New Soldering Iron

I've just bought one of these soldering irons.  I don't know why I didn't do it ages ago!  It's been useful since I've been taking things apart again, for example here is an infrared receiver that I've just removed from an old set-top box:

de-soldered IR receiver

The new iron made a nice job of it, I set the temperature to a reasonably high level and heated the pins at the back of the board whilst tugging the otherside with a pair of pliers.  Each pin came away very easily.  I've only had it for a day, but so far it has been fantastic.  Plus it's great to have an iron without a power cable, it's much less fiddly.

Windows 7 has arrived!

It's here!  Finally, Lenovo have sent my upgrade.  It installed without a hitch and I'm very pleased with my new OS.  They never did answer any of my recent e-mails chasing it up though.

Lenovo the third

OK, so I thought that I was finally making some progress with my "free" Windows 7 upgrade that comes with my new Lenovo PC.  It took a very long time for them to validate my purchase - they check to see that you really have bought a Lenovo PC that qualifies for the free upgrade.  I have no problem with that, but why did it take so long? In the end they validated my purchase 44 days after I registered for the upgrade.

So now they have actually taken my money, yes that’s right there is a £16 "shipping" charge.  Don’t get me started – it does not cost £16 to send out a piece of software.  Anyway, I have paid, they have taken the money off my card.  In fact, they took the money 12 days ago.  Their e-mail confirming the payment said: "A notification email with the shipping details will be sent to you when your order has been shipped".  Guess what?  Nothing.   So they have taken my £16 and not shipped anything.  So I thought that I would drop them a line via their Windows 7 Upgrade website.  So far all I have got is an automated response: "This is to acknowledge the receipt of your enquiry and you will hear from us within 10 business days".  Whoa! Two weeks to answer an e-mail?  What’s interesting is that before they took my money their responses said: "This is to acknowledge the receipt of your enquiry and you will hear from us within 1-3 business days".  Fascinating how they lose interest in you once they have taken your money, eh?

Running the ATmega168 like me you've gone and got an ATmega168 from somewhere like (which is where I get a lot of my stuff).  It probably cost you about £2.50. Obviously you'd like to get it to do something meaningful, so what do you need to do?  Take a look at this pinout for the processor:

Drop the processor into a breadboard, making sure that it straddles the middle row.  All we need to do is connect pins 1, 7 and 20 to a +5v DC supply and pins 8 and 22 to Ground.  That's all there is to it.  It's useful to note that the purpose of supplying power to pin 1 is to tell the microprocessor that it is not being reset.  Not supplying power to this pin will prevent any code from running, it will remain in reset mode.  We could use this pin like a reset button on a PC by adding a button and a resistor, but we won't worry about that right now.  I'm saying use a 5v supply because it's a nice easy voltage to find (for example, USB will supply 5v with 1A current, which is fine), but the processor should work with a supply between 2.7v and 5.5v (see the datasheet here if you're interested).  I often use a spare PC power supply, because they normally have a 5v output and are not expensive.


OK, so the processor may be running - but we've not put any code onto it yet.  So that's the next thing on our todo list.