Archive for the ‘Computers’ Category

Arduino Woe

29 August, 2007

Lately my Arduino’s been giving me terrible problems, it would take absolutely AGES to start up, and then once it did, the moment I clicked on the “Tools” menu it would freeze for about 10 minutes before the menu would pop up. Not good. anyway, after a long time of Google searching and then giving up and then resuming my searching for a solution I recently came upon a post in the Arduino forums here which had the answer. It seems that by having a Bluetooth module attached to my computer (for Salling Clicker, a GREAT piece of software) the Arduino IDE was constantly searching through the COM ports for an Arduino BT or one of the COM ports, a Bluetooth one most likely, was giving it something unexpected.

Happily I just had to disable my Bluetooth adapter and suddenly it all worked. So to try I tested the following piece of code:

/*
Test of interrupts and clock
(CC) 2007 TheFallenIndustries
Complies to around 2032 kilobytes and needs an ATMega168
*/

#include <FrequencyTimer2.h>

unsigned long freq = 667; // f = 1/T so 1.5kHz is about 667uSec
int val = 0;
int analogPin = 5;
int pin = 13;
int capdump = 7;

void setup()
{
pinMode(11,OUTPUT); // clock is on io pin 11
pinMode(7,OUTPUT); // capacitor dump
pinMode(2,INPUT); // the interrupt input
attachInterrupt(0, fire, RISING); // 0 is pin2, 1 is pin3
FrequencyTimer2::setPeriod(freq);
FrequencyTimer2::enable();
}

void loop()
{
val = analogRead(analogPin);
if(val >= 1000) // Capacitor Charged
{
FrequencyTimer2::disable(); // stop charging
}
else // Capacitor Discharged
{
FrequencyTimer2::enable(); // start charging
}
}

void fire()
{
if(val >= 1000)
{
digitalWrite(capdump,HIGH);
}
}

This seemed to work fine, so I’m expecting a flurry of Arduino experimenting soon. Hopefully I’ll get some LCD displays running in both 8 bit and 4 bit mode.

Another blog I’ve come across recently is http://www.uchobby.com/ It would seem that should you link to this guy’s site, or write an article about hobby electronics, he will send you a kit or a PCB for free. In the past it has been LCD displays but recently it has all been Arduino themed. I found a particular article that was very interesting as I’ve been tryign to convert my La Fonera’s into embedded device servers. However some of the articles are not as complicated, for example this about sorting through large “lucky bags” of components.

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The Trouble With Things

22 August, 2007

It’s been quite a bit of time since I last updated this, but here I am again.

Lately I’ve decided to simplify my life. After all only once I am organized and regulated can I then allow spontaneity. So in order to do that I’ve gone through all the things I’ve wanted to do, planing to do, and doing, and written a large list. Going through this list I’ve noticed a lot of projects that I no longer have any interest in, namely using PICAXE chips. I’ve moved on to Arduino and the more complex opportunities it provides. I’ve also been able to cull some travel plans that simply couldn’t completed because of changing commitments, and, more importantly, a lack of money! Also listing these tasks has made it a lot easier to see what things can be done quickly and simply (throw out old war gaming stuff) and what will take more time ( control an Arduino through a La Fonera with Open WRT using the SCL, SDA, GND lines). Definitely worth the time spent on writing it. And as I keep the list as a notepad file on my 2Gb USB Memory stick, I can easily update it when I think of a new, or remember an old, project.

Another way of simplifying things is to reduce things, in my case, throw out anything I’m not using, or planning to use in the immediate future. As a result I’ve got rid of most of my old PC , modeling and war gaming magazines, freeing up 2 shelves. I’ve also sorted through my books, removing those that I don’t read anymore and consigning them to a charity shop. I’ve also thrown out all the junk I’ve collected with the hope of being able to fix it or make something from it.

There is another reason for this simplification as well. On the 15/16th of August I shall be moving. This is when I move into my new halls of residence when I start university. I will be moving into a smaller room, so to help with the move, and to make it as pain free as possible I want to have to move as little stuff as possible. To save on money I’ll be moving out of my room during the holidays, I’m only there for the semesters, so having less stuff to move will definately be a bonus. This won’t be too much of a hassle as I’m going to a local university, it’s only about an hour away.

One project I’m tryign to finish off at the moment is to get Linux onto my laptop, a R1F-K008e. However this seems to fail a lot. The main sticking point is, I can’t connect to WPA WiFi networks. This is REALLY annoying because I bought to laptop specifically to be mobile, and I’d need to access more secure, therefore more popular, WPA networks. At home I connect to the internet through a WPA WiFi network, but with Linux I can’t, I’ve tried Ubuntu 6.06 and 7.04 and Xubuntu 6.10 and 7.04. But the included “just works” Network mangers, quite simply, don’t. So I need to download something, but I can’t, because I cannot connect to the internet. D’oh!! However Windows does just work, strange that… Another problem is the tablet, the R1F is a tablet PC, but Tablets have very flaky support, but I do remember reading how someone’s managed to get their tablet working in Ubuntu 7.04 which has prompted me to try just a bit more before consigning Linux as a whole to the “it’s a was of time” bin.

