Hackaday Prize Entry: Useful Code For Useful Things

The Hackaday Prize isn’t exclusively about building things that will help the planet; you can also build things that will enable others to build things to save the planet. [Eric] isn’t saving the world with his commonCode library, but it will make it vastly easier for other people to build the next great Thing.

The idea behind commonCode is the same as shared libraries you’ll find in any desktop application of reasonable size; it provides a common library for AVR microcontrollers to build just about anything. Bit manipulation, an interface for timers, math functions, graphics, I/O, and peripheral drivers are all available in the commonCode library. This makes it easy for the developmentally challenged among us to create whatever project they want.

The commonCode library wasn’t created just for The Hackaday Prize. [Eric] has been tinkering around with AVRs since well before the Arduino existed, and he has dozens of projects in permanent installations. It’s a great way to give back to the community, and the perfect way to allow people to develop their own things to solve whatever problem they have in mind.


The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

Arduino IDE Becomes More Open, Less Snarky

Version 1.6.4 of the Arduino IDE has been out for a little while now, and it has a couple of notable changes. To our eyes, the most interesting change makes adding support for non-standard boards and their configurations within the Arduino IDE a lot simpler. We’ll get into details below.

unnamedBut before that, it’s time to bid farewell to the cheeky little popup window that would deliver a warning message when using a board bearing the USB IDs of their former-partner-turned-competitor. We absolutely agree with [Massimo] that the issues between Arduino SRL / Smart Projects and Arduino LLC are well-enough known in the community, and that it’s time for the popup to fade away.

Now on to the meat of this post. The new “Board Manager” functionality makes it significantly easier for other non-Arduino products to be programmed within the Arduino IDE. Adafruit has a tutorial on using the Board Manager functionality with their products, and it basically boils down to “enter the right URL, click on the boards you want, download, restart Arduino, bam!”

The list of unofficially supported third-party boards is still a bit short, but it includes some stellar entries. For instance, Adafruit has provided the files needed for the ESP8266, which recently received the Arduino treatment. This means that you can simply point your IDE at Adafruit’s URL, and it’ll set you up with everything needed to develop for the ESP8266 from within the comfy Arduino IDE.

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Energia Multitasking uses RTOS on MSP432

We keep wondering where the Arduino world is headed with the hardware getting more and more powerful. If the IDE doesn’t keep up what’s the point? Now we have at least one answer to that problem. Energia is the Arduino-like-framework for Texas Instruments based boards. They just came out with a multitasking system built into Energia targeted at the ARM Cortex-M4F based MSP432 Launchpad which we covered a few weeks back.

The announcement post gives a couple of examples of uses for multitasking. The simplest is blinking LEDs at different rates. If you wanted to do this closer to the metal you’re talking about multiple timers, or multiple compares on a single timer, perhaps a interrupt-driven-system-tick that has a high enough resolution for a wide range of your blinking needs. But these are not always easy to set up unless you are intimately comfortable with this particular architecture. The Energia multitasking will handle this for you. It’s upon the TI Real Time Operating System (TI-RTOS) but wraped in the familiar IDE.

The UI divorces you from thinking about the hardware at all. You simply launch a new tab and start coding as if you’re using a completely separate piece of hardware. The announcement post linked above mentions that these Sketches are running “in parallel”. Well… we know it’s not a multi-core system like the Propeller but we’ll let it slide. It is certainly easier than building your own scheduler for this type of hardware.

[Thanks MycoWx]

Hackaday Links: February 8, 2015

[CNLohr] is famous for his extremely strange projects, including something that does something with Minecraft that even he can’t describe. Over the years, he’s built up a vast collection of projects that have been both incredible fails and successes. Here’s a video tour of all those projects.

For this week’s edition “Kickstarter is going insane”, you only need to look at the title of the campaign: Tesla Coils for North Korea.

Last week, a few slow scan TV signals were received from the International Space Station. Here’s the reddit thread.

The worst thing about using an Arduino in a semi-professional environment is the IDE. Here’s cuwire, a better IDE.

Wanna see something insane? How about an SSH library written in x64 assembly?

Radio Shack is in its death throes, and since you haven’t gone in the last few years, you might as well head out one last time and pick up some items on clearance. Here’s the list of store closings (PDF) and all 1,784 stores slated to be closed plotted on Google Maps.

Multi-target IDE for 8-Bit CPUs

A long time ago, [Martin] played with old 8-bit computers. Recently, he’s been honing his assembly skills again, and the idea of an IDE for a boatload of old systems came to him. After a year of work, he announced a multitarget IDE for 8-bit computers that works in your browser.

The project is called ASM80, and includes a code editor, a workspace to put all your code, compilers for the 8080/8085, Z80, 6502, 6800 and 6809 CPUs, emulators for all these CPUs, and emulators for a few Czech computers, the ZX Spectrum, and a few of [Grant Searle]’s single board computers.

What makes this project interesting is the syntax for all the different CPUs is pretty much the same. It’s a real, modular code editor that supports macros and everything you would expect for a code editor for ancient computers.

You can check out an assembler description here. [Martin] also has an offline, desktop-based version of ASM80 called IDE80, with a video demo of that below.

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Energia on the CC3200

If you’re looking to connect things to the internet, with the goal of building some sort of “Internet of Things,” the new CC3200 chip from TI is an interesting option. Now you can get started quickly with the Energia development environment for the CC3200.

We discussed the CC3200 previously on Hackaday. The chip gives you an ARM Cortex M4 processor with a built-in WiFi stack and radio. It supports things like web servers and SSL out of the box.

Energia is an Arduino-like development environment for TI chips. It makes writing firmware for these devices easier, since a lot of the work is already done. The collection of libraries aids in getting prototypes running quickly. You can even debug Energia sketches using TI’s fully featured IDE.

With this new release of Energia, the existing Energia WiFi library supports the built-in WiFi radio on the CC3200. This should make prototyping of WiFi devices easier, and cheaper since the CC3200 Launchpad retails for $30.

THP Entry: A Wireless Bootloaders And Linux Build Systems

radioWith The Hackaday Prize, you’re not just limited to one entry. Of course it would be better to devote your time and efforts to only one project if you’re competing for a trip to space, but if you’re [Necromant], you might be working on two highly related project that are both good enough for The Hackaday Prize

[Necromant]’s first project is rf24boot, an over-the-air bootloader using the very cheap and very popular NRF24L01 2.4GHz wireless module. There have been many, many projects that add wireless bootloading to microcontrollers using XBees and the NRF24, but [Necromant] is doing something different with this project: he’s building in support for a wide variety of microcontrollers, that include the STM32, MSP430, PIC32, 8051, and of course AVR chips for that ever so popular Arduino compatibility.

The support of multiple microcontroller platforms is a result of [Necromant]’s other entry to The Hackaday Prize, Antares, the Linux kernel-like build system for microcontrollers. The idea behind Antares is to separate the writing of code from microcontrollers away from compiling and burning. Think of it as a giant makefile on steroids that works with everything, that also includes a few libraries for common projects.

Supported platforms for Antares include the popular aforementioned targets, and allow you to use any IDE you could possibly desire. emacs? Sure. Eclipse? Right on. Arduino? You’re a masochist. For a really great overview of Antares you can check out the Readme, or the post we did a year or so ago.

It’s all very cool stuff, and very easy to see the potential of what [Necromant]’s working on. Combining the two together, it’s almost a complete system for developing that Internet of Things we’ve been hearing about – uploading code to simple AVRs for simple sensors, and deploying significantly more complex code for your ARM-powered dishwasher or microwave.