Category Archives: Aggregated

RISC, Tagged Memory, and Minion Cores

via Hackaday » hardware

Buy a computing device nowadays, and you’re probably getting something that knows x86 or an ARM. There’s more than one architecture out there for general purpose computing with dual-core MIPS boards available and some very strange silicon that’s making its way into dev boards. lowRISC is the latest endeavour from a few notable silicon designers, able to run Linux ‘well’ and adding a few novel security features that haven’t yet been put together this way before.

There are two interesting features that make the lowRISC notable. The first is tagged memory. This has been used before in older, weirder computers as a sort of metadata for memory. Basically, a few bits of each memory address tag each memory address as executable/non-executable, serve as memory watchpoints, garbage collection, and a lock on every word. New instructions are added to the ISA, allowing these tags to be manipulated, watched, and monitored to prevent the most common single security problem: buffer overflows. It’s an extremely interesting application of tagged memory, and something that isn’t really found in a modern architecture.

The second neat feature of the lowRISC are the minions. These are programmable devices tied to the processor’s I/O that work a lot like a Zynq SOC or the PRU inside the BeagleBone. Basically, they’re used for programmable I/O, implementing SPI/I2C/I2S/SDIO in software, offloading work from the main core, and devices that require very precise timing.

The current goal of the lowRISC team is to develop the hardware on an FPGA, releasing some beta silicon in a year’s time. The first complete chip will be an embedded SOC, hopefully release sometime around late 2016 or early 2017. The ultimate goal is an SOC with a GPU that would be used in mobile phones, set-top boxes, and Raspi and BeagleBone-like dev boards. There are enough people on the team, including [Robert Mullins] and [Alex Bradbury] of the University of Cambridge and the Raspberry Pi, researchers at UC Berkeley, and [Bunnie Huang].

It’s a project still in its infancy, but the features these people are going after are very interesting, and something that just isn’t being done with other platforms.

[Alex Bardbury] gave a talk on lowRISC at ORConf last October. You can check out the presentation here.


Filed under: hardware, news

Pololu Stamped Aluminum L-Bracket for NEMA 14 Stepper Motors

via Pololu - New Products

This black anodized aluminum bracket lets you securely mount typical NEMA 14-size stepper motors to your project. The bracket features several slots and holes for a variety of mounting solutions, and four M3×5mm screws are included for securing the motor to the bracket.

GSM Controlled Star Light: A xmas tutorial for Intel Galileo

via Arduino Blog

star-galileo

We recently posted on Intel Makers Community the first of a series of educational tutorial focused on Intel Galileo Gen 2. Our team worked on  a smart Christmas star able to receive sms and change pattern according to it. The bill of materials contains also an Arduino GSM Shield, a Proto Shield and some flexible  LED  strips:

To kick off a festive mood, we decided to adapt a typical Scandinavian tradition. In December, many people will decorate their homes by hanging large paper stars inside their windows. The stars usually have a single bulb inside that casts a warm, welcoming glow.

We thought we’d try to make this tradition a bit more merry by making it interactive. By sending text messages, we will change the blink pattern and color of the star.

This project is a fun and easy introduction on how to use the Intel Galileo Gen 2 board and the Arduino GSM shield. After making this tutorial, try modifying the code to change the patterns or taking the functions to insert GSM connectivity into your own projects.

Happy Holidays!

Follow the link and make it as well!

 

New Product Friday: Hot New Products

via SparkFun Electronics Blog Posts

Even though we’re busy shipping all your holiday goodies, we still have a couple of new products to talk about this week. We even have really cool (or hot) demo for you. Be sure to check it out.

Thermal imaging is always cool, but now you can play around with it. It’s really cool to see companies like FLiR realizing the potential of the maker community.

