Using a touch screen with an STM32 microcontroller

[Andy Brown] has been working on a series of tutorials revolving around the STM32 processor family. He’s using the STM32plus development board, with an STM32F1 ARM Cortex M3 processor to drive a couple of different full color graphic LCD screens. His latest installment shows how to read from the touch screen included with both displays.

After the break we’ve embedded the video from which this screenshot was taken. As an example, [Andy] has programmed a painting program to show off what the touchscreen overlay is capable of. It starts off with the calibration routine we’re all familiar with, then drops to this screen with a virtual control panel and blank canvas.

This hardware uses the Texas Instruments ADS7843 controller, which [Andy] says is extremely common and that several other manufacturers use the same communications protocols. He discusses how to communicate with the controller, and how to incorporate the data into your program. Included is an open source library which you can use in your own projects.

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TI’s new web site appeals to the penny pincher in us

tideals_chronos_watch

We’ve got to admit, we’re pretty much cheapskates when it comes to buying electronic bits online. Whether its microcontrollers or PCBs, we hate to part with money. So, we were pretty excited to hear that Texas Instruments is dishing out deals two weeks at a time to hackers, makers, and the like.

Several of you wrote in to tip us off to TI’s new site: TI Deals. Basically, they are deeply discounting various products, changing the lineup every two weeks. Now, we were expecting something like 20%-25% off certain items, but so far the TI Deals look pretty sweet. Right now, they are offering the Chronos watch kit for 50% off – which is a pretty nice discount. We’re definitely interested to see what sorts of other things will go on the chopping block in the future.

Thinking of picking up a Chronos watch? Let us know what sort of project you have planned.

If you are on the fence and need a little inspiration, check out these Chronos-based projects we have featured in the past:

Printable gripping rover is wristwatch controlled

Google two-factor authentication in a wristwatch

Wireless Sniffing and Jamming of Chronos and iclicker

Texas Instruments watch claims it’s a computer mouse

RGB LED spectrum analyzer coffee table

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This year, students working for Texas Instruments as part of their Co-op program were challenged to construct a project around the company’s MSP430 microcontroller. A team of three students, [Max Thrun, Mark Labbato, Ian Cathey] decided to build something that would fit perfectly in any college student’s dorm room – an RGB LED coffee table.

We’ve covered RGB LED tables in the past, but as far as we can tell this is the first MSP430 based unit we’ve seen. Microcontroller aside, the table features a lot of items that are considered “standard equipment” when it comes to these sorts of living room LED installations. The trio installed 128 RGB LEDs into their table, isolating each one using a wooden grid, and used some frosted glass to diffuse the display a bit.

What really makes this table stand out is the software. The team wrote an application that creates a Fast Fourier Transform of whatever music is being played, in order to find beats and generate real-time visualizations for their table. The result is a pleasing display that’s sure to be a hit at parties.

Check out the video below to see their creation in action.

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Devboard deal: TI Experimenter Board for $15 (50% off)

Cheap things come to those who wait. If you’ve had your eye on a TI Experimenters Board (MSP-EXP430FR5739) now’s the time to pull the trigger. You can use the coupon code MSP430_FRAM to get 50% off. This pulls the total price down to $14.50 plus shipping with several readers reporting free shipping.

The board features an upgraded MSP430. Instead of using flash memory, it’s got  ferroelectric random access memory (FRAM) which boots the power savings of these aready lean-mean chips.

We’ve posted a few deals from Texas Instruments before, like the announcement of the Launchpad which was just $4.30, as well as a coupon-deal gone awry with the evalBot. There were huge threads in those posts reporting back how long shipping took, as well as how well the codes worked. So feel free to share your thoughts on this deal by leaving a polite comment.

Of course if you get one, we want to see what you do with it. Don’t forget to write up your projects and send in a tip.

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!

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