Organ pedals fill in when your bass player is missing


Since his string bass player isn’t always around [Antoine] built his own electric bass stand-in using the pedals from an old organ. The project — which he calls the Organ Donor — was inspired by a similar standalone organ pedal bass project. That instrument was built using a 555 timer to generate the sound. But [Antoine] has a little more room for growth as he’s using an old microcontroller development board to generate sound.

The octaves worth of pedals were pulled from an old broken Yamaha A55 Electone organ. After extracting the assembly from the instrument he built a nice wooden case around it. This doubles as a stand for the amplifier which broadcasts the sound. An old Freescale development board is wired up to twelve of the keys (the top C is unused). It generates a square wave at the appropriate frequency for each key. This signal is fed through a low-pass filter before being routed to the audio jack on the back of the case.

Future improvements include building an amplifier into the pedal assembly. We would also love to see different signal processing to expand the range of sounds the pedals can generate. We’re not sure of the capabilities of that microcontroller, but it would be neat to hear tone generation using stored samples.

In-depth comparison at STM32 F3 and F4 discovery boards

The STM32 F3 and F4 Discovery boards have been around for a while now. We’ve looked at both separately and they’re impressive dev boards for the price. Now can get a closer look at each from this in-depth comparison of the two Cortex-M4 development tools.

To start off, both of the boards have the same size and footprint (there are two dual-row pin headers which break out the connections to the ARM chip). Fundamentally the F3 and F4 chips have a different level of features, but the boards themselves are aimed at different applications as well. The F3 series of microcontrollers looks to be more affordable than the F4, containing less program memory, no Ethernet capability, and only one USB port. But both have hardware floating-point abilities and they’re blazing fast. The boards offer a MEMS accelerometer for prototyping. But the Discovery-F3 also contains a gyroscope while the Discovery-F4 provides audio hardware like a microphone, and DAC.

If you want to use a Linux box to develop with these tools you might find this guide helpful.

Developing with eBay-sourced ARM + LCD dev boards

eBay isn’t only about counterfeit designer handbags and boxes of all-marshmallow Lucky Charms, sometimes there’s actually something useful for sale. [Matt] found a bunch of Chinese-made ARM development boards with integrated LCD displays on the ‘bay, but without a reliable toolchain, these boards – as cool as they are – are nearly useless. Thankfully, he figured out how to do something with these boards, and neatly packaged everything into a VirtualBox image.

The boards in question usually include a 2.4″ or 3.2″ touch panel LCD, an STM32F103 ARM Cortex-M3 CPU, a microSD card connector, and sometimes a few other goodies like 16MB of Flash memory and an RS-232 port. An amazing amount of computational capability packaged into an easy-to-use form factor made even more awesome by their $40 price point.

Because these boards offer so much more than a common Arduino, a proper OS is in order. [Matt] looked over FreeRTOS and included a few demo programs for his Ubuntu-based VirtualBox image (available for download on [Matt]‘s site, it’s a dropbox, email us if you need some hosting, [Matt]) Never mind, see below.

Programming these boards can be done over a serial interface, but a JTAG programmer such as a Bus Blaster makes things very, very easy.

You can check out a few demos [Matt] put together after the break. It’s a very cool development that is much more suited for being integrated into an electronics project than a Raspberry Pi or other such high-power ARM board, and something we hope to see more of in the future.

EDIT: You know what’s really good for hosting Linux distros? Torrents. That’s [Matt]‘s distro and the HaD crew is seeding. Please seed.

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Hands on the Stellaris Launchpad

We just got our hands on a Stellaris Launchpad. We had placed an order when the preorder was originally announced, but the marketing folks at TI reached out an offered to send us one a bit sooner and took them up on it. We’ve embedded a quick unboxing video after the break but read on for some info that didn’t make it into that clip.

