Friday, December 30, 2011

Android ADK Development Boards

Developers using Google's Android Open Accessory Development Kit (ADK) now have more choices of hardware.  Initially the ADK supported the Arduino Mega2560 ($65 assembed from Adafruit) with Oleg Mazurov's USB Host Shield ($25).

Here is the current list from the Android Developers ADK page.

Arduino Mega ADK - available from the Arduino Store and Radio Shack $84.99

DIY Drones PhoneDrone Board for Android $99

mbed has a few solutions...

Microchip - Two boards are available, the PIC32 DM320412 (not yet for sale actually), and the PIC24 DM240415 $79.

Modern Device's Freeduino USB Host Board $79

RT Corp - RT-ADK&RT-ADS $389.03 (31,500 Yen)

Seeed Studio Seeeduino ADK Main Board $79

Sparkfun IOIO for Android (beta support) $49

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Parallax Stamp and Boe-Bot Kits on Sale

If you are interested in  the BASIC Stamp by Parallax, the acitvity kit shown below is on sale for $49 US at the online store (normally $79).
They also have a Boe-Bot kit on sale for $179 with Li-Ion Robot Power Pack and Charger (currently low stock on this item).

Another option for Parallax kits is your local Radio Shack.  On a recent visit, the store closest to me had a few smaller Parallax BASIC Stamp kits, as well as an Arduino and some Velleman kits.

Monday, December 26, 2011

SparkFun Free Day 2012

In a few weeks SparkFun Electronics will be having free day where random visitors to the website will receive a $100 gift certificate.  The fun starts on January 11th, starting at 9AM Mountain Time.
Sparkfun is a great resource for your electronics needs.  In addition to parts and kits, you can find a tutorials like this one on selecting an accelerometer breakout board, and some interesting competitions like the autonomous vehicle competition.  I found a connection with a local school, teacher Steven Kennedy from Orchard Park High School is profiled in this SparkFun ad.  If you click the previous link you can see the full resolution and you can see from the poster he even has his own youtube channel for student projects.

Friday, December 23, 2011

TI Fixed Point DSP Kit Sale

Texas Instruments is offering a 16-bit fixed-point DSP development kit for $55 until the end of the year, the C5535 eZdsp USB Stick Development Kit, normally priced at $99.  The processor is advertised as the industry's lowest-cost and lowest power DSP in its class.  Included in the kit is a free software framework for USB audio class and HID.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Robotshop Taking Over The World's Robots

Robotshop is already the leading source for robots, now they want to control all of them with the portal. The service is currently in beta, but free, so you might want to register now to try it out. The site lets you monitor and control your internet enabled robot with an open API.  If your robot doesn't have an internet connection, the MyRobots Connect kit will let you access the serial port of with an XBee wireless transceiver.

Another part of that is under development is the Robot App Store, where you can sell your robot enabled apps that can run on the robot or in the cloud.

Of course, if you don't yet have a robot, you can buy one already compatible with the site from Robotshop.  Shown below is the Arduino compatible DFRobotShop Rover.  They have a lot more than robots, including development boards, soldering equipment, 3D printers and test instruments.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Electronic Guitar Pickguard

Eli Hughes, a research engineer and consultant, entered the Freescale Make It Challenge for Kinetis MCUs with an active guitar pickgaurd that really works as you can see from the video.

For the technical details on this design see this deep dive video by Eli.  It is pretty interesting how complex this design was for the contest.  He does a great job making the physics and math behind it understandable.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Freescale Single-Chip ARM With DSP and LCD Controller

The new K70 MCU from Freescale for graphics LCD applications features an ARM Cortex-M4 with DSP and floating point extensions.  A stand-alone development board is available and is compatible with the Frescale Tower System, the TWR-K70F120M for $109 US.  If you want to use it in a tower, the TWR-K70F120M-KIT also includes the elevator modules and serial module for $179.

Monday, December 19, 2011

EEWeb Featured Engineer

Today I'm the featured engineer on  You can read a short interview about my interests in electronics and my electrical engineering career (and see a geeky picture of me).

EEWeb is a electrical engineering community site with sections focusing on analog design, RF design, power management, embedded design, test and measure, components and PCB design.  There is also a forum, jobs and even an original electrical engineering comic.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Blackfin EZ-KIT Lite Sale

Avnet is advertising the Blackfin BF506F EZ-KIT Lite for over half off the normal price at $99US.  There is currently a problem with the website that prevented me from ordering but hopefully that will be fixed soon.

