I got my BeagleBone in today! In brief it is a high speed (720Mhz) ARM development board that takes a lot of inspiration from Arduino. At 720Mhz, however, there is plenty of juice to run Angstrom Linux or even Android.

It comes with a Linux SD card so I fired it up an gave it a whirl. Out-of-the-box the board runs a web server that runs Node.js and serves a web-IDE called Cloud9. They’ve set up Node.js libraries to make the programming look a whole lot like the Arduino. Check it:

They say it’s not quite ready for prime time and won’t be until sometime in 2012. But the blinky light program worked just fine. Seems like they are off to a great start.

I am thinking about this device as a fixed function server that will serve up a configuration GUI for my access control system and poll the door readers. Right now the Access Control server runs on a normal Ubuntu server, but in a commercial application you’re going to get folks who just plain have a black thumb with computers. These folks can be a real drain on support. This BeagleBone device could possibly be made black-thumb proof.

Holiday Make-A-Thon 2011 Photos

Wow! We had a great turnout at the Holiday Make-A-Thon, and besides teaching people to solder, and providing blank ornaments to decorate, we just generally had a good time.

Here’s some photos from the event:


Here’s Royce teaching someone to solder with our Tie Pin Kit. We plan to have these at all the events we participate in so we can show people how easy it is to get into soldering.


Here’s Brant working on some ornaments. We used the CNC Router to cut out a bunch of different shapes for people to decorate.


Here’s a collection of finished ornaments.


Here’s a dried gourd that was transformed into an awesome penguin.

Some crazy looking reindeer Brant made out of scraps from one of my projects…

And finally… Starclops. (Does Starclops really need any sort of explanation? I think not.)

Thanks to everyone who came out to make this event awesome!

Tie Pin PCBs!

The tie pin PCBs came in and they look great! We’ll use these PCBs to teach folks how to solder and spread the word about Milwaukee Makerspace!

In the photo above you see two identical boards each showing the opposite side. On the logo side two flashing rainbow LEDs go into the eye sockets and two current limiting resistors go to the left and right of the welder’s mask. On the back side, near the bottom of the pcb you can see two large rectangular pads that bracket a very large circular pad. The feet of a surface mount coin-cell battery holder that goes up and over the circular pad are soldered to the rectangular pads. The resulting cavity is a perfect fit for a standard CR2032 coin cell battery. Near the top is an oval shaped pad where the tie pin is soldered down.

Whenever we offer a Learn to Solder session at an event we’ll have these PCBs and associated electronic components in kit form available in exchange for only the time and effort required to learn to solder one together. (Small donations are appreciated, but in no way required) Most folks take less than 10 mins to master the basic soldering technique and are rewarded not only with a flashy tie pin or broach but also with a newly opened door to possibilities by virtue of their new ability to construct electronic circuits.

RN-42 Carrier Board


I got that RN-42 carrier board populated and working! Its ready for the GyroSkirt driver board, once I get that built.

There are a few errors on the board. TX and RX are swapped somewhere. Either on this board or on my USB to TTL-Serial board or in the RN-42 documentation. Also it seems the LEDs were meant to go to Vcc rather than ground. As a result my LED indication for connection status and RF traffic is inverted.

I can live with the errors as the actual data transmission works like a champ. To test the tranmission I hooked the carrier board up to a PC via a USB to TTL serial converter configured to operate at 3.3V.  The venerable Hyperterminal program was used to open the virtual com port on the PC. Then I downloaded Sena’s Bluetooth terminal program to my Android phone and used it to form a Bluetooth serial connection between my phone and the modem. The result: keys pressed on my phone’s keyboard appeared inside the Hyperterminal running on the PC and keys pressed on the PC keyboard appear inside the Sena Bluetooth terminal running on my phone. Bi-directional data flow at 115,200 baud.

Now that I have proven my wireless link works, I need to update the GyroSkirt/GryoBelt firmware to allow me to adjust the gain and the deadband over the Arduino’s serial port.  (In addition to actually making a driver board that has a spot for the modem.)

iTead Boards


I got my first batch of iTead Studio boards in!  iTead Studio is a  pcb printing shop that offers absurdly cheap prototype boards. The new boards look great. I’ll definitely use them again. It only took 2 1/2 weeks to get here. For the price its an awesome service.

The particular board shown is a carrier board for the RN-42 Bluetooth modem, which is only $15 from Sparkfun if you buy it in its surface mount form. For another $15 I now have 10 12! carrier boards that allow me to adapt the surface mount device to through hole technology as well as control infrequently utilized device specific features such as factory reset, BT Master mode, force 9600 baud and more. The more you know the cheaper electronics gets.

The carrier, populated with the modem, etc., is destined for the GyroSkirt. The idea is that I’ll be able to adjust the gain and deadband processing on the gyro sensor reading wirelessly from a program on my Android phone via the Bluetooth radio in my phone and one of these boards affixed to the GyroSkirt driver. The GyroSkirt will again be driven by an Arduino,  so I hope to leverage the Amarino library to speed my development time.

ARM Investigations


My cat has been telling me she wants to get more into 32 bit ARM processors. So when ST started freely offering their discovery development board for their new Corex M4, I jumped at the chance. My luck was in and the board arrived today! The STM32F4 on the board has a full meg of flash and a single precision floating point unit! Oh and like a bazzilion hardware timers and lots more. The board itself has a number of sensors and a big LED on it.

My cat is looking forward to spinning up a compiler and putting the device through its paces. She is especially looking forward to the demo app where the board pretends to be a mouse.

Thursday Night Time Lapse

A time lapse video complied from the Milwaukee Makerspace CCTV system. 7 hours of video compressed into 4 minutes. All events took place between 4:30 and 11:30 PM Thursday, September 29, 2011.

Activities include:
- Rich welding
- Chris and Rich working on their electric cars
- Chris driving his electric car in and out of the shop
- Tom, Adam, and Royce working in Diptrace
- Bret, Rich, Royce, and Adam blacksmithing items with the forge
- Various people working on misc. projects and chatting
- Royce, Brant, and Adam etching and tin-plating circuit boards
- Pete working on his Makerbot 3D printer