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Where do you get a MAC Address!

Every device connected to Ethernet has to have a globally unique address, including our network connected SplashLight, it’s called a MAC address. A standard MAC address is 6 bytes, the first 3 bytes are the OUI (Organizationally Unique Identifier). The IEEE, who control OUI assignment, let you register your own OUI for $1750. The final 3 bytes of the MAC can be anything you want, giving you 16 million addresses. Alternatively they also sell IABs (Individual Address Block) for $600, these are addresses are intended for people who can’t afford an OUI or don’t need that many addresses. IEEE give you 4096 address from an OUI they own. So you have control over the last 12bits.

So do you have to spend a lot of money? well no there’s another way. Microchip sell an SPI/I2C eeprom with a unique MAC address pre-programmed in to it already. The 25AA02E48 costs only 0.30p from Farnell. For the small batches we plan to produce this is best option and it means there’s an eeprom on board for us to save our non-volatile data to.

Hello My Name Is SplashLight

After much indecision about what to call our : Network connected home automation device that lets you control ‘things’ from your iPhone/Android/PC and select RGB colour patterns. We have finally picked a name!! Cue loud music, fanfare and fireworks …

My Name is SplashLight

It’s name is SplashLight, so what do you think? like it? hate it?

Expect lots more updates about our SplashLight board very soon! At this very moment I have it running a set of ikea dioder RGB led strips in my office and it’s looks amazing!

JTAG issues with Stellaris Cortex M3 LM3S

Whilst working on the software for our, yet to be named network light controller, I managed to stop the Jtag from being able to connect to our LM3S6100 ARM microprocessor.  All code composer would do when I pressed debug was to show me a very unhelpful dialog saying the “Frequency is out of range”.

Useful Code Composer Jtag Error Dialog - "Frequency is out of range"

I knew the board was okay as I had previously re-flashed it many times. Working backwards, my last change was code to control GPIO Port F. Referring to the schematic, Port F shares a pin with the TRST Line (PB7).  So it seems I had accidentally overridden the TRST line and made it a GPIO, stopping the jtag from gaining control of the device, opps!

Click “Continue reading” for the fix.. Continue Reading →

Wow the PCBs are here!

Just 2 weeks after ordering from Seeed Studios in China, SolderSplash’s first PCB is here. Robs wasted no time and quickly populated the first PCB for me to develop the software with. Here are some shots ..

TI has helped us out with a few samples of the LM3S6100 and the relays are on back order from Farnell, they will be with us in a week or two. The only issues so far is the RJ45 socket we ordered didn’t quite fit, altering it slightly gets it in, an easy tweak for the next issue.

I love the next bit, getting a new board running is always exciting.

Exciting Stuff…

Ahhh the arrival of components, always an exciting day! As much as Carl can’t wait to get writing some code, I can’t wait for the arrival of a 4inch square piece of fibreglass to solder all those bits onto and find out how well I did with the layout… Lets hope its on its way from China as we speak!

In the meantime, while I wait with anticipation I am currently working on the next couple of boards that we plan to produce, these have been on Carl and I’s list for a while now, finally making a start on them. I’m not going to say what they are just yet, but stay tuned and all will be revealed in good time

Network Controller Update III

It’s not a monumental occasion, but this week we received our first part delivery from Farnell and sent our first PCB out for manufacture in China! Perhaps in years to come when were a happy thriving business ( something like sparkfun ) we can look back at this point and remember where it all started. That’s the dream!

While we wait for the boards, I can get on with designing the software to drive and control them, for part of that I’m going to need an Android phone. Stealing Rob’s phone for days on end probably wouldn’t go down well with him, so I’ve picked up an amazingly cheap Samsung Galaxy Europa Android phone. It’s got all the basic requirements of a smart phone these days, capacitive touch, Bluetooth, GPS and WiFi. I can’t wait to get writing code for it.

SolderSplash Remote control prototype parts delivered

SolderSplash Remote control prototype parts delivered

3D PCB Modeling

Being able to see in 3D what a PCB will look like before you commit to getting it made is invaluable, generally the tools to do that are quite expensive. Well that used was the case, now its easy and free! Using google Sketchup and the superb EagleUp you can export your PCB to a set of images and a .txt file. Once you have processed them you import the .txt file in to Sketchup and it draws the board and all its holes for you. Each component requires a Sketchup model but EagleUp has a beginner’s guide to help you get started. So with the Layout complete on our new Home/Garden automation controller we’ve made 3D model’s of the components before we commit to the PCB manufacture. Heres how it looks :

Were still not quite finished, so a few of the components are missing and the image cropping needs some work as were getting crescent shaped pads on some holes, but I think it looks fantastic!. With this model finding an enclosure or getting a custom one 3D printed from the many services that have appeared over the last few years will be easier too.

