Computing stuff tied to the physical world

Experimenter’s setup

In Hardware on Oct 8, 2010 at 00:01

I keep looking for ways to make it easier to try out stuff – since that’s what I tend to do a lot, here at Jee Labs.

Here’s a trial with a graphics LCD I was mucking about with recently:

Dsc 2111

I don’t like it. Even if the JeeNode’s pins were facing down into the solderless breadboard, it eats up a lot of real-estate, while only a few pins are actually used. Part of the reason is that the ports have a lot of duplicated power pins (that’s the whole point when you use them independently).

I’d much rather use the JeeNode as follows:

Dsc 2109

Then you develop, upload, and test things while tethered. And when it’s ready to use elsewhere, just replace the BUB with an AA Power Board:

Dsc 2110

Now I’m wondering if it wouldn’t be useful to create a little “breadboard interface panel”, like this:

Screen Shot 2010 10 07 at 14.43.48

It’s a bit like the Breadboard Connector that is included with each Expander Plug, as described in this post.

The panel would re-route all pins to the pins along the top row of the breadboard, as well as hook up to the two power rails along the top.

The top of the panel could have extensive labeling for reference. Even some port headers to hook up plugs, if I can figure out which orientation might work best. No components, it’d just be a little back, eh, I mean, front-plane.

  1. What a neat idea!

    When I’ve worked off breadboard I mount the JeeNode vertically via the FTDI. I then stick a 6 pin male header into the board and use this to connect to the TTL-232R USB lead I have. It would be a little too wobbly with a USB-BUB.

    Then just put flying leads into the ports as you did.

    However, if you make a little board, as you describe, I’d put in an order.

    You could even put the power bus connectors on to feed the breadboard side bus, with a link so you can choose to connect these to the regulated 3.3v or the PWR… Maybe some room for optional diagnostic LEDs+resistor?

  2. Oops, I managed not to see the power bus bit at the bottom… You’re already ahead of me… Damn, now where’s that comment edit button? :o)

  3. That’s funny. Lately I’ve been thinking of how I’d make a harness out of ribbon cable, for a similar purpose.

  4. you could also enrich the connector plate with a few buttons and led’s, not connected to the Jeenode directly (and eating up ports), but as often-needed components on the breadboard, so all pins of those components brought out to the breadbord.

  5. I’m not highly experienced in evaluating different lab setups, but I’d like to share some reflections anyhow :) To begin with, I could really use a more structured way to do bread-boarding with the JeeNode, so this is all great news.

    One thought that I had is that such a front-plane would occupy quite a few columns in the bread-board, when perhaps I don’t need all the signals in the project. I guess that in those cases when bread-board area is more scarse, I’d skip the front-plane and wire directly to the headers.

    Thinking about it, some pins are rather redundant across the 4 ports, so perhaps I am more worried about bread board space than I should be…

    Whatever you come up with, I am positive that it will be great!

    • With the design I have in mind, you’ll need 29 pins to connect everything, but you can get away with just the leftmost 17 pins – i.e. even a mini breadboard should be usable.

  6. Great idea, perhaps with a small modification (power pins and stackable headers) on the carrier card, it is possible to use this card for breadboard use as well. Almost all the pins are in one row.

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