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Corryton, TN, USA
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Hello Arduino Community (I will remember how to spell it soon)!
I am no newbie to computers, or programming for that matter.  But, I have always wanted to mess around with these boards and circuits.  I have found Arduino to be my best bet, especially after I saw it in the "Popular Science" magazine.  But, I have a few really newbie questions.  I have tried Googling, and found one old thread on "Newbies to Arduino", but the link had changed and I could not find it.  Anyway, here are the questions:
  • I see these "breadboards".  Do I need one if I use the Arduino Fio (with XBee)?
  • Do I need to know how to solder (I am guessing "Yes")?  Is there a kind you recommended?
  • Overall, if I want to have sensors reporting to the Fio, which reports to the house via another XBee hooked up via USB, and then a program handles it.  Do I need anything more than the Fio, sensors, XBee, XBee USB dongle, and the program?  Such as the breadboard and all that?
  • Are there any how-tos that explain this to people like me?
I feel really bad asking these easy questions, but I feel like I have looked my hardest, and there is nowhere else to go.  
Thanks in advanced.  I see this is a nice, responsive forum, and look forward to staying awhile.
Oh, and I might not respond for another 12 hours, since I am going to sleep.  Just do not feel like I have abandon you all.
« Last Edit: May 26, 2011, 09:58:36 pm by corrytonapple » Logged

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Hello Arduino Community (I will remember how to spell it soon)!

Welcome! Be glad that the the Uno is the latest Arduino; before it was the Duemilinove (which I probably spelled wrong - checking - hmm, now I see that both that spelling and Duemilanove is used - ugh - probably easier for an Italian)...

I am no newbie to computers, or programming for that matter.  But, I have always wanted to mess around with these boards and circuits.  I have found Arduino to be my best bet, especially after I saw it in the "Popular Science" magazine.  But, I have a few really newbie questions.  I have tried Googling, and found one old thread on "Newbies to Arduino", but the link had changed and I could not find it.  Anyway, here are the questions:

I'll try to give you a good answer to each, ok? But look for other's responses, as well...

I see these "breadboards".  Do I need one if I use the Arduino Fio (with XBee)?

Breadboards are things used to prototype designs - think of them as an easy way to "try things out" first. They are limited in what you can do by their nature, but as a beginner, you shouldn't run into any of the issues right now (for instance, breadboards stink for high-frequency designs, especially certain RF (radio frequency) designs).

You'll probably want to pick one up - try to get one with as many "holes" as possible; I actually prefer the Elenco 9440; you may think that has too many holes, but believe me, at times, I wish I had a few more of them.

More important than a breadboard, though - as the first thing you should get - is a multimeter. It doesn't have to be anything expensive, either; I am a fan of el-cheapo Chinese Cen-Tech meters that I buy for $1.99 on sale at Harbor Freight (throwaways!). My most expensive meter I own is a small Exatech (that might not be spelled right); I think I spent 30 dollars on it at Fry's Electronics (I needed a capacitance tester at the time). Don't worry about getting an oscilloscope or anything fancy like that right now; you'll know when you need such a device, and buying one without the knowledge of how to test or use it can cause you to make an expensive mistake.

Indeed - for most hobbyist experimentation, a multimeter is about the only piece of test equipment you really need. Sometimes, a logic probe can also be useful (and I would encourage you to build your own - they are fairly simple to make).

Do I need to know how to solder (I am guessing "Yes")?  Is there a kind you recommended?

No - not right away; you still have a lot of learning to do before you start to solder things together. If you do want to learn to solder, go find some old circuit boards to practice on (something with thru-hole components to start with). You only need a 15-25 watt iron, plus some rosin-core (NEVER acid core) solder; if you can get it, lead based solder (60/40) is easier to work with than lead-free. You might also want to pick up some desoldering braid, and a "solder sucker" and learn how to use these to remove parts (which can be a good way to build up a stock of some components!). You'll also want a basic toolkit with screwdrivers (both phillips and straight/standard - plus jeweler's screwdrivers), small needle-nose pliers, small wire cutters, and perhaps one or two "dental picks". You'll also want a magnifying glass (and later, I also recommend a magnifier lamp, plus jeweler's loupes, as well as a handheld inspection microscope - these are all useful for verifying solder joints and traces).

