Category: Uncategorized

What could it be?

Just got my box from China…what could it be?  I will tell you that there are going to be some good MBB posts about this mystery box.



Tune in next week…

EE Poster Kickstarter

Check out this Kickstarter project for EE posters:


“Electronics is a skill where you have to drill the basics constantly! I don’t always have time to re-read an entire book just to fill-in the gaps for a quick project. So I came up with a stylish set of reference posters covering the items I care about the most”

A set of posters for the $25 backing, not a bad deal. Hurry, only 10 days left.

Holy crap, Google CodeSearch shutdown

Wow, didn’t really see this coming, Google CodeSearch is shutting down! The announcement was made in October, but I didn’t see it until today. CodeSearch is a key site I go to when I am working out the details of a firmware module.  Search the compiler and language “e.g. C30 spi lang:c” and voila, examples galore! Damn. A quick test looks like will have to do.


Ubuntu 11.10 Unity – Not impressed

So I was really pumped about the Unity desktop released on Ubuntu 11.04. I installed it and tried to use it and came to the conclusion it kinda sucked so I went back to GNOME 2. Now it’s time for another release of Ubuntu with Unity and I thought this time around the devs would get it right seeing as there isn’t an option to fall back to GNOME. As it turns out they didn’t.

Now let me say that Unity feels a little more polished however it has a LONG way to go.  I don’t think it was a smart move to make a desktop that is under core development the main option for an operating system.  There are some major features that are missing (Probably from lack of development time) such as any sort of widget on the panel/top-bar, no right click option menus at all, no obvious configuration tool, and no way to show the desktop when a program can’t be minimized (Like when Symantec is updating sources). Also, I don’t know who’s idea it was to remove all the options in the “Applications” menu. To run a program you click the Ubuntu icon and are presented with 8 choices, the 4 ‘common’ programs and a few options to search for apps.  It takes like 4 clicks to get to any subcategory. I guess if you use a browser and media player and that’s it, it isn’t a big deal however if you use more than 4 programs it is a real bottleneck. I think this is a REAL step back in UI.  Oh yeah, also why can’t I load more than one folder window from the panel without ctrl-N? Each time I click the folder icon it brings up the folder you have open…wtf, AND if you did do ctrl-N clicking the icon brings all the folders to the front, yeah that’s what people who are browsing around source want, 5 folders to pop-up in their face.

Now I like to try new stuff, I don’t want to be one of those stuck-in-my-ways jerks who bash anything new, but I just can’t get over all the short comings of Unity. It’s like Canonical tried to dumb down the PC for retards, totally forgetting that people want to customize and use their PC without it getting in the way.

Over all, really really poor user experience.

If you do use 11.10 you might want to check out “HOWTO: Configure Ubuntu’s Unity Launcher“.  I set the panel to stop hiding and made the icons smaller, that way I can actually see what I have running.

Android WTF

I am getting into some Android programming lately and was reading the documentation on error logs, looks like there is a wtf() function.  Of course WTF stands for “What a Terrible Failure“, right! :-) Just a funny little egg in the Android  SDK.

By the way, MyBitBox isn’t dead, I know it’s been a while but there will be more stuff.

Tesla Roadster Logs and Python

A few days ago I mentioned on my sustainable fuel site TheSmartDrive that I was given a Tesla Roadster to drive for a few days. I was asked to see what ECU information is available, collect and parse the data from it….enter python

Take a look at the full write up:

Salae Logic Analyzer Linux Support

Just got an email tonight with an announcement that the Salae Logic Analyzer now has support for Linux. Score! I use the Logic at work and it is really easy to use and almost essential for digital protocols like SPI or I2C.

Can’t wait to use it with my other Linux development tools; Eagle, AVR GCC, avrdude, cutecom, python terminal.

Check it out at

Vail resorts go high tech social

This is really cool, Vail resorts is going social this ski season with their Epic Mix program. This program uses the RFID in season passes (and I am assuming GPS on your phone) to log runs and lifts taken. Being a Colorado resident with a 5 Mountain Pass this is really cool stuff. Gets me all excited for ski season.

Check out the video on their site:

I tried to find their android app on the Android Market but no luck, guess it isn’t out yet.

Quick python terminal

I like Python, it seems like it takes no time to make something that works.  Last night I found an example of a simple scrolling text box GUI done using Tkinter.  After an hour or so of modification it is a pretty usable terminal app. I posted the code here for everyone:

I am working on using this for a serial terminal. The idea is to have a program class that has a handle to an instance of this terminal, a serial port and a communication class.  If there is a local output function in the program class you can send text to the terminal rather than stdout.  Also, bind all keyboard inputs to a function in the program class and bingo, simple serial terminal.

More to come.

Formula Car Gear Circuit

VT Shift Circuit ConnectionsMy brother is senior at Virginia Tech and is a memeber of the VT Formula SAE team which designs and builds vehicles for national competitions.  This week he told me the driver was having a difficult time managing the car and knowing what gear they were in.  One of the team members suggested a shift monitor that could read an analog signal from the engine and display the current gear.

There is a poteniometer attached to the transmission that outputs voltages in different gears.  Since the transmission voltage ranges are not uniform between gears I used a ATMega8 microcontroller with onboard analog to digital converter to read the voltages and determine the proper range.  Here are the ranges (btw, there is no gear 1)

Gear 1 – Display 0 – 4.88v to 5.00v
Neutral – Display 0 – 4.40v to 4.88v
Gear 2 – Display 2 – 3.80v to 4.40v
Gear 3 – Display 3 – 2.00v to 3.80v
Gear 4 – Display 4 – 1.00v to 2.00v
Gear 5 – Display 5 – 0.26v to 1.00v
Gear 6 – Display 6 – 0.00v to 0.26v

The dash on the car has very limited space so I separated the 7-seg from the control circuit.  Seperating the 7-seg the control circuit can be in a box away from the driver and the small display mounted on the dash.

Here are a few photos of the setup

And also a demo video of how the system works

For those interewsted in the code, here is a link to a ZIP of everything.  This code compiles on linux using gcc-avr and can be downloaded to an ATMega8 using a Dragon AVR USB programmer on Ubuntu if you have avrdude installed.  Also, here is a schematic of the final circuit.

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