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IBM made history this month for being the first company to deliver quantum computing to the Cloud. The tech company encourages researchers and science enthusiasts alike to test out its platform and provide feedback that could bring useful quantum processing to the world. (via IBM)


Can you imagine a world where computer processing mimics the natural world? Science and technology are currently limited by binary computing. Some molecular structures, like caffeine, are impossible to duplicate with current computing technology, limiting pharmaceutical and other technological innovation. But quantum computing might solve all of that – and you can help.


Scientists at IBM have been working on a five-qubit quantum computer for some time now. Quantum computing in theory would mean the next era of the Digital Age. We are coming close to the reaching the maximum potential of our current computing technology, based on Moore’s Law, and quantum technology hopes to solve problems that are impossible to overcome with current technology.


In short, quantum computer would allow us to artificially simulate the way in which nature regulates growth. To be able to simulate the growth of a plant digitally is the beginning of an era where medicine can better align with the natural world, and support healthier living for billions of people on the planet. That reality is a long way away, but IBM recently released its quantum computing platform to the Cloud, in the hopes of accelerating that process.



An IBM researcher using the Cloud-based platform

The reality of using the platform is like using a binary computer in the 1980s. Unless you’re familiar with computing algorithms and functions, navigating IBM’s five-qubit Cloud computer might seem a bit archaic, and that’s OK. It’s not about what it can do now, but what it can tell researchers about how quantum computer process information – hence why they need lots and lots of user information.


Researchers, scientists, and science enthusiasts are encouraged to use the platform to execute different functions. The more use the platform gets, the better IBM quantum researchers will understand how the organic computer processes information, which will set the stage for developing more enhanced quantum computers that can fulfill our theoretical ideals for what the technology can do (and, of course, define what it cannot).


The Cloud platform is called the IBM Quantum Experience. If you want in, you’ll have to apply for entrance, but it’s free. Users can work with individual quantum bits, execute algorithms, and watch tutorials and interviews with some of the brightest minds in quantum computers, to gain a better understanding of the technology and its future.



IBM’s quantum computer, which must maintain extremely cold temperatures to keep qubits alive


IBM researchers hope the platform informs the development of the first universal quantum computer. The development of such a platform would revolutionize the internet, allowing for the fastest, most secure connections to date. The technology would open the door to the next era of technological advancement, and would revolutionize medicine, including finding a solution to the virus riddle. 


Anyone interested in tinkering on the platform can find more information about the IBM Quantum Experience, and IBM’s quantum research initiative here.


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Have you ever tried to design a romantic PCB for your lover or an interesting PCB for your children or friends on special day? Why not? PCB also could be an amazing gift which comes from your creativity. Here I’d like to share a romantic and practical PCB to you.


This romantic LED board consists of 35 Flash LEDs and a  CR1220CR1220 battery cell and of course some resistors to limit the flow of current Since this circuit is no more than 35 LED’s and resistor arrays even beginners can try this PCB out and make a beautiful gift


romantic PCB



The circuit is very easy to understand and very few components are required to build this flash LED circuit.

LED-Merry Me_SCH


When PCB layout is completed on EasyEDA, it looks monotonous so it still needs more steps to make it vivid and nice.



You could click the ‘image’ button in the PCB Tools menu on EasyEDA, and select an image in the new window of ‘Insert Image to PCB’, also, you can use Color Tolerance or Simplify Level function to adjust your image. When complete the above steps, you could press the button ‘Insert Image to PCB’, then you will see your image that have been already inserted to PCB.






Next, move the inserted image to the left of PCB, you can see and edit it online at



Of course, you can change the layer you like and insert the image you like.


You can access the PCB design of this Romantic PCB board through this link


If you want to gain this romantic PCB, you also could directly order it from EasyEDA. Just need to click “Fabrication Output” button then redirect to the page of “PCB order”. In that page you can place an order quickly and easily.




Finally, fill in the form, save to cart, and complete you order, then you will get your PCBs a few days later.





If it’s the first time you notice and use EasyEDA which is the keynote of the above design, you could learn how to use EasyEDA quickly and easily after reading the tutorial. The tutorial is completed with videos that explain the operations, such as the diagram creation. About EasyEDA, it is is a free, web-based and easy-to-use EDA tool integrating powerful circuit design, mixed-mode circuit simulator and PCB design. EasyEDA is designed to give electrical engineers, educators, engineering students and electronics hobbyists an Easier EDA Experience.


The followingbriefly presents the features of EasyEDA tool.



The Zephyr Project is an initiative to bring a real-time operating system to low-power IoT-connected devices and technologies. The platform is open-source and might be the buffer needed to address IoT security concerns. (images via Zephyr)


The Internet of Things (IoT) is here to stay. As devices continue to be upgraded for optimal internet connectivity, security has become an increasing concern – something The Zephyr Project hopes to change.


The Zephyr Project is an open-source initiative to bring a Real-Time Operating System (RTOS) to low-power, small memory footprint devices. The RTOS allows for the most efficient use of energy by keeping memory usage low and prioritizing task execution. As such, it may provide the level of protection needed to keep users protected from security threats once and for all.




The Zephyr kernel functions by separating the operational processes from the rest of the bare-bone OS; also called the microkernel, and nanokernel. The nanokernel is responsible for all essential operating tasks, including executing tasks through an internal fiber-based backlog. The microkernel is more powerful and allows for multitasking and memory storage, but is only used when necessary. In this way, the RTOS successfully creates a low-power operating system that is powerful, without all the energy guzzling. In fact, it only requires 10KB or less to operate.


