It has been quite a hectic week for me. It seems like everyone else is making great progress on their projects. As for myself, I have been spending most of my time setting up a space to do some good development work. But first, some back story.
Recently, I moved to the San Jose area to take on a job with a big technology company. Before joining the Xbox group, I was at a small start-up on the east coast. My previous employers were generous enough to let me use of the prototyping equipment and lab space on the weekends for my hobby projects. Fast forward a few months and I arrive in Silicon Valley with just a suit case, ready for a grand engineering adventure. While the new job is great, I no longer have access to a prototyping lab space that I have grown accustomed to.
One night, I stumbled upon element14’s website and I saw a contested for the new PSoC4 silicon. I was already quite familiar with the PSoC5 during a previous contest that Cypress had sponsored, and I was thrilled that they were expanding the PSoC family. If anyone is interested, here’s a link to my entry for the PSoC5 contest (warning: bad hair in video). Anyways, I quickly put together a proposal for an idea that I have been thinking about for a while. Once the entry was submitted, I didn’t think too much of it because there were already lots of great entries posted on the forums. A few weeks later, much to my surprise, I get an email from element14 informing me that I was one of the finalists. I was ecstatic, but then came the dreadful realization that I now have to actually develop this camera stabilizer device.
During the first week of development, I learned rather quickly that I would not be able to work effectively in an empty apartment. I didn’t have the equipment to etch circuits anymore. In fact, I didn’t even have a desk. The lab at work was still months away from fully functional, so how is this project even going to get off the ground?
Well, after two weeks or so of scrambling around, I think the lab space is quickly coming together. The first order of business was to score an oscilloscope. I have been looking for an excuse to get a scope for a long time. Since I always had access to expensive equipment, it never occurred to me how difficult it is to properly assess oscilloscopes through auction sites like Ebay. I knew there was inherent danger to bidding on expensive equipment, and I constantly worried that I might get ripped off. Luckily I was able to win an auction for an old Tektronix TDS 540 for about $500. For those who are curious, that $1 per MHz! It seems to run fine for now for signal acquisition. However, the probe compensation signals are screwed up. I am surprised how large and noisy the fans are on the old Tektronix TDS series compared to modern oscilloscopes. I have been spoiled by the Agilent InfiniiVision 7000 series MSO at the old job. Hopefully the electrolytic capacitors on this baby are still wet and I can get a few years of usage out of it. Not bad for a piece of equipment that cost $15 000 in 1993 (when I had even worse hair).
Next, I needed a power supply. I tried some auctions, but I wasn’t able to win anything. I decide to bite the bullet and get a new power supply from Mastech, spending around another $200.
Once the oscilloscope and power supply was taken care of, the next order of business was the soldering equipment. By chance I had packed some of the soldering tools from college before leaving for the west coast. I asked a friend to parcel me the package and I now have access to some nice hand tools for rework.
Without the ability to etch circuits, I knew from experience that interconnects would be a big hassle. In light of this, I spent a bit more money on a few wire crimpers on Ebay. These were relatively easy auction wins since the average person does not have an urgent need for crimped wires.
So there it is, my ad-hoc lab setup. I still need to get a Fluke multimeter somehow before I can effectively develop, but I think I’ll have enough things to do for a few weeks.
On a separate note, Cypress was quick to address the problems in Windows 8.1 through their tech support ticket system. PSoC Creator and Programmer are running perfectly now, so I no longer have an excuse to procrastinate.
My plan of attack is to first make a motor driver PCB that can be connected to the PSoC4 pioneer kit. Since the di/dt on the motor current is pretty big, the layout will needs to be well thought out. It would be difficult to get an effective layout on a breadboard due to the large rate of current change. I’ll share the circuit and layout with annotations once they are complete. I’m hoping that I can get a set of board through to CAM by the end of the weekend. This way I can start writing software while the boards are being made.
That’s it for now.