Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 - Prep Work

Looking ahead to Chapters 3 and 4, I've decided to place my orders for many of the required components online. A brief visit to Radio Shack today was not fruitful - the components are starting to get more specific and more unique, and I think I've hit the wall when it comes to what Radio Shack can provide.

I took about thirty minutes tonight to go through Mouser.com and RadioShack.com to order most, not all, of the pieces I'll be needing that I wasn't able to grab today. Just a warning - even online, costs are adding up. Mouser.com is nice because it does offer up suggestions for "similar" components, and you might be able to find a reduced price on some items. I'll be posting my shopping list, complete with part numbers, prices, and where I ordered them... look for that in the next few days. I've intentionally skipped a few items in Chapter 4, mainly because the price was crazy and I'm hoping to find some lower prices.

As for the tools described in Chapter 3 - most of them I already own. I don't have prices for them as it's been a while since I purchased them... and some were gifts. Even without the tools, my total cost for components is really adding up. Again, I keep reminding myself that this is the price for learning and I'm going to walk away from this book with some good skills, a better understanding of electronics, etc... for me, totally worth the costs incurred.

I should have all the components on time so there won't be any interruption between Exercise 11 and Exercise 12... but if shipping is slower than expected, there may be a slight delay if I have to wait for some parts... apologies in advance. But I am going to try and place orders two chapters in advance from now on... so when Chapter 3 is done, I'll place an order for Chapter 5 (and maybe 6) components to allow for shipping times.

I hope my walkthroughs (so far) have been useful - if you are working your way through the book, I'd love to hear your thoughts on exercises you've done, your overall experience with the book, your thoughts on ordering components online, or anything else you care to share.


  1. I'd like to hear reader comments too. I can be reached if you follow this simple formula:

    Type my family name with the word "land" appended to it, and use this as the username in a gmail account. I cannot guarantee to answer all emails, but I'll try.

  2. You're going thru the book much faster than I can keep up! But it's great to read along with you. Cool to watch you try to understand the same things I'm trying to understand. Expert explainers are great, but sometimes it's nice to not feel like the only one who's having to struggle a little, you know?

    I have the book thru O'Reilly Safari, so no physical copy. I think for this one, a real book that I could carry around and scribble in would be better. Printing a few pages here and there to take to the workshop is probably more of a psychological hurdle than I'd thought.

  3. Brian,

    Regarding my copy, I'd say it's in a condition where a college bookstore would never buy it back... I've written all over it - I take it with me to Radio shack and circle the part numbers I buy... write in the part numbers that aren't in the book... write the date purchased... (I put M for Mouser, RS for RadioShack, etc.) - probably not necessary but it'll help if someone ever asks where I got a component and I can't remember.

    I agree with your other observation - as a tech writer, I always try to put myself in my reader's shoes. In this case, I am in your shoes! I'm a novice with electronics, too. So it's easy for me to write down the things that confuse me, irritate me... and the things that go right. Especially the Ah-Ha!! moments.

    Don't worry - at some point you'll likely catch up because as I preview upcoming chapters, I'm seeing an increase in the complexity of the material. Chapter 3 is even titled "Getting Somewhat more Serious" - !!!

    I'm enjoying this, though... and I hope you (and anyone else following along) are, too. For too long I've watched others put together fun and simple projects and wished I had just an inkling of the experience to tinker and do the same thing... I'm getting a good feeling that this book is putting me on the right path. Not to say it'll answer every question, because I know it won't... but it's giving me confidence in using the breadboard, understanding schematics... and knowing it's okay to smoke a diode/LED or capacitor every now and then.

    Thanks for writing.


  4. I ordered everything online (from the same three stores you did) for chapter 2, in advance. But for the components I didn't understand yet, it was hard to sort through the options on mouser.com; for example that PUT thing is listed under "thyristors", and I had to buy something that I only guessed was right.

    ("The Thyristor" sounds like a piece of exercise equipment for robots sold on late night TV infomercials)

    Also, I found another good source for components: a student-run IEEE store in the basement of the EE department at the local university (Oregon State). You tell the kid behind the counter that you need three thyristors, and he goes digging through some drawers and hands them to you, takes your 75 cents, and writes it down in a notebook. It's cheaper than Radio Shack, you don't end up with wads of little plastic bags to throw away, and they don't try to sell you a cell phone!
    I bet other universities have stores like this, but they might be hard to find out about.