Please note this offer is valid in North America only. Offer valid until January 31, 2012, or while supplies last.

On the Analog Devices website, you can find a complete list of features for the BF506F EZ-KIT LiteYou can read more about the BF506F in the latest issues of Tech Review from Avnet.  Look for the article "Blackfin BF506F: Bringing Higher Levels of Performance to Industrial Applications" in the November/December 2011 issue. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How to compile the STMicro UM0424 USB Stack with IAR 6.3

Steps to compile the STMicro UM0424 USB Stack with the newer IAR compiler versions.  Example for IAR 6.3 and  STM3210B-EVAL and Custom_HID project.

For background on this problem see the technical notes from IAR and ST:

IAR Technical Note 75890: CMSIS build problems with IAR Embedded Workbench for ARM 6.20

ST Technical Note TN0830: How to use EWARM 6.2x with projects built with EWARM 6.1 and previous versions

The technical notes explain the problem and the general solution, but here is a specific example that might help, especially if you are using the USB stack.

1. Unzip and open the workspace in the following path:

2. Select the target board (STM3210B-EVAL) in the workspace dropdown.

3. Bring up the project options with ALT-F7 or from the menu under Project - Options.
4. Under General Options, select the tab Library Configuration, under CMSIS, check USE CMSIS.

5. Select Catagory C/C++ Compiler, under tab Preprocessor, go to Additional include directories.  Remove the two CMSIS dirs.

The following directories are left:


Click OK to save the changes to project options.

6.  Copy three files from the unused CMSIS directory to your project directories.
A.  Copy the following two files
from this directory:
to this one:

B.  Copy the following file
from this directory:
to this one:

7. Add system_stm32f10x.c in src to the User folder in the workspace.

8. Remove the CMSIS directory from your project.

9. Rebuid All

TI Stellaris Kits On Sale

Texas Instruments has joined in on the end-of-the year sale blitz with three popular Stellaris kits.  Follow the preceding link or see the image below for coupon codes to use at the TI eStore.

*Codes valid through December 31, 2011 or while supplies last at TI's eStore
*One of each tool per customer

CadSoft Eagle 6 Release

Cadsoft has released Eagle 6 and their sluggish site may indicate it's increasing popularity.  Eagle has been popular for it's low cost and free versions, especially with DIY electronics enthusiasts and students.  You can even get a skill badge with the Eagle Logo from Adafruit.

Eagle's low cost and popularity with DIYers may be helping it gain support in industry.  For example, Texas Instruments provides a library of symbols and footprints for the MSP430 for use with Eagle.  TI also provides schematics and layout for its $4.30US MSP430 LaunchPad development board in Eagle format.

LaunchPad Schematic and PCB Trace (Created using Eagle) | Download Now

Shown above is the LaunchPad with a transciever daughterboard from the $19 RF BoosterPack and a blurb from TI about eagle support.  If you are interested in MSP430 development on other boards than the LaunchPad, is featuring a USB Debugger/board bundle.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Microchip Development Tool Sale

Microchip is having its annual end of year sale on select development tools.  You can save on boards from Microchip and third party tools sold at microchipDIRECT until January 5, 2012.  Included in the sale are the ICD3 in circuit debugger  for $152 US and the new accessory development starter kit for android for $65.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Google honors early electronics engineer Robert Noyce with today's doodle. Noyce was part of a group of researchers who left Shockley Semiconductor in 1957 to form Fairchild Semiconductor.  Known as the traitorous eight, these men are considered the real fathers of Silicon Valley.

Noyce, born in Iowa in 1927, received a PhD from MIT in 1953 in Physics, and after working at Schockley and starting Fairchild, went on to found Intel Corporation with Gordon Moore.  Here is a brief bio of Noyce from, and another interesting one at
Robert Noyce

Friday, December 9, 2011

Breadboard Oscilloscopes

Gabotronics, a developer of tools for electronics hobbyists, has released a new larger size oscilloscope display that can be mounted on a solderless breadboard.

The XMEGA Minilab is not just a mixed signal oscilloscope - it also has a meter mode, spectrum analyzer and arbitrary waveform generator with frequency sweep.  It has a micro USB connection but the interface is still under development.   The logic analyzer has 8 digital inputs and can decode UART, I2C and SPI.  The scope has 2 analog inputs with 200kHz bandwidth and 2MS/s maximum sample rate.  You can buy it direct for $69 US.  Gabotronics also sells the smaller XMEGA Protolab with similar features for $49.

