µGame 10 – A Tiny Game Console Unit to Learn Python Programming

If you want to have fun by playing games and also learn about Python Programming language, the µGame console kit might be your best bet.

There are some game consoles out there in the market, like Pokitto, Okitto, and others. These game consoles give the ability to play several games and even build your own by programming it yourself. One of the significant challenges with these game consoles is the process it takes to develop and deploy a game, one has to go through the whole process of installing the compiler and IDE, compile the program with the hope of getting it to build successfully. This entire process could be a daunting task for a beginner, but the µGame 10 console kit from Deshipu seems to beg the difference.

µGame is a game console kit from Deshipu that allows you to play games and write them using the Python programming language. Unlike other gaming kits that require the code to be compiled first before uploading to the device, µGame doesn’t require compilation. The program can be uploaded directly to the console, and it will start playing it. It’s based on Adafruit’s CircuitPython –  a version of Python that runs a python code without an operating system. CircuitPython is Adafruit’s branch of MicroPython designed to simplify experimentation and education on low-cost microcontrollers.

At a footprint of 1.44 inches, µGame takes the form of a small handheld game console with a 128×128 OLED screen. This portable game system can be attached to a computer via its built-in micro USB port where it will show as a USB drive, and doesn’t require any driver for that. The built game source code can be copied directly to the drive where it can now be executed and even modified. The game console can be removed from the computer and the game copied inside will be available for execution.

The console kit is supplied only with board, the display, and a battery charging unit. The user is expected to attach the OLED display, and a battery to begin using it. Unlike other gaming consoles like the Pokitto that comes with an enclosure, µGame doesn’t come with an enclosure but you can 3D print your custom case for it. The system provides an easy way to edit code if desired from the µGame, and the console will automatically restart if changes in the code are detected, or you run your new program.

Some Specifications of the µGame DIY games console include:

  • Atmel SAMD21 ARM Cortex M0 at 48MHz
  • 32kB RAM
  • 2MB flash storage space for the files,
  • a 1.44″ 128×128 TFT 16-bit color display,
  • 4mm mono speaker
  • Six buttons
  • 400mA battery charging circuit

The game console kit is available and can be purchased on Tindie for $25. Although the game console kit comes with a battery charging circuit, it doesn’t include any battery. Aside from the lack of battery, the game console comes with few games and is more tailored for those that want to write their games.

New Powerful Nano-ITX Form Factor ADL120S Single Board Computer For IoT

USA based ADL Embedded Solutions has introduced a new rugged, Nano-ITX form factor ADL120S single board computer (SBC). It is mainly produced for IoT, networking, and cyber-security applications. The highlighted feature of this SBC is its wide variety of PCIe expansion slots. The SBC includes 8x stackable PCIe interfaces, as well as optional custom expansion board services. Also, you get dual M/2 Key-B 2280 interfaces that support PCIe/SATA with USB 3.0. Networking is taken care with 4x Gigabit Ethernet ports (1x with PXE boot and WoL).

ADL120S Single Board Computer by ADL Embedded Solutions

 

The ADL120S runs Linux or Windows OS on dual- or quad-core Intel 6th Gen (“Skylake“) processor and Celeron CPUs that support an LGA1151 socket. There’s an Intel Q170 chipset on ADL120S instead of a Q170HDS. The supported SKUs include the quad-core 2.4GHz Core i7-6700TE, the dual-core 2.7GHz i3-6100TE, and 2.3GHz Celeron G3900TE.

The board has a compact dimension of 120 x 120mm in a Nano-ITX form factor but has a high vertical profile with 4x USB 3.0 ports piled on a single column. This high-rise board also includes 4x GbE ports, one of which has WoL and PXE Boot, and a pair of DisplayPort 1.2 ports with 4096 x 2304 resolution at 60Hz refresh rate.

The ADL120S comes with up to 32GB DDR4 RAM and offers a wide-range 20-30VDC (optional 12-24V or 20-36V) input and RTC (Real time clock) with battery. The boards with -20 to 70°C or -40 to 85°C temperature range of usability are available.

The SBC is also praised for its high MTBF, long-life availability, hardware and firmware revision control, obsolescence management, and technical, engineering and design support, on their website’s product page.

No pricing or availability information was provided for the ADL120S.

IDT Announces High Performance MEMS Relative Humidity & Temperature Sensor

California based company, Integrated Device Technology (IDT) has recently announced their new HS300x family of MEMS high-performance relative humidity (RH) and temperature sensors of dimension 3.0 × 2.41 × 0.8 mm DFN-style 6-pin LGA. Currently, there are four devices in this family—the HS3001, HS3002, HS3003, and HS3004. They are all the same from the view of functionality but differ slightly in terms of the accuracy of their relative humidity and temperature measurements.

Development board for ITD MEMs sensors

The highlighted feature of this new lineup is that they do not require any user calibration. HS300x family of ICs has calibration and compensation logic integrated into the devices. These ICs output their fully corrected data using standard I2C protocols making the measured data from the sensors is rather easy.

As a side note, Relative humidity (RH) is the ratio of the partial pressure of water vapor to the equilibrium vapor pressure of water at a given temperature. As the entire output consists of only four bytes of data, calculating the corresponding relative humidity in percent and temperature in degrees Celsius is very easy.

Although the HS300x sensors operate as slave devices on the I2C bus (supporting clock frequencies from 100 kHz to 400 kHz), only one HS300x IC can be connected directly to a single I2C bus. To connect multiple sensors to a single I2C bus, an I2C multiplexer/switch has to be used. It would have been easier if IDT had dedicated the unused pin as an optional I2C address input bit, which would allow two HS300x devices to be connected to a single I2C bus.

If you’re interested in testing these ICs prior to incorporating them into a design, SDAH01 or SDAH02 evaluation kit can come handy. Although both kits utilize the HS3001 sensor, the SDAH01 kit outputs the measured data to a PC while the SDAH02 displays the data on an LCD screen.

NanoSound Player & Digital Audio Transport for Raspberry Pi

Continuing the success of NanoSound DAC, Nanomesher @ kickstarter.com introduces the Digital version – NanoSound Digital and ready-to-run Player.

NanoSound digital is all-in-one audio add-on for Raspberry Pi NanoSound Digital provides essential functionalities including high-quality S/PDIF audio output, Media Control Buttons, Display, Remote control and Pi Power Switch, all in one package which fits neatly on top of your Raspberry Pi. NanoSound Digital is the S/PDIF digital output version of NanoSound DAC. It is compatible with HiFiBerry Digi audio driver.

Specifications

  • Wifi & Wired Ethernet Network
  • Play everything – MP3, FLAC, WAV, AAC, ALAC, DSD and many more
  • Spotify, Airplay, DLNA, Youtube & Free Web Radio
  • Play from Internal Storage, NAS and USB Flash
  • Control via Volumio App or Infrared Remote Control
  • 1.3″ OLED display with multi-language support
  • AUX and 3.5mm output
  • Texas Instruments PCM5122 DAC. 192kHz Sampling Rate / 24bit Resolution Burr-Brown DAC for best sound quality
  • Texas Instruments TPS7A4700 Ultra Low Noise Voltage Regulator
  • Output Power: 24mW @20Ω, 22mw @32Ω
  • Signal-To-Noise Ratio (SNR): 100db @20mW
  • Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise (THD+N): 0.01% @25mW
  • Output Power: 5W @2Ω, 3W @4Ω Efficiency: 90% @8Ω , 85% @4Ω, 80% @2Ω
  • Signal-To-Noise Ratio (SNR): 90db
  • Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise (THD+N): 0.15% Best Suited for Speaker with Power Rating: 15W – 30W

Interfacing Arduino with Micro SD card Module

We published a new tutorial in partnership with Nik Koumaris from educ8s.tv.

Often, we have the need for a way to store data in our projects, and most of the time, the EEPROM has not enough storage and the storage size is limited. It also has issues with the format and nature of data it can hold, all this and more makes it probably not the best for storing data like text, CSV, audio, video or image files. To get around this we could use an SD card to store the data, and remove the card when we need to view on some other platform etc. That is why today’s project is focusing on how to interface an SD card module with an Arduino.

Interfacing the Arduino with the Micro SD card Module – [Link]

First Orange Pi SBC Powered By Rockchip’s Hexacore SoC Can Run Android 6.0 And Debian 9

ARM hacker board vendors and commercial x86-centric board vendors are following Firefly’s lead in experimenting with Rockchip’s ARM-based SoCs. These new single-board computers (SBC) offer x86-type features like HDMI 2.0, mSATA, and mini-PCIe. They also come with powerful and more energy-efficient ARM cores. Now Shenzhen Xunlong has launched its first Rockchip based Orange Pi single-board computer, Orange Pi RK3399, at 109 USD.

Orange Pi RK3999 Powered By Rockchip SoC
Orange Pi RK3999 Powered By Rockchip SoC

The Rockchip RK3399 features two Cortex-A72 cores that are clocked up to 2.0GHz, as well as four Cortex-A53 cores typically clocked at up to 1.42GHz. There’s also a high-performing ARM Mali-T864 GPU. There are 2GB DDR3 RAM, 16GB eMMC flash and can be expanded with an inbuilt MicroSD slot. Mandatory I/O ports as USB 3.0 Type-C port, 4x USB 2.0 host ports. DisplayPort 1.2 with audio for up to 4K at 60Hz. There are Other RK3399 based SBCs as Firefly’s Firefly-RK3399 and similarly open source Rockchip RK3399 Sapphire.

