4Duino – An Introduction and a Weather API Demo

We covered 4Duino in one of our previous blog posts. 4Duino is a 2.4” Arduino based programmable display module. In our article today, we are presenting a hands-on experience with this product by building a simple project. Many thanks to 4D Systems for sending us a sample and giving us a chance to try this new product.

4Duino – An Introduction and a Weather API Demo – [Link]

Tinusaur, $3 ATtiny85 Microcontroller Board And Assembly Kit

Tinusaur is an Atmel ATtiny85 microcontroller board that comes in parts, as a kit, so you can solder it yourself and then program it. This small microcontroller board can run Arduino and its goal is to have a simple, cheap and quick-start platform for everyone interested in learning and creating things.

Tinusaur comes as an assembly kit, in parts, all in a small plastic bag, so you have to solder it yourself. In order to program this microcontroller board you will need a programmer like AVR ISP programmer, you can also use an Arduino to program the ATtiny microcontroller.

These are the components of Tinusaur standard kit:

  • PCB: Tinusaur PCB
  • MCU, Attiny85: Atmel AVR ATtiny85 microcontroller
  • Socket, DIP-8: DIP-8 socket for MCU
  • H1, Header: Header 2×4, Female
  • H2, Header: Header 2×5, Female
  • ISP, Header: Header 2×5, Male, for ISP
  • RESET, Button: Tactile push button, for RESET
  • Power, Header: Header 1×2, Male, for external power
  • Battery, Header: Header 1×2, Male, for battery power on/off
  • Battery, Jumper: Jumper, 2-pin, for battery power on/off
  • C1, Capacitor: Capacitor 100uF, Low profile 5×5 mm
  • C2, Capacitor: Capacitor 100nF, Small
  • R1, Resistor: Resistor 10K, Small, 1/8W
  • Battery holder: Battery holder for CR2032
  • Battery 3V: Battery 3V, CR2032

There is also the Tinusaur Starter – another kit that has everything included in the Tinusaur Board plus a USBasp programmer, plus few other useful things.

Tinusaur was launched 3 years ago and it is now used  in schools and universities to educate young people in both hardware and software. The team behind Tinusaur had launched an Indiegogo campaign to produce more of Tinusaur boards and bring the cost down to $3 per basic board and allow more people to be able to get them. A recent crowdfunding campaign was held by the team, it didn’t meet its goal plus it had the price multiplied by 3!

With just $3 you can get now the Lite edition of Tinusaur, the same components as the standard kit excluding the battery and its holder. You can get the Standard one for $4 and the Starter one for $6.

This Tinusaur is open source, both the hardware and the software, and you can check out the source files right here https://bitbucket.org/tinusaur. 3 days are left to end this crowdfunding campaign, so if you are interested in getting your own Tinusaur with that amazing price you should hurry up! More details can be found at the official product page, getting started page and tutorials.

A FPGA controlled RGB LED MATRIX for Incredible Effects

A dot matrix RGB LED graphic panel, managed by a FPGA-based controller board that may be separately used as a demoboard, so to evaluate the potential of the on-board Spartan 6. First installment.

A FPGA controlled RGB LED MATRIX for Incredible Effects – [Link]

CTRL, The Industrial Robot On Your Desktop

CTRL the robot is a desktop-sized robot arm that can do a lot! It enables your computer to perform manipulation of real objects via software and gives you access to technology that has been locked away in large corporations factories.

Check this video to see the amazing features of CTRL.

CTRL was launched on a Kickstarter campaign that unfortunately didn’t reach its goal of AU$ 215,000. The early bird product was sold for AU$ 699 (~ $540) and you were able to get two robots for AU$ 1598 (~ $1230).This robot arm is a fraction of the price of similar robots you might see in factories. It was developed by Robotics Evolved to be an affordable robot arm.

Unveiled at CES 2017, this desktop-sized robot arm aims to make robotics more accessible to the masses. The device is open-source and can be run on the programming language of the user’s choosing.  For those unfamiliar with code, CTRL can also learn to replicate movements when manipulated by hand.It ships with example applications with source code and ‘Motion CTRL Studio’ software to easily run diagnostics, visualise movements and script interactively.

CTRL is equipped with a gripping tool but the company plans to expand attachment offerings to include options like spray nozzles and engraving tools. Also in the box is a gripping tool, with a range of interchangeable arm tools to follow including suction pads, spray nozzles, laser engraving tools and more. The team has also made this technology open-source, themechanical, electronic and firmware source, so users can invent their own tools and 3D print them.

With a full range of movement through 6 axis articulation, CTRL the Robot can lift and carry with incredible precision. It uses specially designed brushless servo motors for smooth motion. Even though it roughly stands at the height of a piece of A4 paper, it can reach as far as a human arm and carry up to 1.7 pounds (750 grams). The team used a custom cycloid gearbox design with a pass-through encoder that was conceived, designed and prototyped. The gearbox is highly efficient and can be back driven. It has multiple contact points and offers zero backlash.

Robotics Evolved was seeking funding through a Kickstarter campaign and maybe they should now find another way to bring this product to life again. You can sign up on their newsletter to keep updated with the next steps for CTRL!

Sources: Yahoo Finance, Kickstarter Campaign

How to Access the Raspberry Pi GUI with a Remote Desktop Connection

circuitbasics.com has a tutorial on how to access Raspberry Pi with a remote desktop connection.

In the previous post, we learned how to set up a WiFi dongle and access the Raspbian command prompt via an SSH client called PuTTY. PuTTY is a great application for accessing the command line in Raspbian from another computer, but you can’t use it to access the Raspbian desktop (GUI). In order to access the Raspbian GUI from another computer, we need to configure it to work with a remote desktop application. This will allow us to access our Raspberry Pi desktop (or the command line) from anywhere in the world as long as we have a computer with an internet connection.

