Hackaday Links: May 21, 2012

Turning anything into a touch sensor

Makey Makey is a small board with a USB plug and bunch of contact points for alligator clips. Plug the Makey into your computer and attach just about anything to the contacts, and you can make anything into a video game controller, a keyboard, a piano, or pretty much anything you can imagine. If [Sprite_tm] copied it, you know it has to be cool.

RepRaps will finally cost a million dollars

The Pentagon is throwing money at 3D printers. It’s “only” $60 Million the DoD is putting into 3d printer research, but hopefully our most brilliant researchers will help refine some of the ‘unsolved problems’ – like metal and circuit printing – the 3D printer community is facing.

Getting started with FPGAs

[Tim] found a neat little $40 FPGA board aimed right at the hobby hacker. The good news: It’s compatible with Arduino shields, and it’s very cheap. The bad news: it only has 1280 logic cells, so you probably won’t be emulating CPUs on this thing. If anyone has a teardown / project with this board, send it in.

Improving a Bluetooth dongle with a bit of wire

Unsurprisingly, the extremely cheap Bluetooth dongle [Mike] bought on eBay didn’t have great reception or range. No problem, because you can just replace the internal antenna with a piece of wire cut to length. Now bluetooth devices are recognized instantly, and there are no Bluetooth ‘dead spots’ around [Mike]’s computer.

Come to France, make stuff

The Toulouse Hackerspace is having a little shindig this coming weekend (May 25-27) featuring a conference, workshop, concerts and performances. If you’re in the area, drop on by,

12 thoughts on “Hackaday Links: May 21, 2012

  1. It’s absolutely unclear how do “logic cells” compare to LEs of Altera and Slices of Xilinx. Besides, Altera and Xilinx have free, limited but perfectly usable versions of their FPGA software. What does Lattice offer?

    1. A logic cell looks like a 4-input Lookup-table fronting a flip-flop or direct output. Eight of them are organized into a Programmable Logic Block. So there are 160 PLB on this chip. There is also 8 KBytes of RAM in 16 256 byte chunks. I’ll bet one could definitely make an 8-bit CPU out of one of these things if you wanted. Free Verilog or VHDL development software with synthesis, static timing analysis and floorplanning (at least for this demo board). Runs on Linux too (which may make it accessible to Mac OS X users too).

      It isn’t a high-end part, but I think it’s a reasonable FPGA to play with. One could do a fair number of things with this.

      1. Well if you ebay around, there are plenty of FPGA boards with fatter CyclonesII or III (that’s what I’ve been looking for, I’m sure Xilinx is equally represented), often with some SRAM or DRAM already on board for the similar amount of $$. Verilog and VHDL are standard on paper, but in reality every vendor has its very special quirks when it comes to synthesis and they take ages to adjust to. I’d not rush for Lattice, seeing how the (hobbyist) world is dominated by A and X.

        If LCs, whatever they are, are comparable to Altera’s LEs, 1280 should be enough to house a 6502, or a 8080 (but not z80), or my vm1 pdp-11-like 16-bit cpu, maybe a pong and/or some other nice stuff — but it’s going to be very tight. I’d get at least a 2x fatter FPGA right away.

    1. That board doesn’t have any programmer. If you have a JTAG programmer then I’m sure it would be fine. The board mentioned in the article has an Atmel chip to program the PROM.

      Most boards with an integrated programmer will cost a little bit more, but will be less than buying a dev board and a JTAG programmer. However buying a programmer will be a one time cost and would be useful if you go on to do custom boards.

    1. I’m using the papilio I have an arcade megawing and I can play so many arcade games and there is a lot of interesting projects to play with on this FPGA board its really a cheap board to explore the FPGA world :) actually you can find so many prjects on the gadget factory blog, forum or wiki pages.

  2. I’m looking for a USB/JTAG programmer that will work with (at least) Xilinx CPLD & FPGA’s. I’ve heard nightmare stories about the cheap Chinese programmers that are out there. What’s possible for around fifty bucks or so?

  3. Any idea on how to hack those ultra cheap USB Bluetooth dongles?
    Isn’t there some pads populated on this tiny board?
    Could it be reprogrammable? Given there’s a “Lize L24C02B” 2 Kilobit EEPROM chip soldered on it.

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