Make dual pin header footprints into breadboard friendly DIP

[John] wrote in with a solution to a prototyping issue that has vexed us for quite some time. Above you can see the DIP friendly solution for dual-row pin headers which he came up with. With just a bit of easy soldering he now has a breadboard friendly device for prototyping.

He starts by soldering a dual row pin header on the board, then clips off all of the legs on the outside row. The row of legs that remain are then inserted into one side of the trench on his breadboard. The other side of the trench has a single row pin header, and he solders them to the outer row on the breakout board using another single pin header aligned horizontally. This isn’t a 100% convenient solution, as it’s still pretty hard to get your jumper wires in the breadboard on the side covered by the breakout board. But if you plan in advance you can place your wires first, then plug in the development board.

Here [John] is working with TI’s eZ430-RF2500 board. We’d like to go back and remove the dual pin socket we soldered on our eZ430-F2013, replacing it with this style of pins.

Using the GPIO pins on a Raspberry Pi

In addition to being a serviceable single board computer, the Raspberry Pi also has a header full of GPIO pins at your beck and call. [Tedbot] sent in a great tutorial on using these pins with Python, Bash, and C.

The GPIO pins on the Raspi are arranged in a 2×13 header. Until Sparkfun manages to manufacture a decent Raspi protoboard, the easiest way to break these pins out is with an old IDE ribbon cable. After plugging the other end into a breadboard, [Tedbot] had an easily accessible set of Raspi pins.

To control these pins, [Tedbot] found two libraries: the first is WiringPi that implements a C-style, Arduino-like programming environment on the Raspi. The second is the RPi.GPIO Python package. Since the Raspi runs Linux, and everything in Unix is a file, [Tedbot] used a shell script to blink a LED.

One word of warning if you’re building a board to extend the capabilities of the Raspi: these pins aren’t 5 V tolerant, so you’ll need to throw in a buffer or level converter when building a Raspi circuit.

Edit: Adafruit is releasing a Pi Plate prototyping board in a few weeks. Neat, huh?

USB connectivity that is so very very small

Using FTDI chips as a USB to Serial solution is nothing new, but this MicroFTX board takes the footprint to a new low. If you’re space limited this should have no problem fitting into your project. But if you plan to use it for prototyping we predict it’ll be lost in the parts bin forever as soon as you take your eyes off of it.

The USB Mini-B connector is becoming quite popular with hobby electronics these days. But here [Jim Paris] chose to use its little brother, the USB micro connector. Want to put this together by hand? How are you with 0402 footprints and QFN chips? In fact, there’s a ground pad on the bottom of that IC which means you really need to use a reflow oven to do the job right.

Aside from the diy-unfriendly fabrication size, we do like the design. There are four output pins (voltage, ground, TX, and RX) with a set of four solder jumpers to configure them. It can be powered from the USB port or an external connection, with the option for 5V or 3.3V output.

[Thanks John]

BB313 breadboard platform makes ATtiny prototyping painless

Johngineer's BB313

[John De Cristofaro aka Johngineer] uses various ATmega microcontrollers in his electronics projects, but he finds himself reaching for an ATtiny2313 or ATtiny4313 more often than not. He got tired of having to wire up pin headers, capacitors, and the like each time he started a project, so he spent some time designing an easy to use breadboard platform around the chips.

Inspired by LadyAda’s Boarduino, his BB313 board features FTDI pin headers, an ISP programming header, a reset button, along with breakout pins that plug directly into any breadboard. Aside from sharing a similar layout, [John] says that the similarities end there. His board is designed for designers who program in C or C++, so Arduino code won’t run without some substantial modification.

The board looks like a pretty handy benchtop tool, and we’re pretty sure it would be a big time saver for anyone who uses these chips with any frequency. [John] says that the board cost about $6.50 to make when he put it together, but that prices might vary slightly depending on where you have your PCBs made.

Be sure to swing by his site if the design looks like it might be helpful. He has made the schematics, a bill of materials, and all the rest available for the taking.

[via Adafruit blog]

FrankenKindle: building an alternate Kindle keyboard

If you’ve ever thought the Kindle keyboard was a bit cramped you’re not alone. [Glenn's] been working on developing an external keyboard for the Kindle for quite some time. It may not make easier for everyone to use, but he’s motivated to improve usability for his sister who has Cerebral Palsy.

We see a lot of keyboard hacks that solder straight to the pads under the buttons, but for a compact device like the Kindle this would really mess things up. Instead of going that route, [Glenn] sourced a 20-pin Flexible Flat Cable and breakout board that match the internal Kindle connector. The prototype seen above uses a TS3A5017 serial multiplexer chip to simulate the keyboard button presses. That multiplexer is driven by a Teensy++ microcontroller board which is monitoring a larger set of buttons on the V.Reader seen above. Check out the video after the break for a brief demonstration, then look around at the rest of [Glenn's] blog posts to view different steps of the development cycle.

[Read more...]

Reading NAND flash chips without removing them

Here’s an interesting method of reading data off of a NAND flash chip. Often we see these chips desoldered in order to read and write data, but not this time. This method uses hacked adapters to match the pin pitch of the various chips. Above you see parts of a breakout board cut down to use as wedges. These are drag soldered to the pins of the chip, then the appropriate breakout pins were connected to a Smartmedia card reader, which can read NAND chips. There is also an example showing the flexible connector cable for a DVD rom used as the adapter to solder to a smaller chip. We still looks pretty tricky, but it might be less labor intensive than relocating the flash chip like we saw on that Sega Game Gear hack, as long as you only need to read or write the data once.

[Thanks Laurdy]

Touring the available Nokia LCD screens

[Rossum's] taking a look at the Nokia LCD screens that are both plentiful and begging to be bent to your will. For quite some time the Nokia 6100 screens have been used in a lot hacks, but he wanted to see what else is out there. He digs into his junk box of cell phones and comes up with a couple to test; the Nokia 6101 and Nokia 2760. The screens use a 3-wire SPI interface, which he sniffs out with a logic analyzer. At power-up the cellphone polls the screen to determine which type of LCD controller is connected. [Rossum] grabs these commands from the logic analyzer and uses it to determine the hardware in use with each screen.

He made himself a nice breakout board which has connectors for several different screens. The firmware he’s using detects when a screen is attached and switches to the applicable protocol for that display. Take a look at the video after the break.

[Read more...]

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