The look and feel of the board and its packaging are almost exactly the same as the MSP430 version of the Launchpad. But why not? After all it worked so well the first time. This board hosts an ARM Cortex-M4 processor. The two buttons on the bottom are user buttons, the one on the upper right is a reset button. The top of the board is the programmer, with a micro USB port for connectivity. The kit also includes about a 2′ cable for this connection. Next to that jack is a switch that selects a power source. You’ll also notice a USB port to the left, this because the processor includes USB functionality, with a free library available from TI. Power can come from the programmer/debugger USB port, or from this device USB port. There are dual pin headers to either side on the face of the board, and pin sockets on the back which break out pins of the processor. Just below the reset button is a RGB LED, and a clock crystal has also been populated just above the chip.

When plugged in via the programmer’s USB port the PWR LED lights up as does the RGB LED. The firmware that ships on the device fades through a range of colors and the user buttons scroll through a set of predefined colors. The device enumerates as: “Bus 002 Device 005: ID 1cbe:00fd Luminary Micro Inc.” on our machine. But if you connect it via the device USB jack it enumerates as: “Bus 001 Device 015: ID 04e8:689e Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd GT-S5670 [Galaxy Fit]“. Interesting.

We have no idea if there are programming tools for flashing the board using a Linux box, but we’ll be trying to figure it out. If you have some info please share it in the comments.

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DIY ARM prototyping board

We’re impressed by the ARM prototyping board which [Danjovic] is showing off. He proves that in this day of ever shrinking packages it’s still possible to make your own development tools with protoboard and a soldering iron.

To tell you the truth, if he had designed and etched his own board we probably wouldn’t have featured it. But he didn’t need to spend time on the layout, etching, and reflow. Instead it’s just some enamel wire and a lot of patience. The patience is because the NXP ARM Cortex-M0 chip comes in a HVQFN package. We’re not entirely sure about the HV part (the package alphabet was not entirely clear on this) but QFN means Quad Flat No-Lead. That means no legs on the chip. So [Danjovic] glued it upside down and soldered point-to-point to break out all of the pins.

The top side of the board has a bootloader button, reset button, power regulation, and a crystal oscillator. He doesn’t mention what bootloader he’s using, but a Nokia USB cable gives him the connectivity to push his programs onto the chip.

PIC 18F4550 dev board

[Natsfr] was looking for a single-sided PCB to host a PIC 18F4550. Not finding one he designed his own in Kicad and is sharing (translated) the spoils of his labor.

This chip has USB capabilities which is why we see it used in a ton of projects. Almost all of them (including this USB input device post) use a very large DIP package. [Natsfr] went a different route, designing for the TQFP package to keep the drilling ot a minimum. The layout includes a crystal and USB-mini port, but it also breaks out the I/O pins on the chip. The red box above shows the quick fix he used on the VCC line as the board trace was shorting on the USB jack housing.

He didn’t drill out the holes for most of the breakout pins on this prototype. There’s just one header populated for programming the PIC chip. But he does have some plans for the first board. He’s going to use [Texan's] AVR programming firmware for PIC to turn it into a USB AVR ISP programmer.

TI Launches C2000 Launchpad (featuring Billy Mays)

The Texas Instruments MSP430 Launchpad is pretty popular in hacks, likely due to its low price. TI has recently released a new C2000 Launchpad device that offers more power and peripherals for $17. This board uses the C2000 Piccolo processor, which is meant for DSP applications.

Also included is an unrestricted version of the Code Composer Studio IDE and the controlSUITE software package. You can also run the free SYS/BIOS RTOS on this board. It’s nice to see TI providing a lot of free, non-crippled tools that could be used to power some pretty advanced hacks.

Most MSP430 Launchpad Booster Packs should be compatible with this board, and TI has a new layout for Booster Packs that use the additional pins. There is a C2000 specific LED Booster Pack available now for $30. There are also specifications for building your own Booster Packs for the C2000.

TI has released a slightly cheesy promotional video that features a [Billy Mays] like performance. Check it out after the break.

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