Archive for the 'Hardware' Category

Microcontroller Modules

This article is about is packaging a microcontroller project, and why it’s such a struggle to get something that looks halfway presentable. You can buy cheap, well-made PCBs and components from a multitude of sources, but when it comes to putting it all into a box (or on a panel, or wherever), things can get ugly. Literally. Even if the project does turn out nicely, there’s a lot of work involved getting it there. There has to be a better way.

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The ESR electronics Tricorder: Update

The Arduino ESR project is moving along, albeit a little slowly. The miniature OLED displays finally showed up,  and I have to admit, I really like them. A lot. I’ve come up with a concept that will use the small OLED as a dynamic menu, with corresponding pushbuttons to move and select options.

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Buying from China: Lost in translation


I’ve been buying stuff from China for a long time, and for a long time it was a pleasant experience. Sure, the items purchased might take a while to arrive, but they always arrived. I was never disappointed or surprised. But lately things seem to have changed.

(post updated 5 Feb 2017)

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The ESR electronics Tricorder: Update

In case anyone is wondering, the ESR project isn’t dead, I’m just waiting for some small OLED displays to show up. I ordered these a while back (in December), and they have yet to arrive. The plan is to use some of the empty space on the front panel next to the display already slated to go there. Here’s what it looks like:

oled_disp_crop

It has a 128 x 32 display space with an I2C interface. You can find this OLED display on eBay, and they go for around $4 each.

It was originally slated to arrive by the 3rd of January, and the tracking info says it’s supposed to show up today, so we’ll see.

 

1000 mW Laser Engraver

A while back I bought an Neje DK-8-KZ 1W laser engraver. It was on sale, and I was curious about it. At only 1W (1000 mW) I knew I wasn’t going to be cutting anything except paper with it, but I was looking for another way to create engraved labeling on plastic enclosures. Well, it can do that, with some limitations, and it works pretty well on wood, but my biggest aggravation has been just getting it to actually put the engraving where I want it to go, and also deal with the automatic scaling it employs.

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C.H.I.P: The VGA test setup

Here are some images of the CHIP test setup I cobbled together. It’s not pretty, but that’s not important for right now. It works, and it demonstrates one way to assemble things and get a working single-board Linux system up and running. Continue reading ‘C.H.I.P: The VGA test setup’

Chinese CNC Tools

Maybe I’m spoiled, or just out of sync with things, but when I worked with professional CNC equipment (I worked on the control systems and servo amplifiers for big things like vertical mills, jig bores and huge lathes) the software was usually custom made for a particular machine type. If not, then it was some type of high-reliability real-time operating system or maybe a real-time OS for a minicomputer, like a PDP-11 or the IBM Series I machines.

But at the price some of the Chinese CNC tools are going for these days it would be nuts to expect them to come with custom control software. Instead, a lot of them come with Windows-based software, and some of that is of dubious heritage. As someone who likes to open the hood on things the poke around inside, Windows is a problem for me. I prefer to use Linux instead, but when the shiny new CNC tool that just arrived only comes with Windows software, then it’s time to start looking for alternative software. Continue reading ‘Chinese CNC Tools’