UPDATE: Gabotronics has developed a few portable oscilloscopes and is developing an oscilloscope watch.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Variscite Adds High Performance ARM Module

Variscite offers system-on-modules, single board computers and evaluation kits with TI ARM processors.  They have recently released the VAR-SOM-4460 for high performance multimedia, advanced graphics and video applications.  It features the TI OMAP4460 with two ARM Cortex-A9 cores running at 1.5GHz.
If you don't need all that power and are looking for a low cost module, Variscite also offers the VAR-SOM-AM35  starting at $49 with a TI 600MHz Cortex A8.  It features a CAN bus controller and targets industrial and automotive applications.  It supports Android, Linux, Windows Embedded CE and Windows Embedded Compact 7.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Final Week of STMicroelectronics Primer Contest

The STMicroelectronics STM32 OpenWorld Application Design Contest is in the final week for submissions. Even if you weren't awarded free tools in Phase 1 of the contest you can enter your EvoPrimer design by December 14, 2011.  Judges will award prizes to 11 entrants of up to $5,000 US.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Google Search Adds Graphing Calculator

Google will now show a graph of a function entered in the search box.  Here is an example for the sinc function.
The official google search blog gives more details on the new graphing feature.

If you want more than a quick graph, I recommend Wolfram Alpha.  Here is the output for the same function.

Here is my original post on Wolfram Alpha.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Microstick 2 Low Cost PIC Development Board

The Microchip Microstick 2 (a.k.a. Microstick II) is a development board with on board USB debug compatible with MPLAB with a socket that supports 16 and 32-bit PIC MCUs and 16-bit DSCs.  It is shaped and advertised to be about the size of a stick of gum, like the more powerful gumstix open source hardware.  The Microstick 2 sells for $34.95 US and includes a USB cable, headers for connecting to proto boards and 4 different processors that can be used for development: PIC24FJ64GB002, PIC24HJ64GP502, dsPIC33FJ64MC802, and PIC32MX220F032.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Thursday, December 1, 2011

New BeagleBone Now in Stock

The new BeagleBone TI Am335x ARM  Cortex A8  development board is now in stock at  Special Computing for $79.95, here is a list of  the current BeagleBone distributors to check 

Adafruit Industries will soon have them too and is selling a custom proto board for $9.95 that fits right on top of the BeagleBone called the proto cape.  For those unfamiliar, a cape is like a daughter board for the main board like a shield for an Arduino.  (My wife wants to know why there are daughterboards and motherboards, but not father or son boards, please leave a comment if you know the answer).

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Radio Shack Arduino Competition

Radio Shack now supplies arduinos and select sheilds.  The electronics store is promoting a new DIY product selection and it's new website, with The Great Create Arduino Challenge.  The deadline to submit an entry is 12/12/20011.  They are looking for your Arduino project photos and videos.  Prizes include $500 radio shack gift cards.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Xilinx Embedded Kit Discounted

Xilinx has discounted a few development kits including the Spartan-6 FPGA Embedded Kit available for $695.  It features the MicroBlaze core and Eclipse IDE for software development.  The included SP605 Evaluation board is a high-end platform with 10/100/1000 Ethernet, SFP transceiver connector, GTP port, PCI express x1 edge connector, DVI/VGA out, 128MB DDR3 and multiple I/O connectors.

Friday, September 23, 2011

TI Low Cost eZdsp Dev Kit Special Offer

The TI C5535 eZdsp dev kit is now available for just $55 through Oct. 24 Dec. 31, 2011 (extended).  Normally priced at $99, the kit demonstrates the low cost TMS320C553x ultra-low-power fixed-point DSP family which start at about $2 in production volumes.  The kit features the TMS320C5535 DSP, an on-board emulator for debugging, USB 2.0 with free software framework for HID and audio class, Code Composer Studio IDE and eXpressDSP development software, the DSP/BIOS kernel, audio I/O connectors, headphone with mic, micro SD slot, a small 96x16 OLED display,  pushbuttons and a 60 pin expansion connector.

The development board is supported by Spectrum Digital Incorporated. You can find all the documentation at the eZdsp5535 Support website. There you will find manuals, errata, schematics in pdf and orcad, gerbers, and layout info.  You can also download software and information for booting over SPI (the board will also boot over SD card).  An audio expansion board is listed, but only schematics and hardware information is provided at the time of writing.

