Hackaday Links: August 21, 2016

Are you in New York? What are you doing this week? Hackaday is having a party on Wednesday evening. come on out!

How about a pub in Cambridge? Hackaday and Tindie will be there too, on Wednesday evening. It’s a bring-a-hack, so bring a hack and enjoy the company of your fellow nerds. If this goes late enough we can have a trans-Atlantic Hackaday meetup.

Portable emulation machines are all the rage, and [Pierre] built one based on the Raspberry Pi Zero. It’s small, looks surprisingly comfortable to hold, and is apparently it’s fairly inexpensive to build your own.

For the last year or so, the Raspberry Pi Zero has existed. This came as a surprise to many who couldn’t buy a Raspberry Pi Zero. In other news, Ferraris don’t exist, and neither do Faberge egg omelets. Now, the Raspberry Pi shortage is officially over. They’re in stock everywhere, and we can finally stop listening to people who call the Pi Zero a marketing ploy.

No Starch Press is having another Humble Bundle. Pay what you want, and you get some coding books. They have Python, Haskell, and R, because no one should ever have to use SPSS.

[Reg] wrote in to tell us about something interesting he found while cruising eBay. The used and surplus market is awash in Siemens MC45/MC46 cellular modem modules. They’re a complete GSM ‘cellular modem engine’, with an AT command set, and cost about $10 each. Interfacing them with a board requires only two (strange) connectors, SIM and SD card sockets, and a few traces to through-hole pads. Anyone up for a challenge? A breakout board for this cellular modem could be very useful, should someone find a box full of these modules in a surplus shop.

On this page, about halfway down the page, is an LCD driver board. It turns a video signal into something a small, VGA resolution LCD will understand. This driver board is unique because it is completely hand-made. This is one of those small miracles of a soldering iron and copper clad board. If anyone out there is able to recognize these parts, I’d love for you to attempt an explanation in the comments.

A few weeks ago, the RTL8710 WiFi module showed up on the usual online marketplaces. Initially, we thought it was a competitor to the ever-popular ESP8266, offering a small microcontroller, WiFi, and a bunch of useful output pins. A module based on the RTL8710, the RTL-00, is much more than a competitor. It’s pinout compatible with the ESP8266. This module can be swapped into a project in place of the ESP-12, probably the most popular version of the ESP8266. This is genius, and opens the door to a lot of experimentation with the RTL8710.

32 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: August 21, 2016

  1. About the LCD driver board:
    -It’s just a driver board with RAM for the LCD panel. He says the interface is for “580 series”, which Wiki claims to be an Intel 82xx copy. He seems to boot an “Orion-128” (a Russian-developed PC from 1990) with this display.
    -It just uses logic chips made in USSR times, nothing out of ordinary – you can find replacements for most chips out of those among modern logic chips. Shame some of the markings are hard to see on the pics.
    -VGA resolution? The panel used is 480*272.

      1. Great eye. That whole thing is a slew of new-techniques to me. That weird copper-clad with no holes… I can’t tell if it came pre-spaced or whether that was done with a razor-knife, either way quite handy. The wire-lacing completely slipped my eye. Am guessing that’s added *after* the wires are soldered-up…? Might have to use that on my current project. (Oh snap! It’s two-sides of the same board!)

        1. It definitely looks razor-knifed to me. I agree that the lacing was probably done after soldering, which would make it really difficult to put the knots on the bottom. It’s a very interesting breadboarding technique – probably more robust than dead-bugging, and even more so with the wires laced into a harness.

          I especially like the “edge connectors” – the pads made for off-board connections. Very well thought out.

          1. Interesting point… With a stand and a guide, it wouldn’t be difficult to do a straight section of any length. A tiny bit harder, but not much, to do internal (straight) cuts. A bit messier than razor-knifing but probably easier and more consistent.

            @BrightBlueJim: agreed, those edge-connectors are great. I’da probably soldered a dual-row header (straddling the board) rather’n wires-straight, but that’s debatable now that I’ve seen it. Some hot-glue or even tape would work wonders for strain-relief. Or if really worried about it and already using a rotary-tool, maybe full notches between the edge-connectors, then heat-shrink

            And if that thing’s really 480*272, nevermind the fact there’s clearly an SRAM, then it’s quite likely there’s changing-of-timing (possibly even scaling) involved rather than merely using the original timings converted to a different electrical-interface (which, really, probably would’ve been possible on most 480×272 screens in receiving a 384×256 input-signal).

