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TI Launchpad as AVR ISP programmer

[Minifloat] is using his TI Launchpad development board as an In-System Programmer for AVR chips (translated). There are a ton of homebrew AVR programmers out there, and using an Arduino for ISP is quite popular. But recently we searched for a way to use the Launchpad as a programmer and didn’t find one. We’d venture to say this is the first.

There is one hardware modification that must be made. An external clock crystal (32.768 kHz) must be populated on the board. But since it was designed with the feature in mind that’s a pretty quick process. [Minifloat] followed Atmel’s ISP app note, and extended some of the code written for a different programmer to get things up and running. At first the device wouldn’t communicate with AVRdude, but that turns out to be a problem with the initialization conversation. AVRdude polls the connected programmer to see if it supports block mode, and the firmware on the MSP430G2211 wasn’t expecting this query. The problem was fixed and it now works.

It sounds like there are a couple of bugs left in the system. The first time AVRdude accesses the programmer after it has been plugged into the USB port it will fail. Subsequent attempts will succeed until the MSP430 chip is reset, or the USB connection is replugged. But if you’re just getting into the AVR line, this will let you figure out if you want to invest in a proper programmer.

Gold leaf circuit board

Ah, the glitter of gold… or fake gold, we’re not really sure. But [Mike Hogan] and [PJ Santoro] have been working with faux gold leaf as a conductor on circuit boards. The device you see above is mounted on metal-covered paper substrate and it really works.

They started by applying spray adhesive to heavy paper to make the gold-clad they needed. This was cut down into hexagons in homage to their hackerspace, Hive76 in Philadelphia. From there the shape of the microcontroller (an MSP430 G2211 in this case) to prevent shorts under the chip. The leads were flattened to interface well with the gold contacts, and a hobby knife was used to score the traces. Some careful soldering made up the final connections, and they were in business.

Oh, wait; chip on board but nothing on chip. They forgot to program it first! Since there’s no header they needed an easy way to interface with the board. The clever guys used the power of magnets to hold alligator clips in place. See how they did that in the demo video after the break.

They’re also working on some boards that use conductive ink similar to this hack but we haven’t seen a write-up from these two about those experiments… yet.

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Custom microcontroller using only a Dremel

Check out this 6-pin MSP430 microcontroller. What’s that you say? TI doesn’t make a 6-pin MSP430? True, Texas Instruments doesn’t make one, so [Greg] grabbed his Demel and a cutoff wheel, and chopped up a larger uC to arrive at this package.

It may sound a bit crazy at first, but when you think about it there’s nothing really all that special about this. The plastic package on DIP components these days is mostly empty. The silicon die which does the computing is quite small in comparison, and usually mounted in the very center of the part. [Greg] simply cut off eight of the unneeded pins (four from each end).

Well, it might be a stretch to call them unneeded since he cut the ground and voltage pins. He gets around this issue by taking advantage of the same properties of the I/O pins used in this barebones RFID tag. You can inject power through the I/O and we’d bet you could easily use this chopped-up MSP430G2211 as an RFID tag if you wanted to.

[Thanks Ian]

Meter clock using the TI Launchpad

Here’s an analog meter clock using an MSP430G2211 microcontroller. [Doug Paradis] chose this processor because it is the lesser of the two that come with the TI Launchpad. The parts count is fairly low too; a clock crystal, two analog meters, a few buttons, and a voltage regulator.

He’s done a nice job putting this together. We challenge you to give this a try yourself and build on [Doug's] features. We really liked the calibration subroutine in [Alan's] multi meter clock. It would be fun to implement that functionality and store the calibration code in the MSP’s flash memory. You can use our ported garage door opener code if you need an example of how to store data in flash.