It is the 4th week: Stores, school and universities are closed. Everyone should stay at home if possible. It is really a special situation, and there is no Easter traffic jam to the South.
For nature it means less pollution, there is much less traffic, and ideal to enjoy nature. But we should stay at home. I’m very happy that I live in a rural area and that I can enjoy this beautiful blooming tree behind the house.
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)
“Amazon FreeRTOS – IoT operating system for microcontrollers”: The announcement of FreeRTOS V10.0.0 was one of the biggest news last week for me. Not only is there now a Version 10, the bigger news is that FreeRTOS is now part of Amazon. Wow! Now this explains why Richard Barry (the founder behind FreeRTOS) was kind of hiding away for about a year: he joined Amazon as a principal engineer about a year ago. I think we all have to wait and see what it means for FreeRTOS.
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.
There are people around me who think I’m crazy. And they are probably right. Who else would buy a machine from someone he does not know. I have to pay upfront. It is not clear how things will get delivered, what gets delivered, or if it gets delivered at all. Up to the point I can lose the money I have spent. Best of all: that machine is dangerous enough to potentially kill me. And it has the potential to put my home on fire too. Well, that sounds like an exciting weekend project, or not?
60 kg Weekend Project Box arrived on the front door
For a next-gen course I’m evaluating different platforms, and one of it are modules based on the NXP i.MX ARM architectures. In this article I have a look a the Variscite DART-6UL development kit which includes the NXP i.MX6Ultralite ARM Cortex-A7 plus a 7″ capacitive touch LCD:
I believe in ‘life-long-learning’. With this I continue to learn and discover new things every day. I’m writing tutorials to give something back to the community from which I have learned so much.
On top of this, I receive emails on a nearly daily basis, asking for help. Many articles have the origin in such requests or questions. I prefer questions or comments in a public forum, because that way I feel all others can benefit from it. Last week Alessandro contacted me with this:
I hope this find you well! I’m starting to using ARM processors, but I find them quite complicated on the configuration side. I started in the past with PIC micro (PIC16) with asm, and I found them quite straightforward to be configured (clock, IO, peripherals, …). Then I moved myself on C language, and on PIC18 without any big issues.
Now I would really like join the ARM community, I see that these processors are what I’ve always looking for, on energy, calc power, peripherals, and FINALLY on IDE (editor, toolchain and utilities)… AMAZING!!!”
The topic is about how to start learning developing for ARM. Alessandro agreed to make this public, so I thought this might be a good topic for an article?
For me, the available software and tools are the primary key decision factor why I select a particular silicon vendor. Without good software and tools, a microcontroller only ‘sand in plastic case’, even if it is the best microcontroller in the world. I do have several probably excellent microcontroller boards, and they are only getting touched by more durst over the months and years.
Coming out of a project meeting Friday evening, the following wisdom came to my mind:
“The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair.” – Anonymous
The concept of Linux (Open Source, broad developer base and broad usage) is a success story. While there is a lot of diversity (and freedom) in the Linux world, Linux is Linux and again Linux :-). And the world has (mostly) standardized on Linux and its variants on the high embedded system side.
“The Linux Foundation Announces Project to Build Real-Time Operating System for Internet of Things Devices. Open source Zephyr™ Project aims to deliver an RTOS; opens call for developers to help advance project for the smallest footprint IoT devices.“
Ζεφυρος (Zephyros) is the Greek good of spring and the west wind. Obviously this inspired the logo for the Zephyr project:
It seems to me that not many developers use hardware trace? ARM indicates that maybe only <5% of developers are using trace. Too bad! Why are all the ARM Cortex microcontroller vendors putting a powerful hardware (and complicated!) trace engine into their devices, if only few developers are using it? Seems like a waste of silicon and an unnecessary price adder? Well, hardware trace can be a life saver: Because only with hardware trace the most complicated bugs and problems can be solved. And maybe because only the best are using it ;-).
As a standard procedure, I add some console functionality to my embedded applications. That way I have a command line interface and can inspect and influence the target system. One interesting hardware feature of ARM Cortex-M is Single Wire Output (SWO): it allows to send out data (e.g. strings) over up to 32 different stimulus ports, over a single wire.
Smartwatches are around for a while now. To me it is still questionable how useful the ‘big’ ones for iOS and Android are. But there are definitely the crowd funded smartwatch projects which caught my attention. Maybe it is about the ‘do-anything’ with connectivity? One of these gadgets is Hexiwear: a hackable open source device
While it *could* be a kind of smartwatch, the value of this thing is more that it includes a plethora of sensors with two microcontroller, and I can use Eclipse with GNU tools to build my firmware :-).
Alert: Hackster.io is giving away 100 Hexiwears, but you need to hurry up (submission until July 15th 2016)!