THE PIC CLUB

The PIC Club is the popular name of the Programming Special Interest Group of
the Sydney PC & Technology User Group.

A PIC is a Programmable Interface Circuit, or microprocessor.

We discuss microprocessor programming and project design.

The PIC Club meets 6pm-8pm, on the second Tuesday of each month.

Sydney Mechanics School of Arts,
280 Pitt Street, Sydney.

Admission is free.

Come and show your projects, and see some others. We have a computer with a projector, so bring along picture files of your project and we'll project them on the wall. We have a broadband internet connection, so discussion can be wide ranging.

The next meeting will be on Tuesday June 6 at 6pm. We'll see some new microprocessor applications and programming examples.

Past meetings:

2017

At the May meeting Anthony reviewed the techniques of editing a website. He discussed web page layout, the historical use of HTML, and the move to separate structure from presentation by using CSS. He demonstrated source code version control, using the revision control tool Git, and the online repository Bitbucket. Future presentations will cover web site configuration and optimisation.

At the April meeting Alex showed a schematic he designed using EasyEDA, the free online schematic, circuit simulator and PCB design program, and discussed a game he wrote using the Arduino and a cooperative task scheduler.

At the March meeting Andrew showed how the PIC12 could be used to charge lithium Ion batteries. This type of battery requires a charging sequence of constant current followed by constant voltage. A PIC processor does not have an analogue output so pulse width modulation has to be used, with an LM317 voltage regulator. Also temperature rise has to be restricted as otherwise Lithium ion batteries can explode.
However, he said, as in so many applications these days a chip is available that can do all this. This one costs just over $1! It is the Microchip MCP73831T-2ACI/OT, a single cell controller.

At the February meeting Steve talked about the STM32 ARM Cortex, and developing code online:
Microchip's free C compiler is limited in many ways (bloated executable code, perverted time delays, limited size code, printf won't print floats). So he looked around for other devices that had better free of charge software support.
The STM32 processor range is very popular, with good specifications and prices. He bought an STM32 Nucleo-F411RE (ARM Cortex M4) development board for $20 delivered from RS Components. 100MHz, 512K flash, lots of IO, AtoD, timers etc.
The board includes the ST-Link programmer and debugger which can be snapped off and used separately.
ARM operate an online IDE (Integrated Development Environment) and C/C++ compiler that is free to use. This avoids many of the hassles related to installing and configuring software tools like IDEs and compilers, since it is all online and accessed via your browser.
The programmer appears as a USB device on your PC, and when you save a binary to it the microcontroller gets programmed.
Some downsides are:
No internet connection means you can't program or compile.
Your code is in the cloud. It is only public if you make it so, but it is still less secure than programming on your own stand alone PC.
Sometimes the ARM compiler is very busy, and compiling a short program takes 30 seconds or more, but usually compiling is less than 5 seconds.

At the January meeting we were told of Einstein's description of telegraphy and radio. Telegraphy is like a very long cat. You squeeze its tail in New York and it meiows in Los Angeles. Radio is just the same, except there is no cat.
Alex showed a mini stereo amplifier he built using a stamp-sized board with a 3 watt chip called the PAM8403. These are available on ebay for $1 and run off 5 volts. There is a slightly larger module which uses the 10 watt PAM8610 chip. He hooked it up between his computer and some speakers and achieved high-quality sound reproduction.
Andrew discussed 8 bit PIC16 chips that contain new peripherals, such as a 10 bit analog-to-digital converter which can do averaging and filtering functions while the CPU is in the Sleep state. The most capable of these chips is the PIC16LF18877, which has a flat program memory space of up to 56 KB and up to 4K of SRAM, extending the scope of the PIC16 family into new areas. To assist with designing systems using the various peripherals Microchip now offer MPLAB-MINDI, a circuit simulator for both analogue and switched circuits. At a future meeting this will be demonstrated in action.

2016

At the November meeting Steve said that small assemblies known as modules are available on the internet for a huge range of electronics and they are often cheaper than buying the individual components. Modules he bought lately include real time clock (RTC)+eeprom, relay+driver transistor+led, DS18B20 temperature sensor, adjustable DC-DC converter. These were all $2-$3 each and would have cost at least double that to buy the parts individually. His next project will likely include one or more modules mounted onto a base PCB alongside the processor. The only down side is the 3-4 weeks waiting time for free shipping from China, but if you can wait it is a good deal.
Andrew presented details of a means of controlling a small dc motor by using two PIC12F629 devices. One PIC12 uses short pulses to switch a power FET that applies the full drive voltage to a motor while a second PIC12 modulates this signal in two ways. Firstly it can block the pulses at any time thus allowing a fractional pulse to be applied to stop the motor at a particular position. Secondly it can request an increase in the number of pulses per second. The result is a system that, for a motor that is heavily mechanically loaded, approximates to the way a stepper motor operates in that very slow rotations are possible as well as allowing the motor to run at high speed.
Alex created a barebones Arduino system by burning a bootloader called Optiloader into a standalone ATMEGA328 chip. He used an Arduino Pro Mini to act as an ISP and loaded the Optiloader sketch into it. The Pro Mini was then connected to the ATMEGA328 via the SPI interface and the bootloader burnt into the chip. Finally, the Pro Mini was removed from the circuit and a USB-TTL serial adapter connected to the ATMEGA328 chip. Using the Arduino IDE, sketches can be uploaded to the chip as if it were an Arduino board. For more details, see
http://www.embedio.com.au/projects/DIYArduino/index.htm

At the October meeting Andrew reported he had found a more efficient way of debouncing reed switches. This is set out in Microchip's AN1450. A PIC10F322 is used to implement a delay block/debouncer. The delay can be set as short as 2 µs and can be used effectively as a noise discriminator, or for switch debouncing. The application makes use of a Configurable Logic Cell (CLC) peripheral to produce fast switching on the output. If the same application were written using port logic only, there would be multiple instruction cycles before the output would change in response to an input. Using the CLC the signal can be routed directly and only have propagation and gate delay between the input and output signals. The code has been written in assembly, and in-line (without subroutines) to maximize switching performance.
It was mentioned that Sparkfun has a way to simplify getting gerber files from Eagle files, a task that can baffle the beginner. You download SparkFun’s CAM file sfe-gerb274x.cam and load it into Eagle's CAM processor. Select it and seven gerber files are quickly generated for sending to a fab house.
Stuart showed us a board containing a surface mounted PIC of 100 pins that he had succeeded in hand soldering. He also mentioned he had found the licensed version of the HITEC C compiler for PIC much better than the free version.

At the September meeting Alex spoke about electronic paper display. This is a developing technology that mimics the appearance of ordinary ink on paper. Unlike backlit flat panel displays that emit light, electronic paper displays reflect light as paper does. They can hold static text and images indefinitely without electricity. Applications include electronic pricing labels in retail shops, digital signage, time tables at bus stations, electronic billboards, mobile phone displays, digital versions of books and magazines.
In a Skype hookup from Germany Martin spoke of the esp8266 WiFi module, a very cost effective device that has become extremely popular. It can give any microcontroller access to your WiFi network. You can simply hook it up to your Arduino device and get WiFi ability. He is using it with an arduino speech module to turn lights on.
Michael spoke of the Picaxe T4 trainer, a training board with analogue and digital inputs and a large selection of output devices. It is a convenient board for learning the Picaxe by experimenting.

At the August meeting Andrew described using an 8 pin PIC to de-bounce a switch. His project had reed switches that can produce several rapid contact closures, rather than just the one they should. This is a common problem today when a microcontroller is used to count how many contact closures take place.
In his de-bounce program the first switch closure causes an interrupt event on a PIC12F629 input. The PIC wakes up and generates an output pulse, so masking any multiple switch bounce events, and then goes back to sleep. The width of the output pulse can be programmed to suit any type of switch. As the PIC is only running for a few milliseconds at a time the average power drain is very small. The current used by the PIC12 in the sleep condition is only about 50nA, so the design is useful for battery powered applications.
Steve gave a demonstration of controlling the Raspberry Pi and its interaction with peripherals, using the Python language. There are many good Python tutorials, for example:
https://docs.python.org/3/tutorial/index.html.
Another way to learn it is through a series of YouTube videos by "ModMyPI" called "Raspberry Pi - GPIO & Python". There are 9 videos of about 10 minutes each. He said the videos get to the point quickly, and you can learn a lot in a short time.

At the July meeting we saw how to make a solder paste stencil and a solder paste mask for PCBs by etching aluminium or copper sheet. It is good enough for small to medium quantities and much cheaper and quicker than buying in a laser cut stainless steel stencil. The procedure:
Spraypaint with circuit lacquer one side of an aluminium sheet 4 mil thick.
Bond UV sensitive film to the other side.
Print the solder paste mask on a transparency.
Expose the film to UV light through the transparency, develop, and etch away the exposed metal.
Remove the lacquer, and you have a stencil.
To make a solder mask, squeegee vaseline to the PCB through the stencil, then spray circuit lacquer over it.
Once dry, apply methylated spirits. This will wash the vaseline off, leaving a lacquer solder mask.
To use the stencil, squeegee solder paste on to the PCB through the stencil.
Place the components, and reflow the paste by placing the board on a hot frypan.

