Author: Mark Frauenfelder Publisher: Make, 2010 Pages: 176 ISBN:978-1449393984 Aimed at: DIY and electronics enthusiasts Rating: 4.5 Pros: Not only Arduino, holography as well Cons: Shortage of advanced content Reviewed by: Harry Fairhead
The January 2011 issue of the Make magazine is an Arduino special issue - but there is plenty more besides.
This issue of Make (Volume 25) is a programmer's ideal one - well it is if you are interested in the Arduino and creating programs and hardware. Is has the title Join the Arduino Revolution on the cover - but there is lots of other stuff inside so don't be put off just yet if the Arduino isn't your interest.
The Magazine starts off with a look at the Arduino phenomenon - its history and why its so loved. Then there is a look at the MakerShield, an experimenter's addon for the Arduino. The main core of the Arduino coverage is in the section "Join The Arduino Revolution". This first covers how to pick your microcontroller and gives a comparative survey of the eight most popular including two flavours of the Arduino. Then we have an article on using a visual programming environment with the Arduino and then at last some projects!
An Arduino yogurt maker may not seem like rocket science, and it isn't, but it is a good example of using a temperature sensor, a relay and a feedback control program. The next article is about creating an Arduino platform using nothing but a breadboard, a controller chip and a handful of components - including a USB to serial. The article then explains how to get started programming the Arduino. This is a strange mix as the best way to learn how to use an Arduino is to start with a ready-made unit. On the other hand to discover that the hardware of the Arduino platform isn't particularly special is a good lesson to learn - the two lessons don't really go together, however. The next project is a balance board controller and it shows how to use an accelerometer.
Scattered though the magazine there are various other Arduino related projects - a laser pointer printer using photo-paper, a reverse geocache box that will only open at a set co-ordinate and a retro telephone using an Arduino,and a Skype phone
The main project section isn't Arduino dominated and the first is a low cost heli-rocket. If you have ever played with model rockets they are great fun. No more to say - see the video below:
The next big project is the secret-knock gumball machine that uses an Arduino to decode a knock and dispense a sweet using a actuator. This is a complicated device and would make a good teaching project.
The final big project is a sous vide cooker. Sous vide cooks using vacuum and low temperature to produce results that are quite unlike anything else. This uses an off-the-shelf temperature controller and you can't help but wonder why it doesn't use an Arduino like the yogurt maker.
Next we have a primer on holography - which for my money is the star of the magazine. It is well explained and truthful enough to explain that it often goes wrong. If you fancy trying your hand at the way photography used to be but with a trendy 3D twist this is fun.
There are also lots of other short projects and news items. You can build a beehive, a cage trap, a laser guided paper cutter, a spin art wheel, add solar charging to a remote, a fairly unrealistic faux flame device (see second video) and an LED crystal nightlight.
There are lots of small items and reviews for example have the wacky but amazing creation of models/sculptures using toothpicks. This is not my end of the "creativity spectrum" but you have to admire their dedication to gluing toothpicks together! There is also the review of the Grizly GO516 lathe/mill combo that makes me want to start my own metal workshop all over again.
Finally Forrest Mimms dedicates his regular spot to the problem of sample air and measuring its dust content and brings some science into the mix.
As always this is a very wide spread of topics and there must be something in here for everyone but I can't help but think that the missing element is the very advanced stuff. Where is the Arduino master class for example.
But as always there are so few publications like Make that all I can say is support it and go and buy a copy.
Finally if you want to see some of the projects "in the flesh see the promo video below: