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More PCBWay Boards

I’ve been working on a number of projects the past few months, and many of them require custom printed circuit boards. A few weeks ago as I was finishing up the design of a new board I got an email from the crew at PCBWay. (You might remember that I had boards made by them a few years ago.)

As luck would have it I was just exporting some Gerber files so the timing was great! I got my boards created by PCBWay and they arrived about two weeks ago. It took me a bit of time to wrap other projects and get things soldered up and programmed, but the boards worked great. Often you don’t get PCBs right the first time, but luckily all my connections were fine (It’s a fairly simple board) but there are a few things I might want to change about the dimensions and the mounting holes.

I’ve been using this as a supplemental USB keyboard. For testing I’ve programmed it to be function keys F13 through F20 (which can then be assigned to key commands for certain applications, like OBS: Open Broadcaster Software.) I’ve also set it up as a MIDI device to trigger sound effects using my SoundProp application. It can also serve as a toggle for your mic and camera in videoconferencing software like Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, etc. It’s pretty robust in its capabilities.

I still need to finish up an enclosure for it, and then do more rigorous testing, but so far the boards and functionality have been great. (If there’s interest in these devices, I’ll probably drop a few into the Etsy Shop.)

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Software Release Button

release-button-01

Launching a ship is exciting! Maybe that ship is a rocket ship, or maybe it’s a traditional ship which floats in the water. When launching a ship there’s often a ceremony involving some champagne and pageantry and a party and it’s quite an event. (I’ve been to at least one boat launch, so I know what I’m talking about!)

When you launch a new version of your software, it’s not quite as exciting. I mean, it is, but in a different way. Sure, twenty years ago there was probably a lot of excitement around master discs and packaging and all that, but in 2019 with most software delivered as a service, it’s not much more than someone typing a few commands, clicking a mouse, and pressing the enter key. Not as exciting.

But! Some software company decided to make it exciting, and they asked me to help. They’ve now got a “Software Release Device” that they can connect to a computer, then turn the key to enable the device (which turns on a lamp letting them know it’s ready) and then they can switch between mouse and keyboard and hit the big read button to launch the latest version of their software to the world. Exciting!

release-button-02

They made it pretty easy for me, as they specified most of the parts for the build. The lamp was meant to run on 24VDC but luckily it was just a matter of cutting open the housing, replacing some resistors, and gluing it all back together to get it to run on 3.3VDC, and it looks really nice.

If you’re interested in some sort of custom USB device, let me know… I’d love to build something for you.

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Teensy Breakout Board v1.4

You may remember version 1.3 of my Teensy Breakout Board, and some of the planned improvements I mentioned. Well, it’s a year later, so I should probably get around to actually talking about it.

I finished v1.4 last year, and I even had a bunch of them made via Seeed Studio’s Fusion PCB service, and they turned out great. We’ve been using them for numerous projects, and just recently I finally got around to the protective fix I added in v1.4.

Teensy USB Protector

I modeled this tiny part and 3D printed it. It’s got a hole for a screw, and two slots for zip ties. The photos below show the rest.

Teensy BOB v1.4

Teensy BOB v1.4

Teensy BOB v1.4

Teensy BOB v1.4

Okay then, the chance of the Micro USB connection getting ripped loose from the Teensy has been reduced quite a bit! The zip ties hold the cable end in place to the plastic piece which attaches to the fifth hole on the PCB. I’m looking forward to never have to see another Micro USB jack ripped loose.

Teensy BOB v1.4

Oh, and one more thing… I ran into Jasmine during Maker Faire and we talked about Tindie, and somehow she convinced me to start putting things up there, so now the Teensy BOB v1.4 is available on Tindie in case you want or need one.

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The Badger: A Tough USB Solar Panel

The Badger: Waterproof USB Solar Panel

For the past nine months I’ve been working with Brown Dog Gadgets on a number of projects. It’s been mostly kits for the educational market, and I’ve done a lot of design work, and a bit of electronics prototyping, as well as writing code and lending a bit of advice about marketing. The most recent project is The Badger, a waterproof USB solar charger.

You may remember that two years ago Josh launched a campaign for solar chargers and it did pretty well. Since then he’s taken feedback and requests from customers and came up with The Badger, which offers a number of improvements, mainly the waterproof qualities, but it’s also a damn tough panel! We’ve run it over with a car, dropped a bowling ball on it, and shot at it with a gun. Oh, it also sat it water for two days, and worked just fine when we pulled it out.

8watt, 12watt, 16watt solar chargers

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, if you need a solar panel for any outdoor activity, these are pretty awesome. And, if you back the project, not only will you get a great charger, you will help fund my work. Yes, that’s right. Josh and I have a few projects we’d love to launch, but they depend on this Kickstarter campaign being successful. The more successful the campaign is, the more we can produce. What will we be creating? It may be programmable drawing machines, or creative robotics projects, or some combination of those (or something else.) Whatever is it, it will inspire kids (and adults) to learn and be creative and have fun.

So yes, get yourself a panel, or a power bank, or just toss a few bucks our way, and we’ll start cranking out some interesting kits. That’s the plan. Check out the video below, or head right to the Kickstarter page.

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Teensy: First Time

In case you’re wondering, this is what you see the first time a computer running Mac OX sees a Teensy (or other controller) acting as a USB HID device. (You know, like a keyboard.)

Mac OS X Keyboard

No worries, just hit the “Continue” button…

Mac OS X Keyboard

And then hit the little red dot in the upper left to close the window. Hopefully you’ll only see this the first time.

That’s it!