Microchip MPLAB Xpress Evaluation Board & Cloud IDE

I was lucky enough to be one of the few to get a free MPLAB Xpress Evaluation board before the news hit sites like Hackaday. Due to demand, Microchip is now offering a discount code for those who sign up which can then be used to purchase one from the Microchip Direct store once more become available. You can read more about MPLAB Xpress here: https://www.microchip.com/mplab/mplab-xpress

Details on the actual eval board are pretty scarce on the website. The general stats are:

  • PIC16F18855 8-bit microcontroller
  • PIC18LF25K50 providing the USB interface & programming
  • 4x Red LEDs
  • Potentiometer
  • User Pushbutton
  • mikro BUS header

Note: a micro USB cable is not included (which would end up in the bin for most people I think as I already have too many).

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Plugging the eval board into my macbook pro resulted in a new USB mass storage device appearing. Inside it is a HTM file which links to the Microchip MPLAB Xpress page. To program the board, the online cloud-based MPLAB Xpress IDE generates a hex file download, which you then copy across to the USB storage drive. The file is automatically flashed and starts up straight away. I had zero problems opening up one of the demo applications, building it, downloading the hex file, and programming it. Literally within 5 mins of unboxing this eval board I had a new program on it. On a MAC. Cross-OS support for development tools is usually pretty terrible (looking at you MSP430 Launchpads with TI USB-Serial chips with no OSX drivers and poor linux ones). Loading up the MPLAB Xpress web interface for the first time can be a little bit slow, but once you’re on it’s pretty responsive. I was using Chrome, but Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer are also supported. One would assume Microsoft Edge is supported as well.

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First demo is fairly simple. It reads in the potentiometer value and adjusts the brightness of all 4 leds. Once I dropped the file onto the drive, it was programmed instantly in under a second.

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Initial impressions are very good. It just works. No hassles, no software installation, no driver issues. Just generate a file and drop it onto a fake flash drive. Easy as.

For those of you who hate the idea of being reliant on the cloud service, don’t worry. You can generate the same hex file from a local version of MPLAB IDE and drop it into the programmer just the same. Looking forward to a universal programmer being released that supports other PIC chips. Always great to have options and for certain people, this tool is going to be great.

Dell MD1000 Power Supply Pinout PSU H488P HP-U478FC5

Couldn’t find any info on the net on the pinout for these, so I did a few quick measurements to determine the pins required to power up manually.

There is a block of 8 pins on the left-most side of the connector. Bridge the top 2 pins and the bottom 2 pins and the supply will turn on. Note that the fan runs at full speed and is designed to move enough air to cool the 14 drives in an MD1000 so it’s loud…

The large tabs carry the main high current rails. From left to right: GND GND +5V +5V GND GND GND +12V +12V +12V

+5V standby power is available on the middle two right-most pins of the 8 pin block.

Swap the fans out for something quiet and it could make a nice high-current general purpose power supply.

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Elecrow Acrylic Laser Cutting Service

Elecrow Acrylic Laser Cutting Service – http://www.elecrow.com/5pcs-acrylic-laser-cutting-service-p-1425.html

Basically you get 5 pcs of 10x10cm Acrylic laser cut into any shapes you want for $5. Larger sizes are available for additional cost. Standard thickness is 2.5mm for transparent clear, transparent colours, and solid colours. You can custom request different thicknesses for transparent clear only. Larger thicknesses will attract additional cost but my 2mm order was the same price.

To test out the service I knocked up a quick case for a project I have in mind that uses a PIR sensor. Its a 45x45mm rounded square case with a cutout in the top for the PIR sensor dome. Standard 2.5mm transparent clear. I manages to fit 2 copies of the top and bottom onto a single 10x10cm “panel”. Using CAMBAM to design and export as a DXF in mm.

acryliccase

Note that I added some M3 sized spacers/washers to the centre waste cutout. I wasn’t sure if these would end up making it through but they did.

