Tag Archive | "development"

Kit review – Protostack ATmega32 Development Kit

Introduction

For those of you prototyping with larger Atmel AVR microcontrollers such as the ATmega32, it can be inconvenient to continually assemble a circuit onto a solderless breadboard that includes power, programming header and a few basics – or you might want to create a one-off product without waiting for a PCB to be made. If these are issues for you, or you’re interested in working with AVRs  then the subject of this review may be of interest – the ATmega32 Development Kit from Protostack. The kit is one of a range that spans from the ATmega8, and gives you almost everything needed to work with the microcontroller. We’ve assembled and experimented with the ATmega32 kit, so read on to find out more.

Assembly

The kit arrives in a typical anti-static package with the contents and URL on the front:

packaging

The PCB is large, measuring 127 x 94 mm, made from heavy 1.6 mm FR4 PCB and all the holes are through-plated. And as you can see from the images below, there’s plenty of prototyping space and power/GND rails:

pcbtop

pcbbottom

The included parts allow you to add a power supply, polyfuse, smoothing capacitors for the power, programmer socket, external 16 MHz crystal, a DC socket, IC socket, a lonely LED and of course the ATmega32A (which is a lower-power version of the ATmega32):

parts

You can download the user guide from the product page, which details the board layout, schematic and so on. When soldering the parts in, just start with the smallest-profile parts first and work your way up. There’s a few clever design points, such as power regulator – there’s four holes so you can use both “in-GND-output” and “GND-output-input” types:

igo

… and the layout of the prototyping areas resemble that of a solderless breadboard, and the power/GND rails snake all around – so transferring projects won’t be difficult at all:

protoarea

If you need to connect the AVcc to Vcc, the components and board space are included for a low-pass filter:

lowpass

And if you get carried away and need to use two or more boards at once – they’re stackable:

stacking

Moving forward

After assembling the board and inserting the ATmega32, you can use an AVR programmer to check it’s all working (and of course program it). With a 10-pin interface USBASP inserted, I headed over to the AVRdude folder on my PC and entered:

which (as all was well) resulted with:

avrdudetest2

Awesome – it’s nice to have something that just works. Let the experimenting begin!

Conclusion

It’s a solid kit, the PCB is solid as a rock, and it worked. However it could really have used some spacers or small rubber feet to keep the board off the bench. Otherwise the kit is excellent, and offers a great prototyping area to work with your projects. If you order some, Protostack have a maximum delivery charge of $9 so you won’t get burned on delivery to far-flung places.  Larger photos available on flickr. And if you made it this far – check out my new book “Arduino Workshop” from No Starch Press.

LEDborder

Please note that the ATMEGA32A Development Kit in this review is a promotional consideration from Protostack.

In the meanwhile have fun and keep checking into tronixstuff.com. Why not follow things on twitterGoogle+, subscribe  for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column? And join our friendly Google Group – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website. Sign up – it’s free, helpful to each other –  and we can all learn something.

Posted in atmega32, atmel, avr, competition, education, electronics, kit review, microcontrollers, protostack, review, tronixstuff, usbaspComments (0)

Review: Gooligum Electronics PIC Training Course and Development Board

Introduction

[Updated 18/06/2013]

There are many types of microcontrollers on the market, and it would be fair to say one of the two most popular types is the Microchip PIC series. The PICs are great as there is a huge range of microcontrollers available across a broad range of prices. However learning how to get started with the PIC platform isn’t exactly simple. Not that we expect it to be, however a soft start is always better. There are some older books, however they can cost more than $100 – and are generally outdated. So where do you start?

It is with this problem in mind that led fellow Australian David Meiklejohn to develop and offer his PIC Training Course and Development Board to the marketplace via his company Gooligum Electronics.

In his words:

There is plenty of material available on PICs, which can make it daunting to get started.  And some of the available material is dated, originally developed before modern “flash” PICs were available, or based on older devices that are no longer the best choice for new designs.  Our approach is to introduce PIC programming and design in easy stages, based on a solid grounding in theory, creating a set of building blocks and techniques and giving you the confidence to draw on as we move up to more complex designs.

