Why we do what we do

Strange title isn’t it. I’ll explain what I mean…


A few days ago, my significant other handed me a cheap, nasty computer mouse and a cheap, nasty USB sparkly, colour changing, desk ornament thing and asked me to fix them. Of course I said “yes”, I daren’t say otherwise. She wanted the desk ornament fixing because it’s “pretty” and the mouse because it’s pink and covered in little plastic gems… Oh, and it’s “pretty”

While I was working on these items, it occurred to me that even though they were very cheap and could be replaced for a few pounds, I was actually enjoying myself.

I happened to have a dead mouse in my junk box so I opened it up, un-soldered one of the buttons and swapped the dead button with it. Problem solved.

The USB ornament thing was next.

When you plug it in to a USB port, it’s supposed to light up and change colour. It didn’t.

ornamentWhen I opened it up, I found a small PCB with a chip under a blob of epoxy, 3 LEDs and some resistors. After checking that it had power, I decided that the chip was probably faulty and there was nothing I could do… oh, but there was.

I have a few colour changing LEDs in my stock drawer. They have two pins like a normal LED but they have a tiny little chip inside the case. All you need to do is add power and it cycles through different colours on it’s own.

For the sake of 2 minutes work, I soldered the LED to one of the existing resistors and it worked perfectly.

Within 10 minutes, I’d fixed two worthless items (monetary wise) but had made my significant other very happy. Can you put a value on that?

It got me thinking to all the times I’ve built something, fixed something or really done anything and someone says “But why?” “What’s the point?” etc

Well, because I enjoy it, that’s why.  I love nothing more than coming into the hackshed and just tinkering for the sake of tinkering. Call me a sad geek, I really don’t care.

To sum it all up, the next time someone asks “Why?” Just reply with “Because I can”

There really doesn’t need to be a reason to do anything. Just have fun.

Building a 4bit / 8bit computer in CPLD

8_Bit_Computer_by_Ben_AndersonSomething we’ve been working towards is building a homebrew CPU from scratch in CPLD. If you’ve seen any of our “Getting Started with CPLDs” guide, you might have noticed that we’re working towards completing the ALU before we can start adding proper CPU features to it. This article is less about the CPLD side of things (we’ll continue with the guides) and more about the rest of what we’ve been doing.

Building things on breadboards is fine but I often find that I either need to pinch something from the design, I knock wires out of place or there’s some other reason that it gets destroyed. In order to get round this, I’ve started building a modular control panel for my ongoing project. I’ve named it…. The Carlputer… ahem.

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Getting started with CPLDs – Index

cpldjHere you will find links to all the articles that make up our CPLD for beginners guide.

We’d love to hear your feedback about this guide. If we’ve got something wrong or if there’s anything specific you’d like us to cover, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Part 1 – Installing the Altera Quartus II software
Part 2 – Entering your first design
Part 3 – Lighting an LED
Part 4 – Adding a button
Part 5 – Making a half-adder
Part 6 – Making a full-adder
Part 7 – Making a 4-bit binary adder
Part 8 – Making a 4-bit binary subtractor




Getting Started with CPLDs – Part 7

cpldjIn part 6, we built a 1-bit full adder. In this part we’re going to expand upon that and build a complete 4-bit binary adder. I have made the assumption that you already know about the binary number system but in case you don’t, have a look here and do some searching to learn about it.

Back? Great, let’s get on with it. Grab your CPLD development board, a breadboard and the usual handful of LED, switches and resistors. We will need switches for this guide instead of buttons.

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Building a breakout board for a TI TMP708

TMP708Steve recently ordered several Texas Instruments TMP708 temperature switches. What he failed to realise however, is that the chips come in an SOT package which is tiny. After laughing at him for quite a while, I offered to build him a breakout board for the chips.

Here are the steps I took to make this tiny package useful for prototyping purposes. It’s by no means pretty but it will allow us to use the temperature switch on a breadboard.

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How to give your Arduino robot eyes!… (Ultrasonic’s really!)

HCSR04_CloseupWhat robotics project doesn’t need eyes? By eyes we’re referring to HC-SR04 Ultrasonic Sensors. We have put together a quick and easy library to get started with using these sensors.

The HC-SR04 is a low cost, easy to use sensor that will measure distance by bouncing ultrasonic sound waves off of obstacles in front of it. Ideal applications for the HC-SR04 is using them for obstacle avoidance systems in your robots/RC cars – This will be quite short post as there isn’t much to it.

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Arduino Network Uptime Monitor with Twitter Updates

IMG_20140217_193610We’ve been looking for excuses to use our Arduino Ethernet shield in more projects recently; we had the idea today to see if we could get it monitoring our network servers and report the status of them to Twitter.

It was actually surprisingly easy; we had the Twitter posting code from the previous project and we found an Arduino ICMP library so that we could test a ping to the hosts and see if it was responding or not, we added this to our task scheduling code and the rest just fell into place.

Click here to read more..

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