App note: Using ESD diodes as voltage clamps

App note from Analog Devices on improving robustness of an amplifier by determining and mitigating internal ESD diode clamp electrical overestress. Link here

When external overvoltage conditions are applied to an amplifier, ESD diodes are the last line of defense between your amplifier and electrical over stress. With proper understanding of how an ESD cell is implemented in a device, a designer can greatly extend the survival range of an amplifier with the appropriate circuit design. This article aims to introduce readers to the various types of ESD implementations, discuss the characteristics of each implementation, and provide guidance on how to utilize these cells to improve the robustness of a design.

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Coding for concentration with Digital Making at Home

September is wellness month at Digital Making at Home. Your young makers can code along with our educators every week to create projects that focus on their well-being. This week’s brand-new projects are all about helping young people concentrate better.

Through Digital Making at Home, we invite parents and kids all over the world to code and make along with us and our new projects, videos, and live streams every week.

This week’s live stream will take place on Wednesday at 5.30pm BST / 12.30pm EDT / 10.00pm IST at rpf.io/home. Let your kids join in so they can progress to the next stage of learning to code with Scratch!

If you’re in the USA, your young people can join Christina on Thursday at 3.30pm PDT / 5.30pm CDT / 6.30pm EDT for an additional US-time live stream! Christina will show newcomers how to begin coding Scratch projects. Thanks to our partners Infosys Foundation USA for making this new live stream possible.

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What the blink is my IP address?

Picture the scene: you have a Raspberry Pi configured to run on your network, you power it up headless (without a monitor), and now you need to know which IP address it was assigned.

Matthias came up with this solution, which makes your Raspberry Pi blink its IP address, because he used a Raspberry Pi Zero W headless for most of his projects and got bored with having to look it up with his DHCP server or hunt for it by pinging different IP addresses.

How does it work?

A script runs when you start your Raspberry Pi and indicates which IP address is assigned to it by blinking it out on the device’s LED. The script comprises about 100 lines of Python, and you can get it on GitHub.

A screen running Python
Easy peasy GitHub breezy

The power/status LED on the edge of the Raspberry Pi blinks numbers in a Roman numeral-like scheme. You can tell which number it’s blinking based on the length of the blink and the gaps between each blink, rather than, for example, having to count nine blinks for a number nine.

Blinking in Roman numerals

Short, fast blinks represent the numbers one to four, depending on how many short, fast blinks you see. A gap between short, fast blinks means the LED is about to blink the next digit of the IP address, and a longer blink represents the number five. So reading the combination of short and long blinks will give you your device’s IP address.

You can see this in action at this exact point in the video. You’ll see the LED blink fast once, then leave a gap, blink fast once again, then leave a gap, then blink fast twice. That means the device’s IP address ends in 112.

What are octets?

Luckily, you usually only need to know the last three numbers of the IP address (the last octet), as the previous octets will almost always be the same for all other computers on the LAN.

The script blinks out the last octet ten times, to give you plenty of chances to read it. Then it returns the LED to its default functionality.

Which LED on which Raspberry Pi?

On a Raspberry Pi Zero W, the script uses the green status/power LED, and on other Raspberry Pis it uses the green LED next to the red power LED.

The green LED blinking the IP address (the red power LED is slightly hidden by Matthias’ thumb)

Once you get the hang of the Morse code-like blinking style, this is a really nice quick solution to find your device’s IP address and get on with your project.

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Turn a watermelon into a RetroPie games console

OK Cedrick, we don’t need to know why, but we have to know how you turned a watermelon into a games console.

This has got to be a world first. What started out as a regular RetroPie project has blown up reddit due to the unusual choice of casing for the games console: nearly 50,000 redditors upvoted this build within a week of Cedrick sharing it.

See, we’re not kidding

What’s inside?

  • Raspberry Pi 3
  • Jingo Dot power bank (that yellow thing you can see below)
  • Speakers
  • Buttons
  • Small 1.8″ screen
Cedrick’s giggling really makes this video

Retropie

While this build looks epic, it isn’t too tricky to make. First, Cedrick flashed the RetroPie image onto an SD card, then he wired up a Raspberry Pi’s GPIO pins to the red console buttons, speakers, and the screen.

Cedrick achieved audio output by adding just a few lines of code to the config file, and he downloaded libraries for screen configuration and button input. That’s it! That’s all you need to get a games console up and running.