FLiR Dev Kit

Out of stock KIT-13233

The FLiR Dev Kit includes a breakout as well as a Lepton® longwave infrared (LWIR) imager. With this kit you will be able to…

$ 349.95

The FLiR Dev Kit includes a breakout as well as a Lepton® longwave infrared (LWIR) imager. With this kit you will be able to be able to bring FLiR’s thermal imaging reliability and power to your Arduino, Raspberry Pi, or any ARM based development tool all in an easy to access breadboard friendly package. All you need to do to get this kit set up, simply attach the Lepton® imager module into the provided breakout, connect the headers, and you will be seeing in full darkness in no time! Check out the video above for more details on how to make your very own thermal imaging system.

SparkFun Interface Pack for Intel® Edison

24 available KIT-13095

The Intel® Edison is an ultra small computing platform that will change the way you look at embedded electronics. Each Ediso…

$ 69.95

This week we are formally re-launching some of our SparkFun Blocks for Intel Edison. This week we how have stock of the Interface Pack. This kit includes the I2C Block, the PWM Block, the ADC Block, and the Dual H-Bridge Block. This kit includes the blocks necessary to interface with just about anything. If you have a bunch of blocks, you’ll want a hardware pack to secure everything together.

The Intel® Edison is an ultra small computing platform that will change the way you look at embedded electronics. Each Edison is packed with a huge amount of tech goodies into a tiny package while still providing the same robust strength of your go-to single board computer. Check out the video below to learn more about the Intel Edison.

That’s all we have for this week. Don’t worry though, I have a few new things on my desk already for next week, so be sure to check back then. Thanks for watching and see you then!

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Pi HomeGuard: helping people stay independent longer

via Raspberry Pi

Several people have mentioned the idea of using the Pi to help relatives and carers support older people in their own homes by monitoring aspects of their daily routine as well as things like the indoor temperature, but until now, we hadn’t seen anyone write up a system they’d implemented. So we were very interested when we received an email from Jamie Grant, telling us how he had used a Raspberry Pi-based home monitoring system to help him support his late mother in maintaining her independence.

HomeCare Guardian screenshot from 2012

An early Pi adopter, one of Jamie’s first projects was home power monitoring. After installing a system to plot electricity usage in his own home using CurrentCost hardware and a Raspberry Pi, he was struck by the “kettle spike”, a power spike that shows clearly that someone is up and making tea. His mother was very elderly, was living alone and had a worsening serious illness, and it occurred to him that the kettle spike would provide a useful indication that she was OK. He decided to install the system at her house, adding some wireless PiR (passive infrared) motion and door sensors. Jamie called this first version HomeCare Guardian; power and sensor data were displayed in a simple webpage. Here’s another screenshot, showing the system in 2013, after about a year of development:

HomeCare Guardian screenshot, 2013

From this single page, Jamie could see whether his mum was OK and going about her usual daily routine, and a sensor at the front door indicated when she took a taxi journey to visit her friends and when she returned. He says,

I found Homecare Guardian a great comfort and my sister and I used it daily to check on her condition. Near the end mum was more forgetful and sometimes left her front door open, we could see whenever this happened and I would call round and check she was alright.

Mum managed to stay totally independent and was only admitted to our local hospital for her last week where she got the best possible care.

Jamie has continued working on the wireless sensors and their power requirements: his latest PiR motion sensor is powered by just two AA batteries and has a battery life of over a year, and his new door sensor has an estimated battery life of over three years. With sensors for motion, door opening, indoor temperature and water (to provide flood alerts) ready to go, he hopes to add a humidity sensor soon. The same system, he observes, could also be used for checking an unoccupied property for flood or frost risk as well as other aspects of security. Very recently he has been working with an Android app developer, and they’re hoping to add an alerts app facility soon.

The system has been renamed as Pi HomeGuard, and you can see a working live site, all running off a Raspberry Pi, at www.pihomeguard.com. Jamie is interested in taking this prototype further and making it more widely available, and would be glad to make contact with people who’d like to become involved; if this describes you, say so in the comments, and we’ll put you in touch.

