Public Lab Research note

Riffle (and Arduino) first impressions - notes

by pdhixenbaugh | May 22, 2016 19:34 | 54 views | 3 comments | #13137 | 54 views | 3 comments | #13137 22 May 19:34

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What I want to do

Test the Riffle and the Riffle Documentation. From the point of view of a user new to Arduino.

Jot down my notes, stream of consciousness-style. Will follow up with a more useful writeup with pictures, screenshots, and complete sentences.

My attempt and results

Tools needed: Knife to open box USB to microusb cable (From phone charger) Optional tool: microSD to SD adapter (to doublecheck that the microSD card was properly formatted after reading cfastie's note).

First thing I did was look for the battery switch (found it after a short time searching). Then I plugged the blue battery jst into the 'lithium' slot, with the switch in its default 'lithium/usb position' (Later I read the documentation and read that I need to plug the battery into "gen" and have the switch turned to "gen" -- why is that.

Blink works fine. USB charging light comes on fine.

Testing the blue battery in the 'gen' configuration: the JST is easy enough to plug in, but when pulling it out, I feel like I'm going to break it (never used JST before). Took a lot of force to unplug the JST. I discovered that for testing purposes, you don't have to plug it in until it clicks.

Blink works in the 'gen' configuration, When I plug the microUSB with the switch to 'gen', and the battery still attached to Gen" the charging light flickers rapidly and sporatically. When I unplug the battery jst, the charging light stops, and blink stops. I unplugged the microUSB in case I could cause damage by having the switch in the wrong position.

Flipped switch to USB, and plugged microusb in. Charging light flickered rapidly for a second, and stopped. Blink is working :)

Next thing I'm thinking about - try to send over a modified 'blink' to test that the arduino IDE is working correctly.

I'm using Ubuntu Mate 15.10 (an old, possibly unsupported version). Arduino IDE was already installed -- I will do another research note that walks through installing it fresh on Ubuntu (because it wasn't obvious).

Under 'tools' in the IDE, it detects /dev/ttyUSB0, without me installing any special drivers. so far so good.

When I flip the switch to USB, and when powered by microUSB

Meanwhile, I'm not using great protection from ESD electrostatic discharge.

Carpeted floors. Trying not to walk too much, and grounding myself on a metal lamp pole sometimes.

Wanted to verify that I could send sketches to the Riffle, so I wrote up my very first Arduino Sketch!!! I previously created a github so I could share it here:

There are easier ways to share code, for example, this (I used C++ syntax highlighting, for lack of an Arduino-specific highlight).

Well that's all I had time for this week! Please ask me anything, and I will get back to it as soon as I can (I will be leaving tonight on vacation, and coming back after Memorial Day 5/30)

Questions and next steps

*Include a 1 sided quick start guide for the Riffle (plug this in, then that, then open the documentation)

*Why does the documentation say to plug the battery in as "Gen" ?

Why I'm interested

I want to use the Riffle to measure water quality downstream of a local Municipal work yard (think road salt and other municipal stuff), to see what kind of conductivity data I get.

I want to make the Riffle documentation stellar (and also use it as a chance to showcase documentation/writing and editing ability!)


Unplanned addition - the picture attached shows the first version of my 'blink mod' timing, which was hard to distinquish from the default blink. The version in my github blinks twice rapidly, and pauses for a second.

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Thanks Patrick, this is good to see. I guess the documentation says to use General because Liz was documenting what worked for her. There are two JST sockets, two switch positions, and USB can be connected or not. Plus a battery can be in General, Lithium, or none (ignore "both" for now). That is 12 (3x2x2) possible combinations of power options. Users will need to know which are to be used for what functions and whether any combinations can break things. That is a big chunk of documentation.

A Quick Start Guide is a great idea. Then a separate Quick Start Guide to powering the Riffle. Then a Quick Start Guide to connecting your first sensor (that one might be 12 pages long).

The yellow LED at D1 you called the "charging light" I assumed was a "USB power" light. It flickers even when no battery is connected.

Sharing Arduino sketches is going to be an important element of this project. Each sensor will require its own sketch and every combination of sensors will require a new sketch. GitHub is not an option for mortals, but it would be great to have an annotated repository somewhere.


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I agree on the quickstart guide. we should work on a quick illustrated guide to the locations of the plugs and switches in that guide as well.

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