Comments: SparkFun Troubleshooting Tips


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  • I'd add a few tips: First, always keep some sort of a multimeter handy. Even one of the cheap DMMs that you can occasionally get "free with any purchase" from Harbor Freight will do. You can use it to verify that input voltages are (at least approximately) correct, batteries aren't dead (I recently tracked a problem with a newly purchased >$250 piece of equipment down to the AA batteries included for the remote control were Dead On Arrival), broken wires, etc. It's amazing how much it helps to plug the "wall wart" into an outlet -- I've several times grabbed the DMM and found 0.00V on the 5V power line, and tracked it down to that issue, or that the switch on the power strip was in the "O-F-F" position. (I hate to think how many times I've done things like that in the past half century of working with electronics!)

    Also, if you're having problems with "demo code", check for some other "demo programs" (especially from other suppliers of similar devices). I recently was tinkering with an ESP-8266, and the supplier's demo code wouldn't work with my wireless router (it assumed a much faster WiFi response), but when I tried code from SparkFun's demo (which used a slightly different approach to connecting), it worked.

    Sometimes it helps to just turn everything off and leave it, and come back to it tomorrow -- you may think of something that you'd missed before.

    • Cool, thanks for the suggestion. Yeah, I was thinking about adding a "Suggested Tools" (multimeter, breadboard, monocle, wires, IC hooks, alligator test leads, soldering iron, hot air rework, power supply, batteries, capacitors, etc.) in the introduction. What kept me from adding the section was the large list of tools that we may use for troubleshooting and failure analysis. I think I'll go back and add a "minimum" suggested tools.

      The note about taking a break is good too. I have had a few projects where I was stuck. I was able to figure out the problem with a clear head. =)

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