Software category

PCB123® launches access to millions of cloud-based symbols & footprints

Designers can now search SnapEDA’s vast component library directly in PCB123

MULINO, OR and SAN FRANCISCO, CA (September 13, 2017) — Today, Sunstone Circuits, creators of the free PCB design tool, PCB123, and SnapEDA, the Internet’s first parts library for circuit board design, are launching a new integration that allows designers to search for digital models directly inside the PCB123 design environment.

Designers have traditionally wasted days creating digital models for their designs. This process is tedious, time-consuming, and error-prone. With today’s release of PCB123 Version 5.6, designers can now search and download free, cloud-based symbols and footprints directly during design capture and layout, significantly boosting design productivity.

“For forty years, PCB designers have frittered away countless hours defining parts because there simply wasn’t a workable, affordable source for accurate, ready-made parts. In fact, surveys show that most professional designers spend an average of 30-35% of their design time just making new parts definitions before they can even get started,” said Nolan Johnson, CAD & EDA Product Marketing Manager at Sunstone Circuits.

“SnapEDA has disrupted that dynamic in an easy-to-use, no-cost utility, and PCB123 is proud to be bringing true in-tool integration of SnapEDA’s parts search functions to our loyal users – in a free PCB CAD tool, no less,” Johnson added.

PCB123 is a free, full-function PCB CAD tool, comprised of a schematic editor, physical layout editor, 3-dimensional mechanical previews, and BOM editor. By augmenting the tool with cloud-based libraries, designers will get real-time access to new symbols & footprints added to SnapEDA’s catalog, as well the ability to request parts they need for their designs with InstaPart, the company’s popular 24 hour parts request service.

“PCB123 has just released the industry’s first pre-installed integration of a cloud-based parts library. Their impressive solution will benefit PCB designers with access to vetted parts models that will shave days off design time, and benefit the world through faster innovation,” said Natasha Baker, Founder & CEO of SnapEDA.

All new models created by SnapEDA conform to the latest IPC standards (IPC-7351B) and are vetted with its patent-pending verification technology. Design content is available for millions of electronic components, enabled by SnapEDA’s proprietary, automated library creation, translation, and verification technology.

A Compact Camera Using Raspberry Pi A+ And Adafruit TFT Display

PiJuice at designed an interesting compact camera project with raspberry pi. Raspberry Pi A+ is used in this project as it is the cheapest and smallest available Raspberry Pi. The real challenge in this kind of portable Pi projects is powering the Raspberry Pi. This issue is solved using PiJuice—an all in one battery module for the Raspberry Pi.

Required Parts

Required parts to make Raspberry Pi compact camera
Required parts to make Raspberry Pi compact camera

Set Up The Raspberry Pi

Download the latest version of the Raspbian image from the Raspberry Pi Website and burn it on your blank SD card. You can use win32DiskImager or your favorite software to get the job done. Now, you need to install the drivers for the TFT screen by running the DIY installer script, explained on the Adafruit page. Connect the TFT to the Raspberry Pi, attach the PiJuice with a charged battery, and switch it on. Your screen now should display boot up messages.

Connect The Camera

Insert the ribbon cable of your camera module properly ensuring that the blue side of the ribbon is facing away from the HDMI port. Now, go to the terminal and type the following command,

sudo raspi-config

Enable the camera in the menu and then reboot the Pi. The camera should work properly after a successful reboot. To test the camera, enter the following command:

raspistill -o pic.jpg

This will take a snap and save it in the /home/pi directory.

Connect A Push Button

You need a push button to simulate a shutter action. Locate the pin 17 on the GPIO breakout on the top of the TFT screen. Now, solder two wires to the terminals of the push button. You can either solder a right angle header to the pin 17 or you can directly solder one wire from push button to that pin. There is a pad labeled WP on the board. It is actually connected to the ground. Solder another wire from the push button to this pad.

Install And Test The PiCam Software

To install the software, the Raspberry Pi must be connected to the internet. Enter the commands given below to download and install PiCam.

sudo apt-get install git-core
sudo mkdir PiCam
cd /PiCam
git clone git://

Once the software has been downloaded, navigate to the PiCam directory using the command:

cd /picam

You can run it by typing the command:

sudo python

Now, you can take pictures by simply pressing the push button. Once the button is pressed the picture will be taken. Once the captured image gets loaded, your photograph will be displayed.

Taking photograph with Raspberry Pi compact camera
Taking photograph with Raspberry Pi compact camera


Your Raspberry Pi camera is ready now. If you want to make it even more compact as well as portable, grab the official laser-cut compact camera case from the Kickstarter page by pre-ordering a Maker Kit. You can also build your own simple chassis for housing the camera.

Build And Simulate Quantum Software Applications With Rigetti Forest 1.0

Rigetti Computing is a full-stack quantum computing company. They build hardware and software with fundamentally new integrated circuits that store and process quantum information.

Accordingly, this Silicon Valley company is providing solutions for existing problems that traditional computers can not solve. These problems include the ability to provide molecular simulation showing all interactions and to accurately predict next week’s weather.

An 8-qubit quantum processor built by Rigetti Computing. (PRNewsfoto/Rigetti Computing)

Thus, Rigetti is using quantum mechanics for computation. Adding one quantum bit (qubit) can double the performance. Below is a table mapping the computation power of qubits with classical memories.

Rigetti Computing recently unveiled its Fab-1 facility. A facility which will enable its engineers to rapidly build new generations of quantum computing hardware based on quantum bits, or qubits. In fact, the facility can spit out entirely new designs for 3D-integrated quantum circuits within about two weeks—much faster than the months usually required for academic research teams to design and build new quantum computing chips. It’s not so much a quantum computing chip factory as it is a rapid prototyping facility for experimental designs.

Software is also included

It has also announced its Forest 1.0 service that enables developers to begin writing quantum software applications and simulating them on a 30-qubit quantum virtual machine. Forest 1.0 is based on Quil—a custom instruction language for hybrid quantum/classical computing—and open-source python tools intended for building and running Quil programs.

“Developing quantum computing software is one of the most fascinating and challenging emerging fields of engineering. Today, that field is at the foundational stage, where learning and discovery are at a premium. Our full-stack strategy allows us to run faster, more tightly coupled iteration cycles between hardware, software, and applications.” – Chad Rigetti, Founder & CEO

More details about this API are available on Forest 1.0 official page and this blog. Also watch this workshop video by Rigetti:

Visual Studio Code Extension for Arduino is now open sourced!

Visual Studio Code is the cross-platform, open sourced advanced code editor by Microsoft.

Recently, after being interested in IoT and hardware, Microsoft is now searching for tools to make building IoT devices easier. It added an Arduino extension to its Visual Studio Code to enable a better eco-system for IoT developers using Arduino. By making some research about some challenges usually developers face, Microsoft found out that giving more access to new features and capabilities will be a pain killer for IoT enthusiasts. Later on, Microsoft had opened the source of the Arduino extension and placed it on GitHub.


Our Arduino extension fully embraces the Arduino developer community and is almost fully compatible and consistent with the official Arduino IDE. On top of it, we added the most sought-after features, such as IntelliSense, Auto code completion, and on-device debugging for supported boards.

Core functionalities of Arduino extension

  • IntelliSense and syntax highlighting for Arduino sketches
  • Built-in board and library manager
  • Verify and upload your sketches in Visual Studio Code
  • Built-in example list
  • Snippets for sketches
  • Built-in serial monitor
  • Automatic Arduino project scaffolding
  • Command Palette (F1) integration of frequently used commands (e.g. Verify, Upload…)
  • Integrated Arduino Debugging (New)

Of course, you can download this extension from Visual Studio Code Marketplace at:

Fortunately, Microsoft had open sourced this project on GitHub under MIT License. Thus, if you are developer, you are more than welcome to participate in developing this extension and here how you can help:

  • File a bug, submit a feature request, you can find the current bug/issue list and feature requests at GitHub’s issue tracker.
  • Join developers and users’ discussions at chat on gitter.
  • Fork the repository, fix bugs and send pull requests
  • Fork the repository, add your new cool features and send pull requests.

Finally, more detailed instructions are available at the Visual Studio Code Repo at GitHub.

Samba : Set Up Your Raspberry Pi As A Local Network File Server

Samba is the Linux implementation of the SMB/CIFS file sharing standard used by Windows PCs and Apple computers and widely supported by media streamers, gaming consoles, and mobile apps. In this tutorial, you will learn how to use a Raspberry Pi as a file server where you can save backups and share files with all the other computers on your network using Samba.

You need the following things for this tutorial:

  • A keyboard (Wired or wireless)
  • A mouse (Wired or wireless)
  • Raspberry Pi (Model 3B is recommended)
  • A 32GB (or smaller) micro SD card
  • Internet connection (Only to download Samba)

The SD card must have a reasonable amount of free storage space without requiring any extra steps to make it accessible. However, if you want extra storage, simply mount a large USB drive and create a Samba entry for it. If you want to keep your Samba file server compact and portable, install Raspbian on a 128Gb or 256GB SD card. Before purchasing, check online whether the SD card is fully compatible with Raspberry Pi or not.

Install Samba

Samba is available in Raspbian’s standard software repositories. Update your repository index, make sure that the operating system is fully updated, and install Samba using apt-get. Open a Terminal and type:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo apt-get install samba samba-common-bin

The download and installation process will start and it will take a while depending on your internet speed.

Create A Shared Directory

Now you need to create a shared directory that will be accessible by other PCs/mobiles connected to the same network. You can put it anywhere, but in this tutorial, it will be at the top level of the root file system of the Pi’s microSD card. Type the following command:

sudo mkdir -m 1777 /share

To help prevent the directory from being unintentionally deleted, the above command sets the sticky bit (1) and gives everyone read/write/execute (777) permissions on the shared directory.