Cedrick just hanging on the train with his WaterBoy

Now for the messy bit

Cedrick had to gut an entire watermelon before he could start getting all the hardware in place. He power-drilled holes for the buttons to stick through, and a Stanley knife provided the precision he needed to get the right-sized gap for the screen.

A gutted watermelon with gaps cut to fit games console buttons and a screen

Rather than drill even more holes for the speakers, Cedrick stuck them in place inside the watermelon using toothpicks. He did try hot glue first but… yeah. Turns out fruit guts are impervious to glue.

Moisture was going to be a huge problem, so to protect all the hardware from the watermelon’s sticky insides, Cedrick lined it with plastic clingfilm.

Infinite lives

And here’s how you can help: Cedrick is open to any tips as to how to preserve the perishable element of his project: the watermelon. Resin? Vaseline? Time machine? How can he keep the watermelon fresh?

Share your ideas on reddit or YouTube, and remember to subscribe to see more of Cedrick’s maverick making in the wild.

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It’s a brand-new NODE Mini Server!

NODE has long been working to create open-source resources to help more people harness the decentralised internet, and their easily 3D-printed designs are perfect to optimise your Raspberry Pi.

NODE wanted to take advantage of the faster processor and up to 8GB RAM on Raspberry Pi 4 when it came out last year. Now that our tiny computer is more than capable of being used as as a general Linux desktop system, the NODE Mini Server version 3 has been born.

As for previous versions of NODE’s Mini Server, one of their main goals for this new iteration was to package Raspberry Pi in a way which makes it a little easier to use as a regular mini server or computer. In other words, it’s put inside a neat little box with all the ports accessible on one side.

Black is incredibly slimming

Slimmer and simpler

The latest design is simplified compared to previous versions. Everything lives in a 92mm × 92mm enclosure that isn’t much thicker than Raspberry Pi itself.

The slimmed-down new case comprises a single 3D-printed piece and a top cover made from a custom-designed printed circuit board (PCB) that has four brass-threaded inserts soldered into the corners, giving you a simple way to screw everything together.

The custom PCB cover

What are the new features?

Another goal for version 3 NODE’s Mini Server was to include as much modularity as possible. That’s why this new mini server requires no modifications to the Raspberry Pi itself, thanks to a range of custom-designed adapter boards. How to take advantage of all these new features is explained at this point in NODE’s YouTube video.

Ooh, shiny and new and new and shiny

Just like for previous versions, all the files and a list of the components you need to create your own Mini Server are available for free on the NODE website.

Leave comments on NODE’s YouTube video if you’d like to create and sell your own Mini Server kits or pre-made servers. NODE is totally open to showcasing any add-ons or extras you come up with yourself.

Looking ahead, making the Mini Server stackable and improving fan circulation is next on NODE’s agenda.

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Give your voice assistant a retro Raspberry Pi makeover

Do you feel weird asking the weather or seeking advice from a faceless device? Would you feel better about talking to a classic 1978 2-XL educational robot from Mego Corporation? Matt over at element14 Community, where tons of interesting stuff happens, has got your back.

Watch Matt explain how the 2-XL toy robot worked before he started tinkering with it. This robot works with Google Assistant on a Raspberry Pi, and answers to a custom wake word.

Kit list

Our recent blog about repurposing a Furby as a voice assistant device would have excited Noughties kids, but this one is mostly for our beautiful 1970s- and 1980s-born fanbase.

Time travel

2-XL, Wikipedia tells us, is considered the first “smart toy”, marketed way back in 1978, and exhibiting “rudimentary intelligence, memory, gameplay, and responsiveness”. 2-XL had a personality that kept kids’ attention, telling jokes and offering verbal support as they learned.

Teardown

Delve under the robot’s armour to see how the toy was built, understand the basic working mechanism, and watch Matt attempt to diagnose why his 2-XL is not working.

Setting up Google Assistant

The Matrix Creator daughter board mentioned in the kit list is an ideal platform for developing your own AI assistant. It’s the daughter board’s 8-microphone array that makes it so brilliant for this task. Learn how to set up Google Assistant on the Matrix board in this video.

What if you don’t want to wake your retrofit voice assistant in the same way as all the other less dedicated users, the ones who didn’t spend hours of love and care refurbishing an old device? Instead of having your homemade voice assistant answer to “OK Google” or “Alexa”, you can train it to recognise a phrase of your choice. In this tutorial, Matt shows you how to set up a custom wake word with your voice assistant, using word detection software called Snowboy.

Keep an eye on element14 on YouTube for the next instalment of this excellent retrofit project.

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