USB Mouse with ATmega32U4 Pro Micro Clone and LUFA

I have spent a fair amount of time with 8-bit AVR microcontrollers and one of the cooler things has been the V-USB library which implements low-speed USB with clever (and very time-critical) bit-banging. The popularity of my USB tutorials is a testament to its usefulness, and I’ve gotten lots of mileage out of that.

There are, however, some limitations to software USB with such a low spec microcontroller. USB communication hogs up the MCU completely during USB communication, which means you lose dozens of microseconds in random (or in many cases 8 ms) intervals. This rules out things like software UART at reasonable speeds (which I discovered when trying to implement MIDI on Adafruit Trinket). And more powerful ATmega328-based dev boards like Pro Trinket start to get quite large.

ProMicro on a breadboard

Not so with this tiny beauty shown in the image. It’s a ATmega32U4 based board, where the U4 means it has hardware USB support. The form factor is extremely compact 12 pin header length, which leaves 5 rows free on the smallest prototyping breadboards. That means you can have a DIP8 component with a few resistors on the same breadboard (such as a 6N137 optocoupler which is nice for MIDI… ;).

And the best part is, that because the chip is flashed with same firmware used in Arduino Leonardo (and a largely matching pinout), you can use Arduino for programming, and avrdude supports it out of the box.

Actually, scratch the above statement. The best part is the price. The board is based on Sparkfun Pro Micro 16 MHz, but it’s actually a Chinese clone, which you can get for $4 via DealExtreme and from quite many places in AliExpress: Just search for ATmega32U4 and they will come up. This means you can just order five and solder them into whatever project you’ll make permanently. And unlike Arduino Micro (for which clones exist as well), this has the micro-USB port already in place.

Using Pro Micro without Arduino IDE

Now you can just follow SparkFun’s instructions on how to use that thing on Arduino (short version: select Leonardo as board type, and look up the schematic if you are unsure which pins are connected to LEDs, etc.). But if you’re like me and want to get to raw metal, avr-gcc and avrdude is the way to go. Here’s a simple blinky demo:
Continue reading USB Mouse with ATmega32U4 Pro Micro Clone and LUFA

Retronics USB Joystick Adapter and Other Coolness with V-USB

Retronics joystick adapter

There are a ton of cool gadgets available in eBay, and even though I sometimes do impulse buys, I rarely mention those in my blog. However, this extremely cool piece of retro tech is something I just cannot pass by without a comment: Retronic Design USB joystick adapter. It is essentially a joystick adapter for the popular 9-pin D-SUB connector used in many of the 80s consoles, most notably Atari, Commodore 64 and Amiga. On the outside, it’s not much to be excited about – USB connector on the one end, and grey dongle that accepts a joystick on the other. However, things quickly change when you open up the enclosure (click on the image for a large view):

Retronics USB adapter opened up

Inside the D-SUB end there is a very neat little piece of engineering, and many of my readers probably know how to program it — it isn’t anything other than a ATmega8A, a 8-bit AVR microcontroller that employs the same V-USB library I’ve covered in my tutorials to appear as a USB HID device on PC side.

All the components are on one side, and you have to admire the tiny ISP header the Retronic Design guys have fitted on the PCB. And wait, it doesn’t stop there. On the Retronic Design web site, they have full specifications for the device, and the download page includes both schematic, as well as full source code to the firmware.
Continue reading Retronics USB Joystick Adapter and Other Coolness with V-USB

USB password generator PCB

The most popular project of all time at Code and Life has been my DIY USB password generator. When I made it, I used a piece of veroboard that just fit inside a USB memory stick enclosure. Well, guess what: Benjamin Lunt just recently designed a custom PCB for it! I’ve been exchanging e-mails with him (Ben has written a book on USB, another very popular topic also in my blog) and he was kind enough to ship me one of these neat boards. Here’s what it looked like:

In addition to a nice USB connector footprint, this design also has a green power LED and a red transmission LED (which needs a small firmware change). Once assembled, the thing is really tiny, and it does work great. Thanks a lot for Mr. Lunt for designing this one! Be sure to visit his blog, as he’s interested if anyone would also like to have one (I know I did :). Maybe he’ll even publish the design files if someone wants to tinker with it (of course making your own isn’t too hard either).

On the right you can see what mine looked after some soldering (click for a larger image) – I love the fact that small resistors from Partco all had different base color for different values… I had to compromise a bit and use 48 ohm resistors instead of 58, and 4k7 instead of 2k2. For the LEDs, I used 480 ohms.

Using Arduino Uno as ISP

One exciting piece of hardware I received with my Digikey order was an Arduino Uno board (R3). There was conflicting information whether or not it could be used as an ISP (in-system programmer), so I decided to see for myself. It turned out that with just one tweak, I could use the $26 device to program my AVR chips, essentially eliminating the need for a separate ISP such as $22 USBtiny!

This is obviously good news for any beginner with a budget, so I decided to write a short tutorial on how to do it. I used my USB password generator as a guinea pig for this project, so if you have wanted to try that out, this post also doubles as tutorial on how to build it on breadboard (good idea in any case before soldering it anywhere). Read on for details!
Continue reading Using Arduino Uno as ISP

DIY USB password generator

Having done half a dozen V-USB tutorials I decided it’s time to whip up something cool. As USB keyboards were an area untouched, I decided to make a small USB HID keyboard device that types a password stored in EEPROM every time it’s attached. A new password can be generated just by tabbing CAPS LOCK a few times (4 times to start password regeneration and one tab for each password character generated, 10 is the default password length). Below you can see the device in action:

The place I work at requires me to change my password every few months so this would be one way to skip remembering a new password altogether (as long as I remember to write it down before regenerating a new one so password can be changed :).

What is inside?

