Archive for February, 2010

15th February
written by Todd Harrison

My friend bought an expensive car starter “jumper box” from Costco when it was on sale, but when he went to use it about 3 months later the battery in the jumper box was dead and wouldn’t charge no matter how long he left the box plugged into a 110v outlet.  He brought the unit to me thinking I could fix it but the battery was shot and was going to cost $75 + shipping to get a drop in replacement 12v sealed lead acid battery for the unit.  He told me to just junk it for parts. 

After thinking about it for a month or so I thought maybe I could modify it to hold a larger 12v lawn mower battery.  I knew it would work just fine if I could find a battery that fit.  I took it apart again to take some internal measurements then headed for Wal-Mart.  Sure enough I found a nice riding lawn mower battery that would fit if I cut out the front-side of the jumper box housing.  The battery even had nice through-hole terminal connectors for bolting on the cables.   This mod ran about $35 for the replacement battery and a 2 foot threaded rod with some lock nuts to hold the battery in the unit.

What follows are some bad (sorry) videos of the modification and some photos.  Its possible any dead jumper box could be brought back to life this way because I would think most take the same size internal 12v sealed lead acid battery and its not a lot of work.


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9th February
written by Todd Harrison

This will be an ongoing growing list of links for beginners in electronics. Most links will be to video tutorials and reviews but I will include some blogs and books as well. There will always be a link to this posting in my side bar under ‘Tutorials’ titled ‘Links for Beginners in electronics’.

Websites that will help you learn just about everything in electronics for FREE:

  1. (super great! site)
  2. Nice launch site with clear categories back to
  3. Electronics Demonstrations (java applet) VERY NICE!!!
  4. (has good points and bad but I like it)
  5. Other nice tutorials I like starting at Triacs and SCRs page.
  6. A few nice tutorials on semiconductor devices like diodes, BJTs, SCRs and Triacs.
  7. United States Navy Electricity & Electronics Training Series – NEETS
  8. UNSW School of Physics Sydney, Australia online (good video clips)

 Finding parts and datasheets:

  1. Find datasheets & vendors ( )
  2. Find datasheets & vendors ( )
  3. Find datasheets & vendors ( )
  4. Find datasheets ( )
  5. Find datasheets ( )
  6. Datasheets & application notes (
  7. SMD code lookup – best (
  8. SMD code lookup tranistors (
  9. SMD code lookup – ok  (
  10. Logo lookup (
  11. Search by part number or by marking codes (
  12. How to Read a Datasheet (
  13. Identifying Electronic Components (
  14. EIA capacitor code chart (
  15. Diode datasheet for 1N4001 to1 N4007
  16. DigiKey advanced search using this GreaseMonkey script add-on for Firefox or Chrome (COOL!!!)

TIP: Older capacitors starting with a decimal are in microfarads (.1Z = 104 = .1uF)

Great Electronics Parts, Kits and hardware Suppliers: (* = I have used)

  1. (Just about everything) Supplier in AZ
  2. (I use this supplier a lot) Supplier in AZ *
  3. (Marlin P. Jones & Assoc, Inc.) REALLY COOL SELECTION *
  4. (Some nice kits and learning level components) *
  5. (Nice kits & instructions) *
  6. Ladyada parts finder wiki
  7. also known as Element14 *
  8. (Great kits, tools and parts)
  11. (free sample order page) *
  12. *
  13. *
  14. *
  15. *
  16. *
  17. scope probes & replacement parts, patch cables, connectors *
  18. Maxim
  19. (Get the above books here too) *
  20. Electronix Express (Ugly site but better prices sometimes) *
  21. *
  22. *
  23. A list of the large electronics distributors (
  24. Purchase chips direct , avoiding the middle-man distributor (
  25. MRO Supply (Seems to have everything) – Supplier in AZ.

