Sparkfun Ships 2000 MicroViews Without Bootloaders


Everyone has a bad day right? Monday was a particularly bad day for the folks at Sparkfun. Customer support tickets started piling up, leading to the discovery that they had shipped out as many as 1,934 MicroViews without bootloaders.

MicroView is the tiny OLED enabled, Arduino based, microcontroller system which had a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign earlier this year. [Marcus Schappi], the project creator, partnered up with SparkFun to get the MicroViews manufactured and shipped out to backers. This wasn’t a decision made on a whim, Sparkfun had proven themselves by fulfilling over 11,000 Makey Makey boards to backers of that campaign.

Rather than downplay the issue, Sparkfun CEO [Nathan Seidle] has taken to the company blog to explain what happened, how it happened, and what they’re going to do to make it right for their customers. This positions them as the subject of our Fail of the Week column where we commiserate instead of criticize.

First things first, anyone who receives an affected MicroView is getting a second working unit shipped out by the beginning of November. Furthermore, the bootloaderless units can be brought to life relatively easily. [Nate] provided a hex file with the correct bootloader. Anyone with an Atmel AVR In-System Programming (ISP) programmer and a steady hand can bring their MicroView to life. Several users have already done just that. The bootloader only has to be flashed via ISP once. After that, the MicroView will communicate via USB to a host PC. Sparkfun will publish a full tutorial in a few weeks.

Click past the break to read the rest of the story.

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Circuit Printer Doubles as a Pick and Place

Squink PCB printer and Pick and Place

Prototyping circuits is still a pain. The typical process is to order your PCBs, await their arrival, hand assemble a board, and start testing. It’s time consuming, and typically takes at least a week to go from design to prototype.

The folks at BotFactory are working on fixing that with the Squink (Kickstarter warning). This device not only prints PCBs, but also functions as a pick and place. Rather than using solder, the device uses conductive glue to affix components to the substrate.

This process also allows for a wide range of substrates. Traditional FR4 works, but glass and flexible substrates can work too. They’re also working on using an insulating ink for multilayer boards.

While there are PCB printers out there, and the home etching process always works, building the board is only half the battle. Hand assembly using smaller components is slow, and is prone to mistakes. If this device is sufficiently accurate, it could let us easily prototype complex packages such as BGAs, which are usually a pain.

Of course it has its limitations. The minimum trace width is 10 mils, which is a bit large. Also at $2600, this is an expensive device to buy sight unseen. While it is a Kickstarter, it’d be nice to see an all in one device that can prototype circuits quickly and cheaply.

Scribble: Wait, Kickstarter Is Vetting Projects Now?

PenFirst rule of reading anything: if a headline is an interrogative, the answer is a resounding ‘no’. This might be the one exception to that rule.

This Kickstarter is actually fairly interesting. Not because it’s an obvious scam, mind you, as there’s very, very little to actually call a scam. It’s noteworthy because it was on track to be a highly successful campaign but it was shut down by the creators just days after its launch.

Before getting to the unsavoriness of this Kickstarter campaign, a little bit of history is in order. Several years ago and before crowd funding was a thing, a designer came up with a rather clever if completely improbable idea: a color picking pen. Simply hold the end of a pen up to an object, press a button, and using technology and/or magic the pen now writes in that color. There are obvious shortcomings in the design like using red, green, and blue ink cartridges for color mixing – a classic case of confusing additive and subtractive color models. Still, this is just a design concept and over the years the idea of a color sensing pen that mixes ink has bounced around the Internet. With enough people willing to throw money at their screens in the hopes of actually getting a product as interesting as this, you just know it’s going to be on Kickstarter sooner or later.

Enter the Scribble Pen. Yes, it’s the same idea as the 5+ year-old color picking pen, with a few of the technical challenges already addressed. They’re using a CMYK (plus White) color model that can theoretically reproduce just about any color, and do so on any color paper. How are they doing this? I have no idea, but the whole campaign is super, super sketchy.

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Behold! The Most Insane Crowdfunding Campaign Ever


Hold on to your hats, because this is a good one. It’s a tale of disregarding the laws of physics, cancelled crowdfunding campaigns, and a menagerie of blogs who take press releases at face value.

