Embedded


I made a post to the 147_120 Projects group on Yahoo encouraging all to check out the mbed.com web site.

It’s been a long time since I posted to this blog, I guess it’s time that I got things going again. Now that we’re planning on restarting the long awaited Tech Parties, it will be good to have some things to post here.

Take a look at mbed.com, join the 147_120 Projects group on Yahoo, and stay tuned for where the new Tech Parties will be held.

I look forward to seeing you there!
Tracy N4LGH

This is going to be a good one. It will focus on the Stellaris and will provide a Stellaris Launchpad along with a Kentec LCD Display.

The $29 cost is a little over half what you would pay for the board and display plus you get hands on training that is invaluable. If you attend, their lunches are ‘Stellar’ ;]

You can get to all of the course material online and register at these links –
Register Here
Workshop Page (Pay attention to the many links! There is a huge amount of info here including 8 hrs of video!)

The training event will be held at the Avnet office at
2501 Discovery Dr #150
Orlando FL 32826

These people do things right! TI and Avnet have put on awsome presentations in the past, I have no doubt this will be one of them!
Tracy N4LGH

I’m very impressed by Texas Instruments. They’ve been on what I call the ‘Arduinish’ bandwagon for a long time with the ‘Launchpad’ MSP430 starter kit. Now, they’ve added a few more Launchpad kits for other processors such as the Stellaris and Piccolo processors.

But Tech Days was really cool. They had a LOT of good classes, and a mini trade show where many of the TI Partners displayed their wares. Many freebies like USB sticks, back scratchers, coolies and lots of good data sheets and catalogs.

But the best … was a small piece of paper in the TI bag they gave at the entrance. Subtle. It says ‘Tools for 10’ and when you read the fine print … it’s a $500 gift certificate!! WOW!

I’ve ordered a $400 DSP starter kit to learn DSP on. I chose one that had lots of audio features hoping it will help me learn DSP filtering and things like that. I can’t wait!

Still to arrive is the Stellaris Launchpad. There are a LOT of plug ins called ‘Booster Packs’ which are similar to Arduino shields. In fact, some of them are compatible but I don’t understand it well enough yet to explain which ones and why.

SO, keep a watch out for more cool freebies, downloads, classes, and inexpensive toys as I note them here on the blog and of course on the Wednesday Night Tech Net.

Tracy N4LGH

Last night on the net I spoke a little about the Android operating system. It’s gaining a lot of popularity and is hugely supported, and it’s FREE.

We should consider this for a myriad of reasons, I’ll just mention a few that hit me.

1) It’s designed for communication systems. What do we do? ;]
2) It’s open source and accommodates free software and development quite nicely
3) There is a huge support community for writing ‘apps’ on Android
4) There are a number of hardware accessories that are coming on the market to facilitate talking to homebrew hardware or commercial equipment.

Here is a link to the development platform. Again, it’s free, and there is a huge pile of data to sift through
http://developer.android.com
The ‘Get the SDK’ link is at the bottom.

These little devices should be available soon. Some are now.
There are others, these got my attention
https://www.sparkfun.com/products/10748?
http://www.adafruit.com/products/885

Here are some projects people have done with the IOIO
http://pinterest.com/ytaibt/ioio/

I think an informed conversation on the Android platform would make for a great net. Read a little about it and perhaps even download and install the SDK. Got the Hello World app running on your phone or tablet? Tell us about it! Failure? Lets try to solve it.

I see a great application of Android and homebrew radio with the proliferation of inexpensive Tablet PC’s coming on the market. Also, there are devices like the Mini6410 and other project type embededed devices that are capable of running Android and have LOTS of IO built onto them. Do a little creative searching and see what other similar hardware you can find and what projects may be out there that interest you.

Keep in mind you can still develop for older versions of Android. Why? Lesser capable hardware for one, as well as devices that are not intended to run a display with all the fancy graphics and touch screens.

