Google
 

Aardvark Daily

New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 24th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

Content copyright © 1995 - 2018 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

 

Recent Columns

Peak smartphone?
There was a time when many of us upgraded our PCs every couple of years because the technology was moving at such a fast pace that you'd see a significant improvement in power and performance with each new machine...

BBC resorts to clickbait
Sigh... clickbait and fake news are the stock and trade of the mainstream media these days and it appears that even the (once) almighty BBC are engaged...

A *billion* dollar idea
As I mentioned in my last column, Google has now equipped its Chrome browser with the ability to defeat the worst in aggressive advertising formats on the Web...

Chrome anti-competitive?
Google's Chrome browser now has a feature that will reportedly stop 97 percent of all those really annoying ads from interrupting your browsing experience...

What ever happened to fuel cells?
Electric vehicles are set to become the next big thing...

Can you sense the frustration?
When the current CEO of the South Waikato District Council took up his position several years ago, I invited him to my studio-workshop to discuss how I could help promote the district he now managed...

Is now a good time to wait?
I ran a CPU benchmark on my video rendering machine last night and was gobsmacked at how much slower it is than "state of the art" silicon...

Beyond a joke
Yes, today's column is another of those boring gripes about CAA and drones...

Plastic, a bigger threat than climate change?
A regular reader sent me an email the other day containing a link to a worrying report that everyone should read...

Babies versus boosters, no contest
Yesterday was a fantastic day for any geek, space enthusiast or anyone who has the heart and imagination of a little boy...

Are you a dim-bulb?
The term "dim-bulb" is frequently used to denote someone of lower cerebral performance. A dunce, a person of lower intelligence, someone of sub-average IQ...