Monthly Archives: April 2016

App note: Differences between ATmega328/P and ATmega328PB

via Dangerous Prototypes


Differences between ATmega328/P and ATmega328PB (PDF!) application note from Atmel:

This application note assists the users of Atmel® ATmega328 variants to understand the differences and use Atmel ATmega328PB.
ATmega328PB is not a drop-in replacement for ATmega328 variants, but a new device. However, the functions are backward compatible with the existing ATmega328 functions. Existing code for these devices will work in the new devices without changing existing configuration or enabling new functions. The code that is available for your existing ATmega328 variants will continue to work on the new ATmega328PB device.
The ATmega328PB is the first 8-bit Atmel AVR® device to feature the successful Atmel QTouch® Peripheral Touch Controller (PTC).
For differences in errata, typical, and electrical characteristics between ATmega328 variants and ATmega328PB, refer to the specific device datasheets.

App note: MSP430 32-kHz crystal oscillators

via Dangerous Prototypes


MSP430 32-kHz crystal oscillators (PDF!) application note from Texas Instruments:

Selection of the right crystal, correct load circuit, and proper board layout are important for a stable crystal oscillator. This application report summarizes crystal oscillator function and explains the parameters to select the correct crystal for MSP430
ultralow-power operation. In addition, hints and examples for correct board layout are given. The document also contains detailed information on the possible oscillator tests to ensure stable oscillator operation in mass production.

Megaprocessor is a Macro Microprocessor

via hardware – Hackaday

If we have to make a list of Projects that are insane and awesome at the same time, this would probably be among the top three right up there. For the past few years, [James Newman] has been busy building Megaprocessor – a huge micro-processor made out of transistors and LED’s, thousands of ’em. “I started by wanting to learn about transistors. Things got out of hand.” And quite appropriately, he’s based out of Cambridge – the “City of perspiring dreams“. The Why part is pretty simple – because he can. We posted about his build as recently as 10 months back, but he’s made a ton of progress since then and an update seemed in order.

megaprocessor_04How big is it ? For starters, the 8-bit adder module is about 300mm (a foot) long – and he’s using five of them. When fully complete, it will stretch 14m wide and stand 2m tall, filling a 30 sq.m room, consisting of seven individual frames that form the parts of the Megaprocessor.

The original plan was for nine frames but he’s managed to squeeze all parts in to seven, building three last year and adding the other four since then. Assembling the individual boards (gates), putting them together to form modules, then fitting it all on to the frames and putting in almost 10kms of cabling is a slow, painstaking job, but he’s been on fire last few months. He has managed to test and integrate the racks shown here and even run some code.

The Megaprocessor has a 16-bit architecture, seven registers, 256bytes of RAM and a questionable amount of PROM (depending on his soldering endurance, he says). It sips 500W, most of it going to light up all the LED’s. He guesses it weighs about half a ton. The processor uses up 15,300 transistors and 8,500 LED’s, while the RAM has 27,000 transistors and 2,048 LED’s. That puts it somewhere between the 8086 and the 68000 microprocessors in terms of number of transistors. He recently got around to calculating the money he’s spent on this to date, and it is notching up over 40,000 Quid (almost $60,000 USD)!  You can read a lot of other interesting statistics on the Cost and Materials page.

And kudos to his crazy Ninja skills to notch up just a few failed, bad solder joints, out of a total of over 250,000, and one dead transistor from among almost 42,000. A few cable crimping issues were the least of his troubles. The worst part was when he received a wrong batch of 4000 transistors (correct purchase order, correct packing list, but wrong parts bagged). He realized the problem after soldering all of them, setting him back by quite a bit. He didn’t bother de-soldering them but instead just built fresh replacement boards. He also built a hardware/software simulator for the Megaprocessor using an FPGA board to help him validate his design. Among the first programs he created were a few games (obviously) – Tetris, Tic-Tac-Toe, Life – for which he needed a suitable input device. So he modded a Venom Arcade stick which usually expects itself to be connected to a PlayStation via USB. He says it was “a very civilized thing to mod”.

There is a LOT more interesting stuff to read on his detailed blog posts, so go grab a supply of Coffee, switch off your Phone, and settle in for a few hours diving in to his crazy-awesome build. “This is nuts” said [Clovis Fritzen], who sent in this tip via the BBC News website. Thanks, and we’d agree with his assessment. Check out a couple of videos of the Megaprocessor in action below.


Filed under: hardware, Microcontrollers

DIY 32ch FPV 5.8ghz LCD

via Dangerous Prototypes


Spikey made his own DIY 32ch FPV 5.8ghz LCD with Dirty Board PCB’s:

If you’re like me, you don like buying stuff that’s ready-to-go, but rather build one yourself. We usually spend more money, but it’s way more satisfying I really didn’t want to buy an overly expensive FPV LCD receiver, so I made my own DIY 32ch FPV 5.8ghz LCD, that is compatible with EVERY transmitter on the market now.

More info at Spikey’s project page.

PA Consulting Raspberry Pi competition 2016

via Raspberry Pi

This thing will change your life

In October 2011, Raspberry Pi co-founder Jack Lang handed me a beta version of the Raspberry Pi. This changed my life. The Pi was familiar yet unworldly:  a computer the size of a credit card. As both a teacher and a maker it was a revelation. For the next year I nested in a skip in Cambridge, chittering gently and generally making a pest of myself, until the Foundation lured me into their very first office with a trail of Jaffa Cakes, and put me to work.

