BAMF2011: chipKIT is Arduino to the power of 32

If you’ve been hungry for more power for your microcontroller projects, but reluctant to dump your investment in Arduino shields or the libraries and community knowledge that go with them all, Digilent has you covered. Their new chipKIT boards are built around the Microchip PIC32 MCU…a powerful 32-bit chip that until recently was left out of the cross-platform scene. A majority of code and quite a number of Arduino shields will work “out of the box” with the chipKIT, and the familiar development tools are available for all three major operating systems: Windows, Mac and Linux.

We first mentioned these a couple weeks ago, but the software was unavailable at the time. Seeing the development tools in action was quite unexpected…

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Kinect to get Windows drivers months after open source drivers were developed

Microsoft is planning to release Windows drivers for the Kinect this spring, months after open source drivers were developed by a motivated hacking community. [Johnny Chung Lee], who worked with the Microsoft team when the hardware was developed, mentions that he had pushed for the giant to develop and release at least basic Windows drivers. That refusal led him to a position as top cheerleader and bounty contributor in Adafruit’s Open Kinect Contest which resulted (quickly we might add) in the availability of open source drivers. If you’ve been following Hackaday or any other tech blogs the last three months you’ll know that an explosion of projects using the Kinect followed, and [Johnny] figures Microsoft’s decision to release Windows drivers is an attempt to ride this wave on their own flagship OS rather than continue to watch from the sidelines.

PC monitor sleep mode using iPhone

[Mike Silverman] rigged up a way to make his monitor sleep from an iPhone. Working with a Windows system, he installed QuickPHP and NirCmd to add PHP and command line controls. Some quick PHP code writing and this has the effect of creating a sleep button toggled via a network address. He loads up the IP and port information in the Safari browser of his iPhone, creating a Home Screen short cut seen in the image above. Now he clicks on the button and puts the screen to sleep.

It’s not that we find this functionality useful since most monitors sleep after a few minutes of inactivity. But we like the methodology and you can bet we’re already planning uses for this. Any PHP server (like the copy of Apache running on this machine) will do as long as it’s on the same LAN as the iPhone’s WiFi connection.

C Sharp Development 101 – Part 2: Toolbox Controls

In this tutorial we are going to start finding out more about the toolbox we utilized in the previous tutorial.  The Controls available in the toolbox are quite extensive and allow users to simplify a variety of everyday tasks such as manually creating and instantiating a textbox on a windows form.  At the end of this tutorial you should be comfortable finding Controls in the Visual Studio Toolbox, alter or produce code to link tools together using event handlers and ultimately get a better sense of Visual Studio, it’s layout and how to easily navigate it.

PIC USB host shortcuts

[Simon Inns] is still hard at work making USB connectivity for PIC microcontrollers easier for the hobbiest. He’s released a framework for PIC based USB devices under Windows. It includes the firmware needed for USB compatible 18F PIC chips as well as a C# class library and example programs for the Windows side of things. This goes quite a bit further than his PIC-USB tutorial but with little added effort on your end of things.

We do our USB prototyping on a breadboard just like [Simon] did in this example. He’s got a nice little USB-B connector breakout that is easy to plug into the breadboard. If you prefer to have a more stable development area, check out the one he designed. It’s a single-sided PCB made for through-hole components with just a handful of jumper wires.

ExoPC shows off some guts

The folks over at Engadget have posted some pictures of the ExoPC’s insides. With the recent return of the tablet craze (remember xp tablet edition?) we’re seeing tablets everywhere. This one has some promise on the hardware side, sporting a 1.6GHz processor and 2GB of RAM.  Unfortunately we’ve heard using solely a tablet interface with windows7 is somewhat cumbersome even with the built in improvements. We’re not too worried though, a customized appliance style linux interface probably won’t be too far off.

The last couple times we mentioned tablet style computing, people have emailed us about the Touchbook. It also seems pretty cool, but seems like switching applications is visibly laggy in the demo video. Then again, a slimmed down interface might reduce some of that drag.

Arduino now controlling – the crop harvest?

We’ve seen the Arduino board in charge of some pretty unique tasks in the past. Harvesting locally grown soybeans was not one of them.

[Lance] rigged this beast up in order to automate the monotonous task of driving up and down the vast soybean fields of Iowa. The 15 ton farm combine’s hydraulic steering pump is at the mercy of a team of gadgets, including a GPS, Windows 7 PC, and the omnipresent Duemilanove (which acts as the output card, connecting the PC to the pump). So far, it is reported to be doing a great job, straying only about an inch and a half from its desired, GPS-programmed, path. Even if the Arduino decides to go totally berserk and drive the combine off course, speeding around at 5mph makes it pretty avoidable. A supervisor is also in the cabin at all times, looking out for errors. [Lance] eventually hopes to offload all steering-related calculations to the ATmega328P onboard.

Commenters are welcome to share heavier-duty uses for the Arduino (if they exist).