Cool New Hardware Spectacular

press release

It should come as no surprise the Hackaday tip line is regularly flooded with press releases. Everything from an infographic comparing Call of Duty 3 to Battlefield 3 (yes, totally serious), announcements that a company we’ve never heard of is getting a new CFO, to the business proposals from hat box manufacturers that wind up in our inbox on a nearly weekly basis.

With the Hackaday crew sifting though hundreds of these emails a month, you’d figure the PR people would hit gold once in a while, right? Apparently not. The coolest stuff we get in our email is usually from an engineer working on a project and doing a PR rep’s job for them. We thank them for that, so here’s two really cool pieces of hardware that showed up in the tip line recently.

Microcontollers and LCD displays, easily

Interfacing a color LCD with a microcontroller isn’t necessarily hard, but making it look good absolutely is. It’s a piece of cake to download an Arduino library for an LCD display and get a few lines of text up on the screen, but building a GUI? A fool’s errand, we say.

This is where FTDI’s new chip, EVE, comes in. It’s a single chip video engine designed for QVGA (320×240) and WQVGA (400×240) displays with a parallel RGB interface. From the diagrams up on FTDI’s site, getting a display running is as simple as connecting a microcontroller via an I2C or SPI interface, and then hooking up the video lines. There’s also support for touch screen interfaces and audio out, so if you’re looking to build a graphical home automation remote EVE might be the way to go.

x86 with GPIO

A few years ago, before the Raspberry Pi and the realization that low-power ARM boards were capable computing devices, your only choice when developing an embedded device with reasonably fast hardware were either Gumstix or a MiniITX board. Now ARM boards like the Beagleboard, Raspberry Pi, and others have taken over as the preferred platform, but there’s still a market for a small, capable x86 dev board.

[Matt] over at Intel sent us the low down on a project he’s working on called Minnowboard. Basically, it’s a 1GHz Intel Atom E640 processor with everything you would expect on an x86 motherboard – PCI Express, SATA, Gigabit Ethernet, USB, and HDMI through DVI. Unlike just about every other x86 board out there, the Minnowboard borrows ports from the embedded world, with I2C, SPI, CAN bus, and GPIO pins, LEDs, and switches.

[Edward Bernays] was the Antichrist

So there you go. Press releases that aren’t press releases, sent in to us by people who actually care about what they’re working on. While we’re on the subject of the crazy stuff that comes into our email, here’s a really good one that elicited a facepalm or two:

Name: redacted
Email: redacted
Website: http://../../../../../../../../../../../../../../../../etc/passwd

Time: Thursday September 27, 2012 at 4:22 pm
IP Address: redacted
Contact Form URL:

You gotta learn to rollerblade before hacking the gibson, son.

24 thoughts on “Cool New Hardware Spectacular

      1. A quick internet search showed the/an engineer hoping it would come in under $200. I remembered the Gizmo board from a few weeks back. They are asking $199 for it.

  1. The thing is most newer motherboards have I2C and SPI buses on them already (for temperature sensors and flash chips and the like) but they aren’t conveniently broken out anywhere.

    1. Out of curiosity I just tried ‘ls ../../../../../../../../../../../../etc/passwd’ in a terminal window and it seems that after the root of the drive is reached the remaining ‘../’s are ignored.

      1. ls -al /etc
        drwxr-xr-x 77 root root 4096 Mar 3 11:21 .
        drwxr-xr-x 21 root root 4096 Oct 29 07:25 ..

        note the node id before root root

        ls -al /
        drwxr-xr-x 21 root root 4096 Oct 29 07:25 .
        drwxr-xr-x 21 root root 4096 Oct 29 07:25 ..

        note the same node is pointed to for both . (current folder) and .. (parent folder)

        1. Actually the number you are referring to is actually the number of hardlinks that point to the root directory. i.e. Take this output from:

          ls -al /
          drwxr-xr-x 22 root root 4096 2012-06-22 00:23 .
          drwxr-xr-x 22 root root 4096 2012-06-22 00:23 ..

          Vs. the output from the stat command

          stat /
          File: `/’
          Size: 4096 Blocks: 8 IO Block: 4096 directory
          Device: 801h/2049d Inode: 2 Links: 22
          Access: (0755/drwxr-xr-x) Uid: ( 0/ root) Gid: ( 0/ root)
          Access: 2013-03-03 15:24:38.665523874 -0600
          Modify: 2012-06-22 00:23:59.973981700 -0500
          Change: 2012-06-22 00:23:59.973981700 -0500

          You can see here that there are 22 links to the root directory and the Inode number is 2. If you want to see the inode numbers with the ls command you have to use the ‘-i’ switch.

          ls -ali /
          2 drwxr-xr-x 22 root root 4096 2012-06-22 00:23 .
          2 drwxr-xr-x 22 root root 4096 2012-06-22 00:23 ..

          But all this has nothing to do with my point that if you do:

          ls -alhi /etc/passwd
          3670191 -rw-r–r– 1 root root 1.6K 2012-06-21 23:56 /etc/passwd


          ls -alhi ../../../../../../../../../../../etc/passwd
          3670191 -rw-r–r– 1 root root 1.6K 2012-06-21 23:56 ../../../../../../../../../../../etc/passwd

          It return a reference to the same file regardless if you’re actually that deep into the filesystem or not ( Note the same inode number ).

    FPGA, pci-e, DDR3, flash, gigabit eth and a free license of their IDE for the mighty price of… 99$:

    Obviously i’m not a Lattice employee. I’m actually more of a Xilinx fan, but after spending 200+ euro on a Xilinx board…

  3. I realize there is a point to having boards like this, but, during some research I ran across pricing on Mini-itx boards. For the price of one of those and a secondary microcontroller, I could still save about $100. Where is the logic in one of these boards then?

    1. EVE sounds a brilliant idea – I actually thought of trying to do something like this a while back. So, for example, you have a nice OLED display, but you just worry about commands like “Move to x,y and print text”, rather than the actual framebuffer and character generation.

      There are two other similar ideas on the market – 4D Systems, and MMS Electronics. 4D systems is here: MMS electronics is here:

      Also see previous HaD post where someone used a 4D systems display to run a reprap:

  4. As with the Raspberry Pi most likely the only interest I’d have in the minnowboard as a small dedicated personal computer foundation. In reading the minnowboards design goals in may retail at a price > $200 given the price of current motherboards that use the Atom, although I don’t have clue as to how much the features to make this a development board will add to the cost. Again just as with the Raspberry Pi, would have to consider if what it costs would be better spent towards purchasing a netbook from Walmart.

    1. The retail price at Digikey was $189; I assume it was similar at the other retailers they listed. However, for me the real limitation is that it only has 1GB of RAM, which is nowhere near enough if I want to use the board as a general-purpose PC. (And if I don’t want a general-purpose PC with SATA and audio and everything, Raspberry Pi does just fine.)

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