Saturday, July 10, 2010

So, What's next?

I would like to write one or two more posts while we are waiting for our LaunchPads to come in. I have been throwing a few ideas around in my head about what to write of next, and can't decide; so I thought I would ask anyone and everyone who reads this blog to give me their opinions (I know your all out there, Google Analytics says so :-P )

I have four ideas so far:

1. Peripherals and Microcomputer Architecture - This would talk about some theory behind RISC processors and also would talk about the peripherals that come with our MSP430s (and other µCs).

2. How to Read Data Sheets and User Guides - I would go over the TI data sheets and user guides and give tips on how to get useful and meaningful information out of them.

3. Useful Tools and Practices - I can talk about the equipment I use during development, all of the equipment I have comes from a "student budget", which is probably less than the average hobbyiest (maybe not, who knows?).

4. My Take on Microcontrollers and TI - I can discuss what I think about the MSP430 compared to other chips, and talk about where I see things going in the future as far as µCs goes.

Whatever you guys would like me to write about I will. This blog can go in any direction pertaining to the MSP430 and LaunchPad. Maybe someone has something particular they would like me to write about other than these three things. I'm actually hoping for some suggestions and constructive critisim about my blog (even if it is about my bad grammar). If I don't hear any feedback, expect to see one of those four ideas posted somewhat soon.

The goal here is to start up a nice community around the MSP430. In the past I've seen a chip become popular because there was one place with nice information about it that people can get started with. From there a community will build up. I've set it up so you don't have to register to make comments, so please, comment away.

PS: I'm working on changing the hyper-link color since I know it's hard to read on the dark background (at least it is for me).


  1. Hi,
    I was eagerly reading your whole blog and can't await reading more. So far the information you are presenting here isn't really new to me, but seem to be something like a personal reflection of questions that are rising when you are digging through the info material for the first time. I more or less had similar thoughts like you and it was somehow exciting reading yours.

    Something about my background: I am a student and I have already worked with microcontrollers at the university. In addition to that I currently have a student job involving the design of sensing units including microcontrollers. Therefore I already know quite allot about the practical use of µCs, but never was using one at home.

    The offer from TI got me finally started with them personally and I already have ideas for some first projects.

    After all I think your blog is very important for people like me, who are now playing around with microcontrollers and searching for individual projects. At work it's much easier to get started, because there you have a well defined project with very specific requirement you have to meet and often can rely on comprehensive equipment to get things done.

    At home you are often lacking both of them. You have to find a project which is interesting on the one hand, but on the other hand very inexpensive to implement in terms of money and if even possible has a use for you or others in the future.
    The second problem, I currently have, is to implement your ideas with the equipment you have or you can get easily. I currently only have the Launchpad and a small breadboard with some basic analog circuit components, thats it. In contrast to that, at work I am used to have access to a variety of analog components, the common ICs, a soldering station, an oscilloscopes, etc.

    Currently I am asking myself the question, which of these "tools" are affordable and needed.

    Hence I would love to hear something about number 3: Useful Tools and Practices

    But I have to say, that all of the four topics you have listed above would be very interesting to me, therefore keep up with the good work! And I hope for you, that your Launchpad will arrive soon.

  2. First off, I'd like to say that it seems like this blog will be quite a valuable resource. Thank you for taking the initiative.

    I do have some suggestions.

    Maybe you had already planned to do this once you received your Launchpad, but I would really appreciate a post about getting started with it. Step-by-step instructions on how to write a "Hello World" program to it would be awesome. I'm a programmer, but have always wanted to get into CE as a hobby. I can write code and solder circuit boards but I can't for the life of me figure out how the hell to transfer code to and from the Launchpad. Perhaps I'll figure it out by the time you get yours, perhaps not; but I do think there would be some utility in writing a post like that.

    It looks like you're already going this route, but my other suggestion would be to help out the people that can't or won't spend a lot of money: students, hobbyists, DIYers (I am all three). I like that you mentioned the sound card "oscilloscopes" in addition to the more expensive options. Having several options in different price ranges is always a good thing.

    I hope to see some cool stuff on here. It would be awesome if we could share code and show off our creations. If I can get a grip on programming these things, I would definitely like to contribute.

  3. @Nathan
    Thanks for the motivation for my latest post! Hope it helped a bit. About searching for projects, I know a lot of people struggle with coming up with simple projects to get started before they do a big one. I might do a design challenge post once everyone gets their boards. What do you think?

    Thanks for the feedback! Awesome that your getting into embedded design a bit! I have a pretty decent background in programming but have not kept up with it since well before .net was released. Software knowledge is a powerful thing! You might be able to make a cool interface for a sound card scope, or signal generator. I actually am having some software trouble, which maybe eventually my readers might be able help me out with and we can dedicate a post to it. That will come later though, since I will be writing nice posts on getting started with the LaunchPad first; like you had hoped. :-)

    As for showing off projects, I might look into setting up a simple forum once more people start reading this blog. There really isn't anything like AVRFreaks for the MSP430...

