Sunday, July 29, 2012

The EPSON Perfection V33

I introduce you to my new toy:

It's an EPSON Perfection V33 flat bed scanner. I picked her up from my local Dick Smith (which is extremely different from the DickSmith's Electronics you remember from your childhood) store.

The reason I got it? It works on my iMac and on OSX 10.7 (with a little hoop jumping) and I didn't have to wait a couple weeks for it to ship to me. It's only an A4 scanner (I would have rather of had a larger scanning area), and as I won't be using it on my Windows box I can't use the bundled Arcsoft® Scan-n-Stitch Deluxe package to seamlessly stitch larger image together. But apart from that I'm quite happy with this 4800 x 9600dpi scanner.

It's image quality is good:
It's a page out of the 'EBS Bulletin 5: Earth-wall Construction, 3rd Edition', published by the Australia Government Publishing Service in 1982 (used as demonstration material only and in fair dealing... It was all I had close at hand that would show the scanners detail). As you can see the diagrams are crisp and detailed as well as the text being perfectly legible, even when zoomed wight in.

You can scan documents and create a single PDF out of the images, as well as using character recognition software to make documents searchable (Windows only option). This PDF creation feature is one of the reasons I got it. I plan to make copies of my design journals so as to preserve them =D

I'll be using it to duplicate documents, designs made with pen and paper, and many other things I imagine.

Now, as I said there is some hoop jumping to get it to work on Mac OSX 10.7 and up. The included CD is supposed to come with all you need to get it to work... Except it's not.

The included application crashes when opened, sometimes even opening to a menu before crashing so as to get your hopes up. You will need to go to the American EPSON support page (not the Australian or New Zealand OSX 10.7 compatibility page as they have nothing on them):

Where you will find downloads for the EPSON scan utility & driver package, the event manager (to assign actions to scanner button pushes) and the ICA scanner driver for Apple's Image Capture utility. All of these work and the drivers update through Apple perfectly.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Texas Instruments and Sample Kits

One of the good things about Hack a Day is that they usually let you know about good and free stuff if they find out about any. This happened yesterday in relation to one of the things in their Hackaday Links post:

The second item in the list leads to what TI call their 'Brushless DC Motor Drive Solution'.

What you get in this sample kit are as follows:
  • LM5101B – 100V MOSFET Driver 
  • LM3S8971 - Stellaris® Integrated Motor Control/Driver 
  • AMC1200 – Isolation Amplifier
That's a free kit and free shipping to Australia. But wait, there's more! I also happened to find in the side bar of the motor control kit page a chemical and gas sensor sample kit:
  • LMP91000 – Configurable AFE Potentiostat 
  • MSP430F2003 - 16-bit Ultra-Low-Power Microcontroller 
  • XTR117 - 4-20mA Current Loop Transmitter
And in that same side bar I also spotted this:
It is a "...multi-sensory portable audio and display solution featuring high-fidelity sound, multi-point touch with haptics for tactile feedback and programmable high brightness backlight driver that combine to deliver a richer user experience in a small-form factor." It includes: 
  • TPA2011D1 – 3.2W mono class-d audio power amplifier with auto-recovering short-circuit protection 
  • TLV320AIC3256 – Very low-power stereo codec with miniDSP and DirectPath™ amplifier 
  • DRV8662 – Piezo haptic driver with integrated boost converter 
  • LP8552 – High-efficiency white LED backlight driver with integrated boost converter 
  • TSC2004 – Nano-power touch screen controller with I2C serial interface
Not real sure what I'll use them for but I love me some free stuff!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Say hello to my tiny friend!... Or an update on the ATtiny 45/85 development board.

I've been working on an ATtiny 45/85 dev board for a while now. It went from it's infancy of no external power input to being a toddler and using an FTDI cable to supply the 5v needed. Now it's a teenager and has on-board power with 5v regulation:

It's the third revision of the board I've done, and it's also the largest of them. Still, it's not too expensive from OSH Park or BatchPCB. It now has a power jack and 5v power regulation (should be able to plug that Arduino power adaptor in and get her to fly) circuitry, ISP header, reset switch and two sets of broken out headers. The two sets of headers do serve a purpose. The first and inner set are for 'shields', while the second, outer, set is for both breadboard use and to give access to any unused pins that a 'shield' may not be using. It doesn't have an external crystal etc... as it shouldn't need one (as far as I understand), but the next revision will likely include a ceramic resonator, or at least be able to plug one in if wanted.

