In the US last week we had Thanksgiving. It was wonderful to be able to spend time with family and friends and to share a wonderful meal. Though, this week we are back at it and there is a lot to cover.
First and foremost, I want to introduce Brent Voltz as a new writer with ElectroSchematics (with a last name of Voltz, how could he not be involved in electronics). Brent and I first met over a Twitter discussion, and then a few months later in person as I was on travel. Since then we have been scheming all sorts of projects and traded a few PCBs back and forth. He has quite a few hobbies including woodworking and cooking. When I say hobbies, it is best to say that he practices a few other careers in his hobby time. He is very thorough in all that he does, including his hobbies. If you have not read his first post on how to create voice controlled shop lights, take a look at it here. It is a rather practical IoT application that is fun and well documented.
Also coming up, I will be preparing to post reviews on a few oscilloscope products. These products cover a wide range of use cases and budgets for the hobbyist and prosumer level of devices. Products from Micsig, IkaLogic, and DreamSource Labs will be reviewed in the upcoming weeks. And now without further ado, to the electronics news and links of the week…
This is perhaps one of the bigger pieces of news this week. Amazon has added IoT libraries on top of the standard FreeRTOS to enable edge devices to connect to the cloud. One of the future functionalities that will be added is OTA firmware updates. So far companies such as Texas Instruments, Microchip, NXP Semiconductors, and STMicroelectronics have committed to provide firmware support to the effort so that their chips are supported. With this, then a developer can choose preconfigured FreeRTOS firmware packages, or customize them using their graphical software configuration tool.
I have a feeling that this is a very first opening round of a much larger project for Amazon. At the same time, I expect to see the rest of the key players in cloud computing to react to this. Microsoft and Google have not put much attention into the microcontroller space. With Amazon targeting this space, and the large number of devices this enables, the competition will need to react.
I was recently reminded by one of our readers, who goes by the user name of Brett, of this fantastic little circuit simulator. It is unique in the fact that it gives a visualization of both current flow and voltage. For those that are new to analog electronics and want a little more insight into what is happening inside of that schematic that you are looking at, you might want to take this for a spin. If you have laid out a schematic before than you will be able to use this simulator. It should run in any desktop browser (I have not tried a mobile browser, it may work there too).
This one was a pleasant surprise for me. ST has some very nice hardware, and my interest in radio controlled devices caused me to take a close look at this little board. The heart of the board is the ever popular STM32F401 Cortex M4F microcontroller. This little microcontroller is not only responsible for parsing the flight controls received from the transmitter, but also provides sensor fusion for the combined 10DoF sensor package that is onboard. This package is divided across a 6DoF accelerometer/gyro, a 3DoF magnetometer, and a pressure sensor. One other unique aspect of this project is that all the source code for it is stored on GitHub. Also somewhat uncharacteristic is that the code is pretty clean and not littered with a ton of #ifdef’s. I would like to see a bit more documentation, specifically on their sensor fusion approach.
With consumer 3D printers beginning to really gain popularity there have been an increase in products that cater to this need. While it may not have become the 3D printer in every home that some projected, it is still a rapidly growing market. Towards that end, ST has released this new stepper motor driver. This particular driver is rated for 1.5A and 7-45V. The feature that sets it apart is the 256 microstep capability. There is the debate as to if one really needs, or can use that many microsteps, there is a true reduction in noise that comes with this increased microstep control.
I came across this interesting online simulator for the Mbed OS created by Jan Jongboom. It looks rather basic right now, but for those that are wanting to do a bit of online learning, this is a quick way to get started with the Mbed OS. If one heads over to the GitHub page for the project, it is listed as, “very experimental”. Though, the project looks to build out a rather full emulator.