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Posts Tagged ‘tool’

HT-01 “Helping Hand” Soldering Stand Comes with 6 Arms, a USB powered Fan

July 7th, 2017 2 comments

I have a “helping hand” in my office with two flexible arms and alligator clamps, and a magnifier that I use sometimes to solder or unsolder components more easily. The metallic arm are not always easy to put in the right position, and the base is not always heavy enough, but it does the job most of the time. But I’ve just come across with a helping hand station with 6 flexible gooseneck arms that may allow for more positions and easier setup, as well as hold a USB powered fan to such out fumes or blow them away, and/or a lamp.

HT-01 soldering station features:

  • Aluminum alloy base – 140 x 100 x 12mm (purple or black)
  • 6x universal joint pipe of 300mm length with alligator clip
  • 1  5V USB output regulator plate with two USB ports up to 5V/3A to connect fans
  • 1x 5V USB Fan
  • 1x Soldering Iron Holder
  • Power Input  for battery?
  • Product weight – 580g

I first found it on GeekBuying for $41.99 shipped, but there are similar designs minus the USB ports, on Amazon US and Banggood. The video shows an unboxing and short test of the model sold on Banggood.

Categories: Hardware Tags: electronics, tool

HDFury Vertex is a High-End HDMI 2.0 Splitter, Scaler, and Diagnostic Tool

July 4th, 2017 No comments

Most people won’t need this, but if you are working on HDMI, HDFury Vertex HDMI 2.0b splitter and scaler could be a very useful product. It comes with one HDMI 2.0b input port, two HDMI 2.0b output ports, some audio ports, an OLED display showing EDID, HDR, and other information, and a Windows tool allowing you to find out the full details about your HDMI connection over USB.

HDFury Vertex hardware specifications:

  • HDMI revision: HDMI 2.0b (Level A) 600Mcsc – 18Gbps
  • Max Resolution: 4K60 4:4:4 8b, 4K60 4:2:2 12b, 4K120 4:2:0 8b or 8K30 4:2:0 8b
  • I/O – 2 HDMI In, 2 HDMI Out, IR, RS232, USB, Analog Jack, Optical Out.
  • Upscale port – FHD 1080p to UHD 2160p & 4K/DCI
  • Downscale port – UHD 2160p & 4K/DCI to FHD 1080p
  • Signal Conversion – Resolution, Chroma Subsampling, Color Space, Color Depth, HDCP
  • HDCP Conversion – Any HDCP to any HDCP with CST1 support
  • Operating Modes – 18Gbps Scaler, Splitter & Matrix with CEC, ARC and EDID management
  • Special Modes – CEC Command, HTPC, Disable HDR, HDMI Doctor and booster.
  • EDID Modes – 10 EDID Flags, 100 EDID Banks (10 custom)
  • Infoframe Modes -: Capture, edit, block or replace HDR metadata, AVI & VSIF, Read SPD, Audio, HDMI Vendor, HDMI Forum
  • On Screen Display – Editable with custom text and mask. (cover TV channel logo)
  • OLED Display – 3.12″ diagonal, 256×64, 32 green colors
  • Dimension – 10 x 6 x 3 cm
  • Weight – 130g

The unit ships with a power supply and  a mini USB cable by default, but the company also optionally offers a Smart PSU for power monitoring, HDMI cables, and a GoBlue kit to add Bluetooth connectivity in case you want to use the Android/iOS app for monitoring data.

Sample Info Displayed on OLED Display

The picture above shows what kind of info you can expect to show on the OLED display with info about HDMI in, HDMI out, etc… But if you really to get the full HDMI details and control, you can connect the device to your computer USB port, and install VERTEX UTILITY Windows GUI 0.5.

There’s also a public API/DLL (but where? I could not find it…) to develop your own program for Vertex. You’ll find more details including the mobile apps, the Windows program, the user guide, and other documentation in the product page, where you can also pre-order HDFury Vertex for $349 with delivery scheduled for November 2017…

Categories: Hardware, Testing Tags: hdfury, hdmi, tool

Android Studio 3.0 Preview Release with Support for Kotlin Programming Language, Android O Preview Images

May 18th, 2017 No comments

Most Android apps used to be programmed in Java with the Eclipse IDE, then Google introduced Android Studio in 2013 which has now replaced the latter, and with the release of Android Studio 3.0 Canary 1 preview, the company is now offering developers to program apps using Kotlin language instead of Java.

