A lot has happened while I was on holidays over the last two weeks. So I’ve split up my regular roundup into two to avoid people falling asleep half way through. This video contains all the crowd funding products.
A couple of interesting test kits on Kickstarter this week.
This universal frequency generator looks decent, although there’s not a heck of a lot of info on their campaign page. It’s capable of generating any frequency between 130kHz to 225MHz in 1Hz increments with 2 pico second jitter. It’s also capable of outputting from 1.3 to 3.6 volts in 100mV increments. Shame they couldn’t beef this up to 5 volts.
Then there’s the VConduit which is a simple power supply capable of generating a 1.2 to 25 volt DC output at up to 2.5A from a 5 to 32 volt input. What makes it neat is that you can control the voltage programmatically over USB. Their app mentions current draw, which I’m guessing means they have some sort of power measurement chip on-board, but there’s no indication of this in their campaign.
Everyone would have an old PC power supply lying around. This simple board turns your elderly PC power supply into a bench power supply with 3.3, 5 and 12 volt outputs at a whopping 20A and also a boost converter output giving you a variable 12 to 35 volts at 4A. There’s also two standard USB charging ports providing up to 5A.
Then there’s this fairly accurate mains power frequency monitoring board that seems to be able to display the frequency down to Milli-Hz. If you’re in to power applications then you might find this useful.
As you may have figured out by now; I’m an Ozzie and Ozzie’s like to support the underdog. Or the person struggling to have a go at something. So, I thought I’d put this next one up. It’s not the world’s best campaign. In fact it’s horrible, but this guy has made a board that provides 4 serial ports with full data capture capability. It also seems to be able to capture the timing of data packets so you can visual this better.
So, a word of advice to Ryan: Running a Kickstarter campaign is an exercise in marketing. You need to make it flashy and simple. You have 15 seconds to give your audience the three important elements which are:
- Relevance – Can this product help me?
- Benefit – How can it help me?
- Cost – How much effort to get it?
If you can’t do that in 15 seconds; then you’ve lost your audience.
The ZX Spectrum Next would interest those people who were around in the 80s. It’s a revamped and upgraded ZX Spectrum with the ZX80 CPU implemented by FPGA. It contains all the same specs as the original but with addons such as SD card slot, WiFi, RTC, HDMI and accelerated GPU using a Raspberry Pi Zero. The whole thing even fits into the original ZX Spectrum case.
If you want to learn coding on the go, this simple board contains what looks like an ATtiny85 and a small prototyping area in a small credit card sized format. They have a number of tutorials that they are yet to produce on their website for those wanting to get into Arduinos.
The Mobillyo is an Arduino style board contains an ATmega32U4 running at 8MHz and 3.3 volts, an nRF52 Bluetooth chip enabling OTA programming and LiPo battery management. They claim up to several days of uptime using a 1.5Ah LiPo and the board will charge the LiPo via USB power or solar panel, guaranteeing power at all times.
Ledunia is another ESP8266 based board, but this one has on-board USB to TTL chip, header pins for easy access to the GPIOs, 4 WS2812 LEDs which you can extend from header pins and an additional 32MB flash. It all comes in a handy little case.
This next one is pretty simple. It’s a board that contains a WS2812 and right angle edge connectors to allow you to solder up your LED strips at right angles. If you’ve ever installed LED strip lighting you would know just how useful this would be.
There seems to be a slew of these types of boards on the market. The PiPlay Portable allows you to slot in a Pi Zero and provides 2.4″ TFT display, headphone jack, 12 buttons and 2 AA battery holder giving you 3 hours of button mashing retro enjoyment.
Now this is a really cool idea. Take your standard Lego bricks, some conductive tape and a Crazy Circuits PCB and you can start building circuits using Lego as the PCB. Built around the Arduino Nano they also have buttons, LEDs, switches, knobs, tilt and touch sensors, servos, and DC motors. You can either buy the packs or buy a subscription which gives you monthly projects to create.
If you want to learn about AI; this next one is interesting in that it teaches people about Reinforcement Learning, which is an emerging field in machine learning. It covers all the basic and advanced principles of RL allowing you to train up your Python code to play flash games, or even play Doom.
The other end of the education spectrum is Kumiita, which aims to teach the concepts of coding right down to age zero.
Er. OK. I think zero is a bit too young. From a child development point of view; 2 years old is around the age gross motor skills have fully developed. But still, they have simplified coding elements down to cards you place on the floor and a small robot will traverse and react to whatever cards are placed. Looks like it’s fairly child proof.
Over on IndieGoGo there’s actually a few interesting things.
One IndieGoGo I missed earlier on is the PiSound, which is an audio and MIDI interface for your Pi. It contains a stereo ADC and DAC allowing you to record and play audio at up to 192kHz and 24bit resolution, and MIDI in and out. If you want a quality audio and MIDI board, this one looks like the gold standard.
This LoRa shield runs the RN2483 chip, which is capable of operating at both 433 and 868MHz bands. It has some decent SMA connectors on-board and breaks out all the GPIOs from the LoRa chip for easy access.
