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Wednesday 27 February 2019

Electronic schematic editior reviews

All I wanted to do was draw a couple of simple circuit diagrams.
I quickly came across the following list:
I was surprised how many applications there were to help draw them.

Unfortunately, the first few I have tried were not quite right. They were not bad but I felt that they could do better. I was particularly looking for something that I could just pick-up and run with. If the interface was not obvious I moved on to the next.

I've written the following mini-reviews to remind myself of my thoughts. I've given them a rough rating. 1 out of 5 (x----) through to 5 out of 5 (xxxxx).

My favourite for ease of use creating traditional diagrams, so far, is an online app called SchemeIT closely followed by another online app called EasyEDA.
For features I would use the installed app called KiCAD.

However for mixed diagrams with component images I'm tending towards Inkscape. It's not a schematic drawing app but it allows more flexibility to get clear readable drawings.

I tried these on Windows 10.

Inkscape (xxxx-)
Inkscape is not an electrical schematic tool but it is a drawing program. There are libraries of electrical symbols available for it and plenty of downloadable symbols.
I found this more versatile but it does have a steeper learning curve than the dedicated apps.

KiCAD EDA (xxxx-)
Available on Linux, Mac and Windows.
This is a suite of products. The circuit and PCB editors felt solid, I didn't try any of the others.

It took a few minutes to get my head round the extensive menus and tool bars but it became fairly easy to use very quickly.
KiCAD has a very comprehensive component library and the ability to easily add to it.
I could not find a way to export to SVG, which was disappointing but it would copy a graphic to the clipboard for use in other applications.

TinyCAD (xx---)
I struggled to find how to group objects to make a single component. This may have something to do with using different terminology. I believe I should have looked at schematics or libraries but the very fact it was not obvious was why I moved on.
The sets of existing components did not include some of the basic elements I would have expected. For example, there were lots of specific connectors but I could not find a standard logical connector symbol.

QElectroTech (xxx--)
Nice enough to use and had some good logical symbols but only a small number of specific components.

I could not find out how to create a component. The instructions called them Elements and said they should be saved as xml but how to do that was not obvious.
I also managed to crash the app.

I was using Opera as my web browser while using most of the following but did check that a couple also worked with Chrome.

Circuit Diagram (xxx--)
I liked the idea of this one because it is an open source web based app.
I had some trouble selecting parts and I could not work out how to group them. I hit a bug or two. At one stage, all I could do was move the view, despite clicking the 'select' option.
Component search was frustrating and browse was in such a tiny window, it was useless.
Shame, it felt like a good idea. If I had more time I would have made some modifications to the code.

CircuitLab (xxx--)
This looked tidy and was easy to use but as it was designed to simulate circuit operation, rather than just draw the diagrams, I found it was a bit limited for my needs.

EasyEDA (xxxx-)
This is very easy to jump right in.
I found it easy to use. I did not go so far as to create a component using the Symbol Lib function but I was able to custom configure a simple IC like component very quickly.

This is probably worth spending a bit more time on.

SchemeIT (xxxx-)
This had lots of pre-built symbols and components and a fairly easy way to make custom components.
The important bits were that the component moved as one, I could easily add pins and I was able to label those pins.
I could not work out a way to save the component, despite what the instructions said, however, it worked within the drawing I was in.

Creating a diagram was obvious and easy.

The reviews are my own personal opinion based, in most cases, on very minimal use of the application.

Tuesday 19 February 2019

Belize holiday

We have spent just over a week in Belize and had an amazing time.

To get there we had an overnight stop in Miami then flew to Belize City.


We started in the jungle staying in a small holiday resort. It was nearly a 3 hour drive from Belize City International Airport. Our driver, Fermin, told us about the country, as we travelled.

The Lodge at Chaa Creek

According to one of the guides, The Lodge at Chaa Creek is one of the better resorts. It was a lovely place to stay and in a good location out of town but only a few minutes drive from the centre of San Ignacio.

