Hackaday Podcast 035: LED Cubes Taking Over, Ada Vanquishes C Bugs, Rad Monitoring Is Hot, And 3D Printing Goes Full 3D

Hackaday Editors Mike Szczys and Elliot Williams get caught up on the most interesting hacks of the past week. On this episode we take a deep dive into radiation-monitor projects, both Geiger tube and scintillator based, as well as LED cube projects that pack pixels onto six PCBs with parts counts reaching into the tens of thousands. In the 3D printing world we want non-planar printing to be the next big thing. Padauk microcontrollers are small, cheap, and do things in really interesting ways if you don’t mind embracing the ecosystem. And what’s the best way to read a water meter with a microcontroller?

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

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Everything You Wanted To Know About Padauk MCUs And More

At this point you’d need to have lived underneath a rock somewhere on the dark side of the Moon to not have heard about these amazing, 3-cent microcontrollers. A number of places have pitched in on them, but comprehensive reviews, let alone a full-blown review of the entire ecosystem surrounding these Padauk MCUs have been scarce. Fortunately, [Jay Carlson] has put in a lot of effort to collect everything you could possibly want to know about anything Padauk.

The most important take-away is that these MCUs do not have any kind of communication peripherals. UARTs, I2C, and SPI all have to be done in software. They’re not very great at low-power or battery-powered applications due to high power usage. Essentially you’ll be using GPIO pins a lot. On the other hand, its multi-CPU context, FPPA feature is rather interesting, with the article covering it in detail.

As for the development tools, [Jay] came away very impressed with the In-Circuit Emulation (ICE) instead of running code on an MCU, as this can reduce development times significantly. This makes even the OTP (one-time programmable) property of most Padauk MCUs less significant than one might at first assume.

Then there’s the actual programming of the MCUs. The Micro C compiler Padauk provides essentially implements a sub-set of the C language, with some macros to replace things like for loops. Initially this may seem like a weird limitation, until you realize that these MCUs have 64 to 256 bytes of SRAM. That’s bytes, without any prefixes.

Finally, [Jay] shows off a couple of test projects, including a NeoPixel SPI adapter and bike light, which are all available on Github. The WS2812b project is something we have seen before, for example this project from [Anders Nielsen] (featured in the article image), which provides another take on this range of MCUs.

Did reading [Jay]’s article change your mind on these Padauk parts? Have you used these MCUs and ICE parts before? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.

Reverse Engineering MyKeepon

[qDot] recently got his hands on a MyKeepon toy and after messing with it a bit, decided to tear it down to see what was inside. He had hopes of easily modding the toy, but like most adventures in hacking, things might take a while longer than he first imagined.

In his teardown you can see the various components that make up the MyKeepon, including a trio of motors for movement, along with a series of buttons and a microphone used to interact with the toy. Of course, the part that interested him the most was MyKeepon’s circuit board, since that’s where the real work would begin.

There, he discovered two main processor Padauk processor chips, described as “Field Programmable Processor Arrays” in their data sheets. He says that the brand is well known for lifting text verbatim from PIC data sheets, so he doesn’t have a ton of faith in what’s printed there. Sketchy documentation aside, he poked around on the I2C bus connecting the two chips and was able to sniff a bit of traffic. He is documenting his findings as he goes along, which you can see more of on his Github project site.

He has made a few simple modifications to the toy already, but there’s plenty more to do before he has complete control over it. His work is bound to make tons of MyKeepon fans happy, including our own [Caleb Kraft], whose love for the toy can be seen in the video below taken at last year’s CES.

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