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 (image: original image from Hackaday)
A few days ago NXP has released a new version of their Eclipse IDE flagship: the MCUXpresso IDE v11.0.
NXP MCUXpresso IDE V11.0.0
The previous v10.3.1 was released back in Feb 2019, and the 11.0 now in June this year matches up with the Fall university semester. I appreciate that the releases are about every 6 months, so this gives me time to use it in my university lecture material and lab work. I had the weekend for trying it out, and I’m very pleased.
New ‘things’ start to pop up, useful or not: From smart bulbs (Philips Hue), thermostats (Nest), smart TV (Samsung and others) up to voice assistants (Alexa, Cortana, Google). You might even have installed one of these, right? What about temperature and humidity sensors? Probably there is nothing wrong with that?
But what would you think if one morning you find a strange unknown device installed under your working desk, connected to the cloud and internet?
My mantra is *not* to use any floating point data types in embedded applications, or at least to avoid them whenever possible: for most applications they are not necessary and can be replaced by fixed point operations. Not only floating point operations have numerical problems, they can lead to performance problems as in the following (simplified) example:
Most of the time software needs some way to configure things: depending on the settings, the software will do different things. For example the software running on the microcontroller on top of the Raspberry might have the OLED LCD available or not:
Raspberry Pi and tinyK22 (NXP Kinetis K22FN512) with OLED LCD
What is the life span of a cheap Chinese CO2 laser tube? I mean: how long can I use one these (aka K40) laser engraver/cutter tubes as used in that 50W machine I have? I have used my machine for over a year for now, and I don’t have hour meter, but I estimate it have used it for about 500 hours. I don’t have a data sheet of the tube used inside my machine. Discussions on the internet estimate the live span from DOA (Dead On Arrival) to ‘a few months with moderate usage’ up to 3000-5000h’. Well, whatever it would be: my laser cutter stopped working two weeks ago. Here is how I got it back operating again….
“There is no ‘S’ for Security in IoT” has indeed some truth. With all the connected devices around us, security of code should be a concern for every developer. “Preventing Reverse Engineering: Enabling Flash Security” shows how to prevent external read-out of critical code from device. What some microcontroller have built in is yet another feature: ‘Execute-Only-Sections‘ or ‘Execute-Only-Memory‘. What it means is that only instruction fetches are allowed in this area. No read access at all. Similar like ‘read-only’ ‘execute-only’ it means that code can be executed there, but no other access from that memory is allowed.
In this article I describe the challenges for a toolchain like the GNU gcc, and how to compile and link code for such an execute-only memory.
We in Switzerland are proud about the fact that our country has four official languages: Italian, French, German and Romansh. Most of Swiss people speak at least two of them, plus the inofficial fifth language (English).
Eclipse is even better than that and speaks 46 different languages. If you are not happy with the default language, try out Babel! And yes, Eclipse has a language pack for Klingon too:
Doing Mini Sumo robot competition is really fun, and there is yet another one coming to end the current university semester. For several years we have used our own sumo robot, and this is the one used in the course this year too. But for future and extended events we are exploring a new robot. I proudly present the concept of the next generation sumo robot for the year 2018:
Back in March 2017, NXP had rolled the MCUXpresso IDE starting with Version 10.0.0. With the intent to unify the SDK, LPCXpresso, CodeWarrior, Kinetis Design Studio and Processor Expert into one unified and integrated set of tools. V10.0.0 was a good start. The MCUXpresso IDE V10.0.2 in July was more of a smaller update, and the Pin and Clock configuration tools were not integrated, no added tool for peripheral configuration.
A week ago the MCUXpresso V10.1.0 has been released which shows where the journey is going: an free-of-charge and code size unlimited Eclipse based integrated set of tools to configure, build and debug Cortex-M (Kinetis, LPC and i.MX RT) microcontroller/processor based applications.
Clock Tool inside MCUXpresso IDE
I have used it for a week, and although many things are still new, I thought I’m able to give an overview about what is new.
I’m using many microcontroller in my projects. And a lot more are available out there in the ecosystem. Like many others, I tend to select what I am familiar with. But is this the correct approach to select the hardware and tools for a next project?
The question has been: If I buy such a 50 Watt cheap laser cutter from China, how many Watts does it really have? I have read all these stories that usually what is advertised is only the theoretical maximum I could get, and will not be realistic at all. This article is about how I tuned the machine and how much I got out of it.
I love the Arduino ecosystem, and it is great for getting something up and running quickly for a ‘proof of concept’. But it stops at that point.
I think it should be obvious why Arduino (code and libraries) should not be used for professional work. Especially the lack of proper debugging support makes it nearly impossible to solve the problems of the real world.’printf()’ style of debugging is simple, but it is a huge waste of time. I have seen too many student projects failing because the inability to properly debug the system and solve the problems.
Even equally important for professional work is the topic of IP and licensing. Be aware of the licensing terms and conditions as pointed out by above article. If not, your product easily get GPL’d which might not want you want.