Numpy Comes To Micro Python

[Zoltán] sends in his very interesting implementation of a NumPy-like library for micropython called ulab.

He had a project in MicroPython that needed a very fast FFT on a micro controller, and was looking at all of the options when it occurred to him that a more structured approach like the one we all know and love in CPython would be possible on a micro controller too. He thus ended up with a python library that could do the FFT 50 times faster than the the pure Python implementation while providing all the readability and ease of use benefits that NumPy and Python together provide.

As cool as this is, what’s even cooler is that [Zoltan] wrote excellent documentation on the use of the library. Not only can this documentation be used for his library, but it provides many excellent examples of how to use MicroPython itself.

We really recommend that fans of Python and NumPy give this one a look over!

ESP8266 Unlocks Hidden Features In Sound Bar

It’s no secret that the hardware devices we buy are often more capable than their manufacturer leads on. Features hidden behind firmware locks are a common trick, as it allows companies to sell the same piece of gear as a different model by turning off certain capabilities. Luckily for us, these types of arbitrary limitations are often easy to circumvent.

As a perfect example, [Acuario] recently discovered that the LG SJ2 sound bar has quite a few features that aren’t advertised on the box. Whether it’s due to greed or just laziness, it turns out LG isn’t using many of the capabilities offered by the ESMT AD83586B IC inside the amplifier. The chip gets its configuration via I2C, so thanks to the addition of an ESP8266, the expanded capabilities can now be easily enabled through a web interface.

[Acuario] has already found out how to turn on things like simulated surround sound, or per-channel volume controls; all functions which aren’t even exposed through the normal controls on the sound bar. But it goes deeper than that. The LG SJ2 is a 2.1 channel system, with a wireless speaker providing the right and left channels. But the AD83586B inside the subwoofer is actually capable of driving two locally connected speakers, though you obviously need to do a little rewiring.

There are still even more capabilities to unlock, though [Acuario] is currently struggling with some incomplete documentation. The datasheet says there’s support for user-defined equalizer settings, but no examples are given for how to actually do it. If anyone’s got a particular affinity for these sort of amplifier chips, now could be your time to shine.

For hackers, there’s perhaps no better example of feature-locked products than Rigol’s line of oscilloscopes. From the 2000 series of scopes in 2013 up to their higher-end MSO5000 just last year, there’s a long history of unlocking hidden features on these popular tools.

Creating A Bode Analyzer From A Microcontroller

Electrical engineers will recognize the Bode plot as a plot of the frequency response of a system. It displays the frequency on the x-axis and the phase (in degrees) or magnitude (in dB) on the y-axis, making it helpful for understanding a circuit or transfer function in frequency domain analysis.

[Debraj] was able to use a STM32F407 Discovery board to build a Bode analyzer for electronic circuits. The input to the analyzer is a series of sine wave signals with linearly increasing frequency, or chirps, preferably twenty frequencies/decade to keep the frequency range reasonable.

The signals from a DAC are applied to a target filter and the outputs (frequencies obtained) are read back through an ADC. Some calculations on the result reveal how much of the signal is attenuated and its phase, resulting in a Bode plot. The filtering is done through digital signal processing from a microcontroller.

While the signals initially ran through a physical RC-filter, testing the Bode plotter with different circuits made running the signals through a digital filter easier, since it eliminates the need to solder resistors and capacitors onto protoboards. Plotting is done using Python’s matplotlib, with the magnitude and phase of the output determined analytically.

It’s a cool project that highlights some of the capabilities of microcontrollers as a substitute for a pricier vector network analyzer.

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Beam Me Up To The PCB Space Ship

This project would fit in perfectly with #BadgeLife if someone could figure out a way to hang it from their neck. Inspired by Star Trek’s Starship Enterprise, [bobricius] decided to design and assemble a miniature space ship PCB model, complete with 40 blinking LEDs controlled by an ATtiny85.

While the design uses 0603, 0802, 3014, 4014, and 0805 LEDs, some substitutions can be made since the smallest LEDs can be difficult to solder. The light effects include a green laser, plasma coils, a deflector with scrolling blue LEDs, and the main plate and bridge for the space ship.

The LEDs are controlled by charlieplexing, a technique for driving LED arrays with relatively few I/O pins, different from traditional multiplexing. Charlieplexing allows n pins to drive n2−n LEDs, while traditional multiplexing allows n pins to drive (n/2)2 LEDs. (Here is the best explanation of Charlieplexing we’ve ever seen.)

Especially with the compiled firmware running on the MCU, the PCB model makes for an impressive display.

The only catch? Your Starship Enterprise can’t actually fly.

