Category: Uncategorized


Built a USB PIC microcontroller programmer, the usbpicprog. I used Marcelo Maggi’s version with daughter boards for the USB and ZIF. The boards had some narrow traces–I had two small defects after eteching, and lost a few more pads soldering the components on. Small wires fixed things up and it worked first time.

The instructions aren’t very clear. The bootloader .hex gets burned using a JDM programmer using the self programmer header. Then place a jumper on the self programming header Vpp and Vdd, plug it into the USB port, run usbpicprog. These messages appear on the command line:
Bootloader Devid: 11240
Autodetected PIC ID: 0x11240

Then open the firmware .hex and burn it. The program said it completed OK. Then quit the program, remove the USB cord, and add a second jumper on the self programming header from the Clk pin to Gnd.

After this it I connected my PIC18F46K20 to the ICSP header (on a breadboard), plugged in the USB cable, and ran usbpicprog again. I opened my .hex and burned it. It said the code burned OK but gave an error for the configuration bits (like I was getting from the JDM programmers). Then I tried erasing it followed by running blank check. Both of these completed OK. I re-burned my program, and this time it worked! Configuration bits were programmed and verified!

So far I’ve only finished the main board. I made the USB board but haven’t populated it yet. I intend this mainly for ICSP programming, so I haven’t decided on whether to make the ZIF board. I do need to make an enclosure.

usbpicprog top side
usbpicprog bottom side
You can see some of the trace repairs.

Links for November 2011

Nepotism and wealth go together like father and son


US corporate tax rates:


Revenue Statistics of O.E.C.D. Member Countries, 2010, Source

Polyvinyl alcohol, neat stuff

Making an inkjet nozzle with a piezo buzzer. Drop size and speed not measured. Both seem to be on the order of a µl.

Inkjet 3d printer that prints into dental power / PVA
3D DLP printer build log. What is being built is unclear.
Tests of UV curing resins for 3D printing

Scalzi on the sf/fantasy question

John Scalzi, writer of science fiction and recent GOH at Capricon has an article about movies and science fiction, an often awkward pair. This is an endless topic among sf readers. Especially with movies, the nature of movie production tends to stomp the sf out of them. I still don’t think Scalzi really gets the meat of the argument.

The vital element in speculative fiction is that it raises interesting questions–predictions about the future or about whether aspects of our society are necessary or universal, just to pick two.

Star Wars is space fantasy because it eschews sf and tells a fantasy tale of adventure and superpowers. The space future setting doesn’t make it sf any more than it did for Bugs Bunny cartoons with Marvin the Martian.

The science content is not a critical aspect of sf, but it is a signifier. Good speculative fiction respects science to the extent it can while telling it’s story. It does this so the reader or viewer has a context in which to think about the ideas raised by the work. If ‘it’s all a dream’ or ‘you’ve thought about this more than the director’ is the best answer to the questions the work raises then doesn’t work as sf.

Many movies with a futurist setting ignore all the rules of the world, violating laws of nature randomly. It’s a flag that the author isn’t telling a story you are meant to think about, just an adventure romp or a horror tale. Shows like Star Trek jump back and forth across this divide–it pulls things together for a spot of speculative fiction but then retreats fantasy.

Cool, a custom made dodecahedral puzzle like a 5x5x5 version of Rubik’s cube!

The MAKE site has pictures of the build process: MAKE, video