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Electronics Universal USB modding tool

Discussion in 'Modding' started by arakis, 9 Oct 2011.

  1. arakis

    arakis New Member

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    I am thinking of designing a Universal USB modding tool, the design will be under a open source hardware license , so all software, firmware, schematic and PCB files will be free to use..
    Purpose.
    To allow PC interactive Fan, LED,actuator control, read multiple temperature or any other sensors, drive LCDs...and any idea the community might suggest so please post your ideas.

    With the on board MCU there are lots of possibilities.

    it would use a micro-controller that would be connected to the motherboard via the internal usb jack, powered by standard molex or SATA power cable, if the power requirements ate below 2.5w it could use SUB only thus lowering cable management.
     
    mvagusta likes this.
  2. mvagusta

    mvagusta Did a skid that went for two weeks.

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    This sounds like a really cool idea... but why make it open source?

    You could make a fair bit of money with this!
     
  3. Nexxo

    Nexxo * Prefab Sprout – The King of Rock 'n' Roll

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    Sounds like an Arduino clone, or in terms of ease of use, more specifically a Teagueduino. :)

    Still, always room for one more, especially if tailored to PC modding.
     
  4. arakis

    arakis New Member

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    it will be open source because I work for such a company, but I am not gonna link it here so it wouldn't seem as if I am posting commercials. I would earn by selling the finished product witch because of higher number will cost around the same with shipping as for you to build it yourself and you have a guaranty that it is electronically tested it works as intended.

    depending on added peripherals it should be around 30-40$
    and possibly buying just the PCB for around 5$ with shipping

    It wouldn't be like the arduino, but tailor made for the PC modding scene, thats why I require your inputs.
     
    Last edited: 13 Oct 2011
  5. edzieba

    edzieba Virtual Realist

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    You might be better off with making a shield for an arduino/clone with the correct connectors for fan and LED control, and writing some libraries and a front-end for easy control. You'd have to write the libraries & front-end for whatever uC you use anyway, and a breakout board will be a lot cheaper than fabricating Yet Another *duiono Variant that doesn't add any additional functional components (driving PWM fans, LEDs, reading sensors and outputting to 7segment and dot-matrix displays are all things that can be done natively with almost any ATMega/pic/Propeller/MSP/etc).
     
  6. Nexxo

    Nexxo * Prefab Sprout – The King of Rock 'n' Roll

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    It's a great idea, but unfortunately several years too late. There is nothing your device could do that an Arduino could not do at half the price. Your target audience would have to be people with not much knowledge of electronics or programming, in which case we are right back at a Teagueduino.

    What you need is something with the ease of programmability (really, configurability) of a Teagueduino that will 'recognise' the components you hook up to it and will set its ports and their associations up accordingly --i.e. it would know whether you are connecting a temp sensor or a fan and configure that port as analogue in- or output automatically, and automatically create an association between said sensor and fan (speed). Hook up a button and LED and it sets the ports up as a digital input and output respectively. Some simple point-and-click or drag-and-snap software would be required to say: "If you sense this input on port 1, you produce that output on port 2 (and 3)", with perhaps some Boolean terms thrown in.

    A lot of this stuff does already exist in some form. Your product could pull it together more in one package. But before you waste time and effort, I'd recommend you have a look at Teagueduino.
     
    Last edited: 10 Oct 2011
  7. arakis

    arakis New Member

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    As far as I am aware neither arduino nor the teaguedino are 12V tolerant. Although a shield could easily take care of that, but I personally do not like arduino or its clones so building a shield for them is not really an option.
    Thanks for you input, it is appreciated.

    I got the idea since I have MCU and hardware experience I could give something to the case modding scene witch I really like. And building hardware and firmware is my job anyway so why not use it for this.
    Obviously if the feeling is that its unnecessary it wouldn't be build. The project as it is now is only at the beginning of the Idea stage, so it can be developed into anything you like. One thing that could set it apart is having a native usb over a pin-header allowing it to be connected directly tot he motherboard instead of the usb jack.
     
    Last edited: 13 Oct 2011
  8. Nexxo

    Nexxo * Prefab Sprout – The King of Rock 'n' Roll

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    The 12V issue is a good point.

    OK: how about something that looks like a Teagueduino (in that it has two rows of easily connectable ports), is 12V tolerant and fed by molex and USB.

