Thursday, April 25, 2013

Moving out, moving in!

We'll be moving to a new apartment in a couple of days - can't wait!

That of course means less updates for a while, but I hope that's all right since the coming updates will be worth the wait!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Connecting connections!

Just posting a quick update today. 

I've started to finalize cabling and replacing too long wires, color coding wires etc. That should help tremendously while debugging and/or servicing the board. Besides this I've started to wire up the servo and motor connections with their custom cables.

I'm also doing an updated version of the I/O layout of the board since the old layout got its walking stick rather quickly. The great thing is that this step is crucial when designing a PCB, so when the time comes it should basically just be a matter of placing the components in the drawing since the pin mapping is already made. 

1) Near completed motherboard. The tape retaining the lightboard is not the final version. I'll probably use red tape instead...

Just a few more hours work and the motherboard should be complete!
Unless I've misplaced a wire. Or worse.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The power of JalapeƱos!

I'm finally finished with the lightboard! <insert fanfare here>

And guess what?
ALL ports are fully functional! <insert epic rock music here>

Let me repeat that -
All ports work, each and every one of them.
That's nothing short of a miracle!

After a couple of months I've finally recreated the "blink" tutorial (...)

1) The finished lightboard up and running! Around 940 solder points later...
The MOSFET's are n-channel so I can apply any voltage needed (0-60V @ 30A) for that particular port without affecting the others. 
As you can see, there's no Chipkit in the image. I usually prototype new classes and boards on the Arduino first, since the Arduino is actually a lot faster during upload and is also separate from the motherboard, which should be handy in case something goes wrong.

Now I'll just have to finish writing the lighting routine so I can hook this guy up to the motherboard!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Another bank bites the dust!

The lightboard is now at 75% completion.
Another solder session and I'll be ready to test it out!

1) Solder mess. Should be very interesting to test this.
I will most likely need some sort of compartment for this
since the cables are pretty fragile and might break when inserting
or removing the 50 pin cables from each socket! 
2) My session companion. This or Blair's Death Rain chips... *drool*

I'm thinking about designing a PCB to replace the motherboard, or simply purchasing either a P-ROC or Ben Heck's custom board. Personally I like Ben's version better, but the P-ROC is verified and used by numerous projects. But my "I can do it"-spirit says that a custom made PCB would indeed be very cool.

It will have to wait for a while - until the current setup breaks that is.


It's no surprise that the computer industry is moving forward at lightning speed - but it's astonishing just how much things change over a few years.

I've decided to build a new computer and was happily surfing the net for parts. I decided to see how my old computer's graphics card would measure up to a modern one. Turns out... it doesn't.
It's almost ridiculous...

1) David and Goliath. 
To be fair -
My current computer wasn't bought to do intense gaming, since I had my Xbox for that. But now the old box is obsolete and the next gen is around the corner (still "next-gen"?!). But I figure I'll return to computer gaming for a while as it also benefits in other ways, such as music production and game creation.

But it's always fun to see how far technology has come!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

I'm back!

Got the new USB-port today and soldered it in place. 
And it works! 

1) USB-port is good to go! 

2) The tiny USB-port. The specs say "reflow procedure only". Phuh!
 Kind of hard to see in this picture, but there are five small prongs that needed to be soldered in place. Well, four - one isn't used on the Chipkit. And they all fit inside a 4mm area (roughly 1/6th of an inch) so it was barely possible to solder by hand!

3) Powered up and ready to go! 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Baby Steps

The last couple of days I got my thumbs out and got to it -

1) The motherboard minus light board. Like Ben Heck says,
'Always build something you can take apart later'. I'm glad I listened, Ben!
The observant can see a piece of electrical tape on one of the shift registers,
which in this case means a dead shift register.
I've removed the motherboard from the machine and tried to fix it.

The removal went easier than expected as I've somehow forgot that I made the board removable as a single piece - despite it being a rather lengthy process of actually removing it.
Once removed, I noticed that two out of five prongs in the USB-connector were broken so at first I simply tried to wiggle the cable in place - which worked. But just as I was going to hot glue the cable in place the remaining prongs broke off as well.

I then figured I'll just replace the USB-port but accidentally broke a circuitboard trace instead. Doh!
But, luckily, after a while on google and the Chipkit-forum, I found out that the one I broke wasn't actually in use for the Chipkit so I'm still good to go. The port is ordered and will hopefully arrive in my mailbox soon. It says "reflow procedure only" but as my friend says - nobody remembers a coward.

Since the work involved removing the board is rather cumbersome I've decided not to reinstall the board until the lightboard is completed, which at the moment it's at 50% complete.

While at it, I took a peek at the broken MOSFET for the left bumper. I couldn't see any immediate problems with it but decided to replace it and the diode on the solenoid itself, should it be the problem.
Hopefully this will keep the left bumper up and running. If not.... then I have no clue what the problem might be. I'll probably use a solid state relay on one of the minor solenoids and use the freed port for the bumper instead.

2) Neat cabling is A to Z. Go the extra mile!
Unless it won't be visible. Then you can cheat. 
I've also attached the spinners,spotlights and switches cables now so all the visible switches and lights are looking good. Still the actual connecting left to do - but having shrink wrapped cables with no visible solder joints does a pretty big difference in appearance!

As for programming, not much has been done since the USB-port is broken, but I've started to look at the profile system I've been planing to do for a while.

Since it's a home game with a rather deep ruleset along with achievements I figure it'll be hard to finish it all in one go - so I'm looking at writing a kind of save game functionality. It will be possible to create and assign profiles for record keeping and competitions etc. 

More about this in a later post!

3) Early shot of the multi color LED circuit. A downer was that
there seem to be a limit in the LED itself so I cannot mix colors
by applying voltage on several pins. I'll probably have to emulate
the yellow color in software to compensate for this.  
Mr Bubbles has gotten a slight update with a tiny circuitboard for the multi-LED in his helmet, along with the servo now properly installed in his belly.

I've unfortunately decided to back down on Mr B's movement pattern and will let his disco moves become subject to a future mod (but the swinging arm and drill is still present).

I'm thinking it's better to get it up and running first instead of not at all, right?

Took a lot less time to write up the summary than to do the actual work, but that's the way it is!