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    • The Other day I received a RoadTest Microchip Curiosity Board from Element14/Microchip.

      The Board is quite a nice one :

      board_large

      Here is my first Impressions, review, and a Quickstart guide on using this nicely thought out board :

      What it is : A development/demo board with built in Pickit Programmer.
      This board is compatible with the Mplab Code Configurator by Microchip.

      For a long time many hobbyists/professionals have struggled with the configuration of the
      built-in peripherals in Microchip PIC Products (Jumping Between Datasheets, Appnotes,
      Forums, Google Searches, etc, just to figure out that you forgot to set 1 little register for the
      peripheral).
      The Code Configurator is an easy click and fill in system that allows you to configure the PIC
      and the peripherrals quickly and easily.

      By using the Code Configurator, most of the peripheral setup is done by the software, so
      you can concentrate on the Non-Boring parts of your coding.

      The Curiosity system comes in a smart looking Red, Black and White Cardboard box.
      In the box you have the Curiosity Board itself (in a Static Dissipative Grey Packet),
      you also get some polystyrene packing peanuts (that have the same texture as cheese-puffs,
      but no flavour).
      Also included is a Warranty Registration Card, Important Information Sheet, and Curiosity
      Information Sheet.

      A quick glance at the board shows that it is a decent build, with decent white silkscreen, on
      a red soldermask.
      The PIC Microcontroller is a 20 Pin Dip (PIC16F1619) in a socket, which makes it easy to
      swap out with another type, or to replace if you manage to destroy it somehow.
      There are Female Headers that allow you access to each pin of the Microcontroller.
      There is a Micro Bus Section of the board, a section for an optional bluetooth module, as
      well as lots of other places for Input, Output, Etc.
      You will also find a capacitive mTouch button, Potentiometer for the ADC, 7 LED’s or
      status/debugging/whatever you want.
      You also have a MCLR/Reset Pushbutton, and general purpose Pushbutton.

      This board has a builtin 5v/3.3v supply (selectable using a jumper) that gets its power via a
      USB port on the underside of the board.
      The USB port also works to program and communicate with the board.

      Also under the board is another PIC Microcontroller to handle the USB interface and
      programming. It is basically a PICKIT on board!!! That already saves a lot of space and mess
      on the desk. Normally you have your computer, USB Cable to Pickit Programmer, Cables and
      Converters for the Programmer, which then connects to your Dev Board/Breadboard. Now
      you just have the 1 Cable. How Neat.

      The baord also comes 4 standoffs (1 at each corner), and also 3 rubber feet. Dont know
      why they have had this double system, because sometimes the feet are standing on the
      desk, other times the standoffs…

      Anyway, lets plug this thing in, and see if it works.
      The PIC comes preprogrammed with a demo program, so that you can see it working
      straight away.
      So Plug in a Powerbank/Cellphone Charger or USB connection into the USB socket on the
      board, and it comes to life.
      Straight away you get a Power LED, as well as the 3v3 LED coming to life. The 16F1619 can
      run from 1.8v up to 5.5v, so you do not have to worry if you have set the jumper to the
      wrong place.
      Pressing S1 Lights D4.
      Pressing the mTouch section of the board causes D6 to light
      Twiddle the Pot, and D7 changes brightness (using the ADC and PWM Peripherals)
      I let my 4 year old son test that part, he loved it (after I promised him that it will not shock
      him)

      Now that it is working, you will probably want to play a bit with it (which is easy with the
      Code Configurator)
      So far there are lots of Videos on Youtube on how to use the Code Configurator, but the
      steps to get started are simple:
      You need to have Mplab installed on your computer (with the Code Configurator Installed),
      as well as a C Compiler, so this is how you do it:

      Step 1:
      Go to www.microchip.com (The files you need to download are approx 700MB, so do not
      download them on a Metered Connection)
      If you are downloading in South Africa, then with a standard 2Mbps ADSL Line, you are
      looking at over an hour to download these 2 files.
      Then under ‘Design Support’ you can download the Mplab X IDE
      Then under ‘Design Support’ you download the ‘C Compiler’ eg XC8

      Once the files are downloaded, Install MPLAB X IDE using the default settings.
      Once the MPLAB X IDE install has finished, Untick the 3 Check Boxes, and click Finish
      Then Run the XC8 Installer, again using the Default settings.

      Then open up the MPLAB X IDE Icon on your desktop (The Big Red X).

      Click ‘File’ ‘New Project’
      Then click ‘Next’

      From the Device List, Select (or type in) PIC16f1619, and click Next.
      We are not using a Debug Header, so just click Next.

      You will now be at the Tools Selection. Make sure your Curiosity Board is plugged in!
      From the Microchip Starter Kits Section, select Curiosity, and Click Next
      You will then select the XC8 Compiler, and Click Next.
      Give your project a name, and Click Finish

      Now click ‘Tools’ and ‘Plugins’ at the top.
      Select the ‘Available Plugins’ Tab, and then tick the Checkbox next to MPLAB Code
      Configurator, and click INSTALL.
      Click Next, Accept the Terms (you are actually supposed to read them), and Click Install

      After Installing, you will need to close off and reopen MPLAB X IDE.

      Now there is something Important you need to do for the Curiosity Boards built in
      Programmer, you must set LVP mode.

      To Open the Code Configurator, click ‘Tools’ ‘Embedded’.
      Click ‘MPLAB Code Configurator’, and you are good to go.

