Holiday Reading Recommendations
Written by Kay Ewbank   
Monday, 24 December 2018
Article Index
Holiday Reading Recommendations
Hacking IoT and Robotics


One of the major ways into computing is playing with electronics and robotics, and there are some excellent titles out there to give as presents or to read yourself.  In this section, we've selected the best titles for specific kits and platforms. 

Basic Robot Building With LEGO Mindstorms NXT 2.0 impressed Harry Fairhead enough for him to award it 5 stars. Harry says that the good news is that if you are a complete beginner then this book really will make everything seem simple and very attractive.

He says that at the end of the book you will have a good idea how to build models in Lego and how to program enough to do simple things, but that the book just gets you started and as such it is really for the complete beginner. In conclusion, ss long the intended reader really does need an introduction to both modeling with Lego and programming the Brick, then this is an excellent book.  An inspiring book. 

Another book for Lego Mindstorms, this time aimed at the EV3 kit, is The LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 Discovery Book. Lucy Black gave it five stars,  describing it as a well thought out and implemented book that lives up to its title of being a "Discovery Book".


Recommending it, she said that if you tackle all its programming and building challenges you will have learned a lot about programming and about robotics.

If the Arduino is your chosen route into electronics, there are a number of good titles you ought to consider. Our reviewers gave high to maximum ratings for the Arduino Cookbook (describing it as covering such a wide range of topics that it has to have something for everyone); and also to Arduino in Action. Harry Fairhead said that with the proviso that this is not for the complete beginner - yes go and buy a copy. It's fun and tells you many things that you won't find in other books on the Arduino. However, when told he could have only one Arduino book in his pile of presents, Harry eventually chose Arduino Project Handbook, Vol 2


He said this is an excellent book, with good construction details and nice illustrations of the layouts and wiring, though lacking schematic diagrams. Overall, this book about building projects succeeds in being inspiring and should catch the imagination.

So what if Raspberry Pi is your way into electronics? We've covered a number of books about Raspberry Pi, with honorable mention as worthy of consideration being Raspberry Pi Cookbook and Exploring Raspberry Pi. However, Harry says that for beginners, his choice would be Hacking Raspberry Pi. This book assumes that you don't know very much about computers and computer systems. It also assumes you don't know how to program, and while it does introduce a lot of hardware add-ons, it never strays into  the area of DIY electronics.



For such a reader, Harry thinks beginners who know a little hardware theory and a little software practice will probably really like this book. Even the hardware expert will like it quite a lot, however, as it provides a lot of background material and details that are otherwise quite hard to find and put together into something coherent. Harry enjoyed reading it. 

For more advanced readers, Raspberry Pi Hacks is Harry's title of choice. He awarded it 5 stars when he reviewed it. This is a collection of 65 Raspberry Pi hacks; not a super advanced book, but one that presents its information in a fairly digestible way with humor, and a mix of hardware and software hacks, including how to create a custom Linux Kernel which really does open up some additional possibilities.


The feel of the book is very much "hack" rather than buying off-the-shelf finished units and this makes it so much the better.  Highly recommended as long as you are not a complete beginner.

If you want to do more with the Pi in IoT, the book written by Harry Fairhead, Raspberry Pi IoT In C, provides valuable knowledge not found in other books. Or if you want to program a micro:bit or other mbed device he has also authored micro:bit IoT In C.

Away from specific hardware platforms, Harry still thinks the title Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred, rated 4.5, is a good choice, concluding:

If you have children and the time to engage them simply go and buy the book and get on with it. 


However, it's worth noting that the range of projects is very wide, from a soft toy to a small robot, and that for some readers, while the book is written in a friendly amusing style it does have some strange turns of phrase that might overstep a line.

For electronics in general Harry's top recommendation is the second edition of MAKE: Electronics, a full-color book crammed  with photos, diagrams and cartoons which manages to explain how electronics works without being mysterious or mathematical.  While Harry reviewed the first edition, there's an equally good second edition. From the word go the experiments and projects are fun and are also fairly simple - an LED flasher, random dice, key pad code, "crystal" set radio, burglar alarm an so on. The projects not only help reinforce the theory but provide case studies on how to actually construct things - more soldering, stripboard, breadboards and even a mention of alternatives such as wire wrapping and surface mount.


The 5-star review ends:

If you know a little about electronics and want to rekindle your enthusiasm this is a great book. For the complete beginner its also a great book as long as you don't expect to master everything in it at one sitting. To go from the basics of electricity to chips in 300 or so pages is a lot of ground.  


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Last Updated ( Saturday, 29 December 2018 )