Sunday, August 1, 2010

Warning: Non Technical Post, and LaunchPad Shields?

I have a few things I would like to mention which I did not want to put in a technical post since they are long enough as it is. I hope that the posts aren't too long; I'd like to condense them more, but sometimes it's hard to.

So, has anyone had any trouble with their USB which came with the LaunchPad? The last few day's I've been having trouble with my LaunchPad randomly disconnecting from my computer, and sometimes dropping just the virtual com port. I didn't realize it was the cable till I moved some things around and put a longer cable onto my LaunchPad and moved the LaunchPad's cable to my Logic Analyzer which then proceeded to not stay connected. So be careful; if you are having connection troubles, try another cable before you loose your mind. Is anyone else having this problem?

Ok, now onto my main question to you, the community members.

I have decided to start writing a proposal which would create a shield standard for the LaunchPad. I think this is needed. I am willing to put the time in to make a truly comprehensive and complete standard for shields. I am not saying that what I would write I expect to become law; I would want feedback from everyone and I would modify the document until you, the community, are completely satisfied with it. I might even start to design and/or sell some basic shields if this gets off the ground in addition to providing an Eagle template which would adhere to the standard.

If enough people respond here I will continue writing the proposal. When it's done I would not only make a blog post about it, but I would also post it in every LaunchPad related forum I can find in addition to making it available in different formats (such as .doc, .pdf, .txt). Also if there is general acceptance of the design, a final version will be made in multiple languages (and I don't mean just a Google Translator translation) so more people can start making "standard" shields.

I will NOT continue to write this standard though if there is not enough desire from you guys; writing a standard that it short, complete, comprehensive, and all encompassing takes a decent amount of time. So that being said, I have about 70+ visitors a day, 40 of which are returning visitors. I have decided that unless I have about 15-20 comments from people who would like me to propose a standard for LaunchPad shields, I will not continue writing up the proposal. If there is no desire for me to do this, no problem at all. :-)

So, in the next post we will be using an FTDI breakout board to communicate at higher data speeds. I am currently working on turning the SPI peripheral into a hardware/software UART which would allow for VERY fast communication with the PC or other devices. I will also show how I connect my LaunchPad to a breadboard.

Since there are so many people who still haven't gotten their LaunchPads, and I'm sure there is going to be a huge growth in the community in the next few weeks. I also think that if the community grows, there will be a second influx of new people just because we have created a good community. The more visitors, I will try to make new posts more often.

So, please comment on my shield idea. Even feel free to tell me why you don't think I should.

UPDATE!!! I just got the SPI interface to act as a UART at speeds of 1100000 baud...thats right 1,100,000 baud. I am super excited, this is a great step for me with my project. It turned out to be quite simple. Expect a future post discussing this.


  1. Yesss!!! that´s a great idea!!!
    By the way, could be the FTDI replace with a TUSB3410???

  2. It's definitely a good idea to put some standards together. Let me know how I can help!

  3. Hi! I could help translating the documentation to Spanish. Also, could you help me making the uart to receive data?

  4. Hello! I love what you are doing here. I had some microcontroller stuff in college 8 years ago. I've been playing with the arduino and I just got my launchpad! I'm really behind the curve when it comes to keeping up with your posts. But I wanted to let you know I would buy a shield, if you ever sell them. And I really appreciate the work you put into these posts.

  5. DIY "shields" out of laboratory card is a fast way to get protos.;

    Some "shields" use most of the pins and stacking is not needed. Some "shields" use only few pins and you can stack other "shields" on them.

    Where can you buy stackable female headers?
    SparFun got them but that is too far away and expensive shipping.
    One other option is to use standard male and female headers and just offset them to make a stackable shield.

    I have not got my LaunchPad yet. One of the first projects is to make a USB to RS232 "shield" with a FT232RL chip. It will have optocouplers so you don't have to care about the power source. You can also power the MSP430 via USB with a jumper.

    The Value series chips are quite limited in IO pins and I'll quickly move to MSP430F2252 chips as a standard chip for projects.

  6. As for the USB cable issue, YES I HAVE!!! It's been driving me nuts. It seems like the connector to the computer is a little thin, so I bent the tension tabs on my computer's USB ports a little more to compress it, and that helped. I guess we get what we pay for...

  7. Great! Tons of comments! Here is my attempt at trying to respond all the questions.

    Yes, you could replace the FTDI chip with a TUSB3410, or any USB to serial chip for that matter. I just don't have any experience with the TUSB device so I would really be of no help.

    I only ask that once its done, as many people as possible proofread it and offer feedback. :-)

    I have been thinking about writing a UART receive program and writing about it since there is so much interest. It will have to wait till I have more time though, my personal project is almost into the PCB ordering stage.

    Thanks so much for the feedback! As far as me selling some shields go, I have accidentally (on my commute) came up with some really cool ideas for shields. I might start selling them soon if I can come up with a way to do it cost effectively for myself and everyone else. It would be silly to sell shields at $20 for a $4 development kit. My goal is around $10, which is still quite silly considering the LaunchPad is $4.

    Yeah, I love protoboards in certain situations. If I sold shields I would include all the headers required (if it was possible to do so). 10 pin stackable headers are playing hard to get, but I know they are out there somewhere. Also, one thing to watch out for with optocouplers are maximum speeds. Make sure the chips can handle the baud rates you will be working with.

    Thank you! I'm not alone! I'll check the connector more closely when I get home. At least it's not just me...but your right, what can we expect for $4.30.

  8. I think Samtec makes a good candidate for stackable headers:

    The part number we'd be after is SSQ-110-03-T-S. They'd be about $0.70 a piece, less if you buy lots, of course. You might ask them for a few samples to try out and see if it's going to work-- they've been very good about samples for me before.


    Seriously, though, it's a good idea. And you have my suggestions on the 43oh forum.

  10. A standard would be great!
    I have some experience in technical writing, so I'd be happy to proofread or assist as needed!

  11. Would absolutely love to see shields. I'm a complete hardware noob and need all the help I can get :)

    Perhaps such an effort should be moved to the LauchPad Wiki tho

  12. +1 for the standard, possibly consider 2 standards though:

    One for the physical requirements and one for the circuitry.

    the arduino folks seem to get themselves backed into the corner now and then because of dimensions of their shield concept don't fit some purposes.

    addressable shields perhaps?

    also, one of the USB from my launchpads does not connect well to one of my desktops, and I have had trouble with certian other cables loosing power when bumped on the launchpad socket end of things.

  13. I definitely think that having a standard or guide for shields would be incredibly useful. I think that is a major advantage of the Arduino community. Having similar ease of development for the 430 would be incredible.

  14. Another vote for the shield standard! Just got my launchpads today (finally...), and the first thing I thought about was the possible use of shields. There are plenty of usefull things that could be added as a shield, which would save a bit of time and hassle. A definite advantage for noobs like myself.


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