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Got Some Soldering Done

Posted 2012.08.14 8.20 in Computers/Internet/Technology by Stephanie

This past weekend I got the new version of the ISEB-6 mostly soldered out.

It all went together fairly easily, with two unfortunate exceptions. The BMP085 barometric pressure sensor, and the HMC6352 magnetometer/compass. Both components are surface mount ‘leadless chip carriers’ – and both proved harder to hand-solder than I expected.

The thing is, unlike the ATMega1284P which is a TQFP-44 or the few SOT23 parts — all of which have ‘pins’ sticking out (albeit tiny pins), the two aforementioned sensors are in LCC packages where the connections are all underneath the part. There’s nothing visible from ‘above’.

I had some tricks in mind to solder them, and the tricks failed. In the end, I unfortunately destroyed both parts. Boooooo. Fortunately I did have a spare BMP085 laying around, but the HMC6352 is kinda-expensive and I didn’t have a spare.

Also-fortunately, I had a backup plan for soldering these tricky parts – hot air. I have a Sparkfun Heaterizer XL-3000 which I hadn’t actually used before. It did the trick though, allowed me to remove the dead parts without destroying the rest of the ISEB6 board, and I was able to solder the new BMP085 with it.

When I get a replacement HMC6352, I’ll use the Heaterizer once again to get that in place.

After that, the next steps will be to assemble a new leather bracer, and then build it out, with all the peripherals.

Got Some Soldering To Do

Posted 2012.08.10 8.48 in Computers/Internet/Technology by Stephanie

Yesterday I received more purple PCB goodness from OSHPark / Laen. The ISEB6 Mark IIa circuit boards came in!

I must say, I am really looking forward to moving from the current “prototype” version (which yes I am wearing every single day) and the Mark II.

Partially I am eager to be able to take advantage of the new software — I’ve been working on the software upgrades for weeks, taking advantage of the 128kB flash and 16kB sram — but I’m also really looking forward to not having any more ongoing problems…

Yes problems. The current version is a ratsnest of hookup wire. Between two layers of leather. That flexes on my wrist.

Seems like every week one of them breaks. (Grumble grumble.)

Mostly it’s been the battery sensor wire – that one is vulnerable because it does wrap partway around my wrist, and is subject to flexing more than the others. Suddenly I’ll get battery alarms that VBat is at some crazy level like 1.27 volts or 5.82 or whatever. Impossible levels. (Grumble grumble.) Annoying but not fatal.

Sometimes though it’s another wire. This morning the D/C line to the OLED broke. When that happens the display goes crazy, then goes dark. (Grumble grumble.)

With the Mark II, these problems won’t occur any more. Ok there might be other, different problems, but broken wires won’t happen any more. No more %*)(^%& hookup wire!

Except…. quandry.

I designed the board around Adafruit’s original 128 x 64 OLED display. While waiting for the boards to be fabricated, Adafruit came out with an upgraded, larger 128 x 64 OLED display.

It’s a ‘drop in’ replacement in the sense that the driver chip is the same, everything is identical, no software changes are required, and you can use the same exact set of connection to make it go.

It’s not a ‘drop in’ replacement in the sense that a) it’s a different size, and b) the pins are totally completely utterly different.

And I really like it. It’s a perfect size.

So if I go with the display I now want, I’ll have to use hookup wire. If I go with the display I designed for, I’ll be sad because it’s ‘too small’.

Ok the third option is redesign my board but dangit! I don’t want to wait another month, I want to build now!


Posted 2012.08.09 21.09 in Computers/Internet/Technology by Stephanie

So last night I heard about this new social networking startup. It’s going to be API-based, with strong focus and support for developers and the users. And there won’t be any ads.

This is one thing that has kept me away from these social things – everything was ‘free’, and when you don’t pay for a service, then you’re the actual product that’s being sold. Or put it another way, if you don’t pay for it, and they change it and screw it all up so it sucks, then your only recourse is basically to stop using it.

Ok admittedly I did start using twitter about a year ago, but I don’t use it very much, and I’m pretty sure I’m doing it wrong. But even in the short time that I’ve been using it, I’ve seen them do stuff that seems backwards to me. Anti-user. Anti-developer. Basically they’ve got to make their customers happy, and their customers are the advertisers.

Anyhow, back on track. Join.App.Net is the new thing and the way they’re doing it is upfront, they are charging for the service. You pay them to be a customer or a developer, and you are the customer.

The thing is, it’s not live yet. Well, they have an alpha that’s up and running and open to backers.

They know that to be viable as a business and as a service, they need to reach a critical mass of people and funds. So they’ve set up a Kickstarter-esque program with a target and a deadline.

The deadline is only 4 days away. They haven’t reached their goal yet.

If you like the idea of being able to connect with people, friends, and so on, and you like the idea of doing it without ads being shoved in  your face, and you like the idea of being a customer and not a product, then please go and check them out.

It’s only $50 to support them. If they don’t reach their target, then you don’t pay a cent. If they do reach their target, then you’ll be a part of something new, right at the beginning.

I’m in, and I think it’s exciting.

Do Not Fear the Robot Apocalypse

Posted 2012.08.08 13.03 in Computers/Internet/Technology by Stephanie

xkcd has a great new “what if” thing going on, and last week the topic covered the robot apocalypse.

Give it a read (and check out the other what-ifs too!). They certainly set my mind at ease.

SFCave for Arduino

Posted 2012.08.06 11.48 in Computers/Internet/Technology, Hobbies by Stephanie

Back in the days of Palm Pilot, there was this great little game called SFCave. It was easy to learn, difficult (for me at least) to master, but it was a quick-n-easy thing to pick up and play when you had a minute or two to kill.

I’ve written an Arduino sketch inspired by SFCave, and all you need is an Arduino, a 128×64 OLED from Adafruit, and a single pushbutton.

You are ‘flying’ a ribbon through a cave. You can’t control your speed (it gradually increases) and the cave gradually gets narrower and narrower. Gravity is a factor – push the button to thrust upwards, release it to fall downwards. Try not to crash into the ceiling or floor.

There is no end, the only goal is to see how long you can last / how far you can go. The score is a frame counter, each time the screen advances the score goes up. Check out the action:

You can download the sketch here: