Breadboarding the ATTiny2313

John “johngineer” De Cristofaro wrote a great tutorial on building an ATTiny2313 prototyping board.

I created it because I use the Tiny2313 a lot, and I was tired of wiring up all of the above each time I wanted to work on a new circuit. Some things, like ISP headers and ceramic resonators, are not especially breadboard friendly. Further, I found that with larger projects breadboard space started to get a little cramped, and I wanted to maximize the prototyping area. By putting it all on a custom PCB, I save a lot of breadboard space and things are more straightforward. It also gives me a complete support platform that I can embed straight into a project.

[via Adafruit]


Tool Review: iSesamo Opening Tool


“Spudger” is a word well on its way into the limelight. Originally, “spudger” seems to have referred to a particular, fairly specialized implement described by Wikipedia as “a wiring tool used for poking or adjusting small wires or components, generally in the electronics and telecommunications industries.” But these days, “spudger” seems to be more commonly used, and to have a slightly different, specific meaning: a flat tool somewhere between a shim and a screwdriver, used for prying and/or propping open device cases along seams sealed with inaccessible clips.

The iSesamo, he said with a straight face, is a kind of “power spudger.” The first and most important point to make is that it is made of metal. Here’s iFixIt CEO Kyle Wiens on that subject:

A word of caution, here: metal spudgers are the double-edged swords of the iPod and iPhone repair world. They are incredibly useful due to their hard metal edge, especially for tight crevices where plastic tools are too soft to be used. However, the hierarchy of hardness dictates that “like scratches like,” meaning that everything softer than the metal spudger will be easily scratched. Unfortunately that list includes pretty much every surface of your iPhone 3G. A metal spudger can also bridge electrical connections, potentially shorting your phone’s logic board if you’re not careful.

iFixIt actually sells their own branded version of the iSesamo, for $9.95. But they’re commonly given away as schwag. The one I have is from NewerTech, and apart from the branding elements it is the same tool, which seems to actually be manufactured by Italy’s dottorPOD.

It consists of a polished spring steel shim, 0.011″ thick, 0.786″ wide and 4.685″ long. The middle 3″ has been covered with a 1/16″ layer, on each side, of some kind of comfy elastomer, which makes it a pleasure to hold and use. The tool weighs about a third of an ounce (10 g).

The name, iSesamo, with its “Open Sesame” allusion, suggests a kind of mystical experience. We’re all smart people, here, so you probably don’t need me to tell you the facts of life: there is no Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus is your parents, and the iSesamo is not a Magic Golden Key.

That said, I was, in fact, impressed with how easy it was to direct the tool into the narrow crevice between the front bezel and the backplate of my old 5th-gen iPod. I can’t think of another tool, among the many in my workshop, that would be as well suited to the purpose. For lack of a better word, the iSesamo is “nimble” in the hand, and the rubber on the handle gives a good grip, and makes it easy to bring a bit of power to bear. This is the first of the two edges on that sword Kyle mentioned—the edge pointed away from you. The good one.

Annnnnd it's open! Also, broken! Don't do this to your iPod.

Even so, opening my iPod case was, frankly, a frustrating nightmare. I was impatient and didn’t read up on the procedure thoroughly, and though it was fairly short work, using the iSesamo, to separate the front bezel from the rest of the device, turns out that’s not the order in which things are supposed to come apart. The sounds I thought were small plastic tabs “clicking” loose were, in fact, small plastic tabs breaking loose where they were secured to the frame with screws. Oops. At least replacement bezels are cheap.

But it’s a poor craftsman who blames his tools. Leaving aside my incompetence to the task (iPods are notorious PsITA to open), the iSesamo is an almost ideal prying tool for its intended purpose. But it’s a significant almost. There is that second edge of the sword.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, exactly, the iSesamo can be a bit dangerous for exploratory surgery. It’s easy to do a lot of damage, pretty quickly, using this tool, and even if I’d been more careful and hadn’t actually broken anything, cosmetic scratching along the seam would’ve been extremely hard to avoid. First-timers, I think, should stick to plastic.

If, on the other hand, you are, ah, an “experienced spudger,” I could see how the iSesamo could quickly become your weapon of choice. If you are familiar with the device you’re taking apart and/or take it apart frequently, the iSesamo will do it over and over again without wearing down like a plastic spudger, some of which are only good for a couple of uses.

NewerTech iSesamo

Avoid Marring, Open Plastic Cases with a Cut Credit Card


Ask MAKE: How to Simulate a Hatching Pigeon Egg

Rick asks:

I race homing pigeons for a hobby. Motivating them to come home quickly is very important. I want to simulate the random chipping (clicking / egg movement) associated with a hatching egg. I already have plastic pigeon eggs that separate in half like a plastic Easter egg to put this device into, but I don’t know where to get the device. Any help would be appreciated.

