Tic Tac PIC Pack: A Pocket Programmer

Sure, mint tin housings are great. But you have to defend against shorts, and cutting out holes for ports and buttons is dangerous business. [Daniel] prefers plastic, and he tipped us off about a PICKit2 clone that he designed to fit inside of a tic tac box.

Almost all of the components were salvaged except for the microcontroller and the connectors. He wound his own inductor using the ferrite core from a CFL. [Daniel] had to make a few improvisations for this project. He didn’t have a 20MHz crystal, so he used a 12MHz crystal and tweaked the fuse bits after burning the firmware.

To save space on the board, he soldered wires to RESET, VCC, GND, PGD, and PGC to program the firmware and then removed the wires. The only trouble he had with it was more or less easily solved by replacing two transistors.

You may remember that we linked to his USBasp programmer in a mentos container a few months back. We figure [Daniel] must have some pretty fresh breath.

Motivating Engineering Students with Microcontrollers

We see a lot of microcontroller based hacks around here, and it’s not hard to see why learning how to use microcontrollers is valuable to prospective engineeer. Unfortunately, microcontroller courses are dreaded by students since they focus on theory instead of application. In The First Lecure, [Colin] talks to a class of engineering students about how to get practical with microcontrollers.

He starts with an overview of a bomb countdown project that he used to learn the basics of microcontrollers. This started as a 555 based timer, but he ended up using a PIC18 after having issues with timing and reliability. Next, he discusses a paintball sentry gun inspired by a Hackaday post.  He finishes off some advice and gives the students some hardware: a Pickit2 programmer and a Saleae Logic Analyzer.

It’s easy to lose motivation due to the heavy focus on theory in engineering. [Colin]‘s advice to start building stuff will hopefully motivate these students to take an interest in microcontrollers. We also like how he advises students to read Hackaday. Check out the full video of the lecture after the break.

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Hackaday Links: January 13

An 8×8 LED Matrix Game Grows Up:

[Pixel Land] is an iPhone game similar to [Super Mario Brothers] using a virtual array of 8×8 pixels. This wouldn’t normally be interesting, but we’ve actually featured “this” game as an 8×8 LED matrix game.

How to Drill Golf or Ping-Pong Balls:

Drilling golf or ping-pong balls is not easy.  This simple drill press fixture makes that job easier and repeatable. So the next time you want to make lots of diffusers for your LED board, this might be a good device to consider!

The PICkit 2:

If you’ve ever wanted to get into PIC programming, possibly the PICkit 2 would be for you. [Ray] has written a review of his first experiences with setting it up and programming.

Mr Bitey is hungry for resistors!

Is light industrial machinery a hack? It’s a hard thing to define, but if so [Mr. Bitey] would meet the qualifications.  It also meets the qualifications of having a great video, and name, so be sure to check it out!

A [Snap Circuits] Programmable Robot:

The robot pictured above on [Instructables] was built using [Snap Circuits], with parts that literally snap together. A neat concept, this construction set seems to fall somewhere between traditional Legos and push-in breadboards.

How to decode IR remote control signals with your PICkit 2

[SpiralBrain] needed to figure out the coding scheme used by an IR remote control so that he could use it with his own project. He built an IR receiver board for the PICkit 2 and figured out how to use some of the Microchip software to measure the timing of the incoming signal.

The hardware’s dead simple; a 38 kHz IR receiver does the heavy lifting by filtering out errant infrared light. When it does detect a signal with the correct frequency the output pin drives the base of a transistor to toggle the input pin on the PICkit 2. The breakout board has a pin header which makes it a snap to detach and store for later use. The PICkit 2 Logic Tool software captures this input, by setting the correct pin as a trigger and choosing a 10 kHz sample rate.

As we discussed in our PIC programming with Linux tutorial, the PICkit 2 really is far superior to its replacement, the PICkit 3. [SpiralBrain] mentions that it is more versatile than the newer version but doesn’t go so far as to tell us whether you can use this hardware with the PICkit 3 or not.

How-to: Program PICs using Linux

Arguably, Microchip’s PIC microcontrollers do not get enough posts here. One of the drawbacks for some of us is that Linux support for PICs is not very well known. The information is out there, but no one has laid out the process of going from writing C code to programming a chip. Written for Linux users that are familiar with microcontrollers, basic circuits, the C programming language, and can read a datasheet, this how-to should get you up and programming a PIC quickly with Linux.

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