The Zephyr kernel is based on modular memory and information processing. Similar to MIT’s new AI Chip, the RTOS schedules task execution cooperatively, and is based on performance-critical cue organization. The system can run on units as small as 8 kB up to 512 kB, and can run numerous system architectures simultaneously. Most importantly, it adds a layer of security otherwise unavailable for low-power footprint devices. This could curb the increasing trend of sacrificing user security for internet connectivity.


As-is the Zephyr kernel is projected to work seamlessly with Arduino 101 Arduino Duo Intel Galileo Gen 2 and the NXP  FRDM-K64FFRDM-K64F Freedom board Because it is open-source developers are welcome to join the Zephyr Project community and customize the platform for their unique needs. Those interested in learning more about the project may visit the company website, or reach out to the lead developers.




The Zephyr Project ran live demos at Embedded World 2016. The company has no plans of slowing down. Keep up with the progression of the RTOS on Twitter.


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It looks like the FTDI USB-Serial saga continues. A USB-Serial (also known as USB-to-UART) interface is used to connect up PCs to hardware devices using the USB port. FTDI was traditionally a manufacturer of the interface chips for this purpose.


This blog post examines how to connect up UART (serial) based devices to a PC. This feature was often relegated to a FT232 chip from FTDI. However nowadays many microcontrollers have built-in USB interfaces and this ancillary FTDI part is not needed.


For the scenarios where a dedicated USB Serial IC is needed, there are options other than FTDI parts. Nowadays there is some motivation to examine non-FTDI parts for this function.

An example design: the Arduino Uno doesn’t use an FTDI part – it has used an Atmel ATmega part for half a decade.



About eighteen months ago, FTDI did something that possibly could have caused people to claim for legal damages in many countries. It went against ethics according to some engineers, and as mentioned it was possibly actionable in law in certain countries. Manufacturers can be legally liable for damage that their products cause to other property. According to reports the FTDI driver deliberately 'bricked' (by which I mean rendered inoperable for non-technical users, requiring detailed procedures to revert back to the original state) the USB Serial interface in products that had a chip which was not manufactured under license from them but was attempting to use their driver. They did this by forcibly zeroising an EEPROM memory field in the user's product.

It is unknown how many devices were bricked, nor if FTDI offered to make good and provide compensation to users who had bricked products. FTDI's go-to guy for press releases was asked several times to comment last month but he refused.


FTDI's Current Solution

FTDI eventually backtracked to a degree and their recent drivers no longer perform such EEPROM memory overwriting. But, it seems that their solution is to make their driver generate 'fake' serial data which spells out 'NON GENUINE DEVICE FOUND'. This data is unobservable to a normal non-technical user of products.  The user may just experience unusual symptoms, or complete failure of their product. The unusual symptoms will vary from product to product. Note that non-genuine could mean a fake part or a clean room design. Also note that reverse-engineering can sometimes be legal.

The subtle difference between the situation now and the situation eighteen months ago is that the product can be effectively rendered temporarily unusable by FTDI without modifying EEPROM contents. By not modifying EEPROM contents any longer perhaps FTDI are trying to avoid liability but in my opinion it is still questionable if this is responsible practice nor am I sure on the legality.


Who Suffers?

There is a school of thought that what FTDI is doing is a valid thing to do - after all, they are protecting their investment and if a product fails to work with the new drivers, the user has some rights to take the product back to the manufacturer. The product manufacturer can then compensate the user, and then seek liability from the distributor of the USB-serial chip that they used. In theory everyone gets compensated along this chain apart from the manufacturer of the supposedly fake parts. In practice not all loss is recoverable even if everyone along the chain pays what they legally owe. Pure economic loss is not legally recoverable in some countries for example. Nor is it always possible to prove causation. If you lose a potential 100-million-dollar deal due to people hearing about your flaky product that had a ‘fake’ FTDI chip inside it, it will be hard to recover the 100-million dollars from your supplier.

Furthermore in practice the (non-technical) user suffers because the user was not aware of the origins of the chip (which forms just a fraction of the end product), nor whether the chip was produced under license from FTDI or not.



Some users could throw out their product thus suffering some loss if their product was outside the warranty period and they had naturally assumed some part had reached the end of its life.

This is not just theoretical. Another manufacturer of USB-serial chips, Prolific, had a slightly similar issue in the past with their PL2303 IC. They upgraded their driver, rendering some products inoperable. It is unknown if it was deliberate like FTDI. One of my USB-Serial adapters was from a well-known high-street store, and it contained what I believed to be a genuine PL2303 part. I had no reason to believe (and I still don't) that the high-street store's supplier had used a manufacturer that would deliberately source parts that were non-genuine Prolific parts. Without further information I believe it had been accidental. The workaround of modifying Windows '.inf' files was complex - definitely not something that non-technical users may wish to attempt.

There is also the possibility that more serious harm could occur if a product behaved unexpectedly. FTDI parts are used in vehicle on-board diagnostic (OBD) tools; imagine if someone relied on erratic or incorrect data egressing from the software for such a device to adjust their vehicle. FTDI are in the unfortunate position that they won’t always know about the end product that their chip is used for. However they are not the only ones.


I was happy to know an Engineering Director who committed to removing (and did remove) licensing lock limits in a communications product simply because he couldn’t guarantee that the lock might prevent communications for a user during a hypothetical emergency (public emergency for example) for want of a license fee that was late. It was better to trust that the vast majority of users will be honest and at some stage pay up, and take the hit that some won’t, and sleep better at night knowing your product will function in emergencies regardless of whether the purchaser forgot to pay the license fee or not. Not everything in life has to be about revenue policing.

