Tools, parts and bedding in.

To help progress some projects and also to explore CPLD and FPGAs some CPLD breakout boards, a Bus Blaster and Open Logic Sniffer have been purchased from DangerousProtoypes (via SeeedStudio). To get started on the project ‘list’ some ATtiny85s, ATtiny2313As (pico power), ATMEGA328s and a Boarduino kit with have been purchased via the good folks at Xinchejian.

Unfortunately the Part Tester board, an ATXMEGA32A4U and some AtTiny’s  sent via two generous contributors in the DangerousProtoypes forums have taken the long way and not arrived after many months.

As often happens it is taking ‘a while’ to get all the new toys bedded in! Here are just some of the things that consumed lots of time:

  • Reinstalling a 2003 vintage Windows XP computer that did not like all the new USB devices and fatally blue screened.
  • On the main Linux development laptop, it has taken weeks learn how to get past the coms port not being installed for the Logic Analyser (a simple modeprobe did the trick!).
  • Some very puzzling issues trying to load firmware into the new Atmega 328s, where the new chips can be programmed via ISP in an Arduino but not on a bread board ISP circuit, yet older 328 chips already on hand do work in the same breadboard circuit!
  • Along the way, a misread resistor value on the reset line and incorrect jumper cabling on the coms port slowed things down as well!

Lots of times recently I pulled out my BusPirate to do things and I keep thinking just how good it is! Not only is it an excellent protocol analyser, but it has so many EXTRA uses, including ISP programmer, general purpose break out, logic analyser, serial pass through/FTDI, LCD driver, and even as a PC controlled power supply (on/off and select 3.3 or 5V – but hey when you are working away from your own desk – that is fantastic to have!)

The Open Logic Sniffer is now already proving it’s value by helping with debugging the Boarduino kit build and code on my current “pet” project.

MC HCK – Five dollar microcontroller!

The MC HCK five dollar micro controller project is now getting more publicly active, with a forum thread started and some mailing list traffic.

Why am I so keen on this board? Well it is small,  cheap, can be used on breadboard, is more powerful than many common systems, has a good number of I/O pins and a reasonable computer build chain.

Now before the comments are flooded with “so what – plenty like that around” – take note of the target price of $5, yes FIVE DOLLARS.  As the forum post says:

“you all know the drill — $20 makes you stingy (“frugal”)…… Low price fosters creativity”

When this hits the streets it will be affordable to have several projects on the go at once and even keep in use permanently! You can more risk instead of being overprotective of your precious chips.

All that is fantastic, but the implications actually go a LOT further. There are huge numbers of people who have little or no access to this type of technology, but the MC HCK could change that!

Imagine 10s or 100s of thousands of these devices, maybe used with the slowly spreading OLPC (Australia just announced OLPC funding).

This site exists to inspire the individuals in the varied communities and help remove restrictions to accessing this technology as described in the UsableDevices About page:

“unrestricted access is to increase access to these devices/projects for those in developing countries or other socially and financially restricted groups by promoting really cheap and accessible, but useful projects. ie people can source parts easily worldwide, or scavenge local parts or substitutes, as well as access to the tools and techniques to build the projects”

So it is really exciting to support ideas like the MC HCK !

Communities artistic, creator, DIY, social, maker, hacker, …

One goal of this site is to help bridge and bring together the many different communities that can help and learn from each other. An alternate perspective is to broaden the view of makers and hackers to see the rest of the world 🙂  So it is very pleasing to see that there are many others who have similar goals. This previous post highlighted some of the routine activity at Xinchejian last weekend, but it did not highlight the activities contributing to this goal where diverse community members come together.

Communities seen at Xinchejian last weekend were Breesee, Makesense and GoodtoChina.

Breesee‘s business card slogan “creative community” fits in with this sites goal. Breesee aims “to be a bridge connects different types of creators in the world. Whether they are artists, designers or engineers, we will try to encourage them cooperate and make more innovation happen”. Their site has some very nice content – it is worth a visit!

Makesense were also present, several of their members have close relationship Xinchejian. See this previous post for an introduction to their very good work worldwide.

In addition to the “drop in’s” Xinchejian is sharing the new space with GoodtoChina with a very co-operative open plan and shared facilities arrangement!  “GoodtoChina inspires and supports sustainable living through environmental projects, social initiatives and consulting projects”.

Xinchejian are also setting up a kitchen in their new space for hacking cooking, there is already a post on Sous Vide, Xinchejian is active in the Space program, see this mailing list, and host extremely popular popular processing classes to help anyone with an artistic leaning to create computer art, are into hydroponics and also have active relationships with Dorkbot Shanghai and Xindanwei.

All that is pretty amazing on top of all the making and hacking already reported!

Creating things – wiki resources

Creating things, a series of pages collating resources to help you create ideas and turn them into reality has been added to the wiki. There are now nearly 30 pages on the UsableDevices wiki, and while the content, structure and presentation are all ‘works in progress’, the approach, style and value of content is starting to show it’s usefulness.

Creating things provides brief descriptions of different creative processes,  along with links to detail on the key steps and a growing number of resources.

The mix of approaches from artistic creation to technical is to provide alternative ways to suit your style, or challenge you to try new ways. It is also to encourage a flow of ideas and increased interaction between these communities. Some examples of cross community activity can be found in the Inspirations page.

The intent is to create a ‘really useful’ resource that contains summary information about different processes and techniques, but then most likely will link to external sites for more information. It is not intended to create an internet directory of categories and links and it is not intended to create lists of software and other items purely for advertising. It is hoped that the community that grows around this site will manage the content to include diverse content that is ‘really useful’, and not just categorised lists of links.