5/2017

Compiling Sigrok and Pulseview on a Beaglebone Black

One of my current projects is to use a BeagleBone Black as logic analyzer. The BeagleLocig project I’m using suggests to transfer the capture files to a PC and use the Pulseview application for viewing. But instead I would like to run Pulseview on the BBB itself, so I can using it directly for configuring the capture process and for viewing the results. Since it took a while to get the compilation run through, I want to document the the process. Install...

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3/2016

Low-voltage continuity tester

One of the most-often used tools on an electrings workbench, right behind the digital multimeter, is the continuity tester. Whether you want to verify that your solder work was fine, or are looking for a shot where there shouldn’t be one, the continuity tester is the go-to-tool. Turn it on, probe in your circuit and wait for the buzzer to go off. Its as simple as that. But they most of them share a problem: their probing voltage is too high. They are designed to even turn on a LED, so most me...

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Stairstep generator with a PSoC4

A while ago I ran across this video from w2aew where he explained using two generators and an integrator to form a stair-step generator. I was intrigued because it seemed like such a simple idea, and a useful one too, but I immediately thought of some improvements. First I wondered why he didn’t implement both generators with 555 timers, and second a voltage buffer on the output seems to be needed. But then my mind wandered and I reali...

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3/2015

Comparing some oscilloscopes and their probes

Since my review of the TBS1052B-EDU scope I participated in yet another Element14 contest - and part of the provided kits was yet another scope. This time it has been a TBS1202B-EDU, the larger brother of my first scope. So I thought it might be a nice exercise to compare these two scopes with each other. Since this scope co...

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SPG8640-based crystal frequency generator

One of the tools that belong in every electronics toolset is a frequency generator. There are many design out in the internet that to build your own generator. Starting with a simple 555 timer (or even just transistors), moving up to the venerable XR2206 and ICL8038 and then maybe up to the MAX038 they typically can generate since, triangle and square wave over a wide frequency range. But they all rely on manual frequency setting, and their accuracy is in the single digit percent range (mayb...

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12/2014

Building an ATX power supply

Using ATX PSU as basis for a lab power supply is an easy way to get started when building a lab power supply. It solves all the hard parts about wiring the transformer and the voltage regulation stuff, and basically leaves only the wiring. Especially when one needs some high-current PSU, this a nice way to get a simple solution. So I had this on my ‘projects to do’ list for a while (and even started to get some components). So when I stumbled over a

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Review - Tektronix TBS1052B-EDU oscilloscope

As part of the Forget me not challenge in the Element14 community, I got an oscilloscope from Farnell to be used as part of the design challenge. Due to a communication mishap it was advertised as being the 200 MHz version, but in the end all participants got a TBS1052B-EDU. Now that I had some time to use it and get some ha...

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6/2014

wireless power - status update 2

So what happened in the last two weeks? As already mentioned, I finalized the PCB and send it away. I did go with Würth in the end. They were not the cheapest of the lot, but provided the most bang for the buck. I got 5 day manufacturing time (and since they deliver with courier, probably even from Germany, delivery also takes only one day). Also, they did not charge extra for silkscreen or solder resist (as may happen with cheaper manufacturers). And last but not least I got Ni/Au plating for still ...

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Wireless Power - the full schematic explained

Since the contest is now nearing its completion, I gather its about time to actually show and explain the whole circuit. I already went through some of the parts of it, and how I decided how to build it. But I never showed how these parts work together. So lets have a look.

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wireless power - status update

So the last couple of weeks was silent with regards to my project - I was just too busy. Being on a business trip left not so much time for doing electronic projects (and I forgot to take the Eagle project with me). And the aftermath was then rather busy at work. But I got new transmitter coils from Würth in the mean time, and did some experiments with them (which need a write-up). Apart from that I have finalized my schematic, and added all the missing details I already explained the...