There is a suggestion that the FTDI 'NON GENUINE DEVICE FOUND' problem can be avoided in new designs by engineers not using FTDI USB-serial chips inside products - then there is no risk of their product containing a non-genuine FTDI part by accident.


When and Why is Reverse Engineering Allowed for Interoperability?

It could be considered that possibly ‘fake’ or ‘clean room design’ manufacturers should write their own drivers and that therefore FTDI are in their right to do whatever they desire to prevent interoperability. However at the same time it is worth noting is that in Europe it has been legal for a very long time to have interoperability at software interfaces, and in certain circumstances it is even legal to reverse engineer existing software to achieve this aim under Europe’s Software Directive. For FTDI to take the stance to send data strings containing ‘NON GENUINE DEVICE FOUND’ means they are deliberately preventing interoperability at a particular interface which can be legal. But it may (this is just a personal opinion – seek legal advice) also allow people to legitimately have the right to continue to examine and reverse engineer FTDI parts in order to continue to achieve interoperability in the future with clean room designs that interoperate at that boundary. Why is this important? Imagine a product with an embedded copy of Windows running inside it. It could be a high-end test instrument costing tens of thousands of dollars. And its accessories might all contain FTDI parts which connect to the USB interfaces on the test tool. Ten years from now either FTDI and/or the product manufacturer may have moved on to other things or the products and software may no longer be under any support, and users may wish to connect third party or custom accessories because the original accessories are no longer fit for purpose, or to resolve bugs in the hardware discovered long after FTDI ceases to exist. Many parts including FTDI parts have errata. If it is illegal to interoperate using third party devices, the entire test instrument investment may be lost. This might seem a contrived example but the point is that the future cannot always be accurately predicted.


What can we do?

We can't change a mindset easily it appears. Eighteen months on the repercussions are still being felt and fake data is being generated by FTDI drivers when they detect (in FTDI's opinion) non-'genuine' devices. But we can design USB to Serial interfaces with the wealth of other interesting parts if we wish to.


What other USB Serial Interface Parts are Available?

Four choices which require no crystal and the bare minimum parts (usually just a couple of capacitors) were investigated and their attributes are listed in the table further below and compared with the FT231X chip used in FTDI’s Nero project. Although the investigation is merely a datasheet comparison, it would be great to hear people’s experiences on these and other parts. To kick off, I have tried the MCP2221. I also intend to try the Cypress part in the table below.


The Microchip MCP2221 is a nice part as can be seen from the table. It is available in prototype-friendly packages (including DIP!) and is extremely easy to use. For an example MCP2221 project see here.

Here it is being used with the BeagleBone Black..



The CP2102 from Silicon Labs is another option. It works well and is therefore extremely popular.



A very interesting device appears to be Cypress CY7C65213 - it looks ideal for modern applications where the device can negotiate higher current for battery charging. It is available in a fairly easy-to-prototype SSOP package as well as QFN for compactness. The Exar XR21B1421 has built-in 15kV ESD protection and supports very high baud rates.





Silicon Labs








1MemoryYes, for configuration1kByte 100,000 write cycles512Byte 100,000 write cyclesOTP2kByte 2,000 write cycles
2Baud Rate300-1M300-1M300-3M300-12M300-3M
3Current Consumption13mA20mA13mA13mA8mA
4Suspend Consumption46uA80uA5uA850uA125uA
5USB Impedance MatchingBuilt-inBuilt-inBuilt-inBuilt-inRequires external resistors and capacitors
6Internal LDOYes – 3.3V unclear if available to external circuitsYes – 3VYes but not available to external circuitsYes – 3.3V unclear if available to external circuitsYes – 3.3V 50mA output capability
7Hardware Flow Control PinsNoYesYesYesYes
8General Purpose I/OYes - 4NoYes - 8Yes – 10 (shared with Flow Control pins)Yes - 4
9USB Battery Charger DetectionNoNoYes, SDP, CDP, DCPNoYes, DCP
10Wake up time from Suspend65ms25us20ms
11ESD Protection (HBM)4kVRequires TVS diodes2.2kV15kV2kV
12Additional Feature HighlightsUSB HID capability, Built-in I2C Master, Built-in ADC (3 channel), DAC and InterruptCan use pin-compatible CP2109 with PROM for lower cost production devicesSupports PHDC (Personal Healthcare Device Class)USB HID capabilityUART inversion capability
131.8V I/O SupportYesNo, requires external level convertersYesYesYes
14Price in GBP each (qty of 100)1.061.70


(0.94 for 2000)



(1.00 for 1000)

15Packages availableDIP-14, SOIC-14, TSSOP-14, QFN-16QFN-28SSOP-28, QFN-32QFN-24, QFN-28SSOP-20, QFN-20


Note: The data in the table is believed to be reasonably accurate but please check the product datasheets before implementing a design!



Depending on requirements there are some great options available. For hobbyists the MCP2221 comes in easy-to-use packages and has a lot of interesting features to save time and money as well as USB HID which is excellent to see. It is a great all-round part. For commercial designs it is available in extremely compact packages and at low cost. For modern designs with extremely low standby current (this would make it ideal for connecting to mobile phone handsets!) and ultra-fast wake up times, high density of digital I/O as well as the ability to support charge current negotiation, the Cypress CY7C65213 could be a very good option.

BeagleBone Blue 1.jpeg

The mysterious BeagleBone Blue promo image (via BeagleBone) just released a page on their site dedicated to something called the BeagleBone Blue (BBB). On the page is a picture of a PCB with the words “robotics cape” riding atop a BeagleBone that is mounted inside a 3D printed, wheeled framework.

It claims that the BeagleBone Blue is described as a “complete educational robotics controller” and it also claims that because the BBB comes with or is an educational curriculum, (the page is unclear on this point) that “barriers to learning and growing are completely eliminated”.


So, is the BBB, just a cape? Is it a kit with a cape, wheels, motors and sensors? Is it a learning system with a curriculum and projects like one of those 101-electronics-projects-in-one? None of this is made very clear. Maybe the mystery of it is meant to compel us to sign up for regular updates. Clicking the sales flyer in the middle of the page will take you to another page to sign up for regular media updates.


What is listed, is a bunch of what appear to be single-board-computer specs.


Whatever the BBB is or isn’t, is definitely has:

A 1GHz ARM Cortex-8,

512MB of DDR3 RAM

2x 32 bit, 200 MHz PRUs (programmable real-time units)

An unspecified amount of on-board flash

Balanced 2-cell LiPo support

Accepts 6-16v charging input

Wireless 802.11 b/g/n

Bluetooth 4.0 (includes Bluetooth Low Energy)

It seems to have some GPIO as well as IO dedicated to UARTs, SPI & I2C

It has an on-board barometer and a 9-axis Inertial Measurement Unit

At least one USB 2.0 port

It has 8 – 6V servo outputs & a 4V DC motor output

If I am reading it correctly, 4 quad encoder inputs


I’d like to get excited about the BBB, but I’m really not sure what I’d be getting excited about. Oh well, time will tell because additional details are supposed to be released in February.

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Year-in-PReview-2016-header.pngOpen Source

Of all our recent discussions about future tech predictions and how electronics platforms might evolve over the next 12 months., this is perhaps the most semantic.

After all, a platform, board or piece of software is either open source, or it isn't. There's not much in the way of middle ground, so the discussion almost seems void.

However, it's becoming increasingly common to find products and platforms that are mostly open source, but not entirely. Is this the way open source will go? Just keeping enough back for a company to control its own devices, and make it easier to survive the fluctuating markets? Or is that the path to the dark side?

Will Open Source Become More Open, or More Closed?

On a slightly lighter note, perhaps you'll agree with my feelings on open source, that as much as being a description of a platform's accessibility, it's also a social movement.

Some of us have a particular passion for the open source scene, and actively seek out new software and hardware not because it provides a specific function that a project needs, but because it's open source. Is that such a bad thing?

And let's say I want to join the open source scene, what's my next move? How can the scene grow and evolve and continue to encourage developers and creators to join its ranks when launching new software and hardware? What's next for open source?

Tell us all about the future of Open Source below (and what you'd like to see, as much as what we will see), and we'll reconvene this time next year to see how close we got to the mark.



Posted by balearicdynamics Dec 23, 2015

A project born around the LinkIt ONE board is an experiment of a full open hardware and open software untile to reach a product.




A dog-wearable device for dogs, that remain more than one day in standby mode. This IoT device is based on the OSHW board LinkIt ONE and following the same philosophy also the device has been developed through three different prototypes as OSHW and OS software device.

At the actual date Hugo, as shown in the video below, is a full working small product that can be supported on indiegogo and will be sold online on Amazon and other online stores and available to some distributors only in some countries.


More details on the project can be saw on


(Some over used stock art. Seemed to fit the theme.)

Although as a society, we’ve long asked for the day technology can overtake everyday, mundane tasks. That reality is closer to fruition than ever before, and now is the time we should take a step back to determine if that’s really what want – and consider the resulting consequences.


Everywhere we look today we are inundated with ads that beg us to learn coding. If not us, then we must ensure our children learn the sacred way of the code. But is it really necessary? Are there consequences to ensuring your kids can code and do we need to learn? The short answer is yes, we do need to learn – and it will likely be one of the most exhilarating skills you’ll ever learn.


The automated world we hope to build will require an unimaginable effort to create – and all of it will require software. From building a simple device that monitors your infant’s breathing to developing a complex inventory management robot, every single technology you can imagine will require software. And if you don’t plan on learning to code, someone has to, or the world we envision will remain just out of reach.


Not to fear. We’ve curated a few great resources to get you, and your kids, started. Whether you want to learn to code with Star Wars characters, or create a video game from scratch, you’ll find a solution that’s right for you below.


Happy Coding!

Create a Windows App with No Coding Required




Okay, okay. So yes, you should learn to code, but if you just want to learn some basics about app development before you download Visual Studios or Xamarin, you’ll be happy to discover Microsoft launched a platform that allows users to build apps without writing a single line of code.


The Windows App Studio now lets users build apps with the clicks of a few buttons. You won’t be able to create a complex, or even pretty, apps with the platform, but it is a great way to make something. A lot of the joy of building technologies really comes in the building – in investing your time and tears into creating something. No one can take that away from you. Sure, you won’t make something amazing in the new platform, but at least you’ll make something and it’ll teach you enough about app development that you’ll want to go out and make more.

Coding with Star Wars



(via & Disney)


If you’re ready for something a bit more challenging, check out’s new Star Wars game. You can create your own galaxy with Princess Leia and Rey. The female feature is no accident – the duo is intended to promote the kind of diversity that future of computer programming calls for.

The platform teaches kids (and adults) to code by dragging and dropping lines of code in the appropriate spots. This gets the user familiar with code, before they attempt to write it themselves.


If you’re already familiar with code, try to more advanced version that relies on JavaScript. You’ll be able to drag and drop more complex lines of code, but you’ll have to write your own commands in JavaScript to build and defend your galaxy.

Build Video Games




Okay, so now you have some decent coding skills. Most programmers have found the best way to truly learn is to build something you’re excited about. And who isn’t excited about video games?