Books you should get ASAP:

  1. Getting Started in Electronics by Forrest M. Mims III
  2. Timer, Op Amp, and Optoelectronic Circuits & Projects Vol. I by Forrest M. Mims III
  3. Science and Communication Circuits & Projects Vol. II by Forrest M. Mims III
  4. Electronic Sensor Circuits & Projects Vol. III by Forrest M. Mims III
  5. Electronic Formulas, Symbols & Circuits Vol. IV by Forrest M. Mims III
  6. The Art of Electronics 3nd edition by Paul Horowitz and Winfield Hill
  7. The Art of Electronics 2nd edition by Paul Horowitz and Winfield Hill
  8. The Art of Electronics Student Manual by Paul Horowitz and Winfield Hill
  9. Download an entire collection of EE books in HTML or PDF for FREE!!

Start your EE Lab

  1. How To Set Up An Electronics Lab : (
  2. How to equip your lab yourself : (
  3. Build your own starter kit (Basic, Better, Best) (
  4. Starter kit-Basic : Electronics Toolkit ~$99 (
  5. Starter kit-Better : Ladyada’s Electronics Toolkit ~$100 (
  6. Comb through ( for solder station reviews and tips on what to buy.
  7. A real nice desolder tool if you keep it clean ~$13 (
  8. Hot air rework station 8508D ~$65 (
  9. Power Supply-Basic : 2 Amp Multi Fixed Outputs ~$17 (
  10. Power Supply-Better : 0-2A; 0-18VDC ~$49 (
  11. Power Supply-Best : 0-3A; 0-30V Large LCD ~$198 (
  12. Power Supply-PRO : 0-3A; 0-30V MONO LCD ~$450 (
  13. Power Supply-PRO : 0-3A; 0-30V COLOR LCD ~$875 (
  14. Multimeter-Basic : Extech EX330 $50 (
  15. Multimeter-Better : Fluke 17B+ $143 out of China, not true RMS. (
  16. Multimeter-Best : Fluke 87-V $404(
  17. Multimeter-PRO : Fluke 289 $558(
  18. Logic analyzer-Basic : USB type – Open Logic Sniffer $50 (
  19. Logic analyzer-Better : USB type – Saleae Logic – 8-Channel $150 (
  20. Logic analyzer-Best : USB type – Saleae Logic – 16-Channel $295 (
  21. Function Generator-Basic : 3MHz Instek SFG-1003 DDS $170 (
  22. Function Generator-Better : 5 MHz BK Precision 4011A $460 (
  23. Function Generator-Best : 20MHz BK Precision 4040DDS: $468 (
  24. Oscilloscope Basic: Rigol DS1052E 50MHz which can be hacked to 100Mhz: ~$348(
  25. Oscilloscope Better : Rigol DS1102E 100MHz : ~$399(
  26. Oscilloscope Best : Rigol DS1054Z 50MHz : ~$399(
  27. Oscilloscope PRO: Rigol DS1104Z 100MHz : ~$754(
  28. Isolation Transformer – Just the right size for electronics labs: B&K Precision 1604A (
  29. Isolation Transformer – BIG: I ordered the hospital grade Tripp Lite IS1000HG 1000W Isolation Transformer. It was a bit spendy at $314 but my safety is worth it and I will be able to use my scope a lot easier being I can use the ground clip again and not two probes in (Ch1 – Ch2) mode which is a pain. NOTE: !!!You have to remove the grounding strap on the secondary coil before using these as tech bench isolation tranformers!!! Other models that are not hospital grade and/or low wattage that I considered were: Tripp Lite IS1000 1000W $264  Tripp Lite IS500 500W $171 Tripp Lite IS250 250W $110

General knowledge when getting started:

  1. Learn about Multimeters (
  2. Multimeter Counts, Accuracy, Resolution & Calibration (
  3. Pick the right Multimeter for you . (
  4. Johannes Bauer’s interactive multimeter graphing compare tool (FireFox only!).
  5. ………Bauer’s meter compare tool HELP PAGE.
  6. Soldering Tutorial Part 1 – Tools (
  7. Soldering Tutorial Part 2 (
  8. Soldering Tutorial Part 3 – SMD Surface mount devices (
  9. Dead Bug Prototype Soldering (
  10. How to Solder better and why nice video!!! (
  11. How to Surface Mount Solder (
  12. Learn to Solder better (
  13. All about batteries (
  14. Unregulated Power Supply Tutorial (
  15. How transformer-based AC/DC converters work (
  16. How switching power supplies work (
  17. All about LEDs (
  18. Saleae Logic8 and Logic16 Logic Analyzer Review (
  19. Crystals and Ring Oscillators (
  20. Op-Amps, PWM and Ignition Coils Tutorial (
  21. Characterize Programmable Power Supply Review  (
  22. Component Packages Totally Explained! (The Funkiester)
  23. SMD Packages Explained! (The Funkiester)

Surface Mount Device solder tip: A good SMD solder tip is a well tip that holds solder via surface tension in a hole like well at the tip as you drag solder the tip over all the pins.  Use lots of flux and watch this video. You can get drag solder tips for the Hakko FX-888 solder stations and other irons that use Hakko 900M series compatible tips from these links below:
For a 3mm well get the HS-0530
For a 5mm well get the HS-0531

Working with micro-controllers:

  1. Dave’s opinion on Arduino plus he compares it to PICAXE (
  2. Arduino vs. Basic Stamp (
  3. AVR vs. PIC (
  4. Arduino Official Home Page (
  5. Arduino Tutorial (
  6. Arduino Tutorial (
  7. Using Sensors with Arduino (
  8. Interfacing 3.3V sensor to a 5V micro (
  9. Arduino Hacks Tips, tricks, techniques (
  10. Step by step Getting Started with AVRs (
  11. Beginning Embedded Electronics (
  12. Micro Annoyances (
  13. Breadboard your own Arduino using Atmega8: Part 1 , Part 2 , Part 3 (
  14. Making a custom Arduino board (
  15. Breadboard Standalone Arduino ATMega328 (
  16. Using Character LCDs with Arduino (
  17. AVR programmer introduction 1 – 4 (

Robots and motor controls:

  1. Roomba dissection video and using its H-bridge motor control circuit.
  2. DC Motor Control Using an H-Bridg ( )
  3. H-Bridges: Theory and Practice
  4. Stepper Motor Driver + Arduino:

Make your own PCB – Printed Circuit Boards:

  1. Video on using Photo Resist Pre-Sensitized PCBs (
  2. Photo-etching PCB using ink-jet printer . (
  3. Printed Circuit Board links including DIY and order-out (
  4. Make your own PCB – Printed Circuit Boards (
  5. Order supplies to DIY PCBs (
  6. How to get free samples from Manufacturers (

Useful software downloads:

  1. Free PCB design software: EAGLE
  2. Free PCB design software: DesignSpark
  3. Free PCB design software: KiCAD
  4. Lockmaster Prototyping CAD for stripboard ( (tronixstuff review)
  5. Circuit prototyping design tool – Fritzing
  6. Very nice circuit simulator at Falstad.  It uses Java but works great for DC and AC up to 400k Hz. Watch this tutorial video on how to use the simulator.
  7. Nice circuit simulator for logic circuits only at Atanus. Watch the flash tutorial.
  8. LT spice and other simulators at Linear Technology.
  9. Virtual Breadboard emulator at VBB.

