Ask Hackaday: What’s Your Worst Soldering Job?

Soldering! It’s the primary method for attaching one component to another in the world of electronics. Whether you’re free-forming a circuit, attaching connectors to cables, or populating a PCB, you’ll eventually find yourself doing some soldering, whether by hand, reflow, or maybe even a fancy wave soldering machine.

It’s a fundamental skill that nevertheless remains one of the biggest hurdles for newcomers to overcome when diving into the electronics hobby. Difficult jobs with tiny components or with large heat sinks can up the challenge for even well-practiced hands. Thus, today we ask the question: What’s your worst soldering job?
Continue reading “Ask Hackaday: What’s Your Worst Soldering Job?”

Don’t Miss The VCF Indoor Swap Meet This Weekend

We don’t need to tell you that these last couple of years have been a real drag for in-person events. But at long last, after a bit of a false start last summer, it seems like we can finally start peeking our heads out and getting back to doing the things we love. So why not celebrate by taking part in that most sacred of geek pastimes: poring through boxes of dusty old gear in search of some electronic treasure?

On Saturday the Vintage Computer Federation (VCF) is holding an indoor swap meet at the InfoAge Science and History Museum in New Jersey, and everyone’s invited. Vintage computers will naturally be the main attraction, but if their previous events are any indication, you should expect the tables to be filled with a healthy mix of general electronics, classic games, and amateur radio gear as well. The doors open up at 8 AM sharp and it’s free to get in, so we’d suggest showing up early for the best selection.

A little less than a year ago we visited the previous VCF swap meet, which back then had to be held outdoors due to COVID-19 concerns, and were blown away by the selection of weird and wonderful hardware up for grabs. From arcade cabinets to luggable PCs and 3D printers, there was a little something for everyone, and all at rock-bottom prices. The only real gripe we had was the lack of on-site food and beverage, which according to the VCF website, has been addressed this time around. No word on whether or not there’s an ATM handy though, so you might want to stop and get some cash before heading to the relatively remote Camp Evans site.

After the swap meet wraps up at 2 PM, be sure to check out the Vintage Computer Federation’s permanent collection at InfoAge, as well as all the incredible exhibits and mini-museums the site has to offer. If nothing else, we strongly recommend you take the walk down the road to the TLM-18 Space Telemetry Antenna that Princeton University currently operates as Linux-powered software defined radio telescope.

The fine folks of the VCF are also hard at work putting together their annual East Coast Vintage Computer Festival, which will take place at InfoAge on April 22nd to the 24th, so mark your calendars.

An “unbusy” USB-C Port Doubles-up For JTAG Programming

Board space is a premium on small circuit board designs, and [Alvaro] knows it. So instead of adding a separate programming port, he’s found a niche USB-C feature that lets him use the port that he’s already added both¬†for its primary application¬†and for programming the target microcontroller over JTAG. The result is that he no longer needs to worry about spending precious board space for a tiny programming port; the USB-C port timeshares for both!

In a Twitter thread (Unrolled Link), [Alvaro] walks us through his discovery and progress towards an encapsulated solution. It turns out that the USB-C spec supports a “Debug-Accessory Mode” specification, where some pins are allowed to be repurposed if pins CC1 and CC2 are pulled up to Logic-1. Under these circumstances, the pin functions are released, and a JTAG programmer can step in to borrow them. To expose the port to a programmer, [Alvaro] cooked up a small breakout board with a USB-C plug and separate microcontroller populated on it.

This board also handles a small quirk. Since [Alvaro’s] choice of programming pins aren’t reversible, the USB-C plug will only work one of the two ways it can be plugged in. To keep the user informed, this breakout board sports a red LED for incorrect orientation and a green LED for correct orientation–nifty. While this design quirk sacrifices reversibility, it preserves the USB 2.0 D+ and D- pins while also handling some edge cases with regard to the negotiating for access to the port.

Stick through [Alvaro]’s Twitter thread for progress pics and more details on his rationale behind his pin choices. Who knows? With more eyes on the USB-C feature, maybe we’ll see this sort of programming interface become the norm?

[Alvaro] is no stranger to Hackaday. In fact, take a tour back to our very first Supercon to see him chat about shooting lasers at moving targets to score points on a DEFCON challenge in the past