Thursday, June 21, 2012

Flip my Bits Cheat Sheet and Code Snippets

I have been chewing through over a thousand pages of various technical publications on the MSP430, the LaunchPad Labs and some great blogs in an effort to not only master this chip for myself, but to also create a good novice user guide. These are a work in progress and will certainly be updated.

I'll also state that my chip of choice within the MSP430 Value Line has become the MSP430G3533 because out of 40 chips, it is available, and has the most peripherals (I must have a UART and an ADC!)
I get mine from Mouser.

Flip My Bits: Register Manipulation and C Refresher [Link]

MSP430 Code Snippets [Link]

My other interests [Link]

Thursday, June 14, 2012

An Easy Tool for Reading and Writing Hex to a MSP430

I have been gearing up to get seriously deep with the Texas Instruments (TI) LaunchPad value-line processors, with a particular focus on mastering the Air Module CC110L RF BoosterPack so I can develop some wireless sensors. For about $20, TI sells a pair of the RF shields with pre-programmed chips. My immediate concern was to make sure that I could return those chips to their original program in case I messed them up with my hacking. I simply wanted the means of sucking the hex code out of the microcontroller and saving it so I could reload it later. After fruitless hours trying to do this with both IAR and CCS, I found the perfect tool: Elprotronic's FET-Pro Lite SW (free). It is designed to talk to any of the TI FET programmers (LaunchPad has one built in). You simply dial in the specific chip plugged into your LaunchPad board, plug in the USB cable, and select read on the GUI's menu. When a matrix of code appears, select the TI format (which is a text file (TXT) as opposed to an Intel .hex format). To be sure it worked, I copied the chip's hex code, erased the chip, proved to myself that nothing was going on, and reloaded the code successfully. In the process of this, I discovered that one of my 3 LaunchPad boards was defective, as any attempt to read a programmed chip's code yielded only 00s of FFs (signifying a blank device). In any even, this FET-Pro Lite is a great sanity check and a useful tool.

To get the FET-Pro430 Lite software (free) goto

For the Air module source code goto

Download the BoosterStack CD Zip file (all files and documents) (newly updated Jan 24, 2012)

The TI hex code is found in this text file:
120124 - CD ROOT\CD ROOT\Firmware\_FactoryDefault\AirBoosterStack.txt

To purchase the Air Module CC110L RF BoosterPack goto

My other interests: [Link]

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Capacitive Touch Pad

I just got the Texas Instruments Capacitive Touch Pad accessory for the Launch Pad experimenter's board (P/N 430Boost-Sense1). It comes with a preprogrammed 20-pin chip with demo code to let you play with it right out of the box. There are no moving parts. It works by sensing the change in frequency a body (i.e. finger) effects upon a relaxation oscillator; the added capacitance lowers the frequency, which the microprocessor measures. This can work as a proximity sensor (just waving your hand an inch above the board wakes it up and causes the LEDs to swirl in a circle), and as a toggle switch (the center LED toggles on and off) and as momentary switches (the circle of touch pads) all via programming. The capacitive touch pad is $10, and you will need a LaunchPad board ($4.30).

My Utube video of playing with it [Link]

T.I. Capacitive Touch Pad [Link]

My other interests [Link]

Saturday, February 25, 2012

RF Booster Pack for LaunchPad

Texas Instruments (TI) just came out with a RF Booster Pack for the MSP430 LaunchPad experimenter system.

The CC110L RF BoosterPack is a low-power wireless transceiver extension kit for use with the Texas Instruments MSP-EXP430G2 LaunchPad development kit. Based on the CC110L device, the on-board Anaren Integrated Radio (AIR) A110LR09A radio module with integrated antenna operates in the European 868-870MHz and US 902-928MHz ISM bands. The included software application, called AIR BoosterStack, demonstrates an example sensor network as well as network status reporting.
Download updated and additional documentation and software from Anaren.
NB! Note that you will need two MSP430 LaunchPad kits in addition to this kit in order to use the hardware as described in the Quick Start Guide.

This is really inexpensive, $19.00 purchases a pair of transceiver boards; you will also need a pair of LaunchPad boards at $4.30 each. The software loaded easily, and within a few minutes I had a wireless link established between on transceiver hooked to the PC's USB, and another battery-powered transceiver. I put the battery-powered transceiver into my refrigerator (the signal strength was still very good) and took measurements using the supplied GUI (graphical user interface).  This kit provides a good starting point to hack in other sensors for a wireless sensor system.

