The Future of the Internet of Things

When buying anything, you’re going to have a choice: good, fast, or cheap. Pick any two. A plumber will fix a drain good and fast, but it won’t be cheap. The skeezy guy you can call will fix a drain fast and cheap, but it won’t be good.

Such it is with radios. You can have long-range (good), high bandwidth (fast), or a low price (cheap). Pick any two. The Internet of Things demands a cheap, long-range radio module, but until now this really hasn’t existed. At Electronica last week, Microchip demoed their IoT solution, the LoRa. This module has a 15km (rural) or ~3km (heavy urban) range, works for a year on two AAA batteries, and is very cheap. Bandwidth? That’s crap, but you’re not streaming videos to your shoe.

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An Open Source 1MHz Arbitrary Waveform Generator with an Awesome UI

1MHZ DDS

 

[Herp] just shared a nice 1MHz Arbitrary Waveform Generator (right click -> translate to English as google translation links don’t work) with a well designed user interface. His platform is based around a PIC32, a TFT module with its touchscreen and the 75MHz AD9834 Direct Digital Synthesizer (DDS). Of course the latter could generate signals with frequencies up to 37.5MHz… but that’s only if two output points are good enough for you.

As you can see in the video embedded below, the ‘tiny dds’ can generate many different kinds of periodic signals and even ones that are directly drawn on the touchscreen. The offset and signal amplitude can be adjusted using several operational amplifiers after the DDS ouput and a separate SMA TTL output is available to use a PIC32 PWM signal. The platform can read WAV audio files stored on microSD cards and also has an analog input for signal monitoring. Follow us after the break for the video.

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New Contest: Win One of 20 Microchip Fubarino SD Boards

We had a blast with the Trinket Contest in October and November and can’t wait to see what you can come up with for this month’s competition. Microchip Technology is one of our advertisers and they offered us 20 Fubarino SD boards to give away as prizes. The challenge for you is to add our URL as an Easter Egg in your own microcontroller project. Rise to the top of our seemingly arbitrary system for picking winners and one will be delivered to your door for your future hacking pleasure.

Obviously we mean http://hackaday.com when we say URL, but what constitutes an Easter Egg? We figure it’s anything that is not apparently obvious in a piece of hardware. We built a quick example to get you thinking. Shown off in the clip after the break is a clock that displays our web address every day at 1:37pm. What did we pick that time? Because our clock displays in 24-hour time format and 13:37 is leet. See the code we used in our repo.

We thought of a few others, like making an embedded gaming that uses the Konami Code to reveal the Easter Egg, or a man-in-the-middle device that attaches to your keyboard and redirects your feeble attempts to load Facebook by closing the tab and opening Hackaday. The sky’s the limit with how creative these things can be!

Follow these rules to submit your qualifying entry:

  • You must somehow hide http://hackaday.com in your microcontroller project (embedded Linux doesn’t count unless you do some type of bare-metal programming)
  • Preference will be given to projects that are both clever and well documented. Notice we made a video, and posted code and an explanation of our project.
  • Write an email that has “[Fubarino]” in the title, includes the information on your documented entry, and lists your name and mailing address. Your name and mailing address will be used for shipping only and NOT for anything else. Emails should be sent to: contests@hackaday.com
  • Entries must be received before 12:00am Pacific time on 12/19/2013.
  • Employees and their families of Hackaday, SupplyFrame, and Microchip Technology are not eligible to win.

What are you waiting for? Dust off those chips and get hacking!

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Teach an Old LCD New Tricks

pic-lcd

[Art] has done some amazing work with character LCDs. He started with a classic character LCD. These LCDs are typically controlled by Hitachi HD447XXX compatible controllers. Hitachi’s controllers allow several custom characters to be defined. We’ve used those characters in the past for applications like spinners and bar graphs. [Art] took things to a whole new level. He created a double buffered LCD graphics library which allows these old LCDs to perform tricks usually reserved for graphical LCDs. Even more impressive is the fact the whole thing runs on a Microchip PIC16F628A programmed mostly in PICBASIC.

According to [Art’s] thread on the PICBASIC forum, he is using the custom character memory as a framebuffer. The LCD is set to display all 8 custom characters. Each frame is then in the PIC’s RAM. The completed frames are then pushed to the custom character memory of the Hitachi LCD controller. The result is a very smooth update rate on the LCD. [Art] wrapped the whole example up in a video reminiscent of the C64 demoscene.

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Hackaday Links: April 29, 2012

More old computers on FPGAs!

[Andy] loves his Memotech MTX computer. It’s an oldie with a Z80 running at 4MHz; the perfect target for an FPGA port. The ReMemotech has everything the old one has – cassette interface and all – and can run up to six times faster than the original.

Also found in 10-forward

If you’re going to build a jukebox, why not go all out? Here’s a touch screen jukeboxwith an LCARS skin. Yep, the same interface found on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

New desktop wallpaper for you

[McMonster] found a great pair of blog posts (1, 2) showing what ancient ICs look like without their casing. Since these were CERDIP packages (two ceramic plates glued together) they were exceptionally easy to take apart leaving the entire chip intact. Pages are in Polish, but there’s a Google Translate button on the sidebar

Cheap and easy Arduino wi-fi

Quick quiz: what’s the easiest way to get data onto an Arduino wirelessly? XBees? GSM modules? Nope, just get a wireless router and an Ethernet shield. The Ethernet module only cost [Doss] $20, and we’re sure Hackaday readers have a spare wireless router around somewhere.

Chiptunes! Chiptunes I say!

[mdmoose29] has been working on making a custom SNES cartridge for a dubstep artist (tell us more, [moose]…). In his search for programming tools, he found theSNES Game Maker. We tried it out for a bit and it’s still a very unrefined beta. Still, making SNES programming easier is awesome.

You people are awesome. Here’s six things for a links post.

[Valentin] made a night vision monocular from an old VHS camcorder, a small spy camera, and a handful of infrared LEDs. Here’s a video of [Valentin]‘s build in action.

Designing a Smarter RF transceiver

Two  months ago we featured a transceiver based on the Microchip MRF49XA, and a lot of feedback was sent to [hpux735] requesting that some brains be added onto the system. [hpux735] decided that if he was going to do it, might as well go the distance and make a make a native USB transceiver.

The prototype model is designed for use with the Atmel AT90USBKey, and uses the LUFA USB framework. The protocol and packet format was revised, and a Hamming Code implementation was built using look-up tables to give error control. Finally once the prototype was ready to go [hpux735] created some awesome little PCB’s that contain the AVR, radio, antenna hookups, and blinky lights (no project is complete without blinky lights) are all ready to go when you are.

This project has come quite a long way, covers 3 blog pages, uses a fair bit of ribbon cable, but you just got to love when a plan comes together.

Microchip puts up two $1000 prizes for USB and TCP/IP stacks!

microchip_call_for_open_source

A couple of weeks ago we put up a post titled Addressing Microchip’s open source problem where we talked about some of their shortcomings as far as open source code goes, specifically the TCP/IP stack and the USB stack. The comments were predictably fairly negative. The interesting part here is that Microchip actually listened. If you read through all of the comments, you will get a bit of an inside look at what is going on internally at Microchip. At the very end, [Marc] from Microchip left a couple of comments outlining a pair of prizes for independently ported stacks for TCP/IP and USB. Microchip can’t fully open the ones that they have because of legal reasons so they need the help of the development community and they are putting up $1000 for each one to prove that they are serious. If you follow this link you will arrive at a page outlining the rules for the contest.

The gauntlet has been dropped! Do you have chops to pull this off and earn yourself a cool $1000?