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How to take great product pictures

Mobillyo rev2

Ok, so you want to do a Kickstarter campaign or sell your products on e-Bay, your own site or Etsy. Well you will need to take great pictures because today’s WEB lets people enlarge and look at every detail of your product.

What will you need to take great pictures?

First get a light room for small objects or for larger ones, four of white surfaces, two sides, a bottom and a back. You will also need 3 or 4 60 watts 5500Kelvin (5000k is acceptable) lamps to uniformly light-up your subject.

Next you will need a camera with at least 10M pixels, more is better. Your camera must have a manual mode because you will need to control both the aperture and focus manually. To keep your camera steady, a good quality tripod is a must. You can get away with a low cost one but the difference in price is not worth the savings.

Last but not the least is photo editing software. Photoshop is the gold standard but you can get a free equivalent called Gimp.

Lights Camera Action

In my case most pictures have no lighting or shadow effects so all sides of the product are equally illuminated. I put it in the light box and position the camera as close to directly overhead as possible. My camera has a 18-55mm lens, consult an expert at your local photo shop if you think you need a better lens. The aperture is important. f/22 gives you a good depth of field and all parts of the subject are in focus but a bit noisy while f/9 gives a sharper image with some part of the picture slightly out of focus. If I have a relatively flat subject, I will use f/11 for good sharpness and good clarity. If the object has a lot of depth then I will move the aperture towards f/22 one stop at a time until I get the best compromise between sharpness and clarity. On small objects the focus is difficult. My camera lets me see the subject on the LCD screen while enlarging it. I can then precisely manually adjust the focus. I always use delayed shutter (5sec) so nothing is touching the camera while it is actually taking the picture. Since the aperture is fixed, the camera will set the duration for the correct exposure and very often the time is in the 1/2 to 3sec range so the stability of the camera is extremely important.

Take a few pictures, looking at them each time while enlarging them and making slight adjustments to improve them. If you have a lot of different depths in your subject and you want a absolutely sharp image you can take several pictures at different focuses and combine them using software. I have never tried this myself.

The Editing Room

Take your pictures and upload them to your computer. Can you imagine what it was like when people used film?

Fire up you editing software and the first thing to do is crop your image to keep what you need and discard the rest. You can eliminate the background using the magic wand or erase it manually if you want an image floating on a transparent background. You can also enhance the image, adjust the colors and even touch-up blemishes. Fist save the image at the largest pixels setting then if you needs smaller versions, reduce the image and re-save. I usually save at 1200 and 600 pixels. JPG files have no transparent background, for transparencies, you need to save as PNG.

That is it. I hope this shot tutorial got you off to a good start. The last thing to do is read up about photography on various blog to find more tips and refine your technique.

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Getting Started with the Raspberry Pi

If you are like me your desk is already very cluttered and there is little room for a screen and keyboard for your new Raspberry PI. Follow these steps to configure it as a remote computer on your Mac.

Step 1 Getting Raspbian

Install a Torrent client on your computer, I used uTottent.

Download the latest Raspbian image from here: https://www.raspberrypi.org/downloads/raspbian/

Warning this can destroy your disk drive, backup your Mac before starting.

I got the following information here: https://raspberrypi.stackexchange.com/questions/4144/writing-img-file-to-sd-card-from-a-mac

Make double sure you are working with the correct disk. In my case it was disk3, it may be different on your machine.

Inser the SD card and format it using DiskUtil. You erase it with MS-DOS (FAT).

Open a terminal on your Mac and find the disk number.

diskutil list

/dev/disk3
#:                       TYPE NAME                    SIZE       IDENTIFIER
0:     FDisk_partition_scheme                        *8.0 GB     disk3
1:                 DOS_FAT_32 RPISDCARD               8.0 GB     disk3s1

Unmount it.

diskutil unmount /dev/disk3s1

Copy the image to the SD card. Warning double check what you typed before hitting return.

sudo dd if=RetroPieImage_ver2.3.img of=/dev/rdisk3 bs=1m

Get a coffey, this can take some time and there is no progress indication.

Step 2 Login to RPI and install remote access

With the SD card ready, connect the monitor, keyboard and mouse to the RPI, insert the card and power up the RPI.

The RPI will be slower than your Mac so be patient. The desktop will appear. You will be auto loged-in  with user name: pi  and password: raspberry

Open a terminal and change the password:

sudo passwd

old psw is raspberry  new psw:         ( Note you should take the habit of using 12 characters or more for your passwords and keep them in a safe place Hacking is becomming wide spread.)

Install xrdp as described below and in this link:  https://raspberrypi.stackexchange.com/questions/56413/error-problem-connecting-to-raspberry-pi-3-with-xrdp

sudo apt-get remove xrdp vnc4server tightvncserver
sudo apt-get install tightvncserver
sudo apt-get install xrdp

Type ifconfig  to find the IP address, you will need it later.

Step 3 Set up Microsoft Remote Desktop on your computer

Get Microsoft Remote desktop from the App Store and configure it.

Step 4 Clean up

You may want to disable the local RPI desktop to save resources, I found this great article explaining it clearly: http://ask.xmodulo.com/disable-desktop-gui-raspberry-pi.html

You should also enable ssh to the RPI from your computer just in case: http://raspberry pi ssh

Have fun with the Raspberry Pi.

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Kicad 2.4Ghz Antenna Design

In some of our designs we need a  2.4Ghz PCB antenna. We had to use a few tricks to get the design working in kicad, here is how we did it:

1- Select the design

After reviewing a few designs that I found on the web, I decided to use the Texas Instruments AN043 2.4Ghz antenna.

2- Create the component:

Simply open up the component editor and create an antenna with 2 pins, the signal pin and a ground pin that is configured as a bidirectional pin.

Here it is in the schematic.

3- Create the footprint

Open up the footprint editor, create all the antenna legs as multiple pin1 SMT padsand  place them so they are touching each other as shown in the application note. Since this is a RF design, the ground leg touches the signal leds. This will create error in the PCB layout when the footprint is used. The software sees the signal net touching the ground and will throw an error. To avoid this I incorporated a 0 ohm resistor footprint into the ground led design. As can be seen in the footprint editor picture, PAD 2 is seperate from the ground leg pad 1. Also there are 2 pad 1, the smaller is the second pad for the resistor.

The 2 resistor pads have 0 in the Solder mask clerance while the other antenna pads have -2 mm (-1mm also works) to fool the software into covering the antenna pads with the solder mask.

As you can see with a gerber viewer, the solder mask covers the antenna but not the component pads as intended.

Screenshot 2017-03-20 20.08.36

Here you can see what the layout looks like.

All our Kicad footprints and designs will be available after our Kickstarter campain is over.

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Programming the micro:bit

Solar Battery voltage read by the micro:bit

Just connect the P0 port to the Solar Battery Battery voltage monitor port with an aligator clip, connect the micro:bit to your PC and download this short program to read the voltage.

The conversion is  the reading multiplied by 2.4 multiplied by 3.19 and divided by 1024. See the equation below.

Have fun!

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The Solar Battery for the BBC micro:bit is here

We have just launched our beta version of the Solar Battery for the BBC micro:bit.

Why the  Battery ?

The first reason is to provide micro:bit users with an environmentally friendly rechargeable battery to replace those alkaline batteries supplied with the micro:bit.  In the long run this will save users money by eliminating hundreds of throw away single use batteries.

And Solar?

While  you are  teaching students about programming, why not teach them about solar energy.  With the addition of the solar panel, our simple rechargeable battery becomes a fantastic teaching aid to fill young minds with inspiring new ideas.  For underdeveloped countries with limited infrastructures, no power is required.

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About Arduino

arduino uno

The term refers to a physical computing platform that utilizes a micro-controller board and features a development environment for programming codes wiring or software that applies to the development board. This platform can engage with computers or operate as a standalone as well.

Various developments on Arduino have made it possible to interact with objects and inputs, which means that control of such physical outputs as motor and lights is possible using the platform. The programming language it uses entails the integration of ‘wiring,’ which is similar to Arduino but the difference is that it is based on the ‘processing’ multimedia programming environment. Codes for programming, in this case, work the same way C language programming works.

Some of the reasons why most individuals opt for Arduino are;

It is instrumental for both microcontroller beginners and experts as well because it offers a simplified programming environment.

It is reasonably priced.

It runs on several platforms including Linux (32bit and 64bit), Windows, and ‘Macintosh OSX’ operating systems.

Arduino has gained popularity the world over, and that is driven by its free integrated, developed environment (‘IDE’) and the open source nature it employs. In addition to that, modifications of boards are realized from time to time as a result of the creations of expert circuit designers, under the Creative Commons license.

The platform employs various functionalities including offering a connection from the computer to the microcontroller development board through ‘USB’ and writing, compiling, and uploading codes to the microcontroller by the ‘Arduino IDE’ (version 0018). Programming codes or software written using this ‘IDE’ are referred to as sketches in the text editor.

It employs a resourceful serial monitor that assumes the function of a Hyper terminal and inside this monitor, it I possible to identify the printing of outputs on the computer and debugging as well, which happens with ease. These factors have enhanced adoption of Arduino as it continues to gain more ground worldwide.