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Ask Slashdot: Good Books and Tools For a Software/Hardware Hobbyist?

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the all-of-the-books dept.

Education 85

postermmxvicom writes "I have a friend who is a mechanic, but enjoys tinkering with software and hardware as a hobby. I want to get him a gift that will either broaden his horizons or deepen his understanding in these fields. He is proficient at soldering components and removing them from circuit boards. His programming experience is with a wide variety of scripting languages. He recently used teensy and arduino boards and an accelerometer to add some bells and whistles to a toy car he made. He also used his knowledge to help a friend find and correct weaknesses in his shareware (that would have let 'customers' share more freely than intended). He is fascinated that people can create chips to modify existing hardware. Do you know of any good books or kits (or even tools of the trade) that would appeal to a hobbyist and allow him to grow? Is there anything that might also play off of his handyman/mechanic abilities?"

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85 comments

Got it!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40832549)

Did this guy use to work for ModChip.ca?...I'd say give him a bunch of Xbox's and chips and to get cracking...there is loads of money to be made on modded systems.

MSP430 state machines (3, Interesting)

bugs2squash (1132591) | about a year and a half ago | (#40832557)

I really liked MSP430 state machine programming by Tom Baugh. I learned a lot about state machines, and they are basic to many applications.

Re:MSP430 state machines (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40833945)

I liked this one. It has withstood the test of time on my shelf...

http://www.amazon.com/Debugging-Indispensable-Software-Hardware-Problems/dp/0814471684

Most are api specific and those change every 6 months these days...

No (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40832591)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betteridge's_Law_of_Headlines

Re:No (2)

Anubis IV (1279820) | about a year and a half ago | (#40833021)

His law states that headlines ending in question marks can be answered "no", but, based on his statements and the obvious intent of what he meant, it would have been better stated as saying that a headline ending in a question mark is almost always properly answered as "no". The idea there is that if a journalist doesn't trust their sources and information enough to make an assertive headline, then the article is almost assuredly a sensationalist piece that has little basis in reality, and is thus best dealt with by simply answering in the negative and moving on.

In this case, the question mark is not being used to weaken the assertion of the headline, but rather to ask an honest question. So while it can indeed be answered "no", just as virtually any other question, it is properly answered with a list of recommendations.

Also, this meme of merely citing Betteridge's Law and saying "No" is trite and boring. At least the other memes around here (e.g. insensitive clod, Beowulf cluster, how many Libraries of Congress, etc.) are funny when applied correctly.

Might be too simple but... (3, Interesting)

Ashenkase (2008188) | about a year and a half ago | (#40832621)

http://mindstorms.lego.com/en-us/Default.aspx [lego.com] Could be a good mix of the two?

Re:Might be too simple but... (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about a year and a half ago | (#40834169)

So, yeah, telling a nanny state to fuck off is high on my list of priorities.

This is especially good for someone who has shown interest in hardware/software hacking but is just getting started.

I gave a mindstorm set to a nephew and it's easily the biggest home run I've ever hit with a gift since I bought my wife an engagement ring more than 20 years ago.

This kid didn't really have any experience with hardware/software programming and every time I go over to my sister's house and see what he's gotten up to with mindstorm I'm blown away.

Tools Make things (5, Insightful)

DeTech (2589785) | about a year and a half ago | (#40832655)

As an engineer and tinkerer I have to throwin a plug for increasing his capabilities. If he has a multimeter, get him a scope. If he has a dremel tool, get him a mini mill (shapeoko), etc.

Re:Tools Make things (1)

Gort's Cranium (1129421) | about a year and a half ago | (#40844963)

Yeah, go back in time and pre-order one of those shapeokos before they close the pre-ordering.

Re:Tools Make things (1)

DeTech (2589785) | about a year and a half ago | (#40846057)

Sorry, there's another production run coming...soon...

But I'm sure you can find something else to complain about though.

"I have a friend who..." (5, Funny)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | about a year and a half ago | (#40832659)

>> "I have a friend who..."

