Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Leaf Barge

I live in a 15 year old suburban neighborhood in North Carolina. I've only been in the house for 6 years. More than likely, the neighborhood was carved out of prehistoric forest in the early 90's. About half of my backyard is "wooded" and most of the trees are much older than 15 years. Every autumn, an epic (and I'd add "futile", but never in my wife's presence) battle is waged against the leaves. I've got a few large oak trees, and a Bradford Pear, and a "Gum" tree, and a few that I have no clue what they are, but they all fall into one Genus I call "leaf droppers", somewhere between 50-60 in total.

The battleground.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Tiny Gecko ^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h + Microchip Wifi Project update.

I finally got my 1.27mm headers in today. They were coming in from China after all.... I didn't pay a lot of attention when I ordered.

Anyways, to recap: the guys at Farnel hooked me up with this wifi board. I planned to use it with my Tiny Gecko demo board. The Microchip board is heavily geared toward using it with PIC processors, but they release the source code to a tcp/ip stack. My plan was to port the Microchip stack to run on the Gecko, shimming in Gecko-native SPI and interrupt code in place of the PIC code.

While I was waiting for my headers, I figured I'd start working on the port, so that when the headers arrived, I'd be almost ready to connect it to my Gecko. I got about 1/3 of the way into it, and realized I was doing more work than it was worth. I decided to scrap the idea of porting the code. I'm just going to use a PIC chip, and treat it like a high level tcp/ip "black box". I'll use a UART, or maybe SPI port to send and receive socket data, and let the PIC do all the heavy lifting. Hopefully, this means I can mostly use the Microchip code "out of the box", and make a simple serial messaging protocol. This also means I can also make it portable so that it's not just for the Gecko.

I just ordered a few PIC chips and a PICKIT 3. I had always planned to get around to exploring the PIC line of chips, but now I have a good excuse.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Tiny Gecko + Microchip Wifi Project.

The good folks over at Farnel (Newark in North America) got me hooked up with a 802.11b "Wifi" board that uses a 3 wire, "SPI" interface to do Wifi.

You can find it here:

I've decided to combine it with my Tiny Gecko board, I'm not sure what I'll do with it yet, it may not even be a permanent marriage of devices. (Both of these devices fall into the category of "I acquired these cool shiny toys without an actual purpose in mind, but just that they looked cool"). My purpose is to just see how easy it is to get up and running with an embedded wifi setup, and get inspired for some other uses along the way.

In this first of several posts about this effort I will focus on my first impressions with the MRF24WB0MA wifi board.

Monday, November 14, 2011

"Sempliduino", My jaunt into Arduinoland.

I've always thought the Arduino was a really cool idea, it lowers the barrier to entry for people without an engineering and/or software background to get their nerd on. Code jockey that I am, I always thought the Ardiuno seemed a little to "beginner" for me. On the other hand, I'm always trying to think of ways to help get my kids interested coding and electronics (eg, see Scratch, more about that later).

Hardware wise, the Arduino at its core is not much more than an ATmega microcontroller, with some convenience hardware(USB serial, voltage regulator, reset button, etc), and a configuration of headers for Arduino add on boards called "shields".

As usual, I dont know exactly what I'm going to get my kids to do with them yet, but I decided that I would order some Mega 28s and some 16 mhz crystals and slap together my own 'duinos on the cheap. Since there are already Adruino minis, and nanos, picos,and femtos, I decided call mine "Sempliduino" which comes from "semplice" and  "Adrduino", the former being Italian for "simple". Yeah, I'm sure that makes no sense to an Italian speaker, but I Googled it and it wasn't taken, so it sticks.

Sempliduino 1.0

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

"Junk" mail

I order stuff from time to time from Jameco Electronics. That's put me on their mailing list for marketing email as well as their paper catalogs. I'm pretty "spam" averse, and regularly delete even emails I'd signed up to receive. When I'm getting close to a new hobby budget cycle, or I have a project I need parts for, I start holding on to the emails form companies I've bought from in the past. I actually read some of them, looking for specials or deals. Jameco actually seems to do a good job of making marketing emails entertaining to read(which, I suppose is the point of good marketing). 

Anywho, I spotted this in a Jameco email today:

Saturday, November 5, 2011

.Net Micro Framework - LCD driver.

I have a loooong running project I come back to from time to time to get the .Net Micro Framework running on one of these boards. They are an ARM 7 TDMI based boards with 16k internal ram, 265 k internal flash, as well as 1 meg of external ram and 4 megs of external flash. It basically exposes most of the processors free pins, and add handy things like voltage regulator, crystal, and an FTDI usb/uart for uploading firmware via the built in bootloader on the LPC22xx chips. It has a 20 pin JTAG connector too, which is what I usually use.

My LCD setup, the LPC2294 is the red pcb in the lower right,
the red pcb in the upper left is a Open Logic Analyser
from Dangerous Prototypes. The car sticker on my desk is a
"gift" from my son :)