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5/2014

Building a multi-voltage reference for my DMMs

A while ago I saw in the Dangerousprototypes forums a nice project: MrRef. Its a small voltage reference, intended to verify that a digital multimeter is still within its spec. Normally one would use either a real high-precision meter (like the Agilent 3458A) or a reall...

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wireless power - battery under-voltage lockout with multiple cells

When designing systems powered by rechargeable batteries, especially LiIon batteries, its important to ensure that the batteries are not discharged too much. For primary cells this is not a problem (except that the device won’t work anymore), but secondary cells can be permanently damaged by such a deep discharge. normally this just results in permanently reduced capacity (which is bad enough). But a LiIon battery that has been discharged too deep can actually catch fire (that happens when its charg...

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AXP configurable logic design contest wrapup

So its time to finalize my project for the AXP Logic design contest. After having looked at the evaluation board, explained the electronic circuit as well as how I build the rest of the project, the last part the rules are calling for is a small essay describing my experienc...

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How to build a "most useless machine"

As promised last time, this article is about finally building the most useless machine of them all. When explaining the electronic / logic side of this project, I already talked a little bit about how it works. But now its time for some details. The basic idea is rather simple: there a motor, connected to an arm. On the outside of the enclosure is a switch, which turns the motor on. The arm then moves the switch into its original p...

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Two times is not enough - Measuring the performance of the wireless power demo kit part 3

Wuerth Elektronik was so kind to provide me with some additional coils to be used with Qi-compatible transmitters (and receivers). I actually asked, when receiving he offer, just for a specific one. But someone at Wuerth thought it might be better to send two for every single one they have in stock (which is four different types). So now I have to decide which one is suited best for my purposes...

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Two times is not enough - Measuring the performance of the wireless power demo kit part 3

Wuerth Elektronik was so kind to provide me with some additional coils to be used with Qi-compatible transmitters (and receivers). I actually asked, when receiving he offer, just for a specific one. But someone at Wuerth thought it might be better to send two for every single one they have in stock (which is four different types). So now I have to decide which one is suited best for my purposes...

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4/2014

Wireless power contest - strategies for charging a battery pack, part 3

In the first two parts of my wire less power contest series I had a look at options how to handle the charging of a battery pack. Either by dividing it into single cells or using a cell balancing...

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How to design a "most useless machine" with some logic gates

So it really took me a long time to come up with the (hopefully…) final design for such a useless machine. Having some basic conditions for what parts to use for this project influenced many decisions, and made some things more complicated than originally planned. So lets have a deeper look into my solution. First, I will explain what I used for this project, and how this shaped my decisions (and what problems arose from that). Next I will go through the whole schematic, explaining section ...

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Small update regarding the Numato FPGA boards

Just a quick update on the Numato FPGA boards I reviewed in the past. Right now they seem to be in the process of creating a whole eco system around them, to make it even easier to start the journey into the world of FPGAs. While following their blog, I noticed that Numato started to add some breakout boards to their offerings, that are i...

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Wireless power contest - strategies for charging a battery pack, part 2

In the last part of my wire less power contest article I had a look at options for charging a battery pack by dividing it into single cells for charging. Since all the options proved to be too complicated for my purposes, I will take a look at how to charge the battery pack at once. As already mentioned in the last part, the charging circuit needs to make sure the single cells are not over-charged. That...

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Wireless power contest - strategies for charging a battery pack, part1

When deciding for my basic plan to use a LiIon battery pack, I already knew that charging a LiIon battery pack will probably be the biggest challenge right now. So now it gets time for looking deeper into the issues of that problem. Why is charging a battery pack difficult Most devices using LiIon batteries only use a single cell (most prominent are mobile ph...

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Wireless power contest - outlining the basic plan

After I changed plans for last week, and did a second round of measurements, its now about time to write a little bit more about the actual project. The basic idea is to augment an existing RC car by removing its battery pack, and to replace it with a Li-Ion battery. This battery then should get charged by wireless power transfer. Then its enough for ...

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3/2014

Measuring the performance of the wireless power demo kit - an update

When measuring the performance of the wireless power demo kit, I forgot to look at the efficiency. So I repeated my test series, but also measured the current consumption of the transmitter board. I also ordered a cheap Qi receiver off eBay. Since my son has more than just a single toy I intended it to be used for other ones. Since it comes from China I did not expect to it get before a month or so, but shipping was really fast...

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Measuring the performance of the wireless power demo kit

When talking about wireless charging, one of the questions that always come up is: what are the distances this will work for? I did answer this question already for another wireless charging kit, so I was curious what the Qi (or WPC) standard had ins store. I’m interested in the maximum distance that is suitable for transferring a significant amount of power. Especially I wanted to know how well the transmit and receive coi...

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AXP1G57 configurable logic demo board - first impressions

So the evaluation board from NXP has arrived safely. Its larger than I expected (about 7.5 by 6 cm) - because its four boards in one: Each of the four parts of the board contains a single 74AXP1G57 chip (the really small blob in the middle), surrounded by connectors to...

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Unboxing the Wireless power demo kit - first impressions

So Würth was really fast with sending the Wireless power demo kit - one of the advantages of living in Germany :) This is what I found after opening the package:

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Another month, another contest - gimme wireless power!

Sometimes my timing is just bad. When I applied for the AXP configurable logic contest end of last year, I didn’t know that there would be another contest waiting for me. But when I stumbled on the Beyond the phone challenge by Element14, I could not resist to register for that too. It falls into my “I always wanted to do that” ...

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Another year, another contest

Since already have way to many project on my waiting list, I participate less in design contests than I used to. (I didn’t even come around to describe the projects I already did for them). So when I stumble over one, I look whether it sound interesting or not. Sometimes there are interesting prices (I still need a decent scope beside my iMSO104), sometimes the idea is just fun (like for the

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1/2014

Building a PICkit3 clone

I already own a PICkit2 clone for a while, and it worked without problems. But since it has been deprecated by Microchip for several years now, it doesn’t get any updates anymore. And so I found several times that it just doesn’t properly support the PIC chip I wanted to use. One can compile the pk2cmd application on Linux, to get at least programming support (it seems to be updated from time to time). But when used from MPLabX, only limited device s...

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Using Xilinx iMPACT in batch mode

When using Xilinx ISE for programming CPLDs, there are two steps needed for programming: first implement the design (thats the process taking all the sources and translate to a SVF file) and then use iMPACT for program the CPLD with the SVF file But when I started working with FPGA (with the new Numato Labs FPGA boards, I found out that there are now four steps involved until the design can...

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Continuous temperature monitoring

Two years ago, when we returned from our skiing vacation, there was a nasty surprise waiting for us: with outside temperatures of down to -20° (celsius), our heating system had shut down. At one point, the pilot flame went out, and without it the heater could switch on again. I don’t know the reason for that (and it hasn’t happened since then), maybe there was a drop in gas pressure. Fortunately the temperatures were not so low for the vacation of last year, but for this year I decided I would like t...

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A first look at the new Saturn and Mimas FPGA boards from Numato Labs

Even before the Elbert FPGA board (which I already had a chance to review)came out, Numato Labs worked on a FPGA board with a Spartan 6 on board (the Elbert board comes with a Spartan 3A). It was designed to contain an additional SDRAM module, but u...

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Some more memories

While looking at my parents attic for some old stuff of mine I not only found my old electronics experimenters kit, but also my old Lego boxes. My son already got the more generic bricks I owned as a kit (together with all the sets he got for Christmas and his birthdays already). But I also owned a whole lot of Lego Technic sets, and bought myself a Mindstorms RIS shortly after they came out. And while digging around in the attic I found th...

