At the beginning of the Month we came across a coupon code for a free eZ430-F2013 development stick. TI has given these things now and again so we took the opportunity to acquire one. It arrived yesterday and we’ve spent just a bit of time looking it over. Above you can see the first project completed; Hello World on a salvaged Nokia cell phone screen. Join us after the break for our thoughts on the device, as well as more pictures and details.
The development board comes as a USB dongle. But this isn’t the extent of the packaging. It came in a DVD case, along with a CD that has User’s Guides and “web resources” on it. We don’t need this, but okay. But wait, that’s not how it shipped. The DVD case came inside of a 9″x9″x10.5″ box that was shipped priority overnight via FedEx. That seems a bit wasteful, especially considering that we didn’t pay a dime for the hardware or the delivery. A manila envelope would have sufficed, but if it’s free we don’t get to make the decisions about this stuff.
Inside you’ll find the mainboard with a USB connector that makes up the programmer itself. The hind-end is small detachable board that hosts the F2013 microcontroller. The case was a bit finicky to remove but a little bit of prying does the trick.
0451:f430 Texas Instruments, Inc. MSP-FET430UIF JTAG Tool
When plugged in an LED on the daughter board happily blinks away as the example firmware intended. We were pleased to see that dongle was recognized by Ubuntu 10.04 as a UIF device that MSPdebug, the software we used to program with the Launchpad, can talk to. Time to make this little guy do something.
Here’s the microcontroller board. Note the small-pitch 4-pin socket for connecting to the programmer board. Also note the unpopulated 0.1″ pitch pads.
Here’s the underside of that board after adding two 7×1 pin sockets. This is where we discovered a nice design consideration. Since we didn’t have any IDC sockets that are this large (to plug into a pin header on is board) we went with the pin socket and will just insert jumper wires. Now that they’re installed we realized that the pin-out from the bottom is the same as the chip would be from the top; pin 1 in the upper left and pin 14 in the upper right. Time to hook this up to something and start coding.
We pulled out an old Nokia 3595 LCD screen that we’ve used in the past because it uses 3.3V which is the upper end for this chip. Porting the code over was a snap since it was already used with another MSP430 chip. A few minutes later out pops ‘Hello World’. To review: it was free, works with Linux tools, and it seems like the code works across several different chips. Win!
Our Thoughts on the Hardware
So what do we think about this as a development package? If it’s free, great! We’re a little baffled because it seems to be disposable hardware. No thought has gone into using the programmer for anything other than TI’s daughter boards that have the fine pitch connector. We’ll most likely end up gluing a pin header to the plastic case and soldering those pins to the proper connections to make this more robust. We do get the feeling that one hand doesn’t know what the other’s doing over there because the Launchpad feels like superior hardware. That being said, neither of the development boards have made it easy to program and debug off-board so for now we consider both of these as novelties.
You do have to give them credit though, by giving it away for free we now have an MSP430 chip already on hand for the next time we’re prototyping a small project. And this might be just the thing to use the 1.8V serial EEPROM we ordered a few years back thinking we were getting the 5V version.
It’s nothing special, and probably of no use to anyone, but here’s the git repository for the hello world code.