Everykey was on then road again… We had a small appearance at the wonderful Raspberry Pi Jam hosted by Ordina in Utrecht (NL). The event seemed almost like an embedded hardware jam, with talks by the folks from the Amersfoort Hackspace Bitlair (the guys responsible for the awesome LED lighting at OHM2013 — roughly 1 km of RGB LED strips turned into remote controllable “streetlights”), Gert van Loo, one of the engineers responsible for the Raspberry Pi board and maker of the Gertboard expansion. Finally, Jeremy from Autostatic demonstrated real time audio effects. Only problem was that I was too busy talking to people (and regretting not speaking Dutch) that I forgot to take pictures! Thanks to Ordina for this event and especially to Marco Hebing (@TRexX) for inviting us!
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The Real Kicker! (Electronic Foosball)
We know you’ve always dreamed of having an electronic foosball table that saves you the tedium of counting and has the added advantage of shooting sparks when you spill beer on it! We started construction with friends at Railslove, got things nearly done at Interactive Cologne and finally finished what we started at the Pirate Hack in Cologne.
The foosball table even has it’s own website. It features automatic goal detection and can even calculate the speed of the ball. It’s got two displays to inform you about the current score. It’s also got Wifi (and an App in the “cloud“!), freeing you from the tedium of having to keep track of your league. It also has buttons that you can press!
Oh, and did we mention that it comes with it’s own lamp that can change the lighting conditions automatically corresponding to game play.
What I Did On My Summer Vacation…
Everykey was on tour in Hungary this summer. Budapest is awesome, they still have actual electronic stores that have an actual inventory of parts that are actually useful:
This is Lomex (walking distance from Nyugati Station). The people from the Hungarian Autonomous Center for Knowledge were kind enough to provide me with a list of stores, which I will share in case you ever have the pleasure to be in Budapest and need some surface mount devices:
- Lomex 1134 Budapest, Lehel utca 17.
- HR Elektronika 1074 Budapest, Vörösmarty utca 5. (has no English,
- homepage open on Monday to Friday, 9.00-17.00)
- – Mikronika 1111 Budapest, Budafoki út 10/B. (has no official homepage, open on Monday to Friday, 10.00-16.00, maybe till 17.00)
Also, the folks at the H.A.C.K. were kind enough to allow me to hold a small introductory workshop. It’s a really cool place, well worth visiting if you are ever in the area.
Cologne on Hardware.
We’ll be kicking off an Embedded Hardware User Group in Cologne this Saturday in cooperation with Railslove and Dingfabrik.
Drop us a line if you’re coming or are interested in being kept in the loop. Or just come by Railslove, An der Bottmuehle 5 at 14:00.
For the starting session, Matthias and I will be hosting an Introduction to Embedded Programming Workshop that will explain the basics of embedded programming using the Everykey. Bring a microusb cable!
Everykey at Interactive Cologne
we will be presenting rev2 of the Everykey at Interactive Cologne on June 18th and 19th in Cologne. We’ll be around building an interactive musical instrument based on Everykey together with visitors. Say, write or tweet something nice about us, let us know and you can win a free ticket to this awesome two day event! (it’s a hackathon and startup conference rolled into one…)
Here’s what we built:
A tragic tale of hardships and perils encoutered during the genesis of an embedded hardware platform is being told in current edition of c’t Hardware Hacks. (And will no doubt soon become a compelling motion picture). And guess who wrote it!
New Member of the Everykey Family
Oh the perils of unattended technology! We left two Everykeys alone for a couple of minutes (max!) and look what happend:
We’re happy to announce that we just picked up the first batch of a new revision of the PCB, assembled some keys and … everything seems to work nicely!
- Two buttons! (Both RESET and PROGRAMMING mode pins on buttons, no more re-plugging)
- 30% Smaller: svelte 20×20 mm instead of bovine 24×24 mm
- 0603 component size (“Do these 0805 resistors make my ass look fat?”)
- Large top layer pads and additional diodes to allow easy, safe connection of external power and access to USB voltage
- Readable print on the PCB!
- Of course, we kept all breakout pads on the back side (ribbon cable pitch)
As things seem to work, we’re now getting ready to release the schematics and board files, updating the site and SDK.
If you want to see our baby up close, why not drop by Interactive Cologne? (We’ll provide an update about other upcoming conferences and appearances soon…)
Workshop in Frankfurt ….
We’re in the middle of a Workshop at the “Frühjahrsfachgespräch” of the German Unix User Group. Here are the slides… …
New Workshop in the Works: Arnhem
Everykey goes International!
