Bus Pirate v3 free PCB build

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@vijayenthiran tweeted picture of his free Bus Pirate v3 PCB build. The Bus Pirate is an open source hacker multi-tool that talks to electronic stuff.

If you build a free PCB we’ll send you another one! Blog about it, post a picture on Flicker, whatever – we’ll send you a coupon code for the free PCB drawer.

Get your own handy Bus Pirate for $30, including world-wide shipping. Also available from our friendly distributors.

Pogo pin test board for ADB-USB Wombat

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A pogo pin tester for the ADB-USB Wombat board from Big Mess o’ Wires:

Here’s a test rig for the ADB-USB Wombat board: my first-ever project whose sole purpose is to facilitate testing of another project. It uses spring-loaded pogo pins to create a bed of nails that fit into test points on the Wombat board. I can drop a new Wombat board onto the tester, clamp it in, and then program and test it with just a few button clicks. This is a huge improvement over my old manual testing method, which involved multiple cable connections and disconnections, and hand-verified keyboard/mouse emulation on two separate computers. That sort of test process is fine for building a few units, but something faster and easier is needed to support higher volume assembly.
Pogo pins contain tiny internal springs. When a Wombat board is pushed down onto the bed of pins, they compress a few millimeters in length. This helps to create a reliable electrical contact for each pin, even if the uncompressed lengths of the pogo pins are slightly different or they’re not perfectly aligned.

Check out the video after the break.

Updated CH340G board

Some weeks ago I blogged about my project of a minimal board based on the CH340G chip.

After some tests, I slightly modified the project:

  • I added two leds that blink when data are transmitted/received
  • I added a jumper that allows to decide if you want power supply (5V) in the connector or not
  • added a 10nF capacitor to make the circuit more stable.

Eagle files in my Github repository have been updated.

Here are some photos of the new PCB (the purple color should tell you that it was manufactured by OshPark):

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The new board with all the components and a comparison with the first version:

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App note: Linear power MOSFETS basic and applications

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Some examples of power MOSFETS application from this app note from IXYS Corporation. Link here (PDF)

Applications like electronic loads, linear regulators or Class A amplifiers operate in the linear region of the Power MOSFET, which requires high power dissipation capability and extended Forward Bias Safe Operating Area (FBSOA) characteristics. Such mode of operation differs from the usual way of using Power MOSFET, in which it functions like an “on-off switch” in switched-mode applications. In linear mode, the Power MOSFET is subjected to high thermal stress due to the simultaneous occurrence of high drain voltage and current resulting in high power dissipation. When the thermo-electrical stress exceeds some critical limit, thermal hot spots occur in the silicon causing the device to fail

App note: Depletion-Mode power MOSFETs and applications

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IXYS Corporation’s N-Channel power MOSFET selection and application. Link here (PDF)

Applications like constant current sources, solid-state relays, telecom switches and high voltage DC lines in power systems require N-channel Depletion-mode power MOSFET that operates as a normally “on” switch when the gate-to-source voltage is zero (VGS=0V). This paper will describe IXYS latest N-Channel Depletion power MOSFETs and their application advantages to help designers to select these devices in many industrial applications.

Akafugu modular VFD clock review

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Manuel Azevedo did a review of Akafugu’s modular VFD clock:

I discovered this wonderful tiny VFD clock by chance, while browsing Tindie for novelties. As I’m a newcomer to this Nixie/VFD world, I was not aware that Brian Stuckey already did an article in 2014 on a previous incarnation of this clock (Akafugu Modular VFD Clock).
I contacted Per Johan Groland, owner of the Japanese maker Akafugu that makes these clocks, for all the shields I could get my hands on – The only shield I did not order was the 4 tube IN-4/17 shield, which Brian already tested and which I find does not do this clock justice.

See the full post and more details on his blog, TubeClockDB.

Check out the video after the break.

STM32 and Arduino

STM32 is a family of 32bit microcontrollers manufactured by STMicroelectronics and based on the ARM Cortex M core.

The STM32 family is divided into different lines of microcontrollers (L0-1-4, F0-1-2…) depending on their features and the use they are designed for:

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These microcontroller are widely used in the industrial world… for example both Pebble watches and Fitbit bracelets are based on STM32 MCUs.

If you’re interested in quadricopters or drones, you probably have heard or used F1, F3, F4 flight control boards. The board name (“F…”) indicated indeed the STM32 microcontroller they are based on.

Thanks to the work made by the stm32duino community and to the support of ST itself, starting from the past June STM32 microcontrollers can be easily used with the Arduino IDE and it’s also possible to take advantage of most of the libraries available for Arduino.

