Friday, July 30, 2010

BatchPCB offers low cost for prototypes

BatchPCB is a service of SparkFun Electronics that provides low cost PCBs in small quantities for electronics enthusiasts.  There are some limitations and a slow turn-around with this service, but the idea is to make it cheap by batching your design with other orders. Here is a blog post about alternatives to BatchPCB if you find it too slow or need more than a few prototypes.  Here is a comparison of BatchPCB and a few other PCB Pooling services including MakePCB, and Eurocircuits. If you are new to PCB design, this article from IEEE Spectrum covers an engineer's first PCB design using BatchPCB.

You can sell your design at BatchPCB as well.  For example, you can buy a Breakout Board for the Maxim MAX3421E USB host controller designed by Oleg Mazurov of Circuits@Home.  You can find some open-hardware for sale as well, which seems like it could cause problems. One open-hardware company, AdaFruit Industries, requested one of its designs removed from the BatchPCB marketplace.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

New Sample Projects for Microsoft Sensors and Location Platform

Microsoft released sample code for three new projects using the Sensors and Location Platform included in Windows 7.  The projects are Graphing Accelerometer Data in Windows 7, Sensor Video-Capture Solution, and Build Your Own Game Controller.   Each project contains a white paper, and sample firmware, driver and application source.  The game controller project uses the XNA Racing Game Starter Kit and a Parallex BASIC Stamp 2-axis accelerometer board.  The Sensor & Location Platform Team Blog also has a post about the game controller project.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

TI Releases Free DSP Software Development Tool

TI is providing DSP developers C6EZFlo, a free graphical tool for use with C6000 DSPs.  You can find more information at the TI C6Flo Wiki, including and introduction, DSP block descriptions, and instructions to extend C6Flo by creating  your own blocks using C (and a little bit of Javascript).

TI $4.30 Microcontroller Development Kit Sold Out Fast

The Texas Instruments wiki for the MSP430 LaunchPad (MSP-EXP430G2) reports unprecedented demand for the LaunchPad development tool.  TI's servers were extra busy and stock was sold out within the first few days of availability.  For $4.30 plus shipping you get a development board with debug capability, a few MSP-430 devices to program and a mini-USB cable.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Monday, July 26, 2010

Open Circuits Wiki for Electronics Design

At you can find PCB footprints, electronic circuit building blocks, tutorials and general electronics design links.  This is an evolving resource and the members are looking for help from the community to improve the site.  The information on the site is not all related to open source.  For example, you can find PCB footprints for commercial EDA packages and a list of low-cost oscilloscopes.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Pocket Size Digital Storage Oscilloscope

DSO nano - Pocket size digital storage oscilloscope sold for only $89 at the Seeed Depot.  It uses an ARM Cortex-M3 processor, has a 2.8" color TFT LCD with data acquisition of 1Msps,  12bits, and 4096 point storage.
The brief manual includes a schematic and you can download the firmware from  the open source dsnano project hosted at google code

Optional stand available for only $50!

Open Source Hardware Gets Formal Definition

Open Source Hardware Draft Definition version 0.3 is up for review. You never know how these things can be used in the future so it might be good to review if you have an open hardware project in the works.

I would prefer there wasn't such strict requirements for documentation, technology neutrality, or source code. Generic hardware that could be used for many purposes don't seem to fit the definition for open hardware.  For example, processor modules have a specific interface and are pretty self-explanatory from the schematic and data-sheets.  Also, an open source hardware developer may not have the engineering staff to develop the formal documentation and source code required by the current definition. I think the software development and documentation could be left to separate open-source groups. Open-source projects like have reverse engineered commercial products to run useful software without access to any documentation or even schematics.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Evaluation Board Useful for Developing and Testing USB Products

The Analog Devices iCoupler ADuM4160 USB Isolator Evaluation Board can be used as a breakout cable to test USB signals as well as its intended use to evaluate the ADUM4160 Full/Low Speed USB Digital Isolator. The board is available from Digi-Key, and other ADI distributors.

I have created my own cable for connecting a logic analyzer to USB signals in the past, but an isolation board like this would have been much easier to use and provided some protection to your prototype and development PC.  For example, I could have damaged my sole development prototype when I tested it with a cheap keyboard I purchased at Best Buy.  When things were not working, I assumed it was my hardware, but it turned out the keyboard's USB cable was not wired correctly.

I have a Zeroplus logic analyzer with USB decode that I would like to use with this type of adaptor board.  Zeroplus sells a USB bridge without isolation, but I haven't found a distributor yet.

UPDATE: FriedCircuits has a few USB tester boards that are low cost like the $12 USB Tester 2.0 shown below.