It seemed so simple. The best ideas always do. However, sometimes the smallest problems end up taking the most time to solve. There was some swearing, I won’t lie.
You see, I had a really swell circuit that could take a ROM image and dump it into an SRAM. Since parallel EEPROMs exist that are accessed just like SRAMs, I figured I could just buy one, drop it in, and presto- ROM for Veronica. Flawless plan, right?
Well, a hundred hours or so later, it turns out the plan was in fact pretty darn solid, but the parts were against me. To recap, I designed a board for Veronica that would hold an EEPROM chip, and had a built-in ATTiny that acted as an interface between the EEPROM and my USBTinyISP programmer. Since EEPROM programmers are very expensive, this was a way to leverage the tools I had to program the ROM that Veronica needs to boot up.
On February 10th, I’m sending a letter to the Library of Congress in support of granting exemptions to the DMCA for jailbreaking your own devices. If you believe that you should be able to run whatever programs you want on your own hardware, please sign my letter to show support; anyone from anywhere in the world can sign. You can also submit your own letter to the Library of Congress, if you feel so inclined or disagree with my opinions.
In 2002, I intercepted a key on the original Xbox that allowed me to encrypt and run my own software on the device. Even though that Xbox had a Pentium processor on the inside — the same CPU found in my desktop PC — without that key, I could only run the limited selection of software provided to me by Microsoft.
When I was informed about the DMCA, which became law in 1998, it was a bucket of cold water thrown at my face; I felt deeply disenfranchised. You see, I was a graduate student at MIT at the time, and up until that point the freedom to create, explore, and overcome barriers was encouraged, even celebrated. It was bewildering that running linux on this PC with the green X is illegal, yet running linux on this architecturally identical beige box next to it was legal. A chill descended upon the situation; MIT sent letters to me officially repudiating involvement in my activities, fearing the worst. Fortunately, brave souls at the MIT AI lab stood up for me in defiance of the campus counsel, and provided me with resources and the connections to the EFF to negotiate with Microsoft and see a positive ending to the whole situation.
I’m lucky. Not everyone has the encouragement, wisdom and strength of a team of MIT faculty and EFF counsel behind them. Without further exemptions to the DMCA enabling jailbreaking, freedom to innovate and tinker withers. Since then, many lawsuits have been filed under the DMCA, creating a tone of fear. Research projects are abandoned, business plans are scrapped; and the stalwart operators left with the will to research jailbreaks work in shadow, a constant fear of lawsuit haunting them for the mere practice of attempting to load their own software onto hardware that they legally own. Entrepreneurs and innovators should not be so burdened, especially at a time when we need their valuable contributions to bootstrap new businesses.
I believe if you buy hardware, you should own it; and ownership means nothing less of full rights to do with it as you wish. If you believe in this too, please sign my letter to the Library of Congress in support of extended exemptions to the DMCA, enabling jailbreaks for more platforms.
If you’re serious about moving things to the next level with electronics, an oscilloscope is one of the best investments you can make to debug and analyze circuits or even your software. You can use it to capture, visualize and analyze the relationship between time and voltage, accurately measuring the delays between pin state changes, visualizing the rise and fall times of signals, etc. Unfortunately, the learning curve can be a bit steep at first and even on relatively basic models there are still a lot of switches and knobs to figure out. Tektronix has made getting over the initial bump in the road a lot easier, though, with their wonderfully accessible “Introduction to Oscilloscopes: Lab Experiment“. It’s based on their own scopes (duh), but the information is common to any traditional scope out there, and they do a great job of walking you through the fundamentals. Well worth a read if you’re considering an oscilliscope or if you’re wondering what you can do with one if you did make the investment. For further information you may also want to look at Tek’s XYZs of Oscilloscopes Primer, though you need to register to access this document.
The interactive LED thing I showed last week on the Show & Tell was a shown at TEDxMaui on sunday…. yeah I was up till 2am working on code. The blog post is pretty thin on tech for the build but the flickr set shows the parts and some detail. When I recover from the build up to TEDx I’ll do a better writeup… then again, I need to enter a new build mode to get the weather proof, improved interaction version built for Source Maui – our local burning man inspired event. That one requires 15 meters of tape, more/better interactivity and waterproofing. Probably battery power too. Thanks for great work and inspiration adafruit!