Perked a little interest? I hope so. If so, bring yourself to the next Tech Net and lets talk Android for Ham Radio!

Tracy N4LGH

..

We’ve been talking a lot about the various free and inexpensive eval / demo / project boards from the various chip manufacturers but so far we’ve skipped Renesas.

Well, looks like they’ve been in the game a while as well and are offering freebies through their site as well as Avnet Express. Although, AEs spin is a little frustrating as they offer five different free boards, but their promotional code only works once per customer. Oh well, pic one and go ;]

I chose the RX-Stick for the RX MCU. I followed the Getting Started instructions and the install went exactly as they stated. I used the High-Performance Embedded Workshop that came on the included CD (an unusual plus for a freebie) instead of the recommended updated version from their website as it is HUGE and I don’t have much bandwidth at home.

The Getting Started guide quickly steps you through opening an example project, compiling it, writing to the board and executing it. Startup was quite dramatic as nothing other than Windows installing a driver happened when the demo board was plugged into USB (with a provided cable, nice). I’d say that’s a drawback and a plus that the example has to be started from the debugger;

All in all I’d say it’s a very positive out of the box experience for one of these inexpensive demo / dev kits. The Software, ‘HEW’ is quite complex but they give a blank skeleton of an app to start from so you don’t have to learn all that just to start learning. It does look like one could go quite a way with what they have provided.

Take a look at what Renesas is offering –
Renesas Promotions

And Avnet –
http://www.em.avnet.com/en-us/design/featuredpromotions/Pages/RenesasNow.aspx

Have fun!
Tracy N4LGH

Thanks for a great net! Dayton is going to be full of Orlando this year!

During the net I mentioned the Texas Instruments MSP430 Launchpad dev kit that
they sell for $4.30. That’s right, under ten bucks shipped. And everything is on
line and free. It has a format similar to that of the Arduino, but a flavor all
its own. TI and others are offering ‘Booster Boards’ that add functionality
similar to ‘Sheilds’ on the Arduino.

There is a free IDE (development environment) for programming in either assembly
or C and there is a huge support group that can help with virtually anything. I
was impressed.

Here are the links I promised –
(in no particular order …)

http://processors.wiki.ti.com/index.php/MSP430_LaunchPad_Learning_Community
http://www.ti.com/lit/ml/swru312b/swru312b.pdf
http://processors.wiki.ti.com/index.php?title=MSP430_LaunchPad_%28MSP-EXP430G2%29
https://estore.ti.com/430BOOST-SENSE1-MSP430-Capacitive-Touch-BoosterPack-P2361C42.aspx
https://estore.ti.com/430BOOST-CC110L-CC110L-RF-Module-BoosterPack-P2734.aspx
http://processors.wiki.ti.com/index.php/Download_CCS
http://processors.wiki.ti.com/index.php/Linux_Host_Support#Installation_Instructions
http://www.ti.com/sitesearch/docs/universalsearch.tsp?searchTerm=430boost&linkId=1
http://www.ti.com/tool/430boost-sense1
http://www.ti.com/tool/430boost-c55audio1
http://www.ti.com/tool/430boost-cc110l

Also experimenter / ham projects –

https://sites.google.com/site/ericstringer/home/projects/msp430launchpad
http://www.43oh.com/
iambic keyer among other things, overall really good site
http://www.electronicslab.ph/forum/index.php?topic=28909.0
http://dbindner.freeshell.org/msp430/cw.html
Another keyer
http://dbindner.freeshell.org/msp430/index.html
same guy, good linux discussion and LOTS of info.

Hope you have some fun exploring this – consider getting into it or something
like it!
Tracy N4LGH

The Penguin! This was the happiest thing I've seen from and embedded linux project since I started chasing the NGW100. I haven't given up on the NGW, but for just over $100, this kit can't be ignored

I FINALLY HAVE an embedded linux kit working with a touch screen. Mind you, I have not yet installed or set up any of the tools for Linux, Windows or QT development on this board yet, but it looks so far to have a lot of support and CURRENT information!
 