C'mon, man up and admit that YOU have a question. (This is Slashdot, not Penthouse.)

Re:"I have a friend who..." (1)

Bodhammer (559311) | about a year and a half ago | (#40832741)

"I'm a sophomore at a small mid western college and I never thought I would be writing about the most mind-blowing se....."

Re:"I have a friend who..." (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40832957)

quence of commands. Did you know that with recursion you can compress a huge about of code into the tightest of spaces? It all started when I found an article "Tower of Hanoi"...

Re:"I have a friend who..." (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40833639)

provided by the local GNAA chapter. I originally sought them out because my butt...

Re:"I have a friend who..." (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40834405)

...was infected because I like to have anonymous gay coward sex with trolls who come to me while I am...

Re:"I have a friend who..." (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40842429)

naked.

Re:"I have a friend who..." (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40835659)

quence of commands. Did you know that with recursion you can compress a huge about of code into the tightest of spaces? It all started when I found an article "Tower of Hanoi"...

Careful. You don't want to blow your stack...

Re:"I have a friend who..." (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40850223)

> Careful. You don't want to blow your stack...

But I do want to push and pop indefinitely!

Re:"I have a friend who..." (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40839827)

I always thought your stories were made up until one day my big black doberman,...

obvious choice here (1, Redundant)

hackula (2596247) | about a year and a half ago | (#40832687)

Arduino for sure... or Netduino if he swings that way.

Re:obvious choice here (1)

DeTech (2589785) | about a year and a half ago | (#40832723)

Arduino for sure... or Netduino if he swings that way.

He recently used teensy and arduino boards and an accelerometer to add some bells and whistles to a toy car he made.

RTFQ

Re:obvious choice here (1)

Annirak (181684) | about a year and a half ago | (#40834733)

I know everyone loves Arduino, but I don't get it. If you think you can explain it to me, first read specs of Raspberry Pi [raspberrypi.org]($35 and runs Linux, has Ethernet, USB, etc.) and STM32F4DISCOVERY [st.com] ($15, 210 DMIPS, FPU, 1MB of flash, 192kB of SRAM, has USB host/device/otg, onboard 3-axis accelerometer, mic, stereo DAC with speaker driver, JTAG debugger also built in).

With those two on the market, I don't see what Arduino is for...

Re:obvious choice here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40834783)

Arduino is exactly like Lego for people with ADD. It is an expensive toy that relies on specially build "shields" to expand what it can do. It is not an economical for something that you build except in temporary one off basis.

Easy answer (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40835117)

Arduino is designed to be used by artists. The tutorials are amazing. So, anyone who wants to create something can just string together several tutorials and have a truly awesome project.

The other thing is that the Arduino is extensible. When you get tired of Arduino's programming language, you can write in C or assembler. If you want to create an inexpensive stand-alone project, the Arduino board becomes, effectively, a chip burner.

The first year electronics students, at the college where I teach, use the Arduino because they can do projects without prior knowledge of electronics or programming.

That's why Arduino. It isn't the, admittedly, simple and limited hardware. It's the tutorials.

Re:obvious choice here (1)

nullchar (446050) | about a year and a half ago | (#40835711)

The Raspberry Pi barely came out! Granted, you can now do stuff just like arduino [liminastudio.com]. However, there are caveats:

Important Note: The RPi Wiki takes pains to remind you that these GPIO pins are unbuffered and unprotected, so if you short something out, you could fry your whole Pi, so be careful! There are a number of other breakout boards being developed that should make this safer.

Like an AC posted earlier, the barrier to entry is significantly lower for Arduino simply due to the easy step-by-step tutorials available. In a year or two, I'm sure there will be many great tutorials for the Raspberry Pi and friends.

Re:obvious choice here (1)

backwardMechanic (959818) | about a year and a half ago | (#40840041)

What the Arduino crowd have done fantastically well is get a load of people who wouldn't normally mess with a microcontroller to do just that. The community is the strength. There are hundreds (thousands?) of microcontroller demo boards out there, but without the support network they're hard work to use. Not impossible, but development is slower, and restricted to users with more time/enthusiasm. As someone with no previous microcontroller experience you could buy an Arduino kit, unwrap it in the morning, and have something running before dinner. That's pretty incredible.

