Dry Months Ahead

Recently I’ve moved interstate for a pure-software engineering internship position and had to leave most of my electronics things behind. Even worse, during the midst of packing, I forgot to pack a few of my favourite tools and boards – you know, just for goofing around during slow and hot weekends – especially my CC-Debugger and HM-10 breakout board.

So, as for my existing hardware related projects, there will be absolutely no bug fixes or update of any kind, for about a year, which will become obsolete with new hardware rolling out every year or so.

Catch you next time.

All I Want for Christmas is You

Celebrating this year Christmas, I searched for a Christmas song to learn on the guitar and my favourite was John Morrison’s arrangement of “All I Want for Christmas is You”.

I find it much easier to learn a piece with both notation and tab, and since John was nice enough to provide photos hand-written tab in another video, a score with both tabs and notation – All I Want for Christmas is You – Full Score was made.

Merry Christmas folks!

Tribal Wars 2 Quick Sim Tool

I’m back into playing Tribal Wars (TW) again, this time it’s Tribal Wars 2 (TW2). It’s been going for about 5 months now. All started when I got this promotional e-mail from Innogames announcing their fancy new version. Of course, I waited a few months for the initial bugs to be ironed out, or actually I forgot about it.

Personally, I think the average proficiency of TW2 players are much lower compared to TW1 players. Barb-noblers are everywhere! It’s come to a point in which I’m deciding whether to bypass an entire province (like a church zone in TW1) because every single barb is taken. Overall, the game is buggy, slow and requires constant refreshing. For some reason, it needs lots of processing power which makes my laptop fan runs wild every session.

In TW2, there are no official simulators. I use TWCalc. The icons used to be coherent with TW2’s official unit icons, now it’s some random ones. Anyhow, it’s not very accurate, only gives a rough estimate. But it’s better than nothing. To speed up the process of having to enter units manually into the simulator and switching tabs to verify that the units are correct, I made a tiny Chrome extension to do this for me. And I checked with the TW2 support team, it’s not a breach of rule to do so! Thumbs up for the dev team for using a template for their HTML file, making the report so much easier to extract.

Here you go: TW2 Quick Sim. Behind the scene, it extracts the units from the top-right unit bar and extract the units from the scouting report; then opens up a TW2Calc website and inject this data into it. It ignores morality, luck and church – you can’t get these data from a spy (scout) report. Works like a treat!

Krisp and their incredible glossy photo paper

Krisp’s glossy photo paper for inkjet printers is amazing for PCB toner transfer. It takes toner superbly well from a Xerox laser printer and with no soaking required, the paper can be easily peeled off, leaving toner sitting perfectly still on the PCB copper surface. Here’s the proof:

Great print

Great print

Amazing transfer

Amazing transfer, well except for that tiny bit on the bottom left

Trasferred PCB, it looks much sharper on camera

Etched PCB, it looks much sharper on camera

It has been wasteful to use an A4 piece of paper on so little printing area so imagine the if multiple PCB designs are panelized, imagine all the designs that can fit on an A4 and save so much time not soaking and removing the paper layer-by-layer.

This might be old news, but as the site description “The archive of things that are worth posting” dictates, this post is worth posting.

Staying away from QFNs, my first Android app plus some Bluetooth

So, exams are finally over, the results are out and I scraped through. No supplements, none failed.

Over the past 2 weeks, I have learnt a valuable lesson: I cannot solder QFN packages. Out of 10 chips, I burnt 9. It’s horrible. It might be that I’m not using enough flux or maybe not enough solder but the solder will not melt below the many of the pins. One of my F550x break-out board arrived yesterday. Double sided, it fits perfectly onto a breadboard.

F550x break-out

 

With that kind of chip loss, I shall be staying away from QFNs in general from now on. The leaded packages are expensive than non-leaded, but the convenience is definitely worth it, for me.

