Capacitive touch sensor shield for the TI Launchpad

Texas Instruments just released a product they call the Capacitive Touch Boosterpack which is basically a touch-sensitive shield for the Launchpad. The video after the break shows an unboxing and demonstration of the product which TI is launching with a $4.30 limited-time price tag. The red PCB itself has a capacitive touch button in the center, surrounded by a touch-scroll wheel, which is centered in a proximity senor that takes up the rest of the board. There are also nine LEDs which look like they’re soldered on the underside of the board, through routed holes that mount them flush with the top surface. The pack also comes with a new MSP430 microcontroller, the G2452, which has 8 KB of flash memory and takes care of calibrating, reading, and processing signals from the board thanks to the software package that goes along with the add-on kit.

Looks quite nice. There’s a heck of a lot of information in the documentation for this hardware. We do wish it was a bit easier to find board layout information, but we’re sure it’s there somewhere.

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TI adds some Linux support for Evalbot – we’ve got hardware coupon codes for you!

In case you missed it, Texas Instruments sells a little robot called the Evalbot as a development platform for ARM Cortex-M3 microcontrollers. Since its release we’ve seen a few hacks on the hardware; the image above is a proof of concept for developing for the device under Linux. We have criticized TI in the past for not natively supporting Linux with their IDEs. We’re not sure how it will play out, but they have added new software package options to go along with the hardware. You’ll notice on their PR page that there is now an option to use CodeSourcery. It is a trial of the full version, but at least it is a step in the GNU direction from their previous offering.

The Hackaday team has been talking off and on with TI about the hardware. We’re happy to say that they’ve been listening to the Internet community about their likes and dislikes; following various online groups that have sprouted up to talk about Evalbot projects. It sounds like they’re thinking about hosting a contest using the hardware. So maybe you want to get your hands on one so that you can familiarize yourself and hit the ground running if/when that contest starts. You’re in luck, we can help save you a few bucks.

The first time that Texas Instruments tried out a $125-off coupon code the deal got away from them. It had been meant for attendees of the ESC Boston conference. They honored the deals that went through before the proverbial run-on-the-bank got shut down. This time around they’re using serialized deal codes to limit the number of give-aways. We’ve got 200 of them just waiting for our loyal readers to use. One code will let you purchase one Evalbot for just $25 (instead of $150).

Please take a moment to decide if you actually want (and will use) one of these robots, and decide if you are willing to shell out the $25 to order it. You see, we don’t want this deal going to waste. If you decide this is for you, send an email requesting a code to:We’re all out! We’ll dish out the deal on a first-emailed-first-served basis. We will update this post when all 200 have been claimed.

We will not tolerate anyone gaming the system and so we reserve the right to disqualify any email submission for any reason in an attempt to maintain some semblance of fairness. Also… if you’re planning to pick this up just to resell it for cash you’re a loser.

[update: Those who emailed us requesting a code should begin receiving replies this evening or tomorrow.]

[Update 2: here is the specific bot you should be trying to buy. ]

TI’s Grace – a new MCU IDE GUI (DNFTT)

TI has recently been fighting to gain traction in the market of low-cost microcontroller development platforms with products such as the MSP430 Value Line Launchpad.  In order to meet the needs of a rapidly growing customer base and appeal to a broader market they have recently released Grace beta Graphical Peripheral Configuration Tool. Grace is a plugin for TI’s own Code-Composer Studio (CCS) IDE that allows users to graphically control many aspecst of MSP430 development and is compatible with all MSP430F2xx/G2xx MCUs.

Utilizing a simple “wizard-like” interface, Grace allows users to quickly and efficiently control peripherals such clocks, timers, OpAmps,  ADCs, GPIOs, comparators, and even more advanced features such as serial communications or the configuration of low-level register settings. Once everything is configured as desired, Grace outputs standard C code that can be debugged and handled as if it were hand-written.

Although Code-Composer Studio is not free, there is a 30-day full-featured trial available as well as other (restricted) free licensing options as well. Since CCS is based on the Eclipse open-source  software development framework, perhaps we will see other similar development tools in the near future. Although not an apples-to-apples comparison, we could imagine that such a tool might provide many novice users with a simple and cost-effective alternative to the Arduino IDE.

The questions then becomes: If a later incarnation were to raise the MSP430 line to “Arduino-killer” status, would it be rejoiced as such or would it simply then become a new target for those die-hard microcontroller purists who love to shout “overkill” on the forums at the slightest provocation? Of course we would love to hear your take in the comments below!

TI Evalbot development under Linux

We have some beefs about how Texas Instruments does things, the biggest of which is their lack of support for development under Linux operating systems. But if they build it, someone will try to get Linux involved in one form or another. This time around, [BLuRry] put together a guide to developing for the Evalbot under Linux. He got a shove in the right direction from the code package that went along with that nunchuck-controlled Evalbot. Picking apart that example to the bare essentials he wrote up the process of setting up the cross-compiling toolchain in a virtual machine so as not to clutter your system. From there he details how to set up and use Eclipse when starting a new project. What what did he choose for a Hello World experience? Well a plain “Hello World” was first but right on its heels is the “Hello Hack-A-Day” seen above. So if you’ve got one of these on hand get out there and start coding for it.

Hands-on with eZ430-F2013

At the beginning of the Month we came across a coupon code for a free eZ430-F2013 development stick. TI has given these things now and again so we took the opportunity to acquire one. It arrived yesterday and we’ve spent just a bit of time looking it over. Above you can see the first project completed; Hello World on a salvaged Nokia cell phone screen. Join us after the break for our thoughts on the device, as well as more pictures and details.

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Peer network using graphing calculators

These calculators are networked together, able to pass information and play games on a multi-screen playing field. All of this is thanks to [Christopher Mitchell's] work on a package called CalcNet. This networking software takes advantage of [Christopher's] shell and GUI for TI calculators called Doors CS. To demonstrate the high reliability and throughput of his network he wrote NetPong, a multi-calculator version of the popular game that you can watch in a clip after the break.

This is definitely an instance where asking ‘why?’ is the wrong question. We’re more interested in the how, a question you can answer for yourself by reading the whitepapers he provided in both of the links above. [Christopher] knows what he’s doing, he proved that with his face-recognizing augmented reality.

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EvalBot: arrival and assembly

[Chris Muncy] just received his EvalBot from TI and took some pictures of the assembly process. He was one of the lucky folks that picked up the kit for just $25 using a short-lived coupon code. Seeing the kit makes us wish we had ordered one. There is some assembly required but as you can see, it’s pretty much just mechanical assembly of the wheels and the front bumper arms.

We think the wheel design is quite good. It consists of two small gearhead motors mounted on the rectangular PCB parts that you can see on the right portion of the image above. Those mount to the circular mainboard using metal L brackets. The wheels themselves are three circular pieces of PCB, one with a smaller diameter sandwiched in between its two larger cousins. This creates a channel that is perfect for a neoprene O-ring to give the wheel traction. The main board uses an optical sensors and a hole through all three parts to function as a rotation counter.

It’s a fancy piece of hardware and we can’t wait to see what you can do with it! If you’ve got one, we want to hear about your adventures.