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.

Circuit Classics — Sneak Peek!

via Hacking – bunnie's blog

My first book on electronics was Getting Started with Electronics; to this day, I still imagine electrons as oval-shaped particles with happy faces because of its illustrations. So naturally, I was thrilled to find that the book’s author, Forrest Mims III, and my good friend Star Simpson joined forces to sell kit versions of classic circuits straight off the pages of Getting Started with Electronics. This re-interpretation of a classic as an interactive kit is perfect for today’s STEM curriculum, and I hope it will inspire another generation of engineers and hackers.

I’m very lucky that Star sent me a couple early prototypes to play with. Today was a rainy Saturday afternoon, so I loaded a few tracks from Information Society’s Greatest Hits album (I am most definitely a child of the 80’s) and fired up my soldering iron for a walk down memory lane. I remembered how my dad taught me to bend the leads of resistors with pliers, to get that nice square look. I remembered how I learned to use masking tape and bent leads to hold parts in place, so I could flip the board over for soldering. I remembered doodling circuits on scraps of paper after school while watching Scooby-Doo cartoons on a massive CRT TV that took several minutes to warm up. Things were so much simpler back then …

I couldn’t help but embellish a little bit. I added a socket for the chip on my Bargraph Voltage Indicator (when I see chips in sockets, I hear a little voice in my head whispering “hack me!” “fix me!” “reuse me!”), and swapped out the red LEDs for some high-efficiency white LEDs I happened to have on the shelf.

I appreciated Star’s use of elongated pads on the DIP components, a feature not necessary for automated assembly but of great assistance to hand soldering.

It works! Here I am testing the bargraph voltage indicator with a 3V coin cell on my (very messy) keyboard desk.

Voilà! My rendition of a circuit classic. I think the photo looks kind of neat in inverse color.

I really appreciate seeing a schematic printed on a circuit board next to its circuit. It reminds me that before Open Hardware, hardware was open. Schematics like these taught me that circuits were knowable; unlike the mysteries of quantum physics and molecular biology, virtually every circuit is a product of human imagination. That another engineer designed it, means any other engineer could understand it, given sufficient documentation. As a youth, I didn’t understand what these symbols and squiggles meant; but just knowing that a map existed set me on a path toward greater comprehension.

Whether a walk down nostalgia lane or just getting started in electronics, Circuit Classics are a perfect activity for both young and old. If you want to learn more, check out Star Simpson’s crowdfunding campaign on Crowd Supply!

Hacking Humble Bundle

via Hacking – bunnie's blog

I’m very honored and proud to have one of my books offered as part of the Hacking Humble Bundle. Presented by No Starch Press, the Hacking Humble Bundle is offering several eBook titles for a “pay-what-you-feel” price, including my “Hacking the Xbox”, along with “Automate the Boring Stuff with Python”, “The Linux Command Line” and “The Smart Girl’s Guide to Privacy”. Of course, you can already download Hacking the Xbox for free, but if you opt to pay at least $15 you can get 9 more fantastic titles — check out all of them at the Humble Bundle page.

One of the best parts about a humble bundle is you have a say in where your money goes.

If you click on “Choose where your money goes” near checkout area, you’re presented with a set of sliders that let you pick how much money goes to charity, how much to the publisher, and how much as a tip to the Humble Bundle. For the Hacking Humble Bundle, the default charity is the EFF (you’re free to pick others if you want). For the record, I don’t get any proceeds from the Humble Bundle; I’m in it to support the EFF and No Starch.

If you enjoyed Hacking the Xbox, this is a perfect opportunity to give back to a charitable organization that was instrumental in making it happen. Without the EFF’s counsel, I wouldn’t have known my rights. Knowledge is power, and their support gave me the courage I needed to stand up and assert my right to hack, despite imposing adversaries. To this day, the EFF continues to fight for our rights on the digital frontier, and we need their help more than ever. No Starch has also been a stalwart supporter of hackers; their founder, Bill Pollock, and his “Damn the Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead” attitude toward publishing potentially controversial topics has enabled hackers to educate the world about relevant but edgy technical topics.

If hacking interests you, it’s probably worth the time to check out the Hacking Humble Bundle and give a thought about what it’s worth to you. After all, you can “pay what you feel” and still get eBooks in return.

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.