Category: Tech Rants

I received my Chameleon AVR dev-kits yesterday and immediately started going through the manual. On top of processor-specific data sheets, e-books, sample code and other documents there is a ~300page manual written specifically on the Chameleon design and operation. The Chameleon comes pre-loaded with a little test application/game. I decided to film it briefly in order to demo what the board is capable of. Here is the default game displayed on a TV via NTSC, audio is through the TV but the mic on my camcorder isn’t great so it’s a bit low and input to the game was via PS2 keyboard.

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…still waiting.

I just received a shipping notice yesterday for my Chameleons. Ordered 4/16, shipped on 5/3… and they were in stock. Luckily, going by the description, they’re jam-packed with so much awesome that I’m not that bothered by the delay, I just can’t wait to get them 🙂 That being said my new Emotiv project should start to take shape shortly. I’ll probably post some general pics/videos of the chameleons and some of the default/test projects before I move on to my Emotiv game, so stay tuned for a quick review once I get it.

In other news, I got a quote back on those VGA displays from Kopin… and they’re pretty much out of their minds. I fully understand that companies charge more for a quantity of 1 than they do of 1000, but when I saw a fully finished product that made use of TWO Kopin VGA displays sell in its entirety for under $350, I figured 50% of that would be about what I’d pay for the display, possibly a bit less since I figured this other company would charge extra for all of the other parts/components as well as R&D. To my dismay, ordering 1 kopin display directly from them would cost me over $400 (400+taxes+duties to be exact), which is MORE than purchasing a finished product containing TWO of these things elsewhere. What was even more interesting was that the website clearly lists the driver IC in both a TQFP and BGA package and in the quote I was sent, I was informed that it was ONLY available in BGA. Long story short, I’ve decided to order the finished product and rip it apart. Not only will it save me TONS on the cost but it will also provide me with a PCB that I can work with since I’ve never hand-fabbed and soldered a board for a BGA chip before.

Sorry for so much “nothing” for so long, I hope to have some more “awesome” posted shortly 🙂


Well, I received the parts I ordered from Hong Kong as well as some ELM327 chips and I’ve got some great ideas for my next few projects. Unfortunately they both involve using the Chameleon dev kits I have ordered and I’m still waiting for those :(.

One of the projects will be a new Emotiv based video game project that should be a lot of fun to build/test. If the initial prototype works as well as I expect it to I may end up adding an XPORT to the board and making it “interwebs” compatible.

The other project I have planned will make use of the other Chameleon interfaced with an ELM327 chip that will poll my truck’s MCU. [Yeah, I know, it’s not as cool as writing all the VPW code myself… but $19 for a pre-made multi-protocol solution makes sense to me] The plan is to use the NTSC output I generate with the car’s computer values (mph/kph, throttle%, mass air flow, etc.) from the Chameleon to a .4″ 640*480 VGA display mounted in a pair of sunglasses to make a little portable HUD. I’m assuming I’ll be able to adjust the opacity so that it doesn’t become obstructive to the driver’s view… but we’ll see how it goes. Worst case scenario I’ll have a portable DVD player that can overlay onto a pair of sunglasses for the plane rides to HOPE and Defcon this summer 😀 [Which probably wouldn’t be bad considering the manufacturer claims these displays are like watching a 60″ TV from 10′ away]


Chameleon Invasion

So I’ve been on quite the shopping rampage lately ordering some parts, several books and I just now ordered a few new dev. kits that I can’t wait to play with! As I was reading my new issue of Circuit Cellar I saw an article about a development board that contains an Atmel AVR 328P *AND* a Parallax Propeller. I’ve been wanting to play with the propeller for quite some time now, but just never got around to ordering one. The board is from Nurve Networks and it is called the Chameleon.

I should also note that it also comes with a PIC in place of the AVR, but the fact that the AVR comes pre-loaded with the Arduino bootloader and that there are already Arduino libraries for the platform looks really interesting! I have ordered two boards and I think I’m going to try an experiment to create the same project on both boards, one using the Arduino bootloader/IDE/libraries and one without to post a comparison of the time required to complete each.

Some of the board’s features include:

  • 2 Processors for a total of 9 processing cores
  • 1MB Flash, 64K EEPROM
  • NTSC/PAL video output as well as VGA interface
  • Audio out
  • PS2 port for interfacing with keyboard/mouse

Take into account that the entire package is currently going for less than $60 and it looks even more impressive. As always, I’ll post on any projects/experiences once I get them in 😀


Done is the Engine of More

I have been getting questions asking me why my prototypes are often quickly thrown together and why I don’t put more effort into prettying them up. I believe Bre Pettis and Kio Stark were bang-on when they wrote “The Cult of Done Manifesto.

It reads as follows:

“1. There are three states of being. Not knowing, action and completion.
2. Accept that everything is a draft. It helps to get it done.
3. There is no editing stage.
4. Pretending you know what you’re doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you’re doing even if you don’t and do it.
5. Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.
6. The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done.
7. Once you’re done you can throw it away.
8. Laugh at perfection. It’s boring and keeps you from being done.
9. People without dirty hands are wrong. Doing something makes you right.
10. Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.
11. Destruction is a variant of done.
12. If you have an idea and publish it on the internet, that counts as a ghost of done.
13. Done is the engine of more.”


I have finally gotten around to re-writing some of my old code and re-recording a proper demo of controlling physical objects using thoughts by interfacing an EEG headset with an Arduino. While this technology is interesting and exciting, before anyone sees this as an endorsement for this particular EEG headset, I strongly recommend reading my full review of the device below. Those of you who have no interest in purchasing such a device can simply enjoy the show :D.

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I have been having some timing issues with my Panasonic IR protocol library that I’ve been working on, so I decided to put the project on hold while I awaited the delivery of my new USBEE logic analyzer. When I initially ordered the device I must have had a brain-fart because I neglected to change UPS from the default shipper. When it arrived yesterday I was blown away to find that on top of the $20 delivery charge they wanted $59 for duties on a $130 item. That’s right… $79 to ship a $130 item that fits into a small envelope. I’ll admit that my jaw almost hit the ground, but I’ll guarantee that it wasn’t 1/2 as funny as the driver’s face when I told him I wasn’t paying it and that I refused delivery. I have known for a very long time that UPS charges insane brokerage rates for cross-border items and am usually very careful not to order anything shipped by them. I was fully expecting to pay ~$30 or so over and above the $20 in shipping, but this was just too much.

The upshot of all of this is that I saved over $130 because instead of re-ordering I decided to do more searching for arduino IR libraries and, thankfully, found one on Ken Shirriff’s blog here. The Panasonic protocol isn’t included in the library, but luckily a user posted code for it in the comments below. I have yet to actually test this out, but I’m hopeful that it will go well. In the meantime I’ve decided to wait until the Client Software for the Open Bench Logic Sniffer has some protocol decoders completed to order one of those (sorry USBEE).

I hope to post an update on my progress (hopefully I will have a fully working unit :D) shortly.


Playing with BoF Exploits

In the last few days I’ve been doing some reading and playing around with exploits. This is a subject that has interested me for quite some time and although I’ve had a pretty good idea of how the attacks work, I’ve never actually bothered to sit down and read/learn much about it.

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An Arduino Apology

I’ll admit it… I trash talked the Arduino platform. I’ll also admit that any comments I made were entirely unfounded. Like other people I know, I equated the Arduino platform’s simplicity with “restrictiveness” and “cheesyness.” I don’t know why, but I kind of viewed it as the “VB” of microcontroller programming (ie: good for n00bs, but really bad otherwise). I used to laugh at people who had their little toolboxes with their cute cut-to-length wires and kits.

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