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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Look at what I got the other day and they've got compilers that work in Windows, Linux, Mac etc for free. Comes with a ton of stuff for $4.30 (US$) including 2 uController ICs, a 32.768 KHz crystal if you need a real time clock and a USB mini to USB-A cable to connect to your PC. Tons of code already written for it and since they utilize flash memory you can reprogram the chips at will. It will get all the power it needs from your USB connection so it's pretty much plug and play so to speak.



http://focus.ti.com/docs/toolsw/folders/print/msp-exp430g2.html

http://focus.ti.com/lit/ug/slau318/slau318.pdf



If you look around the internet they've done a lot of stuff with these then just put the board into a permanent design as all the connections are there such that you don't have to use the USB interface part if you don't want to. What really amazed me was the construction, even the uC socket is the solid pin gold plated type.



C language is what most of the compilers expect but it isn't that different from UNIX.

I'm quite sure other compilers have been written as well.



They only make a few thousand every few months and when they're in stock they get sold pretty quickly. I got mine from Mouser, $4.35 but shipping didn't really enter into it as I had several other components related to the electric fan controller in the same order.
 

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Back in College in 1970 I breadboarded a crude Wheatstone Bridge from a schematic I found in some magazine. I used it as the core of a motion detector device using an open and shielded thermistor. It counted little critters swimming across the open thermistor by sending a pulse to a strip recorder when the resistance altered. I then had to punch the data onto cards which ran against an old Fortran program written on an IBM 360/20. I would have killed for something like this 40 years ago.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Absolutely amazing how far we've come, I also come from the System 36/360 & Fortran days.

BASIC, RPG, COBOL, PASCAL, etc were also friends from one time or another.

RPG has to be he stupidest higher level language I've ever seen and COBOL wasn't far behind but all still in use.

I tended to really like Pascal, similar to Basic but more powerful and straightforward.

Of course if you don't want to learn C then there are programs that convert any favorite language to it:

http://www.garret.ru/ptoc/Readme.htm

http://www.thefreecountry.com/compilers/fortran.shtml



For the price you can't go wrong and if you don't know C or Visual Basic you can download the Express edition of Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 for free that has a complete suite of stuff in it and is very helpful as far as learning the programming goes, not that there aren't C programs already all over the place already written for about everything you can imagine. Of course the software suites you can get for free that go with these boards work well they aren't as helpful in learning the language.



http://www.microsoft.com/visualstudio/en-us/products/2008-editions/express



I still design in discrete logic ICs and of course analog is never going away but I couldn't resist getting one of these as a toy to start with considering what most of the other development boards cost. Our theory is that PIC took most of the market over and some others are just trying to catch up thus the incredibly low price.



For about $8 including shipping you can have plenty of fun just sitting it on the shelf but in time you'll start with the included demo programs and in no time (at least I hope) I'll actually make a useful program.



Seems that a lot of people are using these to cheat on virtually all of the game boxes, I don't game so I have no idea why they're having so much fun with them.
 

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After a brief stint in the Navy I wrote some industrial control applications for electrical utility SCADA and also production line systems at Westinghouse Nuclear Fuels. Since the mid 80's though my career slid increasingly towards database design and administration. Now that I'm about to retire I find that the old days of fiddling with A/D converters to gather data and control devices has totally lost its appeal. Thirty five years in the business has taken its toll on my enthusiasm.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I can understand that, at my age I'm far more enjoying my desk than running my a** off but I still have to keep my hands in.



I've got a long list of products I want to get out into the world but some are mechanically complex and will require that I build a proper R&D facility with a large lathe, milling machines and the like. The facility is somewhat designed and will include a huge home area upstairs. I'm hoping to build out Eat of the city and still stay within decent driving distance of Shawnee & OKC so that means somewhere around Choctaw. If I get unimproved land in the right area the Tribes will be glad to help out in drilling a water well and doing the access roads and fences not to mention helping out on the construction. At least I've got $5M of private financing in the works but the time isn't right, nobody wants to get into anything in this economy and I can't blame them nor am I ready to tackle it yet, probably be a few more years down the line.



I want at least 10 acres with an option on 30 more of just 40 to start out with, that way I can build a small landing strip for a small plane which of course I know how to fly. I want to be able to have a few cows around and a bull to keep everyone happy. A bull isn't anywhere as mean as most would think but they sure do make people think twice before they venture onto your land uninvited, especially if you've got a couple of German Shepherds patrolling close to the facilities. These are very smart dogs that can learn what you want them to do in an instant and don't bite anyone unless they sense a real need to do so.



Ah well, I've probably got another year or two years of hard work with the corporation but I'm going to slowly move into a semi-retired mode as soon as I'm happy with the building and spend half my time on my own electronic projects. As soon as I'm satisfied with the building and the economy stabilizes I'll start back into working on my R&D facility financing again. People just don't hand over that kind of money unless they know they're going to get a decent return on it so it gets very complicated.
 

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Just ordered one, thanks for posting this one, should be fun to play with.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
The fun is in receiving and unpacking it, and be prepared for a long install of all the software you'll want on your PC to take full advantage of all of the devices. Luckily the chips have been around for quite a few years so there's already a ton of open source code you can use &/or alter to do a ton of different things.



