Review: Weller WLC100 Soldering Station

5 out of 5 stars

Weller WLC100 Soldering Station

I have started to take a renewed interest in electronics again lately and wanted to get a good soldering station to work with. I have a couple fixed wattage irons I use for my RC plane wiring but I wanted something adjustable with a variety of alternative tips available.

I ordered a Weller WLC100 and it is working pretty well for me so far. I also ordered some smaller conical and screwdriver tips that make it easier to solder smaller components and connections. One of the reasons I went with the Weller is because it is a relatively well know brand and I know I will be able to find tips for it.

There are more expensive solder stations that have digital controls and displays but I decided that an analog control was adequate. After using the station for a bit I am pretty happy with the analog control. The amount of heat transferred is so strongly dictated by the conduction of heat between the iron and the component/pad that I don’t know that such temperature precision makes much difference for most hobby uses. If you just tin the tip of your iron with a little bit of solder it will make significantly help with the transfer of heat from your iron to the component/pad you are soldering.

Weller WLC100 Soldering Station

The Weller iron is easy to grip with my fingers and doesn’t get too hot to handle at all. I built a Herbie the Mousebot Kit with it using a .062″ screw driver tip. It was nice to work with and did the job well. I would definitely pick up some smaller tips if you are going to be soldering smaller circuit boards. The screwdriver tip that comes with it is pretty nice but a small tip affords more precision.

I give the Weller WLC100 5 out of 5 stars. It is a good, relatively cheap soldering station with many tips available. Buy one and a couple tips to go with it:

Conical Tip, .031

Narrow SD Tip, .062

How to use the PHP cURL module to make HTTP requests from PHP

Some of my previous posts talked about making HTTP/web requests from PHP with a focus on the PECL_HTTP request module:

The last post mentioned above covered using the built-in file_get_contents() as an alternative if you are unable to install the HTTP PECL extension or need minimal HTTP functionality. This post will look at a third method of making HTTP requests from PHP, using the PHP Client URL Library AKA cURL library. The PHP cURL library essentially uses the cURL library from the cURL command line utility and makes the calls available via PHP functions.

Installing the PHP cURL library on Ubuntu requires just a couple simple steps:

  • PHP needs to compile in the cURL library but if you are using Ubuntu you can simply execute the following shell command instead of doing a custom PHP build:
    sudo apt-get install php5-curl
  • Restart Apache once the library has installed.
  • Call a page with the phpinfo() function and look for a “curl” section. It should be listed there if everything installed correctly:

    curlinfo1

Once the cURL library is added you can call the curl functions which are documented here. The following simple example makes a call to www.example.com. You will notice that I did not “echo” the return of curl_exec() to display it. This is because by default, the curl_exec() function displays the result and returns a true on success, false on failure.

<?php
 
$curl_handle = curl_init("http://www.example.com/");
curl_exec($curl_handle);
curl_close($curl_handle);
 
?>

If you want to assign the output to a variable so you can do something with it, you will need to set the CURLOPT_RETURNTRANSFER option:

<?php
 
$curl_handle = curl_init("http://www.example.com/");
curl_setopt($curl_handle, CURLOPT_RETURNTRANSFER, true);
$results = curl_exec($curl_handle);
curl_close($curl_handle);
echo $results;
 
?>

The PHP cURL library has a variety of options you can set using the curl_setopt() function. This includes setting GET and POST requests, setting fields for each, etc.

That is the five minute version of the PHP cURL library. Another quick way to make an HTTP request is to just make a system call to the “wget” command utility which is included on most *nix systems:

<?php
 
echo system("wget -O - http://www.example.com");
 
?>

This pretty cool but I think I prefer the other methods because they all run under the Apache process. That’s it for this post!