The Parts list [Link]

My other interests [Link]

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Powering Up Your MSP430 Project

The low power MSP430 line of chips run on 1.8V to 3.6V. When using the LaunchPad emulator, your project is powered off of the USB port of your computer. When you want to deploy your project into the 'world' an appropriate source of power is required. The chip is not tolerant of voltages above 3.7V. The whole idea of this line is to operate from batteries under low power for long periods for things like remote sensors. A 3.3 lithium coin cell would work nicely, as would a pair of double or triple A batteries in series. An intriguing solution I came across in the Pololu catalog is the BodhiLabs single AA step-up 3.3V converter. It is specified to supply up to 100mAs (your project should not use a tenth of that if it is 'low power') (the low power lab runs at less than half of 1mA) and I could find no discernible ripple on my oscilloscope of the supply in operation. Solar and energy harvesting are other good possibilities that I would like to explore in the future.

Pololu/BodhiLab 3.3V converter [Link]
All Electronic Corp Coin Cell Holder [Link]
My other interests [Link]

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Amazing Grace!

Grace is AMAZING! So is Texas Instruments (TI) Grace, a graphical application for setting up a MSP430 microprocessor. Going through all of the LaunchPad labs, I gained an appreciation for the complexity of this little chip: nearly 1000 pages of reference material to set up all of the registers, to configure the clock, timers, I/O ports and A/D converters. The normal process involves flipping bits in a bunch of registers using cryptic ANSI C. The material and examples they provided in that wiki made it possible for me. The very last lab in the series introduced Grace. You just can't appreciate Grace until you see how difficult it is without it, and how much it cost. Someone made a great sacrifice to make this kind of access available. Yet it is FREE!
It is like the Denny's menu: you point to the pretty pictures and make a selection through pull downs. Once you make all of your selections on the graphical interface, you can see the actual C code that it generated on another page tab. Grace is called up in your program as a function. It permits you to spend more time on developing your application and less on setting it up. It is really GREAT!

Grace wiki [Link]

Screen shots of all Grace windows [Link]

LaunchPad wiki [Link]

My other interests [Link]

Sunday, January 22, 2012

LaunchPad MSP430 Fan Blog

I have long admired the creative development kits that Texas Instruments (TI) has come up with over the years: USB programming dongels with detatchable processor boards, wireless links, even a wrist watch with a RF link, accelerometer and temperature sensor. These kits are inexpensive (all under $100, several under $20) and the MSP430 is a versatile chip. Over the last 10 years, I have purchased a variety of them; but quicky run into some high hurdles and steep learning curves that frustrated my efforts. Novice teaching materials took a few years to catch up with TI's innovative products. I would attack the 430 for a few months, and then go back to something easy , like a PICAXE processor, (in BASIC), to feel a small sense of accomplishment, though I knew I was reverting back to the 'little league' of embedded programming. Fortunately a workshop has been composed for the TI LaunchPad board, which is extremely detailed, (i.e. even for 'dummies' like me) that explains and de-encrypts the C code needed to control the MSP430 line of processors. They practically give the kit away at under $5, and the free versions of Code Composer Studio (CCS), IAR, GRACE and other tools are of phenominal value. I just successfully completed all of the experiments in the entire 182 page LaunchPad workshop (less the capacitive touchpad, 'cause I didn't have one) and I could not be happier with the system, literature and TI. Not only did this make sense of the MSP430G2231 chip included; but it opened the door to my making use of all of the other hardware that I have purchased over the years: the RF links, my Chronos watch and the USB dongles.

The bar for MSP430 is higher than for PICAXE BASIC: anyone climbing this hill will have to be more committed and willing to wade through nearly 1000 pages of references (see link to list below). However, the extra effort will be rewarded through understanding at a much deeper level how the processor operates, and in having much more control of how it carries out instructions and even controlling its power consumption. Now that I have performed all of the labs, I'm going back through all of the code to study just how and why each register was set they way they were; and then I will pursue some of my own projects. Ultimately, I'd like to teach a small group of people how to do this.

Essential References [Link]

My other Interests [Link]