A lot of updates... and Fabulous Silicon will be at the World Maker Faire in NY
As usual, the time between my updates is just a little longer than I would like, but there’s been a lot going on behind the scenes that I'm excited to share with you.
First, I need to make an official statement about some “cosmetic” changes...
Shortly after the successful funding of the Kickstarter project, Alienware, and its parent company, Dell Inc. emailed me requesting that I change the logo and the name for AlienCortex AV to avoid a potential conflict in the marketplace between our respective trademarks. As a result, I've decided to change the name to "CyberCortex AV" with the logo of a Cyborg head.
I would also like to say that Dell/Alienware could have approached this issue in a variety of different ways. I'm happy to say that they did so (in my opinion) in a way that was respectful, tactful, and in recognition of the fact that Fabulous Silicon’s use of the word ”Alien” or the Alien Cortex logo was never used in bad faith or with any intention of conflicting with Alienware’s marks.
So with that said, I’ve had to send Zarcon back to the Andromeda galaxy, in favor of our new mascot, Cyborg Bob:
In the coming few days, the pics and videos will be updated on Kickstarter and the Fabulous Silicon site to also reflect the change.
Now onto some other updates and developments…
I’m being told by the manufacturer that assembly of your boards is well underway, and are just a few days from being shipped. From there, they should then take about four days to get to me, at which point I’ll be taking a few days to thoroughly test them all and then get them shipped out to you. (I may even be getting an official “ship date” from the manufacturer some time in the next day or so.)
After validating the original design, there were a few minor things that I would have wanted to implement if I'd have had more time. Fortunately, the two week delay in waiting for the IDT RAM chips just barely gave me the extra time I needed to get those extra features and enhancements added to CyberCortex AV and test the new prototype while the factory was waiting for the parts to arrive. I’m happy to say that these features will all be included with your boards.
The new features are:
- The USB jack has been changed to a low-profile mini-USB
jack. This was done because the normal
USB jack kept getting in the way of the other shields I’ve been developing. (e.g. the solder joints on the bottom of the
shield would short against the metal housing of the jack.)
- The 1A voltage regulator has been upgraded to a 1.5A
voltage regulator. The 1A regulator was
fine when using the board independently, but started to choke when using one of
the Xreme cores with higher current devices like WIFI, a GLCD, Zigbee, etc… especially if
you’re wanting to use a lot of these things at once. And what’s the use of having all those
pins if you don’t have enough power to put them to good use?
- The newer voltage regulator does generate quite a bit more heat
when carrying higher current loads.
Since the regulator and the surrounding PCB area can get pretty toasty, I’ve
asked my friend Ted Crawford to design a custom low-profile
aluminum heatsink for the 5V regulator to keep every running nice and cool. These are almost ready, and will also be
added to the boards before they ship.
- The SPI connector has been changed from a male header to a female
header in order to be consistent with the rest of the connectors on the board. In addition, I added another independent CS
line, so there are now four pins instead of the original three. It’s also worth mentioning that the SPI
connector is 3.3V instead of 5V, like the rest of the connectors on the
board. (This was always the case, but I
just don’t think this was ever mentioned in the original KS project.) The reason for choosing 3.3V instead of 5V
for the SPI connector stems from the fact that most SPI peripherals I’ve worked
with run at 3.3V, including things like SD Card adaptors, Color TFT displays,
etc. If you’re using a 5V SPI device,
most of those should also work on these pins, so long as you put a current
limiting resistor (390 ohms) in series on the MISO line.
- I’ve changed the color of all the jumpers to yellow. While I can’t give you a technical reason
why, I could just swear that the board seems to work better with yellow
- CyberCortex AV will also now be including rubber feet on
the bottom of the board to help avoid anything shorting or zapping the ram chip
or other parts on the bottom of the board.
- The self-resetting fuse for USB power has now been increased to allow for
up to 1.1A, as per a request by Bob C. This
will not provide as much protection to your computer if you do anything particularly
scary with CyberCortex while it’s being powered from your PC or Mac, but it
will be more accommodating if you want to power the board with something like
an iPhone charger in higher current applications. Fortunately, most modern computers are really
quite well protected themselves against any shorting on the power rails with
their own internal self-resetting fuses, so the fuse was really only was just providing
a secondary layer of protection.
Now on to some really cool announcements that I've been waiting to tell you about:
One of the things I’ve been wanting to do for quite a while is to design and build a robot using CyberCortex AV with my niece and nephew, and blog about our project for others interested build their own bots.
(My six year old nephew has already assigned himself to the role of “lead project manager”, and has spec’d out a design to be something akin to a cybernetic automaton that could be a “destroyer of worlds”. I just haven’t had the heart to tell him that he should probably expect something that might only be mildly intimidating to a small or midsize household family pet.)
Naturally, with all of the I/O on CyberCortex AV, my hope was to really soup this thing up with all the motors, sensors, and armor piercing lasers I could get my hands on. A problem that quickly came about is the fact that you can only stack so many shields before things start to get messy and all the shields always seem to want to use the same pins. This really wasn’t ideal.
Rather than having a design that looked like a hairball of wires from C-3PO’s belly, I decided to develop a new shield to help provide us with a little bit more elegant solution… SpiderMega. (BTW - I had to laugh the other day when I realized that all my product names, and even the company name could have also been Marvel Comic book superheros or supervillains). :
SpiderMega allows you to connect up to eight of MikroElektronika’s IDC10 boards (6 Digital and 2 Analog) to CyberCortex AV simultaneously, and easily. You don’t have to re-route conflicting pins, and the IDC10 cables allow you to spread things out, rather than towering boards up on top of each other.
The SpiderMega board will be available in two flavors: Regular and stackable. Those who just want to use MikroElektronika’s accessory boards, and don’t use Arduino shields can just get the regular version. Since there’s really not that much to SpiderMega other than signal routing, a reset button, and some headers, the regular “non-stackable” version will be pretty inexpensive.
The “stackable” version (shown in the pictures) allows you to use Arduino shields at the same time as using MikroElektronika boards. (Naturally, the limitation is that you just can’t use any MikroElektronika accessories on the same port pins being used by an Arduino shield.)
For some reason, the stackable headers themselves are a bit pricey…. such to the extent that outfitting the board with stackable headers almost doubles the price, which is why I’m going to make it available both ways.
In addition to solving the “pin contention” problems all to common with traditional shields, there are a few other benefits to using SpiderMega with the IDC10 Mikro boards:
- MikroElektronika accessory boards already have built-in
library support and code examples built into the mikroBasic, mikroC, and
mikroPascal compilers, as they do with their existing development boards. When using these compilers, you’ll
find it a breeze to easily implement things like Ethernet, Wifi, MP3, and other
functionality that might otherwise be a pain to work with.
- The MikroElektronika accessory boards are very reasonably
priced (often times less than a lot of comparable shields with similar
- SpiderMega also works with other Mega form-factor boards, thereby allowing users of the Arduino Megas, Digilent’s chipKIT, and others to also connect and use most of MikroElektronika’s accessory boards.
In the coming few months, I’ll be compiling a compatibility list of the boards (both Arduino shields and Mikro boards) that I’ve confirmed as CyberCortex AV compatible. (This should theoretically be most all of them that are 5V compatible).
I’ve also worked out an arrangement with MikroElektronika to begin carrying their accessory boards on the Fabulous Silicon website, and there will be a lot of fun projects and tutorials that I’ll be putting together to further support those who are using these boards.
World Maker Faire
I'm excited to say that Fabulous Silicon will be at the World Maker Faire in New York City this month on the 17th and 18th demonstrating CyberCortex AV (Maker #6548), and how to use it in various ways. I hope to see you there!!
All CyberCortex AV users are encouraged to register and be a part of MikroElektronika's recently launched LibStock community. LibStock allows you to share and exchange code and ideas with other users of mikroBasic, mikroC, and mikroPascal. Check it out...
More to come...
There are still a few things (including a couple of exciting new shields) that I'll be able to announce soon, so stay tuned.
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