Launchpad takes ultra low power to the extreme

We’ve all known the MSP430s under the Launchpad are designed to be low power, but who wants to bet how long the chip can last on only 20F worth of capacitors? A couple of hours? A day at max? [Kenneth Finnegan] setup a MSP430 with supercaps to find out. To make sure the chip is actually running, [Kenneth] programmed it to count from 0 to 9 over a period of 10 seconds, and then reset. To get it ultra low power, the chip is in sleep mode most of the time, and a raw low current LCD is used to display the output. While [Kenneth] simply checks the chip every few hours to see if it’s still counting, a setup much like the Flash Destroyer, tracking a clock and then storing the current value would get a more exact time of death. Either way, it’s been over 3 weeks…and still counting. Video after the rift.

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Decapping integrated circuits with sap

[James] is interested in reverse engineering some integrated circuits. One of the biggest hurdles in this process has always been just getting to the guts of the chip. He used acetone to dissolve the plastic case but had trouble getting through the epoxy blob. Commonly, the epoxy is soaked in nitric acid for a few minutes but [James] didn’t have access to that chemical. Instead he popped into the local music store and picked up some rosin (used to make violin bows sticky enough to grab the strings of the instrument). After boiling down the rock-hard rosin and the chip for 20 minutes, he got a clean and relatively undamaged semiconductor that he can easily peer into.

Online chip reference trims the fat


Quick: which pins are used for I2C on an ATmega168 microcontroller?

If you’re a true alpha geek you probably already know the answer. For the rest of us, ChipDB is the greatest thing since the resistor color code cheat sheet. It’s an online database of component pinouts: common Atmel microcontrollers, the peripheral ICs sold by SparkFun, and most of the 4000, 7400 and LMxxx series parts.

The streamlined interface, reminiscent of Google, returns just the essential information much quicker than rummaging through PDF datasheets (which can also be downloaded there if you need them). And the output, being based on simple text and CSS, renders quite well on any device, even a dinky smartphone screen.

Site developer [Matt Sarnoff] summarizes and calls upon the hacking community to help expand the database:

“The goal of my site isn’t to be some comprehensive database like Octopart; just a quick reference for the chips most commonly used by hobbyists. However, entries still have to be copied in manually. If anyone’s interested in adding their favorite chips, they can request a free account and use the (very primitive at this point) part editor. Submissions are currently moderated, since this is an alpha-stage project.”

NVIDIA’s problems worse than expected?

According to the an article in the INQUIRER, it is very possible that all chips with the G84 and G86 architecture are faulty. The problem is said to be excessive heat cycling and when NVIDIA was questioned, they blamed their suppliers for the issue. Although NVIDIA is claiming that only a few chips that went to HP were affected, the INQUIRER points out that all the chips use the same ASIC across the board, which has not changed in the architecture’s lifetime. They also point out that Dell and ASUS are having the same issues.

The article then goes on to theorize why we have not seen more complaints. They say that failures of these type usually follow a bell curve distributed over the time domain and we are only on the initial up-slope. This is probably due to the different use patterns of the users. For example, people with laptops are turning their computers on and off more than desktop users, thus facilitating the heat cycling’s effect. They suggest the quick fix as more fanning, but eventually NVIDIA will have to do something about this.

[via Engadget]

Progressive MyRate hackable?

Progressive Insurance announced that it will be rolling out its MyRate plan nationally. You participate by plugging a monitoring device into the ODB-II port on your vehicle. Once every six months you upload the collected data from every trip you’ve made. You’ll receive at least a 5% discount and maybe more based on your driving habits. In some states though, you could actually have your rates raised. Progressive will show you the direct impact your driving behavior has on your rate.

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