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From our last part we looked at the new design for a small temperature logger project with a drafted PCB, the redesigned the voltage switching circuit and USB connect/disconnect feature and updating the data transfer function. In this part, we’ll look the capacitors for our LDO (part of the voltage switching circuit), testing our I2C timing to maximise battery life, switching to a 1Mbit EEPROM and using EEPROM page writes.


Usually when I chose capacitors for a voltage regulator, I’ve never really look at the ESR performance of the capacitor before; I assume most capacitors would be good enough for general loads, most of times they are but I thought it would be a good idea to actually test the ESR this time. The 3.3V LDO I went with was the Richtek RT9166 which is low cost and I’ve use other products of theirs (DC-DC) before so it should be a safe choice.


The input capacitance is 1uF minimum without any ESR requirements and output capacitance is also 1uF minimum (X7R) and we’re given a region of stability depending on the load – 0.3 to say 20 ohms for the small amount of current which I’ll need. I purchased one of the many ESR LCR Meter kits available from Ebay and decided to test a few caps, unfortunately it didn’t measure the ESR of some small caps properly (under 1uF) but it works on larger caps.


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Today we’ll be taking a look at the Lenmar PowerPort Universal Laptop Power Pack, it’s a power pack to provide power to your laptop or device, it outputs 16V/19V and 5V at 1amp and an input plug accepts your laptop’s charger  to charge the Lipo 11.1V / 5500mAh battery. To use the device, you connect your load and press the button which switches the load on.


A lot of little screws later and we’re in.


We have 6x 3.7V 2865mAh batteries with each pair of batteries wired in parallel to give us a 3 cell battery and there’s some adhesive on the case for the inductor to keep that from moving around. PCB date code is Nov 2011.


There’s quite a lot of components, more than I thought would be in it and I didn’t expect to see an ATmega as the MCU. An 0.01 ohm sense resistor at battery1 ground helps to sense current flow so when the button is pressed, the LEDs turn on for a few seconds and if a voltage drop is detected due to having a load connected then it keeps supplying power otherwise after the LEDs turn off, it switches off power. We have 6x R&C branded 220uF capacitors and a 51 ohm resistor with a small 6 pin chip for each battery, I’m guessing it may be some part charge/discharge controller/balancer.


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As part of the Mini Temp Logger design I need to look at a better way of keeping time other than using the watchdog timer as it’s fairly inaccurate. I stumbled across the Microchip MCP7940M Real-time clock controllable by I2C, you can set alarms, a clock output (likely what I might use for my project), ability to trim the oscillator in 1PPM increments (129PPM -/+ range), low power consumption at 1.2uA and the price was $1.

Choosing capacitors

This RTC recommends the use of 6-9 pF 32.768KHz crystals, the most common/cheap ones are 12.5pF and it still does work with them but it won’t be as accurate as the 6-9pF ones (and for me it sometimes stopped working), it took me a while to realise this as I was reading the preliminary datasheet for a while.


The first thing we need to do is calculate the capacitors we’ll require for our crystal, there is a standard formula which we follow for this, Cstray is usually between 2-5pF so lets assume ours will be half way at 3.5pF. I went with a low cost (at the time) EuroQuartz MH32768L crystal that has a CL of 6pF. The best match for our formula is 6pF for CX1 and CX2: (6 pF * 6 pF)/(6 pF + 6 pF) + 3.5 pF = 6.5pF which is close to our CL of 6 but you may have to vary the capacitors depending on your testing.


IMG_1255_1 rtc7

I built a simple PCB for the RTC (doesn’t look the best as I built it about 6 months ago when I didn’t use to sand the PCB) but there isn’t much to it. We just need a crystal with 2 caps, a cap for the chip and then just I2C resistor pull ups. Let’s interface with it, I’ll start off using the Arduino and we’ll move to an ATmega328 later on.


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Today we’ll be taking a look at a Vyatta/linux based modern router, the Ubiquiti EdgeRouter Lite which is a WAN router with 3x 10/100/1000 configurable network ports and a console port. It has a webpage for management but most of the configuration happens using the console / SSH so not something that home users would use. This particular unit has a “squash fs” problem near the end of the boot (it still boots ok) and also when trying to save the configuration which isn’t the first time it’s happened with these older model EdgeRouters, the errors could be coming from the USB or flash memory.

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A few screws later and we’re in and there were no tamper protection seals.

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We’ve got a main processor, 4 Gigabits of RAM, 32Mbit of flash, a 4GB USB dongle (split into 142MB FAT / 1.63GB unknown partition, the rest free space) and separate PHYs/transformers for each network port, it must have been more cost efficient to have 3x PHYs that use a processor that had them all built in. The line up of capacitors near the center looks neat and there’s a 7×2 pin header near the bottom left unpopulated. There are 2x Alpha & Omega Z1212AI, 2x uP1713P and 1x EL-EK22 DC-DC converters. PCB date code is 4th week of 2013.


On the bottom side, they’ve left the copper exposed underneath the processor which joins up with the heatsink they have on the bottom and is screwed in place, that’s a nice solution.


