Weekly Roundup #50 - New Maker Products // News

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The first Weekly Roundup after Christmas! I have an incredibly messy desk and we’re already seeing an explosion of SBCs hitting the market. There’s also voice recognition, RF and other cool bits.

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Crowd Funding


First up on Kickstarter …


… there’s another gamepad thingy. We’ve seen a lot of these in the past, but this one uses a Pi ZeroW for the grunt work and comes with a 480x320 touch display, speakers and lots of buttons you can mash which are accessible from an 32. Power is from two 18650 batteries that can be charged via USB. The kit comes with 3D printed grips and laser cut acrylic case.

Isolated USB to UART

And another we’ve seen plenty of these in the past as well. This one is essentially an isolated USB to UART bridge using an FT231 and Si8642. Operates from 2.5 to 5v logic levels with isolation rating up to 2.5kv.

JuiceBox Zero

And there’s also been plenty of Pi based power management boards. The JuiceBox Zero is another one designed for the Pi Zero. It has status LEDs, on/off switch, LiPo charging via USB and low battery shutdown. From what I can see on the PCB, it seems to conform to the Pi standard for powering via GPIO.

Quokka FPGA IoT Controller

The Quokka FPGA is the first FPGA board for 2018 and also another Ozzie Maker. This board runs the 50MHz clocked Altera Cyclone IV FPGA with 6,000 LE and pushes out 40 GPIOs, with 4 dual channel, 10bit ADCs, Hbridge driver and WiPy socket running off a 5 to 24v DC input. His website has some fairly comprehensive documentation. So looks good.

The Little Buddy Talker

Do you want to add voice capabilities to your Arduino? Patrick Thomas Mitchell is back with another campaign that does just that. The Little Buddy Talker is a pretty tiny board that provides a 254 word vocabulary, spoken in a female English voice. Access is over SPI. Think I might pick up a couple of these.

Console/GUI Ether to Serial Bridge

This next one is something with a specific use-case. It’s an Ethernet to GPIO bridge that allows you to connect to UART TTL, RS485, nRF2401 and even a 2 channel ADC and DAC. Access is over standard telnet and can handle up to 6.5Mbps.

ServoShock 2

Want quick and easy control over a bunch of servo motors? The ServoShock2 allows you to control up to 12 servos and 18 digital outputs using a Sony DualShock 4 controller. Buttons and joysticks can be mapped using pre-configured mappings and since it’s an Arduino shield you can read the controller status via SPI.

Crowd Supply

Only one new thing on Crowd Supply this week…

Tomu is live

Back in Weekly Roundup #49 I mentioned the Tomu. Well, now it’s live on Crowd Supply and seems to be creating some waves. Since it’s a Cortex-M0 board that fits within the footprint of a USB port, it’s unobtrusive and handy enough just to leave in all the time. I’ll be picking up a couple of these.


Z-turn Board XC7Z020

Over at GroupGets there is round 2 of the Z-turn board. If you want to get a decent FPGA board fairly cheaply, then this is a good option as there’s free shipping on this one.

Honorable mentions

USound loudspeakers

Over at HackADay they mentioned a new MEMS loudspeaker technology which will allow manufacturers to produce a complete loudspeaker on silicon wafer. This is pretty good stuff as supporting circuitry, such as amplifiers, can be included on a single die. Nice.


A week or so back there was CES 2018. It had a mixed bag of reviews with some people considering it a lot of “snake oil”. Alas, I didn’t get to cover it, but maybe next year. In the mean time I’d suggest checking out Charbax who always has some good stuff from trade shows on his channel.

Maker BlockChain

Over at the AdaFruit blog there’s mention of Mark Hatch, who wants to create a BlockChain for Makers. The idea is simple enough allowing you to store both currency and Maker abilities or capabilities. Being able to store certifications for skills and currency creates a platform where you can perform paid work for someone or find people who can perform paid work for you. Looks promising.

Spectre & Meltdown - old news

There’s a HackADay article that points to the fact that the recent Spectre & Meltdown CPU hardware bugs is actually old news and I mean old, as is in; a paper was written on the dangers of speculative execution and cache privileged boundary access back in 1990 by the NSA. Interesting stuff and goes to show that we should be listening more to history.

Coin Cell challenge winners

And the HackADay Coin Cell challenge winners were announced. The SuperNova Award went to the coin cell powered rail-gun. It completely uses up the energy in a single LIR2032 and dumps 500 Joules of energy into an electromagnet. And the Heavy Lifting award went to the screwdriver powered from a coin cell that could drive in 19 screws. And the Lifetime Award went to a geo-locator that determines it’s location based on the amount of light averaged over a day. It was calculated to run for up to 10 years on a single coin cell.

RDA5981 new cheap WiFi chip

The RDA5981 is a new competitor to the ESP series of WiFi modules. It runs an ARM Cortex-M4 at its core and a very similar feature lineup to the ESP8266 in a 17 by 15 mm castellated package for around US$1 each. Supports control over SPI, USB or UART based AT commands.