Homewood School's SportTrax GPS system

Homewood School’s SportTrax GPS system

It was the best of times…

In early 2013, Computing in the English National Curriculum was over a year away, and although things were starting to happen in the world of computing education, the Pi was still a little bit groovy and a little bit radical for the average ICT classroom. Fortunately, we weren’t the only ones who thought that this small computer could bring about big changes. PA Consulting spotted the potential of the Pi — still in its first incarnation — as a tool for making, problem-solving and collaboration. Each year they challenge schools to use the Raspberry Pi to invent something around a theme. I was lucky to be one of the judges for the first competition in 2013 and it’s been one of my favourite Raspberry Pi events since.

PA’s Raspberry Pi Competition 2016 – Finals

PA’s Raspberry Pi Competition 2016 – Finals Making the difference by inspiring the innovators of the future @PA_Consulting – #PAPiAwards16 – @PA_RaspberryPi Finalists event: 14 April 2016 The Raspberry Pi is one of the most exciting innovations of recent years.

We set this competition up four years ago because at PA we are passionate about technology and innovation, so it was really important for us to encourage the next generation to be as passionate as we are. — Anita Chandraker, Head of Digital at PA Consulting

The 2016 competition

This is the fourth year that I’ve helped judge the competition and each year we’ve been amazed by this innovation and passion. The 2016 final, held at the magnificent Institution of Engineering and Technology in London, was no different. The theme was ‘sports and leisure’, and students scrambled to explain how they’d built and programmed their inventions, which ranged from keep-fit games in Scratch to applications that wouldn’t look out of place at a tech show.

pa rory

I helped judge the Year 12-13 category which, after much tea and deliberation, was won by Highgate School with PiTime, a system for recording race times and taking finish-line photos. Despite stiff competition — Homewood School’s seriously professional SportTrax deserves a special mention — PiTime won because it was cheap, smart and solved a real-world problem for the team members, who are both competitive runners. Full details of all finalists and the winners in other age categories are on PA’s competition site.

Egglescliffe CE Primary School's Colour Smash

Egglescliffe CE Primary School’s Colour Smash

Success story

As well as showing off their creations, the finalists had the chance to meet experts from industry and the world of tech. One of these sages was Tom Hartley, winner of the 2013 competition with teammate Alyssa Dayan for their AirPi. He says that the competition, “… opened up a world of opportunities for me — things I never could have imagined became possible.” Tom is currently studying Electronic and Information Engineering at Imperial College, and it’s wonderful to think that the competition and the Raspberry Pi have played some small part in this.

Tom Hartley speaking to kids

Where does your pebble walk to, Grasshopper? Tom Hartley sharing WISDOM.

Digital making is central to the Foundation’s ethos. It’s a crazy Venn diagram of fabulous skills, from problem-solving, collaboration and creativity through to programming, electronics and soldering. All put in a Klein bottle and given a good shake. PA Consulting saw this very early on and we’re pleased and proud that they continue to run such an inspiring competition.

Digital making is also a powerful and beautiful thing: it changed my life, it changed Tom’s life, and it’s changing the lives of young people all over the world.  So get involved, whether it’s though a Raspberry Jam, a local hack space, Code Club or just by browsing our resources for ideas. And if you are a teacher then please enter the PA Competition next year — even if doesn’t end up changing lives it’s a lot of fun and a great day out for the students :)

The post PA Consulting Raspberry Pi competition 2016 appeared first on Raspberry Pi.

Friday Product Post: Mystery Science Transceiver 3000

via SparkFun Electronics Blog Posts

Welcome, welcome, welcome! We are pretty excited this fine Friday. Not only are we excited that it’s the end of the week, but also we have a pretty large week for new products! So what exactly are we bringing you? Well, if you couldn’t tell by the title, the byline or the special hint last week, we’ll show you now. Take it away, Nick!

Those are some fine-looking products!

SparkFun RFM69 Breakout (915MHz)

$ 9.95

This is the SparkFun RFM69 Breakout, a small piece of tech that breaks out all the pins available on the RFM69HCW module and makes the transceiver easy to use. The RFM69HCW is an inexpensive and versatile radio module that operates in the unlicensed ISM (Industry, Science and Medicine) radio band. It’s perfect for building inexpensive short-range wireless networks of sensors and actuators for home automation, citizen science and more. The on-board RFM69HCW operates on the 915MHz frequency, and is capable of transmitting at up to 100mW and up to 300kbps, but you can change both of those values to fit your application.

SparkFun RFM69 Breakout (434MHz)

$ 9.95

What, another? Yes, this is an almost exact double to the product you just saw. The difference between this SparkFun RFM69 Breakout and the one you saw above is that this little board operates on the 434MHz frequency instead of 915MHz.

Although the ISM band is license-free, the band itself is different in different areas. Very roughly, 915MHz is for use in the Americas, and the 434MHz version is for use in Europe, Asia and Africa. Check your local regulations for other areas.

RFM69HCW Wireless Transceiver - 915MHz

$ 4.95

Every time we release a new breakout board people always ask us to sell the equipped module separately. So before you ask, we bring you the RFM69HCW Wireless Transceiver! This transceiver is exactly what you get on the breakout boards above, just without the spiffy red board underneath.

Do you need 434MHz frequency version instead? Never fear, we have that version available as well!

Resistor 1K Ohm 1/4th Watt PTH - 20 pack

$ 0.95

Today we also have two new resistor packs: a 20-pack rated for 1K Ohm and a 20-pack rated for 100 Ohm. They’re resistors; you need them; we have them. What more can we say?

SparkFun Inventor's Kit for Arduino 101

$ 149.95

Last up, we are please to announce that the SparkFun Inventor’s Kit for Arduino 101, the SparkFun Inventor’s Kit for Genuino 101, and the Arduino 101 Lab Pack are all officially released and shipping. Pre-orders are over my friends – enjoy your new SIKs!

Well folks, that brings us to the end of the post. Hopefully you can find something in all of these new products that you like! We’ll catch you back here next Friday with even more sensational new products. See you then!

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