DIY Portable Video Conference, Sharing and Teaching Device

COVID-19 is by far not over, and in Switzerland the infection rate is going up again (2nd wave?). During the spring 2020 semester university lock-down we moved pretty much everything to a ‘distance learning’ setup. With that experience and with the request to prepare for the fall semester, I have constructed a DIY conference and teaching device which should make things simpler and easier: a combination of video camera, speaker phone and a muting device:

Desk with Communicator

Desk with Communicator C2020

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New Version

I’m making progress with the new ‘Billion Light‘ modules (aka V2): the new design is more modular and easier to build and assemble and still looks awesome with the moving lights and clock hands:

Different Enclosure and Arrangement

Different Enclosure and Arrangement

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Using eInk display with LPC55S69 and OKdo E1 board

I have continued to explore my two hobbies (embedded systems, and Talking About The Weather) during these weeks of lock-down. I have finally got to the point that my Weather Station project can sit on the window shelf of my office, and show me the temperature, humidity and atmospheric pressure on the attached eInk display.

weather station project: it is warm, cloudy and low pressure outside

In this blog I’m going to focus on driving that display.

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MCUXpresso SDK Tutorial – using I2C Driver on OKdo E1 board

In an earlier tutorial I introduced using I2C with the NXP LPC55S69 on OKdo E1 board to read a Bosch BME280 environmental sensor on a Mikroe Weather Click board. The MCUXpresso Clocks, Pins and Peripheral Config tools were used to get it running. It’s all for my Weather Station project that I’ve been working on during these months of lockdown. It is starting to take shape – as you can see from the photograph:

From the left: Mikroe Weather Click, OKdo E1, Mikroe eInk Click.

Now I really need to start reading and writing to the BME280 sensor, and that means using the I2C driver in the lpcxpresso55s69 SDK. And so this week I’ll provide a forensic examination of the most commonly-used I2C function call.

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MicroTick (UTICK) Timer Tutorial with OKdo E1 board

I want to share with you a little embedded trick that I use to improve the reliability of my code. And in addition to improving reliability, the technique can be used to schedule any event to occur ‘sometime in the future’. It uses the MicroTick (UTICK) timer found on the NXP LPC55S69 microcontroller, and could be applied to any device with a simple timer.

The MicroTick timer is an elegant, thing of beauty. But there is not a driver example built into the lpcxpresso55s69 SDK, and I believe that the timer is not widely used. That means we need a tutorial!

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How to get Data off an Embedded System: FatFS with USB MSD Host and FreeRTOS Direct Task Notification

This is a follow-up article of my earlier project presented in “FatFS, MinIni, Shell and FreeRTOS for the NXP K22FN512“. I wanted to extend it with a USB MSD (memory stick) device: The USB storage device gets automatically mounted, and depending on a configuration (.ini) file on the memory device I can perform various actions, for example automatically copy data from the SD card to the USB device. For example the system logs data, and to get the data I insert the memory stick, it copies the data on it and automatically unmounts it, and I can remove the memory stick.

FRDM-K22F USB Host Mode with Memory Sticks

FRDM-K22F USB Host Mode with Memory Sticks

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Disabling NMI (Non Maskable Interrupt) Pin

The NMI is a special interrupt on ARM Cortex-M architecture: as the name indicates, it cannot be ‘masked’ by the usual ‘disable interrupts’ flags (PRIMASK, BASEPRI), similar to the Reset signal.

cortex-m-vector-table

cortex-m-vector-table (Source: adapted from arm.com)

Dealing with the reset signal is kind of obvious, and most designs and boards have it routed to a reset button or similar. The NMI is less obvious if you don’t pay attention to it: most ARM-Cortex implementations and boards have the NMI signal routed to a pin and are ‘hiding’ it in the schematics behind a normal GPIO pin or port: if you don’t pay attention to the NMI functionality, the board might not work as intended.

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Behind the Canvas: Making of “60 Billion Lights”

As promised I’m going to share more details about the “60 Billion Lights” project. It is about a project to build a piece of electronics behind a 100×50 cm canvas to show animations or to display information like temperature, humidity, weather, time or just any arbitrary text.

Make it

Writing text

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MCUXpresso tutorial: I2C using the Pins/Clocks/Peripherals Config tools and lpcxpresso55s69 SDK

I selected the Bosch BME280 environmental sensor as the heart of my OKdo E1-based weather station. It is convenient to use, and I can prototype with the Mikroe Weather Click board MIKROE-1978. But the sensor is accessed over I2C, and that is my least favourite of the communication interfaces. In this short tutorial, I show you how the MCUXpresso Config tools (Pins, Clocks, Peripherals) are used to set up the I2C driver from the MCUXpresso lpcxpresso55S69 SDK. And very quickly, I am able to communicate with the BME280 sensor.

Reading BME280 “ID” register via I2C
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Tutorial: Adding FreeRTOS to where there is no FreeRTOS

FreeRTOS is pretty much everywhere because it is so simple and universal, and it runs from the smallest to the biggest systems. But it still might be that for the microcontroller device you have selected there is no example or SDK support for it from your vendor of choice. In that case: no problem: I show how you could easily add FreeRTOS plus many more goodies to it.