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12/2013

Migrating the frequency counter to PSoC5

In the last article I ended with the question whether to move on on the PSoC4 and add some features, or to move over to the PSoC5 before doing so. Since I would need a DAC for the next stepping (adding a comparator with variable trigger level), I took a deeper look at the PSoC4 data sheet. It comes with two DACs, but since they are current output DACs, I would need an external resistor. Since the LCD shield doesn’t leave me with a ...

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Old memories, old electronics kit and a new contest

I started my career in electronics (just a private one…) when I was a kid, more than 20 years ago. Growing up in East Germany meant that possibilities and access to e.g. components or tools were rather limited. One of the most useful items for learnings was an electronics kit which I used for many experiments, and which was and important tool to gather an understanding of what’s happening in an electronic circuit. So I was really delighted when I found, several months ago, this electronics ...

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11/2013

Calibrating an old Weston 1234 digital panel meter

So after reviving the display of my panel meter, I got stuck in my search for a manual. After a while, I started looking more deeply at all references I found and got lucky. Someone looking for a model 1230 manual got referenced to a model 1242 manual, and this one looked it was useful. Although its for a som...

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Reviving an old Weston 1234 digital panel meter

Many years ago I got my hands on an old panel meter (I think I got it from friends of my parents). It was 4.5 digit meter, with a full scale range of 20 Volts. This looked handy for using it in a power supply. Unfortunately I found out rather soon that it wasn’t working properly. its zero point was off by a large margin, and the full scale range was reading about 2 volts less than it should. Since there was no Google back then (even no Internet access at home), it was virtually impossible to ...

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10/2013

Improving the PSoC4 frequency counter

So in the first part we have seen that the PSoC can implement nearly anything you can draw as schematic from logic gates (or analog building blocks, though I didn’t use any). But the solution I implemented doesn’t make use from any of the PSoC-specific features. So in this part of the series, I will show what we can use and how it makes out life easier. Use counter in capture mode

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Starting the PSoC frequency counter series

Time to get started with the PSoC series. In this first article, I will look the simplest frequency counter implementation - using a gated timer. I will show how a project is set up using PSoC Creator (I’m using version 2.2 here still, but you might also use the newly-released version 3.0). This simple form of frequency meter is born by the definition of frequency: it just counts the numb...

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Pimping a kids night-light - finale grande

It really took a while to finish this project. Mainly this was because the object to be modified is in constant use, especially when I got some time to work on it. So when the rest of my family recently was away for a weekend, I took my chance. To recap: the remaining task was to make use of the wireless charger module. I already figured out that it can supply enough current...

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Playing with a TCXO

When I started working on the frequency meter project using the PSoC, I thought it might be a good idea to get better accuracy than the normal crystal oscillator could deliver. After all, it should be more accurate than the usual gated timer version you can find on Google. A crystal oscillator (like the SG531-40 I have in my parts bin gives an accuracy ...

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Cypress PSoC introduction

I already mentioned the Cypress PSoC family of chips several times in this blog, but I never came around to explain a little more about them. But since I’m currently working on my frequency meter project which will get implemented with a PSoC5, I figured I can use this as a good example. So this posting will be start of a series. It will start with an overview - what are the Cypress PSoCs, which families are available, and what can be done with them. I choose the

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Update to the LDC1000 experiments

A few days after my article about the LDC1000 experiments I got some feedback from TI. They did let me know that the chip can be used to design a general purpose metal detector. In this application, the coil design would need to change: increasing the coil size or adding a ferrite backing to the coil will increase the detection range. My initial statement ca...

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9/2013

Some experiments with the LDC1000 inductive sensor

Texas Instruments recently released their new LCD1000 inductive sensor. They touted it as a “game changing” announcement. And even though I don’t share that excitement, it looks like an interesting sensor (and I don’t work on stuff which relies heavily on position sensing like e.g. the automotive industries). So I ordered the evaluation k...

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$9 Arduino - first impressions

No, its not a cheap clone I scored off ebay. Maybe you have heard about the IndieGogo campaign from Borderless Electronics. I supported it rather early, because I could identify with its goals: everybody should have the chance to learn more about the technology which will drive out future. Hopefully my son will have this chance too… And when I ...

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8/2013

A self-powered battery tester with an EFM32

I like to participate in electroics design contest. Its always interesting to apply skills within a given timeframe, most times also within a given frame of what to do. Many times its also a chance to get your hands on interesting hardware one would never buy otherwise. Most times I have participated so far was because the theme of the contest (or the hardware to be used) gave me the idea for an interesting project - so its most times just an excuse to build something for fun… The same happe...

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Building a PicKit 2 clone

For most of my smaller projects using a high-performance MCU (like a Stellaris, now Tiva, STM32F or Cypress PSoC) is kind of overkill. Their power is not always needed and their requirements regarding supply voltages make the projects more complicated and expensive (they run with 3.3V only, so level conversion might be needed, and some additional LDO). And most of them are available on large (and small-pitch) packages only, making bread-boarding and the final PCBs more difficult. So for these small...

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Schmartboard PSoC board - a review

You might already know Schmartboard for their SMD breakout boards. If you do, you might also know about their line of development boards (e.g. for PICs, Parallax Propellers). And they are so nice to give away some of their boards in a monthly drawing. And it was this drawing where I got my hands on a PSoC5LP board. So a while ago a small package arrived at my doorstep - ...

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6/2013

USB Blaster clone

One of the tools I regularly is a JTAG adapter. For all the PIC controller I now have a PicKit2 clone, but for all the ARM MCUs you need JTAG (or sometimes SWD). Since my main operating system is Linux, it gets difficult to use the tool-chain from the processor manufacturer: TI provides their Code Composer Studio now also under windows, but neither the ICDI adapters nor the MSP430 Launchpad are supported there (but OpenOCD can use th...

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Hacking a garage door motor control system

Right next to our house is a small garage for our car. The previous own installed an roller door, together with a wireless key system. To provide service also when mains power has failed, the motor control and the motor itself are powered by a lead battery which is continuously charged from mains. That has the additional advantage that no large power supply is needed (the motor runs with 12V at about 4 amps), but only a small one for charging the battery (at maybe 100 mA). But a lead battery has a f...

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5/2013

iMSO-104 scope review

This is an article I wanted to write for quite some time, but I never came around. but it just means I now have some more experience with this scope, so the review is now only based on my first impressions. I came to my Oscium iMSO-104 scope as regular participant in the Cypress user community (which is a whole series of articles I want to write for an even longer time…). Basically it meant ...

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LogicBoost part 2

So the LogicAnalyzer did work OK, and just needed a proper USB-to-UART converter to be used properly. What could possibly go wrong? Enough, it turns out. As described in the first part, I added fixed connections to one of my Launchpads to cross the Tx and Rx lines between the MSP430 and the Launchpad (to be able to use the G2553 together with the Launchpad as USB-to-UART conver...

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MCP2200 USB-to-UART converter

I already mentioned in the post about the LogicBoost build that I wanted to use a MCP2200 IC as the USB to UART converter. I had three of them available for quite some time but did not come around to use them. So the LogicBoost project was a good reason for that… I used basically the reference schematic for the MCP2200, but added an voltage regulator because I the MSP430 can run only with up to 3.6V. So it gets a little bit more complicat...

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First tests with the Elbert FPGA board

A while ago Tom from Numato Labs was so kind to send me CPLD breakout board to give it a test drive. This led to a review and some interesting experiments with it. Unfortunately I had other projects ideas first, so it sat alone in its box for a while. But there will some tasks for it soon… But a couple of week...

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4/2013

SMT transistor test adapter

Another useful tool I built recently came from my AVR transistor tester build. I had build it with two different connector styles - one for attaching leads (via banana plugs), the other one for directly plugging in components. But this is lacking support for SMT components. I bought SMD tweezer probes (like these) on ebay recently, this covers all 2-pin components. But I had nothing to test or ...

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TimerBlox-based test generator

I recently got some samples for the Linear Technologies LTC6990 voltage controlled oscillator. It is part of LTs series of TimerBlox components, which consists of several oscillators, a mono-flop, a delay circuit and a controllable PWM generator. The LTC6990 comes in a SOT23-6 package and generates a square wave output ranging from 488 Hz up to 2 MHz, and is controlled by a three resistors...

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3/2013

Another auto-power-off project

Since the last auto-power-off project went well, I decided to go for another problem hunting me for a while. Our satellite receivers are capable to work as PVRs when a USB disk is added. First I tried a plain USB flash stick, but its write speed was not fast enough (and with the switch to HD TV you need about 1GB per 10 minutes recording time). So I bought an external hard drive enclosure and put a 250GB drive in it. The problem which...

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Some more experiments with the wireless charger

When I was discussing possible options how to mount the wireless charging module to the bed, the subject of what we call “electro smog” came up: what effects on the health might the exposure to electromagnetic radiation have? So I started to measure what these radiation might look like. I do not own the proper equipment for that, but at least I could try to find out what kind of wave forms I could expect. To I took out my iMSO scope, and we...

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2/2013

First experiments with a wireless charger

So yesterday my wireless charging module from SeeedStudio arrived. Thanks again to Seeed for picking me in the give-away! After unpacking, I found the following 2 small modules:

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Pimping a kids night-light - the LiIon charger

In the first part we covered the RGB LED part of the night light. Now its time to talk about the rest of the schematic (the part on the left side). Add Li-Ion battery charging...

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Pimping a kids night-light

When you have kid at home, there is no absence of project ideas. When we got night light for our son two years ago, the first thing I did was replacing the batteries that came with it rechargeable ones (which is good idea for all things which are in regular use). But still it was a hassle to always recharge them - the battery compartment is secured with a screw, which will break down eventually. So when I won a set of breakout board over at

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CD Player current savings

Recently, we bought a kid-compatible portable CD player for our son (basically it is larger and a little bit more rugged than a normal one, and has smaller buttons to be easier to use). We were just sick of hearing 6 hours “Bob the builder” during the car trips… When it arrived, we put a set of batteries in and tested it. After that, we left it until the skiing vacation. Fortunately we tested it the day before we started - the batteries were dead. So we thought “maybe we forgot to turn it off” and...

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11/2012

Building the LogicBoost free PCB

After finishing my last free PCB build I got a new coupon from Dangerous Prototypes. Since the free PCB drawer over at DP is sometimes empty, it took a while to find something interesting. But finally a PCB for the MSP430 variant of the Logic Shrimp logic analyzer, called the LogicBoost, arrived there. It is a 6-channel logic...

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7/2012

Implementing the frequency counter part 2

So it’s finally time for the second part of my implementation. It took a while longer than intended, part because I changed more than originally intended. Main goal was to connect to CPLD to a micro controller, to read out the counter results. The easiest way for the MCU would have been to provide a serial data stream (like SPI). But since we have 48 bits to transfer, I would need a 48 bit shift register - and there aren’t 48 registers left in the XC9572XL. So I did go an easier route and jus...

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Free PCB Build - XC95144XL Breakout Board

After finishing my last free PCB build I got a new coupon from Dangerous Prototypes. I decided to go for a xQFP prototype board this time. Unfortunately it went missing somewhere in the postal service, and there weren’t any more left. So I decided to go for a

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5/2012

Implemementing the frequency counter part 1

So this was long time since the last post. Working with a CPLD for the first time wasn’t trivial, and there are so many other things to do… I will split this up into two parts, the first showing the frequency counter stuff itself, the second one dealing with connecting it to an MCU and showing the results. Since I had already drawn a schematic for the simulation, which also worked fine, I decided to implement in the CPLD with a schematic also. I thought that it wasn’t too complex, an...