At the June meeting it was suggested that a good way to start learning programming was to try to program some LEDs as traffic lights using three microprocessors in turn: a PICaxe, an Arduino, and a Raspberry Pi. This will give you experience in Basic, C/C++, and Python. If you use traffic lights at crossroads, with the complication of pedestrian pushbuttons, the exercise can quickly lift you from beginner to intermediate level. Many examples of this coding can be found on Google.
Lyndon asked for assistance in troubleshooting a superhet radio receiver he showed us, that he had built from a kit. Members suggested testing each component working back from ground, and injecting an audio signal at the start of the audio stage. Four standard methods of troubleshooting are detailed in General Electrics' trouble.pdf on http://www.wb6nvh.com/GE/.

At the May meeting we heard of an improved way of transferring PCB artwork to the copper when using the iron-on or laminator process. Peeling off the paper from the copper blank usually results in some of the toner coming away with the paper. Instead the artwork is printed on alfoil, laminated to the copper blank, and submerged in hydrochloric acid. The acid dissolves the aluminium, leaving the toner artwork adhering to the copper, which is unaffected by the acid. The copper is then etched away by adding some hydrogen peroxide to the acid, or by other means. Precautions should be taken, working outdoors using goggles, plastic gloves and tongs, and avoiding the liquids and fumes.
Andrew showed the electronic schematic for his water meter tester, and its program. All its functions are activated by a single PIC12F629, the smallest of the PIC micros.
Martin showed a 3.5in LCD touch screen he bought on Ebay for his Raspberry Pi microcomputer.
Alex discussed some sensors, the Doppler HB100 motion sensor, a microwave sensor, radar speed detectors, ultraviolet light level sensors, and passive infrared sensors. A kit of 37 Arduino compatible sensors is available from Wiltronics.
Lino described a bugbot, a toy that can be made by fixing a telephone vibrator to the brush head, cut from a toothbrush. On activation the device scurries along like an insect. A commercial version is sold by Jaycar, part no. YG2891.

At the April meeting Andrew outlined a project for testing water meters. It requires operating electric water valves rapidly many times at exact intervals, measuring the flow, and operating switches, counters and LED indicators. He showed the specification he wrote and an outline of a PIC12 microcontroller program for it.
Michael showed us three devices he built, an angle positioner, an alarm, and a LED array, all programmed for the PICaxe. To make a PCB he runs three separate layout transparencies through a laminator, so there are three layers of etch resist on the copper. This produces a dense pattern that does not need corrections.
Alex showed us a device he built for measuring and logging small variations in atmospheric pressure. It can be used as an altimeter. He used an Arduino Pro Mini, and Task Scheduler, a template for Arduino programs.

When melting and casting chocolate into molds the timing and temperatures must be carefully controlled to avoid the formation of crystals that spoil the taste. This process, known as chocolate tempering, requires skill and patience. At the March meeting Martin showed us a chocolate temperer he built using an ATMega328P microcessor to control the temperature, a remote sensing thermostat, and a digital display. He said his device greatly simplified the procedure and improved the product.
Steve mentioned some recent developments in robotics. A company called Pololu has many new solutions for the control of stepper motors such as the ULN2003A transistor array, also the A4988, a complete microstepping motor driver, and the L293B and L293E quad push-pull drivers.
Steve also showed us how he improved the dust extraction from his wood workshop by installing a cyclone separator ahead of a vacuum cleaner. A high speed rotating airflow is established within a conical container, causing air flow in a helical pattern, beginning at the wide top end and ending at the narrow bottom end, before moving in a straight tube up the center of the cyclone and out the top. Dust particles in the rotating stream are flung against the wall of the cone, then fall to the bottom into a large can for later removal.

At the February meeting we reviewed a development relating to the solderless breadboard, that ingenious arrangement of metal conductors in a perforated plastic card that has been the starting point of PCB layouts for many years. By pushing component pins and the ends of wires into it you soon have a working test circuit of your concept. Recently a program has been developed to create a virtual solderless breadboard, humourously called Fritzing by its originators in a university in Germany. It shows an image of a breadboard on the computer screen, and you can drag images of components and wires on to it, copying the arrangement you have tested on the breadboard. A schematic layout and a PCB layout can be derived automatically by mouse clicks. The library of components is large, and includes surface mount components.
We discussed the Arduino, a breakout board for the ATMega328P microcessor. All its pins are brought out to connectors so you can attach components. The micro comes preloaded with a bootloader that allows it to be programmed simply from a PC. Prewritten programs can be selected from a large library and simply pasted in, saving much programming effort. We saw how a microprocessor can be used by itself on a small PCB, separate from the Arduino board, after you've added the bootloader and a program. This is done by wiring the micro on a breadboard in parallel with the active pins of an Arduino. A smaller micro can be used, such as the 8 pin ATTiny45, when fewer pins are sufficient. An internet video called Shrinkify showed how to do this.

At the January meeting we discussed the difficulties the home PCB builder has in soldering surface mount boards, as their pads are so small and some can't even be reached with a soldering iron. One option is to use a toaster oven, but this requires microcontroller control of the temperature gradients, due to the risk of the infrared rays from the overhead heating elements melting the components. An alternative is to use an electric frying pan, with a pyrex lid. Here the problem is avoided as the heat comes from below. You add solder paste to the pads, place the components on the paste, put the board on the hot pan and close the lid. The board slowly heats up and after a minute or so you see the solder paste melt and disperse as its tin and lead components form a liquid alloy. It is a property of hot liquid tin alloys that they will dissolve metals when they reach the alloy temperature. And soon you see the liquid alloy rapidly shrink to the pads and pins as it dissolves into their surfaces, forming more liquid alloys. You remove the lid, and the inrush of cold air solidifies the liquid. The board can be removed. You have soldered it at a low temperature.
Alex showed the upgrade he made to his computer load monitor he showed us last month. He improved the display by replacing the voltmeter with an ammeter and a comparator, and replaced the backing with a percentage scale he made.
Les spoke of some board games he has written.
Shane showed us a webpage on Hackaday about a CNC assisted hand held router. CNC motors in the tool adjust the position of the cutter to stay on the set path.

2015

At the December meeting Steve spoke about learning to use the Arduino microcontroller, and showed us the Arduino controlled moving message display he built. He said it took him a fraction of the time it would have taken to code it from scratch.
Alex showed a circuit he built and coded to display the variations of the computer load on an analogue voltmeter.
Jon spoke of C.H.I.P., the $9 computer launched recently with Kickstarter. As well as being a small, cool inexpensive computer, it claims to be a complete system for building projects that require remote control, network connectivity, and interfacing with people and the environment.

At the November meeting Alex spoke about the ESP8266 Module, a chip that can give any microcontroller access to a WiFi network. Each ESP8266 module comes programmed so it can simply be hooked up to an Arduino device to get wireless internet access. He discussed a new development kit, the NodeMCU board, that is based on the ESP8266 chip, and has many extra capabilities. However it uses the Lua scripting language, and he replaced that with an Arduino-compatible runtime program and showed how to build and run some simple WiFi applications.
Steve reported that the Joey project described last month had achieved its Kickstarter target and was now entering the production phase. Another Australian project that began with Kickstarter is the Argentum desktop 3D printer that can print circuit boards. The project has raised plenty of money and the printers will ship to buyers in a couple of months.

At the October meeting David showed an LED display he and Steve developed that sits off the side of a Raspberry Pi mini computer. Called the Joey, it is a compact 4 digit LED display that makes it easy for Raspberry Pi projects to show numbers such as readings, a counter, or a clock, without restricting the use of other expansion boards. David is in the process of raising funds for the Joey through Kickstarter, the crowd-funding website.
Steve talked about some other Kickstarter projects he has seen. These are in the domain of the Internet of Things.
* The Goodnight Lamp, a wifi-enabled lamp that lets far-apart families and friends keep in touch.
* Toymail. Colourful toys that connect wirelessly with your home Wi-Fi network. You can send messages to kids' toys from your phone. The toys will speak the messages, and kids can reply.
* The Air Quality Egg. A small inexpensive device that allows anyone to collect high resolution readings of NO2 and CO concentrations in the atmosphere and send them over Wi-Fi to a data service. There the data from many people using Eggs is assembled and analysed, and the results are freely accessible.
Martin spoke about OpenCV, a suite of powerful computer vision tools. He has installed it on his Raspberry Pi, and he demonstrated its ability to recognise faces.

At the September meeting David talked about his visit to China, where he was shown through factories making enhanced Raspberry Pi type computers. He was told of their plans to increase the capability of these small devices.
Steve discussed the Internet of Things. By embedding technology in things they are made to autonomously flow data to and from other such devices, causing them to change their behaviour, and so lead to a vast increase in automation.

At the August meeting we were joined by Martin on Skype from Germany. If you have ever attended our meetings you can participate by arranging a Skype connection.
Martin talked about his Pebble Time Steel watch. With a glance to his wrist he can see emails, messages, and texts, make voice notes and quick replies. And tell the time.
Alex talked about the IOIO development board. It has a PIC microcontroller that allows you to interface an Android device or a PC to a microprocessor circuit and program it.
We were also shown the Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8.0". For a user new to the Android system used by this tablet it is helpful to take the free 1 hour course offered by Samsung in their stores.

