Program a microcontroller over the Internet

If you’ve ever wanted to program a microcontroller “in the cloud,” you might want to head over to Inventor Town, an online IDE that allows you to write and compile firmware for the MSP430 series of microcontrollers.

After logging in with your Google account, you’re presented with a ‘My Projects’ page. From there, you can make as many projects as you like for the MSP430x2231 or ~x2211 microcontrollers. The online editor has the vital keyword highlighting feature, but sadly not many of the more advanced text editor features, like a red underlined syntax errors. After you’ve written your code, press the compile button, download your .HEX file and upload to your board.

We’re surprised we haven’t seen something like this before. To us, this seems like the ideal basis for a github-style microcontroller code-sharing website. Any enterprising ATtiny fans want to take a crack at this one?

Thanks [Rob] for sending this one in.

Arduino releases new products; help them develop ARM-based Arduino

The Arduino folks took advantage of Maker Faire New York to announce their new line of products. There’s several interesting new additions to their product line.

They’ve got a WiFi shield in the works that utilizes a module from H&D Wireless in conjunction with an AVR32 processor to take the workload off of the ATmega chip on the Arduino board. It even has room for you to run your own code on the shield’s processor.

Notable (but of less interest to us) is the 1.0 release of the IDE and the development of a new low-cost board. That hardware is intended to make USB device development easier for those already familiar with the Arduino platform.

But the big news that caught our eye is the announcement of an ARM Cortex-M3 Arduino called the Due (we already wish that had been named something different just for search term contrast to the Duemilanova). The hardware hasn’t been finalized yet, although you can see a prototype in the picture above. They want community input on the final touches, so get in there and give them a hand!

[Thanks Insapio and Tom]

Get the lead out of the Arduino compile process

Relief is here from long compile times when developing firmware for your Arduino project. [Paul] was puzzled by the fact that every file used in a sketch is fully recompiled every time you hit upload–even if that file didn’t change. To make things more confusing, this behavior isn’t consistent across all Arduino compatible hardware. The Teensy has an additional feature not seen when working with other hardware boards in that it reuses previously compiled code if nothing has changed. It even tells you which files are being reused, as shown in the image above.

After the break we’ve embedded [Paul’s] video that walks us through the process of editing the Arduino IDE to reuse previously compiled files. It’s a one-liner addition to the boards.txt file. For example, if you’re working with the Arduino Uno all that needs to be added is ‘uno.build.dependency=true’. [Paul] had previously submitted a patch to roll this into the Arduino IDE source code, but it was not accepted citing a need for more testing. He’s asking for help with that testing and wants you to post your thoughts, or any bug information, on the new issue he’s opened regarding this feature. Continue reading “Get the lead out of the Arduino compile process”

chipKIT Uno32: first impressions and benchmarks

Following Maker Faire, we’ve had a few days to poke around with Digilent’s 32-bit Arduino-compatible chipKIT boards and compiler. We have some initial performance figures to report, along with impressions of the hardware and software.

Continue reading “chipKIT Uno32: first impressions and benchmarks”

BAMF2011: chipKIT is Arduino to the power of 32

If you’ve been hungry for more power for your microcontroller projects, but reluctant to dump your investment in Arduino shields or the libraries and community knowledge that go with them all, Digilent has you covered. Their new chipKIT boards are built around the Microchip PIC32 MCU…a powerful 32-bit chip that until recently was left out of the cross-platform scene. A majority of code and quite a number of Arduino shields will work “out of the box” with the chipKIT, and the familiar development tools are available for all three major operating systems: Windows, Mac and Linux.

We first mentioned these a couple weeks ago, but the software was unavailable at the time. Seeing the development tools in action was quite unexpected…

Continue reading “BAMF2011: chipKIT is Arduino to the power of 32″

IDE bus sniffing and hard drive password recovery

hdd_password_recovery

shackspace member [@dop3j0e] found himself in a real bind when trying to recover some data after his ThinkPad’s fingerprint scanner died. You see, he stored his hard drive password in the scanner, and over time completely forgot what it was. Once the scanner stopped working, he had no way to get at his data.

He brainstormed, trying to figure out the best way to recover his data. He considered reverse engineering the BIOS, which was an interesting exercise, but it did not yield any password data. He also thought about swapping the hard drive’s logic board with that of a similar drive, but it turns out that the password is stored on the platters, not the PCB.

With his options quickly running out, he turned to a piece of open-source hardware we’ve covered here in the past, the OpenBench Logic Sniffer. The IDE bus contains 16 data pins, and lucky for [@dop3j0e] the OpenBench has 16 5v pins as well – a perfect match. He wired the sniffer up to the laptop and booted the computer, watching SUMP for the unlock command to be issued. Sure enough he captured the password with ease, after which he unlocked and permanently removed it using hdparm.

Be sure to check out [@dop3j0e’s] presentation on the subject if you are interested in learning more about how the recovery was done.

TI’s Grace – a new MCU IDE GUI (DNFTT)

TI has recently been fighting to gain traction in the market of low-cost microcontroller development platforms with products such as the MSP430 Value Line Launchpad.  In order to meet the needs of a rapidly growing customer base and appeal to a broader market they have recently released Grace beta Graphical Peripheral Configuration Tool. Grace is a plugin for TI’s own Code-Composer Studio (CCS) IDE that allows users to graphically control many aspecst of MSP430 development and is compatible with all MSP430F2xx/G2xx MCUs.

Utilizing a simple “wizard-like” interface, Grace allows users to quickly and efficiently control peripherals such clocks, timers, OpAmps,  ADCs, GPIOs, comparators, and even more advanced features such as serial communications or the configuration of low-level register settings. Once everything is configured as desired, Grace outputs standard C code that can be debugged and handled as if it were hand-written.

Although Code-Composer Studio is not free, there is a 30-day full-featured trial available as well as other (restricted) free licensing options as well. Since CCS is based on the Eclipse open-source  software development framework, perhaps we will see other similar development tools in the near future. Although not an apples-to-apples comparison, we could imagine that such a tool might provide many novice users with a simple and cost-effective alternative to the Arduino IDE.

The questions then becomes: If a later incarnation were to raise the MSP430 line to “Arduino-killer” status, would it be rejoiced as such or would it simply then become a new target for those die-hard microcontroller purists who love to shout “overkill” on the forums at the slightest provocation? Of course we would love to hear your take in the comments below!