Most people don’t think computer programming when they think of gaming, but in fact game developers are some of the best computer programmers in the industry. Sure, animators play an enormous part in the process, but it can’t come together without programmers building those graphics into functional games that are compatible with console hardware.


If you have a child who’s a gamer, he or she has probably mentioned wanting to create video games at one point or another. Here’s your chance to get him or her engaged in the making, not just the life-sucking playing.


Unity 5 offers a Developer Course that promises to help users master C# and Unity 3D by developing your own video game. You’ll have access to 278 lectures and 49 hours of content. Most importantly, you’ll have fun. See Stack Studio for more.

La pièce de résistance – Tie it all together with Maker Camp




There’s nothing quite like making. There’s an inexplicable joy that rises from deep within when we make anything. It’s the power of creation – and you can get your kids excited about it early with Maker Camp.


Maker Camp is an initiative to keep kids creative. The company has 1,000 educational affiliates across the US and gets kids involved in making by assigning fun projects to complete throughout the year. Most projects only require odds and ends sitting around most households, yet they can teach your kids a lot about working with others, and will give them confidence in themselves.


Maker Camp has both an in-class and online version. Check their site to see if there’s a location near you. If not, you can pick up the slack and become a class leader, too.


Past projects include a Halloween-themed ghost booby trap and a tote that lights up when it’s opened.

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In 2015 I tried to find some time to explore some things – here is a photo summary. I got to meet some friends, try out some things, and do some research from time to time.


The items here can be found in the various blog posts over the past year.






There was work on a Battery Simulator aka Project Morpheus, and I did some initial testing for it, programmatically setting voltages for a small load and examining the current monitor output. I need to get back to it, and finish it!

There was some experimentation with Infineon's DC Motor Control Board for Arduino  - a really fantastic product.

There are many types of motors incidentally, and some were examined here - Motors blog

A couple of the DC Motor Control Boards were used to build a Wheeled Platform for Robotics using XMOS and Raspberry Pi. It was also simulated using computer software.

A selection of Raspberry Pi GPIO based circuits and code (Python, C and shell scripts) were examined as well as how to improve real time performance by influencing process scheduling


Next were some educational experiments with the Active Learning Module - a surprisingly good product.

I used it to also measure dynamic current consumption of the CodeBug (and also make a CodeBug into a clock).

On the educational theme, the Micro:Bit looks super interesting - looking forward to seeing the reviews of it next year.

A surprisingly odd product (just a personal opinion) was the OpenPi, check out the review here.

On the news front, there were some interesting uses of IoT for early cancer detection. There was an exhibition at the V&A about ways to be secret which involve TOR .

Exciting new silicon was announced - the XCORE-200


In terms of build techniques, I learnt how to label front panels.  For the lab, a Digital High Definition PCB Inspection Microscope was created, as well as PCB circuit board holders

I visited a few places, including some shows such as Protection and Management 2015 and Maker Faire Bay Area and Cisco Live


Back to Infineon, I really had a lot of fun with their RGB LED Shield (Getting-started guide from December 2014) - used it for several projects this year in standalone mode without an Arduino. I used it to build a white LED Lamp (dimmed by a variable resistor), and a 68-Billion-Color Lamp controlled by a rotary encoderBuilding a Full Color Lamp with the RGB LED Shield from Infineon


In terms of software coding, there was some experimentation with process sceduling with the Raspberry Pi as mentioned earlier. I also looked at TouchDevelop, a very interesting language from Microsoft.

There was also some experimentation in using HTML to construct user interfaces for embedded applications including those without a display.


On the sensors front, the highly useful LDC1000 from Texas Instruments was investigated - it was so sensitive it could identify when the second-hand of a clock went past.


I'd not used PIC microcontrollers in a very long time, so was pleasantly surprised that it was very easy to construct a USB interface for projects. It was possible to send push-button press events to a PC, and in the reverse direction it was possible to remotely control an LED from a PC.

Staying on the USB theme, it was interesting to build a USB UART adapter .

In BeagleBoard world there was a brief examination of the upcoming X15’s processor and some X15 board documentation diagrams.

Also I had fun researching how to use the BeagleBone Black for creating computer sounds using FM synthesis and the history of it. 

Staying on the history theme, it was interesting to briefly explore the History of AVO, a business started by the creator of the world’s first multi-meter.


Here are some of the activities on element14 that I read about this year that interested me or really caught my attention.

Other things did too over the year, these summary photos are just a few of the highlights that are worth checking out!




Here are some links, in no order:

The PiDesk

MotY and 100k Level 9

Volcano Control


Pi Zero Internet Connected Display

Music Tech

Jose, James, Rick and Michael's Vertical Farming

Magic Doctor's Hat

Hadron Vortex G2 Gizmo Case



Illuminated Tricopter

Pi Zero Retro Gaming System

Foginator 2000

Gizmo 2 3D Printed Enclosure

Enchanted Record Player

Douglas' LED Road Test and 3D Printed Dodecahedron

Real Time Player Monitoring System

Enchanted Cottage

Pi User Interface with Colour LCD Display

Building a Quadcopter


Last but not least, there was a huge wealth of element14 organized activities - I did not get to attend as many webinars as I had hoped this year, but nevertheless I really appreciated the immense effort gone into arranging them and seeking experts and topics of interest. I also appreciated the design challenge work, and the amazing site development activities over the year and upcoming upgrades. It has evolved so much over the years.

Drew Fustini

Open Hardware Summit 2015

Posted by Drew Fustini Nov 13, 2015

OHS 2015

2015 Summit Session Recordings Now Available!

Videos of Open Hardware Summit 2015 talks are now online:

2015 Summit Early Morning Sessions

2015 Summit Late Morning Sessions

2015 Summit Early Afternoon Sessions


2015 Summit Late Afternoon Sessions

There are photos of OHS 2015 on Flickr:

OHS 2015 group photo



  To draw PCB layout is an essential ability for electronic engineer .

