Odyssey Is A X86 Computer Packing An Arduino Along For The Trip

We love the simplicity of Arduino for focused tasks, we love how Raspberry Pi GPIO pins open a doorway to a wide world of peripherals, and we love the software ecosystem of Intel’s x86 instruction set. It’s great that some products manage to combine all of them together into a single compact package, and we welcome the recent addition of Seeed Studio’s Odyssey X86J4105.

[Ars Technica] recently looked one over and found it impressive from the perspective of a small networked computer, but they didn’t dig too deeply into the maker-friendly side of the product. We can look at the product documentation to see some interesting details. This board is larger than a Raspberry Pi, but its GPIO pins were laid out in exactly the same order as that on a Pi. Some HATs could plug right in, eliminating all the electrical integration leaving just the software issue of ARM vs x86. Tasks that are not suitable for CPU-controlled GPIO (such as generating reliable PWM) can be offloaded to an on-board Arduino-compatible microcontroller. It is built around the SAMD21 chip, similar to the Arduino MKR and Arduino Zero but the pinout does not appear to match any of the popular Arduino form factors.

The Odyssey is not the first x86 single board computer (SBC) to have GPIO pins and an onboard Arduino assistant. LattePanda for example has been executing that game plan (minus the Raspberry Pi pin layout) for the past few years. We’ve followed them since their Kickstarter origins and we’ve featured creative uses here and there. LattePanda’s current offerings are built around Intel CPUs ranging from Atom to Core m3. The Odyssey’s Celeron is roughly in the middle of that range, and the SAMD21 is more capable than the ATmega32U4 (Arduino Leonardo) on board a LattePanda. We always love seeing more options in a market for us to find the right tradeoff to match a given project, and we look forward to the epic journeys yet to come.

Hackaday Links: March 10, 2019

Do you like hamburgers? Everyone likes hamburgers. Inspired by a phone you could buy at Spencers in 1991, [Love Hulten] built a Game Burger Advance. The guts are a Raspberry Pi Zero, a standard LCD display and what appears to be a USB control pad. The fabrication is where this one really goes crazy. It’s a significant amount of laser-cut plywood or MDF stacked together into a laminate then sanded and painted to look like a hamburger. Actually, it’s a cheeseburger, but we don’t deal with the prescriptivist view of linguistics and Wendy’s doesn’t sell hamburgers, they sell cheeseburgers without cheese. Hamburgers are not cheeseburgers without cheese but I digress… Just be glad this links post isn’t me going off for two thousand words talking about language and cheeseburgers.

If you have a 2012 MacBook Pro, congratulations, you have one of the last good laptops Apple will ever build. [Docatl] over on Reddit has one of these fine machines, but found it was overheating. This Genius did what anyone would do — drilled some vents in the bottom of the laptop. The results are impressive, with stock temperatures climbing to 80º C when rendering video, and the post-drilled temps cooling down to a balmy 65º.

Here’s a Kickstarter for you. It’s an Arduino Zero in a narrow DIP-16 package, albeit with a USB connector hanging over the outline of a normal DIP-16 footprint. The specs are an ATSAMD21 Cortex-M0+ running at 48 MHz, 256kB of Flash, 32k of RAM, and an integrated bootloader.

Ha ha Tim Cook changed his name to Tim Square because Apple users are squares amirite?

We’re not going to get into a discussion about mental health or anything here, but TheFlightChannel just published a flight sim reenactment of the SeaTac Dash-8 Horizon Air incident from last summer. This video is absolutely fantastic.

The Sipeed K210 is a chip you should know about. It’s a RISC-V microcontroller that’s right up there with the fastest, most powerful STM32 chips, but it’s RISC-V and it costs eight dollars. Also, it has neural networks, because. We first heard about this chip as a preorder on Taobao (?!), but now it’s getting a slightly more official release. Seeed is working on a Raspberry Pi Hat for this chip, and they want your input. Right now we’re looking at two versions, one with WiFi and one without, and both can either work with a Raspberry Pi or as a standalone board. They have the basic layout, but they’d like to know what features the community would want.

New Part Day: A RISC-V CPU For Eight Dollars

RISC-V is the new hotness, and companies are churning out code and announcements, but little actual hardware. Eventually, we’re going to get to the point where RISC-V microcontrollers and SoCs cost just a few bucks. This day might be here, with Seeed’s Sipeed MAix modules. it’s a RISC-V chip you can buy right now, the bare module costs eight US dollars, there are several modules, and it has ‘AI’.

Those of you following the developments in the RISC-V world may say this chip looks familiar. You’re right; last October, a seller on Taobao opened up preorders for the Sipeed M1 K210 chip, a chip with neural networks. Cool, we can ignore some buzzwords if it means new chips. Seeed has been busy these last few months, and they’re now selling modules, dev boards, and peripherals that include a camera, mic array, and displays. It’s here now, and you can buy one. If it seems a little weird for Seeed Studios to get their hands on this, remember: the ESP8266 just showed up on their web site one day a few years ago. Look where we are with that now.

The big deal here is the Sipeed MAix-I module with WiFi, sold out because it costs nine bucks. Inside this module is a Kendryte K210 RISC-V CPU with 8MB of on-chip SRAM and a 400MHz clock. This chip is also loaded up with a Neural Network Processor, an Audio Processor with support for eight microphones, and a ‘Field Programmable IO array’, which sounds like it’s a crossbar on the 48 GPIOs on the chip. Details and documentation are obviously lacking.