Like most of these boards, the Orange Pi RK3399 is a high-end board with various ports and interfaces. The Orange Pi RK3399 is the only one of these SBCs with mSATA, and you can have dual mSATA drives if you dedicate the mini-PCIe slot to mSATA instead of LTE. Orange Pi RK3399 stands out with its numerous sensor assembly, which includes a G-Sensor, Gyro, Compass, HALL sensor, and ambient light sensor.

Orange Pi RK3999 front details
Orange Pi RK3999 front details

The Orange Pi RK3399 offers almost the same as Firefly-RK3399, with GbE, WiFi-AC, Bluetooth 4.1, and a large-scale collection of multimedia features. There’s a 40- instead of 42-pin expansion interface. Just like Firefly boards, there is no support for Raspberry Pi compatibility. The board also lacks the Firefly’s RTC, and at 129 x 99mm, which is heavier and just slightly larger than the Firefly-RK3399.

One of the best advantages of the Firefly board is software support. Firefly offers Ubuntu 16.04 while the Orange Pi only has Debian 9 along with Android 6.0. More importantly, since this is Shenzhen Xunlong’s first Rockchip board, software support is likely to procrastinate. Hopes are high on this being an open hardware board like the other Orange Pi models.

Understanding Flash Memory And How It Works

Flash memory is one of the most widely used types of non-volatile memory. NAND Flash is designed for modern file storage which replaced old disk drives. This article provides a brief understanding of how NAND Flash technology works.

The basic storage component used in Flash memory is a modified transistor. In a standard transistor, the flow of current through a channel between two contacts is turned on by a voltage applied to the gate. The channels are separated by an insulating layer of Oxide. In a Flash storage cell, there is an extra electrically isolated gate called “floating gate”. It is added to the control gate and the channel of the modified transistor.

Different Flash Storages
Different Flash Memory Devices

High voltage is applied to the control gate of The Flash cell to program it. This pushes electrons to pass through the oxide layer to the floating gate (a process known as tunneling). The presence of these trapped electrons on the floating gate changes the required voltage to turn on the transistor. Thus, a transistor with no charge on the floating gate can easily turn on at a certain voltage, representing a 1, while a programmed cell will not turn on, representing a 0.

This kind of memory is non-volatile because the floating gate is surrounded by dielectric layers, it traps the electric charge even when the power is removed. Erasing a cell reverses this process by introducing a large negative voltage to the control gate to force the electrons to tunnel out of the floating gate.

NANAD Flash storage internal
NAND Flash Memory storage internal

A number of cells, typically 32 to 128, are connected in a string. Strings are organized in blocks. To program cells in a block, the data is put on the bit lines and a high voltage is applied. Because programming can only change a cell from a 1 to a 0, any cells where the new data is a 1, will be left in their current state. Therefore, all the cells must be erased before writing. This process ensures that any cells that will not be programmed already contain a 1.

As explained above, each cell can store a single binary value, 0 or 1. It is also possible to inject varying amounts of charge onto the floating gate so that the cell can express multiple values. A multi-level cell (MLC) can store four different levels to represent two bits. However, the performance is reduced because of the complexity of accurate voltage controls. For the same reason, MLC Flash memory is more inclined to errors.

Although flash memory has a limited number of write-erase cycles, the high voltages cause a small amount of damage to the cells which makes them harder to read-write over time. The main drawback of using a flash memory is that it has a lifetime of about 100,000 cycles or fewer for MLC Flash.

Tiny FPGA BX – A Tiny, Open Source FPGA development board for Makers

The TinyFPGA boards from Luke Valenty (TinyFPGA) are a series of low-cost, open-source FPGA development boards. These boards offer an inexpensive way to get an introduction to the world of FPGAs.

If you have ever considered working with an FPGA before, you will know how difficult they could be especially for those new to the game. TinyFPGA boards are an excellent way to kickstart development with them. They are breadboard friendly, and one can put up a simple circuit around them before adding things like sensors or actuators.

The TinyFPGA boards are currently made up of about three series – The TinyFPGA A1 that offers an X02-256 containing 256 logic cells; the A2 sports with an X02-1200 of about 1200 logic cells, and lastly the B2 boats an ICE40LP8K with 7680 logic cells. They are low cost in nature, costing about $12,00, $18,00 and $38.00 respectively. The latest upcoming release to the TinyFPGA board family is the TinyFPGA BX.

Like the other Tiny FPGA Boards, the Tiny FPGA BX boards is quite flexible and powerful. The BX boards are intended for the maker’s community. The BX module allows one to design and implement a digital logic circuit in a tiny form-factor, and it’s perfect for building with breadboards or custom PCBs.