Update : Jerome Lamy, author of EagleUp has released an updated version that fixes the alignment issues I was having and removes the manual steps needed before.

Network Controller Coming Along Nicely

The Network Controller is taking shape, PCB Layout is almost complete, were down to checking and tweaking. Most of our time over the last week has been spent refining and reducing the cost of the materials. I can’t wait to write some code for it! Here is what the layout looks like :

PCB Layout of Texas Instruments Arm Cortex based network controller

PCB Layout of the Network controller (Click to Enlarge)

Since our last update we have re-thought the power topology instead of an AC input the board will now require a 12v DC input. We can use this to directly drive the relay coils and drop it down to 3.3v for the rest of the board. On the left we have an option of either volt free relay switching or you can supply your own power AC/DC  (0-240v) which can be switched to any of the 4 outputs. This will hopefully save some wiring, it will for Rob’s garden anyway!

We added a header for an external switch, which could have many uses, my first thought was this could be used as an override to open/close all the relays when pressed, if you don’t have your iPhone/Android handy.

Finally I added a SPI header, this probably won’t have any purpose for this application, but we have plans for our next product and this board could be its controller.

As a fun distraction we are also modeling the board in sketchup to make sure it ‘s all sensible before we press the button and order our first prototype PCB’s. I’ll post a photo soon of our progress on that.

Network Controller Update

We have been beavering away on our first product, the network controlled relay board ( need a catchy name really! ). Rob’s wasted no time and has a circuit and draft layout in progress. Here’s a simple block diagram of boards features ..

ARM Cortex M3 Powered network controller

For the Cortex M3 we have currently selected the LM3S6100, TI provide the StellarisWare Software library which includes a lot of example code and should make it easy enough to get it running. It also has a built-in Ethernet Mac and Phy to save on the external Phy costs.

The 4 output relays will have 2 modes, they will either be volt free contacts allowing you to attach 4 devices and switch power to them on/off. Alternatively they can be set to provide 12v AC out (from the input power supply) to reduce wiring for certain applications, like Robs garden lights.

An IRDA transceiver will let us experiment with turning the board in to a universal remote as well. This could be set up to fire off a pre-set series of commands to your home cinema whilst turning on the motor for your projector screen for example.

Which in turn is controllable via your iPhone/Android,  Exciting! If any one out there has any feature suggestions, let us know!

MSP430 that uses FRAM – Remembers forever (Virtually)

As well as shout about the products we want to make, I want to make this blog about other cool tech that we see/use. With that in mind, FRAM (Ferroelectric RAM) has come across my desk this week. FRAM has the speed of RAM but is non-volatile so won’t forget what it knows when it looses power. The mainstream alternative Flash is traditionally used for such jobs but doesn’t yet have the speed of RAM, just about every Microcontroller on the market uses Flash of some sort. Well that was until recently when TI announced they were adding FRAM to their MSP430 range. The MSP430 range has some of the lowest powered micro’s in the industry with the additional of FRAM, that can go even lower, instead of hibernating the processor with just enough power to keep the SRAM alive it can just switch off. The FRAM retains the processors state and varibles, power up again and carry on where it left off.  Even if you’re not that interested in the low power side the other advantages of FRAM, it’s speed and maximum write cycles make it a very exciting technology.  TI do a cheap developers kit, much like the launchpad

MSP-EXP430FR5739 MSP430 FRAM Experimenters Kit

MSP-EXP430FR5739 MSP430 FRAM Experimenters Kit

You can buy this from the TI eStore for $29 $15 with the coupon code : MSP430_FRAM (Thanks to Hackaday for the 50% code), The board has a 3 axis accelerometer and can also be used as a Programmer/Jtag, mines on order!

Where do we begin

To kick off our new ‘hobby’ Rob and I have chosen to make something we need, in the hope that someone out there might find it useful. Rob has just done some work on his garden and has fitted some deck lighting and a pond fountain. He was talking about buying a wireless relay controller so he could sit in the garden and turn things on/off. When we had the idea, how about making his phone the controller, since he always has it on him.

We have both used a few Different ARM processors in the past and I have had them running TCP/IP Stacks like lwip and uip without too much hassle. I’ve also dabbled in some iPhone and Android development so knocking up something to control it should be simple.

Since were hooking up a network controllable board to a phone I thought it would be a nice feature to include a IRDA port to allow it to learn and send IR Codes. Turn your phone into a remote!

Stay tuned for more updates!

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