Preorder TI’s ARM Cortex-M4 Launchpad for $5 delivered

Texas Instruments just open preorders for the new Stellaris LaunchPad. The boards won’t ship until the end of September, but if you don’t mind the wait you can get one for $4.99 including delivery (we’d wager non-U.S. addresses have to pay for delivery, but leave a comment if you know for sure several readers have reported that international shipping is free).

We routinely pay more in shipping for parts orders so we already jumped at the opportunity and put in our own order. Earlier in the month we heard the first murmurs about the device. We’re glad to see they hit the $4.99 target price, but the TI website mentions that this is a promotional price that will be available for a limited time only. The board boasts an ARM Cortex-M4 processor, the Stellaris LM4F120H5QR. It includes 256 KB of flash memory, 32 KB of SRAM, and more peripherals than you can shake a stick at. To get you up and running quickly they’ve included two user buttons and an RGB LED. As with the 16-bit Launchpad, the board acts as its own programmer. It has a microUSB jack, but they’ve included a micro B to USB A cable in the kit to make sure you don’t need to also put in a cable order.

We’ll give a follow-up post once we finally get our hands on the board. We hope this will be easy to get working with a Linux box!

[Thanks Chris]

TI Launches C2000 Launchpad (featuring Billy Mays)

The Texas Instruments MSP430 Launchpad is pretty popular in hacks, likely due to its low price. TI has recently released a new C2000 Launchpad device that offers more power and peripherals for $17. This board uses the C2000 Piccolo processor, which is meant for DSP applications.

Also included is an unrestricted version of the Code Composer Studio IDE and the controlSUITE software package. You can also run the free SYS/BIOS RTOS on this board. It’s nice to see TI providing a lot of free, non-crippled tools that could be used to power some pretty advanced hacks.

Most MSP430 Launchpad Booster Packs should be compatible with this board, and TI has a new layout for Booster Packs that use the additional pins. There is a C2000 specific LED Booster Pack available now for $30. There are also specifications for building your own Booster Packs for the C2000.

TI has released a slightly cheesy promotional video that features a [Billy Mays] like performance. Check it out after the break.

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TI’s inexpensive Piccolo and Stellaris dev boards

Texas Instruments is trying to take the success it had with the LaunchPad and apply it to other chip architectures. The board seen above is their new C2000 Piccolo LaunchPad. It’s a development board for the F28027 chip. This 32-bit offering is a part we know nothing about. A first look shows a clock speed between 40 and 60 MHz, 64k of Flash memory, and a JTAG programming interface. It sounds like an unrestricted copy of Code Composer Studio is also available to use as the development environment. At $17 won’t break the bank, but we also don’t feel that welling of excitement to get in on one of these units.

What does get us excited is the Stellaris LaunchPad offering. It’s not available yet (which always makes us want it more), but you can enter a drawing to get a free one when they are released. Be warned, with only 25 up for grabs the odds are against you. There are no details, other than a target price of $4.99 for the ARM development board. We’ve had a lot of fun with the STM32 ARM board, and this might be a new adventure to undertake.

[Thanks Máté]

Automatic trough filler makes sure the animals have water

It has been a hot hot summer for many parts of the US. The heat has been dangerous at times and making sure the livestock has the water they need is incredibly important. [Maddox] recently upgraded the automation on their water troughs which will help with the process. Sure, they still have to check on the animals, but this will ensure there’s plenty to drink in between those visits, and that a malfunction doesn’t waste precious water.

There has always been some level of automation here, but it relied on float valves which were frequently malfunctioning. This project seeks to get rid of the float value and use solenoid valves like those used in irrigation. These solenoids can run from a 9V battery and offer quite a bit more reliability than the mechanical vales. There is still a float sensor which measures the water level, filling up the trough when needed.

An MSP430 Launchpad was used for the prototype, from which a PCB was designed. Since this needs to be weather-proof a water tight enclosure was sourced. The company that makes the enclosure also provides DXF templates which [Maddox] used to establish the size and outline of the PCB.

Energia brings Arduino IDE to the TI Launchpad

The Arduino IDE is an abstraction layer for the AVR chip which the board is based around. So it’s no surprise that it is now possible to use the Arduino IDE with the TI Launchpad board. This makes it dead simple for beginners to play around with the inexpensive and low-power MSP430 platform. This is all thanks to a lot of hard work on part of the Energia developers.

The project branches from Arduino so the look, feel, and function are all about the same. Most notably, the color scheme has migrated to red to match the board color of the Launchpad. You can configure the hardware the same way by selecting a COM port and target board. Almost everything is already working, but you should check the known issues page so that you don’t try to use a function that hasn’t been ported. Right now the list includes the random and random seed functions, as well as tone, notone, and micros. There is also an issue with analogWrite; it will only produce half the requested frequency and duty cycle can only be set from 0-50%. Still this is a great development if you’re most comfortable working from this IDE.

Logic analyzer add-on for the MSP430 Launchpad

Here’s a 6-channel logic analyzer shield for the MSP430 Launchpad. It manages an eyebrow-raising 16 million samples per second. The prototype seen above is made on a hunk of protoboard with point-to-point soldering. [oPossum] did lay out a PCB — which is just 50mmx50mm — but has not had any produced quite yet.

He calls it the LogicBoost, and based it on the the LogicShrimp design. The sextuplet of 8-pin chips are all SPI RAM. These are responsible for storing the samples, with a 74HC573 latch routing the traffic. The MSP430 chip provides the SPI clock, and the Launchpad’s virtual com port can be used to push the data to a computer for graphing. That’s a bit slow so [oPossum] also included an optional header for an FTDI board that will do a faster job. The sample rate can be adjusted by tweaking the internal oscillator setting of the chip; there’s plenty to choose from so it will work for just about any purpose (as long as you don’t surpass the 16 Msps speed limit).

[via Dangerous Prototypes]

Using Spy-Bi-Wire with the MSP430 Launchpad

[Suraj] has been working with some larger MSP430 chips with won’t fit on the Launchpad board. But that’s okay because he built a shield and wrote a guide about using the Spy-Bi-Wire protocol for programming the chips.

SBW is a four-wire interface. In the past we’ve used all of the board’s programming connections for in circuit programming, but the chips that support SBW only need a connection to the SBW and TEST pins (of course the other two connections are for voltage and ground). This shield brings the four pins together into one male pin header. In the image above [Suraj] is using the technique to program an MSP430F4152. His guide is Windows-based, but looking back, [Sprite_TM] shows how to use SBW when debugging in Eclipse.