The board came from the want and need for an easy to use board for the ATtiny 45 and 85 (mainly the 85) that included all I would need to use it to make a Toaster Reflow Oven, but also be viable for use with other projects.

To further this idea of ease of use I designed an AD595 K-type thermocouple amplifier 'shield' for the dev board:

This is the second revision of the breakout board. It started life as something very basic, with the bare minimum for what I needed... I also cocked up my first prototypes. The thermocouple solder pads (which aid in getting better readings) were not accessible to solder to. So in this version I rectified this, in a very ugly way. But it works.

This revision also has an alarm LED, which will alert you if a thermocouple isn't connected or if the chip is damaged in some way. I also now use a 3-pin screw terminal to connect to the relay board I will be using (

The AD595 is rather useful as you only need one pin on the microcontroller side of things and it's dead easy to work out the temperature:

Signal Values

The nice thing about the AD595 is that the signal it generates is linear with temperature. This means that it is really easy to convert from an analog reading to a real temperature. Secondly, the AD595 outputs 10mV/C which is simple to work with. at 1V, the temperature is 100C, at 2V, the temperature is 200C, etc. With a reference voltage of 5V, the sensor can make readings up to 500C.
The way to read the temperature is easy. First you convert an analog reading to voltage, then you multiply by 100 to get the temperature in celsius:
Voltage = analogRead(X) * 5.0 / 1024.0; //Note that 5.0 is the A/D reference voltage. Celsius = Voltage * 100;
Or, to simplify:
Celsius = ( 5.0 * analogRead(X) * 100.0) / 1024.0;
It does mean that the breakout board can only output up to 500°C since it only has 5v to work with, but we don't need to go higher than that for a reflow oven (I imagine it wouldn't be hard to bring the 9v from the power adaptor up to the AD595 to give it a 900°C working range). I'm going to be using the firmware from the Pleasant Hardware reflow controller ( as the basis for my code. He managed to get full PID controlled temperature management, 3 'programs' and a minimalistic UI into the limited memory of the ATtiny 45!

Anyway, this is just an update of what's been happening with the dev board. More to come about the reflow oven!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The ArduFrauenfelderCNC Version 1.0 - Arduino Pro Micro Edition!

This is the Version 1.0 of the ArduFrauenfelderCNC controller board... Arduino Pro Micro Edition. It's my way of cheating, until I can get the pre-release board completely perfect.

I also like this design as you don't need to add a clumsy FTDI board into the mix, as the ATmega32U4 has a USB transceiver inside of the 32U4. I may have to get my reflow oven project completed and look at SMD components for the controller (as a side project).

Thought I'd just make an update with what's happened (I did say I would be updating more often).

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The ArduFrauenfelderCNC: Progress Report 1

Images of the physical mill so far (most of the work I've done in the past two weeks while I've had something close to pneumonia).

This is the ArduFrauenfelderCNC so far!

It hasn't really changed that much since I last showed it off. The gantry has been modified to allow linear bearings to be fitted and 10mm steel rods to be fitted for Z-axis motion, as well as support structures for the lead ballscrew.

The base unit hasn't yet been modified for actual use. It needs parts for the lead screw support and stepper motor placement (which will be 3D printed to allow varying motors to be used).

Talking of 3D printing I have also designed printed structures for the controller board holder (top left image), as well as the Z-axis linear bearing manifold (centre image, last item in image). I haven't decided on a dremel, or cousin, for use as the drill yet so the Z-axis isn't quite right yet. Once I do pick one I'll get it ready for cutting, more than likely having to modify dimensions to get the unit right for an actual drill.

I'm going to do a test run of the physical mill once I have to all laid out in SketchUp the way I want it (that is I'll take the incomplete mill and send it to be cut at Ponoko so as to see if it's working as designed).

So the reason I got a bee in my bonnet? That would be thanks to Chris the Carpenter at Rocket Brand Studios. I stumbled across his magnificent propeller-based TX for his robots last year and a couple weeks ago re-stumbled it (I really love that thing). Once I found the page about it I started looking at his blog posts and found a video of him milling lexan for a 3D printer. He just really inspired me again to get my arse in gear and get my baby finished. To which I would have to thank him!

I'll continue to get the mill up to speed in the coming months and post as I make progress.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Xperia™ SmartTags and the Samsung Galaxy SIII

As I've stated before I recently bought a Samsung Galaxy SIII GT-I9300 from MobiCity. Now, one of the neat things it has is a Near Field Communication chip and antenna built into it. What, I hear you ask, can this be used for? Well, there's Google Wallet (US only) and Android & S Beam, but the thing that interests me, and probably you, is it's interactions with NFC tags.