A few weeks ago, my dad asked me to write an application that lets him send his current GPS location to his colleagues using SMS and the like. Of course, there are plenty or maybe hundreds of apps that do this already. To name a few: Viber, Whatsapp, Google Maps, Tango… Location messaging is integrated into the apps. But what if you don’t have internet and you haven’t found this function in your chatting map, or maybe, you just don’t have time to search for it. Introducing GPS Share.

7inch_2

 

With its simplistic design, with a few seconds, you can send your current GPS coordinates via SMS. With internet connection, the application finds out the address of your location and it lets you share this information through e-mails. It also lets you copy the location information to the clipboard so you may paste it into any application you want. The time it takes from opening the app to sending a SMS packed with your current location is 4 seconds. I tried it out today after parking the car. It’s great. Link to Play Store.

And lastly, Bluetooth. This time, I’m taking a break from MSP430 and learn some C2000 and Bluetooth. I’ve got CC2540 mini dev-kit and I made a break-out board for the BC417. Unfortunately, the PIO is the wrong way around. but the code works well enough. The programmer is a clone I got from goodluckbuy. Free shipping. It works beautifully. Before receiving my programmer, I used TIVA C Launchpad and flashed it with CsrUsbSpiDeviceRE TIVA by Richard Aplin. It also worked like a charm. But since I’ve got a programmer, I may just use it and reserve the TIVA for future learning.

BC417-BO board 1

 

So far, I’ve made a Blinky program and a Hello World program. Just the basics and following CSR’s very limited tutorials, but at least there is no time limit on the IDE, unlike the 30-day IAR Embedded Workbench for 8051 for TI CC2540.

ThinkPad USB Keyboard Project – It’s over

2014-06-07 06.33.07

This is the final PCB run of my ThinkPad USB Keyboard adapter project. It has a BSL button to upload firmware via USB using TI’s MSP430 Firmware update software, saving end-user lots of money from having to invest on a programmer.

Originally, I planned to write a custom USB flashing software on the PC that allows users to create their own matrices and keyboard combinations. However, due to lack of time, it is dropped.

Firmware wise, the keyboard scanning is pretty fast. All the keycodes are supported. Num Lock works, remote wake-up supported. It works just like a normal keyboard, except this one you can customize the matrix and add key combinations, at least I can.

Of course, the aesthetic of the PCB can be improved. Via holes can be smaller and not covering text, something like this:

Altium_Final_v0.6.2

But for functionality, all is well. Anyway, that’s it. No more ThinkPad keyboard adapters for me.  Here’s quick video of the board in action:

I have made the left-over boards avaiable for purchase from Tindie. Two flavours are available. Have your pick:

https://www.tindie.com/products/rampadc/thinkpad-usb-keyboard-adapter-v062-pcbreceptacle/

https://www.tindie.com/products/rampadc/thinkpad-usb-keyboard-adapter-v061-rev-11-pcbreceptacle/

PCBs from DirtyPCB.com

Back in April, or March, Dangerous Prototypes (DP) opened a PCB service, that is just like Elecrow – free colour, except DP has nothing to do with the manufacturing, they just send your Gerber to some Chinese board house, where your boards would get manufactured, if your design meets their capabilities.

For one of my ThinkPad keyboard PCB revisions, I decided to try these guys out. At 14USD, they offer free colour and free shipping. However, I’m sure shipping is already included in that 14 bucks. Elecrow shipping was $6.5 on top of their $9.90 per 10 boards price, works out to be around $16. So DirtyPCB wins, in terms of pricing.

Both services take about a month and a few more days to account for non-business weekend days. So in term of shipping, they’re both the same. Thus, DirtyPCB still wins because it’s cheaper.

Now, this revision of mine is consisted of 8mil (thou) traces, 0.3mm via drills, 0.5mm fine pitch SMD components, 0603 passive components and a QFN with tiny plated through holes on its pad for better solder transfer.

Let’s have a look at one of the PCBs that arrived today (Look at that superb layout!):

IMG_20140519_134703

Except for that serial number at top left, everything else looks great! Connections wise, no shorts that I can find so far. All that’s left is to start soldering with a lovely stencil I got from OSHStencils, load the firmware and see how it goes!