Single Board Revolution: Preventing Flash Memory Corruption

An SD card is surely not an enterprise grade storage solution, but single board computers also aren’t just toys anymore. You find them in applications far beyond the educational purpose they have emerged from, and the line between non-critical and critical applications keeps getting blurred.

Laundry notification hacks and arcade machines fail without causing harm. But how about electronic access control, or an automatic pet feeder? Would you rely on the data integrity of a plain micro SD card stuffed into a single board computer to keep your pet fed when you’re on vacation and you back in afterward? After all, SD card corruption is a well-discussed topic in the Raspberry Pi community. What can we do to keep our favorite single board computers from failing at random, and is there a better solution to the problem of storage than a stack of SD cards?

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Arduino-Based Power Failure Alert System


When the power went out at his parents’ shop and ruined the contents of their fridge, [Lauters Mehdi] got to work building a custom power failure alert system to prevent future disasters. Although some commercial products address this problem, [Lauters] decided that he could build his own for the same cost while integrating a specific alert feature: one that fires off an SMS to predefined contacts upon mains power failure.

The first step was to enable communication between an Arduino Micro and a Nokia cell phone. His Nokia 3310 uses FBus protocol, but [Lauters] couldn’t find an Arduino library to make the job easier. Instead, he prototyped basic communication by running an Arduino Uno as a simple serial repeater to issue commands from the computer directly to the phone, and eventually worked out how to send an SMS from the ‘duino. [Lauters] then took the phone apart and tapped into the power button to control on/off states. He also disconnected the phone’s battery and plugged it into an attached PCB. The system operates off mains power but swaps to a 1000mAH 9V backup battery during a power outage, logging the time and sending out the SMS alerts. A second message informs the contacts when power has been restored.

Head over to [Lauters’s] project blog for schematics and photos, then see his GitHub for the source code. If you want to see other SMS hacking projects, check out the similar build that keeps a remote-location cabin warm, or the portable power strip activated by SMS.

Discussing Pulse-Width Modulation

[Michael Kleinigger] posted a lengthy discussion on Pulse-Width Modulation that goes beyond the traditional beginner tutorial. He starts a bit of background info on PWM and a tip about using a camera to judge frequency and duty cycle of LEDs. From there it’s down the rabbit hole with some testing of power-loss versus frequency.

When you change from frequencies of 50 Hz to 1 MHz how does the parasitic power loss from switching affect the overall efficiency of the circuit? It turns out there’s a rather large amount of loss at the highest level, around 1.5 mW. The greatest balance of low power loss and elimination of flicker seems to be right in the 300-500 Hz range.