MAKE (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40832691)

subscribe him to MAKE magazine.

Web Browser... (3, Insightful)

swanzilla (1458281) | about a year and a half ago | (#40832697)

...and a nudge in the direction of Sparkfun, Adafruit, Hack-a-Day, et. al. This particular community is vast and welcoming for the most part. Example code, parts lists, and detailed write-ups are all over the place.

Re:Web Browser... (3, Interesting)

Tim the Gecko (745081) | about a year and a half ago | (#40832873)

I totally agree. The adafruit [adafruit.com] site is a very good place to get ideas, and there are some great Adafruit videos on YouTube.

PS: "Getting Started with Arduino", by Massimo Banzi is very good for people with less experience, though this doesn't apply to the poster's friend.

Bus Pirate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40832787)

Available from Spark Fun at: https://www.sparkfun.com/products/9544

That is all.

"The Pragmatic Programmer" - Hunt and Thomas (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40832801)

The book provides a lot of best programming practices. It's easy to read and the authors will tell you when it's "six of one, half-dozen of the other". If your friend wants to learn how to become a good programmer, this is an excellent book.

Try These (2)

Bodhammer (559311) | about a year and a half ago | (#40832823)

Raspberry Pi anyone? (1)

kjc197 (235890) | about a year and a half ago | (#40832825)

It's been several days since the last Raspberry Pi comment, so perhaps it's time to dig it up again.

Am excellent board for the casual hardware/software tinkerer, and there is a book out soon, and vibrant community.

Re:Raspberry Pi anyone? (1)

hamster_nz (656572) | about a year and a half ago | (#40834605)

If only their USB stack was robust enough that I could play MP3s without it locking up when I change volume with "amixer"...

(But I have yet to try the latest Raspbian, so it might be fixed now...).

AoE and ARRL handbook (4, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#40832849)

I want to get him a gift that will either broaden his horizons or deepen his understanding in these fields.

If he's a reader: the ARRL handbook, the Art of Electronics, if radio shack still sells the Forrest Mims books get those...

If he just wants to mess with ckts you could do worse than the 200 in 1 lab kits etc. "Snap circuits" are a bit expensive but a lot of fun.

His programming experience is with a wide variety of scripting languages.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Programming_paradigm [wikipedia.org]

The little schemer book/series as appropriate

I've found over a couple decades that no one really knows what to get me, but me. Maybe your best bet is wake him up early on saturday, feed him lots of pancakes, stuff $200 in his wallet, drive him to the ham fest flea market in your area, and see what he finds for himself?

Re:AoE and ARRL handbook (1)

lophophore (4087) | about a year and a half ago | (#40833499)

+1 for both books.

The Art of Electronics is an approachable introduction to electronics, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. It's expensive, but IMHO worth it.

The ARRL Handbook has a soup-to-nuts electronics education in it, and the added bonus of a lot of other practical information and projects. This book has the added bonus of possibly inspiring your friend to become a radio amateur, where you get to tinker with all kinds of interesting stuff. I know a couple mechanics who greatly enjoy their amateur radio hobby.

Re:AoE and ARRL handbook (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40841091)

Maybe your best bet is wake him up early on saturday, feed him lots of pancakes, stuff $200 in his wallet, drive him to the ham fest flea market in your area, and see what he finds for himself?

Wow, I would like to be your friend!

Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA LX9 MicroBoard (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40832891)

>He is fascinated that people can create chips to modify existing hardware.

Hook him up with some digital logic and HDL tutorials and get him a Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA LX9 MicroBoard [avnet.com]. It's a basic FPGA dev board the size of a USB stick and (relatively) inexpensive.

There are also USB stick microcontroller dev kits like the TI ez430 [ti.com] that he'd also probably have fun with as well.