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I recently got into the quadcopter hobby and purchased a UDI U818A mini quadcopter from Ebay which is fun to fly and have been experimenting changing the battery packs and adding FPV. I’ve been thinking about going to a larger quadcopter but before I do, I’d like to plan around with making my own micro quadcopter and experimenting with the software.


After purchasing 4 micro motors (Hubsan X4 H107), a set of propellers to suit, a MPU6050 3 axis accelerometer and gyro, I was ready to start building.


The first part was to build a frame, using my CNC I built one from acrylic just big enough to fit all 4 motors with propellers without touching each other, a bit of blu-tac later and they are semi-secured in place, good enough for testing. One big downside is that acrylic is heavy compared to most other materials.

Testing the 4 motors all at once at different voltages gave me the following current draw results – 1.7v @ 780ma, 2.5v @ 1.2A, 3v @ 1.5A, 3.5v @ 1.9A, 4v @ 2.2A but I expect that it could be double or triple that due to the wires I was using so each one might draw 1-1.5 amps each.



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Today we’ll be taking a quick look at the Solar Charge Controller CMTP02 which is rated for 10A and used to recharge your 12V or 24V battery and power your load; they say that your solar panels / batteries should be matched, this was given to me and I believe it’s damaged.

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A few seconds later and we’re in.


We’ve got all analog components, a fuse and 3 transistors or mosfets with no part number labeling and the back plate acts as a heatsink for them. The first 2 are connected together and configured to recharge the battery and the last one is used to switch the load. This solar charger (might) use PWM to charge the battery which means the solar panels voltage would directly be applied to the battery for a certain amount of time, it would probably be more efficient than using a DC-DC or transistor to step it down but not the best if something does go wrong. PCB date code is July 2009 to March 2014.


There’s a Ti CD40106B Hex Schmitt Trigger which is likely being used as an oscillator for the PWM and Ti LM324 op-amp with lots of resistors around it which would be used to control the transistors/mosfets and LEDs. Apart from that there isn’t much else.

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It’s been a few years since I’ve updated the hardware/software for Standalone Temperature/Voltage Logger but my recent Mini Temp Logger (MTL) project has made me think about improvements that I could also put back into the SATVL so there’s just a few quick things worth mentioning for the v1.3 update.


There has been a small hardware change, the 2 diodes have been removed which now allows for up to ~28V input voltage logging and the automatic voltage switcher has also been updated like I designed in the MTL, the PCB’s size was reduced slightly too. The reason for the 2 diodes was to protect against high input voltages because I believed that if we exceeded the 1.1V ADC reference voltage that the ATtiny would be damaged.


However after careful reading of the datasheet it turns out that all that would happen is it would read close to max value of 1023 so all is good.


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A while ago I bought ten 8×8 LED matrix from Ebay for about $7 and was thinking what I could do with them. Initially I was going to hook them up in a 3×3 arrangement but thought I could a better use if I connected them all together in a row to display text and potentially I could make this all wireless. Also I could use this to display the time as 10 LED matrices are just enough to fit the time, e.g, 12:34:00PM.

I milled out a quick board to mount the LED matrix, 595 shift register, connected it to an ATtiny84 and got it to a working point. It wasn’t really worth my time to mill out 9 more so a few weeks later the PCBs arrive and I start putting everything together.


On the PCB there were some headers which would connect each matrix to each other but what I didn’t realise is that connecting the boards together was a very long process as I had to individually wire each header to each other, a few hours later and it’s done. If I were to re-do this project I would have laid out the PCBs better so they could just connect to each other without wires.


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Today we’ll be taking a look at the Optus Huawei E960 3G Wireless Gateway (user guide) which is a 3G 802.11b/g hot spot with 4x 10/100 network ports, RJ45 port for connecting your phone and a USB port for power / ability to act as a modem on your PC.

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4 screws later and we’re in, the top just pops right off without any effort.

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We’ve got a 2 board construction with a 16 pin interconnect and lots of shielding for each major component. There’s 3 antennas mounted on a plastic base which are screwed in place, I guess the reasoning could be that they are easily replaceable to suit the frequency band that’s needed. PCB date code is 36th week of 2007.


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I’ve been looking to upgrade the way that I have been sending SMS’s which is through a Nokia phone using F-Bus and came across the SIM900A module. If you can spare the cash, I would recommend it over Nokia F-bus as it’s easier to use.

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It’s a relatively cheap module for $20 on Ebay but you need to check that the SIM900A works in your country before buying it. By using AT commands, we can send and receive SMS quite easily and I was going to cover this but there are already tutorials around that cover it quite well.

So instead I’ll be explaining how we can use the SIM900A’s GPRS to fetch a file from a webpage and print it out so we can process the data. Potentially you could use this instead of waiting to receive an SMS, for greater data transfer rates vs price per SMS or better yet for control of a device such as a remote control car/quadcopter as long as you have mobile reception.

SIM900A Hardware

The one I bought is the “SIM900A Mini V3.0.2, 2014.10″ which comes with an external antenna. The PCB has a MAX232 on board if you wish to hook it up to your computer directly.


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