In addition to a chip that’s currently out of stock, we also have the same chip as above, without WiFi, for a dollar less. It’ll probably be out of stock by the time you read this. There’s a ‘Go Suit’ that puts one of these chips in an enclosure with a camera and display, and there’s a microphone array add-on. There’s a binocular camera module if you want to play around with depth sensing.

The first time we heard of this chip, it was just a preorder on Taobao. It told us two things: RISC-V chips are coming sooner than we expected, and you can do preorders on Taobao. Seeed has a history of bringing interesting chips to the wider world, and if you want a RISC-V chip right now, here you go. Just be sure to tell us what you did with it.

Tiny Cheap ARM Boards Get WiFi

Over the last few years, we’ve seen the value of putting tiny WIFi-enabled microcontrollers on a module that costs a dollar or two. Those smart light bulbs in your house probably have an ESP8266 in them, and you can build a WiFi-enabled anything with one of these chips for next to no money. Now there’s a new module that takes the design philosophy of, ‘a reasonably powerful microcontroller, on a module, that does WiFi’ to its logical conclusion. It’s the W600 module from Seeed Studios. It’s got an ARM Cortex-M3, it’s FCC and CE certified, it’s got WiFi, and it’s cheap. This is what the people want, so somebody’s got to give it to them.

This product seems to be the followup and/or refinement of the Air602 WiFi Development board released by Seeed late last year. While the module itself grew a few more castellated pins and an RF can, the other specs look to be the same. Compared to the ESP-8266, which this module is obviously competing against, the Air600 is more than capable of pulling its own weight with five GPIO pins that do PWM, a decent amount of Flash, and all the WiFi support you could want.

The W600 is part of an entire family of boards, with the module itself readily available, but there’s also a few breakout boards that add connections for power and serial, a bigger breakout board that’s trying really hard to forget the pin misalignment of the Arduino Uno, and since this is Seeed, a board that connects to everything via Grove connectors. What’s a Grove connector? It’s power, ground, and either I2C or serial over a connector I couldn’t buy the last time I checked.

The W600 and its family of boards will be shipping shortly — China is shutting down for two weeks soon, after all — and there are plans for support for the Arduino IDE, Micropython, and an SDK for the tool chain of your choice.

Is the ESP8266 still the go-to for putting WiFi? Probably. But here’s some more competition.

Ask Hackaday: What Color Are Your PCBs?

A decade ago, buying a custom-printed circuit board meant paying a fortune and possibly even using a board house’s proprietary software to design the PCB. Now, we all have powerful, independent tools to design circuit boards, and there are a hundred factories in China that will take your Gerbers and send you ten copies of your board for pennies per square inch. We are living in a golden age of printed circuit boards, and they come in a rainbow of colors. This raises the question: which color soldermask is most popular, which is most desirable, and why? Seeed Studio, a Chinese PCB house, recently ran a poll on the most popular colors of soldermask. This was compared to their actual sales data. Which PCB color is the most popular? It depends on who you ask, and how you ask it.
Continue reading “Ask Hackaday: What Color Are Your PCBs?”

New Part Day: Very Cheap LIDAR

Self-driving cars are, apparently, the next big thing. This thought is predicated on advancements in machine vision and cheaper, better sensors. For the machine vision part of the equation, Nvidia, Intel, and Google are putting out some interesting bits of hardware. The sensors, though? We’re going to need LIDAR, better distance sensors, more capable CAN bus dongles, and the equipment to tie it all together.

This is the cheapest LIDAR we’ve ever seen. The RPLIDAR is a new product from Seeed Studios, and it’s an affordable LIDAR for everyone. $400 USD gets you one module, and bizarrely $358 USD gets you two modules. Don’t ask questions — this price point was unheard of a mere five years ago.

Basically, this LIDAR unit is a spinning module connected to a motor via a belt. A laser range finder is hidden in the spinny bits and connected to a UART and USB interface through a slip ring. Mount this LIDAR unit on a robot, apply power, and the spinny bit does its thing at about 400-500 RPM. The tata that comes out includes distance (in millimeters), bearing (in units of degrees), quality of the measurement, and a start flag once every time the head makes a revolution. If you’ve never converted polar to cartesian coordinates, this is a great place to start.

Although self-driving cars and selfie drones are the future, this part is probably unsuitable for any project with sufficient mass or velocity. The scanning range of this LIDAR is only about 6 meters and insufficient for retrofitting a Toyota Camry with artificial intelligence. That said, this is a cheap LIDAR that opens the door to a lot of experimentation ranging from small robots to recreating that one Radiohead video.

Algorithm Turns PCBs Into Art

Many of us have held a circuit board up to a strong light to get a sense for how many layers of circuitry it might contain. [alongruss] did this as well, but, unlike us, he saw art.

We’ve covered some art PCBs before. These, for the most part, were about embellishing the traces in some way. They also resulted in working circuits. [alongruss]’s work focuses more on the way light passes through the FR4: the way the silkscreen adds an interesting dimension to the painting, and how the tin coating reflects light.

To prove out and play with his algorithm he started with GIMP. He ran the Mona Lisa through a set of filters until he had layers of black and white images that could be applied to the layers of the circuit board. He ordered a set of boards from Seeed Studio and waited.

They came back a success! So he codified his method into Processing code. If you want to play with it, take a look at his GitHub.