Here's a few pics of most of what you'll get, I forgot to include one of the USB mini to USB-A cable it comes with:



http://www.innoengr.com/images/Launch_Pad/
 

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Marshallf3 – Thanks for the pointers. It is very rare these days to find anyone that enjoys gate chasing, coding, or the real-time world of computers. In the mid to late 70's I supported ECM simulation during the day, software issues at night, and worked on my private pilot license on weekends.



My old NorthStar (S-100) was loaded with Microsoft's M80 assembler, Fortran, Cobol, (UCSD p-System Pascal, Borland's Turbo Pascal), muMath, and muSIMP. To break the 180KB limit on our floppies we had to rewrite the CPM BIOS to support Shugart's SA400 drives. WOW! 800KB on a single floppy! And they loaded Star Trek into the 64KB of system memory super fast so our 4MH Z80A processor could scream when updating the Heathkit H19 smart terminal. Then the Byte inspired "Circuit Cellar" by Steve Ciarcia SB-180 system board (I wire wrapped mine!) came out and I linked it to the Northstar. I used the SB-180 to build a fast EPROM burner...... Then the world of kids and an 8 to 5 job with DEC started the slide from “having fun” with electronics to family life and camping. My clothes also seemed to match better with the wife looking over my purchases. She even threw away my earth shoes.



Your R&D lab sounds great. A place to work undisturbed....
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I remember the S-100 bus (which is far from dead) and I've got a few 8" floppy drives around as well as some huge Shugart hard drives that probably wouldn't store but a few 100MB, never looked them up. I've even got a perfectly functional 9-track Digital tape drive out in the garage but it's for looks only. Stands around 4' high by about 2' x 2' wide. Since the actual drive only takes up a tiny amount of the top part of the cabinet my plans are to incorporate a custom built sub woofer into it, put some nice reels of 9" tape onto it with some sort of low lighting and use it in a corner somewhere.



Not the same model at all but you get the idea: http://www.montagar.com/~patj/deftu80-1.jpg
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Oh, and by the way welcome to another one of my hideouts: http://forum.allaboutcircuits.com/



Tons of people from all over the world - some experts, some merely students or even 10 year olds asking questions but it's all good reading and if you want to pose a question someone will usually jump on it in a matter of minutes if you word it properly and include a detailed description of what you're wanting to do. There's even been some simple CDI replacement circuit posted that look interesting but they wouldn't work very well on out bikes due to our advance curve.
 

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Thanks for the link to the launchpad, picked one up and it seems interesting so far. Going to see if it will work for a automatic mount for a telescope. People have gotten them to drive servo's, so I bet you could get it to do PWM to drive steppers too. If not it is still something neat to play with - a board with a flash programmer and a few IC's for 5 bucks can't be beat.



Thanks again,

Mike
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Well, they came a bit late to the market as far as realizing that putting out an inexpensive developer board just might get people to start working with their devices which are in fact relatively simple. No different than any of the other higher priced ones and for the price of the board some people are just finalizing a design then hardwiring the board in as you can get to all the data & address lines without using the USB port that's included.



Whatever language you like to write in it can be converted down to C with free programs, and Microsoft will give you a free version of Visual Studio Express which is rather user friendly. I find it easier to write in that and when you get a taste of it.



Plenty of programs already out there in free C code if you look around a bit, the chip family has been around for some time but it just wants simple C compiled down. I'm quite sure a lot have already written several that will work for autotracking and yes - it will interface to whatever you want it to drive but obviously isn't going to drive stepper motors directly unless they're very tiny.



I'm no expert when it comes to anything asides from analog up to around 10 GHz and basic digital however the people in the link I posted above will be glad to help if you hit a snag.
 

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I have watched some of the things my friends do with PC's these days and am amazed; my observation (as a mechanical engineer) it is really frustrating to see how cumbersome PC's can be only because the Good Hardware doesnt force the issue to use the resources better. Better Hardware = Poor or Lazy Resourse Utilization. I probably have overstepped my bounds here, because I am basically only a User of a PC.
 

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I have watched some of the things my friends do with PC's these days and am amazed; my observation (as a mechanical engineer) it is really frustrating to see how cumbersome PC's can be only because the Good Hardware doesnt force the issue to use the resources better. Better Hardware = Poor or Lazy Resourse Utilization. I probably have overstepped my bounds here, because I am basically only a User of a PC.


Rick - Most PC manufactures IMHO do a very poor job building cases. My new laptop at work was a dell with 8GB of memory and an I7 processor. It ran so hot that it cooked itself forcing us to ship it back to Dell for repair. Apple is different and their designs are amazing. The only reason I have not bought one is that the OS gives me a headache. We bought a few Mac Mini units at work to see if we could use them as Internet test pods. The hardware is first class but the MAC OS hurt. I blew the OS away and loaded Ubuntu Linux to get the best of both worlds. Great hardware and an OS that did not give me a headache.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I'm talking to you on a Lenovo Think Pad, still made in IBM factories with full "in America" IBM support.



Just a simple dual core but it plays movies just fine in full 16:9, not a gamer so I can't comment on that.

http://www.lenovo.com but NewEgg usually has a better deal on them.
 

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I'm thinking the less sophisticated chip that comes with the launchpad would make a great headlight and taillight modulator controller, just add a relay driver for the headlight and a heavy enough transistor driver for the brake light and away you go
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I don't see why not so long as you stick to the code they laid down for headlight modulators.



Get a working circuit together with simple LEDs then go from there as far as the drivers.
 
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