I decided to buy a minimal development board based on the STM32F103C8T6 microcontroller (these boards are sometimes known as blue pills); let’s see how to use it with Arduino.

Bootloader

Many boards are sold unprogrammed: the first thing to do is therefore to program a bootloader, that is a small program which will allow to upload the “real” program via USB port.

To flash the bootloader, you need an USB -> serial adapter, connected to your dev board as it follows:

  • RX -> A9
  • TX -> A10
  • VCC -> 5V
  • GND -> GND

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You have also to enable the programming mode, moving the first jumper (labeled BOOT0) to position 1:

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Now you need a software to flash the file with the bootloader into the chip. If you’re under Windows, you can download the Flash Loader from ST’s official website: after having registered (for free) you’ll receive the download link via email.

The bootloader is developed and maintained by Roger Clark and it’s available in his Github repository. For STMF1 boards there are several binary files, depending on the PIN the onboard led is connected to. My board uses P13, so I downloaded the file generic_boot20_pb13.bin.

Run the Demonstrator GUI program and select the serial port your adapter is connected to:

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If all the connections are ok, the software should be able to detect the microcontroller:

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Now you can select the specific MCU your board uses:

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then select the file with the bootloader and program it. To be sure, you can ask the software to perform also a global erase of the memory:

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The program will flash the chip and, when complete, will confirm the operation with a message:

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If you now move back the BOOT0 jumper to the original position, you should see the led blink: this means that the bootloader is running and can’t find a program to execute… now it’s time to configure the IDE.

Arduino IDE

Open your IDE and select File – Preferences. Type the following address in the Additional Boards Manager URLs field:

https://github.com/stm32duino/BoardManagerFiles/raw/master/STM32/package_stm_index.json

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Now open the Boards Manager:

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Search STM32F1 and install the corresponding Cores package:

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You’re almost ready to compile and run your first program…

Drivers

Connect the dev board to your PC using an USB cable and verify how it is identified.

It may happen that Windows cannot correctly identify the board and displays it as Maple 003, is this case you have to install the correct drivers:

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Download the following files from Clark’s repository:

  • install_STM_COM_drivers.bat
  • install_drivers.bat
  • wdi-simple.exe

Run the two .bat:

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now Windows should identify the board correctly:

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Sometimes Windows cannot see the additional serial port of the board. To solve the problem, you can try to program on the board a simple sketch that uses the Serial object. Open for example the blink sketch and change it as it follows:

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Program the sketch choosing BluePill F103C8 as board and STM32duino bootloader as upload method.

Once the sketch is programmed and executed, Windows should detect and install the new COM port:

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You’re done, now the board is fully integrated with the Arduino IDE:

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Inside Intel’s first product: the 3101 RAM chip held just 64 bits

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Ken Shirriff writes:

Intel’s first product was not a processor, but a memory chip: the 31011 RAM chip, released in April 1969. This chip held just 64 bits of data (equivalent to 8 letters or 16 digits) and had the steep price tag of $99.50.2 The chip’s capacity was way too small to replace core memory, the dominant storage technology at the time, which stored bits in tiny magnetized ferrite cores. However, the 3101 performed at high speed due to its special Schottky transistors, making it useful in minicomputers where CPU registers required fast storage. The overthrow of core memory would require a different technology—MOS DRAM chips—and the 3101 remained in use in the 1980s.3
This article looks inside the 3101 chip and explains how it works. I received two 3101 chips from Evan Wasserman and used a microscope to take photos of the tiny silicon die inside.4 Around the outside of the die, sixteen black bond wires connect pads on the die to the chip’s external pins. The die itself consists of silicon circuitry connected by a metal layer on top, which appears golden in the photo. The thick metal lines through the middle of the chip power the chip.

See the full post and more details at Ken Shirriff’s blog.

Halogen floodlight SMT reflow

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David Sanz Kirbis built his own reflow device with an halogen floodlight, that is available on Github:

First test was to check the speed of the temperature rise inside a standard halogen floodlight. Reflow soldering temperature curves are quite demanding, and some adapted ovens can’t reach the degrees-per-second speed of the ramp-up stages of these curves.
I bought the spotlight, put an aluminium sheet covering the inside surface of the protective glass (to reduce heat loss), and measured the temperature rise with a multimeter’s thermometer…. and wow! More than 5ºC/s… and I better turned the thing off after reaching 300ºC and still rising quickly.
So the floodlight was able to fulfill the needs.
Next step was a temperature controller, that is, the device that keeps the temperature as in a specified reflow curve profile in each moment.

See the full post and more details on his blog, TheRandomLab.

Check out the video after the break.