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Update!

Well things have been hectic over the past couple of months.

With a new job & a new addition to the family I’m not getting much time to update the site, however there are a few things on the way!

More Raspberry Pi stuff will be arriving soon, running the GPIO with a web interface.
I found a fault with Dell servers that I’ve managed to fix without having to replace some very expensive parts! This might be of interest  to people with such servers, more info to come soon!

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Raspberry Pi GPIO Experiment Board Improvements

First Mods
First Mods

Here are the first set of mods & improvements to the RasPi Experiment board. Instead of the solder-point experiment space, I have added a standard mini-breadboard, even though it’s a little too long to fit on the board properly.

In the DIP breakout, is a MAX232 TTL-RS232 interface IC, useful for interfacing directly to the Pi’s UART, made available on the GPIO breakout. I will be hardwiring the MAX232 IC into the GPIO port, & fitting headers to the relevant pins on the IC breakout to make interfacing to the Pi easier.

All the MAX232 requires to operate are a 5v supply & 4 1µF capacitors.

The new TO220 device next to the breadboard is a TIP121 darlington power transistor.This is rated at 80v 5A continuous. Useful for driving large loads from a GPIO output.

 

More to come soon!

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Raspberry Pi GPIO Breakout

Board Built
Board Built

After seeing these on eBay for £8.99 I thought it might be a good deal – interfacing with the RasPi’s GPIO & it has built in power supplies.

As a kit, it was very easy to assemble, the PCB quality is high, and is a fairly good design. It worked first time, the regulators hold the rails at the right voltages.
However there are some issues with this board that bug me.

The documentation for the kit is *AWFUL*. No mention of the regulators on the parts list & which goes where – I had to carefully examine the schematics to find out those details.
The 4x 1N1007 diodes required weren’t even included in the kit! Luckily I had some 1N4148 high speed diodes lying around & even though they’re rated for 200mA continuous rather than the specified part’s 1A rating, the lack of heatsinking on the regulators wouldn’t allow use anywhere near 1A, so this isn’t much of a problem.

Component numbering on the silkscreen isn’t consistent – it jumps from R3 straight to R6! These issues could be slightly confusing for the novice builder, and considering the demographic of the RasPi, could be seen as big issues.

On the far left of the board are the 5v & 3.3v regulators, well placed on the edge of the board in case a heatsink may be required in the future. However the LM317 adjustable regulator is stuck right in the middle of the PCB – no chance of being able to fit a heatsink, & the device itself seems incredibly cheap – the heatsink tab on the back of the TO-220 is the thinnest I have ever seen. Not the usual 2-3mm thick copper of the 5v & 3.3v parts – but barely more than a mm thick, so it’s not going to be able to cope with much power dissipation without overheating quickly.

As the adjustable rail can go between ~2.5v – 10v, at the low end of the range the power dissipation is going to shoot through the roof.

The GPIO connector – this could have been done the other way, at the moment the ribbon cable has to be twisted to get both the Pi & the GPIO board the same way up. Just a slight fail there. See the image below

Plugged In
Plugged In

The power rails are not isolated out of the box – there is no connection between the 5v & 3.3v rails & the Pi’s GPIO, but the GND connections are linked together on the board.

Getting the ribbon cable through the  hole in the ModMyPi case was a bit of a faff – the connector is too big! I had to squeeze the connector through at a 45° angle. The case is also remarkably tight around the connector once it’s fitted to the board – clearly the designers of the case didn’t test the an IDC connector in the case before making them!
Everything does fit though, after a little modification.

All Cased Up
All Cased Up

Here is the unit all built up with the case. The top cover just about fits with the IDC connector on the GPIO header.

More to come once I get some time to do some interfacing!