Build a binary wall clock for just a few bucks

The weekend is almost here and if you’re looking for an afternoon project consider building your own binary wall clock. [Emihackr97] built the one you see above using parts on hand, but even if you put in an order for everything, it won’t cost you much.

He used a cardboard box as the housing for the clock, marking a grid for the LEDs on the face and drilling holes to house them. Two columns for hours and another two for minutes let the clock display 24-hour time with alternate firmware for 12 hour time. Since there are two buttons – one to set hours, the other to set minutes – a little coding would make it possible to select between the two either by clicking both buttons at once, or holding down one button.

[Emihackr97] is driving the display with an ATmega48, which is a pin-compatible replacement for the ATmega168/328. Those chips are the type most commonly found on Arduino boards an indeed this project is running the Arduino bootloader, but uses an ISP programmer and breadboarded circuit to keep the costs low. There are plenty of pins to drive the 13 LEDs directly, making the soldering quick and painless. Check out a demo clip after the break.

If you’re successful at this build and get the itch for something with more style, there’s a ton of ways to spice up the look of a binary clock.

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Bootloader burning basics

[Charles Gantt] and a few others were having trouble burning the Sanguino bootloader to an ATmega644 chip. With some help from the [Nils Vogil] via the RepRap IRC [Charles] got it worked out and wrote a guide for burning the bootloader using an Arduino as an ISP programmer.

We’re not familiar with the specifics of the Sanguino bootloader, but [Charles] mentioned that he was unable to flash it onto the AVR chip without a resonator. The resonator serves as an external clock source for the chip. We’d bet the programming process changes the fuse settings on the chip to use an external source. Without that source, you won’t be able to communicate with the chip afterwards.

The solution just adds the resonator to the programming circuit. This should be useful when burning any bootloader using an Arduino. But it does make us wonder if there isn’t an alternative method that would let you draw the clock signal from the Arduino itself?

AVR programmer modelled after the MkII – uses LUFA

Here’s a new option for building your own AVR programmer. It’s called the MkII Slim and the diminutive size makes it live up to its name. The design is rather spartan, using just three chips; a voltage regulator, a MAX3002 level converter, and an Atmel AT90USB162 as the main microcontroller. This chip has a built-in USB module, foregoing the need for a separate FTDI chip.

The firmware is built on the Lightweight USB Framework for AVRs (LUFA). This is a USB stack implementation originally called MyUSB that was developed by [Dean Camera]. Regular lurkers over at the AVRfreaks forums will recognize [Dean’s] name, or his handle [abcminiuser] as a source for many of the high quality AVR tutorials found there. But we digress.

The programmer offers all the features you’d want in an In-System Programmer. It can easily be reflashed with future updates thanks to the bootloader running on the chip. There’s jumper-selectable power options, and it can program targets running at 3.3V or 5v. The full development package including code and artwork is available for download at the site linked above. For your convenience we’ve embedded the schematic after the break.

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Programming an ATtiny using an Arduino

attiny

[Scott] is a big fan of the Arduino platform, and he’s not afraid to admit it. It does all the things he needs, but now and again he would like to use something a bit smaller, without all the bells and whistles the Arduino has to offer. He contemplated using an ATtiny for smaller projects, but after looking into what he would need to program the chip under Linux, he could never find the motivation to give it a go.

That all changed when he discovered the Arduino-Tiny project, which aims to bring a limited Arduino IDE to the ATtiny line of microcontrollers. He found the project to be quite useful, so he put together a brief tutorial that walks through everything you need to get started.

The tutorial is fairly straightforward, and even demonstrates how the Arduino can be used as an ISP for the ATtiny, removing the need to purchase a standalone programmer. Be sure to check it out if you are searching for an easy way to get started with ATtiny chips under Linux.

AVR HVSP on a tiny breadboard

AVR chips are convenient because you can program them in circuit at their operating voltage. That is, unless you screw up the fuse settings and they’ll no longer listen to an In System Programmer. If you find yourself facing this problem, just build this circuit on a breadboard and ‘unbrick’ by holding down the button.

The circuit seen above is a High Voltage Serial Programmer. This is one of two high voltage protocols used by AVR chips; HVSP is for chips that don’t have enough pins to use High Voltage Parallel Programming. This rendition uses a 12V power source, which is the level necessary for the high voltage method. A 7805 linear regulator joins the mix to provide operational voltage, along with one transistor, an ATtiny2313 to control the circuit, a four-digit 7-segment display for feedback, and one button for control.

Watch the video after the break to see an ATtiny13 programmed to disable the reset pin using a breadboarded programmer. That chip is then easily rescued, having been automatically recognized by using its device signature.

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Versaloon can program hardware from several manufacturers

Versaloon is an open source, USB connected project, that centers around an STM32 processor and provides a standard JTAG pinout. Above you see the Nano version which has a 10-pin JTAG connector, but there is also a 20-pin option on the Handy model. Great, another JTAG programmer. Well this can do a bit more than that. With a bit of help from the software it has been turned into a programmer for ten different types of hardware. Obviously this should be able to program anything that works with the JTAG protocol, but the script adapts it to work as an In System (or In Circuit) Programmer too. So far the list of programming targets includes STM32, LPC1000, LPC900, STM8, AR8, MSP430, and a few others.

We had some trouble finding an actual picture of this hardware. If you’ve got one, snap a picture and leave a link to it in the comments along with your thoughts on the device.

[Thanks Geekabit]

Make your own minimalist AVR ISP

Giving a programmer is a great way to get people started in microcontrollers so If you want a cheap simple AVR programmer this might just be what you’re looking for. It combines the V-USB firmware, USBtiny software, a few resistors, and some zener diodes. An interesting trick using this programmer is if your trying to program another 8 pin ATtiny you can use some tape to isolate the USB data pins and then piggyback the target ATtiny on the programmer.

Unfortunately in order to flash the ATtiny for your programmer you need a working programmer so it’s somewhat of a catch-22.  Make sure your careful when setting the fuse bits because it will use the reset pin making it hard to reprogram without additional programming hardware. AVRs in general are a great way to start using microcontrollers so if your interested give out tutorials a go. You’ll find some tips to get started in addition to information about using an Arduino, or a DAPA cable to flash the firmware to this chip.