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They basically sent me all of the offcuts (including the centre “button” waste pieces). I haven’t counted if they are all there in the bag, but there’s a few other pieces in there not from my project. I’m just happy they made an effort to send me as many as they could collect :)

Note that they leave the backing on, which is a pain in the butt to get off the small spacers. Possibly soaking it in some soapy water would help?

The other project I had done was some tray dividers. I managed to score about 200 Treston plastic parts trays from Element 14 for like 30c each. They stack on top of each other and fit great on my workspace shelves. However, they are far too big for small parts so I wanted some dividers. Measuring the dimensions with a cheap digital caliper made the design pretty easy. I accounted for the triangular ridges at the bottom of the tray as well as the little plastic notches in the divider guides. The guides required the use of 2mm acrylic, which Elecrow accommodated with ease. I just left a note in a txt file with the DXF and in the order comments when checking out. I ordered the 20x20cm option with 18 dividers per panel for a total of 90. Total cost including shipping to Australia was $28.92USD.

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DXF above and final result below:

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Delivery using the standard Registered Airmail option was reasonable – about what you expect for Airmail. Both orders arrived just under a month from order date, so <30days including production and handling time is pretty good for the price.

 

All up, I can highly recommend Elecrow’s Acrylic Laser Cutting service. The results are perfect and the price is pretty damn good.

MX Chip EMW3165 More Info

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FCC Certification & Reports: https://fccid.io/P53-EMW3165

Datasheet: http://www.mxchip.com/d/file/2015-03-17/6708fe2d5435a7980a78e66aec369e51.pdf

Github MICO Repository: https://github.com/MXCHIP/MICO

Broadcom WICED (BCM43362): http://community.broadcom.com/community/wiced-wifi

ST Microelectronics STM32F411: http://www.st.com/web/en/catalog/mmc/FM141/SC1169/SS1577/LN1877?icmp=ln1877_pron_pr_jun2014&sc=stm32f411-pr

Quick Stats of the EMW3165:

  • IEEE 802.11 b/g/n
  • Cortex M4 core 100MHz
  • 2MB on-board external SPI flash
  • 512KB on-chip flash
  • 128KB RAM
  • 3.0-3.6V operation
  • 22 GPIOs
  • JTAG/SWD debug interface
  • On-board PCB antenna
  • Optional external antenna footprint (move SMD resistor jumper to set)
  • Optional external antenna pin for routing on PCB to custom antenna connector (move SMD resistor jumper to set)
  • Station, SoftAP, and Wi-Fi Direct (adhoc) modes
  • USART, I2C, ADC, DAC, Timer/PWM

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Pinout:

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Alternative Antenna Options:

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Dimensions & Footprint (mm):

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MX Chip EMW3165 – An ESP8266 Alternative?

Highlighted as an “ESP8266 Killer” in this Hackaday post, the EMW3165 is an IoT wireless solution with an onboard STM32F4 ARM Coretex M4 microcontroller and a separate wifi SoC that handles all the network transmission. That wifi SoC is the Broadcom bcm43362 which is commonly used with their WiCED SDK. At $8USD per module, it’s quite a bit more expensive than the $3 ESP8266 modules available, but appears to have a fair bit more available GPIO and hardware peripherals. Could be good for some larger projects where you would need to augment the ESP8266 with additional external hardware.

I’ve ordered a couple of modules and the development board from Seeed Studios for further investigation…

AMS / TAOS TSL2561 Digital Light Sensor

Finished writing a driver library for the TSL2561 digital light sensor. This small i2c device has 2 diode sensors in it: one for broadband light spectrum, and one for infrared only. The equivalent human-eye response level in Lux can be calculated from the two readings.

https://github.com/MetalPhreak/ESP8266_TSL2561

tsl2561mod

I picked mine up for under AUD$3.00 delivered from AliExpress.

All connected up to ThingVerse for logging!