way including beefed up specs, Wi-Fi and most importantly; Bluetooth LE (4.2) connectivity. This board can be used as a standalone microcontroller, or as the connectivity hub for your platform of choice over serial, I2C or SPI communication. Bear in mind that like the ESP8266, the tool chain and supporting software is a bit light on so it’ll require some time for the broader community to create a maker friendly space for it before it becomes truly universally usable for DIY project.

Both Sparkfun and Adafruit have put considerable effort into working with these modules to make them available to makers everywhere. Ladyada has created a great video of her experience getting started with the ESP32 breakout board.

Jimbo from Sparkfun has spent a fair amount of hands on time with both chips from Esspressif and has written a great article on his experience and what to look forward to with these platforms. Check out his write up here.

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- By Sam

A Palm Sized Window 10 PC

Have you ever wanted a Raspberry Pi sized computer with the capability of running Windows 10? Not the IoT version, but actual, full-blown Windows 10? Well you're in luck, we just got the LattePanda into stock.

The LattePanda is the only single board computer that can run Windows 10, as well as Linux and Android OS'. It also comes in two different varieties, the 2GB RAM/32GB on-board flash memory version and it's juiced-up brother with 4GB RAM and 64 GB on-board flash memory. Both run on the same backbone of a Intel Atom 1.8GHz Processor with the usual Wi-Fi, Bluetooth etc we've come to expect. There's a whole list of specs to take a look at below, but essentially this board is an Arduino/PC combo with plenty of hardware to get you going with Windows 10 Development.

lattepanda-features

An Arduino/PC combo? That's correct. The LattePanda has an ATmega32u4 co-processor, giving you native Arduino support and programming capability. You can pick up a whole bunch of sensors that work directly on your LattePanda. Further specs for the LattePanda are:

  • Processor: Intel Cherry Trail Z8300 Quad Core 1.8GHz
  • Operation System: Pre-installed full edition of Windows 10
  • Ram: 4GB DDR3L
  • Storage Capability: 64GB
  • GPU: Intel HD Graphics, 12 EUs @200-500 Mhz, single-channel memory
  • One USB3.0 port and two USB 2.0 ports
  • WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0
  • Built-in Arduino Co-processor: ATmega32u4
  • Video output: HDMI and MIPI-DSI
  • Onboard touch panel overlay connector
  • Supports 100Mbps Ethernet
  • GPIO:
    • 6 GPIOs from Cherry Trail processor
    • 20 GPIOs from Arduino Leonardo
    • 6 Plug and play Gravity sensor connectors
  • Power: 5v/2A
  • Dimension of board: 88 * 70 mm/ 3.46 * 2.76 inches
  • Packing Size: 110 * 94 * 30 mm/4.33 * 3.70 * 1.18 inches
  • N.W.: 55g
  • G.W.: 100g

LattePanda also provides a screen that connects directly to the onboard display connector. A 7" IPS Panel and an optional 7" Capactive touch overlay for that screen. 

It's powered by a micro-USB 5V/2A power supply too. The LattePanda could be perfect for your next single board computer and associated projects!

 

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- By Aidan

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