8x8x8 LED cube and the board that drives it

Check out the LED cube which [Thomas], [Max], and [Felix] put together. But don’t forget to look at that beautiful PCB which drives it… nice! But hardware is only part of what goes into a project like this one. After the soldering iron had cooled they kept going and wrote their own software to generate patterns for the three-dimensional display.

Looking at a clean build like this one doesn’t drive home the amount of connections one has to make to get everything running. To appreciate it you should take a look at this other 512 LED cube which has its wires showing. You can see from the schematic (available in the project repository) that all of these lines are managed by a series of shift registers. The board itself connects to a computer from which it gets the visualization commands. A Java program they call CubeControl can push letters or turn the cube into a VU meter.

The team built at least two of these. This smaller version uses red LEDs, while the larger one shown in the video after the break has blue ones.

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Controlling Google TV from a Raspberry Pi (or other networked devices)

Google TV is a network connected television. It does what you would think: plays television programs, streams media from the internet, and allows you to open URLs on your TV. But one nice feature is that it can also be controlled over the network rather than just via an IR remote. Google publishes apps which make this simple with a smartphone. But the communications protocols are open source, so [Leon Nicholls] wrote a Google TV remote control library in Java.

The video after the break shows him pairing a Raspberry Pi with his television. The image above is the pairing verification code you must enter on the remote hardware before control is authorized. Apparently this is a step that needs to happen every time if using Google’s Anymote library. [Leon] improved that, by saving the pairing data so that the first authorization is all that it takes.

He figures this could be used for home automation. We’re not sure what we’d use it for but we’d love to hear your ideas in the comments.

μJ, a Java virtual machine for microcontrollers

[Dimitri] sent in a project he’s been working on that implements a Java Virtual Machine purely in C, and is easily portable between microcontrollers such as the AVRs and PICs we normally see, ARM devices, and even the lowly 386.

Before going into the ‘how’, [Dimitri] first covers why he wanted to run Java bytecode on a microcontroller. Basically, he found existing solutions like the Arduino environment too complex for people just wanting to program a chip. Arduino and PICAXE require C-like syntax and pointers; not the easiest thing when everyone and their mother can program in Java.

As for how [Dimitri] managed to pack a JVM into a microcontroller, that’s another story entirely. Everything in the JVM, from double, long, and float data types to exceptions, neat thread-related functions such as ‘synchronize’ and even methods such as String.charAt() and String.length() are completely optional. If your microcontroller is too small, just disable the functions you don’t need.

As for how well – and how fast – μJ is able to run, [Dimitri] threw up a demo of an ATMega644 and PIC24 running his JVM and a small Java app. You can check those videos out after the break, or just download the source for μJ on [Dimitri]’s site.

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Bringing Java to the world of microcontrollers

C is a beautiful language perfectly suited for development on low-power devices such as the 8-bit microcontrollers. With newer, more powerful ARM microcontrollers making their way onto the market and workbenches around the world, it was only fitting that Oracle got in on the action. They released a version of Java targeted at these newer, more powerful microcontrollers called Java ME embedded.

The new embedded version of Java has everything you would expect from a microcontroller development platform – access to GPIO pins, including SD cards and I2C devices. The new Java machine is designed for full headless operation and is capable of running on devices with as little as 130 kB of RAM and 350 kB of ROM.

As for the utility of programming a microcontroller in Java, it’s still the second most popular language, after spending the better part of a decade as the number one language programmers choose to use. The requirements of the new embedded version of Java are far too large to fit onto even the best 8-bit microcontrollers, but with a new crop of more powerful ARM devices, we’ll expect to see more and more ARM/Java projects making their way into the Hackaday tip line in the coming months.

Tip ‘o the hat to [roger] for sending this one in.

POE home automation control panel

poe_home_automation_control_panel

[Scott] wrote in to share a project he is currently working on, a home automation system that relies on Power over Ethernet. While he’s not completely finished, he’s made some great progress, and the work he has done so far definitely piqued our interest.

Part of [Scott’s] design relies on some reverse engineered Blackberry screens we showed you a while back. He has constructed a small control panel for his apartment, which incorporates one of the aforementioned Blackberry screens, along with 10 tactile switches and a PIR sensor. The panel is built to be mounted in a wall or as a standalone unit, allowing him to control various lights and appliances throughout his home.

[Scott] spent a lot of time working on the communications protocol and UI for his control panel. As it sits now, the panel takes advantage of a VNC-like protocol he designed, which allows him to interact with a Java application residing on his desktop computer.

Things are looking awesome so far, and [Scott] already has a handful of improvements planned for the near future. We can’t wait to check it out when it’s finished.

CheapStat: an open-source potentiostat

A commercial potentiostat can cost several thousand dollars, but the CheapStat is an open source project that makes it possible to build your own at a tiny fraction of that cost. It is possible to build one for less than $80, breaking down the cost barrier faced by many labs that would like to have this test hardware.

A potentiostat is used to measure electrochemical properties. To give you a few examples of what it can do, the hardware can measure arsenic levels in water, Vitamin C concentration in orange juice, Acetaminophen concentrations in over-the-counter medications, and a bunch of other less easily explained tests having to do with chemical compounds and DNA.

The device makes use of an Atmel XMEGA microcontroller and connects to a computer via USB. A Java program grabs that data from the hardware displaying test results on your choice of computer platforms. If you’re looking for all the gory details you won’t be disappointed by their journal paper.

Fixing Arduino’s serial latency issues

arduino_latency

[Paul] wrote in to tell us about some interesting Arduino latency issues he helped nail down and fix on the Arduino.

It seems that [Michu] was having some problems with controlling his Rainbowduino project we featured earlier this year, and he couldn’t quite figure out why he was experiencing such huge delays when sending and receiving data.

Searching online for answers turned up very little, and since [Michu] was using Processing, the pair designed a set of tests to see what kind of latency was being introduced by Java. Pitting an Arduino Uno and an Arduino from 2009 against a Teensy 2.0, the tests gauged the latency of native data transfers versus transfers facilitated by Java via the rxtx library it uses for serial communications.

The results were pretty stunning. While both of the Arduinos lagged behind the Teensy by a long shot, their latency values under Java were always 20ms at a minimum – something didn’t add up. [Michu] poked around in the rxtx code and found a mystery 20ms delay programmed into the serial library. It made no sense to him, so he changed the delay to 2ms and saw a drastic increase in performance when transferring less than 128 bytes of data.

The pair’s fix doesn’t seem to affect latency when larger amounts of data (>1kB) are being transferred, but it makes a world of difference when manipulating smaller chunks of data.

For the sake of disclosure, it should be noted that [Paul’s] company produces the Teensy mcu.