The printed circuit boards for PIP-Watch Zero came from Pragoboard fab on Friday 12 Sept. I ordered three pieces because the cost is practically identical as for two or one.
On Saturday I assembled one board, and on Sunday I tested it and started working on firmware. I had some problems with PLL in the microcontroller – the CPU hard-resetted the instant the PLL was enabled. Eventually I found a bad solder joint on one of the CPU’s power supply pins.
So far I tested the CPU & JTAG, the eInk EPD display, Bluetooth modem access (but not the BT communication itself), and LEDs. I had issues with bad solder joints (both shorts and cold joints) because the PCB footprint for the CPU (the LQFP64 package) was apparently designed for the reflow process, and it is not suitable for hand soldering. Silly KiCAD libraries!
Schematic [PDF], BOM, and PCB layout for my PIP-Watch “Zero” was completed during this week. Layout data was sent to a local PCB fab – pragoboard.cz. The board should be ready and shipped during the next week.
The PCB is is 80mm*35mm. The top side is dedicated to the EPD display, battery (underneath the display), 3 push-buttons and 4 LEDs. The bottom side carries all the main electronics – processor, bluetooth modem, display driver, and power source.
In my previous homebrew projects I did not use any operating system in the embedded processors. Software was programmed on a bare-metal hardware. In my Talking Clock project I created a simple cooperative event-processing abstraction layer, but it was very limited.
GDE021A1 is a graphics display with a resolution 172×72 pixels, each pixel is 2 bits deep (4 shades of grey). The display has an internal controller SSD1606 with a framebuffer. The framebuffer size is 172*72*2/8=3096 Bytes. When the display is powered up, the system processor sends initialization sequence that first sets up controller’s internal registers (the controller SSD1606 is fairly generic) and then sends new framebuffer content. The display controller then autonomously pushes the framebuffer contents to the physical screen.
The display controller can be configured to orient the framebuffer almost any way. I configured it into a landscape mode, with the X-axis going right and the Y-axis down, as shown on the photo.
Today I have managed to get the GDE021A1 ePaper display (EPD) working! I used my minimal EPD-Driver board, which implements a flat-flex cable connector and a booster circuit for the display. The booster generates high voltages needed for display operation (around +-25V). The display is driven by STM32F101 Cortex-M3 CPU, mounted on a universal PCB. The picture below depicts my workbench setup (click to see a full-size image):
In my PIP-Watch project I will use a Li-On battery to provide power. Li-On batteries are easy to use in hobby projects: they are light, small, with high capacity, and they come in variety of sizes. Most (not all) Li-On batteries have nominal voltage 3.7V, hence you can directly power your standard 3.3V digital logic directly, using only a simple low-drop linear regulator (e.g. LD59015).
For my first experiments I chose Nokia BL-4C Li-On battery. It’s nominal voltage is 3.7V, charging (maximal) voltage is 4.2V, the capacity is 860mAh.
The issue this software solves:
Although the Voltcraft multimeter and the UNI-T USB cable are hardware compatible (the USB cable adapter fits into the multimeter connector perfectly), the software requirements are different. Original Voltcraft USB cable, which costs tripple the UNI-T cable by the way, mimics RS232 adapter when plugged in USB host PC. The UNI-T cable uses different chip internally and behaves like a HID device. On the other hand, UNI-T multimeters use different communication protocol over the serial line than the VC870 does.
This software package is composed of two independent parts:
1. USB cable interface in the utd04-cable directory,
2. multimeter protocol decoder in the vc870-decode directory.
The USB cable interface is adapted from other work, see copyrights in the directory. Compile according to instructions in the utd04-cable/readme.2.txt file.
The multimeter protocol decoder is a perl script. Use in a pipe together with the cable interface:
Being mostly ‘digital’ guy, I’ve always shied off from switching mode power supplies because they are too much analog to my liking. I decided to break my habit by playing around with MC34063A, a 1.5-A Boost/Buck/Inverting Switching Regulator.
I tried an inverting topology that generates -12V from +6V power supply. A copy of schema from datasheet is below, and an implementation on a breadboard can be seen above at the page tile:
The converter works by first charging coil L by a current drawn through transistor Q1. When Q1 is switched off the energy stored in the coil is discharged through diode 1N5819 into output capacitor Co. Because current through the coil L goes always from top to bottom (as drawn in the schematic above), the discharging phase is effectively pulling the output voltage below ground level.
Again and again I need to look up the logic voltage levels of various logic gate standards like HC, HCT, LVT, and so on. I found a nice article on EETimes: A brief recap of popular logic standards. The page has a picture that recaps all the popular standards along with their Voh, Vih, Vil, and Vol voltage levels. However, the picture resolution is very low quality, and it is also not evident at the first glance what is the relation between standards. So I redraw the picture in Inkscape, an open-source SVG editor. The result is here (click to see large image):
Today I tried pairing my UART-to-Bluetooth adapter to a Nexus 7 tablet to see how it works. On the tablet I used BlueTerm, an open-source terminal emulator for communicating with any serial device using a bluetooth serial adapter.
I connected my Bluetooth adapter through a USB/UART adapter to a PC. On the PC in a terminal emulator the following sequence of commands is sent to the BT adapter:
The three slashes are an escape sequence to put the adapter into the AT-mode. Then we set BT device name and a PIN. Finally we exit the AT-mode, entering data mode. The adapter now awaits BT connections.
On a tablet or phone we search for BT devices in the vicinity. The BT module should appear in the list, and we pair the tablet with it. Android may ask for a PIN number, which is 1234. After pairing it is possible to connect to the adapter using, for instance, the BlueTerm app in android.
On a slightly separate note, I also tried creating my first Android app. I just followed a tutorial on developer.android.com and everything worked just fine, even thou I am running ‘bleeding-edge’ Fedora 20 on the PC. The only problem was with access permissions to an android device in Linux. The adb (android debug server) reported error “(?????? no permissions)”, but this post on stackoverflow.com solves the issue.