According to the press release from TI, the included code composer studio is a full-featured version  normally priced at $495.  I expect the software tools will be limited to this processor family, but that would still be a good value.

Monday, July 25, 2011


Today my main website is featured on EEWeb as the enginering site of the day.  Aaron Clarke - List of DSP Resources | EEWeb

EEWeb is a electrical engineering community site with sections focusing on analog design, RF design, power management, embedded design, test and measure, components and PCB design.  There is also a forum, jobs and even an original electrical engineering comic.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Freescale Kinetis Challenge Seeks Innovative Embedded Applications for ARM Cortex-M4 Cores

The Freescale Make It Challenge: Kinetis MCUs is accepting registration until August 1, 2011 for embedded applications.  The winner will receive up to $11,000 cash in total prizes.  There will also be cash prizes for semifinalists and second and third place winners.  An online training session, a quiz and a design paper are required to enter.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Lattice MachX02 PLD Development Kit Limited Time Offer

For a limited time you can purchase a MachXO2 Pico Development Kit for $29.  Last year they had a similar offer for the Lattice XP2 FPGA Brevia development kit which is now selling for $49.  It supports designs with common interfaces like UART, SPI, I2C,  and LCD control with reference source code.  This link gives a complete list of XO2 reference IP.  The kit also includes design software and a USB interface for JTAG debugging.

Monday, March 14, 2011

NXP Promoting I2C Bus Chips With Giveaway

NXP Semiconductor is asking for video entries in a promotion for it's I2C chips.  Tell them what you would like to do with the NXP I2C demonstration board and you could win one.  There are no videos available yet, but this page will have a gallery of the best entries.  This isn't a general purpose development board, and the retail value is only about $40, but might be worth looking at if you plan on using I2C.  Also, be aware that the PC software to interface with the board is a little old, and support is only listed for windows OSes up to XP.

If you don't want to upload a video, you might still be interested in a free I2C sample kit.  They have kits available for industrial, portable, or computing applications.  For portable applications they list gaming and are promoting Fast-mode Plus (Fm+) I2C-bus technology which is compatible with NXP cortex-M0 ARM processors.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Intel Atom Development Kit Givaway

Intel is giving away limited quantities of its new Atom processor embedded development board valued at over $650. You must apply to the Intel® Embedded Seed Board Program and sign an NDA if your design is accepted.

The Kit contains and Atom E640 SOC at 1GHz on a Nano-ITX board with 1GB DDR2, GigE, SATA, USB and PCI Express. You also get the Wind River Embedded Development Kit.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Git for Windows and Emacs Part 2

I like to have the text and bin utils available when editing in GNU Emacs on windows.  That will allow me to use ediff, directory compare, and grep without any problems.  I used to install GnuWin32 for this purpose, but I found that the windows version of Gitmysysgit, will provide all the necessary commands.  If I am doing Git commits or other work I still do that outside of emacs in the git shell (see Part 1).

On windows, to use mysysgit with emacs, I start up emacs with a shortcut that runs a bat file.  Here are the contents of one I named 'gitemacs.bat' that sets the path and starts emacs:

C:\WINDOWS\system32\cmd.exe /c ""C:\Program Files\Git\bin\sh.exe" --login -i -t -c runemacs.exe"

KNOWN ISSUE: When I try to run make with a cross compiler from within Emacs with compile-command, I get this an error:
/usr/bin/sh: -c: line 1: syntax error: unexpected end of file

TODO: Improve git command usage from within Emacs possibly by using git.el and git-mswin.el

Friday, February 11, 2011

Google Honors Edison With Doodle and Datacenters

If you visit Google today you will see a doodle commemorating Thomas Edison's 164th Birthday.  I found this short bio of Edison and his invention factory  from a little more readable than Edison's Wikipedia entry.

It is interesting that the DC power distribution that Edison advocated is now making inroads in data centers to save energy.  This IEEE Spectrum article, 'Direct Current Networks Gain Ground,' has the alternate title 'Edison Vindicated' in the print version of the magazine.  Google utilizes DC power in its 'Manhatten Project' data center design revealing this big energy saving secret in 2009.  It will be very interesting to see what affect a DC power network will have on embedded system designs  It has the potential to make consumer electronic devices cheaper and easier to use, eliminating the need for manufacturers to provide, and for consumers to carry around, a wall wart or black brick power supply.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Easily Add a Graphical Meter to Your Embedded Sensor Project

Lascar Electronics recently was awarded an Electronic Products 2010 product of the year award for its PanelPilot platform.  PanelPilot is a graphical software development tool to create custom meters.  Lascar also sells a line of compatible LCD displays.  Currently, two models are available, a 2.4" and a 2.8", either can be purchased online for under $100.