  We could use many tools for PCB Layout , Altium Designer, Kicad, PADS,and so forth .But for a reason that these software are all desktop-based , you need to install it on your PC or may need to pay for the software .EasyEDA provides a feasible way to draw schematic and PCB online ,without installing a software on your PC , and you could also save it on the cloud server and share it to all the internet users in the meantime .You could utilize all the internet components Lib and PCB Lib on the internet , you could edit the Libs and add them to your Part. You could also utilize the accomplished module in the System Design or the User’s Design. That really accelerates your speed to accomplish a Project . Furthermore, you could add the PCB Layout to Your CART and pay for it with low cost for the PCB order . That is an easy way to accomplish your Project from Concept Design ,Schematic Design to PCB Design and PCB order .

  Let me introduce how to make PCB Layout out of an online schematic design on EasyEDA , an free online schematic design Tool ,spice simulation tool, PCB Design tool .

  We need to Firstly create a Schematic .

  Let us create e a DC/DC Converter schematic as followed.

schematic design


      The schematic consists of a power management IC LM2596s-ADJ ,A DC-DC Step-Down Power IC

  A feedback circuit including R2&R1 ,a resistor R2 and an adjustable resistor R1 , Vin and Vout Filter Capacitor C1&C2. A led Indicator circuit of output.

  Choose package for every component .

  Then convert the schematic into PCB by clicking “Convert To PCB ”ICON on the Toolbar.

  Then it will transfer to New PCB file

  Press”Ctrl+S” to save the New PCB and rename it .

  On the external frame , click the arc and delete it . Close the external frame with right angle .

PCB file

  ——Change the arc on the left top side to right angle .


  Click every component and drag them to the inside of the frame .

  Put every component on the proper position .

  Then start to route it as followed .

  1、Auto route

  2、Route manually .

  1、You could choose to auto route the circuit by clicking the auto route .

  After clicking “Auto Router” ICON ,the interface will pop up with Auto Router Config .You could modify the track width , General clearance ,and so on .Click run to execute auto routing .

auto route PCB layout

  ——Auto Router Config dialog.


PCB layout

  ——Effect of Auto Routing .

  2、However , even the tool provides function to auto route, for most of the completed circuits or special circuits , you need to route it manually .

  3、Use the PCB tools and the layers tools and use the track on the PCB Tool to connect every flying line .

  4、Remember to check the DRC Routing Rule and then make the PCB Layout to make sure that it support power integrity .After you route the wire , change the size of Toplayer Silklayer .

  5、Pour the Copper Area through the icon PCB toolon the PCB tool.

  6、Press ”M” or click the “Dimension ”ICON PCB toolon the PCB tool to measure the width and the length of the PCB board.

PCB layout

  ——Result of manual routing and measure the width or length of the circuit board .

  7、Commonly we pour copper on the bottom layer as ground network ,pour the copper to the Top layer as the power network .

  8、After you have route the PCB ,you could click the Designer Manager on the right hand side .

  9、Then it will transfer to Properties .Click DRC Errors and Refresh .There are no DRC Errors in the PCB Layout .Click the components and nets , you could make every components or net bright. For example , choose C2 and The capacitor C2 will become bright .

  10、Let us manually make an error . For Example , move MDC wire and there will be a big bright X and DRC Errors track2pad error.

PCB layout

  Move the track to its previous location and then then big X and the DRC errors will disappear.

  Once you have finished the PCB Layout , Click photo view to produce the Gerber file .

PCB layout

  ——PCB photo preview


  11、If you want to order the PCB board ,Click the Fabrication Output icon in the Toolbar to order the PCB ,Then go to the Add to Cart Interface .

  There are items like Numbers of Layers ,PCB Dimension Width and Height ,PCB Thickness ,PCBQTY,PCB Color,Surface Finish ,Copper Weight ,And Penalized PCB .

  When you fill in all the Items above ,save it to cart. Then go the Network Payment Interface .

  Delete the useless Gerber file .

  Fill in your country ,your name ,your address ,your Post/Zip Code ,your Telephone ,Choose Delivery Method ,Network Payment Items ,and Click to send Request .

PCB order

  OK , then just wait for your PCB Order at home .


Aiming to develop an advanced Linux server for a private network, with reduced size and a relatively small payload, the choice has been focused on the Gizmo2 board hosting a Debian Linux distribution:

  • A reliable board at a reasonable cost with good performances
  • Availability of 1Gb network connection
  • Availability of 2 USB3 ports
  • Internal SSD connector
  • Good power consumption optimization
  • Open source hardware
  • Availability of accessible GPIO ports and possibility to control the hardware behavior


Main features

The Gizmo2 server hardware features should include:

  • Linux boot and root filesystem on 120 Gb SSD
  • N.2 x 2.5" 500 Gb HD configured in RAID1 (full mirroring) connected to the two USB3 ports
  • Headless configuration with SSH remote access


The services distributed over the network will include:

  • Apache2 web server
  • Php 5
  • MySQL server + PhpMyAdmin
  • NFS services


The role of the controller board

An independent controller board to control and continuously monitor the system health status of a device.


