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Testing! Pow!

Posted 2012.07.11 23.58 in Computers/Internet/Technology

All my pent-up impatience just came buzzing out all at once.

With my shiney new circuit board in ┬áhand, I started soldering up the bare minimum for testing – LiPo charging circuitry, voltage regulator, ICSP port and FTDI port. And indicator LEDs.

So far so good, the voltages were good and the LEDs worked ok. Mind you, I didn’t use the good LEDs on this. No, I already knew there’d have to be another revision because I made some mistakes on the boards…

Anyhow, power tests were passed so I added the micro-controller — an Atmel ATMega1284P — and an 8MHz resonator. Tricky soldering – the pins on the micro controller are 0.4mm wide and have 0.8mm centre-to-centre spacing. There’s 11 to a side.

My two biggest concerns at this point were that a) I might have botched up the soldering, and b) I might have totally botched up the circuit board when I laid it out.

So I plugged a programmer into the ICSP port and tested it, and presto! I had communications!

My plan was to continue using the Arduino IDE to program for this, and fortunately there was already a ‘duino based on the 1284p, called the Sanguino. Unfortunately it isn’t up to date with the latest (1.0.1) version of the IDE, and I’ve migrated everything to 1.0.1 so I ended up not using the Sanguino setup.

The only thing I did was take their 1284p bootloader, and modify it to match my board layout. Then I created my own 1284p variant in the IDE and set it to work with my customized bootloader.

I had done all that last week and without any way to test, so my first real test today was to burn my bootloader. This worked (so the microcontroller, resonator, and ICSP were definitely working correctly) but I could not write sketches from the IDE so I wasn’t sure if I had screwed up the FTDI port or not.

Further testing however revealed that my 57600baud bootloader was too ambitious for the 8MHz clock speed. At 19200baud the bootloader runs just fine, albeit slower.

So another passed test! I had working power, a working micro, working ICSP port and working FTDI port.

Next thing was to plug in a screen. That was slightly challenging as my big blunder with this board was laying out the screen at the wrong size – the holes on the board are too narrow for the holes in the screen. And I didn’t want to hook the screen up permanently since the board isn’t final. So I put in some female headers, and bent a few to fit in my misplaced pin holes.

And voilla! The screen works!

Lots of successes for a single night, but I’m not going to continue populating the board. I’ve left off all the sensors as they’re the most expensive parts (gps + compass + humidity + pressure = $85). I have to go back to the ‘drawing board’ and start fixing all the mistakes I made on the board.

I’m also running some additional tests, as I’ve noticed some problems with the ADC readings (analog, eg. temperature and voltage) that shouldn’t be happening, and I have to figure out if they are software or hardware.

Still, not bad for a single night – and it gives me stuff to work on for the next few nights.

Captcha Out, Akismet In

Posted 2009.08.07 23.16 in Computers/Internet/Technology

I’ve been trying to streamline things recently, without opening the door up too wide for the ^*&%(@ spammers. Just to give you an idea of how much these bastards hammer the internet, I turned off the Captcha thingy on the comments, and in 30 minutes there were three spam comments in the queue. These aren’t people roaming around looking for blogs to pollute, these are programs that people (I use the term loosely) have created to slime around looking for blogs to soil.

A captcha helps stop much of the automated spam but it doesn’t do anything to stop spam created by something like a mechanical turk, and unfortunately, a captcha also tends to stop at least some real legitimate comments. Some people are turned off by them, or have trouble reading them.

I had been avoiding Akismet despite its free nature and being bundled with WordPress, because in order to use it you have to register with – and I don’t like registering for things that I don’t really want… it seems redundant to register with a hosted blog site when I’m self hosting everything here. Still, I want my blog to be as open and accessable as possible, but I don’t want to spend an hour every day going through dozens or hundreds of spam comments and trackbacks.┬áSo I’m giving Akismet a try, to see how it goes.

I’ve also retweaked the other settings (and fixed a flaw in my theme) so that A) previously approved commenters do not have to wait for moderation any more, and B) replies and comment threading now works properly.