    The software would show a symbolic representation of the PCB with numbered ports. From an icon menu you drag items like a fan, pump, LED, switch or various sensors to the port that you connected them to IRL. This is to tell the program to configure said port appropriately (analogue/digital; in-or output). The port icons change colour accordingly. A pull-down menu sets their initial state (in digital just on/off: HIGH, LOW; in analogue you set range and starting state: RANGE 0-255; 128). The port icons indicate in some way that they are now set up.

    Then, using the cursor, you draw a line between the input port(s) and output port(s) to set up their relationship. You cannot draw a line between two input ports or two output ports, although of course multiple input ports could be related to the same output port (some conflicts may need resolving here, using Boolean terms), or one input port to multiple output ports.

    Then you click on each of these lines to define the precise nature of the input-output relationship by some sort of cascading pull-down menu, in which you can enter values as appropriate. The first part of the menu selection defines what is measured on the input side; the second part how the output responds to that. Stuff like "input1 GOES HIGH: output1 GOES LOW" or "input1 INCREASES BY 10: output1 INCREASES BY 5". Lines that are now programmed change colour.

    Then click "RUN" or something to upload the program and set it going. From then on it will run as soon as the unit is powered up until it is powered off. A future version could have a dedicated LCD display with its own set of commands to configure it, a bit like Matrix Orbital LCDs.
     
  9. arakis

    arakis New Member

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    thanks for the awesome write up, I was thinking more along the lines:
    Having a picture of the device and next to each port there are drop down menus, from which you chose FAN, TEMP/volt sensor, LCD, LED, actuator,whatever..... then each of them has its own setup page.
    FAN
    constant (percent)/variable.
    Variable(based on load, temp, or both)
    load..CPU,VGA,HDD

    for the led similar menu,
    for the LCD, select what info to display and where on the display to do it.

    for a 16bit port hardware it could have 4x8 header, 1 row would be the outputs, 2nd could be input third and forth could be 12v and gnd., in the standard 4pin FAN config, this way you could easily connect fans, and still be able to connect temp/volt sensors or LCD on the same port, making it both cheap and versatile.

    since MCU are pretty cheap a large pincount one could be used to have many ports, plus one LCD dedicated one.

    *also the Idea of it being self programmable over the LCD is awesome!
    *it would probably be easy to implement cap sense buttons, and drive the motherboard power/reset switch since it will be usb powered it would work even when the computer is switched of. With a on-board DC/DC it could probably power the LCD and anything else up to the 2W or 4.5W range depending if it is connected to 1 or 2 usb ports, maybe even more on motherboard that support larger currents over the usb.
     
    Last edited: 13 Oct 2011
  10. GuilleAcoustic

    GuilleAcoustic Ook ? Ook !

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    Nom nom nom ... I like when it comes to microcontroller :).

    As mentioned, the REAL addition for "mainstream" user would be a nice front-end editor and a win vista/7/8 widget (like Conky on linux)

    [​IMG]

    The 12V is not much an issue with a simple PSU circuitry. What would make the difference to me, as an end-user are

    - the ease of use (no prog nor scripting)
    - the felxibility (front-end, widget, etc...)
    - no soldering nor cable/adaptor to make (all cables included in different length).

    I do think that arduino or whatever µcontroller would do the job as long as it has the required inputs/outputs.

    Anyway, very nice idea I'll follow this closely :thumb:
     
  11. arakis

    arakis New Member

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    points a and b should be implemented, a simple setup utility, for ehm setup, and a widget/gadget type prog for monitoring and small adjustments. As all software will be open source many customization options will be available for users with more programing know how, that would be willing to contribute.

    point c is more difficult as it would add to the cost, although the board will be designed with the standard 4 pin Fan compatible plugs, into witch 3 pin would have no issues connecting as well. It should have signal PWM and power PWM, so you could drive pwm loads, and those that are only voltage controlled. .1 inch spacing for 99% of connectors. The usb will be connected internally via a standard idc2x5 connector which which into the internal usb. and is easy to get at any length.
    *the LCD could be connected to the back of the board directly or via a standard flat cable.

    *off course the board will be build professionally and with short circuit protection to keep your computer safe even if you connect something wrong :D
     
    Last edited: 13 Oct 2011
  12. GuilleAcoustic

    GuilleAcoustic Ook ? Ook !