So in this article we’ll examine David’s course package. First of all, let’s look at the development board and inclusions. Almost everything you will need to complete all the lessons is included in the package, including the following PIC microcontrollers:

You can choose to purchase the board in kit form or pre-assembled. If you enjoy soldering, save the money and get the kit – it’s simple to assemble and a nice way to spend a few hours with a soldering iron.

Although the board includes all the electronic components and PICs – you will need are a computer capable of running Microchip MPLAB software, a Microchip PICkit3 (or -2) programming device and an IC extractor. If you’re building the kit, a typical soldering iron and so on will be required. Being the  ultra-paranoid type, I bought a couple extra of each PIC to have as spares, however none were damaged in my experimenting. Just use common-sense when handling the PICs and you will be fine.

Assembly

Putting the kit board together wasn’t difficult at all. There isn’t any surface-mount parts to worry about, and the PCB is silk-screened very well:

barepcbss

The rest of the parts are shipped in antistatic bags, appropriately labelled and protected:

allthebitsss

Assembly was straight forward, just start with the low-profile parts and work your way up. The assembly guide is useful to help with component placement. After working at a normal pace, it was ready in just over an hour:

finishedboardss

The Hardware

Once assembled (or you’ve opened the packaging) the various sections of the board are obvious and clearly labelled – as they should be for an educational board. You will notice a large amount of jumper headers – they are required to bridge in and out various LEDs, select various input methods and so on. A large amount of jumper shunts is included with the board.

It might appear a little disconcerting at first, but all is revealed and explained as you progress through the lessons. The board has decent rubber feet, and is powered either by the PICkit3 programmer, or a regulated DC power source between 5 and 6V DC, such as from a plug-pack if you want to operate your board away from a PC.

However there is a wide range of functions, input and output devices on the board – and an adjustable oscillator, as shown in the following diagram:

boardlayoutonceassembledss

The Lessons

There is some assumed knowledge, which is a reasonable understanding of basic electronics, some computer and mathematical savvy and the C programming language.

You can view the first group of lessons for free on the kit website, and these are included along with the additional lessons in the included CDROM. They’re in .pdf format and easy to read. The CDROM also includes all the code so you don’t have to transcribe it from the lessons. Students start with an absolute introduction to the system, and first learn how to program in assembly language in the first group of tutorials, followed by C in the second set.

This is great as you learn about the microcontroller itself, and basically start from the bottom. Although it’s no secret I enjoy using the Arduino system – it really does hide a lot of the actual hardware knowledge away from the end user which won’t be learned. With David’s system – you will learn.

If you scroll down to the bottom of this page, you can review the tutorial summaries. Finally here’s a quick demonstration of the 7-segment displays in action:

Update – 18/06/2013

David has continued publishing more tutorials for his customers every few months – including such topics as the EEPROM and pulse-width modulation. As part of the expanded lessons you can also get a pack which allows experimenting with electric motors that includes a small DC motor, the TI SN75441 h-bridge IC, N-channel and P-channel MOSFETS and more:

motorkit

So after the initial purchase, you won’t be left on your own. Kudos to David for continuing to support and develop more material for his customers.

Where to from here? 

Once you run through all the tutorials, and feel confident with your knowledge, the world of Microchip PIC will be open to you. Plus you now have a great development board for prototyping with 6 to 14-pin PIC microcontrollers. Don’t forget all the pins are brought out to the row of sockets next to the solderless breadboard, so general prototyping is a breeze.

Conclusion

For those who have mastered basic electronics, and have some C or C-like programming experience from using other development environments or PCs – this package is perfect for getting started with the Microchip PIC environment. Plus you’ll learn about assembly language – which is a good thing. I genuinely recommend this to anyone who wants to learn about PIC and/or move into more advanced microcontroller work. And as the entire package is cheaper than some books –  you can’t go wrong. The training course is available directly from the Gooligum website.

Disclaimer – The Baseline and Mid-Range PIC Training Course and Development Board was a promotional consideration from Gooligum Electronics.

In the meanwhile have fun and keep checking into tronixstuff.com. Why not follow things on twitterGoogle+, subscribe  for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column? And join our friendly Google Group – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website. Sign up – it’s free, helpful to each other –  and we can all learn something.

