MSP430 bit banged USB 1.1


Here’s a rather exciting development for those who work with MSP430 microcontrollers. [M-atthias] worked out a way to implement USB 1.1 on a MSP430G2452. He’s bit banging the communications as this hardware normally doesn’t support the Universal Serial Bus. This is much like using the V-USB stack for AVR micros.

The test hardware seen above uses an 18Mhz crystal to get the timings just right. As this squeezes the most out of the chip it should come as no surprise that the firmware is written in assembly. This is still quite early on in development but the core features are mostly there, having been implemented and debugged over several versions already. Currently the base functionality can be loaded using under 2k of flash memory. You can download the Mecrisp package from [M-atthias’] sourceforge page. If you want to lend a hand testing or developing it would be greatly appreciated.

[via 43oh blog]

ODROID-U2 is latest barebones board begging to be used


Oh hey, another barebones dev board. Well, that’s what we said to ourselves when we first saw this picture, but the way this is presented is like crack for geeks. It starts with this tiny board, which has a footprint smaller than a credit card. But once you start looking at the add-ons you’ll want to watch out or you’ll cover yourself in drool.

The name of the game here is speed. It’s running a quad-core Cortex-A9 chip with a Mali-400 graphics accelerator. There is no on-board storage, but the microSD slot is meant to be used for OS and storage. A faster option is to use a NAND add-on board offered in 8, 16, and 64 gig capacities ($25-$79). There is a micro type-D HDMI connector and the device is powered by a cellphone charger. It ships with a big heat sink that acts as a case for the board.

After the break you can see it booting Android and immediately loading into XBMC. The menu looks mighty snappy, making us think this is a great alternative to using Raspberry Pi as a media center. But you’ll pay for the faster speed and ability to run Android. The rig they’re showing off, plus the add-ons, comes out to about $132. There are also questions to be answered as to which video formats are supported through hardware decoding.

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Dyson engineers’ hacks traverse robot obstacle course


These guys are all engineers who are employed by Dyson. They’re holding remote control creations made from Dyson parts. This time around the object of the challenge was to build a bot based on a the Dyson ball and race it through an obstacle course.

This sort of thing is right up our alley, but unlike the last time Dyson engineers shrugged off the daily grind to hack their own hardware, this doesn’t show off nearly enough of the festivities. Sure the pair of videos embedded after the break make a great trailer for the event, but we would love to have seen 90 seconds devoted to each of the entries. Alas, you do get to see most of the winning unit’s obstacle course run which includes a distance route, navigating through rough terrain, and negotiating a high path where falling off the edge is a real threat.

Maybe the engineers themselves will post details about their own builds like the contestants in Sparkfun’s autonomous vehicle contest do.

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Gadgeteer plant monitor wants it wet and photogenic


[Christian] is growing a tomato plant on his desk and wanted to capture some time-lapse images of its progress. To that end he built a rig that monitors moisture levels and snaps images at regular intervals.

The hardware he’s using is part of the Gadgeteer family. These run a .NET micro framework and are modular which makes for easy assembly. A laser-cut plywood stand helps to position the camera module for the best shots. Its takes a picture of the seedling once every ten minutes. There is a quartet of RGB LEDs surrounding the lens. They help illuminate the subject for each picture. But [Christian] also mentions that the red LEDs provide light the plant needs to grow (we raise an eyebrow at that claim, but in truth we have no idea if red LEDs make plants grow or not). There is also a moisture sensor which you can see inserted in the soil.

The images and moisture readings are all pushed to a server. There is an Ethernet board near the base of the rig. It uses POST to send the image, which is saved by a server-side script. The moisture data is sent via a GET command.

Christmas light controller is its own percussion section


[Jason] and his father took advantage of a week off of work over Thanksgiving to design and build a Christmas light decoration that can flash fancy patterns. He calls it the Uno Christmas Tree. It’s sixteen strands of lights draped between a pole and the ground to form the shape of a tree. The main controller is an Arduino UNO, but what really makes this work is a mechanical relay board with sixteen channels.

Using trigonometry they figured out that the decoration would be fifteen feet tall and have a five-foot radius at the base. A pipe was installed to act as the trunk, with an old toilet flange at the top and stakes at the bottom to anchor the lights. They all make their connections at the controller box using extension cords that were labelled with channel numbers. You can see the final product in the video after the break. But you’ll also want to watch the clip on [Jason’s] blog which shares the sonic symphony created when the mechanical relays really start working.

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Inductive charger inside the case of this iPhone 4s


This iPhone 4s is charging without a dock connector because [Tanv28] added inductive charging hardware inside the case.

The hack is not for the faint of heart. But if you’ve got a precision soldering iron and a stead hand we bet you can pull it off. It starts with disassembly to get at the cable that connects the circuit board to the dock connector. [Tanv28] solders fine enameled wire to pins 16, 23, 25, and 27. The other end of these wires are soldered to the guts from a Powermat inductive charging system. After the connections are made there’s not enough room under the back cover of the phone for this added bulk. But laminating a second plastic frame onto the assembly will correct for the 1mm difference in thickness. The clip after the break walks through the entire process.

You can see that [Tanv28] also built the charging station into a piece of furniture. We just saw a post last week that used this technique to add Powermat hardware to a shelf.

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Inventing networking protocols for dozens of Arduinos


When you don’t want to use I2C or SPI, and MIDI and DMX are old hat, [Scott] comes along and invents a very strange networking protocol that is just daisy chaining a few Arduinos together with serial connections.

Strange as it may seem, this networking protocol actually makes a whole lot of sense. [Scott] is working on an animatronic birdhouse in the vein of Disney’s Imagineers and needed to network a whole bunch of Arduinos without using up precious IO pins.

The networking stack [Scott] came up with capitalizes on the hardware UART in each Arduino by simply daisy-chaining several boards together. By adding an FTDI breakout at the beginning of the chain, [Scott] can control dozens of Arduinos straight from a terminal

[Scott] isn’t using off-the-shelf Arduinos for this project – a few months ago he found 100 Arduino-compatible stepper motor controllers while dumpster diving at his job, giving him more than enough nodes to come up with some pretty crazy networking protocols. It’s a great use of the hardware he has on hand, and a very clever solution to controlling dozens of microcontrollers at once.

Check out [Scott]’s demo after the break.

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