Author: Mark Geddes
Publisher: No Starch Press
Reviewer: Harry Fairhead
The Arduino can be fun, but only if you have some ideas what to do with it - this book provides 25.
The Arduino is a good, cheap and simple way to get into physical computing or the Internet of Things (IoT). The back jacket says in big letters - "YOU GOT AN ARDUINO - NOW WHAT?". Personally I can't imagine not having ideas for using it, but if you need some guidance on what sorts of things you can do with it then this book is a good choice. The projects it suggests mostly aren't big scale - you won't find an automated garden waterer, beer brewer or even a smart kettle, but by understanding the projects you will be able to think up things like this. The projects do get more complex as the book progresses.
We didn't review Volume 1, but comparing the list of contents it does seem that this volume has slightly more advanced projects. This doesn't mean that the projects are more difficult, however, it is more a reflection of what you can buy off-the-shelf for a reasonable price today. If you haven't read Volume 1 don't worry as this one is completely self contained and it outlines all of the parts you need. All of the projects are built on a prototyping board and it's up to you to convert this into something more permanent if you want to.
The book is organized into six sections plus a primer on getting started with the Arduino - which is always an Uno, but you could use something different if you have, or acquire, the know-how. The primer is just enough to get you started, but to really understand the projects and take thing further you are going to have to learn more electronics and more C programming. The point of this book, however, is not to teach you these things but to motivate you to learn them.
The projects are divided between six parts as follows:
Part I: LEDs
- LED Light Bar
- Light-Activated Night-Light
- Seven-Segment LED Countdown Timer
- LED Scrolling Marquee
- Mood Light
- Rainbow Strip Light
- NeoPixel Compass
Notice that this is well beyond the "hello world" of physical computing the famous Blinky - i.e. blink a single LED. However the LED Light Bar does take you through the basics of driving a single LED. Notice that this part might be called LEDs but it includes some sophisticated devices. For example the NeoPixel Compass includes a magnetometer.
Part II: Sound
- Arduino Piano
- Audio LED Visualizer
Part III: Motors
- Old-School Analog Dial
- Stepper Motor
- Temperature-Controlled Fan
All fairly straightforward if you know how to interface a motor, but still nice projects.
Part IV: LCDs
- Ultrasonic Range Finder
- Digital Thermometer
- Bomb Decoder Game
- Serial LCD Screen
- Ultrasonic People Counter
- Nokia 5110 LCD Screen Pong Game
- OLED Breathalyzer
This part has a more varied collection of projects including some that are much more complete - the Bomb Decoder and the Pong games in particular. They also go well beyond simple LCD displays. For example, the OLED Brethalyzer not only demonstrates how to use an OLED screen but an alcohol sensor.
Part V: Security
- Ultrasonic Soaker
- Fingerprint Scanner
The ultrasonic soaker uses a standard ultrasonic sensor to detect people and then fire a water pistol at them. Put that together with some face recognition and you have an ever more fun project.
Part VI: Smart Machines
- Ultrasonic Robot
- Internet-Controlled LED
- Voice-Controlled LED
- GPS Speedometer
In this final part the projects are even more sophisticated. The ultrasonic robot uses an off-the-shelf robot kit, which some might consider a cheat ,but you can't complain and then use many of the off-the-shelf modules in the earlier projects which could have been built from scratch. The Internet-controlled LED also uses a WiFi shield. The voice controlled LED uses a Bluetooth shield and a smartphone app to do the voice recognition. The GPS speedometer uses a GPS module to track position. This all reflects the way modern systems are built. We do need to occasionally go back to a single transistor or an LED, but much of the time the problem is working with an off-the-shelf module that does so much more.
This is a good book. If you find any of the projects interesting, or if you just want a project that gets you started using one of the off-the-shelf sensors, the alcohol sensor, the GPS board, etc, then simply buy a copy.
However, I do have some words of warning that are not intended to put you off buying this excellent book. The first is that while the construction details are very good with nice illustrations of the layouts and wiring, as with so many hardware books these days, there are no schematic diagrams. This is a shame - at some point you will have to read a schematic and it isn't difficult. Similarly the "how it works" explanations are very brief and you are probably going to have to do some research to fill in the gaps. Finally the software is presented as a long listing with the comments doing most of the explanation. This is OK as long as you are either happy to take it all on trust or are determined enough to work your way through it. Apart from the schematic diagrams, I can't see how these reservations could be met. Adding enough explanation to elevate a beginner to an expert would make the book at least ten times bigger and much more boring.
This is a book about building projects and as such it succeeds in being inspiring and should catch the imagination.
Arduino Cookbook rated 5 out of 5
Arduino in Action rated 4.8 out of 5
Arduino Programming in 24 Hours rated 4 out of 5
Beginning Arduino 2nd Ed rated 4.5 out of 5
Author: Dr. Simon Harrer, Dr. Jörg Lenhard and Linus Dietz
Publisher: Pragmatic Bookshelf
Audience: Java programmers at just the right level
Reviewer: Alex Armstrong Learn Java by comparing the good against the bad - sounds like a good idea!