Click to Enlarge

Kotlin programming language is 100% compatible with Java language, and you can even mix Kotlin and Java in your code. Kotlin can make your code much more simple while declaring classes, and it has a few other improvements over Java. Android Studio also include a Java to Kotlin converter. The language has already been used by Expedia, Flipboard, Pinterest, Square, and others.

Android Studio 3.0 also brings many other improvement, such as performance profiling tools for the CPU, memory, and networks showing your app performance in real-time, and faster Gradle builds for large sized app projects.

Android Studio 3.0 also brings changes specific to the Android platform development such as:

  • Support for Instant App development
  • Inclusion of the Google Play Store in the Android O emulator system images
  • Font resources management
  • New wizards for Android O development, etc..

The video below gives a good overview of the many changes done in Android Studio 3.0.

You can download Android Studio 3.0 Canary 1 for Linux, Windows, or Mac to give it a try. It’s also a good way to try Android O, if you don’t own a recent Nexus or Pixel device, or don’t want to flash a beta image to your phone.

$79 Digilent OpenScope Open Source Multi-function Programmable Instrument Works over USB and WiFi (Crowdfunding)

February 1st, 2017 8 comments

Digilent OpenScope is an open source, portable, multi-function programmable instrument used for capturing, visualizing, and controlling analog and digital signals, that works with your smartphone or computer over USB or WiFi, and it can also be used in standalone mode as a development board, like you would use an Arduino or Raspberry Pi board.

OpenScope MZ key features and specifications:

  • MCU – Microchip PIC32 MZ (MZ2048EFG124) MIPS Warrior M-class micro-controller @ up to 200 MHz with 2048KB flash, 512 KB RAM
  • External Storage – micro SD slot
  • Wireless Connectivity – WiFi module
  • USB – 1x micro USB for power and programming over FTDI
  • Programming / Debugging – micro USB port, programming header
  • Expansion – 30-pin Fly Wire connector with:
    • 2x scope channels with 12 bits @ 2 MHz bandwidth and up to 6.25MS/s sampling rate
    • 1x function generator output with 1 MHz bandwidth and up to 10MS/s update rate
    • 10x user programmable DIO pins up to 25 MHz update rate
  • Misc – 4x user LEDs, programming and reset buttons
  • Power Supply – via micro USB or ext pin; programmable power supplies up to 50 mA and +/- 4V

The platform can be used with (soon-to-be) open source, web based Waveforms Live multi-instrument software written in JavaScript and allowing you to  use OpenScope as an oscilloscope, a function generator, a logic analyzer, a power supply, or a data logger.

Since the software runs in a web browser it will work with most operating systems including Linux, Windows, Mac OS X, Android or iOS. As mentioned in the introduction, OpenScope is also a development board, and can be programmed using the Arduino IDE or Microchip MPLAB-X IDE. The company will provide  a programmer’s guide, and make PIC32MZ firmware, the agent source code, the browser app for Android & IOS, the communication protocol, and the JavaScript API available on Github

Digilent launched OpenScope on Kickstarter, where the board can be backed together with a 3D printed enclosure for $79. An “OpenScope Learning Edition” is also offered for $150 with a “parts kit with workbook example”, but no details have been provided for the latter. Delivery is planned for June or August 2017 depending on selected reward, and shipping is free to the US, but adds $20 to the rest of the world.

BitScope Blade Industrial Mounting & Power Systems Support Up to 40 Raspberry Pi Boards

January 27th, 2017 12 comments

BitScope Designs, a manufacturer of embedded mixed signal test, measurement and data acquisition systems, has announced the launch of a new models of their industrial desktop, rack or wall mountable power and mounting power systems with BitScope Blade Uno, Duo, and Quattro supporting respectively 1, 2 and 4 Raspberry Pi 3/2/B+/A+ boards. The blades can also be mounted in a 19″ rack with up to 40 Raspberry Pi boards.

The three systems share many of the same specifications:

  • Power Supply

    40 Rapsberry Pi Rack with (Older Versions) of BitScope Blade Quattro

    • Unregulated 9V to 48V DC power, compatible with most 12V & 24V UPS, most DC solar power systems
    • 4A (peak) switch mode supply built-in
    • 2.1mm socket or industrial power tabs
    • Can be used with low cost passive PoE,
    • Can power external USB, HDD & SSD
    • 5V auxiliary power for example for Pi Display
  • Expansion& I/O ports
    • Full access to RPi’s I2C, SPI, UART & most GPIO
    • Slot for camera connector for each Pi
    • HDMI and audio accessible from Pi in BAY one
    • Blade HUB I/O expansion sockets for each Pi
    • Compatible with BitScope CAP industrial I/O
  • Mount System
    • Rack mount to build compute cluster solutions
    • 4 x 3mm tabs and wall mounting stand-offs

Wall Mounted BitScope Blade Duo (Older Version) with2 Raspberry Pi boards

Each model also has specific features:

  • BitScope Blade UNO (BB01B)
    • Designed for one Raspberry Pi and one HAT
    • Power and connect up to 4x BitScopes
    • Raspberry Pi power control header,
    • 2x USB power sockets
  • BitScope Blade DUO (BB02B)
    • Designed for 2x Raspberry Pi boards
    • Power and connect up to 8x BitScopes
    • Individual power and reset inputs for each Pi
  • BitScope Blade QUATTRO (BB04B)
    • Designed for 4x Raspberry Pi boards
    • Power and connect up to 16x BitScopes
    • Individual power and reset inputs for each Pi.

Back side of BitScope Blade Duo – Click to Enlarge

The HUB CAP expansion sockets are used to connect BitScope mixed signal scopes & analyzers, which can be controlled by BitScope DSO software running on the Raspberry Pi board with oscilloscope, logic analyzer, wave generator, and other modes of operation.

You’ll find a few more details on the press release, and the new BitScope Blades can be purchased exclusively on Element14 starting at 32.5 GBP (~$41 US). BitScope also has a “Blades” product page, but it is currently referring to the older versions.

Checking Fan Noise and Other Sound Levels with Benetech GM1352 Sound Level Meter

January 26th, 2017 8 comments

I wrote about UNI-T UT353 Sound Level Meter a few month ago as I thought it could be a neat way to measure fan noise on some TV boxes and mini PCs in an objective way. I finally ended up buying Benetech GM1352 model instead for $13.9 on DX, but I did not really use so far, since I did not get a new device with fan. I’ve now had the chance to try it as Voyo VMac Mini comes with a fan.

Click to Enlarge

Let’s just go through some of GM1352’s key features first:

  • Noise Levels & Accuracy – 30 to 130 dB with +/- 1.5 dB accuracy (94dB @ 1 KHz)
  • Frequency Range – 31.5 to 8 KHz
  • Measurement features – MAX/MIN & Data hold
  • Display – 1.7″ LCD display with backlight
  • Buttons – Power/Backlight, MAX/MIN/Normal selection, HOLD
  • Power Supply – 3x AAA batteries (included)
  • Dimensions – 15.7 cm x 5 cm x 2.8 cm
  • Weight – 81 grams

Now that we got that out of the way, I’ve done some measurements inside a quiet room, with fans, an airplane flying over my house, etc… When possible, I placed the microphone two to three centimeters from the noise source.

Click to Enlarge

Here are the results of my little experiment.

Noise Level (dBA)
“Silence” 38
Voyo Vmac Mini 52.3
Tower PC idle 58
Tower PC high load 67.5
Plane over the house 68
Whispering 71
Running Tap Water 86

My main PC is really noisy, so if you have numbers in the 58 dBA range with the mic at 2 to 3 cm from the fan, it’s already pretty loud. Voyo VMac Mini fan is much quieter, but at 50.2 dBA, it will still annoy some people, although it does not run all the time. It’s a little noisier than the fan on Beelink BT7 mini PC, which I found to be pretty quiet, but some people found it really loud.

Categories: Hardware Tags: review, tool, voyo

Embedded Linux Conference and OpenIoT Summit Europe 2016 Videos are Now Available Online

November 8th, 2016 1 comment

The Embedded Linux Conference and OpenIoT Summit Europe 2016 conferences took place on October 11 – 13 in Berlin, Germany, with many interesting talks about Linux, development boards, power management, embedded systems, software optimization, tools, and so on, as well as a few keynotes.

elce-openiot-2016

The Linux Foundation has recorded most talks and keynotes, and made the videos available on their website. A free registration is required, and will redirect you to the full unlisted playlist on YouTube.

Tim Bird keynote can be watch directly without registration.

You can also download the slides for each presentation.

Thanks to Harley for the tip.

Amlogic USB Burning Tool Still Sucks in 2016

November 6th, 2016 18 comments

[Update November 2016: If you don’t like USB Burning Tool or don’t have the necessary USB cable, you can flash Amlogic IMG firmware to a micro SD card instead]

In the first few years when Android TV Boxes/mini PCs started to hit the markets, in the 2012-2014 period, online firmware update was inexistent for the vast majority of the boxes, and if you wanted to update your firmware you had to use some windows tools like USB Burning Tool for Amlogic, AndroidTool for Rockchip, or PhoenixUSBPro / PhonixSuite for Allwinner platforms. All those tools have poor design, for example the window is not resizable, so it’s impossible to your an old netbook (1024×600 resolution), and then you have to install drivers which is easy, for after detection of the box may be hit and miss, and you have to follow a procedure with the right power sequence with a USB cable connected to a USB OTG port (not always properly marked) and the recovery pin hole or button. It’s taken me close to 4 hours in the past to update firmware through that method switching between USB ports and computers to find out what may be wrong… Luckily in recent years, many devices are now supporting OTA firmware updates, or an easy offline update procedure using a micro SD card or USB flash drive. That means most people should not need to torture themselves using such terrible tools and procedure, unless your TV box is somehow bricked, in which case Windows tools, or their Linux equivalent, are required.

I’ve writing about this because Rikomagic must have been nostalgic and decided not to provide OTA firmware update, and only distribute MK22 TV box firmware as an IMG file for Amlogic USB Burning Tool, both of which can be downloaded on Rikomagic download page. Even though I must have had to use such tools for nearly two years, I was naively expecting it update the firmware in a few minutes, since I used such tools extensively in the past. I was wrong, and I did managed to flash the firmware after two hours, most of it due my own mistakes, as I forgot some of the caveat, and did not read the complete instructions. So I’ll report my experience in case it can help somebody.

The first challenge was to find which one of the USB ports is the OTG one, as there are three, and no specific markings. At first, none of the ports would be detected due the wrong recovery sequence as explained, but I eventually found out it was the lonely USB port on the side, on the left of the micro SD slot and recovery pinhole.

mk22-otg-port-recovery-button

I know that normally you need to insert a toothpick in the recovery button and apply power, before releasing the recovery button, and I did just that and could not get into recovery mode at anytime. My mistake was that I had also inserted the USB cable, and it took me a while to realize it would also power the power through USB, not enough to show anything on the TV, but enough to boot the processor, and prevent me from accessing recovery mode. So the correct procedure, is to enter recovery mode by pressing the recovery button, applying power, and a few second later release the recovery button, and only then you can insert the USB cable.

After that I fired up a Windows 7 virtual image through VirtualBox, and installed USB Burning Tool and drivers by clicking on setup_v2.0.5.15_build7.exe downloaded from Rikomagic website. The installation went smoothly, but after enabling “Amlogic” device in Virtual Box, it would report the device is not supported, so I removed the drivers and reinstalled them, and I could get “Worldcup Device” in the Device Manager.

Good, now I can start USB Burning Tool, change the language to English in the program, and the TV box is detected, so I loaded the firmware file (File->Import Image… RKM MK22_161031.img), hoping to get ready to flash the firmware, but I got another error message “Get key failed” with the mac = 0 on the right window when click on Start button… Very odd.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

But I’m not the only one with the issue, and for some reasons, Amlogic decided to add a license to their factory software… Hard to understand why, but I should definitely have read the provided “MK22.MK06 Software installation intructions-161013.doc” manual, as it explicitly states to

copy the folderlicense to the path when you set by this step. For example: I set C:\Program Files (x86)\Amlogic\USB_Burning_Tool

And there’s indeed a license folder in the downloaded file from Rikomagic, so I copied the directory to C:\Program Files (x86)\Amlogic\USB_Burning_Tool, overwriting the current license directory, and started USB burning tool again. Hmm… same “get key failed” error… Should I reboot? Let’s do it, but same error again after reboot.

So I decided to uninstall everything, and start from start with the drivers and USB Burning Tool, and made sure I copied the license directory before starting USB burning tool. After which I started the program, loaded the firmware file, click on Start button, and after just under 7 minutes I had managed to flash the firmware! Woohoo!

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

That was a painful experience. So while there’s a case (firmware recovery) for such tools and images, end users should not be asked to install the firmware through that method. It’s complicated, and the default settings wipe out your data and apps.