Information Sources

There is so much new technology to stay abreast of these days that we all need a little help. I find there are a number of YouTube channels that can help with this task.

The Open Source and Maker communities are deep wells of information about new technology and tools for engineers, both professional and makers. One source that keeps a good eye on the crowd souring community is the “MickMake” channel. Here you will find a weekly roundup of new products from several crowd sources:

Another good resource for components and solid tutorials is AdaFruit, in particular their learning section is excellent:

If you are interested in the design process itself and enjoy watching how engineers execute their projects there is a very good channel from Piotr Esden-Tempski. In this channel you will find some captures of some very long live streams done my Piotr. These streams are unedited and provide a great window into the way all projects flow, warts and all. So refreshing after seeing so many how-to videos where the instructor makes everything look way easy and they never make mistakes like us “real folks.” #ibitsy, @esden.

Piotr also has several Gitter rooms where he reports progress on his projects and takes constructive feedback. To get notified when he is live streaming one of his projects sign up for his esden/live room on Gitter –

So many other great resources,




Follow-up to support post

After having a rather poor experience with the Microchip online support systems (see this post) I finally made contact with a US-based support engineer and in a matter of a couple of days he resolved the issues I was having.

Basically he suggested trying a different driver framework for interface to the WINC1500 module. That driver for the WINC1500 is part of the Microchip Libraries for Applications package. After implementing the new SPI and set up methods the breadboard setup of the evaluation WINC1500 module is looking like it is working.

The next step requires the updated PCB in order to test the wireless functionality and once that is achieved I will be posting the full solution so that others who need to interface between the WINC1500 module and an STM32 device don’t have similar issues … watch this space.


Semiconductor support … or lack of it

My current project uses an Atmel (Microchip these days) WINC1500 Wi-Fi module. The original part I had chosen for my project proved to be difficult to handle during prototype assembly and this made me nervous for production yield, hence the interest in the WINC1500 range. The schematic and the PCB have been updated with the new hardware, however before committing to PCB fabrication and then assembly of the new design I decided to breadboard the wireless module to be sure I had fully understood the datasheet.

Information on the WINC1500 seemed to be very good, with a source-level host interface package and several long technical documents. To breadboard the device I purchased a break-out board from Adafruit and using an STM32F401RE Nucleo board I was able to quickly get the basic SPI channel working to the WINC1500. However, when I used the published API to initialize the module, the provided code hung up.

I was very pleased to discover that Microchip had an online support-ticket system available and duly completed a new ticket. Imagine my surprise when I got a response, very quickly, from a support technician. The edge came off that quickly when I realized the technician had paid no attention to the extensive description in my original ticket post. Completely ignoring that the SPI channel was set up correctly because the chip identifier was being read correctly, together with many other initialization transactions. The advice received simply listed the SPI settings on the MCU master that I should check.

Sad to report, things have not gotten any better. In spite of spending a couple of days documenting exactly what was happening the technician has failed to address the issue at hand. It is interesting to observe that my ticket was only updated around midnight Mountain Time. This adds to the frustration because it means only one interaction with support each day can occur. The timing of the updates and the name of the technician lead me to believe support is coming from India. I think that if a technology company is going to outsource its support, the very least it could insist upon is coverage during the working day of its major markets. Microchip is a worldwide business and I am surprised they believe that this time-disconnect is acceptable. I am hoping that my case will get escalated, as requested today, and that the poor support provided so far will prove an anomaly.

However, the bigger wish is that Microchip would time-align support staff and the time-zones of their clients.


Bitten by SI units

The USA is one of a few countries that have not fully adopted SI units (sometimes called Metric units) of measurements across the board. Generally for people working in the USA on electronics projects it is a small issue. We quickly learn whatever translation is required. However, sometimes these units do cause problems when the same digits represent different objects.

I was just bitten by this with the footprint of a capacitor on a PCB I was having assembled. I read the data for the capacitor and saw the footprint was “0603”, so I searched my footprint library and dropped in a “0603” footprint. Unfortunately when assembly was attempted the capacitor was way smaller than the footprint. A few minutes of research revealed the issue, what I had used was an “0603” inch footprint, the part was “0603” mm.

Not sure how may other numbers like this exist in both measurement systems for capacitors and resistors, however you can bet that in the future I will be triple checking that!

Isn’t it about time the USA joined the majority of the rest of the world and fully adopted the SI unit system:


The journey to a new product

Over the next several months I will documenting the development of a new tool for embedded system software debugging. The tool will be launched in 2018 on the Crowd Supply web site. The design, when completed will be Open Source Hardware and Software.

The first couple of stages have already been completed; earlier in 2017 a bench prototype was constructed to enable some basic research to be done. It comprised of a ST Microelectronics Nucleo evaluation board, a Texas Instruments wireless evaluation board and a breadboard to hook it all together.

Early prototype

As is typical of such breadboard prototypes some of the higher speed signals (for example the SPI interface) were a little unreliable; once the basic concept was proven the design of a printed circuit board was begun. The initial design is once again a prototype to provide a stable platform for the completion of the controlling software.

Prototype PCB

The first PCB is currently being assembled and I will write about the initial testing when it arrives.