A book on system software (1)

mekkab (133181) | about a year and a half ago | (#40832931)

loaders, linkers, libraries, supervisory mode... a basic 200-level CS book might give him plently of high-level fundamentals once he descends into the world of device-specific drivers.

budget? (1)

i.r.id10t (595143) | about a year and a half ago | (#40832933)

What kind of budget do you have for this gift?

A Safari subscription could be good... but then, your local library system may already offer access to this (mine does)

Amateur radio (2)

StatureOfLiberty (1333335) | about a year and a half ago | (#40832937)

As far as ways to exercise his interests: Amateur radio is a great hobby for tinkerers. There are plenty of opportunities for exercising his soldering or other electronics related skills. Many aspects of the hobby are extremely computer friendly (Digital signal processing, APRS + many others). If he is in to model cars, rockets ..., a ham license gives you additional options for handling telemetry.

Re:Amateur radio (4, Insightful)

toygeek (473120) | about a year and a half ago | (#40833275)

Amateur radio is good, IF he is someone who is really social. I'm not, and I found it quite boring after a while. I think people forget that aspect of it. The whole idea of ham radio is to talk to other people, and quite frankly, I don't WANT to talk to other people for a hobby. I want to build things, modify things, break and fix things, etc. I do think that there are many aspects of the hobby that ARE enjoyable, but unless I NEED to communicate with *other amateur radio operators* then its useless to me.

Re:Amateur radio (2)

StatureOfLiberty (1333335) | about a year and a half ago | (#40834375)

Re: "The whole idea of ham radio is to talk to other people"

Amateur radio does not at all have to be about communicating with other hams.

For example:
We use the amateur radio APRS technology to track weather balloons that we send up to 100,000 feet or so. I integrated all of the electronics and fabricated the balloon communications payload. I built all of my antennas. A friend projected the flight path and tracked the balloon in flight. We have flown 6 or so flights. It is a blast.

Transmitting APRS data on ham frequencies requires a ham license. But, through all of this, we never had to converse with another ham (although, they could see our data on the APRS system).

This is just one example. There are many more (For example: developing digital signal processing algorithms for analyzing signals). This is one of the things that attracts me to the hobby. There are social aspects if that is what you like. But there are also opportunities to go out on your own and scratch that geeky itch.

Re:Amateur radio (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40835865)

Mang, you just missed the four-thirds /. UID! For a true geek such as yourself, that's a travesty.

Re:Amateur radio (1)

LodCrappo (705968) | about a year and a half ago | (#40834633)

There is certainly the "talk to people" aspect in many facets of amateur radio, but there is plenty of other interesting stuff going on too.
Like you, I am not very interested in the social side of things, but still I find a lot to do with my license, for instance http://hsmm-mesh.org/ [hsmm-mesh.org]

One thing I had to learn after being in the hobby for a while is that you really have to specialize if you want to get technical. The social crew mostly floats from whatever technology is popular to the next but never really understand it beyond "how do I talk". The technical guys are less likely to appear in public, but they enjoy actually making it work and many rarely even get on the air, thats not where their interest lies and thats ok.

Re:Amateur radio (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40837471)

I totally agree. I got my Tech licence years ago, bought some nice gear, yakked with people all over the country, got bored after awhile and have not touched the gear in years.
The Ham gear is almost too good. It was very nicely made, but didn't allow me to take it apart to tinker with it. The antennas were a bit more interesting, as I could modify them quite a bit. Computers and programming and arduinos are lots more interesting, at least I can tinker with them. Bobby B, Houston Texas.

Robotics (2)

donaggie03 (769758) | about a year and a half ago | (#40833127)

Makes me immediately think of robotics. With that in mind, I'd suggest books like JunkBots, Bugbots, and Bots on Wheels: Building Simple Robots With BEAM Technology or Robot Builder's Bonanza. Maybe not these exact books, because they might be a little dated, but anything in that vein. You can also look at microcontroller programming (PIC, Arduino, ..), which allows you to do all sorts of things with feedback systems and motor control, etc. Of course there's the good ol' fallback too: Lego Mindstorms.

