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5 Mar 2011

Arduino Uno @ Technology Review… [via]

As electronic devices got more complicated in the past few decades, it became increasingly difficult and expensive to tinker with hardware. The 1970s garage engineers who built their own computers gave way to geeks who programmed their own software. But now the rise of open-source hardware is paving the way for a return of build-it-yourself electronics. Creators can start with devices such as the Arduino, an inexpensive control board that’s easy to program and can hook up to a wide variety of hardware. People can create projects that range from blinking light shows to more sophisticated efforts such as robotics. The Arduino started with designers in Italy, who license the boards to manufacturers and distributors that sell official versions for less than $50. The Arduino designers freely share the specifications for anyone to use, however, and third-party manufacturers all over the world offer versions of their own, sometimes optimized for specific purposes.

Arduino Uno @ Technology Review – [Link]

5 Mar 2011

Jon Chandler at Digital DIY offers these Commandments for using PICs. They’re not just applicable to PICs, however — these tips hold true for most microcontrollers and are good to keep in mind. He writes: [via]

1. All VSS and VDD pins on the chip must be connected.

Multiple pins are not put there for your convenience. They must all be connected for the chip to work properly. In the picture below, the VDD pins 11 and 32 must be connected to V+ and VSS pins 12 and 31 connected to ground.
2. Bypass caps of 0.1 micro-farad are to be installed across VDD and VSS as close to the chip as possible.

Bypass caps must be used regardless of any other capacitors in the power supply circuit. These may appear insignificant compared to large filter capacitors or capacitors used for the voltage regulator, but they must be used.
3. /MCLR must be pulled to VDD with a 10k resistor or explicitly disabled in code as Graham has explained.

A floating /MCLR pin may lead to intermittent operation, if the chip operates at all.

[editors note: on a PIC, the /MCLR pin is used to clear flash memory for reprogramming. Failure to tie it high or disable it in software can result in PIC amnesia]
4. Ensure that multiplexed port pins are correctly set up.

Many port pins can have multiple functions depending on how the PIC is configured. When using these pins, ensure that the desired function is enabled. Most notable are pins with analog functions, which often default to the analog state. When planning to use these pins for digital functions, such as driving an LED or reading a switch, the digital function must be specified.
5. If using a development board, verify the purpose and connection of jumpers and accessories on the board, and understand the effect these may have on your circuit.

For example, if the development board has a pot connected to one of the analog inputs, your sensor input will be inaccurate or not seen at all. Digital inputs may never change if the pot is rotated all the way to one end.

6. The first programming step is a blinking LED program.

Trivial and silly, yes. It verifies that the power supply is working, the chip is running, and that the programmer can actually program the chip. If the LED flash rate is set to 1 second, it’s also easy to verify that the clock is operating at the right frequency.

Commandments for Using PICs – [Link]

5 Mar 2011

Really impressed by the turnout for the 555 Contest… something like 238 entries! The above videos show three of the submissions. [via]

Jeri and I are hard at work thinning the pack to pass on to our hack-master judges by next week. And don’t worry, even if you didn’t make the first cut, you’ll still be eligible for some of the door prizes from our wonderful sponsors. We’ll be announcing those judges soon.

In the meantime, I wanted to highlight only a few of the amazing projects we’ve already seen. Why should the aggregator sites get all the fun? We’ll be posting links to all of the entries in the coming days, once the entries have advanced to the next round. Check out 3 videos Jeri and I thought were particularly fun and inventive.

555 Contest Entries Already Wowing the Organizers – [Link]

4 Mar 2011

Victor from Roteno Labs has built this Earthquake Sounder based on the 555 Timer called the Terremoto as a submission to the 555 Timer Contest. [via]

The USGS maintains a server online that consolidates all the seismic data received from sensors all around the world. Terremoto uses an LPC Expresso board and an XPORT AR ethernet module to query the USGS server for a list of earthquake activity. When a new earthquake is received by Terremoto, tones are generated that correlate with the magnitude of the earthquake.

Terremoto – Earthquake Sounder based on the 555 Timer – [Link]

4 Mar 2011

Technobits presents notes on a developing student project designed to detect the anger level of an individual based on their pulse. [via]

Anger detector using PIC16F877 – [Link]

4 Mar 2011

Need a great excuse for a skipped meeting or late report? The developer of the Mars Clock has an advanced excuse generator that will get you out of a jam. A PIC 16F690 uses a library of business speak to produce random business-sounding excuses: [via]

“I had to bring the ROI estimates in sync with our new vertical synergy paradigm shift”,
or “I was facilitating our proactive procurement dynamics”,
or “My gerbil died”.

Emergency excuse generator for the office – [Link]

3 Mar 2011

This LPC2138 microcontroller-based application converts a standard television into a high-functioning oscilloscope. The digital storage oscilloscope has a sampling rate of 160,000 samples per second and generates high-resolution video at 512 × 240 pixels. Neither a video controller nor extra RAM are required. Five different voltages on the five analog inputs can be monitored simultaneously. [via]

ARM TV-Based Oscilloscope – [Link]

3 Mar 2011

Researchers have finally transferred experimental fuel cells from the lab to handheld recharging stations that can replenish batteries in regions where electricity is scarce—from campsites to third-world outback. Look for fuel cell rechargers to become standard backpack equipment by 2012. [via]

Fuel Cell Rechargers Finally Here – [Link]

3 Mar 2011

Already known for its high-precision micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) accelerometers, gyroscopes and complete inertial navigation units (IMUs), Analog Devices Inc. (ADI) has upped the ante for high-precision with its invention of quad-differential iMEMS gyros, which combine four separate sensing elements to cancel out the effects of vibration, noise and other environmental stimuli. Look for ultra-precise MEMS sensors to revolutionize automotive crash prevention over the next five years. [via]

ADI ups ante in high-precision gyroscopes – [Link]

3 Mar 2011

This project creates a very tiny FM transmitter with only 17 electrical parts and then shows you how to stick it into a slightly modified mint box to create the ultimate FM Bug. The transmission range is up to 100 feet indoors and even more outdoors.

FM Bug Transmitter Mint Box – [Link]





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