Google
 

Aardvark Daily

New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 21st year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

Content copyright © 1995 - 2016 to Bruce Simpson (aka Aardvark), the logo was kindly created for Aardvark Daily by the folks at aardvark.co.uk



Please visit the sponsor!
Please visit the sponsor!

What can't you do with this thing?

1 March 2013

Some time ago I ordered a couple of little ARM-based development boards from China.

I ordered them from eBay seller tangqianchi and waited, and waited and waited.

The tracking number I was given simply said "picked up" but then all activity ceased.

The seller said "you wait, it come" -- so I waited some more.

Because they had a 99.8% positive feedback, I was prepared to give the seller the benefit of the doubt and wait beyond the period allowed for claiming a refund through the eBay buyer protection plan and PayPal's similar option.

The products never turned up and now the seller ignores my attempts at contact. It seems this is a common ploy -- keep the buyer optimistic with emails but only until they no longer have an option to place feedback.

So my advice is, avoid buying anything from eBay seller tangqianchi.

However, I still wanted the product so I ended up ordering the same thing from Deal Extreme and this time I was luckier -- it arrived within two weeks.

So what did I buy?

Well these are really cute little ARM Cortex M3-based boards, complete with a 2.8 inch TFT LCD touch screen.

Okay, the screen does have a somewhat limited viewing angle and can challenge this aging geek's old eyes when using a small font-size -- but for the money you sure get plenty of "bang".

Unfortunately, the documentation (which comes on a mini-CD) is awful.

Most of it is in Chinese -- although the sample code isn't too bad -- although definitely not for beginners expecting an Arduino-like experience.

Fortunately, there's plenty of documentation and template/library code available for the STM32F103 family of processors so anyone with a modicum of prior microcontroller experience won't have too much difficulty getting started on the learning curve -- which only leaves one question...

What do you do with a board like this?

Well the options are pretty limitless really.

Providing you're willing to invest the time and effort, and have the ability to cut or port the code, this little unit could be turned into almost anything.

Right now I'm turning one into a piece of test-equipment for a company that makes full-sized helicopters. They'll use it for testing and calibrating things such as governors, rotor alarms, tachometers and the like.

To create this functionality I'm simply tossing the thing into an "off the shelf" plastic box, adding a little interface circuitry that buffers a couple of the GPIO lines and writing some code to provide a touch-screen-based user-interface and other functionality. Toss in a small lithium battery plus charging circuit and viola... a fully self contained bit of kit that looks like a million dollars but costs a lot less than you'd expect.

It's simply not worth creating custom hardware for bespoke electronic systems these days when you can grab these major building-blocks for about US$30 including shipping. They are a blank slate onto which you can draw whatever functionality you need.

I'm thinking of using one as the basis for DIY RC system -- the only other bits really needed being the case, a couple of dual-axis sticks, some switches, a battery and RF module.

As for processing power -- well they roundly trounce your average AVR-based Arduino system in almost all areas, except perhaps, ease of programming.

Perhaps Aardvark readers might like to come up with some ideas for projects or products that could be based on these little boards. What would you like to build or see built using this ARM-based processor board and its LCD touchscreen?

Please visit the sponsor!
Please visit the sponsor!

Have your say on this...

PERMALINK to this column

Oh, and don't forget today's sci/tech news headlines


Rank This Aardvark Page

 

Change Font

Sci-Tech headlines

 


Features:

Beware The Alternative Energy Scammers

The Great "Run Your Car On Water" Scam

 

The Missile Man The Missile Man book

Recent Columns

Amazon coming to Australasia?
Big news: Amazon is coming to this part of the world next year and, according to some reports, that's got retailers worried...

Has GoPro peaked?
GoPro is an extraordinary company that came almost from no-where to create a whole new market and then dominate it...

Where is CAA when you need them?
Okay, so I haven't done a rant about CAA, regulations and drones for a while -- so please excuse my indulgence today...

What will replace news?
I've already published a number of columns on the sad state of the once-proud news industry...

More on the Snooper's Charter
A few days ago I wrote about plans by the UK government to force ISPs to archive all activity undertaken by their users...

The Net of networks
Just over a week ago some new gear was installed at the workshop...

And thus it begins
Those of us who have been using it since shortly after it was invented remember the early days of the Internet and the complete lack of censorship or surveillance associated with it...

Beating the spooks
Around the world there is an increasing trend for governments to demand that ISPs log all user activities online...

Good News Wednesday
All too often it's the bad news which makes headlines, while the good news goes largely unreported...

Too much, too quickly?
I wonder if those developing and selling hi-tech devices should start living by the mantra "more speed, less haste"...

The Grand Tour - bloody fantastic!
Thanks to the power of the interwebs and gobs of associated technology, the video show that every man and his dog has been waiting for, finally hit people's screens on Friday through Saturday (depending on your Time Zone)...