Posted in beginnner, kit review, lesson, microchip, microcontrollers, pic, PIC10F200, PIC12F509, PIC12F629, PIC16F506, PIC16F684, pickit, tutorialComments (6)

Initial review: Aery32 Atmel AVR32 UC3A1 Development Board

Introduction

Recently (!) one of my readers sent me the subject of our review – the Aery32 development board from Finland. Based around the Atmel AVR32 UC3A1 128KB microcontroller – it is a painless way to get into AVR32 programming and development. Furthermore the hardware and software are completely open-source, so you can make your own and modify to your heart’s content. The specifications of the Atmel AVR32 UC3A1 show that it is an incredibly powerful microcontroller and they can be found in detail from Atmel here – plus you can download the data sheet from here.

[Update 13/06/2013 – now available in Australia from Little Bird Electronics]

Regular readers will know that I don’t work with this platform, so this review is written from the point of an absolute beginner. My apologies if some of the terminology used isn’t the norm. Moving forward, here is our Aery32 board:

… and the rear:

One could say that there is everything you need – and nothing you do not. Looking at the front of the board, apart from the MCU there is an LED for use, the mini-USB for programming and a switch for changing modes between the bootloader and program. On the rear are the pin references, and on the right-hand side solder pads (on both sides) for the JTAG debugger.  The following video is a short walkthrough:

Setup

The first thing to do is get the required software installed on the machine. Instructions for Windows, MacOS and Linux are provided. Here we have Windows 7 and the installation was simple – the Atmel software installed painlessly enough. You will also need the Aery32 software framework, which contains source files and compiling instructions for your projects. This is updated over time by the Aery32 project, so keep an eye on the github page.

After downloading the framework, keep an unaltered copy in a folder. Then you copy this and rename it for each new project. That is – for each project you start with a fresh framework folder and insert the code into the main.cpp file within the folder. Consider the following:

You can see how I have kept the framework in a folder to keep as a source, then made copies and renamed them for individual projects. Then inside each folder you have the various files – and the main.cpp which contains your project code.

Using the Aery32

From the beginning I was a little worried due to my lack of time and inexperience with AVR32 programming. However after determing how the software framework and code files are used as described earlier – the process of programming the board was easy. You then just need to learn how to program – a topic for another day… In the meanwhile, blinking the LED as a test was simple enough. After making a separate folder (see the image above) one simply edits the main.cpp file and adds the required code. For example – to blink the onboard LED:

Next, make sure the switch on the Aery32 is moved towards the reset button – this puts the board into bootloader mode. Plug in the USB cable, wait for recognition – then from the command prompt, navigate to the folder which contains the code and enter make program start. If all goes well you will see the following:

makeprogramstart

And if it doesn’t, the various errors are described as necessary. As you can see all the compilation and uploading is scripted for you making the whole process very simple. Then move the switch away from the reset button – which puts the board in run mode, then press reset. For anything further you’re going to need some external wiring – so for further experimenting purposes the first thing I did was solder in some standard 0.1″ dual inline header pins to allow easy access to a variety of I/O pins and GND. Although wanting to do more I’m pretty time-constrained at the moment so came up with not one but four blinking LEDs. Here’s the code:

and for the non-believers – the board in action:

Aery32-specific information and help is easy to find. For an open-source project, the documentation is extensive and includes many examples. Have a look around the documentation site to see what I mean. There is also a developer area which contains many articles about using the Aery32 and various examples within.

Conclusion

From my (beginner’s) perspective this board was very easy to setup and get working. Not having to worry about downloading hundreds of megabytes of IDE was great and allows programming from lightweight machines. And there is no doubt about the power or I/O features of the AVR32 UC3A1. Now I’ll get myself a good AVR32 book. So if you’re looking for a powerful and well-supported AVR32 development board, the Aery32 is a good start. You can order the board directly from the website at http://www.aery32.com/.

In the meanwhile have fun and keep checking into tronixstuff.com. Why not follow things on twitterGoogle+, subscribe  for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column? And join our friendly Google Group – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website. Sign up – it’s free, helpful to each other –  and we can all learn something.