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4/2012

Starting with the frequency meter

The original plan for my first real CPLD project was to build a NCO (numerically controlled oscillator), which in turn should be used to build a wave generator. But shortly after I happened to find a SPG8640BN chip in my parts bin. This nice chip, which is unfortunately not produced anymore, produces a square wave output from 1 MHz down to 1/120th Hz, in 57 steps. I build a small generator with it, with 16 frequency steps between 83.3 Hz and 100 kHz. So there was no immediate need for a NCO (especial...

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Java by day...

I recently got asked how a Java programmer by day comes around to work with embedded MCUs by night. We Java developers are famous to think more in giga bytes, which is somewhat counterproductive in the embedded world. Actually the reason is simple - I started my electronics career before I became a software developer. Back then East Germany was still alive, and electronics was an expensive hobby. So I stayed with quite small projects, more ...

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3/2012

Building an AVR transistor tester

I had known about the AVR transistor tester project for quite a while, but did never come around to build one. Doing a proper PCB is still a major undertaking for me… But when Markus offered to send some his spare PCBs for free, I took my chance. I verified to have all parts available (except for the ATMega8), and the asked for one. It arri...

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Building a Xilinx parallel cable

For my initial tests (just to check whether this board works), I just used my Buspirate as XSVF player. I flashed it with the proper firmware for that, and connected everything except Vcc to the JTAG connector. For powering the board, I connected the 5 volt line of the Buspirate with Vcc of the breakout (to avoid damaging the LDO on the board). After I discovered that I needed to set the Vio jumper, and that the BP and the drivers are somewhat picky with regard to errors (and need a complete reboot),...

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Installing Xilinx ISE under Linux

One of the tasks when starting with CPLD (or FPGA) development is to install the tool suite provided by the chip vendor. In the case of the XC9572XL this is the Xilinx ISE software. Xilinx provides a free WebPack version, which contains all the basic tools needed for the first designs. On my initial test, I installed ISE 12.2, since I had in on a DVD somewhere. But for every start, it printed the error ‘couldn’t load XPCOM’, and some views weren’t working. So I started investigating. One ...

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Migrating this blog to nanoc

There was some silence here for the last couple of weeks. The reason was that I migrated my infrastructure from Thingamablog to nanoc. I was always fond of desktop CMSs, since I prefer not to have run dynamic code on my server for stuff that doesn’t change. That’s why I originally choose Thingamablog - it was lightweight and easy to use and worked fine all the time. But since I re-started with my blog, I noticed two p...

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BusPirate breakout free PCB build

Several weeks ago I got lucky and got a free PCB code from Dangerous Prototypes. Since I was currently working mostly with my BusPirate, and hadn’t any chips available for the other PCBs, I choose to get one of the BusPirate breakout boards. It took a while for shipment, but after Ian put into a letter, it arrived faster than expected (when looking at the address I realized th...

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2/2012

Programming a XC9572XL

It all started with a simple question by Tom from Numato Labs: “did you check whether the provided oscillator on the breakout works?”. So I took out my DMM and started measuring. And I got - nothing. After changing the jumper I got at least a reading for the 20 MHz setting (it showed 20.49 MHz). It turns out that my meter is only rated up to 8 MHz. So I went ahead and thought: Since I have a CPLD connected to the oscillator, why not just put some frequency divider (aka counters) on it and measure jus...

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Review - Numato CPLD breakout board

One of the things which have changed since I stopped with electronics is that much more things are now accessible to the hobbyist. 15 years ago I did know about CPLDs and FPGAs already. They cost about 50 Euros per piece, and the development software was way too expensive for a student. So I was already interested when I saw a Dangerousprototypes post about the CPLD breakout PCB from Numa...