NEW PRODUCT – 36mm Square 12V Digital RGB LED Pixels (Strand of 20) [WS2801]. RGB Pixels are digitally-controllable lights you can set to any color, or animate. Each metal ‘pixel square’ contains 4 RGB LEDs and a controller chip soldered to a PCB. The pixel is then ‘flooded’ with epoxy to make it waterproof. These are fairly large pixels but they have a lot of nice mounting options, such as two metal flanges on the side and a 0.15″/4mm diameter hole in the middle so you can screw them directly onto a surface. They’re typically used to make outdoor signs. Compared to our other LED dots, these are much bigger and much brighter, good for larger scale installations.
The pixels are connected by a 4-conductor cable. +12VDC, ground, data and clock. Data is shifted down from one pixel to the next so that you can easily cut the strand or attach more onto the end.
Each dot is digitally controlled, with an internal 8-bit PWM LED driver (24-bit color for 16 million different shades). The pixels must be clocked by a microcontroller, we have an example code linked below that works on an Arduino, it should be simple to adapt it to any other microcontroller.
The pixels use 4 x 5050 RGB LEDs, with a 120 degree beam width. The total max brightness of all LEDs is about 6000mcd. (Please note: mcd ratings of LEDs are notoriously inflated by most LED sellers, so be extra-skeptical when reviewing LED ratings!)
Sold by the strand, each strand has 20 pixels in series! Each strand has two JST SM 3-pin connectors so you can connect multiple strands in a row, as many as you wish, just watch for how much current they want. The two power wires are brought out separately to make wiring easier, a 2.1mm terminal block adapter is handy here to attach a DC power supply. We have a 12V/5A supply that should be able to drive 2 or more strands (depending on current use). The LEDs are constant-current driven so you’ll have even colors through-out the strand as long as you have a stable 12V supply
Beagle Bone! New from the fine people who have brought us the Beagle Board, we now have a smaller, lighter, but powerful single board linux computer, Beagle Bone! We like this move to a more compact and integrated SBC. For example, there is onboard Ethernet and USB host, as well as a USB client interface (a FTDI chip for shell access). It even comes preloaded with Angstrom Linux on the 4GB microSD card!
At over 1.5 billion Dhrystone operations per second and vector floating point arithmetic operations, the BeagleBone is capable of not just interfacing to all of your robotics motor drivers, location or pressure sensors and 2D or 3D cameras, but also running OpenCV, OpenNI and other image collection and analysis software to recognize the objects around your robot and the gestures you might make to control it. Through HDMI, VGA or LCD expansion boards, it is capable of decoding and displaying multiple video formats utilizing a completely open source software stack and synchronizing playback over Ethernet or USB with other BeagleBoards to create massive video walls. If what you are into is building 3D printers, then the BeagleBone has the extensive PWM capabilities, the on-chip Ethernet and the 3D rendering and manipulation capabilities all help you eliminate both your underpowered microcontroller-based controller board as well as that PC from your basement.
Board size: 3.4″ x 2.1″
Shipped with 4GB microSD card with the Angstrom Distribution with node.js and Cloud9 IDE
Single cable development environment with built-in FTDI-based serial/JTAG and on-board hub to give the same cable simultaneous access to a USB device port on the target processor
Industry standard 3.3V I/Os on the expansion headers with easy-to-use 0.1″ spacing
On-chip Ethernet, not off of USB
256MB of DDR2
700-MHz super-scalar ARM Cortex™-A8
Easier to clone thanks to larger pitch on BGA devices (0.8mm vs. 0.4mm), no package-on-package memories, standard DDR2 vs. LPDDR, integrated USB PHYs and more.
The Problem – Smartphones, tablets, and video game consoles are powerful computers with lots of untapped potential. Yet many of these devices are set up to run only software that’s been approved by the manufacturer. Modifying a device to run independent software – known as jailbreaking – is important to programmers, enthusiasts, and users. But jailbreaking creates legal uncertainty. Some device manufacturers claim that jailbreaking violates Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which carries stiff penalties.
The Solution – EFF is asking the U.S. Copyright Office to declare that jailbreaking does not violate the DMCA, and we need your help. In 2010, the Copyright Office said jailbreaking smartphones doesn’t violate the DMCA. This year, we’re asking them to renew that exemption (otherwise it will expire) and expand it to cover tablets. We’re also asking for a new exemption to allow jailbreaking of video game consoles.
