The waves of nostalgia I have felt digging through the stuff in my old workshop keep washing things to the shore of my consciousness. One is electronics. I used to do electronics with vacuum tubes and point-to-point wiring in the 1960s. When ICs became available, I did the point-to-point wiring but printed circuit boards were the way to go. I never had the patience to draw them though…
I came across a programme that’s already in the Debian repositories, Fritzing, which does a lot for electronics designers and builders like me.
“Fritzing is an open-source initiative to support designers and artists to take the step from physical prototyping to actual product. We are creating this software in the spirit of Processing and Arduino, that allows the designer / artist / researcher / hobbyist to document their Arduino-based prototype and create a PCB layout for manufacturing. The complimenting website helps to share and discuss drafts and experiences as well as to reduce manufacturing costs.
Fritzing is essentially an Electronic Design Automation software with a low entry barrier, suited for the needs of designers and artists. It uses the metaphor of the breadboard, so that it is easy to transfer your hardware sketch to the software. From there it is possible to create PCB layouts for turning it into a robust PCB yourself or by help of a manufacturer.”
Fritzing is created by a rather large team and has global contributors. I expect it to grow and increase in performance.
It’s not fancy but auto-routing for the schematics and PCB layout is absolutely wonderful compared to figuring it all out one line at a time. The breadboard layout does not have auto-routing, but that’s OK because wires have two ends and that’s mostly what matters there. The huge feature for me are finished PCB layers in SVG or PDF output. Print it on a transparency and etch copper.
A neat feature of the application is that it allows one to download parts designed and shared on the web. I found a 741 operational amplifier that way and it appears in the system complete with pinout. I can create a set of icons matching my inventory and just drag and drop the circuits together.
Now, I have to figure out what to do with it. I plan to build a greenhouse this fall for use next spring. I could design a control and monitoring-system using the parts I have and this application. I need to do things like raise an alarm if the temperature drops too far, but I could also do some automatic watering or ventilation. The possibilities are endless. There are COTS systems for doing such things but I have the parts and like to do things my own way. For example, thermostats tend to be on/off devices. I like proportional control because it reduces temperature-excursions. I should also set up a deer-repelling system to keep them out of my garden. A motion detector activating a wind-mill should do the trick. I can combine a COTS motion-detecting lamp with an output for a motorized threat. Deer treat sudden motions as threats. Of course, a dog would do but I am not a dog-person. I could possibly record the voice of my daughter’s dog…
I like that title… The licence for this software is GPLv3, so I expect it to be around for a while one way or another.