Nice circuit examples and other tutorial videos:

  1. makes some very good tutorials .
  2. makes some very good tutorials .
  3. Seven segment display explained
  4. ITP Physical Computing tutorial list
  5. Spartfun tutorial list

First off I’m going to link to the main EEV Blog page because all videos by David Jones are great, but some videos are NOT for beginners so be warned. Here are a few that are nice for beginners:

General knowledge:

  1. Oscilloscope: Testing an Analog Oscilloscope (MUST SEE!)
  2. Oscilloscope: Bench based Digital Storage Oscilloscope Tutorial
  3. Oscilloscope: PC based Digital Storage Oscilloscope Comparison
  4. Capacitor Tutorial part 1 (Electrolytic, Tantalum, and Plastic Film)
  5. Capacitor Tutorial part 2 (Ceramics and impedance)
  6. Capacitor Tutorial part 3 (Exploding Capacitors)
  7. Logic Analyzer Tutorial part 1
  8. Logic Analyzer Tutorial part 2
  9. Decibels (dB’s) for Engineers – A Tutorial
  10. Anti Static Bag Myth and general knowledge on anti static issues.
  11. Linear and LDO regulators and switch mode power supply tutorial – A Tutorial
  12. Build a DC-DC switch mode power supply converter – A Tutorial
  13. Oscilloscope Trigger Holdoff – A Tutorial
  14. Battery Capacity – A Tutorial
  15. AA alkaline battery capacity measurement – A Tutorial
  16. Lithium Ion/Polymer Battery Charging Tutorial – A Tutorial

Product reviews (good to watch if you’re looking to buy some equipment):

  1. Oscilloscope: Rigol DS1052E <$500 US
  2. Oscilloscope: Agilent 2000x Infiniivision ~$1200 US starting model
  3. Oscilloscope: Agilent 3000x Infiniivision ~$3000 US starting model
  4. Function Generator: Instek 3mhz GFG-8219A ~$300 US (starts at 2:45 minutes)
  5. Power Supply: Jaycar powertech mp3086 ~$150 US
  6. Power Supply: BK Precision 1697 (Programmable) ~$350 US
  7. Power Supply: HP E3610A bench power supply ~$100 – $200 US on ebay
  8. MCU programmer: Microchip PICkit2 (starts at 6:50 minutes)
  9. MCU programmer: Microchip PICkit3
  10. Multimeter: Cheap Chinese multimeters and why they suck ~$20 to ~$90 US
  11. Multimeter: Pocket variety ~$30 US (starts at 7:20 minutes)
  12. Multimeter: Reviews under $55 and PDF chart
  13. Multimeter: Reviews under $100 part1 & part2 (
  14. Multimeter: Meterman 37XR ~$140 US
  15. Multimeter: Fluke 117 ~$170 US
  16. Multimeter: Fluke 233 ~$300 US
  17. Multimeter: Fluke 87-V part 1 ~$380 US (starts at 7:50 minutes)
  18. Multimeter: Fluke 87-V part 2
  19. Multimeter: Fluke 28 Series II part 1 ~$430 US
  20. Multimeter: Fluke 28 Series II part 2
  21. Multimeter: Fluke 189/289 part 1 ~$450 US
  22. Multimeter: Fluke 189/289 part 2
  23. Multimeter: Agilent U1272A ~$370 US
  24. Multimeter: Agilent U1253A OLED ~$450 US
  25. Multimeter: Gossen Metrawatt Xtra ~$500 US You can buy the Metrawatt Xtra in the USA { here }.
  26. LCR meter: Extech 380193 ~$210 US
  27. LCR meter: BK Precision 879B ~$300 US
  28. Hot Air Rework: Atten 858D ~$82 US

Fast Forward, Acme School and Half Handy
Here are some great old school Canadian TV videos hosted by David Stringer:

  1. Electricity and how to create and use it (very good)
  2. What is a watt and how to calculate electrical usage and costs (Watts = volts * amps)
  3. Alternating current and how and why its used in your home
  4. Magnetism and its use and durability for recorded media.
  5. All about Batteries (fuzzy, hard to watch, but very good information)
  6. Binary counting in digital electronics
  7. Vacuum tubes to transistors to micro processors
  8. Older video on vacuum tubes to transistors.
  9. Explain house wires (ground, black and white)
  10. Canada power company load balancing and delivery

Electrical Engineering Courses Online

  1. (Good site on starting a career in Engineering)
  2. (You can look into an online Engineering Degree)
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