How You Can Help – The Copyright Office needs to hear from people who depend on the ability to jailbreak to write, use, and/or tinker with independent software (from useful apps to essential security fixes) for smartphones, tablets, and game consoles. You can submit comments online at this link.
NEW PRODUCT – SMT Cool White 5050 LED – 10 pack [6500-7000K]. These surface-mount LEDs are an easy way to add a lot of bright white dots to your project. They’re similar to the ones in our digital RGB LED strip, same size and shape, but do not have red/green/blue LED chips inside. Instead, there are 3 ultra bright cool white (6500-7000K) LEDs. They are half a centimeter on a side, which makes them small but not so small that they are impossible to hand solder. The LED is insanely bright, at a eyeball-blistering 20 Lumens (~6000mcd with 120 degree beam width).
Comes in a strip of 10 pieces. If you order more than one strip, it will come as multiple strips of 10, not one long strip.
… if you’re an American manufacturer, you should get a bigger tax cut. If you’re a high-tech manufacturer, we should double the tax deduction you get for making your products here. And if you want to relocate in a community that was hit hard when a factory left town, you should get help financing a new plant, equipment, or training for new workers.
Adafruit is 2 blocks from ground zero and 2 blocks from Wall street. We’re trying to get more space and more manufacturing, it would be great to see specific things for companies like us (woman / engineer owned, profitable and self-funded – we make things!).
Here is a photo of the [plastic] coffee can storage bins I showed on Saturday. You are free to use it and share it. The side boards are 1x8x36 and the eight dowels are 7/16 diameter x 48″. The second shelf down has a bunch of coffee can lids. I have not thought of a good way to use them yet. Any ideas?
We saw this on the weekly SHOW-AND-TELL and thought it was a cool DIY solution for storage.
David Clift-Reaves has created MezzoMill, a PCB router which can provide custom single-sided PCBs in short order. He’s currently running a kickstarter to get the project into production. He writes:
The conversation that I had hoped that MezzoMill would help to shine a light on is the need for individuals, hackerspaces, and schools to have small-scale electronics manufacturing facilities. I believe that there are 3 key technologies that are necessary to a modern electronics fab. First is the ability to print circuits. Second is the ability to place modern components on the circuit. Finally, the third is the ability to do reflowing.
Like the iBooks Author program, I feel that these disruptive technologies have the ability to empower people and transform an industry. Clearly all of the technologies already exist for creating these machines. People hack together various versions of them all the time. There needs to be work done towards mass producing them and a guiding vision for making all of them work together seamlessly.
I designed the MezzoMill to simplify the problem of printing circuits. It turns the experience of printing circuits from EAGLE to one like from your word processor to your inkjet. It makes the process safe and repeatable while reducing the user interaction with the process as much as possible. It is the only solution in its price range that provides this user experience to individuals.
Very cool! I see hacks all the time where people have put together PCB routers using gantry dremels and the like, but the focus here is on self-contained, user-friendly repeatability and flexibility. That’s something which a lot of home builds lack — not intentionally, mind you, but they are built by users for themselves and require less generalization. I think a general machine designed for a wider user base is the next logical step.
Adafruit offers a fun and exciting stickers to celebrate achievement for electronics, science and engineering. We believe everyone should be able to be rewarded for learning a useful skill, a sticker is just one of the many ways to show and share. Perfect for educators, classrooms, workshops, Maker Faires, TechShops, Hackerspaces, Makerspaces and around the world to reward beginners on their skill building journey!
Looks great on the laptop or the workbench.
These gorgeous stickers are glossy, vinyl and made to last a lifetime. Made with printing/vinyl machines that are solar powered and using the most green friendly supplies as possible.
MADE IN THE USA!
