Your Microcontroller Is Your IDE

What if your microcontroller IDE was running on the microcontroller itself and not hosted on the computer you use to do the programming? The greatest legacy of Arduino in all its forms has arguably been a software one, in that it replaced annoying proprietary development environments with one that installed easily on a range of operating systems, was easy to use, and above all, worked. The next level of portability is to get rid of any specialize computer-side software. [Ronny Neufeld] wrote MicroIDE for ESP32 as an IDE accessible through a web browser, which interestingly is hosted on the target device itself.

Using the IDE is easy enough, install a binary, connect to the ESP with a web browser, start writing MicroPython code. There is a choice of connecting directly to the chip as a hotspot, or connecting via another WiFi network. The interface is looking pretty slick but he’s at pains to remind us that it’s a work in progress. Sadly there is no source code yet as it’s a binary distribution that is free for non-commercial use, we’d hope that an open-source release might one day happen. It’s not for everyone, but the convenience of accessing the same interface from almost any modern device should help attract a healthy community.

This appears to be the first web-based on-chip ESP IDE we’ve shown you. But it’s not the first on-chip coding example, as this BASIC interpreter shows.

[Main image source: Ubahnverleih / CC0]

Implementing The Exponential Function

Ask ordinary software developers how to code an exponential function (that is, ex) and most will tell you to simply write an expression in their favorite high level language. But a significant slice of Hackaday readers will program tiny machines down to the bare metal or need more speed or precision than available with a customary implementation. [Pseduorandom] knows quite a few ways to do the calculation, and while it isn’t light reading for the math-phobic, it is an interesting tour.

The paper covers a variety of ways to calculate the function ranging from various Taylor series approximations, Lagrange interpolation, and Chebyshev interpolation. The paper is somewhat abstract, but there are Python and C++ examples to help make it concrete.

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An Open Source Tool To Document Your Wiring

Most of us are familiar with the tools available to create circuit diagrams, as generally that’s the first step towards producing a custom PCB. But that about the cables and wiring harnesses that don’t live on your board? How do you easily document the rat’s nest perfectly logical wiring of your latest and greatest creation?

That’s precisely the question that led [Daniel Rojas] to create WireViz. This open source Python tool takes human readable input files and turns them into attractive and functional visualizations of where all the wires in your project are going. It can even be used to generate a Bill of Materials that documents the lengths of wire required and types of connectors needed to hook everything up.

If you’re still using pre-made cables to connect all of your components together, than you might not immediately see the benefit of a tool like this. But as we’ve talked about in the past, the creation of custom wiring harnesses is something that serious hardware hackers should become familiar with. Yes it takes more effort, but the end result is worth it. With a tool like WireViz, the creation of a bespoke harness for your next project just got a little bit easier.

[Daniel] has done a fantastic job documenting this project, providing not only a tutorial on how to feed and care for your WireViz, but a gallery of examples that shows off the kind of complex wiring the tool can help make sense of. But there’s plenty more to be done, and he’s happy to get feedback or code contributions from anyone who wants to get involved.

Simulate Your World With Hash.ai

We will admit that we often throw together software simulations of real-world things, but we’ll also admit they are usually quick and dirty and just dump out text that we might graph in a spreadsheet or using GNUPlot. But with Hash.ai, you can quickly generate simulations of just about anything quickly and easily. The simulations will have beautiful visualizations and graphs, too. The tool works with JavaScript or Python and you don’t have to waste your time writing the parts that don’t change.

The web-based tool works on the idea of agents. Each agent has one or more behaviors that run each time step. In the example simulation, which models wildfires in forests, the agent is named forest, although it really models one virtual tree. There’s also a behavior called forest which controls the tree’s rate of growth and chance of burning based on nearby trees and lightning. Other behaviors simulate a burning tree and what happens to a tree after burning — an ember — which may or may not grow back.

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Binary Math Tricks: Shifting To Divide By Ten Ain’t Easy

On small CPUs, you often don’t have a multiply or divide instruction. Of course, good programmers know that shifting right and left will multiply or divide by a power of two. But there are always cases where you need to use something that isn’t a power of two. Sometimes you can work it out for multiplication.

For example, multiplying by 10 is common when dealing with conversion between binary and decimal. But since 10n is equal to 8n+2n, you can express that as a bunch of left shift three times to multiply by eight, adding that value to your original value shifted left once to multiply by two.

But division is a different problem. n/10 does not equal n/8-n/2 or anything else simple like that. The other day a friend showed me a very convoluted snippet of code on Stack Overflow by user [realtime] that divides a number by 10 and wanted to know how it worked. It is pretty straightforward if you just stick with the math and I’ll show you what I mean in this post. Turns out the post referenced the venerable Hacker’s Delight book, which has a wealth of little tricks like this.

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Finding Perfect Part Fits With The Goldilocks Approach (and OpenSCAD)

There is something to be said for brute force or trial-and-error approaches to problems, especially when finding a solution has an empirical element to it. [Tommy] perceived that to be the case when needing to design and 3D print servo horns that would fit factory servos as closely as possible, and used OpenSCAD to print a “Goldilocks array” from which it was possible to find a perfect match for his printer by making the trial and error process much more efficient. By printing one part, [Tommy] could test-fit dozens of options.

What made doing this necessary is the fact that every 3D printer has some variance in how accurately they will reproduce small features and dimensions. A 6.3 mm diameter hole in a CAD model, for example, will not come out as exactly 6.3 mm in a 3D-printed object. It will be off by some amount, but usually consistently so. Therefore, one way around this is to empirically determine which measurements result in a perfect fit, and use those for production on that specific 3D printer.

That’s exactly what [Tommy] did, using OpenSCAD to generate an array of slightly different sizes and shapes. The array gets printed out, servos are test-fitted to them, and whichever option fits best has its dimensions used for production. This concept can be implemented in any number of ways, and OpenSCAD makes a decent option due to its programmatic nature. Interested in OpenSCAD? It will run on nearly any hardware, and you can get up and running with the basics in probably less than ten minutes.

Tic-Tac-Toe Implemented In Single Call To Printf()

[Nicholas Carlini] programmed a C implementation of two-player Tic Tac Toe, and he did it in a single call to printf(). The arguments for that single function call get mind-bendingly complex, so it may come as no surprise that it was written for The International Obfuscated C Code Contest (IOCCC).

Most of us are aware that printf() is one of those functions that is considerably more complex under the hood, and capable of far more, than it may appear to be. But did you know that it is capable of Turing-complete computation?

[Nicholas] clearly steps through the theory, so give it a read. In short, a maze of arguments handles the logic of the game while an embedded scanf() reads user input, and printing the game board is always preceded by an escape code to clear the screen.

[Nicholas] is certainly no stranger to in-depth understandings; we’ve seen his work before in demonstrating how to fool speech recognition with hidden commands, including a powerful example showing how two virtually identical-sounding audio files transcribe entirely differently.