            At the least, I imagine the circuit is inserting a few extra (blank) rows at the end to make sure the screen doesn’t repeat the top-rows at the bottom. That alone would be quite impressive with little more than basically so many TTL’s.

            (Even that big chip, the K155NP13 looks to be nothing more than an 8-bit latch: http://pdf1.alldatasheet.com/datasheet-pdf/view/125452/ETC1/K155NP1.html, page 24 )

  2. The Raspberry Pi Zero are still not in good supply. Nowhere in Australia has the board-only for sale I can see, only expensive kits. Pimoroni seems to be the only place you can get the board-only (from the listed suppliers) at close to $5USD (4GBP ~ $5.22USD), and even then you are limited to 1 at a time, so shipping costs (particularly to Australia) will more than double the per-unit cost. Until such time as you can at least get 2+ ‘bare’ units at once (and not pay for expensive ‘kit’ that you don’t need) from a local, or even overseas supplier, for $5 USD per unit, as they have been publicised as costing from day one through to now (plus reasonable shipping of course) I would call it a marketing exercise. You simply can’t get any moderate quantity for anywhere near $5USD/unit ATM. Note: I will be *very* happy to be proven wrong here.

    1. “For the last year or so, the Raspberry Pi Zero has existed. This came as a surprise to many who couldn’t buy a Raspberry Pi Zero. In other news, Ferraris don’t exist, and neither do Faberge egg omelets. Now, the Raspberry Pi shortage is officially over. They’re in stock everywhere, and we can finally stop listening to people who call the Pi Zero a marketing ploy.”–Brian Benchoff

      “Methinks thou dost protest too much”–Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 2

      1. I’ll second that. Part of the point of both Ferraris and Faberge eggs is that they are rare and expensive. The point of the Pi Zero is to be common and inexpensive. The $5 single board computer that runs Linux is still a myth until online retailers start allowing multiple unbundled Pi Zeros in one order, so you can actually get them at $5 each with reasonable per-unit shipping costs.

        It seems the Zero is real for people who live near a Micro Center, but my “local” store is a 4-hour, $15-worth-of-gas round trip.

        1. I do wonder sometimes what the actual profit margin is for Zeros and if it would be possible for retailers to turn a profit on Zero packs… 5 for $25 or something similar or if all the profit on the kit packs actually comes from the bundled accessories.

    2. Likewise. In theory I’ve ordered one from Adafruit for $5… plus $17 in shipping, and it ain’t here yet. And they have a customer-limit of one, like seemingly every other vendor with them actually in-stock. So yeah, if “available” means “can get exactly *one* shipped for 4.4x the RRP” then they’re available, but that’s a pretty crap definition. Or I could pay $50 to a scalper on eBay, but f**k that.

      Realistically, they’re not truly available until I can plonk down $100 and get 20 with free shipping, like I would for literally any other $5 component from Farnell/element14. Noting that e14 were release partners on the original Pi and they do not carry the Zero at all – that tells you something.

      This rollout has been slower and more ineffective than the original Pi release, for which I needed to wait only 8 months!

      1. Or more to the point – there is a product I would like to sell that would contain a Pi Zero.

        I’ve got a prototype but I cannot go into production because, y’know, it is not actually available.

    3. Aussies don’t get PiZeros, but they get The Great Barrier Reef, lobsters the size of canoes and your own prehistoric, Eden-like island continent.

      Trust me. You’re coming out ahead.

      1. Careful; you well know of the human animal’s propensity for screwing up idyllic situations (“They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot…). What you need now is a law forbidding the introduction of anything Raspberry Pi Zero into the environment.
        Throw another shrimp on the barbie for me, mate.

  3. “Now, the Raspberry Pi shortage is officially over. They’re in stock *everywhere*, and we can finally stop listening to people who call the Pi Zero a marketing ploy.”