At the June meeting Andrew presented a paper on the pros and cons of using Forth. His paper was adapted from several web sources including Howard Oakford's Forth vs C. Forth is a tiny computer language used in the days when computer memory was small, and was bypassed by C and other languages when memory increased. As microcontrollers have small memories there is a case for running them on Forth. Andrew showed a program he wrote in both Basic and in Forth, for comparison.
Steve spoke about Internet Protocol addresses. An IP address is an identifier for a computer or a device on a network. By using an IP Address Lookup tool such as IPGP you can trace the location of a computer that contacts you or visits your website. If you have been bothered by illegal spammers and hackers you can report them to their Internet Service Provider and get them stopped.
Martin showed some of the hardware he has been using as peripherals to microcontrollers in projects he has designed. He showed stepper motors, clock modules, GPS, PIR, LED displays, ultrasound, current transformers, Nordic radio links, RFID tags to open doors, RC522 ID cards, PM532, SIM card holders, and light sensors. These were just a sample of the hardware he has been able to control with microcontrollers.

At the May meeting we heard a suggestion for designing PCBs as lids for boxes. The idea is to mount your PCB as the lid of a box. On the top side of the lid board are mounted the parts that need to be accessible, such as switches, LEDs, in/out connectors. These are through-hole components. Also on the top are the labels and logos, as a top silkscreen. On the bottom side are all the components that do not need to be accessed, such as resistors, capacitors, ICs, and these are surface mounted. The PCB is simply screwed to the box in place of its lid. In many cases no additional wiring is required, and the result is a professional look. For more details see The PCB as a lid.
Alex introduced us to the mikroelektronika range of Click Boards. These are compact and powerful boards that plug into sockets, adding new functionality to a development board. There are over 100 Click Boards available, allowing developers to easily implement features such as Bluetooth, temperature sensing, humidity sensing and analog-to-digital conversion. There is also the MikroE Buggy, a four-wheeled motorized development platform. You just attach a Click Board and you have a prototype.
David and Steve spoke of a device they are working on for retrieving IP addresses.

At the April meeting Martin showed a circuit board he built to run as a RFID card reader. He also discussed a problem with a circuit for a power supply to a servo.
Geoff showed a power supply he bought on ebay. With independently adjustable voltage and current over a range of 0-30v, it was good value at $65.
Alex explained how he obtained an Amateur Radio Certificate. He bought the amateur radio Standard License course from the Radio and Electronics School, http://res.net.au/. The course has a wide range of useful information and tests, and offers a CD giving a good introduction to radio and electronics. As well, he joined the Waverley Amateur Radio Society to learn more about the subject.
A forthcoming meeting of the Ozberrypi meetup group was announced.

At the March meeting Martin presented a new version of his Boarding House Door Controller, designed for surface mount components.
Andrew talked about FlashForth, a Forth programmer for the PIC and ATmega. FlashForth is a free download from Sourceforge. The whole system only needs a PIC24 IC with a few external components, a PC running a terminal emulation, and a USB serial cable. If you're interested in trying Forth here's a chance to give it a go.
David showed his KickStarter project "The Wombat", a prototyping breadboard expansion for the Raspberry Pi. The Wombat provides some features that improve the Pi, such as clear labels for each pin of the GPIO, a more powerful 3.3V power supply, and a built in console (USB-Serial) interface. There are also some handy LEDs, push buttons, and a trim pot for easy software testing. He showed the Wombat video on the KickStarter web page. Kickstarter is a global crowdfunding platform based in the United States. The company’s stated mission is to help bring creative projects to life.

At the February meeting Geoff showed a simple timing mechanism using an Arduino. Using only simple code, it can provide interval timing anywhere from a millisecond to a month. The code can be seen at satin.com.au/pic/arduino.
Lino showed a Rheem tap that controls instant boiling or chilled water using an opto switch, and an alternative design using a reed switch.
Michael mentioned his lack of success in finding Kiwi Patch, a prototyping board made in New Zealand by Surplustronics. Someone with contacts in NZ offered to get one for him.
David demonstrated debugging a PIC using a PICKit3.

At the January meeting Alex presented a paper on the Internet of Everything, IoE. This is an improvement on the Internet of Things, IoT. The trouble with IoT is that communication between devices is only possible when they use the same proprietary data standards and application programming interface (API). For example, Google’s NEST smoke alarm can share data back and forth, however a home surveillance system made by a different vendor cannot relay information (say on flames in the shed) to the Nest devices. The search is on for a standard way to connect and communicate among all devices out there. IoE is one attempt at universal data connectivity. Some of its protocols are well known, such as SPI, Zigbee, IPv4, HTTP, but there is a large and growing number, and adoption of a standard seems far away.
We discussed some details about PIC programming. Some PICs, such as the 16F62A, have no debugger built in, so require an external debugger, as provided in the PICkit3. We examined different methods of putting delays between instructions for an LCD display.

2014

At the December meeting David showed a clock array driven by a Raspberry Pi A+ microcomputer. He showed the program he wrote for it after installing the Python GPIO library. It was a much simpler program than would be required if he had used a microprocessor instead of the Pi. Hours of programming were saved by spending a little more on the hardware.
Andrew showed a device he made to quickly verify the wiring setup of a large set of complex connectors. He used the smallest 8 pin PIC12 and a LED, and programmed it using the free Mikrobasic compiler. The wiring of the connectors was verified by just plugging them in and getting a green light.
Steve explained the uses of Dropbox. He uses it to remotely access his computer files from his smartphone, and to collaborate with people remotely, and to share large files.
Alex made a sound and video recording of the meeting on his smartphone.

At the November meeting Martin discussed pdf2gerb, a Perl script that converts specially-formatted PDF files to Gerber and NC Drill formats. He also showed us a transmitter/receiver he built using the Nordic Semiconductor nRF 24201 chips, useful for short distance remote control.
Alex showed a video of how he repaired a cordless drill, made with his iPhone camera. and showed how to embed the video in a webpage.
David showed the final upgrade of his Raspberry Pi prototyping board, with a double solderless breadboard embedded in a PCB. He showed how to use Windows Device Manager to find COM ports, and used the prototyper to test two Serial Bus Interfaces working in parallel.
Martin mentioned the meetings of Ozberry at the Solidifier office at 66 Oxford St Darlinghurst. Ozberry is a group of enthusiasts who build internet connected things using open source hardware and software on various platforms, such as Arduino, RaspberryPi, Beaglebone, Open WRT, Teensy, Android. More details of this group can be seen at ozberrypi.org.

At the October meeting David showed some features he had added to the prototyping board he is building for his Raspberry Pi microcomputer. He said the final PCB would not mount the Pi, but a connector that accepts the Pi's smaller compute module. He also demonstrated a recent improvement in the Eagle PCB drawing program, and said one of his reasons to prefer Eagle was that its component library contains all the components sold by Element 14, saving much drawing time.
Andrew showed how he had solved a problem that arose whilst programming a loop for the PIC12.
Steve demonstrated how to control power points from a browser over the internet using WebIOPi software, a Raspberry Pi microcomputer, and Kambrook Powerpoint Adapters with Remote Control. WebIOPi allows the GPIO pins of a Pi to be controlled from a browser. The power points are switched by relays wired between the Pi and the powerpoint adapter switches.
Lino demonstrated a technique of desoldering tiny surface mounted components using a hot air gun and a microscope.

At the September meeting David showed a prototyping board he is building for his Raspberry Pi model B+ microcomputer. He connected all 40 In/Out pins to a header next to a solderless breadboard. He fitted the board with an 8 channel analog to digital converter, as the Pi does not accept analog inputs. He added a potentiometer for testing analog input, a couple of LEDs and pushbuttons for testing digital In/Out states, connections for a serial console cable, and a 3.3V regulator. For a particular project additional components would be added, and++ a program would be written into the Pi. The circuit and the program would be tested on the prototyping board and then a PCB would be made for mounting the Pi and those components needed for the project.

At the August meeting Andrew discussed the charging of lithium-ion batteries. The ideal method is constant current charging followed by constant voltage charging. He showed us a charging circuit he built using a PIC12, and discussed the mikrobasic program he wrote for it.
Lino demonstrated a vapour phase soldering station he built, using it to solder surface mount components to a PCB, a task that would require skill and time using a soldering iron. An electric hotplate was used to vapourize a liquid inside a pot, and the PCB with the components mounted on it with solder paste was lowered into the vapour. The solder paste melted, neatly soldering the tiny pins to their copper pads.
The liquid was selected for its boiling point of around 200 degrees, which is above the melting point of the solder paste but below that of electronic components. As the vapour is in contact with its parent liquid its temperature does not rise beyond its boiling point and so cannot damage components. The vapour condenses on the PCB assembly, transferring its latent heat at constant temperature, melting the solder paste.
Johnny discussed a paper by Morimoto et al on ways of maintaining optimal performance from interior permanent magnet synchronous motors in applications where the speeds vary widely.

At the July meeting Martin, attending the meeting by Skype from Jakarta, told us he devised and installed a system to monitor the occupancy status of the rooms and car park of a motel. He has now set up a portable router and modem that will allow him to read the system from the internet. The hardware is a USB 3G modem and a TP-Link MR3020 router that he programmed with OpenWRT.
Alex demonstrated try-catch, a macro he uses in C programming and embedded C, to reveal events that disrupt the normal flow of a program's instructions. He also showed us a crimper tool from Jaycar that will work on very small pins.
Steve showed a video of some PCBs undergoing wave soldering.

At the June meeting Martin showed how he motorised a motel carpark gate and using OpenWRT enabled guests to open it with their RFID room keys.
He also introduced us to OzBerryPi, a monthly meetup of people in Sydney who build internet connected things using open source software and hardware. They build projects with Arduino, RaspberryPi, Beaglebone, OpenWRT, Teensy, Android and various microcontrollers.
Christopher explained the details of registering a domain name.

