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Micro Review: BlitzWolf BW-F4 Bluetooth speaker

I listen to dozens of podcasts, and I usually have one playing while I’m working on electronics projects in my workshop. The speaker in my iPhone is ok, but I wanted to get some kind of external speaker to give it a bit more volume.

BlitzWolf kindly sent me a BW-F4 Bluetooth speaker to use in my workshop. I’m not really into music (I’d rather spend my time listening to something that teaches me new things) so I can’t give an opinion on its sound fidelity, but so far it’s been great for listening to podcasts.

The BW-F4 charges by USB and can run from battery for most of the day.

It’s available online for about US$55.

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SuperHouse Vlog #56: Internet Vision Technologies is no more

The last few months have been an emotional roller coaster as my wife and I complete the sale of a business that I began in a spare room at my mother’s house more than 20 years ago. This hasn’t left much time (or emotional capacity!) to produce SuperHouse videos.

This is a big change in my personal circumstances, so hopefully I will be able to make more progress on SuperHouse now.

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Interfacing Arduino with MATLAB

MATLAB is a very popular tool often used by engineers for technical computing, data visualization, simulation and algorithm development. What many people don’t know is that it is possible to connect an Arduino compatible board to MATLAB. This can be achieved through the MATLAB Support Package for Arduino which allows MATLAB to communicate to the Arduino through the USB cable. Not only does this give you to power to blink LEDs from MATLAB, but you can also configure your Arduino to easily collect data and send it into the MATLAB environment where it can be processed using the full power of your PC. Using the MATLAB environment it is also possible to create graphical interfaces to control hardware attached to your Arduino board, and much more! If you want to learn more about how this can be done there are many tutorials available including this one from from All About Circuits or this video series from Mathworks (the creators of MATLAB).

MATLAB

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SuperHouse Vlog #55: The T-962C surface mount reflow oven

While working on new SuperHouse episodes I’ve upgraded my surface mount reflow oven. Most things I design are assembled in factories, but about 8 years ago I set up a toaster oven with a temperature sensor so I could do quick reflow at home for prototypes and small production runs.

I wrote up a tutorial about DIY surface mount assembly for Freetronics: you can read it at Surface Mount Soldering With A Toaster Oven.

Some years ago I upgraded the toaster oven by fitting an Arduino based automatic temperature controller, and since then I’ve baked several thousand circuit boards in that little oven. However, the time has finally come to replace it with a proper semi-professional reflow oven.

The T-962A is currently the most common cheap desktop reflow oven, but I need something a bit bigger so that I can run a few dozen boards at a time. I decided to go for its big brother, the T-962C.

Yes, I know the camerawork is terrible! Normally I’d re-film anything that looks as bad as some parts of this vlog, but TBH I can’t be bothered for a quick update 🙂

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SuperHouse Vlog #54: Husqvarna Automower scheduling

Grass grows at different rates depending on the time of year, so sometimes it’s necessary to change the Automower schedule to suit the growing conditions. Now it’s winter here in Melbourne and my grass is growing very slowly (and even dying off in patches) so I need to reduce the mowing time.

Husqvarna have made it very easy to change the settings directly on the mower, allowing me to change it from 2 hours of mowing per day to 1 hour.

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Writing an Arduino Library

Have you ever written some code that you thought would make a great library but didn’t know where to get started? This tutorial will be perfect for you!

If you haven’t used libraries before they provide a really simple way to extend the functionality of the Arduino environment. For example there are libraries that make it very easy to connect to Ethernet, control servo motors or even work with LCD displays.

Writing a library

So how do you create your own library? First you will need to create two files, one header file (.h), which lists everything that is inside the library, and the source file (.cpp) which contains the actual code. After this you will need to take your existing sketch and appropriately fill out the header and source files. Fortunately this is quite a simple process and there is a great example available on the Arduino website.

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Inspired to start work on this project? Are you working on a project you would like us to feature in this blog? The team at SuperHouse Automation would love to know! Tell us about it in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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Arduino Interrupts

Interrupts are a fantastic tool to help increase the efficiency of your Arduino code and are typically very underutilized! So what exactly is an interrupt? In simple terms, interrupts are a mechanism found on Arduino (and many other microcontrollers) that simplify the process of reacting to real time events. This is achieved by constantly monitoring the status of a pin and immediately executing code, interrupting whatever was currently running, when the state of a pin changes (or on a rising or falling edge as desired). As you can imagine, this is significantly more efficient than having to wait for your code to reach the specific line where it checks the status of an input, and it frees up your Arduino to focus on other tasks rather than monitoring the state of a pin. To learn more about interrupts and how you can use them in your projects check out the video below from Core Electronics.

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Hockey Sin Bin Management System

At SuperHouse Automation we love it when our fans share their own projects with us. Ben Lennard from Lennard Electronics recently got in touch and shared his great project. Using four Freetronics dot matrix displays, Ben has built a sin bin management display for the National Hockey Stadium in Wellington. Whilst the system is used to display the time and various advertisements, the primary use is to keep track of how long different players have been in the sin bin.

The displays

Ben’s project uses four DMD’s which are chained together and controlled by an Arduino Uno. The Uno receives commands from a Raspberry Pi powered touchscreen controller box, via a Bluetooth link. The outdoor display is housed in a custom built fiber glass case, which has special vents built into it to allow air to flow in and out whilst still keeping dust and water out. Thanks Ben for sharing!

The touch screen controller

The Hockey Statium

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DIY Soldering Station

Most hobbyists start off with a cheap and nasty soldering iron which takes minutes to heat up, and provides no temperature control. Whilst a decent soldering station is a significant upgrade from a typical beginners iron, the cost can be prohibitive. Thankfully, GreatScottLab has put together a great instructable detailing how you can build your own fully controllable soldering station.

The parts required to build a DIY soldering station.

Not only is building your own significantly cheaper than buying a soldering station, but the process of building the electronics and 3D printing the enclosure provides a fantastic educational opportunity! To find out more about how you can get started building your own soldering station checkout the following link.

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Inspired to start work on this project? Are you working on a project you would like us to feature in this blog? The team at SuperHouse Automation would love to know! Tell us about it in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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I2C For Arduino

The I2C or “I squared C” bus is a simple way to transfer data between different integrated circuits, boards or sensors in your Arduino project. I2C stands for “Inter-Integrated Circuit”. One of the great things about I2C is that it only requires two connections to your Arduino, SDA (data) and SCL (clock), and you can easily connect multiple devices to the bus. If you want to learn more about the I2C bus checkout this tutorial from tronixstuff, or this tutorial from How To Mechatronics.

I2C

Want to keep in the loop about the latest in home automation? Subscribing to SuperHouse Automation on YouTube is the best place to start!

Inspired to start work on this project? Are you working on a project you would like us to feature in this blog? The team at SuperHouse Automation would love to know! Tell us about it in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.