The displays can monitor real-time data using interfaces on the back.  One allows direct monitoring of voltage using four screw terminal jacks.  A USB interface to a PC allows programming your custom graphical meter you created with PanelPilot.  I2C and SPI interfaces are available for controlling the meter from an embedded system, although this feature isn't yet supported by the development software.  Even without a serial interface, you could use an analog output from a development board like the Arduino or BeagleBoard.  This would give you an attractive real-time indicator without writing a lot of software or building your own display hardware.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Emacs for Windows

For software development, my preferred text editor is Emacs.  On windows, I use a port of Emacs that you can find here in the GNU Emacs for Windows FAQ.

Here are the steps for a basic set up of Emacs on Windows with syntax highlighting.

1. Install emacs, you can download the windows binary here.  There is a README with more information on the different version you can download. For detailed installation instructions you can read this chapter of the FAQ. I just unzip the to a local folder and set up a windows shortcut to runemacs.exe that will start the program in my work directory.  I also make an environment variable named HOME and set it to the path where I will keep my .emacs file. 

2. Download color-theme and put the unzipped files in your site-lisp directory.  Follow the examples on this emacs wiki page to set your default color theme for syntax highlighting.  I like the 'billw' theme.  After you get this working, you can byte compile the color-theme.el file if it seems a little slow loading.

Now that you have Emacs installed, you will probably want to configure some Unix utilities for Windows as well.  Here is how I set up Git for windows with an Emacs-like editor for commit messages

Git for Windows and Emacs

If you are developing source code on Windows with Emacs and you want to use Git to track your changes, I have found a nice setup using Git for Windows  (formerly named msysgit) with NanoEmacs.  If you don't have Emacs installed, here is another post with the basic steps to get you started.

Here are the steps to set up Git to run in a bash shell with an Emacs compatible editor for commit messages.

1. Download and install Git for Windows.  It will prompt you about line endings.  I do not use the automatic line feed conversion, there are reports of problems and I can control it fine within Emacs (here is a link to some Emacs line ending commands).  If you aren't sure about this choice, you can change it after installation at the git command line using 'git config.'

2. After installation, enter some essential configuration settings in the Git command shell.
$ git config --global auto.crlf false
Update: on newer versions this setting has changed
$ git config --global core.autocrlf false

Change a few other defaults that you might need
$ git config --global "Your Name"
$ git config --global

3.  I wanted a small emacs compatible editor for commit messages.  I found Jasspa's NanoEmacs console version.  Download the latest, at the time of writing it's You will also need this ne.emf file.  The Download page has a few more versions, extras, and manuals.

4. Copy NanoEmacs executlable, ne32.exe, to a directory in your path.   I have a bin directory under my home directory for small utility programs.

5. Configure NanoEmacs as the default editor for Git.  Substitute the an executable path for /c/ac/bin
$ git config --global core.editor /c/ac/bin/ne32.exe

Updated on Nov 22, 2016 with new crlf setting and new link to Git for Windows.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Cypress Extends Deadline for ARM Contest

The ARM Cortex-M3 PSoC 5 Design Challenge will accept new entries until January 24, 2011.  Cypress will give away 100 development kits and a number of cash prizes over the three rounds of the contest.  The grand prize is $2500 with additional category and community prizes available.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Breakout Boards for Electronics Debug and Prototypes

If you need to wire up a prototype, create a custom debug cable, or connect a logic analyzer to communications link, breakout boards are a real time saver. I have used SchmartBoards' JTAG board in the past, another supplier I came across is Winford Engineering.  They have breakout boards for USB, modular jacks, 0.1" headers and DB connectors.

Using boards like these, you can quickly build almost any prototype for development or debug purposes. For the processor and memory, you can use a development board from the processor manufacturer.  There are hundreds of development boards available for various processors.  For some examples, here is a list of low cost demo boards from Microchip, here are boards from Cypress, a list of Blackfin boards from Analog Devices and development kits and boards from Texas Instruments. I used a PICkit 2 28-Pin demo board with an RF module for a recent project.

If you can't find a development board configured correctly, SchmartBoards will support hand soldering many common chip formats, including SMT devices, and even BGAs.  If you aren't confident you can hand solder a component yourself, SchmartBoards will solder your IC for you for a $3.00 charge.