Must-have features

  • Power status
  • Server running status
  • External power to the two HDD
  • Power On/Off the server mainboard
  • Server mainboard reset
  • Temperature control
  • Extra fan powering
  • Alarming


Future features

  • Power supply redundancy (two power supplies switched alternatively on failure)
  • Power status and power drain
  • Power battery backup status
  • Programmable system boot and shutdown
  • Network physical connectivity checkup
  • Other sensors for health status control


From idea to design

Server Controller Board Scheme.jpg

As mentioned above the controller board should act as an independent unit. The solution is a microcontroller managing the system including - as shown in the scheme - the user power on/off and reset commands.


This Microcontroller Health Status Controller Board works fine with the Raspberry PI and Arduino, ChipKit and Gizmo2 and almost any circuit board that may need a supervision controller.


MCU choice

There is a wide range of option choosing an MCU for the controller board but in my opinion for this case there are two possible options: a slow and cheap microcontroller available in DIL package (due to the limitations of my prototyping capabilities) or a PSOC device. The idea of using a SOC (i.e. the PSOC5 prototyping kit) is really attracting but unfortunately it is not possible to adopt this solution - that probably remain the best and cheaper - due my limited time resources for the development.

As I have already developed several project with the Atmel AVR microcontrollers series and the AVR Studio development environment, the obliged choice for the first version of the controller has been the use of the AVR328p MCU.

The following image shows the schematic of the board.

Server Control Panel Rev 2 Schematics.png

While the next images shows the PCB layout and the prototype PCB.

PCB Layout.pngIMG_20151010_180657.jpg

A note on the circuit

As you can see in the schematics the board only includes the microcontroller IC and the circuitry control components + discrete components. As it is expected to it the board as an accessory inside a box including also the rest of the circuits (e.g. the electronics that should be controlled) all the components - LCD, FAN, Temperature Sensor, Vibration Sensor, User control buttons etc. are wired separately to fit in any kind of container depending on space and the most useful position.


Board and external components

Board AVR328p-Note.jpg Board AVR328p.jpg

The images above sows the finished board with the actually used connectors and the external components that can be connected to the board.

Board External Components-Note.jpg

The external components used to populate the board.


Logging and external feedback

All where possible the UART connector can used to easily wire the board with the controlled device (e.g. Arduino based project, Raspberry PI, PIC based project etc.) using just the Tx and Rx cables and a serial connection. The same UART can be connected to any device, included a laptop or desktop with a Serial to USB adapter (e.g. the cheap ones based on the FTDI 232 IC) This optional features gives further options to the user for a more complete feedback, data collection or to instruct the controlled board to assume specific behaviour depending on the feedback of the controller.



In the images of this example a small 12 V cooler fan has been used provided with just the two power supply cables. Also using a bigger device in general the PWM-controlled FANs are a lot expensive than the three-wires only devices that does not include this option; the third wire when present is the tachometer for the fan speed control. A PWM Fan (4 wires, 12 V, 20-40 mm diameter) can cost up to 100$ while a simple FAN (2 or three wires) has an average cot of about 5-12$

The temperature control via PWM frequency is managed to a non-PWM fan with s simple circuit based on a sufficient powerful transistor (less than 0,5$) and a couple of discrete components. The details of this part from the schematic are shown in the image below:

PWM Fan.png


Pushbutton simulation (aka Button Output)

Another detail it is the worth to analyse is the way the output buttons has been created in the circuit. In theory it is sufficient to put to low a GPIO Pin normally high to create (almost) the same effect of a physical pushbutton connected to the controlled device. I have verified experimentally that not always this method works properly; in some cases the simple Pin status change is not sufficient to recreate the same conditions of a mechanical pushbutton when pressed. The simulation of the Power and Reset pushbuttons (anyway, two configurable buttons) is strategical to control the behaviour of the external device in many conditions:

  • When the user ask for a manual power-On / power-Off cycle
  • When the user needs a physical reset
  • When the board detect an alarm condition that require the system powered down via a power on/of pushbutton switch
  • When the board detect a condition that requires the system powered on (awaken from a standby status, to be precise)


To solve this problem a simple and already tested solution is setting the GPIO Pin to control a transistor (PN2222 is more than sufficient) acting just like a relays of a physical switch. The image below shows in detail this part of the circuit

PushButtons simulated.png

The board in action

The video above shows the firmware approach of the board monitoring at different frequencies the sensors input and checking the user interaction (via the two pushbuttons). In the example shown in the video the temperature sensor is preset to start the fan as a temperature of 30C is detected, increasing the fan rotation speed proportionally to the temperature level. 90C is considered the highest acceptable (in risk area) temperature then an alarm action can be activated, eventually acting directly on the controlled board.


The firmware

The firmware has been developed in C/C++ with AVR Studio 6 but the attached sources has been converted in Arduino sketch format for a better readability by the users. The included classes of the source package (attached to this post) can be used in an AVR Studio project as well.


I received my Alpha unit of the C.H.I.P. from Next Thing Co recently:

15 - 3.jpg

(the blue tape at the top is just cause i found the bright power and activity LEDs annoying... I'm weirdo )

15 - 4.jpg

I loved the little detail of QC pass sticker featuring adorable doge with the words "Such Pass"


C.H.I.P. did very well on Kickstarter earlier this year:

  • 39,560 backers
  • $2,071,927 pledged

I choose the Kernel Hacker reward level, so I got this Alpha C.H.I.P. hot off the assembly line:


Full shipment to backers should start in Spring 2016:


The performance specs are similar to the Beaglebone Black (minus the PRUs):



The Allwinner R8 module is a new part from Chinese SoC desginer Allwinner Technology in 2015.  It bundles together a processor similar to the Allwinner A13 with 512MB DRAM and 4GB NAND Flash.