How to Access the Raspberry Pi GUI with a Remote Desktop Connection – [Link]

Tic Tac Toe Game with a touch screen and an Arduino Uno

In this Arduino project video educ8s.tv is going to build an Arduino Game, a Tic Tac Toe game with a touchscreen.

In this video we are going to build an Arduino Tic Tac Toe game. As you can see, we are using a touch screen and we are playing against the computer. A simple game like Tic Tac Toe is is a great introduction to game programming and Artificial Intelligence. Even though we won’t be using any Artificial Intelligence Algorithms in this game, we will understand why Artificial Intelligence Algorithms are required in more complex games.

Tic Tac Toe Game with a touch screen and an Arduino Uno [Link]

Building A Tiny Portable Time-lapse Camera

Using a mini spy camera module, Ruiz Brothers had built a tiny portable camera that is used to take time-lapse videos and for all sorts of photo based projects.

This project consists of these parts with an estimated cost of $39:

The mini spy camera module has an integrated driver and is easy to use without an Arduino or Raspberry Pi. The camera sensor can take 1280×960 photos and captures video at 480p. The module uses a microSD card to store data and it has a maximum support of 32GB. For a higher image quality and adjustable settings, you can use other camera modules such as the Wearable Raspberry Pi Zero Camera.

To take a time-lapse, an intervalometer remote control is needed to trigger the camera for capturing a photo within a constant interval. The Adafruit Trinket microcontroller is used here, and you can also make your own following this guide.

The circuit will be powered by a 3.7V 100mAh Lithium Ion battery via JST connection. The battery plugs directly into the Trinket Backpack, which allows the recharging over the microUSB port on the Trinket.

The circuit is connected as shown in the diagram; the slide switch to Lipoly backpack, VCC from camera to 5V on Trinket, GND from camera to GND on Trinket, BAT from Lipo backpack to BAT on Trinket, G from Lipo backpack to GND on Trinket, and 5V from Lipo backpack to USB.

The code is very simple and can be uploaded to the controller using the Arduino IDE. The setup loop will initialize the pins, and the loop will turn on and off the trigger with a chosen delay.

int trig = 0;
int led = 1;
void setup() {                
  // initialize the digital pins as output.
  pinMode(led, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(trig, OUTPUT);         
  digitalWrite(led, HIGH);  
  digitalWrite(trig, HIGH); 
// Hold HIGH and trigger quick (<250ms) LOW to take a photo. Holding LOW and trigger HIGH starts/stops video recording
void loop() {
  digitalWrite(trig, LOW);   
  digitalWrite(led, HIGH);
  digitalWrite(trig, HIGH);    
  digitalWrite(led, LOW);   

The case in 3d printed, the design with a detailed description and the full making guide is available here. This video is showing how to make this tiny camera and how it works.

Reverse-engineering the ALU of 8008 microprocessor

Ken Shirriff has written an article on reverse engineering the ALU of the 8008 microprocessor:

A computer’s arithmetic-logic unit (ALU) is the heart of the processor, performing arithmetic and logic operations on data. If you’ve studied digital logic, you’ve probably learned how to combine simple binary adder circuits to build an ALU. However, the 8008’s ALU uses clever logic circuits that can perform multiple operations efficiently. And unlike most 1970’s microprocessors, the 8008 uses a complex carry-lookahead circuit to increase its performance.
The 8008 was Intel’s first 8-bit microprocessor, introduced 45 years ago.1 While primitive by today’s standards, the 8008 is historically important because it essentially started the microprocessor revolution and is the ancestor of the x86 processor family that are probably using right now.2 I recently took some die photos of the 8008, which I described earlier. In this article, I reverse-engineer the 8008’s ALU circuits from these die photos and explain how the ALU functions.

Reverse-engineering the ALU of 8008 microprocessor – [Link]

Low-Cost FPGA With Reconfigurable Electronics Feature

Iolinker is a cheap 64 FPGA board with a MachXO FPGA that functions as a dynamically configurable IO matrix. Its main functionality, besides IO extension, is to dynamically set up a matrix of GPIO connections, that allow direct pass-through of high-frequency signals. Circuits can thereby be configured and programmed on the fly. There are UART / SPI / I2C connections that allow for easy integration of up to 127 chips connected in parallel.

Thanks to the open source library, Iolinker allows developers to create reconfigurable, easy to self test electronics within minutes. It can be used to be an IO extender and can output PWM signals. In addition, its revolutionary “IO linking” feature allows to dynamically pass through high-speed signals between IOs, better than any microprocessor ever could.

Check this teaser about the new board:

Iolinker has the following specifications:

  • Reprogrammable FPGA board with Lattice LCMXO3L-4300E-5UWG81CTR50
  • Preprogrammed and usable out of the box as your IO interface of choice.
  • 49 GPIOs for PWM or IO extension usage, VCCIO is 3.3V.
  • Boards can be connected in parallel, to create endless IO extension.
  • IOs can be linked to each other, i.e. you tell the FPGA to connect them, and it forwards the input signal from one pin to another. (Read more about the iolinker chip function.)
  • UART, SPI or I2C interfaces are available.

In order to make the ultimate IO interface for users, the team are accepting feature requests at the contact page.

In short, the Iolinker board is easy to use and can reconfigure schematics on the fly, what makes it ideal to reduce prototyping time and jumper cable mess, and to maximize the ability of using IO extensions.

More technical details about Iolinker and its price will be announced soon at the Kickstarter campaign at Feb 14. Some special offers are for everyone who register in the website’s newsletter, so register now and stay tuned!