These are the four tags you get when you buy 
a pack of SmartTags (I got mine off eBay, of course).

The Xperia tags only come in four variations, meaning you only have those four even if you buy more. They're only addressed four different ways:

Blue tag: semc://liveware/A1/1/NT1/1/smarttags1

Red tag: semc://liveware/A1/1/NT1/2/smarttags1

Black tag: semc://liveware/A1/1/NT1/3/smarttags1

White tag: semc://liveware/A1/1/NT1/4/smarttags1

Now this does of course mean if you had some spare NFC tags laying around you could, perhaps, maybe, make your own... Which can be accomplished using the NFC Task Launcher to write the URI's you want to whatever tag you want...

To get these tags to work with your phone you'll need the Xperia™ SmartTags app (the widget on the left) and the LiveWare™Manager app (shortcut on the right) from Google Play. Below is a screencap of the SmartTag app once your tags are registered, as well as a screencap of the tag edit menu where you add or remove actions that tag will do. The bottom image is a popup notification that happens when a cards actions are being taken:

You can of course change the names of the tags from the factory settings. The tags can perform many tasks, such as toggling Bluetooth on and off, play and audio file, send a text message or make a call. All this it can do, except for anything to do with turning GPS on and off (which would be nice if an update were to include it. Imagine having a car tag that turned Bluetooth on, GPS on, opened a navigation app and adjusted the volume). 

As for the LiveWare™ Manager app you'll find it kinda neat, but somewhat useless (Microsoft's on{x} is way more useful and powerful. But you have to have LiveWare to use the tags). It will allow you to enact actions based on certain changes the phone detects, such as plugging the charger in or pushing a pair of headphones into the audio socket As you can see from the second image I have the Bloomberg app open and show me my stock listings when I charge my phone:

All in all NFC in you mobile device is something that has been a long time coming, and something the world could use a lot more often!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

How to cut down a SIM card into a microSIM... except not really.

I recently bought a Samsung Galaxy SIII GT-I9300 in the 32 GB variety from MobiCity. My only problem is that I'm upgrading from a three year old iPhone 3GS which uses a regular, old and large SIM card, whereas the SIII uses the new and fangled microSIM.

Enter eBay and a Hong Kong supplier of SIM cutters:

I decided to buy a throw away, $2 starter SIM to experiment on before trying to cut my actual phone SIM:

You place the normal sized SIM card into the cutter, which is rather similar to a regular hole punch, and depress the lever with a steady amount of force until it pushes out a microSIM sized piece of smartcard plastic:

The cutter came with a couple adaptors so if you so choose you can use it in a regular phone again. It does make the card quite small:

Now I say "except not really" because my actual real life SIM is too big, as in the contact pads, to use in the cutter. Or at least I'd rather not risk it:

On the left is my normal sized SIM card, on the right
is the freshly cut microSIM in an adaptor.

I'm pretty sure I could cut my proper SIM and have it be fine and functional, but first I'm going to go down to my local Telstra store and have a talk to them (which is something I never really like doing) about my problem.

UPDATE: I found a same sized SIM as my actual one and tried to cut it. As long as you manually align the card in the cutout window so none of the chip is in the line of the cut it works beautifully.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The blog now has an address!

As you may have seen the blog now has it's proper URL,, the one it started life with! I am ever so slightly annoyed at having to have the www. of my address included for this to work, but it's a small price to pay.

It's registered with GoDaddy and they make it so very easy to achieve so I thought why not, since my hosting plan is now defunct and the domain just pointed at a 403 message now.

Go here for instructions on how to achieve this.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

iMac Caddie

I own an iMac, mid 2011 model, and as it currently stands it sits low on my desk as well as sitting far to forward for my liking (because if I were to push it back into the monitor alcove then I wouldn't be able to use the DVD/CD drive).

 Last week I got sick of my setup and started designing what I call a caddie:

It will be made from MDF and clad in plywood of some description. The iMac foot holder (the raised part) is made entirely from plywood and is just there to make it look neat. 

There will be room for five HDD's inside and a USB hub (as well as a Firewire hub hopefully) with easy to access cutouts. The whole unit will be connected to two or three draw sliders to make it easy to get access to the DVD/CD drive. I'm also contemplating placing NFC tags in there somewhere too so I can place my Galaxy S3 on it and have it do stuff.

It's a massive work in progress, I'm not even sure if I'll go to my local hardware store to get the materials or whether I should just go with Ponoko, but I thought I'd throw it out here anyway.