Browsing: Tutorial

Tutorial
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Hysteresis is something that is all around us. Its effects can be found in many disciplines, like economics and biology, but especially in engineering and physics. But what is it? How do we use it? Let’s do some digging to find out.

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Guide
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Structures are a group of related variables that are placed under one name. Unlike arrays, structures are not limited to one data type. The struct keyword will allow us to create a structure.

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Guide
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True! Boolean is a data type. However, it’s also a term that gets thrown around in the electronics world by programmers presuming that everybody else knows what they are talking about; I can personally attest that this is not always the case. In light of this, let’s go over some of the data types that are commonly used in programming.

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Guide
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This blog post will cover the basics of pointers, a programming tool that is used in languages like C and C++. In this post, we will be using C as our primary language. Pointers are variables that contain a memory address (a concept used to access the computer’s primary storage memory). Variables normally contain a value such as 1 or ‘a’, but pointers contain an address of the value. When we reference a variable through pointers, this is called indirection. Each link goes to a text file of C code. This code can be run as is and will help show us the power of pointers!

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Guide
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A huge part of FPGA design is using logic blocks in design. With logic blocks, you can compartmentalize your design, rather than trying implement everything in one shot. Designing without smaller blocks would be like trying to design a car without subsystems like the braking system or engine. About half of the way through the course there is a project that covers a variety of basic logic blocks, including multiplexers (muxes) and demultiplexers (demuxes). So what are muxes and demuxes?

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Guide
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The other day I decided to program my chipKIT PRO MX4 board using MPIDE. Long story short, it wasn’t working and I couldn’t figure out why. So I posted my question to the forum and waited for somebody else to find the answer. I got impatient because the answer didn’t come within the next hour, so like a good boy, I started digging into the reference manuals. Come to find out, if you use the chipKIT boards with MPLAB X, the bootloader will be overwritten and must be reloaded if you want to use the board with MPIDE. Since I had done some programming with MPLAB X in assembly language, that was clearly my problem. Should be a simple fix, right? Well, it is.

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How-to
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There are motors everywhere in the world around us– in cars, printers, computers, washing machines, electric razors, you name it. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people (myself included up until very recently) that wouldn’t know what to do if they were handed a motor and told to run it. So I decided that I want to change that. Let’s learn to run a stepper motor!

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Tutorial
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Previously, I posted about what a debugger is. Other than all the great features I described in my debugger post, you may be wondering–why does Digilent care? As you probably know, we use many of Microchip’s wonderful products in our chipKIT and chipKIT Pro boards. We still want to address the overarching differences between the user experiences using chipKIT and chipKIT Pro boards, so we’re going to talk about the differences between MPLAB and MPIDE!

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Guide
2

So what exactly is LabVIEW? LabVIEW is National Instruments’ program development environment. The name is short for “laboratory virtual instrument engineering workbench”. NI created LabVIEW to enable domain experts to focus on building systems by abstracting the hardware and software. For example, their hardware and software allows a chemist to focus on chemistry and not get bogged down with analog signal conditioning for thermal couples or advanced programming techniques.

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Guide
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Pulse-width modulation (PWM) is a technique that takes advantage an electronic device’s capability to rapidly “pulse” one of its digital pins between logic high and logic low voltage states. The idea is that the switching between the two voltage states in a desired pattern will produce an “average” voltage somewhere between the high and low voltage inputs. If, within a given period, the pin is at a high voltage level more often than a low one, an overall higher voltage (but less than the full strength input voltage) will be observed.

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Guide
3

A while ago, we learned that one of the ways that Pmods are able to communicate with their host board is through SPI. We learned then that serial peripheral interface is a type of communication protocol where the “master” board and the “slave” device (in this case, a Pmod) are able to send bits of data to each other at the same time with the host board controlling the timing of the communication. Although this is a nice overview, it is my personal experience that theoretical overviews are not the most helpful in actually implementing what we are learning. This begs the question: how do you use SPI? Lets find out!

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Guide
3

Who doesn’t love interactive LEDs? This project started because I wanted to make a simple circuit that I could later move on to a printed circuit board (PCB) that I designed myself. (The original goal was to learn PCB design and layout.) This idea was given to me by my manager, Larissa, and was inspired by Evil Mad Science’s Octolively. Being an analog enthusiast, I came up with my own design that doesn’t use any ICs.

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Guide
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Some of you may have wished at one point that there was a way to conveniently keep track of a series of inputs that you are providing to your system. Luckily, an array is an excellent way to solve this predicament, and it has the added bonus of being easy to use!

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Guide
2

We have made a few posts showing off our 3D printers and some of the classes on 3D printing that we have done here at Digilent. Garrett Mace from macetech.com showed us some of the basics on how to use various 3D modeling software like AutoDesk Inventor, Autodesk 123D Design, OpenSCAD, MeshMixer, and SketchUp. Today, I’m going to introduce some of the basic modeling tools available in the free but robust Blender.

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Guide
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In 2010, I decided to go back to school and earn my degree. After a few semesters of class and a few months working part time retail at RadioShack, I had learned a few things and decided to start building. At the time, all I had were some Craftsman screwdrivers that my dad had given me for Christmas, a few pliers, some wire cutters, and a hammer. Basically the kind of stuff you would find in an all-in-one homeowner’s tool kit. Needless to say, those tools weren’t really helpful when it came to building a motion sensing AC switch, or soldering together some under-cabinet lighting. I needed to get the right tools for the job at hand.

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Guide
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Operational amplifiers (op-amps) are everywhere, in everything, and can do just about anything. Well, okay, maybe not quite, but there is no doubt that they are one of the most useful ICs ever to hit the market.

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Guide
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Are you wanting to build something that requires DC power but changing batteries would either be inconvenient or just plain annoying? Here’s a simple how-to for converting AC mains voltage to rectified and regulated DC voltage.

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Guide
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Earlier, I made a post on how a shift register is operated in practice. But what exactly can a shift register be used for and how does it work? As always, the answer will depend on what you are trying to do (yes, we do have to play by reality’s rules).

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Fritzing
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Fritzing is a free tool that allows users to create clean and professional images of electronics projects for teaching or sharing. Digilent uses Fritzing in all of our intern-created projects, and we’re working closely with Fritzing to have a bin of Digilent parts soon.

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