Configure Samba

In this step, edit the smb.conf  file to configure Samba to share the selected directory and allow users to perform various actions like read, write etc. Open the smb.conf file using the following command:

sudo leafpad /etc/samba/smb.conf

You need to add the following entry:

Comment = Pi shared folder
Path = /share
Browseable = yes
Writeable = Yes
only guest = no
create mask = 0777
directory mask = 0777
Public = yes
Guest ok = yes
Configure Samba On Raspberry Pi
Configure Samba On Raspberry Pi

As per the above configuration, anyone can read, write, and execute files in the shared directory, either by logging in as a Samba user or as a guest. Just omit the guest ok = yes line if you don’t want to allow guests. To share a larger external hard disk, simply create a smb.conf entry for the path you want to share across the network (here the external hard disk).

Create A User & Start Samba

Everything is configured and now it’s time to create a user. To set up a password for the user, enter the following command:

sudo smbpasswd -a pi

Then set a password as prompted. It’s recommended that the password should be different from your Pi’s login password. Finally, restart the Samba and set it to start automatically when the Raspberry Pi starts up. Enter the following command:

sudo /etc/init.d/samba restart

Once you’ve made sure that you can locate your shared folder on the network, you can safely disconnect the mouse, monitor, and keyboard from your Pi and just leave it running as a headless file server.

PCB Droid – First Mobile PCB Designer App

The applications available nowadays serve our everyday life well. Would it be the need of our entertainment, business life or lifestyle. However, there is one special field where we could face a serious shortcoming and it is the engineering field. I’ve come across a demand through forums specialized in electronics for a mobile application, designing printed circuits on your mobile device.

The goal was to create an application, which can be used as a designer tool for printed circuits and exporting those into different formats in an Android and Windows 10 environment. The consumption of these mobile devices is a fraction of their desktop sidekicks and an app such makes designing easier, even in your daily commute. This realization gave birth to PCB Droid application. As an electronic hobbyist as far as I’m concerned others engaged in DIY electronics usually don’t utilize the possibilities and professionalism of these programs. In practice, PC printed circuits designers are using circuit diagrams as an input. Hobbyists pretend to prefer designer programs where they can draw the marginal strips themselves and adjust them on the printed circuits. PCB Droid doesn’t require any kind of previously made circuits diagrams. The parts can be drawn onto the printed circuit by the user starting from the basic elements to the most complex components.

PCB Droid – First Mobile PCB Designer App – [Link]

Panelization – using GerberPanelizer on Windows

Arsenijs over at explains how to panelize PCBs using GerberPanelizer on Windows. He writes:

This tutorial was done on Windows. Authors claim it could also be used on Linux by using Mono, but I haven’t tried and don’t understand a lot about Mono to see what could be done. I am switching to Linux nowadays, so I’d be very grateful to anybody that’d make instructions on how to launch it, however – and I’m sure other fellow Linux-wielding engineers will be grateful, too =)
This is the GitHub issue describing steps to launch it on Linux, half-successfully (thanks to @jlbrian7 for figuring this out

Panelization – using GerberPanelizer on Windows – [Link]

Free PADS PCB packages from Mentor/Digi-Key

by Graham Prophet @

Two versions of the PADS software package (by Mentor, now a Siemens business) have been made available through distributor Digi-Key. Positioned as design software for “the aspiring innovator” both the free and the $499 versions include access to parts libraries and to a circuit simulator.

Free PADS PCB packages from Mentor/Digi-Key – [Link]

Mostly free engineering software

Michael Dunn @ has compiled a list of software that most enginners should be aware off.

We’re living in a golden age of software, where many useful programs are available – for free!

Let’s survey some of what’s out there that just might interest an engineering crowd like the EDN  community.

I can’t offer personal opinions on most of these packages, but I expect to hear back from you after you’ve test driven a few.

Mostly free engineering software – [Link]

New Release For EAGLE CAD with PCB Alignment Tools

Since Autodesk acquired Eagle CAD, big changes have been made to Eagle CAD. Regardless of the new licensing system using subscription model, which was a subject to criticism by a lot of users, the new management of Eagle from Autodesk has successfully added a lot of demanding features that old team failed to bring out.

Eagle 8 came with a lot of new features like BGA auto-router and “Past Block Design” tool to add a complete block of connected components both in schematic and board.

The new release 8.1.1 brought PCB alignment tool to align a group of objects in different positions; top, bottom, left, right, center, and distribute horizontally / distribute vertically.

Image Source: Autodesk Eagle’s Forum

Another improvement in eagle 8.1.1 that deserves mention is that a new category has been added to DRC (Design Rule Check) called Airewire. It’s an important improvement because airwires is one of the most common things designer should be aware of. In older Eagle releases, you should work with your eyes wide open and never forget to hit ratsnest at the end of your work and read the magic sentence in the bottom corner “Ratsnest: Nothing to do !”.

Image Source: Autodesk Eagle’s Forum

Source: Autodesk Eagle’s Forum