I haven’t done anything but turn it on and click a bunch of icons. One thing I did notice, once a program starts it runs until you stop it, even if you reboot. I still haven’t found how to stop a running process, but I’m sure I’ll find it soon.
 
For instance, there is a nice little program that illustrates the 4 LEDs on the board – one function counts from 0-15 in Binary. Guess what? This little thing is counting it’s ass off all the time, even though I told the app to quit lol. I’m sure there are some inconsistencies on this distro ;]
 
What a nice, COMPLETE kit!!
At first glance this sure looks like a complete kit – as far as the hardware goes anyway! There is every cable you will need, a power supply (wall wart) and even a ‘JTAG’ programmer. I’m sure this JTAG is just for the mini2440, but it’s the only kit I’ve ever seen come with one. This is a necessary tool if you ever hose the ‘bootloader’ in a board like this. Also, if you choose to bypass using an ‘OS’ and just write native code for the processor, you will need this to program it.

A complete hardware solution including the MINI2440 board, a 3.5 inch touch screen, every cable you need, the wall wort supply, and even a JTAG programmer for programming the FLASH.


The CD is packed with example code and supposedly all the tools you need to build Linux, Windows or uCos2. The only drawback I found to programming, and this is only from one post I found on the web, is that it appears you need the full PRO version of Visual Studio, not the ‘Express’ edition. I found it in this post.

Looks like a PDA example to me! For some reason they have a kind of 'background image' behind the apps - note on the title bar those lines aren't there ... at first when I saw this I thought it was the display - but on other pictures, and te video, these lines do not appear.I'd certainly remove these if I recompile.


There is a lot of work already done for any interface you ever want to build. With all the work done on PDA’s and Smart-phones, you will not want for example code for displays whether you use Linux or Windows to develop. Keep in mind my motivation is to be able to control modern day RF chips with this controller – I want to have it be the display, the hardware controller and the audio interface.
 
I was impressed with the manufacturers site although it isn’t really mature, there is good information on it and they’ve gone through the trouble to put up a Forumboard and monitor it. I’ve perused the posts and responses and while there doesn’t seem to be the resident gurus like there are on AVRFreaks forums, a lot of the questions get answered.
 
The company’s Download Section is pretty good; they have datasheets for every part on the board and information on every aspect of the board. Most are links to other locations but are good quality material.

This 'World Clock' is remarkably like a Greyline Propagation Map


My Motivation with this board is to make a modern radio controller. There are already hundreds of apps for amateurs that manipulate audio. key rigs, keep logs, etc, that will be nice toys on a ham radio transceiver. The big rigs put stuff like the world maps, etc. I’ve been staring at this ‘World Clock’ for a while, it remarkably resembles a greyline propagation map!
 
There are 34 ‘GPIO’ lines that can be used to control any line you want, and a serial control line that I don’t yet understand that can address many 2 line serial devices. There’s input for a camera, audio in and out, 6 user buttons and 4 user LED’s. Opie, Android, WinCE, all are ready to control a digital radio!
 
In the coming weeks as I get this thing going I intend to document everything I do – failures and successes. The NGW100 board was a great find, but we let it ‘mature’ and is now difficult to support. PLUS, if you put all the functionality into the ‘NGW that this board has you’ll spend nearly $300 …
 
The only thing I haven’t found on this board that the Mediama add on for the NGW supplies is a LiPo battery charger. I got one from Sparkfun and would love to apply it to this little marvel. Actually, I got the beefy three cell version … Think it will run a transceiver for a bit? ;] It would be very interesting if this charger would be able to interface with the USB on the board? Or something that would interface with the GPIO would be even better.
 
Here are a few more pictures. This sure is a neat toy – I’ll report more this week!

A nice looking little JTAG programmer

The board - you can find many better pictures on the Manufacturers website

We need to recompile this - message says please waiting ?? lol I love Chinglish!