How Tiny Can A Microcontroller Dev Board Be!

With innumerable microcontroller boards on the market it’s sure that there will be one for every conceivable application or user. Among them are some seriously tiny ones, but this wasn’t enough for [Alun Morris]. Wanting to see how small he could make an ATtiny board without a custom PCB, he took a SOIC-8 version of the popular minimalist processor and mated it to a 6mm by 8mm piece of 0.05″ prototyping board to create a device that is dwarfed by its connectors.

It’s an extremely simple circuit and hardly something that hasn’t been done before, but the value here is in the tricky soldering to make it rather than its novelty. The ATtiny402 and three passive SMD components are fitted on the smallest possible sliver of prototyping board to contain them, and the female headers and set of programming pins contribute far more to the volume of the device than the board itself. He also tried a side-on design with two smaller slivers of board before settling on the more conventional layout. The demonstration of the system in action seen in the video below the break is a magnetic flux detector, dwarfed by the 40-pin DIP Z80 it is sitting on.

A lot of boards claim to be tiny, but few are this small. This ESP32 is a more usual contender.

Continue reading “How Tiny Can A Microcontroller Dev Board Be!”

Arduino Wannabe Should Have Used A 555. Oh Wait, It Does.

It’s a little known secret that when the Hackaday writers gather in their secret underground bunker to work on our plans for world domination, we often take breaks to play our version of the corporate “Buzzword Bingo”, where paradigms are leveraged and meetings circle back to loop in offline stakeholders, or something like that. Our version, however, is “Comment Line Bingo”, and right in the middle of the card is the seemingly most common comment of all: “You should have used a 555,” or variations thereof.

So it was with vicious glee that we came across the Trollduino V1.0 by the deliciously named [Mild Lee Interested]. It’s the hardware answer to the common complaint, which we’ll grant is often justified. The beautiful part of this is that Trollduino occupies the same footprint as an Arduino Uno and is even pin-compatible with the microcontroller board, or at least sort of. The familiar line of components and connectors sprout from the left edge of the board, and headers for shields line the top and bottom edges too. “Sketches” are implemented in hardware, with jumpers and resistors and capacitors of various values plugged in to achieve all the marvelous configurations the indispensable timer chip can be used for. And extra points for the deliberately provocative use of Comic Sans in the silkscreen.

Hats off to [Lee] for a thoroughly satisfying troll, and a nice look at what the 555 chip can really do. If you want a more serious look at the 555, check out this 555 modeled on a breadboard, or dive into the story of the chip’s development.

Pause Your Tunes When It Is Time To Listen Up!

“Sorry. I had music playing. Would you say that again?” If we had a money-unit every time someone tried talking to us while we were wearing headphones, we could afford a super-nice pair. For an Embedded C class, [extremerockets] built Listen Up!, a cutoff switch that pauses your music when someone wants your attention.

The idea was born while sheltering in place with his daughter, who likes loud music, but he does not want to holler to get her attention. Rather than deny her some auditory privacy, Listen Up! samples the ambient noise level, listens for a sustained rise in amplitude, like speech, and sends a pause signal to the phone. Someday, there may be an option to route the microphone’s audio into the headphones, but for now there is a text-to-speech module for verbalizing character strings. It might be a bit jarring to hear a call to dinner in the middle of a guitar riff, but we don’t like missing dinner either, so we’re with [extremerockets] on this one.

We don’t really need lots of money to get fun headphones, and we are not afraid of making our own.

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.

How A Microcontroller Hiding In A USB Port Became An FPGA Hiding In The Same

When you think of microcontroller development, you probably picture either a breadboard with a chip or a USB-connected circuit board. But Tim Ansell pictured an ARM dev board that is almost completely hidden inside of a USB port. His talk at the 2018 Hackaday Superconference tells that story and then some. Check out the newly published video, along with more details of the talk, after the break.

