Interview with [Damien George], Creator of the Micro Python project

upython

[Damien George] just created Micro Python (Kickstarter alert!), a lean and fast implementation of the Python scripting language that is optimized to run on a microcontroller. It includes a complete parser, compiler, virtual machine, runtime system, garbage collector and was written from scratch. Micro Python currently supports 32-bit ARM processors like the STM32F405 (168MHz Cortex-M4, 1MB flash, 192KB ram) shown in the picture above and will be open source once the already successful campaign finishes. Running your python program is as simple as copying your file to the platform (detected as a mass storage device) and rebooting it. The official micro python board includes a micro SD card slot, 4 LEDs, a switch, a real-time clock, an accelerometer and has plenty of I/O pins to interface many peripherals. A nice video can be found on the campaign page and an interview with the project creator is embedded after the break.

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An ARM Powered Business Card, Part Two

Card

While most microcontroller powered business cards opt for something small and cheap, [Brian] is going in an entirely different direction. His business card features an ARM processor, some Flash storage, a USB connection, and enough peripherals to do some really cool stuff.

This is the second iteration of [Brian]‘s business card. We saw the first version, but this new version makes up for a few mistakes in the previous version. The biggest improvement is the replacement of the Molex USB plug with bare traces on the board. [Brian] couldn’t find a board house that could fab a board with the proper thickness for a USB plug, but a few strips of masking tape did enough to beef up the thickness and make his plug nice and snug. Also, the earlier version had a few pins sticking out of the board for programming purposes. This wasn’t an idea solution for a business card where it would be carried around in a pocket, so these pins were replaced with a connectorless programming adapter. Just a few exposed pads gives [Brian] all the programming abilities of the last version, without all those prickly pins to catch on clothing.

With his new business card, [Brian] has an excellent display of his engineering prowess and a very cool toy; he has a project that will turn this card into a keyboard emulator, randomly activating the Caps Lock button for a few seconds every few minutes. A great prank, and a great board to give to future employers.

A cortex M4 based platform with ETH, USB, BT and many on-board peripherals

Here is a very time consuming project that I worked on during last summer: an ARM Cortex M4 based platform with plenty of communication interfaces and on-board peripherals. The particular project for which this board has been developed is not really HaD material (one of my father’s funny ideas) so I’ll only describe the platform itself. The microcontroller used in the project is the ATSAM4E16C from Atmel, which has 1Mbyte of flash and 128Kbytes of SRAM. It integrates an Ethernet MAC, a USB 2.0 Full-speed controller, a sophisticated Analog to Digital Converter and a Digital to Analog Converter (among others).

Here is a list of the different components present on the board so you can get a better idea of what the platform can do: a microphone with its amplifier, a capacitive touch sensor, two unipolar stepper motors controllers, two mosfets, a microSD card connector, a Bluetooth to serial bridge, a linear motor controller and finally a battery retainer for backup power. You can have a look at a simple demonstration video I made, embedded after the break. The firmware was made in C and uses the Atmel Software Framework. The project is obviously open hardware (Kicad) and open software.

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The Raspberry Pi Becomes a Form Factor

carrier

Despite the cries for updated hardware, the Raspberry Pi foundation has been playing it cool. They’re committed to getting the most out of their engineering investment, and the current board design for the Raspi doesn’t support more than 512Mb of memory, anyway.

What you see above isn’t a Raspberry Pi, though. It’s the Carrier-one from SolidRun. All loaded out, it has a system-on-module with a quad core ARM Cortex-A9, 2GB of RAM, 1000 Mbps Ethernet, USB host ports, eSATA, and LVDS display connector, a real time clock, and everything else you get with a Raspberry Pi, header pins included. It’s all the awesomesauce of the newer ARM boards that will still work with all your Raspberry Pi hardware.

If you’re thinking this is a product announcement, though, think again. The folks at SolidRun are merely using this Raspberry Pi form factor board as a prototyping and development platform for their CuBox-i device, In its lowest configuration, the CuBox-i1 is still no slouch and would be more than able to keep up with the most demanding Raspberry Pi applications.

Still, though, a hugely powerful board with lots of I/O is something we’d all love, and if SolidRun gets enough complaints praise, it seems like they might be willing to release the Carrier-one as an actual product.

Breadboarding with a ARM microcontroller

ARM

NXP’s LPC1114 ARM microcontroller is in a class all of it’s own. ARM microcontrollers are a dime a dozen, but this fabulous chip is the only one that’s housed in a hacker and breadboard friendly PDIP package. However, breadboard setups usually won’t have the luxuries of a true development platform such as flashing the part, single stepping through the code, and examining memory. [Steve] found an interesting solution to this problem that involves a Dremel and hacking up even more hardware.

[Steve] found a few LPC1769 dev boards that include a debugger and a way to program these chips. Simply by hacking off the programmer and debugger portion of this dev board with a Dremel tool, [Steve] had an easy to use interface for his breadboardable ARM.

After connecting the power rails to his breadboarded chip, [Steve] connected his programmer up and set up a gcc toolchain. For about $25, he has a breadboard friendly ARM microcontroller with full debugging capabilities.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a few people play with this DIP28 ARM chip; someone even milled this 600 mil chip down to 300 mils for even easier prototyping. Still, this is the best and cheapest way we’ve seen yet to turn this ARM into a proper prototyping platform.

The JavaScript of Things

Espruino

There are a ton of people out there that can program in JavaScript, but give them an embedded device, and they’re up the creek without a paddle. Not anymore, that is, thanks to [Gordon]‘s wonderful Espruino, a JavaScript interpreter for ARM microcontrollers. Oh, it’s also a very capable dev board that has more than enough power to turn just about any project you can imagine into reality.

On board the Espruino is an ARM Cortex M3 in the form of an STM32 chip, 256kB Flash, 48kB of RAM, and a ton of PWM and ADC pins to go along with 2 SPI ports, 2 I2C ports, and 2 DACs. It’s a very capable piece of hardware, and if you’re looking to build anything, it would be hard to pick a better general purpose dev board.

[Gordon] has put his board up on Kickstarter, and since it’s already been successfully funded, he’ll be releasing the hardware and software sources under an Open Source license. If you’ve ever wanted to run JavaScript on an ARM board, it looks like Espruino is just the ticket.

A $5 ARM development board

Most of you know that there are plenty of ARM powered development boards out there, so you may not be really sure what a new one can still bring to the table.

With a $5 price tag, the open hardware McHck (pronounced McHack) is meant for quickly building projects on a small budget. The board created by [Simon] is based on a Freescale Cortex M4 microcontroller, and can be plugged directly into one’s computer. As a Direct Firmware Update (DFU) bootloader is present on the microcontroller, there is no need for external programming equipment.

The board has unpopulated footprints that allow users to add other functionalities that may be required for their future projects: a Real Time Clock (RTC), a Boost regulator for single cell battery operation, Buck and linear regulators, a Lithium Polymer (LiPo) battery charger and even an External Flash storage.

The Bill of Materials can be found on the project wiki and the McHck community will soon launch a crowdfunding campaign to send the 5th version of the board to all the hobbyists that may be interested.

And if you’re curious, you can also have a look at all the other boards that Hackaday featured these last months: the browser based IDE arm boardquad-core ARM dev board and the Matchbox ARM.

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