Talking Pi

Voice recognition is still a trendy topic. Joy-IT have released a board called the Talking Pi, which is a Pi hat containing mics, 433MHz transceiver, 6 channel PWM and a bunch of GPIOs. It also has a DC jack providing additional power to servo motors.


Another way of getting into IoT is to use Element14’s SimpleLink development kit. Comes as either a BeagleBone cape or Pi hat and provides access to sub-GHz RF sensors. Thee Pi hat contains a CC1350, which runs a Cortex-M3 as the main core and a Cortex-M0 for RF and Bluetooth. Whilst the BeagleBone cape runs a CC2530, WL837MOD and RF430 giving you WiFi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, RF and NFC.

LinuxGizmos SBC survey

Over at LinuxGizmos they have their yearly hacker-friendly SBC list in which is a compilation of almost all the SBCs under $200. They noted that there’s fewer Linux/Arduino hybrids - this is because these types of boards have moved to the 200 to $400 price range. As I mentioned before there seems to be an increase in Pi style boards appearing last year and this is reflected in this list and there’s also more Rockchip based SBCs appearing.

Espressif Audio Mic HDK

CNXsoftware pointed to a Tweet made by John Lee from Espressif about a new dev kit called the ESP32 LyraTD MS1 HDK. This simply named product adds several things to the humble ESP32, most importantly a 4 mic array allowing it to be used in voice recognition applications, but also SD card, audio amp and ESP32 module. The board not only allows access to Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Baidu DuerOS, but provides on-board hot word recognition.


One of the problems with storing data on SD cards is writing. SD cards will wear out very quickly if writing constantly and the old FAT filesystem tends to bork many SD cards. One filesystem that’s starting to gain traction is LittleFS. This is designed primarily for embedded systems providing a very small code footprint, power loss resilience, write wear -leveling and a performance increase over FAT. Currently, you’ll need a FUSE wrapper to access the filesystem from Linux, but it looks like a great little up-and-coming filesystem.

Orange Pi Lite2

Another SBC juice company has released a new board. The Orange Pi Lite2 is an Allwinner H6 based board with 1G DDR3 RAM, SD, USB3.0, AXP805 PMIC, WiFi/Bluetooth coming from an Ampak 6255 and all the typical GPIOs and add-ons. You can currently pick this up on AliExpress for US$25.

Orange Pi One Plus

They have also released the Orange Pi One Plus, which continues the Allwinner H6 theme and has almost the same specs as the Orange Pi Lite2, but drops the WiFi and Bluetooth and adds in GbE.

TinkerBoard S

The TinkerBoard now has an upgraded model. The TinkerBoard S, which has 2G RAM and 16G eMMC as well as a few enhancements such as; HDMI-CEC, enhanced I2S, auto-switch audio, brown-out detection and power on/off headers.

Popcorn Hour

Another RK3328 based board has just been released called Popcorn Hour. Primarily targeting video setups it’s a similar product to HardKernel’s ODROID HC1 and comes in two models, either 2G RAM, 16G flash or 4G RAM and 32G flash. Both models have 4K HDMI out, 2 USB ports, IR, GbE and SATA bridge. Supports all the usual suspects such as OpenMediaVault, LibreELEC, Lakka, etc.

Banana Pi AVS Dev Kit

The Banana Pi guys are diversifying a bit with their AVS Dev Kit. For a pre-order price of US$129 you get a board running an Allwinner R18, with 1G DDR3 RAM, 8G eMMC, WiFi, Bluetooth and a 6 mic array pushed through GMEMS for voice recognition. Power is from a 12v DC jack.

Firefly ROC RK3328

Back in Weekly Roundup #48 we saw the LibreComputer, which was an RK3288 based board on Kickstarter. As pointed out by CNXsoftware this board was made by the FireFly guys. Now that the Kickstarter campaign has ended they are now selling this SBC on their website. Hopefully the campaign backers will get their boards before everyone else.


Now, I thought I would have seen the last of the fruit named SBC companies, but unfortunately here’s another one. The Grapeboard is a Pi form factor SBC running the NXP LS1012A SoC, which is a Cortex-A53. It also has 1G DDR3 RAM, 8MB boot-loader SPI flash, 64MB flash, SD, WiFi, Bluetooth and no HDMI… The line-up looks pretty dismal until you get to the dual GbE, USB3.0, M.2 connector supporting SATA, PCIe and USB3.0 along with a wide 4.5 to 16v DC supply. Interesting.


Back in Weekly Roundup #41 we saw the ODROID-HC1, well now they have released the ODROID-HC2 which supports 3.5" drives instead of just 2.5" on the HC1. You can now pick it up for US$54.

Maker Shops


Over at Tindie there’s some pretty cool things.

GRiSP-base board with SD Card

Like this board running the ATSAMV71 SoC, which is an ARM Cortex-M7 clocked at 300MHz, with 2MB flash, 384KB RAM internal memory and 64MB external RAM and SD slot. Also has WiFi and 5 PMOD ports. The default firmware boots up GRiSP.

TPS62740 breakout

The TPS62740 is a pretty decent LDO that has a impressive quiescent current of 360nA. Capable of pushing out from 1.8 to 3.3v in 0.1v increments from a 2.2 to 5.5v input.

