Helperdeck, DIY build-assist app
November 20, 2009 4:44 PM   Subscribe

Helperdeck, DIY build-assist app
Helperdeck is a small open-source application to help in building DIY electronics. It shows you a window with the circuit board you're soldering, plus windows for bags of components, schematics and build stages. Everything is correlated: You can click on the board and see what component fits where, and you can click in the bags to see where those components go on the board. The schematic is also correlated with the board. Building is much faster, easier and more fun with better information and less parts hunting. Should also be useful to teach kids or yourself about DIY electronics.

This is how the program looks right now.

Helperdeck is in beta testing now. (At the moment, build help datapack is only available for the 41Hz Amp15 hi-fi amplifier DIY kit.) It's free, open source, and an easy download. It should run on any OS.

To download and try, first you need to get Shoes, the toolkit I'm programming in. It's a simple, small download and install.
For Windows, download this:
For Intel macs, get this:
Other OSes are here:

Then for Helperdeck itself, here's the download link for the current revision, it's pretty small:

Unzip. Then open the Shoes, select "Open App ..." and open helperdeck.rb ...

Some windows will open up - the board, the bags, build-stage lists, and some extra windows. (It's a little cluttered on startup right now, and the Amp15 build help needs quite a bit of screen space.)

Try clicking on the component rectangles in the board windows - a component will light up in a bag window. It also goes vice versa: Click in a bag, and all board positions that take that part will light up. Also the build stage windows are pretty cool - In the current Amp15 datapack they show you what components make up some power regulator stages.

The Amp15 build-help pack is created directly from the 41Hz kit files (the BOM etc.). The data is in YAML, a very readable and editable format, and it's going to be easy to add almost any DIY electronics kit or project to Helperdeck.

The source code repository is here at GitHub. I'm slowly adding to it. Help would be welcome; Shoes is a form of Ruby. Suggestions, comments, criticism also welcome.
posted by krilli (2 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

I just rediscovered the design document :)
posted by krilli at 1:51 PM on November 22, 2009

I got some feedback on the project from the Shoes mailing list:
I downloaded and tried this on Windows XP. It opens up and works, but like you say it is a little cluttered so I wasn't really sure what to try.

* Shoes 2/Raisins, rev 1134, Opens and works perfectly - nice job on the highlighting and animation!
* Shoes 3/Policeman rev 1270, built with Ruby 1.9. Opens, highlighting half works: clicking on an item on board highlights, but doesn't highlight in bag, nor vice versa. No animation on highlights. Generates a lengthy error message that starts:

undefined method `clearSelections' for (Shoes::App @main_app=(Pro ||)...

... Is there anyway you could combine some of the windows? I.e, put the bags all in one window and the stages in one window.
This is the first feedback I get from a stranger in an open-source project that I have started. Feels pretty great, and it's good points all of it.

I've been doing everything except working on Helperdeck lately though - including using it to build amps.
posted by krilli at 3:24 AM on December 8, 2009

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