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?
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.
Space is a hostile environment. Sending hardware to space means putting it under irradiation tests: exposing the object to radiation and see what happens :-). For this, under the lead of the ETHZ (Mathematical and Physical Geodesy), we had the opportunity to put the CubETH payload board under a proton beam. The test facility is at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) in Villigen, Switzerland:
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.
On the other side, the ‘middle and lower end’ Embedded world is fragmented and in many aspects proprietary. So it was no surprise to me when the Linux Foundation announced the ‘Zephyr’ project back in February 2016:
“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:
“Testing leads to failure, and failure leads to understanding” – Burt Rutan
About a year ago, on December 7th 2015, Freescale and NXP have announced the completion of their merger. Now it is Qualcomm which wants to acquire NXP? It looks like these mergers are happening faster and faster. The reality is that merging products take more time than anticipated, and nearly one year later I can see the outcome of what comes out of the marriage between Freescale and NXP or between Kinetis and LPC: NXP has announced the MCUXpresso software and tools for Kinetis and LPC microcontroller:
The good thing with failure is: it is an opportunity to learn :-).
So here is a case: For a STEM roadshow (see “MINTomat: World’s Most Complicated Bubble Gum Automata?“), we have produced in a rush an autonomous robot with a shiny printed 3D cover:
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)!
I’m using Processor Expert components for nearly every Freescale (now NXP) projects: for S08, S12, ColdFire, DSC and especially all the different NXP Kinetis devices. Not only because it makes software development fast and easy and allows re-use of software, but as well because Processor Expert has a good way to pack and distribute software components. Unfortunately Processor Expert is not any more included for the new Kinetis devices (see “First NXP Kinetis SDK Release: SDK V2.0 with Online On-Demand Package Builder“). So I have looked into an alternative and hopefully vendor neutral way to build and distribute software packages using CMSIS-Pack.
I’m not much monitoring what is happening on Kickstarter or Indiegogo, only for time reasons, but maybe I should? For a while I’m looking for the next level for the tinyK20 project: better and more powerful microcontroller with touch display/graphic LCD. And when I see a Freescale/NXP Kinetis microcontroller on a crowd funding platform like this one, I hardly can resist 😉 :
My Raspberry Pi Zero arrived last week (see “A Raspberry Pi for $5! What are your decision factors?“), and finally I have found an hour to try it out. Because the ‘bare board’ $5 version was sold out at that time, I ordered a package with 8GB SD card, micro USB cable and mini HDMI adapter. That way I had all the needed cables, including the mini HDMI adapter cable:
It it is obvious that a new trend from the US is swapping over to Europe and probably the rest of the world: Black Friday. That is the day yesterday following Thanksgiving day in the United States. It is a ‘shopping’ day. Consequently, the stores are battling with huge discounts. And I use that to fill up my inventory for the Christmas-time projects 🙂 What caught my attention yesterday Friday was this: a Raspberry Pi Zero for US$5!!!!
To build an application for a modern microcontroller today is not a simple thing. Well, it depends what ‘simple’ means. But compared to the ‘old days of 8bit micro controllers’ (which are still in use!) developing for a complex 32bit device is definitely a different thing. Not only the complexity has changed, but as well the breath of tools and helpers. In my view, the only constant is ‘change’, and I have changed the way how to develop several times in my career. In this post I present several different techniques I’m using in my development.