Posted in aery32, atmel, avr32, review, tutorial, UC3A1Comments (8)

Initial Review – Arduino v1.0 IDE

Hello Readers

Recently the Arduino team have released version 1.0 of the IDE (integrated development environment) that we all know and love. This is a significant milestone as the IDE has previously been in alpha release since 2005. For the platform to have survived and thrived this long is a credit to the community and especially to the Arduino team themselves.

Arduino? Not sure where to start? There’s a couple of tutorials right hereOr buy my book!

[Update 13/07/2013… this review is probably moot as the Arduino IDE v1 and greater has become prevalent. However if you’re still using v23 for some reason, keep reading]

Moving forward, let’s have a look and see what has changed:

Installation is quite simple. As always, download the IDE from the Arduino website. Before installing the new version, copy and backup your sketchbook folder and the entire folder system of your current IDE installation. This shouldn’t take long as … I’m sure everyone does this on a regular basis. The move to v1.0 is a major one, and you will still need to use the older IDE – so don’t delete it from your computer.

Once installed, copy over the contents of your ../arduino-002x/libraries folder to the new ../arduino-1.0/libraries folder. When your operating systems pauses and asks what to do with duplicate folders, click “skip”. That is, don’t overwrite the new libraries with old ones.

Now run the new IDE, and you will be presented with the following (note we have already loaded the “blink” example):

ide

The cosmetic changes in the design of the tool bar are slight yet refreshing. The buttons in order are: verify (we used to call this “compile”), upload sketch, file new, file open, file save and the serial monitor button has been moved across to the far right.

At the very bottom-right of the IDE window the board type and port connection is displayed – which is great if you are working with more than one Arduino board at once – a nifty feature. Furthermore when verifying and uploading a sketch, a progress bar appears at the top right of the message window, for example:

The last cosmetic change that became apparent is the automatic creating of hyperlinks in the sketch when the IDE detects a correctly-formatted URL, for example:

Cosmetic changes are all well and good, however that is only the tip of the iceberg. For starters, the file extension for sketches compatible with v1.0 is now .ino.

The next thing is to review the update release notes, also listed below with my own notes – where a lot of surprises can be found. As listed below, several functions and libraries have changed in behaviour or existence. Therefore some work may be required to convert sketches from v23 IDE to v1.0. At the current time I can’t see any reason to do this, and if you have any projects relying on existing libraries – make a backup copy of your existing environment in case the original source of the library disappears. The Arduino team have mentioned the idea of a centralised repository for libraries, however this has not been finalised at the time of writing this article.

The new Serial.print() behaviour is interesting. Let’s compare the output of the following sketch:

Using IDE v23, the output from the serial monitor is:

However when we run the same sketch in IDE v1.0, the output is:

So if you need the actual ASCII characters represented by the BYTE variable, use Serial.write() not Serial.print().

Well this is interesting. The ability to parse incoming serial data will make using that nefarious GSM shield easier…

One less library to worry about…

This should help us use memory more efficiently…

Frankly I’m not a genius when it comes to the Internet area, however clearer naming is a plus 🙂

Looks like another mental note to make when working with I2C and v1.0

Well this is a win, now multiple forms of data can be logged into separate files. As mentioned at the start, this is an initial review and by all means not complete. Feel free to leave your comments or notes for others to review as well, and as always if you find any errors please let us know.

For now the new IDE is an interesting juncture in the Arduino evolution. For new sketches and development in general there wouldn’t be any reason not to use it, as you can happily run several versions of the IDE on a single computer. However – there is a lot of published material that will not work with the new IDE – and all this will need to be updated, or at least noted by the authors concerned telling people to use an older IDE. And for this I am not too happy – the Arduino world has had a virtual “axe” chopped through it, breaking a lot of things which will take some time to move forward from.

So in the meanwhile, backup your existing libraries, your older IDE software, and be prepared to run two IDE systems in parallel for the near future.

Have fun and keep checking into tronixstuff.com. Why not follow things on twitterGoogle+, subscribe  for email updates or RSS using the links on the right-hand column, or join our Google Group – dedicated to the projects and related items on this website. Sign up – it’s free, helpful to each other –  and we can all learn something.

Posted in arduino, IDE, product review, review, tutorialComments (6)


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