We’re currently planing to hold an SMD Soldering workshop during which you will build your own Everykey in The Netherlands at the hack42 in Arnhem. Apart from assembling an Everykey, we’ll discuss the entire design so you’ll learn what all the parts is good for and will provide a quick introduction to programming the device with our SDK . You can read a description of a previous workshop here in case you are interested and would like to learn more. We’ll be able to stick around all day, so we can go into more details than normally and hack a bit more.
If you are interested: the workshop will take place at the beginning of next year and we are currently trying to find a suitable date, you can help by filling out preferences:
Participation in the workshop will be around €35 (we’ll split our travel expenses among all the participants + €25 for parts and materials)
The workshop will be help in English (though we can answer questions in German and pretend Dutch!)
We’re very excited about our new toy here at Everykey World Headquarters. We ordered an el-cheapo brand CNC router that we’re hoping to use to make cases for the Everykey and PCBs for new prototypes. While buying cheap hardware in China has some advantages (such as apparently including an AutoCAD license for free on the CD…), there are some drawbacks to consider:
- You’re obviously not going to be sure of the quality you’ll be getting. One generally prefers a solid and stable machine milling parts in sub-millimeter accuracy. So far, we’re impressed by the mechanical robustness. Everthing seems robust and was layed out quite “pragmatically” which served well to make the machine hackable. The included spindle, while usable, was the only part that we’ve had any concerns about mechanical quality – there’s too much backlash for accurate, even surfaces (however, results are still much better than 3D prints). Fortunately, the spindle turns out to be a Foredom H.30 handpiece ripoff with US standard flex shaft attachment, so it should be fairly simple to replace.
- The “english language” manual starts off with this reassuring gem: “Responding to be installed in the gas containing the explosive environment, otherwise have caused the explosive danger”
- The CNC controller only has a parallel port and we don’t have any computers from before 2000 laying around that have a suitable connection.
Opening the controller box reveals its quite shocking circuitry: It mainly consists of one Allegro A3977-based stepper driver board per axis, properly done with insulated inputs via optocouplers. That’s the good news (the A3977 is a very nice chip and optocouplers are a good thing to have if you’re going from logic levels to higher power domains). The bad news is that there’s another board between the parallel port and the stepper drivers, containing a line driver. It’s probably there to boost (some of) the parallel port signals to a level that can reliably drive the optocouplers. Unfortunately, this board is powered by the controller, nullifying the galvanic insulation and therefore rendering the optocouplers quite useless. We’ll address that later – for now, we will use it as is, very carefully.
Off-the-shelf USB-to-Parallel adapters don’t work for controlling CNC mills: The parallel port pins send step signals directly to the stepper controllers. For usable speeds, you need precisely timed signals with 10 KHz or more. That’s too much for ordinary converters because of the fixed 1 KHz framing of USB (these high frequencies are even a challenge for PCs, so CNC CAM applications usually need to use tricks to make it work, i.e. make use of low level timers for driving the parallel port).
Hence, in order to talk to our CNC mill, we had to do something. Fortunately, we had some Everykeys and line drivers laying around to solve that problem (the purpose of the 74HCT244 line drivers is to shift the voltage levels from our 3.3V to 5V found at parallel ports). We have two options: a) Talk directly to the stepper driver boards or b) talk to the parallel port. For now, we decided to take the second option as it would also work for other CNC machines without modification, despite the “interesting” circuit mentioned above. Later on, we might replace that part with our solution to provide both USB connectivity and electrical safety (our line drivers can deliver enough current for the optocouplers, so the board is not needed any longer). This will also enable us to make use of the fourth axis which came with the machine: There are four stepper drivers, but the fourth axis is controlled by parallel port pins that cannot be driven easily by PCs.
The host does not control the steppers directly, but sends higher level motion commands to the Everykey, which takes care of stepper controlling and reporting the CNC mill state back to the host. Right now, we’re running at 20KHz, but there seems to be plenty of headroom for more.
Within a week, we were self-hosting. Here’s a picture of the elegant casing we made for our USB to Parallel Port adapter:
… as well as some shiny, acrylic glass Everycases:
Currently, we’re controlling the device via USB HID, which is working out quite nicely. We’re still using a roll-your-own scripting language, but are hoping to be able to import G-Code soon at the very least.
For the truely painless, there’s some code available for perusal in a secret hidden branch under the `examples` directory of the SDK. The host side of the project is still in such a pre-alpha stage that even we’re ashamed to release it. We’re working on controller software in Objective-C/Cocoa and node.js, fairly obvious plattform choices for interfacing to hardware 🙂