Notice how this "hobby" is beginning to sound "expensive"? It is (I seem to collect expensive hobbies - for me, its computers, electronics, robotics and virtual reality - and at some point, machining, if I ever get around to buying tooling for my mini-mill).

Overall, if I want to have sensors reporting to the Fio, which reports to the house via another XBee hooked up via USB, and then a program handles it.  Do I need anything more than the Fio, sensors, XBee, XBee USB dongle, and the program?  Such as the breadboard and all that?

You should probably pick up at least a small breadboard (something with around 800 contact points would be OK), plus some jumpers (although I always recommend using wire from the inside of solid-core CAT5 cable - or better - 25 pair telco wire - much cheaper per foot than jumper cables). You'll also want to get a basic selection of parts like resistors, capacitors, etc; do some more research at places like AdaFruit, SparkFun, and Earthshine Electronics (among others) to look into "beginner's kits" - in fact, you might want to pick one up (and while your at it, download the wonderful Arduino beginners guide from Earthshine, as well!).

Are there any how-tos that explain this to people like me?

Well - there's the Earthshine book I mentioned:

http://www.earthshineelectronics.com/files/ASKManualRev5.pdf

There are a few other similar books out there as well.

For basic electronics, I always recommend that people pick up a set of Forrest M. Mims III's "Engineer's Mini-Notebooks" series (you'll have to buy these):

http://www.forrestmims.org/

I also always recommend - if you are serious about electronics - to pick up a copy of Grob's "Basic Electronics" - note that this is a college-level EE101-type textbook; it is very dense, but fairly easy to understand if you have a grasp of basic algebra:

http://highered.mcgraw-hill.com/sites/0072988215/information_center_view0/

Since it is a textbook, a brand-new current edition is going to be fairly pricey (possibly over $100.00 USD) - so an older edition (or a used edition) is preferable unless you have the money to spend. My copy is fairly old; I got it back in 1991 - but it is still very relevant and useful today (I think it is a 4th edition, not sure). You could probably pick up such an old edition for $10.00 USD or so...

Oh - and I also like this site as well (it's labeling and such are UK/euro-centric - but beyond that, its a great site for learning basic electronics, IMHO):

http://www.kpsec.freeuk.com/

I feel really bad asking these easy questions, but I feel like I have looked my hardest, and there is nowhere else to go.  
Thanks in advanced.  I see this is a nice, responsive forum, and look forward to staying awhile.
Oh, and I might not respond for another 12 hours, since I am going to sleep.  Just do not feel like I have abandon you all.

No need to "feel bad" about asking questions; it's how we all learn. Just continue to do your research, and asking questions here. If you have questions about your circuit or design, remember to post your code and your schematic (or wiring diagram - I would encourage you to learn how to read a schematic as well as draw them - they are very useful), and possibly pictures (if relevant or helpful); anything that will help us help you (as we are not mind readers). Also - if you post code, remember to use the code tag button to post it (so it is formatted nicely).

I hope this helps you out... Good luck, welcome again, and enjoy!

smiley
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Do I need to know how to solder (I am guessing "Yes")?
Normally the answer would be no (at least not at the start.)  But in your post you later ask about the Fio.  If you start with a "mini" Arduino like the Fio, then yes you pretty much have to solder from the start.  It would be difficult to make good connections otherwise.

If you get a Uno or other Arduino board with header-sockets then you can run wires between the Arduino and the breadboard.  If your sensors have leads then you'll be able to just stick those into the breadboard as well (usually).  However if your sensors do not, then you will need to be able to solder.
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Corryton, TN, USA
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I take too long to type.  My session timed out and now I have to retype this.  Blah.   smiley-sad-blue
Thanks cr0sh and James for the help.  I will need to get that stuff, except for the basic toolkit.  I should be able to collect it over the summer.
This seems like it could be an expensive hobby, but for right now, it is not really.  Once you get it, you need to know what you are doing, and then the boards.  I will get the recommended breadboard and multimeter, and am looking at a solder gun.  Apparently it is electric, and is easier to use from what I have been told.  I am gonna take my chances with the lead free solder, because I am not going to breathing in lead.  LOL, sounds like funny taking apart stuff with desoldering stuff.  All you need now is expensive cars in your collection of hobbies, cr0sh.  We do ATVs instead. 
Anyway, I will take a look at those books soon, too.  Ahh, its gonna be another long day tomorrow.
Is there anything else I should pick up?
Thanks guys!  Loving this forum already
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I am gonna take my chances with the lead free solder, because I am not going to breathing in lead.

I want to nip this in the bud right now: Do you have any idea at what temperature lead vaporises (that is, changes state from liquid to gas - ie, boils)? Over 3000 degrees F; this is much hotter than a soldering iron would -ever- get (heh, like you'd be able to hold it); tin vaporises at 4000+ degrees F. Believe me, you -cannot- inhale solder vapors while soldering - the soldering iron just can't get hot enough. About the only way you could do it would be to use an oxy-acetylene or an oxy-hydrogen torch. Neither work well for soldering, though.

The smoke you see curling off of solder and soldering irons? That is vaporised flux - ie, resin. Now, don't get me wrong, you don't want to be breathing that stuff in (its analogous to cigarette tar, and about as good for your lungs) - but flux is necessary for soldering, and it will be present in lead-free solder. If you're concerned about that stuff, you can buy (or build) a filter fan that can suck the fumes away thru a charcoal filter. Alternatively, you could just have a small desk fan blow it away from your face. You should be wearing some kind of goggles or safety glasses when you solder (regular glasses won't cut it); the flux as it vaporises can pop and spatter hot solder on you - and when I mean hot, I mean HOT. You don't want that stuff getting in your eyes (its bad enough when it hits your skin). Always wear long pants, a shirt, and shoes w/socks when you solder.

It's not quite as bad as what you have to wear when welding or using a cutting torch, but its still molten metal, so take the proper precautions...

LOL, sounds like funny taking apart stuff with desoldering stuff.

It can be - it can also be quite tedious. Its really only worth it for parts you either can't get another way, or that are obsolete and impossible to find, or if they are still made, are more expensive than the time you would spend to remove them. I would implore you, though, for parts that seem "obsolete" or very old, to first look into what it is you are removing them from and do a large bit of research. Some of the really, really old parts (or the assemblies that they are a part of) are worth a LOT of money in their "native" state. For instance, I have a really nice 16K core memory board for a mainframe or microcomputer that I have hanging on my dining room wall; its worth way more as-is than the parts are worth. You really don't want to find you ruined something that was worth several thousand dollars. Also, if you find a part that is really old but soldered in place (say, for instance, you are lucky and come across a calculator with an Intel 4004 in it), removing it could damage it and its worth - leave it in place.

Forget about resistors, capacitors, small transistors and the like; they are likely not worth it (you can buy most of them for pennies) - however, some chips and such (even some SMT stuff) can be worth it, if you can remove them without damage. I've heard of a technique of taking a propane torch to a board, and heating the whole thing up (outside, of course), until it just starts to smoke (at which point most of the solder is molten), then whacking it (its placed parts side down over a box) sharply to dislodge the components. A heat gun could be used similarly.

Another (more expensive) option is to use a hot-air rework station to remove individual parts - but such tools aren't cheap and not for the beginner...

All you need now is expensive cars in your collection of hobbies, cr0sh.

Well - I do have an old '79 Bronco that has eaten its fair share of money (and needs to eat some more - darn thing won't pass emissions; thinking about getting a 4 barrel carb or fuel injection system put on it) - when it's not sucking down dinosaur juice like no tomorrow (seriously - you can physically see the gauge move as you drive it, it has such bad gas mileage - that's what happens though on 400ci V8).

Is there anything else I should pick up?

