Archive for the ‘Univerity’ Category

Knowledge Updates

14 October, 2007

Recently I’ve moved into University. I’m doing a course in Electronic Engineering, and I hope to gain a masters at the end of it.

So far I’m in my 5th week (4rd week of teaching) and I’m finding it very different, but also very interesting. The day is split up into hour blocks, with the first 50 minutes for lectures, and the remaining 10 minutes so that you can rush to the next thing on the timetable. I get 6 hours a week in laboratories messing around with components, and then the rest is theory, and there is quite a bit of that, with me spending about 26 hours a week working. There is on top of that exercises and prep work to be done outside of lectures and labs. That makes it quite intensive as courses go.

I’m living in halls on campus, however there are only 7 people on my floor, 3 girls and 3 other boys. As our floor is none too spacious we have gotten to know each other quite well and enjoy ourselves. I’m a bit new to actually living away from home so things are very different for me, but I seem to be managing.

All this change in scenery has not slowed my electronics. Today I received my latest order from Rapid. This consisted of about 300+ 0.1µF capacitors, 50×2 header pins, a 35A 600V bridge rectifier and an AVR ISP MKII. I bought the 0.1µF capacitors because they are rather ubiquitous in electronics as de-coupling capacitors, they are also used in the Arduino Diecimila, but more about that later. The 50×2 header pins are for in circuit programmers, to go along with the AVR ISP MKII for the new AVR projects that I’m planning. However the 35A 600V bridge rectifier is for an older project, I wanted to see if it could be practically be used in the intended application, or whether it would just be destroyed, unfortunately the intended application is a secret for the moment. The AVR ISP MKII is, unsurprisingly, for programming AVR projects. I also wanted to get it for burning Arduino boot loaders.

Recently a new Arduino board, the Arduino Diecimila has been released. This board is an updated version of the Arduino NG, which I own. It features a couple of new features, most notably a 3V3 out and an auto reset function. With the NG you needed to press reset to load a new program onto it, and it took 10 seconds to initialize the program when power was turned on, with the Diecimila this is not necessary and it boots up much faster. Normally I’d need to buy a new batch of Arduino Diecimila ATMega168s and boards, but by making some small alterations to the boards, detailed here or here. I went and made the modification to my Arduino NG board as you can see here:

An Arduino NG board with a 0.1µF capacitor soldered between 2 test points. This provides functionality similar to an Arduino Diecimila.

I also needed to upload a new boot loader onto the ATMega168 in order to take full advantage of the 0.1µF capacitor. To do this I needed to connect up the AVR ISP MKII that I also received today. This fitted onto the 2×3 pin header at the rear of the Arduino NG.

The Arduino is connected to the AVR ISP MKII which is burning a modified NG/Diecimila boot loader from Lady Ada.

Once it was all connected I need to make a few modifications to the boot loader. I did this using Lady Ada’s instructions here, this ended up looking like this:

A screen shot of the AVR Studio 4 screen where I upload the boot loader onto the Arduino.

This was just after uploading the new boot loader to the Arduino NG. I found that this worked perfectly and I shall be doing the same to the rest of the Arduino hardware that I own. I’m also now aiming to start working more with Arduino.

Now with these improvements to my base Arduino I took another look at my accelerometer project, I’m aiming to get the code finished, all be it in a rough-ish form by the end of the week. Once I’ve done that I’ll be posting here about the hardware changed, aims and the code.

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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.