Re:Robotics (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40833647)

Do you have a suggestion for pic programming? Something more fundamental than ardoino? I want to be able to program and design with the $3/chip pics

Help him understand computers from the ground up! (2)

Flatwater (2169620) | about a year and a half ago | (#40833179)

The Elements of Computing Systems [idc.ac.il] is a great book if he really wants to get a grasp of computers from the level of logic gates on up.

Working through the exercises in each chapter, you use HDL to design your own logic gates, build them into more advanced circuits (DFF, adder, ALU, etc.), and then a full-fledged Von Neumann computer.

After that, you move into software mode, starting with machine language, then assembly, and finally a high-level Java-like language. Along the way your write your own symbolic assembler and compiler!

It's really unique - kind of like Petzold's Code [charlespetzold.com], except you really create the stuff you're learning about.

Make Magazine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40833199)

How about a subscription to Make Magazine? That way he can discover projects he is interested in pursuing. They have a lot of Arduino projects.

Books obsolete (1)

jgotts (2785) | about a year and a half ago | (#40833201)

The programming shop where I work has no books at all. We use Google. At my three previous shops, we had plenty of books but I rarely cracked one.

The best way to learn programming is by doing and to have Google at your disposal when you have questions.

Re:Books obsolete (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40833729)

Google is good for programming, because Google takes you directly to the "books". The manuals for usage and syntax are all online, but they're still manuals. Higher level concepts such as design patterns are also fairly well illustrated.

For hardware, Google pretty much sucks. There, you want articles on basic theory that's not math-shy, which are few and far between. Some sites touch on a little theory (wikipedia) and some sites "helpfully" provide calculators that hide all the math, but most of the time, you're not going to find what you want. A single, ordered book is better than an hour of searching. In general, if you can formulate the question well enough to construct an efficient query, you probably know more than will be found in most of the results of that query.

Hobbyist tools (3, Informative)

Annirak (181684) | about a year and a half ago | (#40833211)

Bus Pirate [dangerousprototypes.com]: good for looking at communication waveforms to debug problems. ($35)

Logic Sniffer [dangerousprototypes.com]: For more complex problems than the above, allows looking at parallel signals.($50)

Raspberry Pi [raspberrypi.org]: Tiny ARM11 700MHz CPU with powerful graphics, 10/100 ethernet, USB2.0 host (2 ports), HDMI out, and GPIO connector. Boots from SD card. ($35)

MSP430 Launchpad [ti.com]: inexpensive microcontroller development platform ($4.30)

STM32F4Discovery [st.com]: Development platform for powerful microcontroller. ARM Cortex M4 with FPU, 168MHz (210DMIPS), Ethernet MAC, 2xUSB host/device/OTG, etc. etc. Board has stereo audio DAC with speaker driver, USB Micro-AB connector, 3-axis accelerometer, digital mic, 4 user LEDs, two pushbuttons (one is reset), and onboard debugger which is supported by open source tools. ($15) <--- take that, arduino

Re:Hobbyist tools (1)

drstevep (2498222) | about a year and a half ago | (#40833861)

Curious about the SDM32F4 Discovery -- Can you point out a reference to a good open source tool chain, as well as a supplier for the base board? The st.com web site won't let me order one, other places are out of stock...

Re:Hobbyist tools (1)

Annirak (181684) | about a year and a half ago | (#40834599)

If you're working on Linux, then just download gcc-arm-linux-gnueabi with your package manager, or build from source. If you're working on Windows, it's a little more complex; I have used OpenOCD [slashdot.org].

You can order the STM32F4Discovery from Digikey, Mouser, Arrow, Avnet, Element14, Newark, etc. They're pretty widely available.

Olimex has some good references in the software section of their USB JTAG page [olimex.com].

Get Thee to a Hackerspace (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40833225)

If you're lucky and have one nearby, go ask your local hackerspace [hackerspaces.org] for ideas or better yet, just take him there.