  4. Sorry to self-advertise on your blog, but I thought from Tim's post that he might be interested in what I've been putting together in my blog; I'd at least like to hear his opinion on whether I'm providing just what he's asking for or not. Find it at

  5. David, not a problem! This is all about community, not some kind of competition for viewers. The point is to help people with the MSP430; the more websites the better. I actually like your blog quite a bit and think the information there is very good. I will be linking to some of your posts actually in future blogs since I do not plan to go as in depth on certain things as you are.

    I think our blogs will be able to supplement each other quite often, I'm sure there will be overlap, but I am sure that we will cover some very different ground. Once our sites get up and running more, I think it would be cool to interview you about your experience if you wouldn't mind.

    As I keep mentioning, I think community is all about communication. Keep up the great work with the blog!

    PS: I don't know why but I haven't been getting updates on your new blogs. I have been subscribed now ever since you linked your site on the Wiki.

  6. Works for me-- I agree that our overlap should work together nicely. I'm hoping to put together documentation that would help someone who has never had any electrical engineering get moving-- exactly what I wish I had when I started a few months ago. Feel free to link to my blog any time (I may do the same for yours too).

  7. @NJC
    I am not too great with .NET; taken a few classes, but PHP is where my heart is. It's slim, powerful, and very similar to C. I hope this will make it easier for me to get started with hardware programming. I'm very excited to play with the Launchpad as I have always wanted to take my programming outside of the computer.

    Funny. I still have 3-4 tabs opened from both of your guys' blogs. Yesterday I was really excited because I copied your 'Hello World' code into one of the IDE's I downloaded, clicked through a whole bunch of menus, pressed 'RESET' and saw a blinking light! And then I realized the jumper next to the red LED was off, and so it was actually just running the normal red-green sequence without the red. I am anxiously awaiting the opportunity to read all of your posts in depth, but I need to figure out how to write to the chip first.

    AVR Freaks looks like an interesting website, and is exactly the kind of site I was thinking of for the MSP. Please let me know if either of you are interested in setting up a website (I'm a web app developer). We could even combine both of your blogs and all of our effort into one "MSP Freaks" site...

    And now, back to trying to get 'Hello World' to work...

  8. @Tim
    Which IDE are you using? CCS or IAR? One thing to look out for is making sure the settings for your project are correct and it is downloading to the correct microcomputer. I just got my LaunchPad!! (I'm writing a super excited blog post about it which should be up in a few hours or so, soon I will have up a getting started guide as well)

    About the idea of setting up a website like AVRFreaks. Great idea, I would totally be willing to help with an "MSP430 Freaks" website, this is something we should talk about though first and iron out the details. We would need a few other people I think to help out. I would be willing to post articles, or host my blog on there in addition to moderating a forum section or two. Maybe even design dev boards to sell. One thing to watch out for is that the Freaks name might be trademarked or something.

  9. I agree that soon we'll need a centralized effort, but we may need a few more people and each have more experience, probably best on our own. But it shouldn't take long, I would think, for something to start brewing. At that point, I'd be happy to contribute, though since I'm still in school myself I don't know that I'd have the time to manage and develop the site too much.

    About the name; I agree that we're looking for something similar to AVRFreaks, but I'd lean for a fresh and unique name. Though their site is fantastic, we don't want to give anyone the idea that the MSP is just another AVR. (And as NJC points out, there may be some legal issue with using such a similar name.) In the mean time, TI is really trying to push their wiki and that may be a good place to start for community development, anyway.

  10. I tried CCS, but had issues installing MSP430 CGT. I ran the CGT installation twice, and reinstalled and updated CCS. MSP430 never showed up in 'Project Types' when I went to File > New > Project. I added every single directory I could find to the CGT discovery tool in the options menu.

    I tried IAR, and made some decent progress last night. I was able to build the sample project (Blinky LED) and when I went to 'Download and Debug', the red LED would blink. I was pretty sure the code was working, but then I realized it must have been some sort of error code because IAR remained completely frozen. When I unplugged the USB, IAR "unfroze" and give me an error.

    The MSP shows up in my devices list when I plug it in so I do believe the drivers were installed correctly.

    I had the same concern about the "Freaks" name but I don't think "MSP Freaks" has the same ring to it (plus, it's already taken ;]). As far as the website itself goes, I'm not sure we really need that many people. When it comes to websites, I prefer to start small and let it grow around the community.

    I'm not a huge fan of generic wiki sites, and TI seems to be really disorganized when it comes to guides and information. And maybe it's because I'm a complete beginner, but right now I would kill for a well-organized site that at least links to relevant PDFs and has a really good troubleshooting guide. At this point, I think we should perhaps move this conversation to email. I will start compiling ideas for the website.

    Have fun with your LaunchPad. I look forward to your guide! :)


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