Aug 122014
 
Easy Wireless Networking of chipKIT Boards

Keith hard at work

In preparation for the Microchip MASTERs Conference in Phoenix next week, Keith Vogel and Gene Apperson of Digilent are preparing two classes. Gene will teach the Introduction to chipKIT class and Keith will teach the more advanced class, which features an overview of wireless networking protocols and includes hands-on lab exercises with the chipKIT uC32, WiFi Shield, and Basic I/O Shield.

Digilent provides an open source networking stack as well as a robust http server sketch. Attendees will learn how to use this free software to add wireless networking to their designs quickly and easily. Hope to see you there!

Easy Wireless Networking of chipKIT Boards

Networked chipKIT boards with stacked shields

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Aug 102014
 

So you have a chipKIT Pi, which you have dutifully attached to a Raspberry Pi, and you’d like to deploy it “in the field” (with the cows). That’s fair enough. What you’d like to be able to do, though, is upgrade the firmware on the chipKIT Pi without having to go into the field (those cows are scary, man!).

pi-on-pi

So how would you do that? You can’t program the chipKIT Pi without pressing the RESET and BOOTLOAD-EN buttons (and you’re not about to train cows to do that for you), so what are your options?

Well, UECIDE has the answer for you.

pi-modFirst you will need to modify your chipKIT Pi. Don’t worry, it’s only a simple small modification. Basically you need to connect the BOOTLOAD-EN signal to one of the GPIO pins on the Raspberry Pi header.

Connect pin 8 of the chipKIT Pi pass-through header (GPIO17 on the Raspberry Pi) to the nearest pin of JP6 with a piece of fine wire. I use 30AWG wire-wrapping wire. This will allow the Raspberry Pi to trigger the bootloader automatically (hopefully future versions of the chipKIT Pi will have this modification in place already).

Now you can enter programming mode from the Raspberry Pi by setting GPIO 17 to an output and driving it LOW, then setting GPIO 4 to an output and driving that low too (it is connected to RESET), then releasing both the GPIO lines in reverse order. It’s good to put a short delay between releasing GPIO 4 and GPIO 17.

To make things even easier we have a chipKIT Pi support package in our Debian repository. Add the repository to your /etc/apt/sources.list file:

$ sudo nano /etc/apt/sources.list

Add the line:

deb http://dist.majenko.co.uk/ wheezy main contrib

You can also add our signing key so it doesn’t ask if you want to install unauthorized packages:

$ wget -O - http://dist.majenko.co.uk/autobuild.key | sudo apt-key add -
The package is called “ckpi-support” and it sets up all you will need in order to program the chipKIT Pi remotely from UECIDE. It will:
  • Install avrdude
  • Install avahi-daemon
  • Configure a “ckpi” user
  • Install scripts for controlling the chipKIT Pi:
    • ckpi-reboot (reboots the chipKIT Pi)
    • ckpi-program (reboots the chipKIT Pi and triggers the bootloader)
  • Install an mDNS service so UECIDE can find the board on the network

So go ahead and install the package now:

$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get install ckpi-support

If all goes well it will have asked you for a new password to give to the “ckpi” user. Remember this, as you will want it again later.

One more small modification you will need to make (if you haven’t done it in the past) is to disable the “getty” process on /dev/ttyAMA0 (the serial port). Edit the file /etc/inittab

$ sudo nano /etc/inittab

and look for the line:

T0:23:respawn:/sbin/getty -L ttyAMA0 115200 vt100

It is most probably right at the end of the file. Comment the line out by placing a # at the start of it and save the file out. You can now either reboot to enable the change, or trigger a reload of the file:

$ sudo kill -HUP 1

Now you’re good to go!

You’ll need the latest beta version of UECIDE as it has the networking support you’ll be using, so if you aren’t already running it then go ahead and download it. This is the version for your PC of course, not for the Pi. You don’t need it on the Pi.

Load UECIDE up, ensure the chipKIT Pi board is installed (and the latest version), and after a few moments it should detect the Raspberry Pi for you:

detected

You should now be able to select the board from the “Discovered Boards” menu:

discovered

And there should now be a suitable entry in the “Programmers” menu:

bootloader

Now you can just compile and upload your sketch as if you were directly connected to the chipKIT Pi. The first time you upload it will ask you for the password for the “ckpi” user – the password you entered when installing the support package. If you want you can tell UECIDE to save the password forever (it puts it in your preferences.txt file), but even if you don’t do that it will still remember it for the rest of your session so you won’t need to re-enter it again until you next load UECIDE.

upload
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Jul 032014
 
Pontech Quick240 Ping-Pong Levitation

Pontech Quick240 Ping-Pong Levitation

Jacob Christ, from PONTECH, put together a Ping-Pong levitation “trick” where ping-pong balls of various weights can be held up by a steady stream of air. Depending on the weight of the ball, the chipKIT-based Quick240 board controls the fan speed to keep the ball in the air.

