A space to publish a little bit about my electronics hobby, which is mostly digital.  I will start with some pics of things I have built, and then go on to the bit where I tell you how you can build some toys too.

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AVR Microcontroller ISP(In System Programmer), you can build one yourself.

I basically started becoming interested in electronics around 1981/82, we got given a really large transformer, and a damaged rectifier with a bit of heavy-gauge copper. My brother Craig later became an electrician, I took the soft job, figures doesn't it. We did the obvious, found the terminals on the rectifier that still worked, and made a huge electro-magnet with the enameled wire wrapped around a old iron bolt. The transformer and the remaining rectifier diodes was enough for a decent if not rough supply.
There were other things that sparked the fascination with electricity after that, to the point where I built a switching regulator (buck, not boost) all of my own design around a NE555 with capability to pass over 20A (short circuit) on less than 30W of heat-sink from 0 to around 14 volts. I actually had 4 really small heat sinks - I donated it to my school to use as a lead-acid battery charger.

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Some toys

My hobby time dried up when I got a Job and became a computer programmer... until I moved to the UK. I then found out that micro-controllers had become cheap enough to buy and use in trivial designs. Instead of fiddling with all of them, my budget was directed at the AVR 8-bit series. I chose the Atmel series over PIC for one obvious reason, I never bet on the winning horse.

I muck about with a variety of electronics, in the row of pics above, you can see an oscilloscope trace of something I helped debug the software for at work. Next is a game of follow-me on breadboard, and after that the LCD instruction panel for the game. The 4th pic above is a bat detector, which did not really work, the gain loop on the amp is not right for my piezzo somehow. The electronics hobby will hopefully help me build a mobile-battery booster so I can use my phone as a GPS all day long...


OK, so I do get up to some fun things outdoors too, I like biking (off road) I am rubbish at it, and have really bad knees, so walking or biking very far is out of the question. I Geocache with 2 wheels whenever I can, you can often get real close on a cycle if permissive way is granted (and sometimes not).

I've attached a virtual tour fun day where we found 5 caches together with TEAM SHEEP. You will have to download the KMZ (Google earth tour file) and play it in Google Earth (version 6).
We covered 10 kilometers with 5 boys aged 3 through 9 - although there was one cache not part of the set which we failed to find, we had a good time. The geo-caches on Wimpole Hall farm are all really easy to find, and great for beginners - all geocache outings require planning, and we probably needed to plan a route better to save backtracking.

Team Sheep use the Iphone geocaching app and it's really good from what I can see - I use an Android with free app, and google maps on, but either way an extra GPS is always better than just 1. The Android battery life with GPS and maps enabled is also rubbish on the HTC Desire, even though it is a nice device. I get about 3 hours out of the HTC Desire. My help-meet has an Iphone, so I will have to see if we can download the same app.

Conrad Braam,
28 Oct 2011, 12:00