      First get rid of the Overlay that says what is where.
      Click ‘System’ on the top left.
      Then in the window on the right, Expand the ‘CONFIG2’ section, and check the LVP Enable section.

      Then lets do something with the LED’s,
      so double click on GPIO on the left. It will then load the module to the top, under system.
      Double click on it
      Then on the right, click the padlocks in each column, This assigns the Pins to that Module
      Then in the center, tick all the pins to make them outputs, Then mark every one as ‘Start High’
      Click the Program button at the top (Paper, then Arrow, Pointing to the Chip.), It will ask you if it must make a main.c file, let it do that, and once it has done a firmware upgrade to the programmer on the curiosity board, it will upload your program, and all 4 RED led’s on your board should be on.

      That shows that the PIC, Onboard Programmer, and Computer are all talking fine…

      So time to search some of the Youtube Vids for the Curiosity Board by Microchip, and follow along, it is really that easy…

    • Well, the South African Post Office strike has delayed things a bit,

      but now they are (finally) using their contingency plan to get the mail working.

      I Got Mail! A pack of SMD resistors and Capacitors from China (that was ordered on Ebay)

      2014-10-23 20.50.48

      Now just have to wait for :

      The PC Boards, The Microcontroller, the RS485 Transceiver, The 3v3 Regulator, the SMD Zener Diodes, and the MOC3023 Optotriacs.

      Then once that all comes in the post, I can start the build…

       

       

    • Ok, so I have sent my PCB design to ITEAD.
      Samples have been ordered from Maxim & Microchip,
      Solder paste on the way from Cape Town,
      Other Glue components are on their way from China,

      Now, time to get a reflow oven together (my boards are too tiny to solder with an Iron (I guess. But this will be easier anyway).

      Step 1:

      Find a cheap, 2nd hand mini oven.

      Done – This thing is Tiny. I would be surprised if you could even cook a mini-pizza in this.

      2014-10-01 20.09.52

      Put a thermocouple in this oven, and tested the temperature. It takes a long time to get up to the reflow temperature. So time for some mods:

      1) Strip out the Timer and Controller.
      2) Take out the bottom elements, and reinstall them in the top.
      3) Install a PID Temperature controller.
      4) Insulate around the cavity to prevent heat loss.

      Ok, So Time to start stripping :

      2014-10-01 20.12.58

      2014-10-01 20.18.41

      2014-10-01 20.18.502014-10-01 20.38.33

       

      Oven has been stripped, New holes drilled, and the bottom elements have been relocated to the top (sorry, no pics yet).

      Wired the elements in parallel and hooked up a PID temperature controller in place of the Timer/Switch combo. I also bypassed the thermal cutout on the sidewall of the oven.

      Put a populated SMD board in the oven, heated up to (what the controller says) is 165 degrees centigrade, with the thermocouple in contact with the PCB, and the solder melted. I was able to remove all the components with a gentle tap.

      Oven actually got up to 250 degrees c, but the door was rather hot.

      And this was without any additional insulation in the oven (and the top cover still removed),

      I have taken plenty of old boards I had lying around, and after sticking them in this oven for a bit, As soon as the solder melts, I pull them out (with a pliers) and bang it on the workbench.

      The results : An almost Empty and Clean board, Solder Splatter all over the workbench, and small parts all over the garage!

      For Fun I cranked up the temp, and had a GPU chip (from a monitor card)on the rack, After tapping it, the ‘lid’ came off the processor, and i could see all the bond wires. That was unexpected.

       

      P

    • ROLAND FP-8 ELECTRONIC PIANO / KEYBOARD

       PROBLEM REPORT BY CLIENT
      1) SOME KEYS NOT GOING BACK UP
      2) VOLUME VERY SOFT

      2014-10-01 20.07.35

      This was quite an easy fix.

      To sort out the keys that were not going up, I needed to open the keyboard by undoing 8 screws underneath (4 on each end).

      Then the keys assembly is removed by undoing some more screws underneath (towards the bottom of the assembly), and some screws to the top of the assembly.

      After undoing the ribbon cables from the keys assembly to the main board, you remove the assembly from the rest of the housing.

      Use a flat screwdriver at the top of the problem key to gently open the tabs outwards and lift the key out at the same time.

      The Hammer assembly’s were broken at the usual point just above the weight. Epoxied the hammers. After drying, reassembled the keys.

      To sort out the low volume was simply a matter of replacing several electrolytic smd caps (10uf 16v, 47uf 16v, 100uf 6v) on the main board itself. Replacement caps were sourced from an old DSTV decoder.

      Replacing the 2 Capacitors near the main processor also fixed the long start-up time (from the time the unit was switched on, until the time it showed anything on the display.

      After this the volume was now at an acceptable level. However the Left speaker set was at full volume no matter what the position of the Volume fader is.

      Cleaned out both faders. Noticed that the Monitor fader is damaged and worn out. Swapped it with the one for the Line Output (as that one is not used as often).

      The ‘Strings’ button needed to be pressed hard to activate. Replaced the tactile switch on the board

      The top ‘C’ key (the rightmost key) intermittently works. After further dissasembling the keys assembly, it was determined that it is the conductive pad and rubber assembly that is worn. This will probably require a workaround or replacement, but that is for the customer to decide if he wants full functioning of that key.

       

       

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