Posts Tagged 'Hardware'

The Versatile Arduino Nano

I’m currently stuck at home with some kind of respiratory crud that seems to be going around (and watching my symptoms to make sure it doesn’t evolve into pneumonia), so I decided to sort through some of the stuff in my various parts organizers. To my surprise I discovered that I’ve managed to accumulate about 20 Arduino Nano PCBs. I guess I keep on ordering them thinking I’m running low when I’m really not.

In an earlier article I had written that the Nano was an Arduino product that didn’t suffer from an oddball pin layout. Something like an Uno, which is probably what most people think of when they hear the word “Arduino” is a nice little PCB, but it has a goofy gap between the socket headers on one side that precludes using a standard 0.1″ perfboard to assemble an ad-hoc shield. The Nano, on the other hand, has a physical footprint that is almost, but not quite, equivalent to a 30-pin DIP. It is also a lot smaller than an Uno or other full-size Arduino, and it has the same MCU.

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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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A Box of C.H.I.P. SBC (and a DIP, too)

When I last showed what was going on with my new CHIP SBC it was rather crude. Well, since then I’ve put it into a plastic enclosure, along with a power switch, voltage regulator, a USB hub, and a 32GB flash memory plug-in. I’m still using the VGA board with this iteration. For the next time around I will use the HDMI board, since the mini-monitor I found will accept either. Here is what it looks like:


The monitor is something I found on eBay, and for about $25 more than what I paid for the one without a case. Oh well, live and learn. It is a 10.1″ diagonal screen with a 1280 x 800 display. I found mine on eBay, but I’ve recently seen where Walmart (!) is selling these for about $105, which is more than what I paid for mine but still not too bad.

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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:


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.


Distributed Control and Sensing with USB

Distributed I/O systems are a key element in many industrial processing settings, distributed environmental controls for buildings of all sizes, vehicles large and small, scientific research settings like large telescopes and particle accelerators, and in laboratories with equipment connected to a central data collection and processing system. Multiple microcontrollers units (MCUs) provide the sensing and control to automate systems for improved efficiency, better data collection, and enhanced safety. Without MCUs, modern life as we know it could not exist.

There are multiple ways to connect an MCU-based device to a host computer system, ranging from industrial serial interface protocols like RS-485, CAN, or ProfiBus, to conventional Ethernet or wireless protocols. USB is also a possibility, but it seems to be largely confined to small-scale and consumer type applications. But does USB have what it takes to be used for applications other than just connecting a printer to your PC? Can it be used to collect data from an automated test system, or control the various components in an industrial process?

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