    Of your five sources on your hyperlink *everywhere* page, only two of the five show any stock at all, and the customer is limited to purchasing ONE UNIT ONLY at each of those (two).
    One more time: precisely WHO do we stop listening to?

    Perhaps I am misunderstanding what you said?:
    “I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant”.–Alan Greenspan

    1. You’re right about the stock issue, seems to be a bug on the scraper end IMHO.

      What I would love is for the marketing nonsense to end, I would be happy to pay twice the RRP ($10) for the Zero, but not ten times the RRP with a bunch of useless (to me that is) items thrown in.

      It is a shame that the CHIP’s form factor sucks for my use case.

    2. It’s not saying that “you can buy as much as you want and not pay any shipping”. That’d be silly, I think.Also, it’s very likely they’re just clearing the old stock of Broadcom chips and therefore it’s not impossible that Zeros will disappear one day.

  4. Quote: “Now, the Raspberry Pi shortage is officially over. They’re in stock everywhere, and we can finally stop listening to people who call the Pi Zero a marketing ploy.” FAIL!

    I have been complaining that the official Raspberry Pi dealer in my region has never sold a single Raspberry Pi Zero Stock and that they don’t even list the Zero Stock on their website.

    Nothing has changed. It’s still a Raspberry Pi Zero Stock for the official supplier in my region. They don’t have it! They have NEVER had *one* for sale. And it appears that they will never have it.

    So the unfortunate reality is that (yet again) people have been caught in media hype and marketing ploys.

    Raspberry Pi Zero Stock !!! Still !!!

    1. This link says it all –
      http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Raspberry-Pi-Zero-brand-new-sealed-only-one-in-Aus-free-shipping-/26258366571

      A Raspberry Pi Zero on ebay that claims to the the THE ONLY ONE IN THE COUNTRY

      Starting Bid : $60
      Buy now : $80
      Shipping (local) : $10

      The item page actually says free shipping but if your charging $80 for a $5 computer then why not charge $10 for free shipping lol.

      This *IS* the exact reputation the Pi Foundation has in this country! Full of hype and lies!!!

      1. I’ve got the same thing. Funnily enough, the guy selling those in Latvia says “the only one in Latvia” as well, and the price is bananas. However, it didn’t deter me from buying it overseas – it’s so much easier. Seems like there aren’t local distributors of Zero if you’re not in UK/US, maybe that’s the real problem.

  5. Out of all the supplier listed on the link, only two have the Pi Zero by itself and they are from England. Everyone else has only them in “packages” starting at $23.12 and up to $39.99, not the $5.00 everyone is looking for…

  6. Do we really need 4 different top level comments about the RPi0, all with essentially the same complaint? It’s like people don’t read the previous comments, which is sad, since there’s only 0xF comments before this one.

    1. This is exactly how the Raspberry Pi Marketing has been such a dismal failure that it is *actually* polarizing people now.

      Not only did you have absolutely no reservations about completely dismissing the experiences of others, you also had no reservations in dismissing their personal experience as though it was a form of deficiency inherent in themselves. As though their experience is not real, not worthy of mention, and as though they are inferior due to expressing their experiences.

      And *that* is what the Raspberry Pi Zero Stock represents. It does NOT represent an innovative use of technology. It does not represent a tool that is shared by the community.

      It represents division and segregation. It is *THE* excuse in the tech world for treating your fellow engineer like trash. It is the binary of hatred encapsulated in technology.

      Raspberry Pi Zero Stock

      1. PS: Your comments were off the cuff and I certainly do appreciate your perspective in that quite clearly you sick of it and over it and I don’t blame you for that.

        I was not criticizing you in any way. It is the marketing that has presented this polarization as an “acceptable” way to respond negatively to other peoples experiences.

    2. YOU read the previous comments, didn’t you.
      Q.E.D.

      p.s.: consider this as just one more, with the addition that HaD’s love affair with the Raspberry Pi organization in general is getting really tiresome. Don’t think so? Read this article again, factoring in everything else you know about the Raspberry Pi group’s antics.
      Q.E.D.

    1. Agreed except that your ambiguous use of “other” still lacks a clearly defined point of reference for an uninitiated reader to know which coast of the Atlantic you are referring to

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