The device is powered with a simplified version of the hardware I used in my ATtiny85 USB tutorial – I stripped away the LCD, reset pullup and both capacitors. If you’re better in cramming components inside enclosures I suggest adding at least a 0.1 uF capacitor between VCC and GND, but it seems to work fine even without it:

Continue reading DIY USB password generator

AVR ATtiny USB Tutorial Part 4

All right. Now that we got the basic USB code working in part 3, it’s time to wrap things up in this tutorial series. This fourth section will explain how to send data from your device to PC and also the other way around. I may later do a fifth part on how to make a USB HID device like a keyboard or mouse, so if you haven’t already, I’d recommend subscribing to the RSS feed to get updates.

Sending data from device to PC

If you look carefully at our command-line client code, you probably noticed that the control messages sent to toggle the led are of type USB_ENDPOINT_IN and we have a 256-byte buffer in place to receive any data the device sends. So far we have not received any data and the return value stored in nBytes has been zero. Let’s change that.
Continue reading AVR ATtiny USB Tutorial Part 4

AVR ATtiny USB Tutorial Part 3

This is the third part of my USB tutorial for ATtiny2313 and V-USB library. In the second part we got the breadboard setup more or less covered, and now is the time for actual code! This will most likely be the longest of the three parts, so let’s get started.

Adding V-USB as a part of your project

First, we will download the latest version V-USB library from OBdev. Head to the Downloads-section and get the latest .zip – I got vusb-20120109.zip.

Unzip the archive and copy the usbdrv subfolder to your project folder (the whole folder, not just contents). Go to the subfolder and make a copy of usbconfig-prototype.h with the name usbconfig.h. Locate the #define lines for IO port and port bits and clock rate, and update them as necessary to reflect our configuration where D+ is in PD2 and D- in PD3 and clock rate is 12 MHz:

#define USB_CFG_IOPORTNAME      D
#define USB_CFG_DMINUS_BIT      3
#define USB_CFG_DPLUS_BIT       2
#define USB_CFG_CLOCK_KHZ       12000

Continue reading AVR ATtiny USB Tutorial Part 3

AVR ATtiny USB Tutorial Part 2

This is the second part of my USB tutorial for ATtiny2313 and V-USB library. In the first part we learned how to get 3.3V from USB to power our circuits. In this part, we will expand our setup with following parts:

  • Larger breadboard and additional jumper wires
  • ATtiny2313
  • 12 MHz crystal oscillator
  • Two 27 pF ceramic capacitors to stabilize the crystal
  • Two 68 Ω resistors between USB data lines and the microcontroller pins
  • 1 MΩ pullup resistor for D+ and 1.5 kΩ pullup for D-
  • 6-pin header for programming the ATtiny and 4.7 kΩ pullup for reset pin

Update: Some people have noted that the setup I’m using here runs ATtiny2313 at 12 MHz with only 3.3V VCC, which is outside the specified range (frequencies over 10 Mhz require 4.5V or more). I’ve never had any problems, and many others have succeeded with this setup, but if you encounter persistent problems, I suggest you to power the ATtiny2313 straight from 5V of the USB line and use zener diodes on D+ and D- lines to drop their voltage, as is done in my later tutorial with the ATtiny85 microcontroller.

Breadboard setup

This time I will not walk you through every connection. Instead, I’ll just outline the steps needed and show the pictures of end result. Here is the schematic we’re building:


Continue reading AVR ATtiny USB Tutorial Part 2

AVR ATtiny USB Tutorial Part 1

I wanted to build an USB device using AVR microcontrollers since I found out that it was possible. However, both the USBtiny project and the more extensive V-USB library lacked an easy-to-approach tutorial. So I decided to make one.

This first part covers the basics for making USB-powered devices, and serves as introduction for second part, which goes through simple example for using V-USB library to implement USB communication to and from ATtiny2313. Additional parts might be published later if I have the time and there’s interest.

But let’s get started. Here is what you need for this first part:

  • USB cable and pin header
  • Small breadboard and a few jump wires
  • LED and 330 ohm resistor
  • Low voltage drop 3.3V regulator, such as LD1086V33 or LE33CZ

The cable

The first thing we need to do is cut the USB cable so the end that goes into computer remains, strip the other end and solder the four wires into a pin header so it’s easy to plug the cable into a breadboard. USB contains four wires which you should solder in the following order (note: not all cables conform to this so check with a multimeter!):

Pin Color Function
1 Red VCC (+5V)
2 White D-
3 Green D+
4 Black Ground (0V)

Here you see the end result. When stripping the wire, be careful not to damage the wires and make sure the wires will not touch each other so your cable won’t short circuit your computer or USB hub!

Cable with soldered pin header
Continue reading AVR ATtiny USB Tutorial Part 1

Linux SATA problem with Abit IP35-E

Just a brief revelation to share with any readers (perhaps they stumble here through Google, or by some horrible accident :).

I’ve had an Abit IP35-E motherboard in my HTPC setup for six months now, and while a great overclocking board, stable and packed with nice features (yeah, right, this is the budget version), I haven’t been able to coerce my Debian Lenny installation copied from previous IDE hard drive, or any Linux Live-CD to properly recognize my 500GB Samsung SATA hard drive.

Because booting to Linux rebooted with USB keyboard on, and IRQ options sometimes seemed to work their magic and temporarily get me to login prompt, I figured there was some IRQ conflict at work. I searched for the fix just half a year ago with no luck, but after 5 months of complete Linux abstince (spelled that wrong, I did), I stumbled upon this:

http://www.fatwallet.com/forums/hot-deals/812946/ (search for “Linux”)

Turns out all I needed was to swap SATA cable from SATA1 port to SATA5. Voila, now everything works great, no IRQ conflicts there (only SATA1-SATA4 ports conflict with USB controller).

Hope this helps someone!