Over the past year I have been working on a project using purely Arduinos. Now that this project is nearly over, I have decided to take the optional step of taking it further.

The plan so far is to still use the Arduino environment, but load the code onto a custom PCB. This should allow the software to remain the same while allowing a massively reduced version of the hardware (The current modules can be compared to bricks). To do this there are two options, an FTDI cable/chip or to program the uC directly. While FTDI chips are cool and everything, I decided against it with the option to include on at a later stage in the process. This left the option of programming the uC directly.

To do this rather than go for a nice AVR programmer such as those produced by Atmel, I went for the altogether more fun option and went with Adafruit Industries’ USBtinyISP. As usual, Oomlout showed off and got it packed and shipped allowing it to arrive 2 days later, and in their usual way, Adafruit did the same with an excellent kit.

To the kit! So what do you need to make it so simple? Aside from the usual tools (This was one of the few times I wish I had an actual PCB vice and not just some helping hands and a spare finger), I’d highly recommend having some good music on and some milkshake. Why? Why not? Everyone should have a decent beverage while working. Based on the weather and the general mood of the day, milkshake seemed appropriate. Assuming you follow the instructions and read them (Yeah, I didn’t do that the first time on one or two sections…), the kit is easy to build with everything explained where required. If there was one thing I’d recommend, it would be to have some bluetak (Or equivalent) handy for when you solder the headers.

What happens when its done? COmpleted USBtinyISPWell you get something that looks like this. Your next step as you may have guessed is to test it and use it. If you plan on using it with your Arduino to add a bootloader, you may become slightly confused by how to connect it. The best guide to tell you which way to plug it in can be found on the Adafruit forum here. It provides pictures and descriptions just to make the whole process easier.

If you are starting out with this side of working with microprocessors, or even if you are experienced, you will no doubt find this fun and educational. Congratulations to Adafruit for producing such a useful tool and well done to Oomlout for working so well to distribute it over here!

Arduino Information

Once upon a time there was a page of links relating to Arduino and general electronics, since then it has evolved into something slightly more. There is no space for general links, information about tools, tutorials, projects and maybe even some resources for the above!

If there is something you think should be added or changed, say so here!

Arduino Guide


So the UK general election is soon, and as such all the wild claims are around. Now one side of it all I’m keeping an eye on is the science and technology side to it. One such area of this is broadband.

Recent claims by government say they want every home to have atleast 2mb broadband. I, and it seems, many others are really quite shocked by this. Such ideas in this age could be compared to saying everyone should have a rotary phone (Not such a bad idea if its this). With the current state of technology 2mb is slow, even for home users. While yes it is true that 50mb such as that offered by Virgin Media is fast, it is still very slow compared to the services available in other countries.

As pointed out by someone in a discussion earlier today, Britain’s consumer broadband is nothing compared to other countries. For example, on average 2mb in this country can cost the consumer around £15 per month and £30+ for 50mb. Meanwhile, if you hop on the plane, Zeppelin or other form of transport and go over to Hong Kong, you can expect to pay approximately (HK)$99 (As the time of writing, this is around £9) for 1000mb broadband. Yes thats right, £9 for 1 gigabit home connection (Source: HKBN).

So whats going on here? Elsewhere you can pay LESS to have more while we are practically struggling to get the whole country to be broadband enabled (I say all, this isn’t going to happen. Not when companies such as BT quote a farmer £64000 to have a broadband connection…). In the event anyone can find some sort of reason why the government and the candidates are seemingly ignoring the obvious on this one, please tell us. I’m sure the country wants to know why they want to give the least possible to everyone when the technology is there and relatively cheap.

Complaint over, next time, why they won’t fund more research into cheese distribution…


A friend was kind enough to remind me about another issue that seems to plague British ISPs. Thats right, download limits. (and upload speeds, but that is another complaint). In this day and age, many people enjoy watching videos on the likes of youtube, why are ISPs limiting how much you can download. Lets think about this for a second, watch a few videos, download the necessary OS updates, check your emails etc. That is pushing it when you are limited to 5GB. Yes, some users will not use that much, the majority will however. Yes, some limits can be appropriate for running a website, but for consumers? Really? There is no need for it to be so low. It has been shown by the likes of Virgin and many others that a fair use policy works. If any one can explain this, go ahead, but we already know one excuse is just greed.

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