At the May meeting Steve showed us how he enabled his computer to control his house lights and appliances. He used the free terminal emulator, PuTTY, to connect his computer to a Raspberry Pi using the command line interface. To connect using a GUI the Virtual Network Computing (VNC) would be used. He used webi0pi to control the in/out pins of the Pi through this web interface. The Pi was then connected to a Kambrook Powerpoint Adapter With Remote Control. He can switch any appliance plugged into the adapter by using any web browser from any location.
Lino showed a video of Laser soldering. Its concentrated beam solders without spreading heat to vulnerable components.

At the April meeting Steve spoke about the Raspberry Pi and introduced us to the Pi tutorials on the element14 website.
Andrew showed how he reduced the size and cost of an old PCB by replacing many components with PIC125683 microprocessors.
Darwin showed how he is using the Nordic Semiconductor nRF 24201 transceiver to wirelessly connect equipment.

At the March meeting Andrew spoke about the numbering systems in computer languages.
Martin showed us a board he made to connect various sites via a mobile network to an internet server so they can be monitored from the internet.
Lino showed a movie from the South Australian PIC User Group of a Pick and Place machine made by one of their members.

At the February meeting Alex described his progress in making PCBs using the Toner Transfer method. He designs the artwork on Diptrace and prints it on baking paper, then sticks it to a blank board with Kapton tape. He then runs it through a laminator he modified to run at a higher temperature. The artwork is transferred to the board, and then the surrounding copper is etched away with a peroxide/hydrochloric acid mixture.
Two newcomers spoke of their interest in the Raspberry Pi, and in running the PIC32 on C and C<
Stewart demonstrated a Fortran interpreter he wrote to run on a PIC32 using double precision maths.

At the January meeting Darwin described his project of fitting a device to a motor scooter to make it sound like a Harley Davidson, and asked for assistance. This was volunteered by Lino, who has experience in sound sampling.
Martin showed his Arduino based ultrasound module for measuring distance, with LCD display, available from Jaycar. Jeff said his group at university had bought 20 of these with a view to developing an aid to the blind, to help avoid objects.

2013

At the December meeting Darwin demonstrated a method of making PCBs using a photosensitive silkscreen. The design is printed by a laser printer on to the 200 mesh screen material and then flashed with a bright light from Xenon tubes, dissolving the screen under the design. Acrylic paint is then squeegeed through the silkscreen on to the copper, and when it is dry the surrounding copper can be etched away. The screen can be washed clean by water and reused many times.
Johnny showed pictures of the setup he is using to test an electric motor prototype at the UNSW. The motor is a 550w Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor intended for electric cars. His tests simulated various conditions and generated a power and torque vs speed graph. He also discussed some of the issues that arise in manufacturing various motors of this type.
Andrew spoke about the real time calendar clock in the PIC24. He uses the 8 bit register to adjust the rate of the clock and so improve the accuracy of time measurement.

At the November meeting we discussed ways of using an iPhone to wirelessly control a Raspberry Pi. They are a natural pair in the world of miniature computing, as the Pi lacks a keyboard and a screen that can be provided by the iPhone. The iPhone could select and run programs already stored in the Pi. We looked for examples on the internet.
Darwin demonstrated a system for etching names on aluminium and stainless steel, using a microcontroller etching device he designed. Under the control of a PIC, bursts of AC and DC are passed through an electrolyte applied to the metal by a sponge through a stencil. His demo can be seen on his website here. More details can be seen here and here.
Andrew discussed the Data Logger he designed around a PIC24. He has used this cheap device to perform several of the functions previously only available from very expensive multitasking equipment.

At the October meeting there was a discussion of new hardware and software available for use with the Raspberry Pi credit card sized computer. The web site www.meetup.com was used to show how to locate other groups interested in the Pi. The open source package openWRT that had been demonstrated at an earlier meeting this year on a small router device was also discussed as it can also be used with the Raspberry Pi. A free computer vision package called openCV that works with the Pi was also mentioned. A new form of computer memory, the resistive RAM or RRAM was discussed. Details were seen at http://www.crossbar-inc.com/technology/resistive-ram-overview.html . This will be faster, lower powered and lower cost than flash memory and should give rise to new forms of portable products, as a Terabyte of RRAM can be made the size of a postage stamp.

At the September meeting David spoke of his PIC microcontroller tutorials published on gooligum.com.au. The tutorials have been revised to cope with the new MPLAB X development environment, the PICkit 3 programmer, and Microchip's XC8 C compiler. The circuits have been updated to suit the Gooligum training and development board. Alex opened a discussion on cheap 3D printers, and we looked at the "Printrbot" at printrbot.com, and the "MakiBox" at makibox.com. Martin showed the changes to his hotel door lock circuit to use a small servo, with a Sim card as the key. Bruce spoke about his novel car cooling system. Stuart spoke of programming a PIC32 as a Fortran interpreter.

At the August meeting Alex showed us the Wiltronics website. Wiltronics has been appointed authorised distributor of Picaxe products in Australia. They also have a large range of Raspberry Pi bundles, books, accessories and peripherals.
Wayne drew a circuit to control kilowatt loads of high voltage from a small signal, as might come from a microprocessor. It uses mosfets in a darlington arrangement.
David demonstrated a PIC12F 8-Pin processor PCB he developed since the last meeting. It was designed to accept his plug-in peripheral boards such as buttons, LEDs, etc.
We also looked at SparkFun's EiBotBoard, a small PCB that controls two stepper motors from a PC over a USB connection. It contains two stepper motor drivers and a small Microchip PIC microcontroller. It can run from files written by, or imported into Inkscape, a scalable vector graphics drawing program.

At the July meeting Wayne demonstrated his PIC TV. Using precise control of the timer on a PIC12F675 he was able to generate a video, and used the projector to show on the wall readouts of a temperature monitor as an 8 segment RGB composite display.
David demonstrated some more samples of his plug-in modules that allow features to be added to circuit boards without soldering.

At the June meeting Andrew S told us of the computer setup he made with a Raspberry Pi, the $35 credit-card sized computer available from RS and Element 14 . He fitted a TV screen and a keyboard to a Pi to make a cheap desktop computer.
Martin showed a moisture sensing set up using his Raspberry Pi. The Pi lacks an analog/digital converter so he connected its serial port to a microcontroller, the Atmel AVR, that has several of them. The AVR was then connected to a moisture sensor and its readings were digitised by the AVR and displayed on a web-page by the Pi's web-server.
David showed samples of the range of plug-in boards he has developed, similar to the Arduino shields, but pluggable to any PCB.
Alex continued his tutorial on Windows 8, and has now expanded it to his web page at alexw.webhop.net/electronics.

At the May meeting Martin discussed OpenWrt, an operating system used on embedded devices to route network traffic. He showed the OpenWRT compatible TL-MR3020 portable 3G wireless router he bought.
Lino showed a movie from UNSW showing the increased arcing of DC circuits when cut, compared to AC. Also in the movie a string of solar arrays was cut to demonstrate that such an accident could result in a fire in these common installations.
Alex described the essentials of operating Windows 8, showing the use of corners and edges.
Michael showed the circuit board he made using a laminator. He pressed some special paper on to copper PC board and etched away the exposed copper. The laminator he used was a Lowell LOOL280, about $20 from Officeworks. He modified it to run at a higher temperature by replacing the thermostat and the thermal fuse with parts from RS Electronics. For more details see http://ultrakeet.com.au/write-ups/makepcbs.
Johnny spoke of his research into electric motors for cars. He gave an overview of the many different types of electric motors, and said it was accepted that the best type for this application was the IPMSM, the interior permanent magnet synchronous motor, due to its efficiency and its high torque to size ratio. He described the features of such a motor.

At the April meeting Andrew spoke of an instrument he designed for measuring the height of waves in models of ports. It records the capacitance changes in an immersed 30cm probe, caused by the presence of waves. Using a PIC 12 he was able to replace many discrete components in an earlier design, resulting in a smaller and cheaper instrument. He programmed it with the free edition of Mikrobasic. Michael discussed using the Logicator, an easy to use shareware flowcharting program used to generate Picaxe control programs. You first set up a flowchart of what you want the microprocessor to do, and the Logicator generates the required program in Pic Basic. Recent upgrades now allow it to be used with more advanced Picaxe chips.

At the March meeting Martin showed us some items he bought at bargain prices on EBay, including a stepper motor and driver for $2.50. Lino showed us some remote control devices. Geoff lead a discussion about electromagnetic interference he found while testing Michael's tea-making robot, producing some useful advice from the group. Christopher introduced us to Sparkfun's Emic-2 Text-to-Speech module, that allows a moving robot to announce status reports rather than displaying them on LCD. Steve spoke about Teleduino, featured in the current Silicon Chip magazine, a free online service that allows remote control of relays by sending commands over the internet to an Arduino board.

At the February meeting Andrew lead a discussion on overcoming some practical obstacles in programming a PIC, such as ambiguities in data sheets, conflicts in commands, inaccuracies in timers. Wayne reviewed the Color Maximite, featured recently in Silicon Chip magazine, and recommended the Commstick at around $30. Johnny showed his circuit design for an electric car: power from a battery is put through an inverter to supply alternating current to the motor. He simulated its operation under varying loads and speeds with Matlab. Julian recommended an open source Matlab-like simulator, Scilab. For symbolic logic, he suggests the Euler Math Toolbox at euler.sourceforge.net.

Attendance at the January meeting was reduced due to the record hot weather. Most came by airconditioned train or car, Martin however walked as usual from Neutral Bay to the city, enjoying the 42deg heat. He showed his Asuro robot, a small mobile robot developed for educational purposes by DLR, the German aerospace centre. He is working on making it balance on its rear wheels by having them respond to tilting by accelerometer readings through its microprocessor. He also explained how to send messages wirelessly from a microprocessor, by outputting a carrier wave to the anode of a diode and the digital coded message to its cathode.
Having passed his exams to qualify for starting a PhD, Johnny introduced its subject of motors for electric cars.
Lino spoke of the useful components that can be salvaged from a broken photocopier, and showed a lens from a photocopier. He also spoke of his application of pressure sensors and microprocessors to concertinas and accordions.

2012

At the December meeting Christopher introduced us to Netduino, an open source microcontroller platform with shields, similar to Arduino. Simple projects can be made on both systems, but the Netduino is better for advanced projects as it is faster and has more memory, and it uses the more powerful Visual C# .NET programming language. A detailed comparison of the two can be seen at netduino-vs-arduino.
Andrew showed a proximity detector he made, based on Microchip's application note AN1202. A PIC is programmed to charge and discharge the capacitor formed by a pad on a circuit board. The nearby presence of a person’s finger introduces additional capacitance causing a frequency change, detected by the PIC. It can be built using most PIC chips, he said. For his circuit he used an 8-Pin PIC12F683. It needs only a small amount of code, and as it uses just one output and one input it is easy to add to a design requiring proximity sensing.
We also looked at the Ossie motor, a very high efficiency pulse motor circuit. By using a couple of diodes it recharges its battery by recovering the counter emf energy generated by the motor, enabling it to run for weeks. For anyone who wants to build one the circuit diagram and full construction details can be found by googling "the ossie motor by jl naudin".

At the November meeting Steve demonstrated his Saleae 8 channel USB logic analyser. It connects to the USB port of a computer and allows you to see the states of up to eight channels over time. This is very useful for debugging communication between a microcontroller and a peripheral device when it is not clear if a fault is in the code or in the hardware. In addition Saleae provides several protocol decoders, making it easy to verify that the correct data is present on the communication bus being monitored. The analyser can decode Asynchronous Serial, SPI, 1-Wire, I2C and UNI/O Bus and the data can be exported to an output file for further analysis. Steve hooked up the analyser probes to the output data bus and sent out a test message. The screen showed the voltage highs and lows representing the ones and zeroes of the data bits, and the decoded message: hello world.
Geoff showed an Arduino board he built. The Arduino system consists of a microcontroller board with a range of plug-in daughter boards, or shields as they call them. Many shields are available, so many projects can be built by plugging in the appropriate shield and programming the microcontroller. You don't have to build a circuit board to get a first prototype going as you do with a PIC, he said. He found the programming language more powerful and not too difficult. He referred to the websites arduino.cc and freetronics.com, and recommended the book: "Practical Arduino" for training and projects.

At the October meeting Alex led a discussion on logic analysers and oscilloscopes. The main difference is that an oscilloscope displays variations in voltage, an analyser only displays digital (on/off) waveforms. Logic analysers have more signal inputs than the two channels provided by most oscilloscopes, and can be very useful for debugging complex logic circuits. He described the Bitscope pocket analyser, an affordable high bandwidth PC-based unit that combines a dual channel digital storage oscilloscope and an 8 channel logic analyser. Also mentioned were the PicoScope, a compact USB plug–in device for a PC; the Network Bitscope BS445N, a high performance 12 channel oscilloscope and data acquisition system; the Saleae Logic analyser, a powerful logic analyser in a tiny package; the Rigol DS1000 series digital oscilloscopes; and the Bus Pirate, a low-cost troubleshooting tool that communicates between a PC and embedded devices.
Alex also showed pictures of a UV lightbox he built for making PCBs. He used 4 tubes of 6 watts from RS, and electronic ballasts from Compaq.
Stuart showed us an article he wrote "Math Routines using dsPIC Features", published in Circuit Cellar magazine October 2012. This magazine is a source of embedded electronics engineering information for designers and developers, and is downloadable by subscription.
We again linked by Skype to Martin in Jakarta, so he was able to watch the screen and hear the discussions.

At the September meeting Andrew discussed using a PIC as a proximity sensor. He referred to the Microchip application note AN1202 "Capacitive Sensing with PIC10F". It explains how to use the PIC's internal analogue comparator and an external diode as a relaxation oscillator so that an external capacitance changes the oscillator frequency, which can then be sensed by using timer 0 in the PIC. Almost any PIC device can be used for proximity sensing, he said.
Lino recommended Aztronics of Adelaide as a source of small quantities of surface mount parts. Talking Electronics was also recommended for this. Its website also offers a starter kit of common surface mount parts and a matching PC board..
Paul spoke of his interest in dsPIC Digital Signal Controllers. A DSC combines the control attributes of a microcontroller with the computational and throughput capabilities of a Digital Signal Processor to produce a very powerful microcontroller.

At the August meeting Martin showed us his Raspberry Pi computer that had finally arrived. He took it to Robodino on a Saturday and they downloaded and made a case for it with their computer-controlled laser cutter.
Andrew told us how he uses some PIC micros in his work of plotting changes in ocean depths over long periods. He combined several 8-pin PIC12F629 microprocessors with a PIC24 to analyse the readings from a Digiquartz submersible depth sensor. He programmed them using the free basic compiler from Microelectronica.
Steve showed photos of the equipment he uses to make PCBs at home. He uses UV light and peroxide/HCL etchant.
Darwin showed the business card he made as a PCB containing a tiny LF1822 microprocessor and flashing LEDs controlled by a switch. The use of surface-mount components allowed the board to be thin enough to be a business card.

At the July meeting Paul told us of his long term interest in DBase, a once popular program that is having a revival. He also showed a PCB that runs some LEDs from a PIC12F683 microprocessor to make a superb garden lighting display, called an LED rainbow. A YouTube video and an Instructable about this board can be seen via PCBoard.ca.
We visited the Robots and Dinosaurs website, Robodino.org. It is a club of geeks and artists who brainstorm ideas, work on collaborative projects, and share the cost of making CNC tools. It meets in Sydney on Saturdays and some weeknights.
We discussed making a substitute for Jiffy boxes and other cabinets. One suggestion was to sandwich together two equal sized printed circuit boards. The top PCB has on its top side the labels and all components that need to be visible, such as switches, connectors, LEDs. These would all be through-hole components. On its underside are mounted those components that need not be seen, such as resistors, capacitors, ICs. These would be surface mounted components so there would be no sign of them from the top. The bottom board could be a blank PCB, or any plastic sheet material. The gasket, or separator, holding the two boards apart could be any plastic strip around the perimeter.
All the components being on the one PCB, which serves as the top panel, there is no need to run wires between a PCB and a top panel as you do with jiffy boxes or other cabinets. Also no need for a separate display panel, as this can be part of the component overlay of the top PCB. Projects can be slimmer, and smaller, as the layout need not be stretched to suit a standard box.

At the June meeting Lino demonstrated his technique of soldering surface mounted components using a soldering iron and Xcelite tweezers, and making use of surface tension and gravity.
Martin gave away a large quantity of exotic electronic components.
Alex showed a PCB he made using the Press n Peel technique.
Andrew showed a mother board and instructions he found of a Forth computer he intends to revive.

Stuart directed us to his recently uploaded 16-bit widget driver at www.hydrazoic.info. It is an embedded script interpreter that runs in dsPic microcontrollers, and has a serial port, 14 in/out, and two analogue lines. It has a minimal footprint and runs on a small single-sided pcb.

At the May meeting we used Skype to enable Martin to view the proceedings from Dusseldorf. Alex used an omni-directional microphone that worked better for this, and donated it to the club.
Michael showed a movie of his tea-making robot. It comprised several solenoids and servos actuated by Picaxe micros triggered by limit switches. There was a problem with untriggered events, and after discussion it emerged that the microprocessor inputs were not tied to ground, allowing interference from electrical noise . The group advised connecting each input pin to ground with a resistor.
Alex showed a circuit drawing and a PCB layout he drew with Eagle of a thermister-sensing temperature controller with a Bluetooth connector to a PicAxe microprocessor. The group suggested changing the voltage ratings of some components to reduce the number of voltage regulators.
David showed his programming tutorial website at www.gooligum.com.au/tutorials.html and discussed his recent major revisions to cover the new MPLAB X development environment, the PICkit 3 programmer, and the latest HI-TECH C.

At the April meeting we connected to Martin in Jakarta by Skype. He showed us the hotel where he is installing his Atmel RFID systems.
Andrew described using a PIC24 with a C compiler for a data logger.
Alex described using Eagle as a PCB design program.
Darwin introduced himself and mentioned his use of microprocessors in security applications

At the March meeting Andrew discussed the use of batteries in long life low power applications. Martin showed how he designs PCBs using XpressPCB. Chris showed some of the ways he uses sugru, the air-curing silicon rubber from sugru.com. He also introduced us to the Parallax Propeller from parallax.com, the makers of the BASIC stamp microprocessor. With eight independent processors on a single chip, the Propeller offers a completely new approach to solving problems with microcontrollers. The eight 32-bit processors and a shared memory and system clock make possible true independent and cooperative simultaneous multi-tasking. The need for additional support components is reduced due to its overall processing power and I/O capabilities, and its on-board video generation and easy connection to popular PC peripherals. The Propeller chip is programmable in object-based Spin language, low-level Assembly, or with a third-party C Compiler.

At the February meeting Lino showed pictures of some designs of PCB drilling and Pick & Place machines from the South Australian PIC User Group. Alex showed Bluetooth wireless 2-way communication between a computer and his Fez Panda II board, using a virtual slide switch on the computer and a rotary switch on the Panda. He also showed how he connected his computer wirelessly to a thermometer inside a fridge, and monitored and graphed the temperature with some C# programming. Steve showed his completed electrolysis project, all boxed up and with operating instructions.

At the January meeting Martin demonstrated a clamping ammeter he bought from Seeed Studios. He uses a microprocessor to calculate and display the power consumption. John showed an open source debugger for Freescale microcontrollers. Christopher told us of a USB to RS232/TTL UART/RS485 converter he bought. It provides an easy method of connecting a USB port on a PC to RS232 signals. Steve showed us oscilloscope traces of a spurious signal on his project and described how he eliminated it. Anthony told us of his experiences in making a PCB using the Press n Peel technique.


2011

At the December meeting Steve showed his completed PCB module for extracting hydrogen and oxygen from water by electrolysis. It is part of a project for boosting the performance of cars by adding these gases to the fuel. For more information see http://www.wam-a-bam.com/hydrostarinfo.html. Alex showed a wireless Bluetooth connector to a remote serial board. Martin showed a thermometer with LCD display he built, using a DS18S20 temperature probe with a microprocessor.

At the November meeting Martin used his Bus Pirate to display an oscilloscope read-out on a computer screen, using the Miniscope program downloaded from Futurlec. Alex gave a tutorial on using the C# language in visual studio, the language used in his Fez Panda II computer At the October meeting Alex demonstrated his Fez Panda II computer from GHI electronics. Steve discussed William S Powers' Hydrostar project for running a car on hydrogen and oxygen extracted from water by electrolysis using electronic pulses.

At the September meeting Peter introduced us to Amforth, a Forth-based command interpreter for the Atmel microcontroller family. Paul demonstrated the toy tank he modified with a PIC controller to respond to IR commands and avoid obstacles. Christopher visited virtualvillage.com. It offers a large range of low cost products, including electronic equipment. Bob showed a video of a robotic seagull on TED.com. Andrew described the PIC-based battery tester he developed. Peter downloaded for future use the PICaxe editor and the PICaxe manuals.

At the August meeting Steve demonstrated the 1 wire digital thermometer he built using the DS18B20 temperature sensor, and showed the C program he wrote for it using the free HiTec optimising compiler and the logic analyser from the PICKit2. Bob installed the PICkit2 and corrected its INC file so that the button on the LPC board can be used to alter the LED flashing sequence.. Shane showed us the DIY Park Ranger, a prototype ultrasonic car backing aid.

At the July meeting David used the Microchip In-Circuit Debugger MPLAB ICD3 to debug the timer program he displayed last month. Anthony described the electronics course he has just completed at TAFE. Peter downloaded the MPLAB X Beta and showed how to convert to it from MPLAB. Martin showed the RFID RS485 Ethernet mini board and the SFM32F103 development board he bought from Futurlec. Geoff described an Ethernet controller for remote control. Stuart showed the electrometer PCB he designed and bought. He discussed his soldering technique for surface-mounting the components on it.

At the June meeting David guided us through the program he is writing for a timer, using the free version of the HiTech C compiler.. It uses a PIC 16F690, a 4-digit 7-segment display, and a piezo sounder. Christopher showed us the power supply unit he bought, a MCI-ATX switchmode unit giving 6-12volts and 250w output. We discussed the heatsinking requirements. We also discussed converting old computer power supplies to laboratory power supplies for testing microprocessor circuits. Martin showed his Bus Pirate operating as an oscilloscope, displaying a square wave from an Atmel micro. Paul showed the Netduino he bought. It is an open source electronics platform with design files and source code included. It can interface with switches, sensors, LEDs, serial devices, and more. It combines the features of microcontrollers with the ease of coding in high-level languages such as Visual Studio and C#

At the May meeting Alex showed us some more of his Picaxe Virtual System Modelling program. He used it to verify the power supply circuit Martin showed us at the April meeting. He also applied it to a PWM voltage step-up circuit usng a diode pump and a Picaxe-08M. We revisited the Picaxe VSM homepage at http://www.picaxevsm.com. Martin showed us the Bus Pirate he bought. It is a hardware tool to interface a computer with various chips, including AVRs and PICs. You can program and run them, simplifying prototyping. Steve demonstrated GotoCamera's free software that turns a webcam into a surveillance program visible on the internet .

At the April meeting Martin discussed a circuit for a combined power supply and battery charger. Andrew spoke about green array chips. These are a new design of multi-computer chips from GreenArrays Inc using the Forth language. They have great computing power, small size, and low energy consumption, and might have a big future. Alex described the WinLIRC serial receiver. It transmits and receives infrared remote control signals, allowing you to control your computer and other equipment. Tony M described his PIC-based motorised remote control of a radio loop antenna. Christopher spoke about the SBC65EC he bought from ModTronics Engineering. It is an embedded PIC based single board computer with Ethernet and RS232 interface.

At the March meeting Alex demonstrated the Picaxe Virtual System Modelling program, a software circuit simulator that combines a virtual Picaxe chip with animated components and SPICE circuit analysis to produce a simulation of a complete Picaxe project. He showed it working on two pulse width modulation circuits he designed. He drew the circuits using simulations of a Picaxe, a FET, a transistor, a 555, resistors, capacitors, and switches. Then he altered various component values and observed the results using simulated instruments: voltmeter, ammeter, oscilloscope. For more Picaxe VSM information see http://www.picaxevsm.com. Martin showed us his STM32F103 ARM development board from Futurlec. Geoff used a small Picaxe program to show the advantages of using layers in programming.

At the February meeting we linked by Skype to Martin, who was visiting Indonesia. He talked about the electronics shops in Jakarta and showed us photos of them. By screen-sharing he was able to watch and hear the proceedings at our meeting. We discussed the PIClick-1, a kit available from Talking Electronics. It is a PCB containing a PIC16F84, with its inputs buffered with resisters and its outputs buffered with transisters. It can be a template for PIC projects. Andrew described a problem in programming the PIC24 chips. Christopher showed us a Peltier TEC1-11710, and discussed his idea of using it to measure wind speed. David showed us a video of an LED mobile designed by his daughter Bianca, 8, who also attended the meeting.

At the January meeting David discussed his car tachometer project and we looked at ways of remotely recording the data. We visited RF Digital's site to see if their 2.4GHz wireless modules were suitable.

Stuart showed the USB to serial converter prototype PCB he made with surface mounted components, .

We discussed using a Peltier device in reverse to generate electricity from heat.

We visited the Talking Electronics website and reviewed their method of programming PICs by copying selections from a library of assembler routines into a program template. We also looked at their surface-mount soldering technique, and their use of a transformer to solar charge a battery when the sunlight is weak.

2010

At the December meeting Martin showed his prototype hotel door opening system. He used a RFID card and programmed an Atmel AVR chip, and made use of the Electronic Brick System from Seeed Studios. A magnetic switch on the card rack automatically turns off the airconditioner when the guest leaves the room. Geoff showed a light dimmer he built using a picaxe and a mosfet. He used pulse width modulation to control the brightness of an adhesive backed led strip from Rockby Electronics. Steve showed his picaxe solar light, improved with some suggestions made at his previous presentation and some of his own. The Steca Solsum solar regulator was mentioned.

At the November meeting Andrew visited the Dontronics webpage and looked at the ARM Astrobe development system that uses the programming language Oberon-07. He also showed us Microchip's extreme low power XLP chip that uses a 1.8-3v battery that will last for 20 years. David compared ARM microprocessors with the PIC and ATMEL products. He also introduced us to MBED, a tool developed by ARM for rapid prototyping with microcontrollers. The mbed microcontroller is made for prototyping, and uses two innovations; a USB disk based programmer on the hardware, and compiler tools from a cloud-computing based web-application that runs in a web browser. It supports many interfaces, so you can connect it to many input and output circuits and modules. Peter showed us the DIOS GPS Logger at kronosrobotics.com/. Christopher described the Sparkfun weather board that graphs the weather over time through a USB-connected board of sensors. .

At the October meeting Martin demonstrated his upgraded accelerometer system using an ARM7 processor and a BMA180 accelerometer running on a Sparkfun breakout board. A graphical projection showed sensitive responses to tiny movements. Andrew reviewed various commercial battery testers and showed us his design for a comparatively low cost battery tester using a PIC12F683 . He referred us to batteryuniversity.com for information on battery technology.

At the September meeting Alex demonstrated the Proteus Virtual System Modelling (VSM) he bought. It combines SPICE circuit simulation, animated components and microprocessor models to simulate complete microcontroller based designs. Using this system he can develop and test microprocessor designs before constructing a physical prototype. Johnny Kim reviewed his career as a designer in embedded programming, control engineering, mechatronics engineering, digital signal processing, microprocessors, microcontrollers. His webpage: http://au.linkedin.com/pub/johnny-kim/23/8a9/b08. He has recently moved from South Korea to Australia. Steve discussed his project for a solar powered Picaxe-based night light, and the group was able to make some useful suggestions for the coding.

At the August meeting Alex showed the circuit and programming details of his tuned radio and showed his design of an electric footwarmer mat. Peter showed the Logicator system for developing programs from flowcharts. Les showed details of the remote monitoring security system he has designed.

At the July meeting Les showed samples of the bottles handled by the robot he described last month, and gave details of how they are made. Alex showed us an alarm clock radio to which he had added a Picaxe08M to play its tunes on wake-up. Bob showed videos of various multi-legged robots. We also looked atthe new Picaxe-18M2 from Microzed. It replaces all the older 18 pin Picaxes, can run four separate tasks in parallel and operate from a 3volt battery pack. Stuart showed how he used Microchip's 16 bit development board to make a voltmeter.

At the June meeting Andrew showed a way of getting a Picaxe to log data at long intervals by using the Poke instruction. Les showed a movie of an industrial robot who's program he modified. It is an xyz type of robot 10 metres long that stacks plastic bottles of various shapes at high speed. David showed a complex PIC-based travel clock he built, and discussed the program he wrote for it in 800 lines of assembler. His tutorials on programming can be seen at JD showed several PCBs he designed with Eagle, using Freescale microcontrollers. We were able to project on the screen images of all the objects discussed on the night, by using the new auto-focussing webcam installed recently by Roger Foulds of our parent organisation the Sydney PC User group. Thanks Roger!

At the May meeting Andrew showed a PCB he built in 1987 using an 1802 microprocessor, and a sample from that era of a PCB layout using tape. Chris asked for help with a program he wrote for an Arduino/PIC/I2C project, and in a lengthy session the group was able to solve many problems. Shane showed more details of the modifications he is making to an old Holden, including fuel injection and monitoring of its vital signs using Tuner Studio MS, msefi.com, diyefi.com. Peter showed us how to find rare ICs. Niel showed a sensor he is developing for air conditioning using an R485 chip and a PIC16648A

At the April meeting Anthony showed an upgraded version of his digital clock. He built it this time on predrilled copper strip board using six GAL16V8 programmable chips. John demonstrated wire wrapping techniques, and gave Anthony some wrapping tools and sample boards. Bob showed the SPCUG blog and the Snagit screen capture program. We looked at the January 2009 Silicon Chip article on remote wireless control using a PIC and a transceiver. Alex demonstrated RocketDoc, the free application launcher. He also showed the free download OSC_DLL, from which he is building a software oscilloscope.

At the March meeting Peter talked about remote wireless control of devices using a PIC/tranceiver combination to send signals to a several similar devices. Anthony showed us a digital clock he built on bread boards from ICs and discrete components that he will upgrade to a PIC-controlled device. Peter introduced us to Source Boot. Stuart showed us Microchip's DM300027, a USB starter development board for programming 16 bit microprocessors. It comes with a PIC24 and a PIC30 and can connect to a PICKit2. Les showed Insider, a useful tool for wireless networking that displays frequencies used.

At the February meeting Les talked about the computer-controlled milling machine he built from a kit, and showed a video of it cutting various holes in an instrument case. He also showed a low-voltage spotlight he made from an array of 28 white wide-angle LEDs controlled by an Atmel Tiny 45. Michael showed pictures of a machine he built for automatically making cups of tea, and discussed problems programming a PIC to run it. Martin talked about the EZ430-Chronos wireless watch available from Farnell.

At the January meeting Stuart showed the latest developments of his programming language. Using a PIC30 he calculated the square of pi to 8 decimal places. Martin explained his strain guage project and showed its hardware, Anthony showed his Microbyte development board for PICs, Peter showed us GPutils, a set of software tools on SourceForge, including the simulator GPSIM. We looked at a video from Instructables showing a remote controlled lawnmower, and introduced the RF Digital series of miniature radio tranceivers that can be driven by a microprocessor.

2009

At the December meeting Shane visited www.hackaday.com to show the MegaSquirt electronic fuel injection system, Martin showed a PCB he designed and bought for his strain guage project, Peter showed the Web in a Box project from Silicon Chip of November/December 2009 and searched various websites for PIC projects. Wayne showed us picabc, a visual PIC assembler programmer, downloadable from programmersheaven.com.

At the November meeting Bob showed one of the projects on micro-examples.com, a PIC based clock developed by writing on the screen. Andrew showed a critique on YouTube of the PICKit3 and a response from MicroChip. Martin showed how he used a single wire from a 10 bit ATMEL processor board to access a 24 bit A to D converter using interrupts at 100Hz. Matt spoke of how he used a PIC to display on a PC a graphical output of the humidity and temperature readings transmitted by radio from a Jaycar Weather Station. Wayne showed us the picdev and cpik web pages.

At the September meeting Bob presented our new computer with Intel i7 CPU, 6GB memory, and 2TB disk space. Andrew visited the webpage of Microzed, the Australian distributer of the Picaxe. Jahn showed some more prototypes he made from Sparkfun modules of GPS loggers using PIC24 and ATMEL Mega168. Patrick reviewed progress being made in parallel computing using large arrays of pico chips.

At the August meeting Steve showed us how he makes a flowchart to lay out the structure of a complex program. Andrew discussed moving from the PIC12F to the PIC24F for the datalogger he is developing, and showed us the Forth compiler for the PIC16F87X. Peter mentioned Cygwin and the PIC Forth Wiki. Wayne demonstrated using the Amiga operating system on a laptop computer.

At the July meeting Jahn showed some devices he built using modules purchased from Sparkfun, the microcontroller development company. Shane described how he fitted the MegaSquirtII fuel injection computer and an exhaust gas oxygen sensor to an old Holden. Wayne showed the schematic of his design of a noiseless, transformerless power supply using capacitors and 4053 switches.

At the June meeting Martin showed the device he designed using an ATmega8 microprocessor to calculate the baud rate being used on a serial connection and display it on a LED screen. Les showed us the program he wrote in C using ED for Windows, the smart language-sensitive programmer's editor, to control his solar hot water heater. Jahn spoke of his use of the AVR Mega168 microprocessor to study the performance of racing motorbikes. Shane showed pictures of KRE Engineering's remote control tractor camera that inspects the inside of underground pipes and sends images to a screen on the surface.

At the May meeting Les showed pictures of the modifications he made to his hot water heater to run it on solar power, Wayne introduced us to the PIC10F220/222 6-Pin microcontrollers, Alex described a USB interface for an ATMEL ATtiny45 microprocessor, Andrew discussed PCB autorouting using the free download Diptrace.

At the April meeting Geoff showed his add-on for a Porsche 928 driven in a hot climate. It is a fan speed controller for an oil cooler, using a PICaxe08M and DS18B20 temperature sensors. Stuart continued his talk on converting 8-bit code to 16. Martin gave away several boxes of equipment, such as switchmode power supplies and microprocessor programmers. Bob displayed his new Guestbook on the club's webpage, and invited readers to start using it for discussions of microprocessor matters.

At the March meeting Kevin showed us a PICkit3, Peter showed some voltage converters he made. Using the whiteboard, Wayne showed the schematic of his PIC TV project based on a PIC12F675, Geoff showed the schematic of his PIC08M accelerometer, Martin showed the schematic of his microcontroller based keyboard input detector with LCD display. Stuart outlined the problems he faced in rewriting his 8 bit RISC language to the 16 bit PIC30F micro.

At the February meeting Bob showed a Youtube movie of a Hexapod robot CNC router cutting a rectangular shape. We also looked at a movie of a Mang cnc wire bending machine. Andrew showed the hardware of his data logger tester using two Picaxe 08Ms. It enabled him to quickly test 250 CR800 data loggers. Alex showed a 3 to 9volt converter from Jaycar. Ashley showed his EasyPIC5 from Mikro Electronics, a programming and development board described in the May 2008 Elektor magazine. Mike told us of the meetings of the Amateur Radio NSW Radio Homebrew and Experimenters Group. Seppo spoke of Microchip's new PICkit3, and referred us to the Talking Electronics website as a good source of PIC information. Wayne showed us how to set up the ADC controller in a PIC16F688.

At the January meeting we saw two YouTube movies about cutting polystyrene foam with a hotwire under CNC control. They showed an industrial machine at work, and an Instructable on building a DIY version. Andrew reviewed his experience in programming computers with multiple CPU's. Wayne discussed the assembler code he wrote for last month's TV display of a PIC output.

2008

At the December meeting Andrew showed us a program he wrote in Python. A free program, now in version 2.6, it is an elegant and simple language. We examined Oatley Electronics' K142 kits for driving stepper motors. Martin showed us a sound level meter with a three channel LCD display he made from a microprocessor. Wayne showed us a voltmeter and thermometer he built using the ADC converter in a PIC675. He programmed it to produce a raster output of the values, which he displayed on the screen via the projector as a TV image.

At the November meeting we made use of a new projector. It gives a better view with a wider screen, and can show photos using an SD socket and a remote control switch. Peter used these features to show some photos from his recent travels in Thailand. He also directed our attention to some free programs for PCB design listed in the September Elektor magazine, see http://www.elektor.com/panorama. Wayne described some new applications he has made of the PIC, and discussed the PIC18F67J60. Andrew asked for suggestions for a small programming language for simple tasks, and mention was made of Python, Ruby, Rex, Pearl, VB, AutoIT, and QT. Stuart showed the refinements he had made to his RISC language for the PIC. Les showed pictures of the CNC milling machine he made for his home workshop. He assembled it from a kit of modifications to a Taig milling machine. To mill an item he first draws it and its toolpaths in TurboCad. He then manually writes the G-Code program, and runs it under Mach2.

At the October meeting Steve showed some of the new features of the PICKit2. Martin showed his ET-ARM module and explained how to program it, and also showed the Hope RF radio module. Andrew showed how he used two PICAXE-08Ms to make a tester for the CR800 datalogger. We saw some movies of CNC lathes in operation, and reviewed Richard Wildey's Getting Started in CNC.

At the September meeting Bob showed how to register and login to the PIC Club webpage so you can upload comments, articles, and pictures. Les described a data slicer filter he designed to improve radio reception. Martin showed the ET-ARM Stamp module, available from Futurlec.

At the August meeting Alex demonstrated using HAPSIM, a software component simulator. HAPSIM simulates components such as buttons and leds in software, and can be used to test AVR microprocessor applications on a computer screen before committing to actual hardware. Stuart explained some details of his reduced instruction set language for PICs. Andrew discussed interfacing a PICAxe chip to the Xbee module for wireless remote control, as described in http://www.rev-ed.co.uk/docs/axe210.pdf.

At the July meeting Peter showed us some articles from Elektor, EPE, and Silicon Chip magazines. Bob introduced us to Joomla, a webpage template that allows members to easily upload articles and comments. He proposed Joomla be used for the PIC Club website.

At the June meeting Stuart continued his description of his tiny programming language for the PICs, that he introduced at the March meeting, this time showing us the interpreter. Peter showed some articles from the March Elektor magazine.

At the May meeting Martin showed the pressure/temperature monitor he built using an ATMEL HP03 sensor. He built it into a transparent floppy disk box, so all the components and the display could be seen from the outside without having to place components off the board and wire them up, and the flip lid gives easy access.

At the April meeting Martin showed the accelerometer he built, using the ATMEL LIS3LV02D6 chip. He donated a couple of PIC display and development boards, which were auctioned off at a bargain price. Steve showed us Ted Rossin's website where a Logic Analyser based on a PIC873 is described. Andrew introduced Microchip's PIC24FJ family, a new range of high pin count (64/80/100 pin) devices with 64-256KBytes of flash memory. Les discussed the merits of the serial data formats FM0, FM1 and Manchester.

At the March meeting Tony showed his stepper motor, operated by remote control. Stewart showed a tiny programming language he wrote for the PICs. He wrote an interpreter which is loaded into a PIC, enabling programs to be written in a few lines that would take several pages in Assembler.

At the February meeting Steve showed his depth sounder alarm for a yacht, David discussed using the PICkit2 as a debugger.

At the January meeting Tony showed the hardware he is developing for his solar tracker, Alex showed his Alpha system monitor that displays on a website environmental data of a remote site, and we discussed a User Language Program for the Eagle PCB Program.

2007

At the December meeting Les showed us the webpage of the Amateur Radio NSW Radio Homebrew and Experimenters Group and talked about some of the homemade electronic and mechanical devices the members have displayed at their monthly meetings. David showed us through his tutorial How to Drive Multiple 7-segment displays. The full tutorial can be seen on his webpage.

At the November meetingTony discussed using the PIC for remote control, and demonstrated some devices he built. Andrew discussed the PIC24 family. David showed us a PIC simulator and debugger.

At the October meetingDavid demonstrated the Eagle CAD program for designing circuit boards. We saw two of the four Instructables, Schematics and Layouts, for learning this program, and examined Eagle's User language Programs. Tony demonstrated two PIC devices he built. In the first a 3-colour LED was made to show many colours by its PIC driver. In the second a Passive Infrared Detector (PID) was set up to detect movement of an intruder and radio an alarm signal to a remote station. Geoff showed his PIC-controlled triac driver set and discussed some problems he was having with it.

At the September meeting Andrew explained the use of several PICAXE-08Ms as linear digital position sensors using optical switches. He showed pictures of a rig that is currently in use plotting profiles of model beaches in a wave flume. The sensors monitor the displacement of rocks in the model under wave action, providing information for the construction of breakwaters. Martin showed how his ATMEL controlled LCD display graphically represents the movement of strain gauges on a structure. Tanjim and Paul presented their project for a dashboard display of the speed limit zones a car is travelling through.

At the August meeting Bob reviewed the final chapter of the PIC C course from EPE magazine. He said the course is a good overview, but you need to refer to a book on C while reading the course. Martin showed more details of his LCD display. It was built from Myke Predco's design: www.myke.com/lcd.htm. Peter showed us some Thai websites containing various kits and gadgets: www.silaresearch.com, www.mynpe.com.

At the May meeting Alex introduced us to the Wikipedia comparison of programming languages. Andrew showed his project for measuring temperatures at many layers of ocean depths using a string of 26 PIC processors. We discussed adapting a plotter for use as an automatic drilling machine, and the software for it. Martin showed his LCD display driven directly by an ATMEL microprocessor.

At the April meeting Aras introduced us to the Dorkbot, a worldwide network of 'people doing strange things with electricity'. A local chapter of Dorkbot meets monthly in Sydney. Steve showed us some ways of increasing the number of ports of the picaxe, and discussed using a clock module as a cheap and accurate time base for microprocessors. Bob presented Part 3 of EPE magazine's PIC C course.

At the March meeting Chris introduced us to Flex programming, an application of Flash. Chris is Manager of the Flashdev, the Sydney Flash Platform Development Group. Stuart showed us his program to write out data from his PIC-based analogue to digital converter.

At the February meeting Martin introduced us to the Atmel range of microprocessors, Alex showed us how to interrupt the PIC SERIN command, and Bob presented Part 2 of EPE magazine's PIC C course.

At the January meeting Peter showed some websites he had found, Andrew discussed an interface between a PICaxe and a memory card, Bob presented Part 1 of EPE magazine's PIC C course, a four part series beginning with the November issue, David showed us the Assembler programming course he is writing, viewable on his website.

2006

At the December meeting Steve reviewed the available PIC programming hardware and software, Peter reviewed Maestro, a program that generates prewritten code, Alex presented a PIC to PIC communication device, Tom invited comments on a problem he has with a C program.

At the November meeting David demonstrated MPLab IDE v7.50, a free download from Microchip. He demonstrated compiling and de-bugging programs, using its CCS compiler, and discussed the PIC24, the new 24 bit microprocessor. Andrew showed us a circuit board he made using the Press 'n Peel process, double-sided, with a surface mounted PIC and other components.

At the October meeting Andrew demonstrated his PIC development board, comprising a socketted PIC with power supply, and data input and output connectors, allowing hardware under development to be plugged into this board and run. David demonstrated his PIC rendering of Hangman, the 20 year old electronics game. The electronics was greatly simplified by transferring the complexity to the program, written in Assembler. As the program only needs to be written once, the product cost was reduced. Also, errors due to component variability are removed, and the game can be easily upgraded.

At the September meeting Andrew and Alex continued their presentations from last month, Steve showed some PIC projects he'd built from Pete's World, and we examined some members websites.

At the August meeting Alex presented his graphical interface for the PIC, developed using AutoIT, a freeware scripting tool. Andrew spoke about his high resolution thermometer using a PIC and a thermister.

At the July meeting we examined Microchip's PICkit2 programmer.

At the June meeting David installed the PIC C Lite program, and demonstrated a simple "flash a LED" program, written in Picaxe BASIC, PIC assembler, and C. Bob demonstrated his PIC-based device to enable a quadraplegic to move a curser on a computer screen, and to click and double-click, by blowing into a tube.

At the May meeting Andrew showed his test instrument for a tide gauge, and showed how he used symbols in programming its PIC, simplifying the code. Peter reviewed Speed Camera Watch, a PIC project of EPE magazine Nov 2005. Bob discussed making a PCB using the Press 'n Peel method.

At the April meeting Steve demonstrating designing a circuit board from a schematic, using Circuitmaker and Traxmaker. He also reviewed the PIC-based Energy Meter circuit of the July 04 Silicon Chip. Tony displayed his remote controlled number display, and his Pill Timer, both PIC controlled.

At the March meeting we discussed controlling remote devices wirelessly, using infrared and UHF.

At the February meeting Patrick showed an application of the PicAxe to measure the speed of toy jet cars. Powered by soda siphon cartridges, they achieve speeds up to 150kph. Peter discussed the theory of connecting a keyboard to a PicAxe. His circuit diagram was drawn in ExpressSch, part of the ExpressPCB program.

At the January meeting Tony discussed interfacing a clock with the serial port of a PIC. Steve demonstrated a configuration wizard he wrote in Visual Basic for the PicAxe18X. Geoff introduced the Magic application development system, showing receiving serial data from a PicAxe, storing it in a database, display, manipulation, export to a spreadsheet etc.

2005

At the December meeting Andrew discussed the data sheet of the PIC12F683, the IC used for the PICAXE-08M. Steve showed us the printed circuit board he built for his PIC-driven LCD display, using the PCB-making techniques discussed at a previous meeting.

At the October meeting Peter displayed a program for simulating a PIC, Bob demonstrated some programs he wrote for the sound command on the PICAXE-08, Andrew showed some uses of the serial pin, Andre showed the finished version of his development bus.

At the September meeting Bob showed the programming needed to get input from readers into a web page, and Steve demonstrated using the the infrared command in the PICAXE-08M, using a working prototype to activate a LED.

At the August meeting Tony reviewed the programming involved in driving an LCD display module with a PIC, Steve showed how he developed his PIC data logger with LCD display, Andrew described the tune-playing feature of the PICAXE-08M, Andre showed his Universal Development Bus.


Reports by Neville Hoffman, Chairman.