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Year+=4

Oh my, I just realized that the last post here is more than 4 years old. What was intended just as a short break now results in a complete restart. Many thing have happened in the past - my son is now over 3 years old, my company is near the 3rd software release since then (and the biggest in its history), we rebuild our house, and I found a new hobby. Two and a half year ago my company got sucked into one of its greatest journeys of its history, resulting in the product release mentioned abo...

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12/2007

All developers suck

Not only the top 20%, but every single one. Maybe they do not suck at programming, but on something else - documentation, communication skills (I remember some mails from my coworkers) or driving their car. So everybody sucks at most things he or she is doing. Unfortunately, most of us suck at what they do at work. I know that most of the code I have programmed so far sucks, and there is only a handful of programs I’m proud of (and I starte...

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11/2007

Most people are clueless

Recently, I read A Mathematician’s Apology from G. H. Hardy. There was one sentence that struck me: ‘…most people can do nothing at all well. … perhaps five or ten percent of men can do something rather well’ He is not alone is this observation, Paul R. Brown called it the Tyranny of the Average. This is not only the case in our progession, but everywhere you look - most people have no clu...

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Code generating code

At work, we are currently experimenting with model driven software development. In the past, we were using the UML2 editor on Eclipse to create models of out persistent objects and later generated code directly from the model. The step to create not only Java code, but also other artifacts (like SQL scripts or code to import the persistent data from XML files) was small, the step to create a more abstract level was a little bit larger. Eclipse makes this somewhat simple because it delivers a...

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In computer science, all great ideas have be thought

Cruizer said that .NET 3.5 does things which Smalltalk already did nearly 40 years ago. A while ago, while learning more about Smalltalk history (and about the great things therein), I came to the conclusion that all great ideas in computer science have been made before 1975: all programming paradigms: LISP (1958), Smalltalk (around 1970), FORTRAN (1953), PROLOG (...

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10/2007

Asynchronous messages as OOP

Originally I wanted to write about cargo cult programming, but I read Michael Feathers latest post and the idea was too good to let it pass by. Since I’m currently struggling with creating a component system, which should serve as the base for a somewhat large domain model, I’m playing with thoughts about being able to see each co...

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Handling distributed teams

Both Turmalix and Mark Levison discuss the problems faced by locally distributed teams. For a current project one half of the team is located in Melbourne, Australia, the other half works in Germany. Out biggest problem - the information flow. If a team sits in a common location, you have many ways of getting information: just go to someone ...

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Fewer people are faster

Smoothspan writes: To Build Better Software, You Need Fewer People. He talks about the problem that larger teams tend to be slower because of all the communication issues between them. 10 Developers seem to be a reasonable limit for a software team, but I think there are tasks where the limit is even lower. I’m currently working on a team trying to develop a new architecture for a whole software s...

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FORTH programs are also DSLs

I explained in the last entry how I see Lisp programs as domain specific languages (or rather, how Lisp as a language encourages the creation of all programs as DSLs). When reading the explanation of Richard M. Jones for his minimal FORTH compiler, I was reminded that FORTH plays in the same league. You write your program by building new words basing on the already existing words, and try to capture the problem domain with them. In the end, ...

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Thinking about model driven software development

I hate buzzwords, and MDSD is one of them. No so much because as an bad idea, but because its so often misunderstood. When someone talks about model-driven development, he usually means two things: drawing some pictures (or diagrams, if a tools is used) he can solve all development problems with these pictures, and there is no need for further abstractions I came to think the see these pictures as a special kind of domain specific languages. Its graphical, an...

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Learning LISP

I wanted to learn Lisp for some years now, but I never got around doing it. Maybe its just that Lisp is too different from all languages I have used so far (which includes COBOL, Forth, but was mainly Pascal, C++ and Java for the last 8 years). Maybe its the bad memories to my time in university - we had a course on artificial intelligence there. We spend the 3 months assigned to learning Lisp just with fiddling aroung with lists and CAR and CDR (the other 3 months were more useful - we used PROLOG t...

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