My other foray into the land of Linux was getting DD-WRT on to a pair of La Foneras. I’ve managed it with one, which had the earlier, easily crackable, firmware but the second is proving difficult as it has the later 1.7.2 firmware, which is a lot harder to crack. Once I’ve done that I’m hoping to turn it into a simple wireless embedded server which can connect to an Arduino.

Out with the New, in with the Old

22 March, 2007

I bought an Arduino some time ago, but now I just received an ATMega168 from Daniel Jouiffe in Canada. He’s doing a trust scheme where he burns the boot loader onto an ATMega168, and then posts that and a 16MHz crystal to you, where ever you are. Then you pay him back however much you want. I just put into my Arduino NG board, and it works really nice. I’ve just doubled most specifications of my ATMega8. The forum post is here.

I’ve also gone and bought a Asustek R1F-K008E Tablet Laptop from here. It’s very nice, I like how it looks, comes with lots of extras, there are a few niggles with it, such as the way the pen gets scratched in the holder, or that Vista comes pre-loaded. I’ve spent the last couple of weeks sampling Vista, and this past week I’ve been trying to get it off. No easy task. There are many reasons for removing Vista, but the best are, many programs I live on, just don’t work, I don’t exactly blame Windows for this, but it’s highly annoying. Arduino doesn’t work, iTunes crashes no end, it keeps giving me pop-ups. I mean, honestly pop-ups, you have pop-up blockers on pretty much ALL web browsers, what made Microsoft think people like pop-ups?

Another reason to remove Vista is quite simply, the hardware cannot handle it. I have a laptop, a very nice laptop, Pentium 1.83Ghz Core 2 Duo , 1024Mb of DRR RAM, 120Gb hard disk, and it ran slowly, like a dog, with 2 legs… I put standard windows XP Professional on there, and it was lightning fast, things opened up instantly where as in Vista I’d have to wait 3 seconds, not much, but highly annoying. And lets not forget the BSOD every now and again. Oh sure, there are some features I miss, like the pretty UI and general streamlining, but XP is what I’m used to.

So I formatted the disk, and tried and install XP Tablet Edition, except my copy of XP Tablet Edition is odd. It’s been locked down in particular areas. So I scrub that, and install my copy of XP Professional, this goes fine, but no tablet drivers, nor any other drivers for that matter, so onto the Asustek website to download them. Ah, problem, Asustek have shit servers. I’m getting about 5kb/s on a 50Mb download, where as I have in the past got up to 300kb/s download speeds. 2 hours, 2 WHOLE hours for the drivers for the WiFi. I was not happy. So a day later, after download the drivers, and installing them, I think, great, I’ve basically got a normal laptop. So I went and re-installed my XP Tablet Edition over the top of Professional. So all the drivers are working, the tablet works, but a few things don’t, such as the AVG, and a few of the function buttons. I wonder where I can get another copy of the XP Tablet edition?

A Timely Reminder

16 February, 2007

Been a bit of time since I last did this, but hey, thats the way things are. I’ve been busy. I left Costa to work for a small IT company based in Windsor for about £1000 a month, pretty damn sweet I think you’ll agree, but more about that later. I’ve also got some ambitious, but achievable, I hope, plans to go abroad in my Gap Year, not just once but twice. I also have some new projects that I’m planning, while some of the old ones still haven’t be completed.

I work in the software company as a “Support Analyst” doesn’t mean much, essentially I’m part of the 4 strong help desk. I have no advanced qualifications aside from my GCSEs and A Levels, none of which are IT based. I’m very lucky to have this job, because most people my age would be earning around £5.35 an hour, I get £6.70. How did I manage that you ask? Well I join a scheme called Year in Industry and what they do is they market you out as an eager helper to engineering and software companies. After all, the company gets an eager 18 year old willing to learn and they can pay him, what he thinks is a lucrative amount, but to them is peanuts. After all how much would an adult at a help desk earn? about £21k, I earn £12k, it’s very worth it for them. Another advantage is that I could want to come back after uni to join the company, which is great, for me, and for them. It’s a pretty sweet deal. So here I am, learning MySQL, and C# and getting cool free stuff like “broken” 12 port network hubs.