Adafruit’s stickers are manufactured in partnership with AMBRO Manufacturing located in NJ, USA. AMBRO is a family owned and operated business since 1990 that celebrates open-source with Adafruit Industries. You can meet their team here. AMBRO uses non-toxic soy based, water soluble and environmentally friendly printing supplies, threads and more when possible. AMBRO has over 250 solar panels that generate 50,000 Kilowatt hours per year. Their equipment runs solar powered, so the wonderful things AMBRO and Adafruit have worked together on are made with the sun! AMBRO Manufacturing was recognized by Impressions Magazine, a leading trade publication in the garment printing and embroidery business, who published an article highlighting AMBRO and their commitment to their environmentally focused manufacturing practices. Adafruit knows you have a lot of choices as to where you spend your money and time, we hope our open-source values, commitment to green technologies and partners helps make the decision easier and fun!
What is the best way to explain to noobs what a 3d printer, laser cutter, cnc machines and plasma cutters are used for?
Well lets see. All of the equipment you have listed is used in the process of design, prototyping and fabrication of material objects. At school, we instruct with these tools to give our students a better understanding as to how designs are taken from CAD software and brought into the material world. I will explain each:
I refer to our 3D printer as a “rapid prototyping machine” which is a class of equipment that uses additive manufacturing technology to deposit typically layers of material in succession. This material can be really anything that can be deposited in a controlled manner (i.e. plastics, metals, cupcake frosting,….) Utilizing a controller and piece of software that converts a solid model into a series of vector movements or CNC(computer numerical control), the machine is capable of creating 3D objects, much like the Star Trek Replicator…..except not as tasty. One of the prohibitive aspects of commercial 3D printers is the price, this is where MakerBot and the RepRap movement has made such an impact.
Ah, my favorite. A laser cutter is another CNC machine that uses a series of lenses attached to a XY gantry to redirect high power laser light onto the material its cutting. Unlike the 3D printer, most laser cutters are only capable of cutting in two dimensions. You will notice the popular “Interlocking T-Bolt Construction” or T-Slot found on MakerBot’s and other laser cut designs used to make 3D objects from 2D pieces. Laser cutters have a Z axis that is used for focusing the laser for varying thickness materials. The laser technology dictates that types and thicknesses of material you can cut, wether it be fabric or steel.
Are machines that are numerically controlled by computers. The computer follows the path created from a CAD model that has been deconstructed into mathematical coordinates based on the desired materials properties, available cutting tools, federates, etc. This is most commonly G-code. The computer then controls a series of motor/stepper/servo controllers to recreate the model out of the chosen material using the necessary tools.
Another fun one. Like the laser cutter, a plasma cutter typically cuts only in two dimensions, with the Z axis used to “focus” the jet. The plasma torch super-heats a jet of compressed gas through an electric arc until the point that the gas turns to plasma. This jet of plasma is hot enough to remove a small amount of material following the path determined by the computer. Due to the high operating temperatures and the need for a complete circuit are restricted to only cutting metals. The one I use is capable of cutting anything from thin sheet steel to 1-1/4″ mild steel…..it is really quite amazing to watch it cut!
An alternative to plasma cutting is water-jet. The water-jet machine is capable of cutting almost any material and uses a high-pressure jet of cutting fluid containing an abrasive, like garnet. The advantage to water-jet is the lack of smoke and soot found when plasma cutting.
I hope this answers your question! Up next is A.Kahn with a question about IR Sensors!
Don’t forget, everyone is invited to ask a question:
BACK IN STOCK – Atmega32u4 Breakout Board. Toss out those FTDI cables and go USB-native with the ATmega32u4. After many months of back-orders, we finally received a shipment of these little guys and are excited to offer our breakout board. The little dev board keeps it simple, with just the bare essentials:
Atmega32u4 – AVR core with USB capability. 32K flash, 2.5K RAM running at 16MHz
Standard AVR 6-pin ISP connector for direct programming (when you need the extra space)
Big Bootload/Reset button
500mA fuse on the USB power line
Power LED and ‘user’ LED (also indicates when the bootloader is active)
Fits nicely in any breadboard
4 mounting holes
This breakout board is best for those who have familiarity with some microcontrollers and are comfortable with writing code in C. This board doesn’t come with any ‘learn to program’ tutorials! If this is your first time with a microcontroller, we suggest going with an Arduino which is easier. Then when you want to upgrade, check this out.
Plug it in, connect a mini-B USB cable and you can start writing code immediately. With the built-in bootloader you don’t even need an AVR programmer. We suggest checking out the LUFA library to get started with the USB core as nearly every kind of device has an example already.