Using the iCEBreaker with an Open Source FPGA toolchain on OS X

iCEBreaker

iCEBreaker

When I used FPGAs in the past, e.g. for my LED Display, I was using Xilinx FPGAs with their proprietary software which unfortunately runs only under Windows or Linux. This was very inconvenient and in addition the software was slow as hell.

Fortunately a new era has begun: Open-Source FPGA toolchains! It was started some time back by Clifford Wolf, who first wrote a synthesis tool called Yosys and later reverse-engineered the bitstream format for Lattice iCE-40 FPGAs. Recently a new place-and-route tool called nextpnr was developed as well. Continue reading

USB charging adapter for bench power supplies

USB charging adapter

USB charging adapter

Many gadgets and tools nowadays run from 5 V and incorporate an USB port for that purpose. When developing those devices powering them from a bench power supply is usual very handy as current can be easy monitored and limited. For that purpose I wanted to create a small adapter which plugs into my bench power supplies and offers an USB type A plug.

The power and current a device may draw from an USB port is limited and follows complex rules depending on the state of USB enumeration. Many devices ignore those rules and just draw 100 mA or 500 mA independently of USB enumerate state. This works for most power providing devices and almost all USB chargers/power supplies. If more current is needed the power supply needs to signal extra capability to the device. As most USB chargers are rather dump a simple solution, or to be exact many simple solutions were invented. The device that wants to draw current checks the status of the D+ and D- signal lines immediately after attach. Continue reading

LED Display

LED display @ Maker Faire

LED display @ Maker Faire

Last year I mentioned a long term project I'm working on: A huge LED display built out of 32x32 LED RGB matrix modules driven by a BeagleBone Black, which could drive the display like a usual monitor using a framebuffer driver. After many months and just right before Maker Faire 2015 in Hanover I managed to bring the project in a presentable state. This article shall give an overview over the project. Continue reading

Maker Faire Hannover 2015

Dieses Wochenende fand die dritte Maker Faire in Hannover statt und nachdem ich 2013 und 2014 nur als Besucher vor Ort war, habe ich mich dieses Jahr auf dem Stand des Chaos Computer Club Hannover als Maker versucht. Bei uns am Stand gab es neben einem Lötworkshop viele Bastelprojekte zu sehen: Unter anderem hatten wir verschiedene selbst-gebaute Tastaturen, Snake auf Flipdot Displays, Multiplayer Tetris auf einem LED Laufschriftmodul, einen LED-Effekt-Koffer, meine Time Circuits und mein LED Display dabei. Das am Stand viel blinkte und es viel auszuprobieren gab, waren wir die ganze Zeit von vielen Kids und Junggebliebenen belagert, welche entweder für sie neue Spiele (Die 'Jugend' kennt kein Tetris mehr) oder Altbekanntes ausprobieren wollten.
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