Each room is a small cottage. There was a bar, restaurant and a pool.


This is a Mayan site which is a short drive, with a river crossing, away from San Ignacio.

The crossing was on a ferry. The raft was manually driven by a person winding a handle to pull on the cable.

Our excellent guide for the day was Fidelio. He knew about the history and the birds.
The ruins are stunning. Giant structures.

Howler Monkey

Xunantunich is pronounced something like Shoo-nan-toon-ich or Sheh-nan-ten-each.


Cahal Pech

We took an unplanned trip to Cahal Pech which is nearly in the centre of San Ignacio.

We were pleased we did. Although much smaller than Xunantunich, some of the architectural features are more intact.

The holiday was arranged by TrailFinders. I gave them a list of the sorts of things we would like doing and they put together an itinerary. Next on the list was horse riding through the jungle.

Mountain Equestrian Trails

Our driver and guide to get to the stables was a native Mayan called René. Living in a town not far from our destination for the day, Mountain Equestrian Trails (MET).

Our guide through the jungle on horse back was Rigo. He rode Lilly, Shelley rode Bamboo and I rode Santos. We gave Santos a nickname, Señor Snacky, due to how often he grabbed a bite to eat.

Lunch was at Big Rock Falls, where we could swim.

Rigo had a picnic lunch in his saddlebags complete with a table cloth.
We had a similar lunch for all of our day trips. These were simple fare with rice, refried beans, salad and chicken. Beer or a juice. All were very nice.

Caracol and surrounding areas

We were very impressed by all our guides and another great one for this day. His name was Noel.

On the way to Caracol we stopped at a giant cave, Rio Frio Cave.

Apparently a lot of tourists dislike the un-surfaced road that we travel on for about 2 hours. To us that is part of the charm.

Rio Frio Cave

This cave has to be seen to appreciate the scale.


Another jaw dropping Mayan site. This one still has archaeologists working nearby looking at the wider area.

On the way back from Caracol we stopped for a swim at a popular natural pool.

Rio On Pools

So popular, even the British forces use it as a bit of rest following jungle training. There must have been over 100 Royal Marine Commandos at the pools while we were there.

As a side note, we saw surprisingly few Land Rovers in Belize. A couple of British army owned and one, perhaps two privately owned. All of them were Defenders.

After our busy stay at Chaa Creek we were taken to the airfield by Fidelio's wife, Mary. Everyone in the tourist business knew each other. By this time we had learnt that her husband was Fidelio Junior, which was obviously a point of amusement for people who know him.  The drive to the airfield was less that 10 minutes down the unmade road from the hotel.

The internal flights were fun. We got a great view of the country in the 14 seater plane. This first one had two stops before our final destination. The whole trip lasting less than an hour.

First stop was at the capital city, Belmopan. The air strip there was a tarmac strip and the terminal was barely bigger than a shed. The airport building at San Ignacio was twice the size and that could only hold about 10 people comfortably. Clearly there were more tourists than politicians that flew.

The other stop was the International Airport at Belize City. Then a final 15 minute flight on to the island at San Pedro.

San Pedro

This was a complete change from where we had been. A very lively town perched on a peninsula called Ambergris Caye.

The roads are tiny and most people use golf carts to get about.

There are a few taxi drivers using small people carriers and they do the trips with multiple people or with luggage. We had the same driver, Walter, for three journeys. On one of those, he was stuck in traffic for our pick-up, so he sent his wife, in a golf cart, to collect us, to avoid us having to wait.

Las Terrazas

For most of the time in San Pedro we stayed on the beach. Just a few yards from our hotel room door in the Las Terrazas resort.

One evening we went on a sunset cruise. In, what we imagine, is Belize style. They filled a catamaran with some deck chairs and motored and sailed out in to the open to watch the sun go down. It was a fun trip with reggae playing and the crew entertaining us all.

Finally the trip ended but not before we took another 15 minute internal flight over the country back to the International Airport at Belize City followed by two international flights via Miami to London Heathrow.