Making Catchup: ChainDuino, HackADay bits and Pi HATs

makingcatchupChainDuino: An interesting Arduino varient now gathering funds on Kickstarter is the ChainDuino project. Simply put it allows a number of Arduino-style microcontrollers to be chained together over CAT5 cable with that cable delivering power, using a passive Power over Ethernet mechanism, and communications, using RS-485.

This could be incredibly useful in creating a large area sensor net (current max, 32 boards) as it can stretch for up to quarter of a mile and there’s no need for power sockets along the entire length apart from where you inject the power. The ChainDuinos have two RJ45 ports on them for chaining or an IDC connector for cutting into a long uncut run of cable. That does mean there’s no space for USB on these boards so they’ll need programming over an FTDI(serial) connection… there’s no programming over the wire yet but its on the todo list. There’s also a Mega version of the board for more I/O and plans for a shield. An intruiging way of getting Arduino controllers connected.

HackADay bits: HackADay always has interesting stuff. Things that caught my attention this week are:
* the 68008 bootstrapped by an Uno – check out that breadboarding. It’s not a new technique a friend noted pointing out the Amstrad PCW8256’s Z80 was also bootstrapped from a microcontroller, the keyboard controller to be exact.
* a touch screen that balances balls – the ball rolls on the resistive touchscreen and an Arduino then rebalances it according to where it senses the ball.

Hats for Pis: Arduino’s have shields, BeagleBone’s have caps and Raspberry Pi’s have those-thingys-that-plug-onto-the-IO-pins. Well, thats how it was, but it seems the Pi folks have set out to change that with HATs – Hardware Attached on Top specifically for the Pi B+ with it’s 40 pin IO. The B+, unlike its stable mates, has mounting locations for screws with these add on boards and a specification for the board. So we get stability, physical and electrical. And now Adafruit are going all out prototyping HATs. Here’s a proto-board HAT, a GPS HAT, a TFT HAT, an Arcade HAT and a servo HAT… they aren’t available yet, but there’s going to be plenty of HATs to choose from in the future.