An Online Course For FPGA And CPLD Development

FPGA

Over on the University of Reddit there’s a course for learning all about FPGAs and CPLDs. It’s just an introduction to digital logic, but with a teacher capable of building a CPLD motor control board and a video card out of logic chips, you’re bound to learn something.

The development board being used for this online course is an Altera EMP3032 CPLD conveniently included in the Introduction to FPGA and CPLD kit used in this course. It’s not a powerful device by any measure; it only has 32 macrocells and about 600 usable gates. You won’t be designing CPUs with this thing, but you will be able to grasp the concept of designing logic with code.

Future lessons include building binary counters, PWM-controlled LEDs, and a handheld LED POV device. In any event, it’s a great way to learn about how programmable logic actually works, and a fairly cheap way to get into the world of FPGAs and CPLDs. Introductory video below.

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Homebrew Programming With Diodes

diode

Diode matrices were one of the first methods of implementing some sort of read only memory for the very first electronic computers, and even today they can be found buried deep in the IPs of ASICs and other devices that need some form of write-once memory. For the longest time, [Rick] has wanted to build a ROM out of a few hundred diodes, and he’s finally accomplished his goal. Even better, his diode matrix circuit is actually functional: it’s a 64-byte ROM for an Atari 2600 containing an extremely simple demo program.

[Rick] connected a ton of 1N60 diodes along a grid, corresponding to the data and address lines to the 2600’s CPU. At each intersection, the data lines were either unconnected, or tied together with a diode. Pulling an address line high or low ([Rick] hasn’t posted a schematic) pulls the data line to the same voltage if a diode is connected. Repeat this eight times for each byte, and you have possibly the most primitive form of read only memory.

As for the demo [Rick] coded up with diodes? It displays a rainbow of colors with a black rectangle that can be moved across the screen with the joystick. Video below.

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Developed on Hackaday: Current Status and Selected Beta Testers

Mooltipass final prototype

The Hackaday community is currently working on an offline password keeper, aka Mooltipass. The concept behind this product is to minimize the number of ways your passwords can be compromised, while generating and storing long and complex random passwords for the different websites you use daily. The Mooltipass is a standalone device connected through USB and is compatible with all major operating systems on PCs, Macs and Smartphones. More details on the encryption and technical details can be found on our github repository readme or by having look at all the articles we previously published on Hackaday.

As you can see from our commit activity these last weeks have been extremely busy for us. We finally have a firmware that uses all the different libraries that our contributors made but also a chrome plugin and extension that can communicate with our Mooltipass. We’re very happy to say that our system is completely driverless. A video will be published on Hackaday next week showing our current prototype in action as some of the contributors are already using it to store their credentials.

We selected 20 beta testers that will be in charge of providing us with valuable feedback during the final stages of firmware / plugin development. Selection was made based on how many passwords they currently have, which OS they were using but also if they were willing to contribute to the prototype production cost. We expect them to receive their prototypes in less than 2 months as the production funds were wired today.

We think we’ve come a long way since the project was announced last december on Hackaday, thanks to you dear readers. You provided us with valuable feedback and in some cases important github push requests. You’ve been there to make sure that we were designing something that could please most of the (non) tech-savy people out there and we thank you for it. So stay tuned as in a week we will be publishing a video of our first prototype in action!

Want to chat with us? You can join the official Mooltipass Google Group or follow us on Hackaday Projects.

Designing the Second Version of my Business Card

At the end of the month my contract with my current employer (no, not Hackaday) will end. With the interviews starting to line up I therefore thought it’d be a nice opportunity to design the PCB business card you can see in the picture above.

It is made of two PCBs soldered together, the bottom one containing the SMD components while the top one only has holes to let most of them pass through. The design was mainly inspired by the first version we already featured on Hackaday although the microcontroller was changed for the (costly) ATMega32u4 and the top PCB was slightly milled so the LEDs may shine through the FR4. The LEDs are connected in groups of 2 (total of 8 groups) to PWM channels and a hidden flash memory allows the card to be recognized as an external 2MB storage using the LUFA library. All source files may be downloaded on my website.

Cypress Launches $5 ARM Dev Board

CY8CKIT-049-41XX Dev Kit

We do love new development boards at Hackaday, and it’s always nice to see companies providing cheap tools for their products. For those needing a cheap ARM solution, Cypress has just released a PSoC based board that’ll cost you less than $5.

There’s two main ICs on the development board. The first is the target: an ARM Cortex M0+ based PSoC 4 MCU. The second is a CY7C65211 USB bridge. This device is communicates with the target’s built in bootloader for flashing code.

The bridge can also be configured to talk UART, GPIO, I2C or SPI.  If you need a USB to serial converter, this part of the board could be worth $5 alone.

The PSoC 4 target happens to be similar to the one our own [Bil Herd] used in his Introduction to PSoC video. If you’re looking to get into PSoC, [Bil] provides a good introduction to what makes these chips unique, and how to get started.

The First Arduino Radar Shield

The first Radar Arduino ShieldThe very first fully operational radar Arduino shield was recently demonstrated at Bay area Maker Faire. It was built by [Daniel] and [David], both undergrads at UC Davis.

Many have talked about doing this, some have even prototyped pieces of it, but these undergrad college students pulled it off. This is the result from Prof. ‘Leo’ Liu’s full-semester senior design course based on the MIT Coffee Can radar short course, which has been going on for 2 years now. Next year this course will have 30 students, showing the world the interest and market-for project based learning.

Check out the high res ranging demo, where a wider band chirp was used to amazing results. Video below.
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Faster Benchmarks With Slower Hardware

hardware

The Bus Pirate is a cheap, simple, Swiss army knife of electronic prototyping, capable of programming FPGAs, and writing to Flash memory. The uISP is possibly the most minimal way of programming Atmel chips over USB, using less than $5 in components. Although the uISP is using a slower chip and bit-banging the USB protocol, it turns out it’s actually faster when operating as a programmer for SPI Flash memories.

Most of [Necromancer]‘s work involves flashing routers and the like, and he found the Bus Pirate was far too slow for his liking – he was spending the better part of four minutes to write a 2 MiB SPI Flash. Figuring he couldn’t do much worse, he wrote two firmwares for the uISP to put some data on a Flash chip, one a serial programmer, the other a much more optimized version.

Although the ATMega in the uISP is running at about half the speed as the PIC in the Bus Pirate, [Necromancer] found the optimized firmware takes nearly half the time to write to an 8 MiB Flash chip than the Bus Pirate.

It’s an impressive accomplishment, considering the Bus Pirate has a dedicated USB to serial chip, the uISP is bitbanging its USB connection, and the BP is running with a much faster clock. [Necro] thinks the problem with the Bus Pirate is the fact the bandwidth is capped to 115200 bps, or a maximum throughput of 14 kiB/s. Getting rid of this handicap and optimizing the delay loop makes the cheaper device faster.

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