Continue reading “How A Microcontroller Hiding In A USB Port Became An FPGA Hiding In The Same”

New AVR-IOT Board Connects To Google

Readers of Hackaday are no strangers to using a microcontroller to push data to WiFi. Even before the ESP8266 there were a variety of ways to do that. Now Microchip is joining the fray with a $29 board called the AVR-IOT WG that contains an 8-bit ATmega4808, a WiFi controller, and hardware-based crypto chip for authenticating with Google Cloud.

The board has a section with a USB port for charging a battery and debugging that looks like it is made to cut away. There are a number of LEDs and buttons along with a light sensor and a temperature sensor. It feels like the goal here was to pack as many Microchip parts onto a single dev board as possible. You’ll find the ATmega4808 as the main controller, an ATWINC1510 WiFi controller (a castellated module reminiscent of the ESP8266), the ATECC608A cryptographic co-processor, MCP73871 LiPo charger, MIC33050 voltage regulator, and an MCP9808 temperature sensor. We can’t find much info about the “nEDBG Programmer/Debugger” chip. If you’ve used it on one of a handful of other dev board, let us know in the comments about off-board programming and other possible hacks.

Naturally, the board works with AVR Studio or MPLAB X IDE (Microchip bought Atmel, remember?). Of course, Atmel START or MPLAB Code Configurator can configure the devices, too. There’s also an AVR-IoT-branded website that lets you use Google cloud to connect your device for development. The headers along the top and bottom edges are compatible with MicroElektronika Click boards which will make anyone with a parts bin full of those happy.

Looks like you can pick up the Microchip boards now from the usual places. From reading what Microchip is saying, they would like to position this as the “IoT Arduino” — something someone without a lot of experience could pick up and use to pipe data into Google cloud. While that’s probably good, it isn’t that hard to use an ESP-device to do the same thing using the Arduino IDE and then you have a 32-bit processor and you can use whatever cloud vendor you want. Sure, it would be a little more work, so maybe that’s where this offering will appeal.

On the plus side, we really liked that there was a battery option with a charger already on board — it seems like that’s something we always have to add anyway. It may be buried in the documentation, but the user’s guide and the technical guide didn’t appear to have an average and maximum current draw specified, so battery life is an open question, although the video says “low power.”

Although it isn’t quite the same thing, we’ve seen ESP8266’s talk to Google servers for interfacing with Google Home. And while it is on the Amazon cloud, we’ve even seen a 6502 up there.

Continue reading “New AVR-IOT Board Connects To Google”

Making Use Of Stellaris/Tiva Real-Time Clock

If you’re at all like us, or like [Vadim], you’ve got a stash of development boards in a shoebox on a shelf in your closet. If you’re better organized that we are, it might even be labeled “dev boards”. (Ah well, that’s a project for another day.) Anyway, reach into your box and pull one out, and put it to use. Do something trivial if you need to, but a dev board that’s driving a silly blinker is better than a dev board sitting in the dark.

[Vadim]’s good example to us all is going to serve as the brains for an automated plant watering system. That’s a low-demand application where the microcontroller can spend most of the time sleeping. [Vadim]’s first step, then was to get a real-time clock working with the hibernation mode. There’s working code inline in his blog.

royale-with-cheese-pulp-fiction-2_12-movie-clip-1994-hd-6pkq_ebhxj4mkv-shot0001
“I don’t know, I didn’t go into Burger King.”

If you use Arduino, you’ll feel at home in the Energia ecosystem. But it’s like ordering a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in Paris: Energia is a Royale with Cheese (YouTube) — it’s the little differences. And maybe that’s the point of the exercise; it’s always a good thing to try out something new, even if it’s only minimally different.

So grab that unused dev board off the shelf, struggle through the unfamiliar development environment and/or toolchain, but remember to keep an eye out for the sweet little differences. The more tools that you’re familiar with, the more solutions will spring to mind when you’re hacking on your next project.