Performing A Chip Transplant To Resurrect A Dead Board

[Uri Shaked] accidentally touched a GPIO pin on his 3.3 V board with a 12 V alligator clip, frying the board. Sound familiar? A replacement would have cost $60, which for him wasn’t cheap. Also, he needed it for an upcoming conference so time was of the essence. His only option was to try to fix it, which in the end involved a delicate chip transplant.

Removing the shield on the Bluetooth LE boardThe board was the Pixl.js, an LCD board with the nRF52832 SoC with its ARM Cortex M4, RAM, flash, and Bluetooth LE. It also has a pre-installed Espruino JavaScript interpreter and of course the GPIO pins through which the damage was done.

Fortunately, he had the good instinct to feel the metal shield over the nRF52832 immediately after the event. It was hot. Applying 3.3 V to the board now also heated up the chip, confirming for him that the chip was short-circuiting. All he had to do was replace it.

Digging around, he found another nRF52832 on a different board. To our surprise, transplanting it and getting the board up and running again took only an hour, including the time to document it. If that sounds simple, it was only in the way that a skilled person makes something seem simple. It included plenty of delicate heat gun work, some soldering iron microsurgery, and persistence with a JLink debugger. But we’ll leave the details of the operation and its complications to his blog. You can see one of the steps in the video below.

It’s no surprise that [Uri] was able to dig up another board with the same nRF52832 chip. It’s a popular SoC, being used in tiny, pocket-sized robots, conference badges, and the Primo Core board along with a variety of other sensors.

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Thumbs-Down Songs on Pandora with Your Mind

[Steven] likes music. Like many of us, he uses Pandora to enjoy the familiar and to discover new music. Now, Pandora means well, but she gets it wrong sometimes. [Steven] has had a Mindwave Mobile EEG headset lying around for a while and decided to put it to good use. With the aid of a Raspberry Pi and a bluetooth module, he built a brainwave-controlled Pandora track advancing system.

The idea is to recognize that you dislike a song based on your brainwaves. The Mindwave gives data for many different brainwaves as well as approximating your attention and meditation levels. Since [Steven] isn’t well-versed in brainwavery, he used Bayesian estimation to generate two multivariate Gaussian models. One represents good music, and the other represents bad music. The resulting algorithm is about 70% accurate, so [Steven]’s Python script waits for four “bad music” estimations in a row before advancing the track.

[Steven] streams Pandora through pianobar and has a modified version of the control-pianobar script in his GitHub repo His script will also alert you if the headset isn’t getting good skin contact, a variable that the Mindwave reports on a scale of 0 to 200.

Stick around for a demo of [Steven] controlling Pandora with his mind. If you don’t have an EEG headset, you can still control Pandora with a Pi, pianobar, and some nice clicky buttons.

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Firmware programmer for a cheap Bluetooth module

Here’s a nifty programmer for a cheap Bluetooth module. So just how cheap is this part? Does $6.60 sound like an extreme deal?

The information on this hack is spread throughout a series of posts. The link above goes to the completed programmer (kind of a look back on the hack). But you might start with this post about module firmware options. Just because you can get the part inexpensively doesn’t mean that it’s going to work as you expected. [Byron] sourced similar devices from different suppliers and found they were not running the same firmware; the footprints were the same but he features were not. With his help you can tailor the code to your needs and reflash the device.

The programmer that he build has a nice slot for the module which interfaces with the programming lines using pogo pins (spring-loaded contacts). It connects to the CSR BC417 chip’s SPI pins in order to flash the firmware. If you’ve had any experience working with these cheap parts we’d love to hear your tale in the comment section.

[Thanks MS3FGX]