Another interesting one; the BiBli Brain brings swarm algorithms to your robots. Capable of supporting up to 100 robots in a swarm, it’ll be an interesting project if you’re keen to get into intelligent robotic interactions.
There’s also a couple of interesting things on Crowd Supply in pre-launch.
The xCAN is another vehicle CAN bus board, but this one is aimed for hackers. They claim it’ll be able to log and replay CAN bus data, perform man-in-the-middle attacks re-flash ECUs, and supports PID diagnostic decoding. It runs off the STM32F7 MCU and also has SD slot, USB, audio jack, 2.4″ TFT display, and dual CAN bus transceivers. Seems to be a fully fledged product.
The ZeroPhone is a smartphone based on the Pi Zero and contains an ESP8266, infrared, 8MP camera and 2G GSM chip. Apparently 3G is coming which is good idea since 2G is either dead or on the way out in most countries.
This next one would interest radio heads. The ERASynth is another frequency generator, but this one can generate RF frequencies from 100kHz to 12 GHz. Can be tuned to an external reference if you need ultra precise frequencies and controlled via WiFi or USB.
There’s a bunch of new SBCs on the market now and the SBC wars are really starting to heat up.
Over at the Friendly guys, there’s the new NanoPi K2, which is based on the more popular quad core Cortex-A53 Amlogic S905 running at up to 2GHz, 2G DDR3, 1GbE, SD, WiFi, Bluetooth and supporting 4K video at 60 FPS. All for 40 US dollars? Nice! They must have been listening to my complaints about powering their boards from USB because they’ve moved it to a DC jack, so power won’t be so much of an issue now. There’s also an eMMC socket which is better than soldering it to the board and is the same footprint as the Pi3.
Pretty nice board and well priced.
And here’s another NAS kit that allows you to slot in a 2.5″ SATA disk or SSD and your NEO into a nice case for a simple NAS box. I wouldn’t expect lightning fast speeds from it, but would be decent enough for low bandwidth applications.
They also have a power dock which allows you to run your NEO from a 12V DC supply. It would have been nice to see this board provide power from a wider range input voltage such as 8 to 20 volts. Then it’d have a wider range of applications such as in vehicle OBD monitoring.
Over at AliExpress there’s am Intel J1900 based SBC, actually it’s actually an ITX motherboard, but fairly small coming in at 1200mm by 120mm. Gives you 4 GbE ports, 5x USB2.0, 3x USB3.0, MiniPCIe for mSATA and another for WiFi, DDR3 slot, 4G SIM card slot and SATA. If you want a full fledged router board in a small package, then this looks pretty good.
Over at the fruit bakery shop they have released another SBC called inventively the Win Plus. As far as I can see the only difference between the Win and the Win Plus is 2G DDR3 RAM. Everything else is the same.
Just to confuse us even more there’s also the Prime, which has the same specs as the Win Plus, but uses the Allwinner H5 instead of the Allwinner A64. You can pick this up from AliExpress as well as BangGood.
I’m not sure what the Orange PI guys are doing, but things are getting a little confusing. I mentioned in a previous roundup the new Zero Plus 2, but now we have the Zero Plus 2 H5. The only difference being the newer one uses the Allwinner H5 as opposed to the H3. This is really getting confusing and I think it’s about time I published a video on all the different models.
Anyway, another company that seems to be confusing everyone is ASUS. Who have finally released the TinkerBoard for purchase. There were a lucky few who managed to buy it early due to a goof, but for the rest we had to wait. This board has the same specs as what I would consider the Pi4 to have, but runs the RK3288 CPU at up to 1.8GHz and MALI T760 GPU, 2G DDR3 RAM, non-shared GbE, and all the other standard Pi3 based stuff like WiFi, Bluetooth and SD. Although the graphics output supports 4K video at 30 FPS.
You can currently pick this up from Amazon.
The IoT model runs a 528MHz Cortex-A7 MX6 ULL MCU and has on-board WiFi, 256M DDR3 RAM expandable to 2G, 256M NAND flash expandable to 1G, SD, 4G eMMC, 100MbE, USB 2.0 and 46 GPIOs.
The IND model is the same but with no WiFi and a faster 696MHz MX6 UL MCU.
Variscite also have a small module based on the Freescale MX6 ULL similar to the IoT model before, but has up to 512M DDR3 RAM, 32G eMMC, 100MbE, WiFi, Bluetooth and SD running off a 3.3V supply. Pricing starts at US$24 in volume, which I assume is for the 128M RAM and 4G eMMC model. Fairly decent price.
The Pulse Train Hat is a Pi hat that gives you more accurate control over motors used in CNC machines, 3D printers and robotics.
Has an on-board Cortex-M4 MCU handling all the real time grunt work managing 4 pulse train outputs and has 2 ADC, limit switch and emergency stop inputs. The pulse train can be configured from .004 Hz to 125kHz.
The Pilot is a Pi Hat with on-board mobile 3G and HSPA based on the Sierra HL8548 or HL8518 depending which part of the world you’re in and can be powered from the Pi itself or externally. Coming in at US$122 it’s expensive, but we’ll only see this price drop.
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