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The Cutest Oscilloscope Ever Made

If you thought your handheld digital oscilloscope was the most transportable of your signal analyzing tools, then you’re in for a surprise. This oscilloscope made by [Mark Omo] measures only one square inch, with the majority of the space taken up by the OLED screen.

It folds out into an easier instrument to hold, and admittedly does require external inputs, so it’s not exactly a standalone tool. The oscilloscope runs on a PIC32MZ EF processor, achieving 20Msps and 1MHz of bandwidth. The former interleaves the processor’s internal ADCs in order to achieve its speed.

For the analog front-end the signals first enter a 1M ohm terminator that divide the signals by 10x in order to measure them outside the rails. They then get passed through a pair of diodes connected to the rails, clamping the voltage to prevent damage. The divider centers the incoming AC signal around 1.65V, halfway between AGND and +3.3V. As a further safety feature, a larger 909k Ohm resistor sits between the signals and the diodes in order to prevent a large current from passing through the diode in the event of a large voltage entering the system.

The next component is a variable gain stage, providing either 10x, 5x, or 1x gain corresponding to 1x, 0.5x, and 0.1x system gains. For the subsystem, a TLV3541 op-amp and ADG633 tripe SPDT analog switch are used to provide a power bandwidth around the system response due to driving concerns. Notably, the resistance of the switch is non-negligible, potentially varying with voltage. Luckily, the screen used in the oscilloscope needs 12V, so supplying 12V to the mux results in a lower voltage and thus a flatter response.

The ADC module, PIC32MZ1024EFH064, is a 12-bit successive approximation ADC. One advantage of his particular ADC is that extra bits of resolution only take constant time, so speed and accuracy can be traded off. The conversion starts with a sample and hold sequence, using stored voltage on the capacitor to calculate the voltage.

Several ADCs are used in parallel to sample at the same time, resulting in the interleaving improving the sample rate. Since there are 120 Megabits per second of data coming from the ADC module, the Direct Memory Access (DMA) peripheral on the PIC32MZ allows for the writing of the data directly onto the memory of the microcontroller without involving the processor.

The firmware is currently available on GitHub and the schematics are published on the project page.

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Spinning ESP32 Display Puts The Customer First

Most of the projects we feature on Hackaday are built for personal use; designed to meet the needs of the person creating them. If it works for somebody else, then all the better. But occasionally we may find ourselves designing hardware for a paying customer, and as this video from [Proto G] shows, that sometimes means taking the long way around.

The initial task he was given seemed simple enough: build a display that could spin four license plates around, and make it so the speed could be adjusted. So [Proto G] knocked a frame out of some sheet metal, and used an ESP32 to drive two RC-style electronic speed controllers (ESCs) connected to a couple of “pancake” brushless gimbal motors. Since there was no need to accurately position the license plates, it was just a matter of writing some code that would spin the motors in an aesthetically pleasing way.

Unfortunately, the customer then altered the deal. Now they wanted a stand that could stop on each license plate and linger for a bit before moving to the next one. Unfortunately, that meant the ESCs weren’t up to the task. They got dumped in favor of an ODrive motor controller, and encoders were added to the shafts so the ESP32 could keep track of the display’s position. [Proto G] says he still had to work out some kinks, such as how to keep the two motors synchronized and reduce backlash when the spinner stopped on a particular plate, but in the end we think the results look fantastic. Now if only we had some license plates we needed rotisseried…

If [Proto G] knew he needed precise positioning control from the start, he would have approached the project differently and saved himself a lot of time. But such is life when you’re working on contract.

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This Home-Etched ARM Dev Board Is A Work Of Art

One of the step changes in electronic construction at our level over the last ten or fifteen years has been the availability of cheap high-quality printed circuit boards. What used to cost hundreds of dollars is now essentially an impulse buy, allowing the most intricate of devices to be easily worked with. Many of us have put away our etching baths for good, often with a sigh of relief.

We’re pleased that [Riyas] hasn’t though, because they’ve etched an STM32 dev board that if we didn’t know otherwise we’d swear had been produced professionally. It sports a 176-pin variant of an STM32F4 on a single-sided board, seemingly without the annoying extra copper or lack-of-copper that we remember from home etching. We applaud the etching skill that went into it, and we’ll ignore the one or two boards that didn’t go entirely to plan. A coat of green solder mask and some tinning, and it looks for all the world as though it might have emerged from a commercial plant. All the board files are available to download along with firmware samples should you wish to try making one yourself, though we won’t blame you for ordering it from a board house instead.

It’s always nice to see that single board computers are not the sole preserve of manufacturers. If the RC2014 Micro doesn’t isn’t quite your style, there’s always the Blueberry Pi which features a considerably higher penguin quotient.