Hackaday has featured a post about this very trick, if you’d like to read more about it. You can also click on the image above to view the post.

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Jun 302014
 
 
chipKIT Digital Thermometer

chipKIT Digital Thermometer

Digilent has written a new post about how to create a Digital Thermometer from a chipKIT Uno32 and components/parts from the chipKIT Starter Kit.
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Jun 292014
 
ft232-uart One thing I find annoying about the chipKIT boards is that when you plug them in they are all identified as an “FTDI” chip.  There’s no way of knowing which board is plugged in where, and if you have lots of boards (as I do), then it would be really nice to know which COM port is which at a glance.

Fortunately it is possible, if you happen to know how!

A little word of warning before I begin though – it is possible to kill your FT232R chip if you do things wrong, which will break your chipKIT board, so have a care and don’t mess with things you shouldn’t mess with.

Not many people know, but the FT232R chip used in most of the chipKIT (and other) boards is fully programmable by the end user.  All you need is a little bit of software (alas only available for Windows) from FTDI called FT_Prog.  It can be downloaded freely from here: FT_Prog_v2.8.2.0.zip

It requires .NET 4 to be installed, so if you don’t have it you can grab it here: .NET 4.0

Once you have it installed you can load it up and tell it to scan for your devices (little magnifying glass in the toolbar).  Make sure your board is plugged in at this point, and it should find it:

found-ftdi Select the “USB String Descriptors” section.  It should look similar to this: ftdi-strings Now you can go ahead and edit the Manufacturer and Product Description entries to suit your needs.  The board I have to hand is a MAX32, so I have changed them to: ftdi-changed Now you’re all ready to reprogram the chip.  The little lightning bolt in the toolbar does just that.  Click it, and it opens a program panel: ftdi-prog Make sure the right device is selected (if you happen to have multiple boards connected), then press “Program”.  When it’s finished (it only takes a second), you can close the window, then close the FT_Prog program.  Unplug the board and plug it back in again.  It will take a minute or so to reinstall the drivers (it may allocate a new COM port at this point as it thinks it’s a different device), and it should now identify for what it is: ftdi-done

If it doesn’t, try again.  For some reason it took two attempts with my MAX32, but my PICadillo-35T did it first time.



Again, I must strongly reiterate: It is possible to break your FT232R chip with this utility, so don’t play with anything other than the strings and you will be fine.

Oh, and don’t blame me if you break it, it’s not my fault.
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Jun 262014
 
Fubarino SD - chipKIT Development Board

Fubarino SD – chipKIT Development Board

This past Spring at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, CA, Jacob Christ taught ELEC74 (Microcontroller Systems) using a Fubarino SD. To see an example of one of the class labs, click the link below:

For the student project, most students continued to use Fubarino, but some of them instead chose to use Arduino. The main reasons for choosing to use Arduino vs. Fubarino in the class were as follows:
  • They were busy doing labs with Fubarino and had an Arduino board lying around
  • There were sample projects or libraries for Arduino that seemed quicker to implement using Arduino
  • There were libraries that they couldn’t get to work on Fubarino (1.0+ version issue)

The students had a varied set of creative projects, and all who used Arduino agreed that the knowledge they took from learning to program Fubarino was transferable for programming Arduino. Jacob recorded some of the students demonstrating their projects, and you can watch them by clicking any of the links below:

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Jun 182014
 
Ardulink is a complete, open-source, java solution for the control and coordination of Arduino-type boards. It includes a GUI with many pre-configured components and network client/server technology for remote control. More importantly, it has just released support for chipKIT Uno32!Read more on Ardulink’s blog post!
Ardulink - Arduino Commincation Protocol Now Supporting chipKIT Uno32
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Jun 172014
 

Have you ever wondered which chipKIT product to use? Digilent has written a new post on their blog that compares two commonly used chipKIT boards: chipKIT Uno32 and chipKIT Pro MX4.

If you would like a quick overview, check out their post!

chipKIT Pro MX4

chipKIT Pro MX4

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Jun 162014
 
the chipKIT WiFire

Using the newest chipKIT board by Digilent, chipKIT WiFire, you can speed up application development for the Internet of Things (IoT) using FlowCloud technology by Imagination Technologies! To learn more, read the blogpost on Digilent’s Blog.

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