Self-lighting Menorah

via SparkFun Electronics Blog Posts

Around this time of year, we see so many Christmas-themed projects – Christmas trees controlled by Arduino, Christmas lights that let you play Angry Birds on them, etc.. Don’t get us wrong - they are awesome and we look forward to them every single year. But this is a nice change of pace we haven’t seen too much of – the Self-lighting (and Tweeting) Menorah for Hanukkah.

Self-lighting Menorah

Hey, I recognize that Arduino/Breadboard holder!

This great project comes from SparkFun customer Elahd Bar-Shai and does the following:

  • Determines Hanukkah dates.
  • Determines candle lighting times based on local sunset times.
  • Says candle lighting prayers via Twitter.
  • Lights candles on a properly configured Arduino.
  • Extinguishes candles after a few hours.

If you want to follow the project, it tweets to @MitzvahBot. You can also check out Elahd’s github repo to see how he built the menorah (and build your own). Awesome project!

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Pi vs Beaglebone vs Edison – Let’s Talk Benchmarks

via SparkFun Electronics Blog Posts

We’ve made a big deal about how the Intel Edison is not a Raspberry Pi – and it’s true, it’s not. But as we’ve said, it’s not meant to be. The Edison, the Raspberry Pi and the Beaglebone Black all have their strengths and their weaknesses. With that said, it can be interesting to see how they stack up against each other for various tasks.

alt text

Image courtesy of DavidHunt.ie

In this article from David Hunt, he pits the three products against each other in some tests to see how they stack up. The results are interesting.

Ultimately, the Edison tested out to be by far the fastest of the bunch. Is that what you need for your project? Maybe – or maybe not. But sometimes, speed is the name of the game – in which case, maybe check out the Edison.


Read the full article here to see all the tests and more details about what David did.

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Just in Time Parts vs. the Junkbox

via Nuts and Volts

Cleaning out my workshop reminded me of when I first started my journey in electronics — tubes were still available at RadioShack. My first ham radio transmitter — a HeathKit DX-60B — used a 6146B tube final amplifier (power amplifier), in part because it was inexpensive and readily available. Back then, I had a junkbox with a few dozen tubes, a pound or two of discrete resistors and capacitors, and some miscellaneous hardware. With that, I could repair just about any TV, receiver, or transmitter that I came across or wanted to modify.

Go Speed Racer…Arduino Speed Test

via SparkFun Electronics Blog Posts

How fast is an Arduino?

We spend a lot of our time teaching educators and teachers the ins and outs of Arduino and basic microcontrollers.

When we introduce the standard Arduino Uno, we often point out that there’s a crystal oscillator running at 16 MHz. Depending on the audience, we often generalize that the microcontroller runs at 16 MHz, or to put this into perspective, this means 16 Million operations (instructions) per second. Put another way, it takes 1 / 16 millionths of a second to perform a single operation – or just 62.5 nanoseconds!

Is that really true?

So, I wanted to figure out how far off am I really? I know that the Arduino environment has quite a bit of overhead, and also every instruction actually requires multiple commands and memory reads and writes, but what is the ‘maximum’ running speed of the loop() in Arduino?

So, I devised a couple tests. The first was a simple sketch that looked like this:

void setup()
{
    pinMode(13, OUTPUT);
}
void loop()
{
    digitalWrite(13, HIGH);
    digitalWrite(13, LOW);
}

This is about as simple as it gets. Anyone who’s ever tried running this code knows that the LED will blink ON and then OFF faster than we can see. I was curious as to how fast this really ran. Well let’s take a look:

Here is a quick trace of the pin:

alt text

It looks like the digitalWrite(13, HIGH) takes roughly 3.95 uS and the digitalWrite(13, LOW) takes about 4.55 uS. The total time being 8.5 uS. This is much longer than 62.5 ns. In fact, it’s 136 times longer.

It appears that the LOW was longer than the HIGH. I wanted to see

void setup()
{
    pinMode(13, OUTPUT);
}
void loop()
{
    digitalWrite(13, HIGH);
    digitalWrite(13, HIGH);
    digitalWrite(13, LOW);
}

Now, with two HIGHs and one LOW, I’d expect the HIGH to be around 7.9 uS (2 x 3.95 uS) and the LOW to still be 4.55 uS. Here’s the trace from my oscilloscope:

alt text

The results? Well, the two ‘HIGH’ instructions looked like they took a total of 7.767 uS –> about 3.884 uS per instruction. That’s pretty close. And the ‘LOW’ instruction stayed right at 4.563 uS.

Okay – so, if about sending a sequence of HIGH-LOW-LOW?

void setup()
{
    pinMode(13, OUTPUT);
}
void loop()
{
    digitalWrite(13, HIGH);
    digitalWrite(13, LOW);
    digitalWrite(13, LOW);
}

alt text

The singular ‘HIGH’ instruction is right at 3.925 uS – as expected. The two sequential ‘LOW’ instructions take up 8.5 uS in time – a bit smaller than the expected 9.1 uS (2 x 4.55 uS).

All in all, I found this to be both intersting and insightful. What does this mean? Well - at maximum speed, it looks like within the main loop() of Arduino we can toggle a pin at a rate of about 117 kHz.

Ok - so, this is quite a bit slower than the 16 MHz clock, but – I’m sure if we integrated into the timer interrupts directly or stripped things down a little more, we might be able to manipulate bits / pins at a faster speed. For me, for blinking LEDs, driving motors, and reading sensors – 117 kHz is plenty fast!

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Playing "Peaches" On Peaches

via SparkFun Electronics Blog Posts

We’re big fans of using capacitive touch devices as a “keyboard” of sorts – hence our involvement with the MaKey MaKey. So this brilliant project that’s been making the rounds in SparkFun HQ really hit home! This comes to us from Jan Willem and Andrew Huang, who used peaches, an Arduino, and the wonder of capacitive touch to play the classic song “Peaches” by the Presidents of the United States of America. First, check out the tech behind the instrument:

And then – check it out in full action!

The only thing more impressive than the instrument might be these guys' musical chops. Awesome work! And now I have that song stuck in my head…movin' to the country…gonna eat a lot of peaches…moving to the country… ♪ ♫ ♪

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Soft Fabrication for the Beginner

via SparkFun Electronics Blog Posts

Sewing – not just for clothes anymore (nor was it ever, really)!

More and more often, making, hacking, and fabrication projects demand flexibility. It’s not just about apparel or wearables anymore; sometimes it’s a matter of practicality or cost. I’m not here to talk about crafting and garment construction right now, although the same principles obviously apply, but I’ve gotten a lot of questions about the tools and techniques used to hack together some traditional (and non-traditional) materials, so I thought I’d share!

Let’s start with a sewing machine. Not everyone has one, and they’re not necessarily cheap, but it’s the sensible way to construct quite a few soft structures, so we should discuss it. If you’ve got a machine, that’s wonderful! If you haven’t got a machine, but you’ve got access to one through a friend, hackerspace, or family member, also great! This is a great way to learn without risking the loss of a chunk of money if you don’t like it. Don’t have either? Don’t despair! I might get some friction for this in the comments (and feel free to bring it on, machine elitists! Your input is valuable!), but for your first machine, and something you’re not sure you’ll use with great frequency, I recommend one of two options.

alt text

  • Buy an old machine. Hit the yard sales and look for something made of metal, ideally in a weird color (mustard and avocado, not hot pink with a fisher price sticker!) I found a great guide to purchasing older machines, take a look at it if you’re interested. If you’re at all mechanically inclined, these older machines are gorgeous, fascinating, and a pleasure to care for and/or repair. I’ve also found them for as little as $20 in perfect working order.
  • Buy a cheap machine. If you don’t want to risk having to make repairs on an older machine, or just can’t find an affordable one, unless you’re really sure that you want a lot of advanced functionality and will use it often, don’t spring for a fancy machine just yet. Buy a bottom-of-the-line machine from a known brand, like Singer or Brother. The cheaper it is, the more mechanically simple, which means that when things DO go wrong (and they will- machines can be finicky), it’s easier to fix yourself. It’s also not a huge investment if you just don’t find yourself putting it to hard use.