The TinyFPGA BX shares close similarities with the TinyFPGA B2 and are both based on the Lattice ICE40LP8K FPGA Chip with about 7680 logic cells. The BX board will offer an incredible power to project development and allows to achieve things not usually expected on traditional microcontroller boards at a fraction of the cost.

According to Luke, the TinyFPGA BX prototype boards are currently being manufactured. The PCBs have been fabricated and are now waiting for assembly.

The BX measure at 0.7 by 1.4 inches and comes with a built-in USB interface, and preloaded with a USB Bootloader. It is expected to have 8Mbit of SPI Flash with only 5Mbit available for user applications.

The following are some of the available board specifications:

  • ICE40LP8K FPGA
    • 7,680 4-input look-up-tables
    • 128 KBit block RAM
    • Phase Locked Loop
    • 41 IO pins
  • Small, breadboard friendly form-factor
    • 0.7 by 1.4 inches
  • Built-in USB interface with open source USB bootloader
  • 8MBit of SPI Flash with 5MBit available for user applications
  • Integrated 3.3v and 1.2v regulators
    • 3.3v LDO regulator can supply up to 300ma of current to support external peripherals
  • Ultra-Low-Power 16MHz MEMs Oscillator
    • 1.3ma active power
    • 50ppm stability

These TinyFPGA boards offer an inexpensive way for hackers and makers to get an introduction to the world of FPGAs. And, with their small size, these boards can provide an easy way to add some programmable logic to a small project.

FPGA gives us the power to add real deal hardware functionality to our project, unlike with Microcontroller, where those features can only be added to a bit of software banging. The TinyFPGA Bx boards are still not fully launched yet, so now price point is currently available but is expected to share similar costing with the TinyFPGA B2 at $38.00.

More information about the project launch can be found on the crowdsupply page and also on the hackaday board page announcement. If you are interested in getting introduced to the world of FPGA, this guide from Luke is an excellent way to kickstart your adventure.

Revolutionizing Electric Field Measuring Techniques

Nowadays, electrical fields are being used not only in electrical engineering, but also for industrial, weather forecasting, safety, and medical applications. As a result, the need for a precise electric field strength measurement device has become increasingly high, and many investigations have devoted their resources to creating such device. TU Wien has developed a small electric field sensor that is much simpler, and most importantly, it is less prone to distortion.

There are a lot of measurement systems in the market. However, most of them are big, depend on complex surrounding calibration procedures, or the device is grounded to provide a reference measurement. All these factors cause distortion that affects the measurement. Additionally, dielectric devices develop surfaces charges that also lead to distortion, and conductive metallic components can have the same effect.

The sensor made by TU Wien is made from silicon forming a small, grid shaped structure fixed onto a small spring, so that when the silicon is exposed to an electrical field a force is exerted on the silicon crystals causing the spring to compress or extend. Another grid was added to make these slight changes visible. The silicon grid is lined up, so when movement occurs, light can pass through which is then measured and used to calculate the electrical field. It can only measure strength not direction, and it can be used for fields of up to 1 k Hz.  The silicon structures are just a few micrometers in diameter making it much smaller than conventional sensors.

This method of measurement is new, Andreas Kainzs from the Institute of Sensor and Actuator Systems says that in the future they would be able to achieve even better results as the measuring technique matures. The sensor is a micromechanical systems (MEMs) that has the potential for replacing the measuring techniques used nowadays. This device is not only less prone to distortion, but also portable, easy to transport and capable of fitting into wearables. The prototype has can measure weak fields of less than 200 volts per meter. This means that in terms of measuring capabilities, this sensor can easily compete with those already in the market. The sensor is not currently being sold, and TU Wien plans on keep improving the device.

[Source]

Low Cost/Voltage 3W Class-D Stereo Audio Amplifier for Portable Gadgets

This low cost low voltage 3W class-D stereo amplifier is based on PAM8403 IC, The PAM8403 is a 3W, class-D audio amplifier. It offers low THD+N, allowing it to achieve high-quality sound reproduction. The new filter-less architecture allows the device to drive the speaker directly, requiring no low-pass output filters, thus saving system cost and PCB area. With the same numbers of external components, the efficiency of the PAM8403 is much better than that of Class-AB cousins. It can extend the battery life, which makes it well-suited for portable applications. Trimmer Potentiometer helps to adjust the volume control, CN1 provided to feed the audio signal, CN2 power supply, Mute and shutdown in, LS1 and LS2 to connect the speaker. Shutdown and Mute pin required high level signal input, and can be connect to VDD power pins for normal operation, can be connect to GND for shutdown or mute the audio. The amplifier works well with standard audio signal input.

Low Cost/Voltage 3W Class-D Stereo Audio Amplifier for Portable Gadgets – [Link]