While things like the Arduino platform certainly opened up the gates of microcontroller programming to a much wider audience, it can also be limiting in some ways. The Arduino IDE, for example, abstracts away plenty of the underlying machinations of the hardware, and the vast amount of libraries can contribute to this effect as well. It’s not a problem if you just need a project to get up and running, in fact, that’s one of its greatest strengths. But for understanding the underlying hardware we’d recommend taking a look at something like this video series on the STM32 platform.
The series comes to us from [Francis Stokes] of Low Byte Productions who has produced eighteen videos for working with the STM32 Cortex-M4 microcontroller. The videos start by getting a developer environment up and blinking LEDs, and then move on to using peripherals for more complex tasks. The project then moves on to more advanced topics and divides into two parts, the development of an application and also a bootloader. The bootloader begins relatively simply, and then goes on to get more and more features built into it. It eventually can validate and update firmware, and includes cryptographic signing (although [Francis] notes that you probably shouldn’t use this feature for production).
One of the primary goals for [Francis], apart from the actual coding and development, was to liven up a subject matter that is often seen as dry, which we think was accomplished quite well. A number of future videos are planned as well. But, if you’re not convinced that the STM32 platform is the correct choice for you, we did publish a feature a while back outlining a few other choices that might provide some other options to consider.
Continue reading “Blinkenlights To Bootloader: A Guide To STM32 Development”
Migrating a PCB design from one CAD software package to another is no one’s favorite task. It almost never works cleanly. Often there are missing schematic symbols, scrambled PCB footprints, and plenty of other problems. Thankfully [shabaz] shows how to import EAGLE projects into KiCad 7 and fix the most common problems one is likely to encounter in the process. Frankly, the information couldn’t come at a better time.
This is very timely now that EAGLE has gone the way of the dodo. CadSoft EAGLE used to be a big shot when it came to PCB design for small organizations or individual designers, but six years after being purchased by Autodesk they are no more. KiCad 7 is a staggeringly capable open-source software package containing some fantastic features for beginner and advanced designers alike.
Of course, these kinds of tutorials tend to be perishable because software changes over time. So if you’re staring down a migration from EAGLE to KiCad and could use some guidance, there’s no better time than the present. [shabaz]’s video showing the process is embedded below.
Thanks to [problemchild68] for the tip!
Continue reading “Importing EAGLE Projects Into KiCad 7, And How To Fix Them”
Some of us who’ve been online since the early days fondly remember the web of yore — with its flashing banners, wildly distracting backgrounds, and automatic side-scrolling text. But there was a time before the worldwide web and the Internet as we recognize it today, and the way of communicating in this before-time was through Bulletin Board Systems, or BBS. There are still some who can cite this deep magic today, and this page is perhaps the definitive guide to this style of retrocomputing.
This how-to is managed by [Blake.Patterson] who is using a wide variety of antique machines and some modern hardware in order to access the BBSes still in service. He notes in this guide that it’s possible to use telnet and a modern computer to access them, but using something like an Amiga or Atari will give you the full experience. There are some tools that convert the telephone modem signals from that original hardware to something that modern networking equipment can understand, and while the experience might be slightly faster as a result, it does seem to preserve the nostalgia factor quite well.
For those looking for more specific guides, we’ve featured [Blake]’s work a few times in the past, once with an antique Epson PX-8 laptop and again with a modern ESP8266. It doesn’t take much computing power to get connected to these old services, so grab whatever you can and start BBSing!
By now, we’ve gone through LiIon handling basics and mechanics. When it comes to designing your circuit around a LiIon battery, I believe you could benefit from a cookbook with direct suggestions, too. Here, I’d like to give you a collection of LiIon recipes that worked well for me over the years.
I will be talking about single-series (1sXp) cell configurations, for a simple reason – multiple-series configurations are not something I consider myself as having worked extensively with. The single-series configurations alone will result in a fairly extensive writeup, but for those savvy in LiIon handling, I invite you to share your tips, tricks and observations in the comment section – last time, we had a fair few interesting points brought up!
The Friendly Neighborhood Charger
There’s a whole bunch of ways to charge the cells you’ve just added to your device – a wide variety of charger ICs and other solutions are at your disposal. I’d like to focus on one specific module that I believe it’s important you know more about.
You likely have seen the blue TP4056 boards around – they’re cheap and you’re one Aliexpress order away from owning a bunch, with a dozen boards going for only a few bucks. The TP4056 is a LiIon charger IC able to top up your cells at rate of up to 1 A. Many TP4056 boards have a protection circuit built in, which means that such a board can protect your LiIon cell from the external world, too. This board itself can be treated as a module; for over half a decade now, the PCB footprint has stayed the same, to the point where you can add a TP4056 board footprint onto your own PCBs if you need LiIon charging and protection. I do that a lot – it’s way easier, and even cheaper, than soldering the TP4056 and all its support components. Here’s a KiCad footprint if you’d like to do that too.
Continue reading “Lithium-Ion Battery Circuitry Is Simple”
In the first article, I’ve given you an overview of Lithium-Ion batteries and cells as building blocks for our projects, and described how hackers should treat their Lithium-Ion cells. But what if you don’t have any LiIon cells yet? Where do you get LiIon cells for your project?
Taking laptop batteries apart, whether the regular 18650 or the modern pouch cell-based ones, remains a good avenue – many hackers take this road and the topic is extensively covered by a number of people. However, a 18650 cell might not fit your project size-wise, and thin batteries haven’t quite flooded the market yet. Let’s see what your options are beyond laptops. Continue reading “Lithium-Ion Batteries Are Easy To Find”
Need some kind of battery for a project? You can always find a few Lithium-Ion (LiIon) batteries around! They’re in our phones, laptops, and a myriad other battery-powered things of all forms – as hackers, we will find ourselves working with them more and more. Lithium-Ion batteries are unmatched when it comes to energy capacity, ease of charging, and all the shapes and sizes you can get one in.
There’s also misconceptions about these batteries – bad advice floating around, fearmongering videos of devices ablaze, as well as mundane lack of understanding. Today, I’d like to provide a general overview of how to treat your LiIon batteries properly, making sure they serve you well long-term.
What’s A Battery? A Malleable Pile Of Cells
Lithium-Ion batteries are our friends. Now, there can’t be a proper friendship if you two don’t understand each other. Lithium-Ion batteries are tailored for human needs by the factory that produced them. As for us hackers, we’ll want to learn some things.
First thing to learn – a single LiIon “unit” is called a cell. An average laptop contains three or six Li-Ion cells, a phone will have one, a tablet will have from one to three. What we refer to as “battery” is typically one or multiple cells, together with protection circuitry, casing and a separate connector – most of the time all three of these, but not always. The typical voltage is 3.6 V or 3.7 V, with maximum voltage being 4.2 V – these are chemistry-defined, the same for most kinds of cells and almost always written on the cell. Continue reading “Lithium-Ion Batteries Are Your Friends”
You can read all about making, say, a bookshelf or bowling, but unless you’ve actually done it, you don’t really know how it works. That’s the idea behind [codecrafters-io] Build-Your-Own-X GitHub repository. It is a collection of software projects from around the Web that offer “step-by-step guides for recreating our favorite technologies from scratch.”
What can you find there? Well, how about writing your own version of Git itself? Or maybe you’d like to dive into a physics engine, blockchain code, or a text editor. Then there’s our favorite: an operating system.
Continue reading “Build Your Own… Whatever”