Binky on NXP LPC845-BRK Board

Binky on NXP LPC845-BRK Board

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“60 Billion Lights”: 2400 RGB LEDs and 120 Stepper Motors hiding behind Canvas Art

It is one thing to create something ‘cool’ or technically interesting. But it is a completely different story to convince your girlfriend, partner, wife, family (or whatever you can name it) to hang something on a wall in our house or office. Then it is not about technology: it is more about design and art. So here is my attempt to solve that challenge:

Displaying current temperature

Displaying temperature with a painted canvas, stepper motors and 2400 RGB LEDs

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FatFS, MinIni, Shell and FreeRTOS for the NXP K22FN512

I’m using the NXP Kinetis K22FN512 in many projects, either with the FRDM-K22F or on the tinyK22: with 120 MHz, 512 KByte FLASH and 128 KByte it has plenty of horsepower for many projects. The other positive thing is that it is supported by the NXP MCUXpresso IDE and SDK. I have now created an example which can be used as base for your own project, featuring FreeRTOS, FatFS, MinIni and a command line shell.

FRDM-K22F with SD Card

FRDM-K22F with SD Card

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First experience with OKdo E1 board

This week I’m sharing my experience “getting started” with the OKdo E1 board. This board, featuring the NXP LPC55S69 150 MHz, dual Cortex M33 core microcontroller was a joy to use. OKdo have provided an online Getting Started guide, and I’ve field-tested this for you. My video tutorial recorded as I follow the guide is less than 7 minutes long… it may take you a little longer if you need to download MCUXpresso IDE or the lpcxpresso55s69 Software Development Kit (SDK) but I am confident that you will quickly have the board up-and-running.

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Fast. Easy. Tiny. Introducing OKdo’s E1 board

I spend a lot of my time writing software to run on manufacturers’ evaluation (or development) boards. Here on Erich’s site, my blogs have been based on Cortex M33, using NXP’s LPC55S69-EVK and LPC55S16-EVK. Development boards are great – firstly you know that the suppliers’ software should run without issues, and secondly: many of the pin functions are brought out to headers, transceivers, codecs, switches and LEDs. So, whilst it is easy to get started, by definition the boards can be large physically, power hungry, and expensive.

What do you do if you need to embed a high performance microcontroller into your prototype or small production run and don’t have time (or the inclination) to spin out a PCB?

The answer is the OKdo E1 board, based on NXP’s LPC55S69 Cortex-M33 microcontroller.

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Retrofitting a Charmhigh CHM-T36VA Machine with OpenPnP

OpenPnP is a great open source framework for building a DIY SMT Pick&Place machine. But it does not stop there: It is possible to use OpenPnP with a commercial pick & place machine, for example the Charmhigh CHM-T36VA. This Chinese machine comes with its own controller software which works but is not that great. The good news is that it is possible to hack and retrofit the machine so it can run the much more powerful OpenPnP.

Retrofitted CHM-T36VA

Retrofitted CHM-T36VA

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LPC55S16-EVK: how fast does it go? How much current does it take?

I will always take the same approach when I receive a new embedded board: firstly I want to see how quickly I can get it up-and-running, then I want to see what it does “out-of-the-box” and finally I want to find out if the board is “useful”. Does it have some features that will inspire me for new projects??

The NXP LPC55S16-EVK has some great features – CAN-FD, dual USB and a high performance Cortex M33 microcontroller, running at 150 MHz. I have an idea to use the LPC55xx series as the basis for a Weather Station. But this is only feasible if the chip has a low power consumption and can run for weeks on a small battery.

Time to run some test code and get my digital multimeter out…

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NXP LPC55S16-EVK: unboxing and first impressions

Hi, this is Mark from embeddedpro in the United Kingdom and I’m back with more videos and blogs. In the next few weeks there are two new Cortex M33 development boards becoming available. I’ll blog about my first impressions of the boards, and what I’ve been doing with them. I want my blogs give you some tips, hints and ideas about things that you can do: let me know in the Comments below.

Board photograph: LPC55S16-EVK
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FreeRTOS Task Runtime Statistics for NXP i.MX RT1064

FreeRTOS has many cool features, and one is that it can report the CPU percentage spent in each task. The downside is that to get this kind of information some extra work is needed. In this article I show how to do this for the NXP i.MX1064.

FreeRTOS Runtime Information

FreeRTOS Runtime Information

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Copyright Law for Makers and Educators

Maker spaces and ‘FabLabs’ are popular and accessible in many areas. 3D printers are on the cheap, and powerful laser cutters are in the range of the fearless hobbyist. You can get dirty-cheap PCBs from China in less than a week (ok, probably not right now because of Corona virus) and it is easy to SMD solder parts these days with a DIY SMD PnP machine and OpenPnP. With the right equipment and skill set it is possible to build many cool projects. It is very rewarding and a great learning thing. Blog about it so other can learn too. And it even could get featured on Hackaday.

But: The risk is that someone might send you letter about a ‘Copyright Infringement’. Sadly, this is what happened to me for one of my recent projects. I don’t think that ‘take down’ letter was justified, but I learned a great deal what I should have done differently to avoid that situation. So in the end, it was a learning opportunity, which I believe is worth to share. In essence: what can a maker or educator do?

hackaday building a giant meta-clock made of smaller clocks

Hackaday: building a giant meta-clock made of smaller clocks (image: original image from Hackaday)

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