Now there’s an interesting question! While it’s hard to know exactly how a hatching pigeon egg sounds and moves while it’s hatching without gathering data from an actual hatching egg, there are a couple of ways to go about this. One possibility would be to simply glue a vibrating “pager” motor to the inside of the egg. This way, when powered on, the motor will vibrate the egg. Using a microcontroller like an Arduino or ATtiny you can use PWM (pulse width modulation) to have it move the egg realistically.

Another method would be to use a couple of miniature hobby servos to move a  small platform that the egg is attached to. This could be used in conjunction with the pager motor to provide more realistic movement and feel for the bird. Again, a microcontroller can be used to control the movement, allowing you to tailor it to your (and the pigeon’s) liking.

Have any more ideas to share with Rick? Please post them in the comments!

See all of the Ask MAKE columns


Drone Sailboat Built by College Students

The Missus, a mini (2-meter) autonomous sailboat, will compete in the 6th International Robotic Sailboat Championships this June, in Vancouver, BC.

We are a group of Memorial University students who are building an autonomous sailboat to compete in the Sailbot and World Robotic Sailing competition. The team is made up of students from all MUN engineering disciplines. We hope to compete in the 2011 Sailbot competition with our 2m Sailbot class sailboat. As a team we are designing, fabricating and programming a fully autonomous vessel which will compete in match racing, station keeping, and long distance races. The ultimate challenge will be to send an autonomous sailboat across the Atlantic ocean. We hope you will take the time to browse through the site, see what we are up to, and add to the quest. If you would like more information please contact us at munsailbot at

(They took 4th place in the 2011 race.) Eagle files here. [via DangPro]


How-To: Splice Wire to NASA Standards

Some commenters on Friday’s post about using a washer as a soldering aid noticed my sloppy splicing technique and were kind enough to educate me about the so-called “Western Union splice,” aka the “Lineman’s splice,” which is the preferred method for twisting solid-core wire leads together for inline electrical connections.

Developed during the heydey of the telegraph, the Lineman’s splice is designed for connections that will be under tension. It is commonly claimed that, properly made, a Lineman’s splice is stronger than the wires of which it is composed. In any case, it is a time-proven method, and, coolest of all, one of NASA’s Required Workmanship Standards. To wit, in a NASA-approved Lineman’s splice:

  1. The conductors shall be pre-tinned.
  2. There shall be at least 3 turns around each conductor and the wraps shall be tight with no gaps between adjacent turns.
  3. The wraps shall not overlap and the ends of the wrap shall be trimmed flush prior to soldering to prevent protruding ends.
  4. Conductors shall not overlap the insulation of the other wire.

Though the Lineman’s splice was originally used without solder, today soldering is common. And NASA insists on it:

  1. Solder shall wet all elements of the connection.
  2. The solder shall fillet between connection elements over the complete periphery
    of the connection.

This material comes from page 84 of NASA-STD 8739.4, which is a great reference if you’re interested in best practices for interconnecting cables and wires. [Thanks, Alex Barclay!]

NASA-STD 8739.4 (PDF)


PriNXT, a Functioning Lego Printer

Fourteen-year-old Lego hacker Leon Overwheel built this impressive Lego Mindstorms NXT printer, AKA PriNXT.

PriNXT has three motors: two control the X and Y motion, and the third lifts the pen.

The first motor, the one in the middle, is very straight forward – it has two long axes coming out of it that connect to two tiny gears that can drive around on a series of gear racks, moving the contraption about the Y axis. The second and third motor are a bit more complex, since they both point inward and have to move their power around a lot.

The left one, which controls motion on the X axis, basically just gears its power to a really long row of worm wheels, which, when spun, slowly move the part that holds the pen from left to right. The third motor similarly transfers its power to the outside, after which it moves a long rod up and down, pulling the pen along with it no matter where it is.

Leon also built the Skype Controlled Mindstorms Car and this Festo-inspired Robotic Arm, both of which we blogged previously. [via The NXTStep]


HP’s User Serviceable All-in-One Workstation

The 27" monitor opens to expose user-serviceable components designed for no-tools swapping.

The Z1 isn’t even supposed to ship until April, so it’s all just hype right now. But it’s working on me. Will be curious to hear what the early adopters report. [Thanks, Phil!]

HP Z1 Workstation


Push Pin Portrait

Composed of close to 15,000 push pins, this portrait by YouTuber brusspup weighs almost 40 pounds and took nearly a month to complete. Goes to show that even the smallest everyday object can transform into something thought provoking with a little ingenuity. [via likecool]


You Actually Can Put A Gun Rack In A Chevy Volt, Newt Gingrich

From our friends at Jalopnik:

One gun-totin’ Chevy Volt owner responded to Newt Gingrich’s claim that “you can’t put a gun rack in a Volt” in the best way possible. He built a gun rack and put it in his own Volt.

Politics aside, is there anything PVC can’t do?

via You Actually Can Put A Gun Rack In A Chevy Volt, Newt Gingrich.


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