As for traveling, the idea of funding these trips got a whole lot easier. What with £870 a month (post tax) to save/waste/spend. My rather extravagent plans to spend a month in Japan and a Month in California have been cut somewhat drastically. I shall now just be planning to go to California for 2 weeks. However I’m planning to go and visit The Gathering with s25 in April. Luckily my line manager was a native of California before moving to the UK, so I’ve asked her for a list of nice places to see, and I got a whole list of places to go, and sights to see. I’m hoping to drop by at the Maker Faire and see a few other cool geeky sights.

Unfortunately I can be rather hopeless I have many projects that just happen to fall by the way side in my desire to do something new. This I find VERY annoying. I’ve barely got started with the Arduino module, although I have been dissecting some code. Nor am I planning to really incorporate it into any of my projects soon. Nor have I even tried to interface my IR Range finder that I spent so long looking for. This is most disappointing, although I have a feeling it’s broken anyway, I left it on a battery, and it began to short out. I’m not sure how, or why, but it was extremely hot. I’m yet to finish any of my robotic projects.The midi-bot lies in pieces, the Mini-bots still require pieces, my antweights are still scattered. All in all not the best state of affairs. So rather than try and catch up, guess what I’m doing, yep, starting NEW projects! I’ve just bought a GIGANTIC 3300uF 450VDC capacitor. Large, at about 335 Joules, I bloody hope so! Now according to my calculations, thats a lot of current, about 2000A over 700 uSeconds. Of course I want to make it portable, which is problematic, as a 12V needs to be stepped up to supply 450V. I’ve also been looking in to Fon, or La Fonero, and how it can be hacked. I’m still, slowly working on my Server PC, but running into some VPN issues, I can’t seem to get remote access to it, which is a pain considering I don’t want to have to plug a screen, keyboard and mouse into every time I want to use it. I’ve also fucked up my old laptop by deleting the kernal32.dll while trying to upgrade it. So if ANYONE has a linux install that runs off floppies, give me a email!

I had a driving test on the 31st of January, which I JUST failed, 2 serious faults, 9 minors. Your allowed up to 16 minors, but the second you get a serious fault, you’ve failed. I accidentally rolled into the kerb on a 3-point-turn, on a road with one of the steepest cambers ever, after performing two hill starts, perfectly, on roads at inclines of about 60%. My tester was a total bastard. I’ve got a new test booked for 12th March.

As for pyro, I haven’t engaged in anything of a chemical nature for about a year now. Which is very annoying, nor have I actually taken an interest in it. But I soon hope to start again slowly, I need to clear out my table and cupboards in my garage and then sort the remainder into a Lab/ Electronics workshop.

Christmas

10 December, 2006

Here’s for the first post, I’m rather active in electronics, lately I bought an Arduino (http://www.arduino.cc) and an Infra-Red range finder from http://www.sparkfun.com/commerce/categories.php

The IR range finder is for the mini-bots I’m planning on making, these are small, about 4″ cubed, cheap, less than £20, robots. The idea is to make a swarm of them, so maybe 5 at most. I’ve already designed the PCB which allows the use of either IR or Sonar range finder, they have LDRs for light level sensing, and movement is controlled by two Servos converted for continuous rotation. It is controlled by a 08M PIC really basic, but VERY cheap, £1.79, the PCB will cost more say £2.00 and the Servos will cost the most £5 each.

Arduino is an open source micro-controller based on AMTEL chips, my board has a ATMEGA8 28-pin chip, gives me 3 PWM (Pulse Width Modulated) outputs which are simply analogue outputs, 6 analogue inputs, and 11 digital inputs/outputs, the PWMs can also be configured as digital outputs. I figured, as PICAXE is a bit Secondary School, even Primary school, I should probably find something more complex, but more flexible, and this is what I’ve decided upon. Reading on the site, you see it has a provision made for things called Shields, basically another PCB that is designed to slot into the top of the Arduino board, and provide extra functionality, such as blue tooth and accelerometers, can you say DIY PC Wii-mote ?

Right, that’s the electronics over with. Now onto the rest, Last night was the 9th of December, and on the 9th of December, Placebo (http://www.placeboworld.co.uk/) played a gig at Wembley Arena, North London. And because I love them, I went along. It was ABSOLUTELY FUCKING AMAZING!!!!!! They had 11 large projection screens, numerous lights and LOTS of speakers, the lights and the projections were really good, very Placebo-like. The music, well, I’ve listened to placebo religiously for about 3 or so years now, and I can truly say, they’re much better Live. As for the Arena, It’s quite odd, the set up, I can’t really describe it, because I was kinda sitting at 90 degrees to the band and so forth. Why didn’t I get a standing tickets you ask ? I was meant to go with friends, and they went and lost their tickets, so I figured, ah fuck em, I’ll go alone, so I did. I think I’ll stick to standing tickets, I spent most of the time standing anyway!