Google
 

Aardvark Daily

New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 23rd year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

Content copyright © 1995 - 2017 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

Youtube content creators are revolting
No, I'm not suggesting that those who create content for YouTube inspire feelings of revulsion...

Why so slow MPAA?
I recall a few years ago that the MPAA and other groups representing copyright owners were hot on the heels of anyone using a P2P network to pilfer content...

Fantastic news from SkyTV
Yesterday was a fantastic day for shareholders in Sky Television...

Finally, drone collides with airliner?
If a drone and a plane collide the result is bound to be death and destruction. If a drone and a helicopter collide, the same outcome is inevitable, only more-so...

Elon Musk's Hype-loop
It's going to change the world; apparently...

A stroke of genius
What is it about anti-virus software that attracts so many rogues and bad actors?...

News from your ISP and power company?
I think it's fair to say that the news publishing industry has been adversely affected by the power of the Net...

From the road, for the road
Tesla are pouring gargantuan sums of money into building a factory dedicated to manufacturing the type of 18650 Li-Ion cells used in the growing range of EVs that the company plans to make...

The harder we work, the slower we go?
The transistor was first invented back in 1947 or 48 and took a good 15 or 20 years to find its way from laboratory breakthrough to use in every-day products such as radios, amplifiers, etc...

Doing my bit
Your daily dose is a bit late today because I've been out doing my bit for the community...

The global warming ice-age
A regular reader sent me a link to an interesting piece on climate change, aka global warming, aka climate disruption...