FPGA learners board, amateur radio (2)

LodCrappo (705968) | about a year and a half ago | (#40833299)

consider an inexpensive FPGA board like the Altera DE1. There are nearly unlimited things you can build based off such a kit, whether you decide to look at it from the viewpoint of hardware, software or both. http://www.altera.com/education/univ/materials/boards/de1/unv-de1-board.html [altera.com]
(there are several other low cost FPGA boards, I just happen to use the DE1. It's quite adequate for a great many things, but there may be even better options out there by now)

Also, consider amateur radio. If you have an active local club, it will server as a gateway into a whole realm of interesting things (many only tangentially related to radio) and an introduction to the people who are doing them locally.

3D printer (1)

Billy the Mountain (225541) | about a year and a half ago | (#40833373)

A Makerbot kit might be nice for printing things in PLA plastic. Check out the Rostock printer. It's faster than the Makerbot and has higher resolution.

Maybe Parallax? (1)

MyFirstNameIsPaul (1552283) | about a year and a half ago | (#40833529)

A friend of mine has a small company that sells development boards and kits for the Parallax Propeller platform. I'm not that into the hobbyist prototyping stuff, but he's told me a million times that what makes Parallax better than other options is the fact that you don't have to learn a computer language to use it.

If your friend is a mechanic, he may enjoy a kit that my friend just designed call The Car Kracker [gadgetgangster.com]. Although that kit is specifically designed for BMW models, my friend made the kit himself and I think if someone took the time to understand how to install it on that car, then they could figure out how to make a kit for other cars, and even offer the redesigned kit back to my friend as a designer and make a commission on any sales generated.

Well if he's into automotive.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40833867)

He might want to consider a board that can adapt to lots of different processors/sensors, like BoardX - http://www.upgradeindustries.com- and look into learning CAN Bus

Tools! (3, Informative)

AtomicDevice (926814) | about a year and a half ago | (#40833909)

I vote tools.
1) Really nice electronics-oriented multimeter. I'm sure he has one already, but it might be cheap/lacking in function/etc
2) O-scope. Super handy and fun too. Old analog ones can be had for cheap. Check craigslist and ebay.
3) Logic analyzer/Bus Pirate. I realize these are two pretty different things, but they fill a similar place in the "debugging digital stuff" category.

Other than tools, I think some kind of audio kit/project would be cool. IMO nothing helps you learn more about how electronics really work than analog audio, synthesizers, amps, etc. It really helps connect the concepts of how voltage/current/power/etc are connected since it all ends up in a very tangible (audible) medium.

Plus: Boom Boxes are sweet. It's a scientific fact.

FPGA Kits (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40833963)

http://www.xilinx.com/products/boards-and-kits/index.htm

Only if he wants to get deep into the bowels...

leave him be... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40834685)

Leave him with mechanics I'd say. It's a lot better for the soul than software. And more useful in the very long term.

Arduino (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40835405)

Funny you should mention this topic because I've just gotten interested in this, too (since software is a dry career now).
I'd recommend Arduino since it's dirt cheap to build components. Both the hardware and software is open source and there are a lot of docs and user groups dedicated to Arduino development. For more info go to www.arduino.cc.
Also, a good book (spendy, but worth it) is "Arduino Cook Book" by Michael Margolis.

Place to use them! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40835597)

Nice big shop with room to set up a lab and library. I suggest one of the many available closed auto dealerships. We had a nice one here that last housed a millwork shop. 440v 3-phase, plenty of room, steel beam construction. Could, obviously, do double duty as a mechanic or machine shop. They tore it down to put up another retail bank building, though. So much for historic preservation, eh?

creeped out (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40835697)

Am I the only one creeped out with the level of thought you put behind this "friend".

Sounds like you like him if you know what I mean.....

Just open up to him and ask him if he wants to cuddle and talk technology to you while your eyes glaze over......

