Learning ARM Without Dev Board

There’s a tremendous amount of value in using pre-built, known-good development environments. It saves you hours of potential headaches when things aren’t working. Is the bug in the hardware or the software? If you bought a dev kit, you can be pretty sure it’s your software. But sometimes using a dev kit also feels like there’s a black box in the system. [Kevin] wanted to peer inside the black box, so he ordered a tray of cheap STM32F103 chips on eBay, and did the rest himself.

“The rest” isn’t all that much, but figuring that out is half the battle. [Kevin] soldered the TQFP chip onto a breakout board, added some decoupling capacitors, and connected four pins up to a dirt-cheap ST-Link programmer clone. The rest of the article describes the toolchain he used to compile for and program the chip. The end result is, natch, a blinking LED.

If you’re a bit experienced with microcontrollers and want to dive head-first into an ARM chip, [Kevin]’s writeup is just the ticket. In a single (long) blog post, he walks you through all the steps. If this is your first rodeo, you might be tempted to cheese out and buy a pre-built board on eBay (search “STM32F103” and you’ll find many options to choose from) and we don’t think that’s a bad idea either. Still, there’s just something to be said for the confidence that you’ll have once you’ve built the whole system from scratch.

Pandora dev unit unboxed


[skeezix] has got his hands on one of the first Pandora dev kits to make it out the door and took a few photos. This is 1 of the 20 MK2 devboards that were produced. Although, not final it certainly is close to the version they’ll be shipping. Pandora is a Linux based portable game console. The main chip in the clamshell device is a TI OMAP3530. It has OpenGL hardware acceleration and an 800×480 touchscreen. A QWERTY keyboard is included along with analog and digital game controls. WiFi, bluetooth, USB host, TV-out, and dual SDHC card slots round out the package. The team has already presold 4000 devices.

Weasure, a scale that weighs and measures


[John Peterson] created this postal scale device for a Renesas design contest. The Weasure not only calculates the package’s total weight but the dimensions as well. He built it using a SKP16C62P evaluation board that had an LCD, pushbuttons, and indicator LEDs. The original DigiWeigh parcel scale was modified to provide PWM output and tare control. He embedded photoresistors every inch along each axis. They were angle slightly upward and the surroundings were painted black to minimize reflection. The Weasure outputs everything via a serial connection so it can be used with shipping software to generate postage.