Instruction Set Hack For Protected Memory Access

The nRF51 Series SoCs is a family of low power Bluetooth chips from Nordic Semiconductor that is based on ARM Cortex cores. The nRF51822 has the Cortex M0 core and is used in a lot of products. [Loren] has written a blog post in which he claims to be able to circumvent read back protection on the chip, thus giving access to the ROM, RAM and registers as well as allow for interactive debugging sessions.

The hack stems from the fact that the  Serial Wire Debug or SWD interface cannot be completely disabled on these chips even if the Memory Protection Unit prevents access to any memory regions directly. The second key piece is the fact that CPU can fetch stuff from the code memory. Combined with the SWD super powers to make changes to the registers themselves, this can be a powerful tool.

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The ATtiny Series Is A Great Companion In Isolation

As a consequence of the social distancing and self isolation, many a maker has been searching for ways to cure boredom. So what happens when you put a maker in a closed space with electronics parts. The answer is a bunch of random microcontroller projects that help beat boredom. [Danac1886] posts a video with a bunch of experiments with the ATtiny series of microcontrollers which can be a source of time-killing inspiration for these tough days of solitude.

The video is based upon a variety of controllers ranging from the ATtiny85 to the ATtiny84 and even includes the ATtiny2313. There is also a project with the ATtiny10, an SMD SOT23-6 package that is quite amazing to behold. All the devices can be programmed using the Ardino as an ISP so all you need is another Arduino lying around in case you do not have an AVR ICSP.

As for the projects themselves, there is an assortment of things that start with the basic blinking LED, adding an I2C LCD and then moving on to a 7 segment display counting up with variable speed controlled with a pot. We really loved how much these tiny projects inspire and can help someone get started with basic electronics and programming.

If you are looking to get started, have a look at the Jumbo LED with the Attiny10 and we assure you, it will brighten your day.

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Impractical Switches For The Bored Maker

Cabin fever: the inability to socialize with other humans does weird things to the human brain. Then again some of us are born to stand out, and one such amazing maker, [Lee], is spending time making weird switches from basically anything.

So what would you consider weird? How about using a piece of pasta? How about using the conductivity of an empty sink? There is even an experiment with breakfast cereal, though we do not recommend it for production use. [Lee] continues to pour experiments into Twitter and recently has gotten some conductive tape. Stick some on a game joystick and you got yourself an instant switch on a switch.

These experiments prove that there is a lot you can do with the stuff you have around your house and the other end of the circuit doesn’t necessarily need to be a humble LED. You could get more interesting results with adding the likes of a microcontroller like an ATtiny. Coupling it with a DIY LED badge would be a great idea and we’d love to see what you come up with.

Google’s Pigweed For ARM Development Is A Nice Surprise

Setting up an environment for Embedded Development was traditionally a pain and so vendors provide integrated development environments to help bridge the gap. Google has open-sourced their version of an embedded targeted environment designated as embedded-targeted libraries which they trademarked Pigweed.

Google trademarked Pigweed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in February and it popped up on the Google Open Source Blog along with some details.

The repository contains what Google is calling modules but taking a better look reveals that it a little more than that. Packaged in a Python Virtual Environment is a number of tools including an ARM compiler, the clang-format tool and Python 3.8 interpreter which runs more than a few things. The modules that come with Pigweed assist developers by running micro-automations such as the pw_watch module that monitors files for change and triggers a build, test and even flash and debug on hardware. There is also a module that allows pre-submit checks such as linting and formatting.

Google still does not consider this offering production ready though from what we have seen so far, it is a great place for many to start experimenting with for their embedded development automation needs. Anyone tried it out yet?

If you have been inspired with the amazing powers of automation and want to dive in yourself, have a look at Software Development in BASH and Continuous Integration with Python.


OpenSource GUI Tool For OpenCV And DeepLearning

AI and Deep Learning for computer vision projects has come to the masses. This can be attributed partly to the  community projects that help ease the pain for newbies. [Abhishek] contributes one such project called Monk AI which comes with a GUI for transfer learning.

Monk AI is essentially a wrapper for Computer Vision and deep learning experiments. It facilitates users to finetune deep neural networks using transfer learning and is written in Python. Out of the box, it supports Keras and Pytorch and it comes with a few lines of code; you can get started with your very first AI experiment.

[Abhishek] also has an Object Detection wrapper(GitHub) that has some useful examples as well as a Monk GUI(GitHub) tool that looks similar to the tools available in commercial packages for running, training and inference experiments.

The documentation is a work in progress though it seems like an excellent concept to build on. We need more tools like these to help more people getting started with Deep Learning. Hardware such as the Nvidia Jetson Nano and Google Coral are affordable and facilitate the learning and experimentation.

LoRa Tutorials For The DIY Masses

LoRa is the go-to tech for low power, long range wireless sensor networks. Designing with off-the-shelf modules can be a boon or a bane depending on the documentation and support. Luckily, [Renzo] has prepared a set of tutorials to get you started.
In his seven part series of write-ups, [Renzo] starts by connecting the E32 module from AliExpress to an Arduino as well as an ESP8266 to demonstrate essential communications. Then he discusses the configuration options and the library he created to make like a bit easier. Following that is a series of posts discussing transmission types as well as power saving methods including sleep modes and wake-on-radio.
The information will be extremely handy for someone starting off with the SX1276/SX1278 Wireless Modules which are relatively inexpensive as opposed to more standardized development kits. We love the abundance of fritzing diagrams, arduino code and helper library and hope someone will build on it. You can get the library from Github for your tinkering pleasure.
If you are looking for ideas for this newly discovered skill, have a look at LoRa Enabled Mailbox as well as Electric Fence Monitoring with The Things Network for a bit of IoT action.

Soviet Soyuz Clock Teardown

We love spacecraft and we definitely love teardowns, especially if they are for vintage devices. [Ken Shirriff] writes about taking apart the digital clock module from the Soviet Soyuz series of spacecraft and there are a lot of interesting bits to the device. After all, it has been into space.

The Soyuz series of spacecraft made their maiden voyage in 1966, and are still flying today. The clock in question comes from somewhere in the middle, around 1996. On the outside, it seems like any spaceship gizmo, and the digital clock keeps local time along with a stopwatch and an alarm function. The guts are much more interesting with no less than 10 PCBs sandwiched inside the small enclosure.

The system consists of dual layer-boards with a mix of SMD and through-hole components that are interconnected by a series of wires that are bunched and packed to create a wiring harness. The pictures show a very clever way of setting up the stack and the system is serviceable by design as the bunch opens up like a book. This gives access to the unique looking components that include 14-pin flat pack chips, large ceramic multicoil inductors, green colored resistors, and orange rectangular diodes.

There are isolated PSU boards, control boards, clock circuitry, some glue logic to put things together, and LED displays with driver circuits. [Ken Shirriff] dives into the clocking circuit and the various parts involved along with a comparison with US technology. There is a lot of interesting detail in these boards, and it may be a source of inspiration for some.

If you are looking for more spaceborne tech, have a look at the one that stowed away on the International Space Station.

Thanks for the tip [Thorsten Eggert]

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