Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Laser TV Project

Some people use electronics to build something they need, others just want to find out if something can be done. These projects are often the most fun to read about because of their unusual character and the creativity needed to accomplish the (sometimes bizarre) goal. The laser TV project posted on Elektor Projects is such a project. It is an attempt to project an image by means of 30 rotating mirrors mounted on a VHS head motor. Why you would want to do such a thing is not important, can it be done is the thing that matters.

According to the author the main challenge is the phase synchronization of the top plate on which the mirrors are mounted, and the author is looking for interested BASCOM programmers to develop the motor PLL (or a similar software solution). The motor rotates at 750 rpm and must be precisely synchronized to a pulse, which is available once per revolution.

Who can help, or who has done something similar with Atmel and BASCOM? Head over to Elektor Projects and join hpt in this interesting project. While you’re there, why not have a look at the other proposals and vote. Your vote counts!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Linux on AVR

Every once in a while something comes along that changes the way you look at things. A project posted last week by Dmitry Grinberg was such a thing for me. The project in itself is already pretty strange: porting a 32-bit operating system (OS) to an 8-bit microcontroller lacking most of the features needed to actually run the OS. Why would you want to run Linux on an AVR? “Because you can”, would answer George Obama (or was it Barack Mallory?) and now also Dmitry. Yes, apparently you can (I didn’t try it myself), it only takes two hours to boot Linux on the AVR, with an effective clock speed of a dazzling 6.5 kHz. It is fun as in academic demonstration.

Yet for me this demonstration, working or not, useful or not, shows more. Emulating one platform on another more powerful platform is common practice these days, but I had never thought about doing the opposite. I think emulating a 32-bit ARM processor on an 8-bit microcontroller is actually quite a cool idea. Maybe Dmitry is not the first to have done this, I don’t know, but it is an excellent example of thinking the other way around, outside the box. The result may be useless for now, but who knows what one day may come from this?

Honestly, did you ever think of hooking up a SIMM memory module to an 8-bit MCU? I didn't, but maybe I will do so in the future.

Way to go Dmitry!

What do you think? Did you try something similar yourself? Please let me know, I would love to hear about other outside-the-box MCU projects.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

MCU Development Board Benchmark - The Winners

The February issue of Elektor contained an article on the MCU Development Board Benchmark that I introduced in an earlier post. In the article the benchmark was developed slightly further and it ended with a request for comments from the readers. The article also promised to give away the TI TMS570 USB kit that started it all.

A few readers actually responded so we have to keep our promise to give away the kit. But before we do that, let me first resume the comments that came in. Some remarks were rather vague and can not easily be converted into parameters, but several readers proposed a multiplication factor related to the number of operating systems the dev kit will work on: if it runs on Windows, MAC & Linux the factor is 1, if not it will be lower.

Other suggestions concerned more generic criteria like documentation, examples, usability, user friendliness and ease of programming the controller. In my opinion these criteria are actually well covered by the LED blinking test. If you cannot get an LED to blink within a reasonable amount of time and effort, then the kit has a problem. The resulting figure does not indicate where exactly the problem is (IDE, programmer, licenses, etc.), but that's why the test should be accompanied by a detailed article.

OK, that's enough about the benchmark for now. I would like to thank all the people that took the time and effort to participate in this, ehm, project. The winner of the TI TMS570 USB kit is Alexander Steiger. I decided to throw in a Freescale Kinetis KwikStik too and that one is going to Jorgen Sandberg.

Congratulations! to the winners and also a request: if you manage to do something interesting with these kits, please let me know.

P.S. I used the services from Random.org to select the winners as randomly as possible.

Monday, February 6, 2012

KwikStik follow-up

In a previous post I tried to get something going with Freescale's Kinetis KwikStik. Here is a short follow-up on Green Hills’ Multi IDE that is included with this kit. As mentioned in the original article I had a hard time getting a trial license for this software, but I finally got one the day I left for Christmas holidays. When I came back I didn't have time to get back to it right away and then two weeks later or so I received a message from GHS saying that my trial license was about to expire. Oh, come on guys, we're in 2012 now. Be a bit more flexible and open!

In the Elektor article on the MCU Development Board Benchmark about a benchmark that I introduced in an earlier post, I promised to give away the TI TMS570 USB kit that started it all. I have now decided to throw in a Freescale Kinetis KwikStik too! So keep sending your comments and remarks, the deadline is the 1st of March 2012.