If you start collecting a fair amount of parts, you're going to need some way to store/sort them; for starting out, a good size fishing tackle box can be ideal. Eventually, you might outgrow that. I always recommend Stack-On brand multi-drawer storage containers, but whatever system you choose, it is wise to purchase way more than you need. What I have found is that over time, stores change their styles, etc of storage container systems they carry - sometimes on a yearly basis. So in the end, you end up with several different and completely incompatible storage systems, and it can be very frustrating. So carefully pick one that won't be changing that often - or at all. Stack-On has been making the same kind of multi-drawer storage systems for a very long time, which is why I went with them, despite them being much more expensive than other offerings. Even so, I bought more drawer units than I needed, for "future proofing" myself.

smiley
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Thanks cr0sh for the extra advice.  I am so glad, I finally figured out how my sensors are going to work in the project I have in mind.
That is a great point about the solder, and will remember that.  I guess I never really thought about it.  Thanks, point taken.  smiley
It would really suck if I took apart something that is worth money to get parts that if not removed would have been worth more.  I will be on the lookout for those.
I will pickup some small shelving units for parts, or a tackle box.   Maybe both, smiley.
We have an old '79 GMC Grande Sierra, but the transmission is blown and the engine is gone too.  The cab is in okay shape, but the seats are torn.  It has toolboxes though and a all steel body, so it still has value for scrap, since I do not think they are worth money any more.
One more question:  If I use the Uno, and I get a breadboard, will I need to get capacitors?  Oh, and how would I wire this sensor?  It has three pins, and there is the same thing on LED lights.  Link: http://www.sparkfun.com/products/245
Thanks cr0sh!
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If I use the Uno, and I get a breadboard, will I need to get capacitors?
Only when you start adding extra circuitry not just for one sensor.
See:-
http://www.thebox.myzen.co.uk/Tutorial/De-coupling.html
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Thanks cr0sh for the extra advice.  I am so glad, I finally figured out how my sensors are going to work in the project I have in mind.
That is a great point about the solder, and will remember that.  I guess I never really thought about it.  Thanks, point taken.  smiley

Yeah - a lot of times people get stuck on the whole "lead is bad for you" thing, that they can't see the forest for the trees - same happens with mercury (really, metallic mercury is not a real issue; you don't want to leave it lying around in an open container for long periods, as it does evaporate - and mercury vapor is a bad thing, but metallic mercury on its own won't poison you with simple handling - its organic mercury compounds that you have to watch out for).

It would really suck if I took apart something that is worth money to get parts that if not removed would have been worth more.  I will be on the lookout for those.

The majority of stuff you are likely to run across won't be worth jack - but if you ever get the urge to take apart anything pre-1980 or so, you might want to take a look into its value (then again, have you seen the prices for used 386 motherboards?) - especially audio amplifiers. Also - old floppy drives (5 1/4 mainly) are in high demand, and you might want to think twice about other types of old drives as well (unless they look like they are well beyond repair - even then, you might want to do some research - the right collector might just make you an offer you can't refuse). Generally, if you suspect it might be worth something, a little bit of research can go a long way (my wife's parents were serious antique hounds - they even ran a store for a while - we also do a bit of antique research ourselves from time to time - if you've ever studied it, there's stuff out there that people sell at garage sales for pennies worth thousands; crap you'd look at and instantly thing "trash" - turns out to be early-American hobo-art or some such worth a pretty penny).

I will pickup some small shelving units for parts, or a tackle box.   Maybe both, smiley.

Go for the tackle box if you are just starting out, unless you are absolutely certain this is going to be a long-term hobby; if so, set up a complete workbench - and make sure you have plenty of light - those small parts love to roll into dark corners for some reason...

smiley

We have an old '79 GMC Grande Sierra, but the transmission is blown and the engine is gone too.  The cab is in okay shape, but the seats are torn.  It has toolboxes though and a all steel body, so it still has value for scrap, since I do not think they are worth money any more.

Hmm - are the toolboxes separate; that is, could you sell them for another truck? - somebody might want 'em...

Everybody and their brother seems to want to buy my Bronco when they see it; it's really a nice truck, if it would just pass emissions. Starts a bit hard, but once running, and it kicks down into that burble - I love that noise (I also want some "straight pipes" with glaspacs or something - although I would have to run them out sideways to keep the CO from being sucked into the cab).

One more question:  If I use the Uno, and I get a breadboard, will I need to get capacitors?

