Category Archives: Uncategorized

Brief Introduction to S-Ctrl Framework

Air Series firmware v2.0 introduces an automation control oriented framework S-Ctrl. This framework allows up to 32767 devices to communicate over the 2.4G RF. The network is multiple-access, which means any device could send data to any device, which is similar to Ethernet or WiFi. The framework also defines the messaging format for different automation control purposes.

The Arduino library for S-Ctrl can be downloaded here.  Arduino libraries can be import by clicking “Sketch->Import Library->Add Library” in the Arduino IDE. Detailed instruction on installing Arduino libraries is here. There are basically 2 ways to use this library. The library contains examples in both ways (Raw and Framework).

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AirDuino and AirDongle Firmware Upgrade

We are glad to publish v2.0 beta firmware for AirDuino and AirDongle. This is a major upgrade from v1.x. Many improvements has been made to existing functions. An automation control oriented framework S-Ctrl is introduced into this version. This framework allows up to 32767 devices to communicate over the 2.4G RF. The network is multiple-access, which means any device could send data to any device, which is similar to Ethernet or WiFi. The framework also defines the messaging format for different automation control purposes.

This article mainly demonstrates the process of firmware upgrade for AirDuino and AirDongle from v1.x to v2.0. There has been some performance improvements in the RF messaging part. However, compatibility with the 1.x version was sacrificed. This makes the upgrading process complex. The process is not risky, just too many steps to go.

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Breaduino- A Breadboard Power Supply with FT232RL USB to Serial Bridge

Overview

With the growing popularity of USB3.0 interface on PC and ubiquity of smart phone chargers, we designed this product with a micro USB connector. When use it as a breadboard power supply, user could power the board via his/her cell phone charger; when use it as a Arduino/USB to Serial Convertor, user just need to plug the USB cable to his/her PC. User could use the onboard config switches to select the operating voltage, crystal frequency of the external MCU. Also, the logic level of the onboard USB to Serial Convertor is 3.3V/5V configurable, too.

Features

  • Seperated 1A rating switches for 3.3V and 5V channel
  • Configurable VIO* 3.3V/5V
  • Configurable auto-reset for Arduino
  • Configurable 8M/16M crystal for Arduino
  • Extra headers to accept female connectors
  • Plug and play design

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RasPiDeck Gives Your Raspberry Pi 5V I/O Capability

A few months ago,  Kornel, one of our customers, told us that he wanted something similiar to PiFace. Inspired by this product, I thought that I could make something else which utilizes the shields and sensors designed for Arduino.  There are thousands of different kinds of shields and sensors for Arduino already existing in the market. They are mature in hardware and most of them are provided with open source code.

I told my idea to Kornel and he said the stuff I was going to design is already in the market. However, I decide to design something has more features compared to Cooking Hacks’ Raspberry Pi to Arduino Bridge. I named the product RasPiDeck because it was designed to load  exteral shields or sensors. Here is some features which I think might  be useful or nessessary for RasPiDeck.

  1. It should handle 5V input without any off-board component
  2. It could drive shields/sensors which only accept 5V logic
  3. It must have its own 5V-3.3V LDO, since the LDO on Raspberry Pi is already heavily loaded.
  4. The SPI/I2C interface of RasPiDeck should be able to work on both 3.3V and 5V device.

After a month working(schematics, layout, component sourcing and PCB manufacturing), the first version of RasPiDeck looks like this

raspideck1

It has 19 jumpers on board which are used to select the direction of the header pins,  the logic level of I2C and SPI interface and the source of the referece voltage for onboard ADC.  After my colleague Peng saw this, he said “If I were a newbie, I will be overwhelmed by the jumpers, and it is quite inconvenient to manually config 19 jumpers”  I decided to take his advise and make revision to the first editon.  I was involved in another project which has higher priority after a few days working on the second revision, so after two months the second revision comes true

raspideck2

I replace all the jumpers with SPDT analog switches and add a I2C IO expander to control the switches. Now, it looks less overwhelming and user could use code to config the IO directions/voltage levels and the logic level of I2C and SPI interface.

Below is what it looks like when it sits on a Raspberry Pi,

withraspberry

This product will be handed over to factory next week and it will be ready in about three weeks. As all of our products,  the board color will be blue and the pad will be gold plated. The datasheet will be ready before the product is ready to market and all the technical details will be there.

 

 

A bizaare short circuit female header connector

I was fiddling around with a newly designed shield for Arduino and I just can not get the shield to work properly after a few tries.  Then I grabed my DVM and measured power supply pin of one of the ICs on the shield. The shield is supposed to be powered by the 3.3V pin on Arduino.  Superisingly, I found it was 5V!

Then I quickly disconnected the USB cable and pulled off the shield from Arduino.  I measured the 3.3V and 5V pins on the shield. There was no short. Then I measured the 3.3V and 5V pins on the Arduino. There was no short either!!!

I powered the Arduino alone and measured the 3.3V pins, and it gives a good value of 3.35V.

I realized that there may be something wrong with the 6-pin female header of Arduino, and then I tear off the housing of the header and I found there is a weakly contacted solder bridge as shown below:

short-circuit female header 1 short-circuit female header 2

It is a quite old device, I bought it online back in year 2011 or 2010. I had been using this device for years and the symptom shows up today! The problem only happens after a shield is applied to the Arduino.

It seems that the soldering bridge is due to excess solder, excess diameter of the through hole and the unsealed buttom of the header.

This is just another story of how bad soldering affects the long term reliability of an electronics device.