Repairing Dead USB Flash Drives

crystal

Over the last few years, [Tobias] has repaired a number of USB Flash drives. This strikes us as a little odd, given small capacity Flash drives are effectively free in the form of conference handouts and swag, but we’re guessing [Tobias] has had a few too many friends lose their thesis to a broken Flash drive.

In all his repairs, [Tobias] found one thing in common The crystal responsible for communicating with the USB controller is always broken. In a way, this makes a lot of sense; everything else on a Flash drive is silicon encased in an epoxy package, where the crystal is a somewhat fragile piece of quartz. Breaking even a small part of this crystal will drastically change the frequency it resonates at making the USB controller throw a fit.

[Tobias]‘ solution for all his Flash drive repairs is to desolder and change out the crystal, bringing the drive back to life. Some of the USB Flash drives even have multiple pads for different crystal packages, making it easy to kludge together a solution should you need to repair a Flash drive five minutes ago.

FT230X Brings USB Charging Detection to the Serial IC Game

FT230XS-breadboard

Here’s a new chip from FTDI which brings a nice little feature to the USB-to-serial converter family: charging detection. That means that it is capable of detecting when a battery charger is connected. What does that actually mean? The top of the datasheet gives you the short version, but let’s look at the investigation [Baoshi] undertook to test the full extent of this particular feature. We agree with him that the listed capability leaves those in the know with a lot of questions:

USB Battery Charger Detection. Allows for USB peripheral devices to detect the presence of a higher power source to enable improved charging.

Obviously the chip will be able to tell when a charger is connected, alerting the device when it’s time to start lapping up the extra milliamps. But what type of chargers will actually trigger the detection circuit? After rigging up the test circuit shown above he ran through several scenarios: connected directly to the PC USB port, via externally powered and non-powered USB hubs, and with multiple wall wart chargers. Full results of the tests are included in the post linked above.

[via Dangerous Prototypes]

Classic 80’s Stereo Receiver Enjoys a Second Life as RadioduinoWRT

radio2[Raffael] had an old Broken Yamaha natural sound receiver lying around. Rather than throw it out, he built himself a slick web radio. He calls it RadioduinoWRT. [Raffael] started by removing all the internals – though he kept the front panel controls.  He then added an Arduino Mega to handle the front panel controls, including a 16×2 character LCD module. The Arduino also takes commands via IR remote. An enc28j60 Ethernet module allows the Arduino to communicate with a the brains of the operation, a TL-WR703N mini router.

A micro USB hub expands the single USB port on the WR703, allowing both a USB sound card and a 4 gig USB stick to be mounted. We’d like to add that the TL-WR703 is a must in this application – the amazon link [Rafael] provides brings up the TL-WR702 as a top link. Only the TL-WR703 has a USB host connection.

The real magic is in [Raffael's] software setup. The WR703 is running OpenWRT.  He added modules for the USB sound card, as well as expanding the file system onto the USB stick. Once that was complete [Raffael] added Music Player Daemon (MPD) and MPC, a console app to drive MPD. Lighttpd, a light web server provides an interface for the Arduino as well as a web front end to the entire radio.All this allows [Raffael] to control his radio in several ways. He can log in via any web browser on his network. He can use the front panel controls. He can use an IR remote. Since he is running MPD, any client (there are literally hundreds out there) will also drive the radio.

While a low-end USB sound card in a home stereo application does make our inner audiophile cringe a bit, the quality does seem to be pretty good. [Rafael's] design would make it simple to swap out a higher quality USB sound card if the need arises.

[Read more...]

A cortex M4 based platform with ETH, USB, BT and many on-board peripherals

Here is a very time consuming project that I worked on during last summer: an ARM Cortex M4 based platform with plenty of communication interfaces and on-board peripherals. The particular project for which this board has been developed is not really HaD material (one of my father’s funny ideas) so I’ll only describe the platform itself. The microcontroller used in the project is the ATSAM4E16C from Atmel, which has 1Mbyte of flash and 128Kbytes of SRAM. It integrates an Ethernet MAC, a USB 2.0 Full-speed controller, a sophisticated Analog to Digital Converter and a Digital to Analog Converter (among others).

Here is a list of the different components present on the board so you can get a better idea of what the platform can do: a microphone with its amplifier, a capacitive touch sensor, two unipolar stepper motors controllers, two mosfets, a microSD card connector, a Bluetooth to serial bridge, a linear motor controller and finally a battery retainer for backup power. You can have a look at a simple demonstration video I made, embedded after the break. The firmware was made in C and uses the Atmel Software Framework. The project is obviously open hardware (Kicad) and open software.

[Read more...]

Backseat USB Charger

backseatCharger

Whether you’re relegated to the backseat of your ride or just strapped for access to power, you may benefit from adding your own backseat USB charger. While this is a fairly straightforward hack, we’re surprised at how clean it turned out and at the convenience it provides.

[wongman2001] started by grabbing a socket wrench and unbolting his seat from the rails in the floor. He then disconnected the electrical plugs for the chair’s heating and power seat adjustment. With the chair disconnected and removed from the car, [wongman2001] further dissected its components, removing its back panel and test fitting a female cigarette adapter. Though this seat had plenty of room near the headrest, you may need to carve out some foam for a snug fit in your vehicle. To source the needed 12V, [wongman2001] tapped into the wiring for the seat’s motor, then soldered and insulated the connections to the cigarette lighter jack.

Check out some other clean-looking car hacks like the hidden MP3/USB Aux hack or the Nexus 7 double-DIN dashboard hack.

Serial USB for Any AVR Microcontroller

HID

If you’re using an AVR microcontroller and you’d like to add USB to a project, there are a lot of options out there for you. Both LUFA and V-USB add some USB functionality to just about every AVR micro, but if you’d like a native serial port, your only options are to look towards the USB-compatible Atmel micros.

[Ray] looked at the options for adding a USB serial port and didn’t like what he saw; seemingly, this was an impossible task without a second, more capable microcontroller. Then he had an idea: if the goal is only to transfer data back and forth between a computer and a microcontroller, why not write an HID-class USB serial port?

[Ray] based his project on The V-USB library and created a new HID descriptor to transfer data between a micro and a computer. While it won’t work with a proper terminal such as Putty, [Ray] managed to whip up a serial monitor program in Processing that’s compatible with Windows, Linux and OS X.

In the video below, you can see [Ray] using an ATmega328p with a standard V-USB setup. He’s transferring analog values from a photoresistor as a proof of concept, but just about everything that would work with a normal serial port will work with [Ray]‘s library.

[Read more...]

USB Implementers Forum Says No to Open Source

USB

For the longest time. one of the major barriers to hobbyists and very small companies selling hardware with a USB port is the USB Implementers Forum. Each USB device sold requires a vendor ID (VID) and a product ID (PID) to be certified as USB compliant. Adafruit, Sparkfun, and the other big guys in the hobbyist market have all paid the USB Implementers Forum for a USB VID, but that doesn’t help the guy in his garage hoping to sell a few hundred homebrew USB devices.

Arachnid Labs had an interesting idea to solve this problem. Since other USB device vendors such as Microchip and FTDI give away USB PIDs for free, a not for profit foundation could buy a VID, give PIDs away to foundation members making open source hardware, and we would all live in a magical world of homebrew devices that are certified as USB compliant.

This idea did not sit well with VTM Group, the people serving as the management, PR, legal, and membership and licensing department of the USB Implementers Forum. In a slightly disproportionate response, the VTM Group told Arachnid Labs to,

Please immediately cease and desist raising funds to purchase a unique USB VID for the purpose of transferring, reselling or sublicensing PIDs and delete all references to the USB-IF, VIDs and PIDs for transfer, resale or sublicense from your website and other marketing materials.

Interestingly, Arachnid Labs’ and scores of other requests for an open source USB VID haven’t hit the desk of anyone at the USB Implementers Forum, the people who are actually in charge of designating USB VIDs and PIDs. There are a number of ideas to get around VTM Group that include squatting on USB VID 0xF055, but we’re at a loss why there couldn’t be a foundation that gives out open source USB PIDs. Microchip, FTDI, and Openmoko do the same, so perhaps it’s time to email some key people at HP, Intel, and Microsoft