TinyFPGA expansion

The TinyFPGA was in Weekly Roundup #39 & 42. Well this board will accept a TinyFPGA board and push out audio, VGA, PS/2, USB and SD in a standard ITX form factor.


The SuperFly comes from Pesky Products which is a UAV flight control board. Runs an ESP8266 SoC with EMP7180, MPU9250 and MS5637 motion sensors, which is a pretty decent sensor combo. Also has a 5V boost converter to power an RC radio, LiPo charging and provides access to 11 GPIOs from the ESP8266.

MCP2515 CAN Bus Shield

Another CAN bus PCB. This one is a 5v only Arduino shield running the MCP2515 CAN controller and TJA1050 transceiver.

Sumo Robot Controller

This board is designed specifically for robotics and can control two DC motors at up to 24v, 30A via an NMOS H-bridge with PWM control at up to 20kHz. Has on-board 3.3 and 5v regulators for the ATmega328 with access to almost all the GPIOs.

MiCa 7688

Another tiny embedded Linux board. The MiCa 7688 not only runs the MediaTek 7688 SoC, but also has an ATmega2560 all contained within the Arduino format. Also has on-board 128M DDR2 RAM, 32MB flash, SD slot, WiFi and two USB ports.

Cohesion3D Mini Laser Upgrade

And yet another motor control board, but this one is designed to be a drop-in replacement for the cheap K40 Laser Cutter control board. The K40 is probably the cheapest, but decent laser cutter you can buy, but has an abysmal control board. They say it takes only 20 minutes to upgrade.

AdaFruit, Seeed, SparkFun, DFRobot, DigiKey

HiKey 960 4GB

Over at Seeed Studio they have an upgrade of the HiKey960, which increases the RAM from 3GB to 4GB. Everything else remains the same.

DepthEye 3D

And they have the DepthEye 3D on pre-order. It’s expensive, but runs the Texas Instruments opt8320 sensor. This supports an 80x60 pixel depth camera with a range of up to 2m and a frame rate of 1000FPS.

GrovePi Zero

GrovePi was in one of my Weekly Roundups from 2016 and is a fairly simple Pi hat that has six Grove port. You can now pick them up from Seeed Studio.

Raspberry Pi Zero WH

Over at AdaFruit they are selling the almost new Raspberry Pi Zero WH. What does the extra “H” mean? All it means is header… That is… they have pre-soldered on the header for you. Great for people without a soldering iron, but for the rest of us… moving on…

SGP30 Air Quality Sensor Breakout

They also have a breakout for the SGP30 air quality sensor, which allows you to produce a TVOC reading, or Total Volatile Organic Compound as well as total CO2 in the air. This is an improved sensor over their previous CCS811 breakout.

SmartFusion 2

The SmartFusion2 SoC is very similar to the Zynq SoC, which runs a Cortex-M3 and FPGA combo. Well you can now get the SmartFusion2 Maker Board from DigiKey. It has GbE, a couple of buttons, sensors and LEDs and a place to solder up an ESP32 or ESP8266. It’s a pretty decent alternative to the Zynq SoC.

MLX90632 - IR thermometer

Over at SparkFun they have an MLX90632 breakout, which is a very accurate non-contact thermometer capable of measuring down to 0.02C resolution over an I2C interface.

AMG8833 - GridEye

And back in Weekly Roundup #32 we saw a Grid-Eye breakout on Tindie and one on AdaFruit. Well, SparkFun finally have a version of their own.

MP6500 Stepper Driver

The MPS MP6500 stepper driver can drive a 4.5 to 35v stepper at up to 1.8A with 1/8 micro-stepping. Pololu claim this can be achieved without any heatsink. The chip also has a built-in regulator and can interface to 3.3 or 5v logic.

FT5121M High Torque Servo

Pololu also have a bunch of the Feetech high torque servos in. These ones can operate from 6 to 7.4v and can push out 20.5kg per cm at .12 seconds per 60 degrees.

Honorable mentions

A few bits and pieces that I didn’t include in my video.


Skull_001 is an 8bit affordable pocket synth with a built-in 16 step sequencer, 3 oscillators, one LFO, one LPF and other features.

Graffiti Grip

Graffiti Grip™ is a wireless, app controlled LED display handle for your tumbler, allowing the user and friends complete customization.


Build your own robots with Easycube! Simple, fun and easy to assemble. Education in an entertained and engaged way.


UNIZ-UDP: the World’s Fastest 3D Printing Technology

Desktop CNC FoamCutter XY4040

Cut out your designs from Styrofoam or other Polymer based Foam Sponge.

Kendle K2

Kendle K2 is a high speed professional SLA LCD 3D printer with large print area , quality build and an affordable price.


Robust, precise and user-friendly upgrade for your desktop 3D printer that lets you print ceramics, porcelain and pastes.


TrackALL is more of a polished product than a Maker toy, but is interesting from the perspective of battery life. It’s a GPS tracker that also tracks motion, light, humidity, proximity, altitude with a SigFox comms back-end. However, they claim an up time of 5 years on 2 AA batteries.


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