A sewing machine is useful for fabric, but also for vinyl, leather, some papers, and even some metallic materials. You use it for straight seams, laying down long traces of conductive thread, attaching long sections of a non-sewable material to a soft base with a technique called ‘Couching’ (this is a great way to secure wires to a project you’d rather not use conductive thread on) and more. Unthreaded, you can also use it as a perforation tool.

alt text

Another, more specialized tool that I get asked about a lot is a serger. If you konw someone who sews, you’ve probably heard of it, but you may not know what it actually does. A serger (also known as an overlock machine) is a finishing tool for the edges of projects. They vary, but typically a serger will cut your material off as you sew, using four spools of thread simultaneously to create a finished edge.

alt text

You can use it independently for straight seams, so I use it instead of the sewing machine for a lot of applications, but it’s not a suitable straight replacement, because you can’t topstitch or finish a serged hem. Sergers used to be very expensive, but prices have dropped to around $250 for a serviceable one, which is worth it if you’re using it often.

alt text

I get asked about leather a lot. It’s beautiful, makes a great enclosure, finishing it imperfectly often just makes it look more rugged. It also gives your project that wonderful new car smell! There are a ton of different types of leather, and some of them require a really substantial investment in tools; since this is aimed at the beginner, I’m just going to point you towards the types of leather most suitable for machine or hand sewing. These include almost all faux leathers, a lot of garment-weight cowhides, lambskin, pigskin, and deerskin. In all cases, feel the weight and be sensible- if it’s cardboard-stiff, it’s probably not going to work out. If it flexes like fabric, you’re likely to be okay. When sewing leather on your machine, take it slow! Broken needles aren’t a huge deal, but they’re still best avoided, and they’re most likely to be a problem when you’re roaring through the material at top speed! Entirely without sewing, you can make shaped leather pieces using boiling and gluing techniques.

Just a couple more suggestions, if you’re still with me!

alt text

(image courtesy of thedoorinmywardrobe.com)

  • Did you know you can crochet wire? It looks really cool, and as long as you get the right size hook, you can easily work with wire wrap wire, silicon wire, or even stranded wire!
  • You may have seen some electronic papercrafts around. These techniques are just begging to be combined with pepakura
  • Absolutely opposed to sewing? Double-sided fusible interfacing and hem tapes will allow you to bond layers of fabrics and some other materials by ironing them together!

Questions? Corrections? Examples? Non sequiturs? That’s what the comments are for, so get to it!

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Christmas light sequencer

via Raspberry Pi

Over at Instructables, Osprey22 (what’s your real name, 22? Let us know and I’ll add it to this post) is driving audio and eight strands of lights (plus a jolly twinkly star) from the same Raspberry Pi, so the two can be sequenced using some custom Python he’s written. Play to the end for a bit of Let it Go, if you’ve not heard it too many times this year already.

Osprey22 has made full build instructions available, along with all the code you’ll need, and sequencer files for a few Christmas choons. We love it.

Workshop and talk with Massimo Banzi in London #ArduinoTour

via Arduino Blog

ArduinoTourLondon

It’s going to be a great weekend in London in mid January. Massimo Banzi, Arduino co-founder will be at the Somerset House in London for three days. The program starts with a talk followed by a Q&A, on Friday January 16th in the Screening Room, South Wing at Somerset House. (book your ticket here)

On Saturday 17th, and Sunday January 18th you can take part to two 8 hours sessions that will be held at Makerversity, in the New Wing of Somerset House. The workshop is suitable for beginners, designers, teachers, artists, hackers, and everyone interested in Arduino (no prerequisites needed). At the end of the two sessions each participant will be able to prototype autonomously a simple project with Arduino. The participation is available for a max of 20 people: you can check details and book your ticket here. The presentation taking place on Friday is free for workshop participants.

somerset