CHIP also includes on-board WiFi and Bluetooth via a Realtek chipset:


CHIP can easily be powered by micro USB or a Li-Po battery:


The only built-in video output is low-res Composite analog video:


But there will be HDMI and VGA capes in the future:


Anyways, I'm perfectly happy with a UART .  I was able to connect to the Linux console using a FTDI USB-to-serial cable:


(the blue tape on the right is just cause i found the bright power and activity LEDs annoying)


I found the pinout and other details on this page:

Flying Blind with C.H.I.P. -- SSH, Serial, and USB OTG


I am very pleased that Next Thing Co. shipped my Alpha CHIP with a fresh Linux 4.2 kernel (which is the current stable kernel):

15 - 1.jpg

15 - 2.jpg


Here's a GitHub Gist with the full console log of the CHIP booting:


Basic system info after booting up:


/home/pdp7 # cat /proc/cpuinfo 
processor : 0
model name : ARMv7 Processor rev 2 (v7l)
BogoMIPS : 1001.88
Features : half thumb fastmult vfp edsp neon vfpv3 tls vfpd32 
CPU implementer : 0x41
CPU architecture: 7
CPU variant : 0x3
CPU part : 0xc08
CPU revision : 2
Hardware : Allwinner sun4i/sun5i Families
Revision : 0000
Serial : 162542c709417353

/home/pdp7 # uname -a
Linux chip 4.2.0-rc1 #1 SMP Sat Sep 19 03:24:28 UTC 2015 armv7l GNU/Linux

/home/pdp7 # df -h 
Filesystem Size Used Available Use% Mounted on
ubi0:rootfs 3.6G 21.1M 3.6G 1% /
devtmpfs 245.3M 0 245.3M 0% /dev
tmpfs 245.4M 0 245.4M 0% /dev/shm
tmpfs 245.4M 68.0K 245.3M 0% /tmp
tmpfs 245.4M 40.0K 245.3M 0% /run

/home/pdp7 # cat /proc/meminfo |head
MemTotal: 502500 kB
MemFree: 466800 kB
MemAvailable: 468492 kB
Buffers: 0 kB
Cached: 8784 k

So that is all well and good, but why am I writing about CHIP on this Open Source Hardware group blog?


Well, that is because CHIP is 100% Open Source Hardware:


Kickstarter Update #9: All about Open Source

The design files are licensed as CC-BY-SA and linked from this centralized documentation page:



The CHIP Hardware repo on GitHub:




  • Schematics


  • PCB Layout


  • Bill of Materials (BOM)

Screenshot from 2015-10-28 19:56:01.png


The repo even has datasheets for components in the BOM:




The goal of Next Thing Co for CHIP is to be a happy and healthy member of the Linux open source community!


This means CHIP needs to:

  • Run official and current version of Linux kernel
  • Build new Linux drivers for on-board hardware
  • Merge changes into Linus Torvald's tree in a process called "Mainlining"


Mainlining the kernel changes necessary for C.H.I.P. is no small task.  Takes huge and ongoing community effort.  The amazing Linux-Sun-Xi community has already made great progress on kernel support for Allwinner SoCs:


linux-sunxi Community Wiki

A huge smile crossed my face when I learned that Next Thing Co contracted the ARM Linux kernel experts at Free Electrons to support CHIP in mainline:


Free Electrons contracted for the $9 C.H.I.P. computer


Free Electrons has been supporting Allwinner processors in the mainline Linux kernel for several years.  Free Electrons engineer Maxime Ripard is the maintainer of the Allwinner SoC support in mainline.  You can follow their progress on Google+:


Free Electrons on G+


Here's an example of how audio support for CHIP was add to the mainline Linux kernel:


  • Maxime Ripard finished the initial work done by Emilio Lopez during a Google Summer of Code on supporting the audio codec built into the Allwinner A10 processor.
  • Maxime sent the patch series to the ASoC maintainers:
  • v1 got merged directly by Mark Brown, one of the two ASoC maintainers!
  • “For a completely new driver, it is quite an achievement to get it merged without having to do additional iterations”
  • CHIP now has audio support in mainline!


Another exciting update from Maxime Ripard:

“Debian 8 and XFCE running on the CHIP, on top of the DRM / KMS driver!”

2015 - 1.jpg


You can also follow the progress of the Linux kernel development for CHIP with this NextThingCo repo on GitHub:


So what about software beyond the kernel?  My CHIP Alpha arrived with a root filesystem that Next Thing Co created with Buildroot: "a simple, efficient and easy-to-use tool to generate embedded Linux systems through cross-compilation."

Buildroot repo for the CHIP:

Here's what the rootfs build that shipped on my CHIP Alpha looked like from the console:


Next Thing Co created CHIP-SDK with everything needed to develop software for CHIP, including creating a custom rootfs with buildroot.




As this MAKE blog post described, the SDK is easy to install and run because it uses Vagrant to manage a VirtualBox VM:


With Linux and Creative Commons, The $9 CHIP Computer Reveals Its Open Source Details

written by David Scheltema [interested1]



However, I love the vast array of packages that Debian GNU/Linux has to offer, so I am happy the Debian is now available for CHIP:

Debian on C.H.I.P

I was able to easily flash Debian onto my CHIP and then boot it!




I think I will next look at what I can do with the GPIO pins on the CHIP:


Simple GPIO Experiments



Some extra pinout docs

Assuming you don't want to use the camera or LCD ports it looks like you get 1 UART, 2 I2C, 1 SPI, 1 PWM & 32 i/O (some with interrupt)


So that's it for now... I think CHIP will only get more exciting as it gets into more and more hands!


Here's some additional links I've found useful:



And finally, slides from my talk about CHIP at Chicago hackerspace Pumping Station: One earlier this week:


Slides from hackerspace talk about C.H.I.P.