Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Just how small can an Arduino get? Meet DigiSpark!

**** UPDATE ****
WOW, This dude raised $313,318.00 of the $5000.00 he had hoped to raise!

He got 5964 backers.

Erik Kettenburg has a project up on Kickstarter that looks really awesome and it certainly looks like he's getting his backing! With 12 days to go, he has raised over $195,000 (of a $5000 goal) with over 4000 backers (Me being one of them!).

The product he is working on is a micro-sized Arduino (about the size of a quarter) called the DigiSpark.
I love the logic of this product. It's small and cheap enough that you can actually build it into a project. One of the biggest problems most of us hackers and builders face is creating something and then having to tear it all apart again to get our prized Micro-controller back out and reuse it to build another experiment. I have a full sized Arduino Uno dedicated to my Coffee pot project that I only use 4 of the pins for. This little guy would be much better suited for that purpose (especially when I get the smaller relay shield).

And at under $10 each, I'm getting 3 to start off with (and 1 relay shield).

It will feature
  • Support for the Arduino IDE 1.0+ (OSX/Win/Linux)
  • Power via USB or External Source - 5v or 7-35v (automatic selection)
  • On-board 500ma 5V Regulator
  • Built-in USB (and serial debugging)
  • 6 I/O Pins (2 are used for USB only if your program actively communicates over USB, otherwise you can use all 6 even if you are programming via USB)
  • 8k Flash Memory (about 6k after bootloader)
  • I2C and SPI (vis USI)
  • PWM on 3 pins (more possible with Software PWM)
  • ADC on 4 pins
  • Power LED and Test/Status LED (on Pin0)
And of course it is totally Open-Source/Hardware.

Let's see, the coffee maker will get one, there's a TV remote control that I want to build, these would fit perfectly in an HO train car, my Radio controlled cars might get some smarts, maybe my helicopters too, uh-oh....I'm going to need to order more of these when they become available on the Digistump.com website in December!

Monday, August 27, 2012

SeeedStudio 2.8" TFT Touch Shield (touchscreen/LCD)

My Opinion/Review: DON'T BUY ONE!

As fun and as cool as this thing may seem, you don't want one.
Why is the SeeedStudio 2.8" Touch Shield a piece of Junk?
  1. Horrible Documentation
  2. Several bugs in the library itself.
  3. Horrible to use, does not support print, println, write or anything useful.
  4. Not an easy task to print variables.
  5. Takes all the pins except I/O and A4/A5.
  6. No Backlight control.
  7. No Clear Screen function.
  8. Touch screen is not very precise or sensitive.
If you want an LCD display for your Arduino, I would look elsewhere.
This one will frustrate you!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Is the DSO Nano a No No?

So I finally broke down and bought myself a Pocket Oscilloscope!
Maybe soon I'll learn what I'm supposed to do with it, but in the mean time it looks really cool.

I bought the e-Design DSO201 aka DSO Nano.  DSO Stands for Digital Storage Oscilloscope.

Built in what had to once be a MP3 player shell, it uses an ARM Cortex-M3 32bit processor and sports a 320x240 display.  The one I purchased I believe is the second version of the first model. It has the newer better Probe (1x/10x) and a miniature BNC connector as opposed to the original that used a headphone jack and some very cheap probe/clips.

Now, my Nano supposedly had the newest software/firmware on it, but I couldn't make heads or tails of it. When I was researching the DSO Nano I found out that everyone hates the way it comes and everyone changes it use BenF's version (I don't know who BenF is, but hey, everyone else does). So the first day I have my new toy and I'm already messing with it and hoping I don't brick it.

I found out that this version of the DSO Nano also has a different bootstrap then the first one also, that made updating the software/firmware a bit of a trick, but after searching the web for awhile, I found BenF 3.53 Library and 3.64 App in the required HEX format and now everything is working well (you can download those files here).

To update this model you have to plug in your DSO to your PC. Hold the "-" button (down on the pad) and turn the power on. You should get a screen that tells you to copy the HEX files over. Don't drag both files over at once, copy over 1 file, it will disappear as the DSO dismounts and remounts itself, then copy the next file over, the process should repeat. If you see a .err file, then something went wrong. Now unplug the DSO switch it off and back on again.

So far I have used it to :
  1. Watch the pulses my Arduino sends to a servo (cool to see PWM as it happens).
  2. Check out the levels in a little 555 circuit that I put together just to test the DSO.
  3. Diagnose a problem with a power supply for a printer.
Is it the most powerful thing ever? No, and it doesn't pretend to be. But it does work well for the price!
I can't wait to learn more about oscilloscopes so I can make better use of it.

  • Cheap! At under $100, every Hacker/Prototyper/Tinkerer should have one!
  • Fits in your pocket so it will certainly fit in your Computer bag or parts box.
  • Rechargeable, no batteries to keep up with.
  • SD card slot so you can compare previous readings (Thats the "S" in DSO ).
  • Easy to use (if you know how to use an oscilloscope).
  • With the 10x probe on the NANO you CAN measure US Household AC current (110v/115v/120v).
  • It's opensource so you can hack it if you want.
  • Original firmware/software SUCKS, you must get BenF or something better.
  •  Support from anyone other than the community is scarce at best.
There is a newer version available now, the DSO Nano V2 is pretty much the same oscilloscope in a newer box. It is the same hardware and runs the same software as the V1, it's just in a new box. Personally I like the V1 package more.

There is also the very new and much improved DSO Nano QUAD sports 4 channels but of course costs much more.