In between orders of Texas Instruments Launchpads evaluation boards from Mouser or Newark, don’t forget that TI has a free sample program that can get you a couple free MSP430 chips of varying models. Combine the raw chips with the ability to power and run MSP430’s off the red Launchpad board, and you can have quite the small army of animation and automation circtuis deployed on your layout in no time and very low cost!
Just please remember to keep TI interested in manufacturing the MSP430 processors by actually buying a few now and then. I think that if the hobby of model railroading can provide a significant enough demand for the MSP430 line of microprocessors, then we could help keep the prices low and increase the online support for the Launchpad based chips. Currently, there far more resources for the Arduino. Some of which can be ported to the Launchpad, some cannot.
Here is a project idea for some of you. If you are anything like me and you are experimenting with an Arduino or TI Launchpad for the purposes of your model railroad, then you likely find yourself adding and removing LEDs and associated resistors to/from breadboards over and over again. So it dawned on me: Why not solder some LEDs and appropriate resistors for a 3.3V source onto a spare PCB project board and slap some headers on there? Well, since I was waiting for some parts for other MSP430 projects, I did just that!
So it dawned on me that the TI MSP430G2 Launchpad Evaluation board isn’t very small and probably wouldn’t fit in any models smaller than G scale. I also realized that buying a bunch of the Launchpad Evaluation Boards at $10 is still cheaper than other alternatives, but not as cheap as buying the raw MSP430G2 chips by themselves (MSP430G2553 is about $2.50 for just the chip). Therefore I set out on an endeavor to figure out how to minimally power an MSP430G2 chip without the Launchpad Evaluation board.
Turns out, it’s ridiculously easy.
Sometimes Linux is simple. Other times, its a PITA. As part of resurrecting a older laptop that hasn’t been used in a while, I needed an OS to go onto it. Lacking any Windows licenses, I returned to my roots of Linux. Ubuntu is the current hot linux distro and one that I am familiar with, so it was a natural choice.
One of the first things i wanted to accomplish was to get Code Composer Studio installed and working so I could continue R&D of the Launchpad. I’ve got a loooong list of things I’d like to research, develop and share, but seemingly never a proportional amount of time to do those things in. Heh, such is life.
Well I made the assumption that TI Launchpad development would be harder on Linux and so I unfortunately went looking for solutions before I actually had the problems. Spun my wheels for a good little bit, but in the end I realized that TI hasn’t written any USB drivers for CCS yet. That’s a kill for using CCS to upload programs to the MSP430 chips.
The fall back is the good old command line. Much to my surprise, using a text editor to write the code and cmd line to compile and upload the program was actually *easier* than setting up a project in CCS. As seen in the picture above, you need to enter 4 commands on the command line (Compile, erase chip, upload to chip, run on chip) and, voila, you’re program is uploaded to the MSP430.
Granted, there are still lots of things to work out and this was the simplest of tests. But it does lead me to think that CCS may not be needed for those who just want to download a compiled program and upload it to a MSP430.
More to come in the following days…
So it turns out that powering a TI Launchpad off of something other than the USB Power (I dunno, say batteries?) is very very easy. All you need is to get a power supply that can provide anywhere between 1.8 to 3.6Vdc and then hook it up to the VCC(+) and GND(-) pins on a launch pad. So far, I’ve successfully tested this with a set of two AAA batteries (1.6Vdc x2) and also with a single CR2032 battery (3Vdc)
The only issue I can see is the minimum voltage required for some LEDs. For instance, high intensity Blue and White LEDs require a higher minimum voltage of 2.8V to 3.6V (avg 3.2V). Should battery supply voltage drop low enough, certain LEDs may fail to illuminate.
Over all though, it’s Easy Peasy!