Captcha: Dismount

Car Computer Access is Fun (1)

PenGun (794213) | about a year and a half ago | (#40836431)

Get him the appropriate hardware and software for the PCM in his car. I will soon be getting a Quarterhorse for my 93 Lincoln Mark VIII:

http://www.moates.net/quarterhorse-for-fords.html [moates.net]

  With one of the software editors, Binary Editor:

http://www.moates.net/binary-editor-2010-for-fords-from-clint-garrity.html [moates.net]

  And or perhaps EEC Editor:

http://www.moates.net/eec-editor-software-from-paul-booth.html [moates.net]

  You need an unlocked strategy and bin file for your car and with that in place you can control and tune your car to the moon. Dtat logging in real time for real events is a very powerful tuning tool.

  My EEC-IV is actually an Intel 8061 and you can get even further into that with a disassembler etc.

  Lots of fun tuning with modern cars. I will have switchable tunes when I'm done. One for mileage and one for power, for starters.

Good Books and Tools (1)

n2cqr (2698213) | about a year and a half ago | (#40839829)

I'm biased, but I think your friend would like "SolderSmoke -- Global Adventures in Wireless Electronics" http://soldersmoke.com/book.htm [soldersmoke.com] SolderSmoke is the story of a secret, after-hours life in electronics. Bill Meara started out as a normal kid, from a normal American town. But around the age of 12 he got interested in electronics, and he has never been the same. To make matters worse, when he got older he became a diplomat. His work has taken him to Panama, Honduras, El Salvador, the Spanish Basque Country, the Dominican Republic, the Azores islands of Portugal, London, and, most recently, Rome. In almost all of these places his addiction to electronics caused him to seek out like-minded radio fiends, to stay up late into the night working on strange projects, and to build embarrassingly large antennas above innocent foreign neighborhoods. SolderSmoke takes you into the basement workshops and electronics parts stores of these exotic foreign places, and lets you experience the life of an expatriate geek. If you are looking for restaurant or hotel recommendations, look elsewhere. But if you need to know where to get an RF choke re-wound in Santo Domingo, SolderSmoke is the book for you. SolderSmoke is no ordinary memoir. It is a technical memoir. Each chapter contains descriptions of Bill’s struggles to understand (really understand) radio-electronic theory. Why does P=IE? Do holes really flow through transistors? What is a radio wave? How does a frequency mixer produce sum and difference frequencies? If these are the kinds of questions that keep you up at night, this book is for you.

Need age and profile of this person (1)

beachdog (690633) | about a year and a half ago | (#40839949)

The posted question doesn't provide enough information about the age or background of the person for whom we are making suggestions.

It seems the presumption is the person for whom we are making suggestions is a child or youth between 9 and 16 years old. The person has disassembled, repaired, and programmed a moderate number of gadgets.

The suggestions being offered are really good suggestions from a number of Slashdot readers who have experience as each poster suggests.

As an amateur radio arduino electronics hobbyist "fix anything" mechanic for way more than 20 years I would add, a good part of this hobbyist activity is about dreams and self-education. Figure out ways to expose the person to the larger world of works and ideas while the person is young enough to slip in and be a spectator or helper or bystander without attracting too much attention.

If the person is a young person consider finding ways to give him a chance to be around an artist or a scientist or an engineer or a graduate student or a farmer or a composer or a musician. Got theatre or opera? Let him be an assistant stage hand during a rehearsal.

  From the wider worlds of interesting things to do as an adult during the current great American bobsled ride into ecological disaster he or she will get plenty of interesting ideas for gadgets to build and things to learn.

Books? (1)

RecycledElectrons (695206) | about a year and a half ago | (#40840597)

Books are the wrong way to go.

Try groups that get togeather. (Ham radio groups mentioned on ARRL.org are a good place to start - everyone's an hobbyist engineer.)

Try web sites, like AvrFreaks.net. Try discussion formus on web sites.

Hacker Space (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#40842533)

Maybe get him a membership to a local hacker space?
http://hackerspaces.org/wiki/List_of_Hacker_Spaces

Upgrading and Repairing PC's (1)

grumble_grumble (713438) | about a year and a half ago | (#40850239)

If anyone is still reading this thread, I'd recommend whatever the latest version of "Upgrading and Repairing PC's" by Scott Mueller is out now. Great detail on the inner workings of PC components and fairly approachable.

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