There are mainly 4 values of capacitors you might want:

1) 100 nF (0.1 uF) - non-polarized - lot's of these; used for decoupling caps on ICs, as well as for noise filtering - you place them as close to the IC as possible, between the IC's ground and power pins
2) 100 uF electrolytics - polarized - used for filtering/smoothing on voltage regulators (7805, 7812, etc)
3) 470 uF electrolytics - same as 2 above
4) 18 to 33 pF non-polarized (22 pF is a good in-between choice) - these are commonly used on the Arduino for the 16 MHz crystal; you only need these if you plan on building a "standalone" Arduino (in which case you'll need to get some 16 MHz crystals). Alternatively, you could just get 16 MHz resonators, and you won't need these small value caps.

In the case of the electrolytics (2 and 3) - make sure you get ones with a voltage rating higher than your supply (most are rated at 35 volts or higher). If you overvolt the caps, the magic smoke is released (sometimes rather violently and with flames!).

Of all the caps - get at least a good handful (10-20) of the 100 nF caps, if you expect to use anything like shift registers or other external ICs on your breadboard (or elsewhere - if you build a PCB or something); they're cheap, and decoupling the supply can help clear up any number of issues. If their voltage rating is high enough, you can also use them for noise reduction on a brushed DC motor by soldering one across the terminals (and sometimes from each terminal to the motor's case).

The other caps aren't as critical. Capacitors otherwise have a lot of other uses - which is why there are many values; combined with coils, resistors, and other passives, they can serve many other uses in electronics (Grob's explains all of it, along with plenty of math to figure things out). With that said, those four basic values and types above will handle quite a lot for the beginner with the Arduino.

Oh, and how would I wire this sensor?  It has three pins, and there is the same thing on LED lights.  Link: http://www.sparkfun.com/products/245

Well - two of the pins are for the power supply to the chip - pin 1 is Ground, pin 3 is power (3-5.5 VDC) - those are pretty self-explanatory.

Pin 2 is Data I/O pin - this device is what is called a "one-wire" interface. They show a 4.7K resistor used as a pullup, but the Arduino has internal pull-ups (not active by default! So you have to activate them first) on its digital I/O pins. So - pin 2 would be connected to one of the Arduino's digital I/O pins, and you would activate the pullup (or, you could leave it deactivated and use a 4.7K resistor, like the datasheet shows, to pull the pin up to Vdd (hmm - it seems like you can do away with connecting pin 3 if you go this route - something called "parasite power").

Anyhow - that's just the connections - you now have to communicate with it. Each device has a unique 64 bit address/serial code - so you can have many of them on the single 1-wire interface. I can't tell you -how- you work with it (I don't have the time to research the datasheet in that detail), but I can tell you this library will be useful:

http://www.arduino.cc/playground/Learning/OneWire

In fact - looking at that page, it seems it gives more detail on that very sensor - so you'd do well to study the page and links (and it seems to recommend always using the 4.7K pullup - so maybe disregard my earlier comments about the Arduino's internal pullups, above)...

Good luck!

smiley
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Hi!

Very useful questions and great answers.

Thanks cr0sh  smiley
Enjoy yourself, corrytonapple  smiley
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Thanks cr0sh, I will look at that link.  I now have at least three ideas for Arduino projects, so this is all great info for me to stock up on, you could so say.
I believe the question here is answered.
Thanks man!
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Do you have any idea at what temperature lead vaporises (that is, changes state from liquid to gas - ie, boils)? Over 3000 degrees F;
That's an odd argument.
Lead may boil at over 2000K, and water boils at 373K, but there's a lot of water vapour around at much lower temperatures; there's probably quite a lot of it floating over your head right now.
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That is true.  Anything else in the lead solder is also coming out of it..... if it has a lower boiling point.
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I've always used lead free - I get the impression from the older guys on here  smiley-razz that lead free is akin to using spit and pva glue to put your circuit together but I've never had an issue.

Cr0sh - have you taken a look at the megasquirt stuff?  sounds right up your street for an economic way of converting your truck to injection.  I'll put money on someone else having done it with the same engine....
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