Nov 23

Gift Ideas for the Maker in Your Life

For anyone who has a maker in their life you know it can be hard to find a gift for us, especially if you are not a maker yourself. I’ve put together a couple ideas for this holiday season. Below you will find gift ideas for people who are just getting started and some for more experienced makers.

Gifts for Beginners

  • SparkFun Inventor’s Kit for Arduino – This is the kit that started it all for me. It’s great for anyone who wants to get started in the maker world
  • Subscription to Make Magazine – Make Magazine is full of project ideas and news from the maker world
  • Adafruit Tool Kit – Having the right tool for the job makes all the difference. This kit includes all the necessary instruments to get anyone started with DIY electronics

Gifts for Intermediate Makers

  • Arduino Due – This is the latest board from Arduino and it’s still in short supply so check Sparkfun, Adafruit and MakerShed
  • Arduino Micro – This miniature version of the Arduino is great for smaller projects (for those of you reading this on December 24th it’s also available in-store at Radio Shack)
  • Raspberry Pi – This credit card sized computer packs a punch and is hacker friendly
  • Tackle Box – Over time makers collect a lot of parts, sensors and wires. A tackle box is great to help organize all of their supplies. The Plano 7771 is the one I use and it’s been great but it is pretty big, Plano makes a smaller version that would also work well

Gift Certificates

Normally I wouldn’t recommend gift cards because they are impersonal, however many times a project will call for a specific part that you may not anticipate needing. For times like this it’s good for a maker to have a credit available at their favorite website to fill in the necessary parts they need. I would recommend a Sparkfun, Adafuit, MakerShed or HobbyKing Gift Certificate as an additional gift or stocking stuffer.

Oct 01

Arduino DUE Announcement

I made the trip to New York last weekend for The World Maker Faire. In the past this event has produced some big announcements from the Arduino team so understandably I spent a lot of time around the Arduino events. I was not disappointed, there were several exciting announcements out of the event that I’m really looking forward to.

The biggest announcement is something I’ve been waiting for since September of last year: The Arduino DUE! It’s expected to hit stores on October 22nd and is going to be around $50. As expected it has a 32bit ARM processor and the footprint resembles the Arduino Mega. This is major change in hardware from existing Arduino boards so questions of compatibility were asked several times. Thankfully Massimo Banzo assured the crowd that compatibility was a key concern when developing the DUE. It is compatible with the physical R3 layout published last year and the software team did a lot of work under the hood of the IDE to make sure that the user has the same experience regardless of the hardware used. This all adds up to an existing element of interoperability where you can swap shields, libraries or the Arduino board and with existing sketches be able to compile and upload seamlessly.

The Arduino DUE also has some really cool new features that will be a lot of fun to experiment with:

  • The DUE has a USB On-The-Go port allowing USB devices (like mice, keyboards, USB flash drives, etc) to be used directly with the Arduino. This opens huge possibilities for affordable and interesting add-ons for inputs and outputs. Later in the day Massimo did a simple demo of using a mouse as an input for a synthesizer type device. Using these devices will require libraries so don’t expect everything to work out of the box but the community will certainly step in and expand the field once the DUE comes out.
  • Multi-tasking is an option on the DUE. As expected the increased horse power of the ARM processor allows for running multiple tasks. Essentially you create multiple loops and run them at the same time. There are a few caveats though: it is cooperative multitasking meaning that the different threads need to take turns on the processor and the library is still experimental but they expect it to be developed quickly.
  • It supports CAN bus which is the protocol that subsystems within cars use to communicate. Expect to see some exiting instrument cluster replacement based on Arduino.

For more of the technical specs here is the flier they were handing out: ArdunioDUE

Also to hear about this and some of the other new stuff out of the Arduino camp you can check out the full session here: