October 18th, 2006


The Joy of Experimentation

I have been busy with classes for the past few days. I am also learning to do a bit of PCB design with GEDA - GNU EDA Tools. Doing schematic capture with Gscheme and PCB design with PCB is not that hard - but there is an acute lack of documentation in this area.

I am planning to design something similar to the Defcon badge for the upcoming GNU/Linux fest at GEC Trichur - Insignia 2006. The idea is to do everything using free software - right from PCB prototyping to programming the microcontroller. I have purchased a few ATTiny-15L micro's (8 pin devices with builtin ADC) for Rs.65/- each. It might be difficult to use the AVR-GCC port to program these micro's because the ATTiny doesn't have RAM - you have to manage with just the registers! I am also getting a few PIC10F206 devices (imagine having a `computer' in your hand for just Rs.25; yes, that is what a 10F206 costs!). The only trouble is that this device seems to be available only in a surface mount package - soldering them might prove difficult.

One very positive thing about Insignia 2005 was that a lot of students were motivated to do small but interesting projects on GNU/Linux - many of them involving a bit of hardware hacking. It seems that Insignia 2006 will also see some good work by GEC students. As I was taking class this evening, I heard excited shouts from a few girls working in the outer room - they had taken apart the radio of a remote controlled car, soldered a relay to the box and were trying to switch it on-off using the parallel port; they had finally had some success in getting things to work! I hope they now understand the joy of experimentation.