In this week’s edition of the Weekly Roundup, we have sorted through the links that have come though and selected the top links including some really fun products and projects for you to read about. From open-source microcontrollers to a tiny electric screwdriver with open-source firmware, we have you covered. If you happen to come across something interesting in your searching during the week, please drop me a line here so that I can be sure to include it in next week’s post. Now, without further ado, to the news!
SiFive has been on a mission to help expand the open source world to hardware. When I say hardware, I do not mean PCB’s and schematics; SiFive has created an open source microcontroller based on the RISC-V open instruction set. These 32bit microcontrollers run at an impressive 320MHz, and include the standard peripherals you would come to expect in a device like this. A pack of five chips can be purchased for $25.
For those interested in the RF world, the DDCH-50-13+ from Mini-Circuits is an interesting part. This is a surface mount RF coupler that is rated for 300W over a range of 20-1000MHz. It features a low .15dB insertion loss and 30dB return loss. The overall package measures 1.5” x 1” x .125”.
Credit card skimmers are nasty little devices. They are disguised in convincing housings that make them look as if they are actually part of the machine they are installed on. The unsuspecting victim slides their credit card into the compromised machine and a few weeks later they end up getting the deflating news that their card number has been stolen and is making purchases around the globe. Few areas are exempt from this practice. The town I live in has been dealing with this for the past year.
As part of a police investigation, Nate Seidle did an extensive reverse engineering effort to figure out how these devices tick. As part of that investigation, an Android app was created to help detect these devices in the wild. The write-up is lengthy, but a fantastic read, or go here direct to download the Android app.
Elektor Magazine recently ran a contest to challenge people to come up with different ways to dim an LED without a microcontroller. As part of the contest, each device had to be submitted with full schematics and a working prototype. This is perhaps a simple task, but it was fun to see the different approaches that were taken to get the task done.
Texas Instruments has a really neat little set of breakout boards that allow the designer to quickly prototype amplifier circuits in a variety of packages. The breakout boards have the schematic silkscreened on the back to quickly identify the topology being used. The instruction guide that comes with it also goes into detail on how to assemble the boards (including soldering).
You may be familiar with the TS100 soldering iron from e-Design. It is a very small 65W soldering iron that has open-source firmware that has been getting good reviews. To compliment this tool, e-Design has released the ES120 motorized screwdriver. It uses the same mainboard found in the TS100 and adapts the firmware to this application. It is on the expensive side (it can be found for under $80 USD of one looks hard enough), but it looks really well done. Marco Reps put together this playful, but detailed video review. This may go on my Christmas list. Perhaps I can use it as a mini lightsaber and take it with me to the new Star Wars coming out this year!
The FleaFPGA is a FPGA development board in a Raspberry Pi Zero form factor. As such, it taps into the large amount of hardware and shields that can be used with it. The board was designed by Valentin Angelovski of Australia. It comes with a Lattice ECP5 FPGA. This little board is almost half way funded and has a month left to go. At $45 per part, it is a nice chance to jump into the world of FPGAs for those wanting to do so.