New Version of Energia Supports Wolverine and Connected

Energia UpdateThere is something to be said about how easy it is to write Arduino code. For those of who you are big fans of the MSP430 and Texas Instrument’s LaunchPad series, an upcoming release of Energia brings Arduino style coding to the two newest member of the LaunchPad family: the TivaC Connected LaunchPad EK-TM4C1294XL and Wolverine FRAM LaunchPad MSP-EXP430FR5969LP.

“Energia is an open-source electronics prototyping platform … with the goal to bring the Wiring and Arduino framework to the Texas Instruments MSP430 based LaunchPad.” The newest release of Energia is exciting for the sole reason that the new TivaC Connected LaunchPad and Wolverine FRAM LaunchPad are supported. The TivaC Connected LaunchPad is a $20 development board for TI’s low-power ARM processors that has Ethernet connectivity. The MSP430 at the heart of the Wolverine FRAM LaunchPad uses up to 250x less power than flash based MCUs at low speeds in addition to many other cool benefits.

Be sure to keep an eye out for the new version of Energia, it should be arriving sometime next week. Now is a better time than ever to try out the Tiva C or the MSP430 MCUs!

TI Launches “Connected LaunchPad”

TI’s LaunchPad boards have a history of being both low cost and fully featured. There’s a board for each of TI’s major processor lines, and all of them support the same “BoosterPack” interface for additional functionality. Today, TI has announced a new LaunchPad based on their new Tiva C ARM processors, which is designed for connectivity.

The Tiva C Series Connected LaunchPad is based on the TM4C129x processor family. These provide an ethernet MAC and PHY on chip, so the only external parts required are magnetics and a jack. This makes the Connected LaunchPad an easy way to hop onto ethernet and build designs that require internet connections.

This development board is focused on the “Internet of Things,” which it seems like every silicon manufacturer is focusing on nowadays. However, the real news here is a low cost board with tons of connectivity, including ethernet, two CANs, 8 UARTs, 10 I2Cs, and 4 QSPIs. This is enough IO to allow for two BoosterPack connectors that are fully independent.

Connected Launchpad Details

For the launch, TI has partnered with Exosite to provide easy access to the LaunchPad from the internet. A pre-loaded demo application will allow you to toggle LEDs, read button states, and measure temperature over the internet using Exosite. Unlike some past LaunchPads, this one is designed for easy breadboarding, with all MCU pins broken out to a breadboard compatible header.

Finally, the price is very right. The board will be release at $19.99 USD. This is less than half the price of other ethernet-ready development boards out there. This makes it an attractive solution for hackers who want to put a device on a wired network, or need a gateway between various devices and a network. 

Your Mouse Is A Terrible Webcam

camera

It should come as no surprise your optical mouse contains a very tiny, very low resolution camera. [Franci] decided to take apart one of his old mice and turn that tiny optical sensor into a webcam.

Inside [Franci]‘s Logitech RX 250 is an ADNS-5020 optical sensor. This three wire SPI device stuffed into an 8-pin package is a 15×15 pixel grayscale image sensor. [Franci] started this project by bringing out the Arduino and Ethernet shield. After soldering a pull-up resistor to the image sensor’s reset pin, connecting the rest of the circuit was as simple as soldering a few wires to the Arduino.

The Arduino sketch sends the image data for each pixel to a computer over a serial connection. A bit of javascript and a touch of HTML takes this pixel data and turns it into a webpage with a live view of whatever is directly under [Franci]‘s mouse.

Video of the mousewebcam in action below.

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Build an In Line Network Bandwidth Monitor

[Kurt] likes to know what’s going on with his network. He already uses bandwidth checking software on his DD-WRT capable router, but he wanted a second opinion. So he built his own network monitor. [Kurt] started by building a passive Ethernet tap. He then needed a network interface chip that would serve his purposes. The common Wiznet chips used with Arduinos didn’t allow enough manipulation of raw packet data, so he switched to a Microchip ENC624J600 (PDF). The Microchip controller allowed him to count the bytes in the raw Ethernet packets.

With the Ethernet interface complete, [Kurt] turned his attention to a microcontroller to run the show. He started with an Arduino, but the lack of debugging quickly sent him to an Atmega128 in Atmel Studio. After getting the basic circuit working, [Kurt] switched over to a PIC24F chip. With data finally coming out of the circuit, he was able to tell that his original back-of-the-napkin calculations for bandwidth were wrong. [Kurt] created a PCB to hold the microcontroller, then wrote a Python program to plot the data output from his circuit. The bandwidth plot matched up well with the plot from DD-WRT. Now he just needs a giant LED matrix to show off his current network stats!

A cortex M4 based platform with ETH, USB, BT and many on-board peripherals

Here is a very time consuming project that I worked on during last summer: an ARM Cortex M4 based platform with plenty of communication interfaces and on-board peripherals. The particular project for which this board has been developed is not really HaD material (one of my father’s funny ideas) so I’ll only describe the platform itself. The microcontroller used in the project is the ATSAM4E16C from Atmel, which has 1Mbyte of flash and 128Kbytes of SRAM. It integrates an Ethernet MAC, a USB 2.0 Full-speed controller, a sophisticated Analog to Digital Converter and a Digital to Analog Converter (among others).

Here is a list of the different components present on the board so you can get a better idea of what the platform can do: a microphone with its amplifier, a capacitive touch sensor, two unipolar stepper motors controllers, two mosfets, a microSD card connector, a Bluetooth to serial bridge, a linear motor controller and finally a battery retainer for backup power. You can have a look at a simple demonstration video I made, embedded after the break. The firmware was made in C and uses the Atmel Software Framework. The project is obviously open hardware (Kicad) and open software.

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A Nightmare on CNC Street

[James Dressman] emailed us about his two-year journey of getting a large CNC machine running in his home. He doesn’t currently have a webpage, however his story was so incredible that we just had to feature it.   [James] started by doing plenty of research online, and ordering a new CNC. The real fun started when he opened up a wall to fit the 2300 pound monster into his home. [James] found so much insect and water damage that he ended up rebuilding the entire rear half of his home.

Once the CNC was safely set up, the fun still wasn’t over. Not all family members are keen on having an industrial machine tool in the house. In [James'] case it was the smell of way oil that drove his wife nuts. This was all before spindle problems with the tool itself began to rear their ugly head. Illness and family tragedy put everything on hold for several months, however once [James] strength returned, he attacked the problems with renewed vigor. It was a long and winding road, but he now has a fully functional CNC.

But don’t just take our word for it. Continue after the break to see his photo album and to hear James tell the story in his own words.

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Pokewithastick, an Arduino programmable web-logger/server


[Stewart] tipped us about his very nice project: pokewithastick. It is an Arduino compatible board (hardware, not footprint) based on the ATMEGA1284P which can be programmed to collect and post data to internet logging sites such as Thingspeak or Xively.

As you can see in the picture above, it has a small 50x37mm footprint (roughly 2″x1.5″). The pokewithastick is composed of an Wiz820 Ethernet module, a micro-SD card slot, 2 serial ports, one battery backed Real Time Clock (RTC), one radio connector (for the usual nRF24L01 2.4GHz radio), one power & user LED and finally a reset button. There are two power rails on the board which can be split (5v + 3.3V) or combined (3.3v only) which may allow you to connect Arduino shields to it. You can program the board using the standard 6-pin header or via a serial programmer if an appropriate (Arduino) bootloader is installed.

The project is open hardware, has been designed using Kicad and all the files can be downloaded as a zip file.