Computing stuff tied to the physical world

Archive for November 2014

Getting started, final episode

In Book on Nov 26, 2014 at 00:01

As you may have noticed, the publication date of these posts has been shifting a bit. Well, no longer: from now on, all posts will be scheduled to go out on … Weekly Wednesday!

As before, each post will mention one or more new articles, released on successive days.

DSC 4812

This “Getting Started” series has been about exploring ARM µC’s, in particular the 8-pin LPC810 shown above, and there’s one important topic left to cover so you can compile your own code and explore what’s possible in this virtually infinite playground.

Here goes, the concluding articles of the Getting Started series:

If you’re eager to start tinkering with the LPC810 chip: have a look at the JeeLabs shop, where Martyn Judd & Co from Digital Smarties have created two very practical packages to get you started: the Bare ARM Blinker kit which has everything needed to replicate and extend the recent explorations on this weblog, and the ARM duo- and 6-pack, i.e. a supply of bare LPC810 chips to experiment with. Note that there’s no soldering involved.

Be warned, though: it’s pretty addictive stuff! – and we’re only just getting started…

(For comments, visit the forum area)

Getting started, episode 3

In Book on Nov 19, 2014 at 00:01

The idea of starting out with the 8-DIP LPC810 ARM µC occurred to me not very long ago, when I discovered a simple upload mechanism based on the modified FTDI interface. It’s quite an intriguing idea that you can put some pretty advanced decision and timing logic into such a small chip and do so entirely through free open source tools, with all the details fully exposed.

Making an LPC810 do stuff feels like creating our own custom chips: we can upload any software of our own design into the chip, then place it in a project as “control centre” to do fun stuff. Protocol decoders / encoders / converters, LED drivers (e.g. the WS2812 “neopixel”), even a small interpreter or a wireless radio driver, these are all feasible – despite having just 4 KB of flash memory.

Small programmable chips such as the LPC810 demand a relentless drive for simplicity, which is an excellent skill to develop IMO – for whatever physical computing projects you may have in mind.

Anyway. The hardware side is now completely done, with something like this ready to go:

DSC 4810

Unfortunately, that’s only half of the story. We still need to address uploads + compilation.

Check out the next set of articles, to be published from Wednesday through Saturday:

With this out of the way, we can make an LED blink or fade. Trivial stuff, but note that we’re setting up the infrastructure for embedded software development on ARM chips.

Oh, and if this is too basic for you, see if you can figure out this JeePuzzle … any takers?

(For comments, check the forum area)

Getting started, episode 2

In Book on Nov 13, 2014 at 00:01

The articles this week continue on the path just started, hooking up a bare ARM chip, and making it do something silly. No soldering and (almost) no software installation involved.

As before, keep in mind that only the first of the following articles is available right away – the others will be published one at a time, a day apart:

A thought occurred to me recently, and it got stuck in my head:

We can send an autonomous vehicle to Mars using a mighty/majestic Saturn V rocket, or we can launch a fragile/fickle weather balloon and enjoy the view on earth from above.

I’m a guy who prefers the latter. Simple, clean, quiet, and with a journey which is at least as interesting as the result. Which is why you’ll find many posts on this weblog which do things differently, and even repeatedly. Not to be different, but because life is as much about going someplace as it is about getting there.

And yes, I’d love to figure out how to launch a weather balloon some day. There’s probably also a point to be made about the difference in energy consumption…

(for comments, please use the weblog section of the discussion forum)

Getting started

In Book on Nov 7, 2014 at 00:01

Ok, here’s the deal: once a week there will be a post like this one, with links to one or more “articles”. These articles will cover some common topic, in small doses. There will be weeks with just one article, and there will be weeks with more than one – depending on the topic, energy levels, complexity, moon phases, and of course the generosity of the muses.

On the day when a post is published, only the first article listed will be available. Each day after that, the next one will be ready. This keeps each daily post nicely limited to a short, and hopefully enjoyable and informative experience.

This first episode contains entries for today, Saturday, and Sunday, just to get started:

If everything works out, all the articles will add up to form chapters, and the chapters will join forces to produce a book. But that’s for the future to tell, for now the articles will only exist on this weblog (and stay there forever, BTW).

These weekly posts will rarely change once published. Articles on the other hand, can and will most likely get updated, extended, and even rearranged from time to time – to fix errors and omissions, or to include any relevant new information.

For comments, please use the new weblog section of the forum at