Meet Silent Power (Google translation). It’s a remarkably small and fairly powerful miniature gaming computer being put together by a team in Germany. The specs are pretty good for a completely custom computer: an i7 4785T, GTX 760, 8GB of RAM and a 500GB SSD. Not a terrible machine for something that will eventually sell for about $930 USD, but what really puts this project in the limelight is the innovative cooling system and small size. The entire machine is only 16x10x7 cm, accented with a very interesting “copper foam” heat sink on top. Sounds pretty cool, huh? It does, until you start to think about the implementation a bit. Then it’s a descent into madness and a dark pit of despair.

There are a lot of things that are completely wrong with this project, and in true Hackaday fashion, we’re going to tear this one apart, figuring out why this project will never exist.

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A Lithium Ion Supercapacitor Battery

lioncap Lithium ion supercapacitors. No, not lithium ion batteries, and yes, they’re a real thing. While they’re astonishingly expensive per Farad, they are extremely small and used as the first line of defense in some seriously expensive heavy-duty UPS installations. Here’s a Kickstarter using these supercaps to replace the common AA, C, and D cell batteries. Even better, they can be recharged in seconds.

For each size battery, the caps used actually have a slightly higher energy density than a similarly sized dollar store battery. By adding a little bit of circuitry to drop the 3.8 Volts out of the cap down to the 1.5 V you expect from a battery, this supercap becomes a very expensive rechargeable battery, but one that can be recharged in seconds.

This is one of those crowdfunding campaigns we really like: an interesting tool, but something we just can’t figure out what the use case would be. These lithium ion supercaps are too expensive to be practical in anything we would build (save for a Gauss pistol), but the tech is just too cool to ignore. If you have a use case for these caps in mind, please leave a note in the comments.

Somewhat relevant Mouser link.

Hackaday Links: July 6, 2014


Power for your breadboards. It’s a USB connector, a 3.3V voltage regulator, and a few pins that plug into the rails of a breadboard.

“Have you seen those ‘Portable battery chargers for smartphones?’ Well the idea of the device is based on it , but the difference here is the internet part.” That’s a direct quote from this Indiegogo campaign. It’s funny because I don’t remember losing my damn mind recently. Wait. It’s $200. Yep. Yep. Definitely lost my mind there.

Putting the Internet on a USB stick not weird enough? Hair Highways. Yep, human hair. It’s just embedding human hair into resin, cutting everything up into plates, and assembling these plates into decorative objects. As a structural material, it’s probably only as strong as the resin itself, but with enough hair set in layers perpendicular to each other, it would be the same idea as fiberglass. Only made out of hair.

Tesla is building a $30,000 car and Harley is building an electric motorcycle. The marketing line for the bike will probably be something like, “living life on your own terms, 50 miles at a time”.

PixelClock? It’s a 64×64 array of red LEDs built to be a clock, and low-resolution display. It looks blindingly bright in the video, something that’s hard to do with red LEDs.

Hackaday Links: June 22, 2014


Solar Freakin’ Roadways! There’s been a lot of talk about how solar freakin’ roadways are an ill-conceived idea, and now [Dave Jones] is weighing in on the subject. Highlights include a quarter of the solar power generated being used to light the LEDs that form the lane markers, something that could easily be accomplished with paint. Oh, the solar freakin’ roadway campaign is over. Just over $2.2 million, if you’re wondering.

The Game Boy Micro is the best way to play GBA games, but finding one for a reasonable price just isn’t going to happen. [John Sparks] is making his own Macro Micros by casemodding a DS Lite.On the subject of Game Boy mods, [koji-Kendo] is improving the common frontlight Game Boy Color mod with optically clear UV curing glue. Without glue on the left, with glue on the right.

Need to label a panel with the function of all your switches and dials? Yeah, you could drop the panel into an engraver, till the engraved letters with enamel, or do some electroetching. You can also buy a pack or rub-on letters, available in any Michaels, Hobby Lobby, or the like.

MSI Afterburner is a utility that allows you to play with settings and monitor performance on MSI graphics cards. [Stephen] made a little device for MSI Afterburner that displays the current FPS and GPU load on an external LCD. Handy, seeing as how FPS and GPU load is the one thing you’ll want to know when you’re gaming fullscreen.

Realtime cloudmaps of the Earth. Using reasonably recent images take from five geostationary satellites, you can stitch together a real-time cloud map of the entire Earth. Here’s the software to do it. Now all you need is a projector and pair of frosted acrylic hemispheres, and you have a real-time globe.

Say you have a Kickstarter in the works, and you’re trying to figure out all the ways to get some buzz from the Internet public.. Here’s how you get it to the front page of using a bit of Perl. “So far, this page has been updated 02578 times.”


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