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    point c : I just realized that, except for fans rpm that will require the pwm, it is mainly only analog voltage inputs/outputs. so 2/3/4 pins cables would be enough ... just have to select the right sensor type inside the utility.
     
  13. wyx087

    wyx087 Homeworld 3 is happening!!

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    please don't make it OS dependent by having it reply on software.

    by all means provide an easy to use interface for configuration. but once you hit apply, settings could be saved in the microcontroller.



    great idea, i would definitely be interested so that i could have easy-to-configure temperature dependent, OS independent fan controller.
     
  14. arakis

    arakis New Member

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    we are used to writing for windows and linux, but OSX I am unsure of.
    *sure the settings will be programed/or stored on the onboard eeprom
     
  15. Nexxo

    Nexxo * Prefab Sprout – The King of Rock 'n' Roll

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    I wonder if the physical dimensions (height and width) could be one of a 3.5" floppy drive. Nobody uses those anymore but PC cases still have a slot for them. The front facia could be the LCD display, and the back could contain all the connectors as would be the case with the floppy drive.

    Of course the package could easily disassemble into separate PCB and display so you are not stuck to that particular mounting option.

    Regarding software: a Java app? Covers all OSs in one swoop.
     
  16. GuilleAcoustic

    GuilleAcoustic Ook ? Ook !

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    java ... good idea, you could even provide a webservice to monitor your PC inside a web browser.
     
  17. mvagusta

    mvagusta Did a skid that went for two weeks.

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    Fair enough.

    If the finished product you offer is nice to look at (eyecandy factor) and easy to use, then I think it could sell well, you just might have to advertise on a fair few case modding forums.

    Those Teagueduino's are a very well sorted out piece of kit, if you got it working like Nexxo suggested, you'd have a nice case modder's version :thumb:
    Maybe call it Arakisduino :lol: Or even just Arakis, modders will say "I'm running an Arakis"
     
  18. arakis

    arakis New Member

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    sorry for no updates yesterday, work kinda bunched up.

    the size of the board wont exceed 3x4 inches, probably a lot less, it will all be SMT so the main space factor will be all the jacks/pinheaders. And the board color is open to sugestions, red looks cool IMO. It should fit into the 3.5inch flopy drive space no problems, but the case wont be part of the design, although a cuting template for acrylic could be provided.

    There will be 4 mount holes on it and Ill try to select their positions so with the use of some standar L shaped brackets it could be fixed easily into the FDD space.

    the board will have a standard point where to mount the lcd on it iff you need it to be On-Board, but also a pinheader to put the lcd where you like.

    as for advertisment, free PCB samples, and full device as build sponsoring will probably be implemented.

    *I am not realy big on using my name on projects. Just happy to do what I love and get paid for it :D.

    to sumrise, the point of the project if it gets the go ahead, is to be DIY friendly so that means a price tag as low as posible. Easy to use, plug and play kinda thing. Safety of the computer first. and nice "preatty" easy to use sofware to folow it. Also you have the option to buy the finished product, or just the board, or a kit, or just say thanks and built the whole thing by yourself with no vories of license or anything. If you wanna use your own lcd you could buy it without it.
    *if its not to much to ask I could use some more funcunality, hardware vise hints, like what you need, what you wished you ad but don't and stuff like that.

    thanks for adding your input so far, its great :D

    *if the board ends up being small enough it should be easy to mount it onto a 5 inch front plate, with the LCD sticking out, althlugh that is open to sugestions
     
    Last edited: 12 Oct 2011
  19. GuilleAcoustic

    GuilleAcoustic Ook ? Ook !

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    What I do need ...

    - Temps (current, min & max)
    - Fans RPM (and maybe failure alert ... not functionning fan)
    - Current activity (CPU, MEM, HDD)
    - top 10 process
    - A button to switch between display (process, activity, temps,)
     
  20. arakis

    arakis New Member

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    points 1 and 2 and 3 no problem, we could probaly add a log on how much current the fan is drawing over time, to help you detect if its cloged up with dust.
    *btw the circuit will be reading only temp sensors added to it, not the motherboard sensors.

    point 4 dont know (probably) if the programes can get the data from the OS, its no problem to send it to lcd or the running app. (I wont be doing the computer side of the programing, only the MCU)

    buttons, switches, posibly even cap-sense buttons will be easy to implament.
    *you add functionality to them in the setup utility.

    one question how many input/outups shoud i aim for
     

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