Frozen Privacy Screen Build

Last Christmas I decided to make my daughter her present. She had asked for a privacy screen that appears in the Frozen Fever animated short (only for a few seconds). I decided to go the “easy” route and build it out of pine wood and paint it.

The screen can be seen to the left of this scene:

For the design, I decided to go with a total height of about 4 feet (my daughter was 4.5 years old at this point, and about 3 feet tall). I wanted to get the domed tops of the panels looking similar, so I sketched something that looked about right on graphing paper:

Here you  can see a half arc (the top of the dome is on the right and the bottom on the left) which would then be mirrored to get the full dome. It looked about right so I proceeded to scale it up to full dimension and create a template:

Scaling the template involved measuring the distance from the center line of the half-dome to the curve of the dome. I then scaled both the distance from the mid-line out as well as the vertical position of the line to the full 12″ wood panel. The result of this was a fairly close enlargement of the dome’s curve onto a template sized for have the panel width, or 6″. After this was done I traced the template onto the 6″x4″x1/2″ pine boards I had bought (4 of them):

Cutting the boards was done using a jig-saw, but a band-saw (if available) would have yielded nicer results. As is, I did a fair amount of sanding to get the panels looking even and matched. The next step was to notch out the spaces for hinges (so the panels could fold up flat onto themselves for easy storage).



The tools used for this were a hammer and chisel.

Mark the panels that mate to each other right after cutting them or you will have a fun time trying to figure out how to get them to fit as cut later on!

The perfect hinge pocket is going to be a bit deeper than the hinge fastening sides, and this is because of the hinge joint, which is a bit taller than the two metal flanges. Also test and fit, since you will want to get adjust the depth a bit, and cut the second pockets a bit shallow and then keep testing as you deepen the second pockets to get a good matching fit that swings easily and without torquing the hinge at all.

Some assembly, paint and a really awful job at detailing (I need to work on that!) and voila, a Frozen inspired privacy screen!

A few things to note:

  • The screen panels are actually rather heavy, so this is not a great design for a little kid that is likely to bash stuff around or crash into it,
  • Detailing shapes on four separate panels is /HARD/, so practice before committing!
  • The bottom is never going to be perfectly flush, so the best method would be to assemble the panels as shown above before paint (before or after sanding) and cut them flush with a table saw or something (a circular saw would be fine as well, just use a guide!),
  • Height is a big consideration; ideally for a girl the bottom ends of the top dome shape should be about shoulder length, perhaps a bit higher.

CoIDE, STM32F103 and Semihosting

I have been a little quiet lately as I have been working on a few projects. One of these are some experiments with the CooCox CoIDE and a STM32F103 dev board that I picked up off EBay a while back.

As a quick background, I have generated the bulk of the test project(s) with STM32CubeMX, and then modified what I needed. It should be noted that STM has updated the StdPeripheral library with a new HAL Library, which I decided to use. CoIDE has a neat feature called “semihosting” which allows you to shoot debug messages back to the IDE via the JTAG interface, freeing up the UART for your application-specific use.

The problem comes when adding semihosting. You need to add the “Retarget printf” component as well as the “Semihosting”. A quick implementation of PrintChar() in the semihosting code:

#include <semihosting/semihosting.h>
void PrintChar(char c)

If you try and compile this, you get the following error:

[cc] Starting link
[cc] arm-none-eabi-gcc -mcpu=cortex-m3 -mthumb -g -nostartfiles -Wl, -O0 -Wl,--gc-sections -LC:\CooCox\CoIDE\configuration\ProgramData\cdctest -Wl,-TC:\CooCox\CoIDE\configuration\ProgramData\cdctest/arm-gcc-link.ld -g -o cdctest.elf ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal_rcc_ex.o ..\obj\semihosting.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal_pwr.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal_can.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_it.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal_dac.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal_gpio_ex.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal_wwdg.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal_cortex.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal_crc.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal_iwdg.o ..\obj\system_stm32f1xx.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal_rcc.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal_dac_ex.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal_adc.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal_i2s.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal_smartcard.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal_pcd.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal_uart.o ..\obj\usbd_core.o ..\obj\main.o ..\obj\startup_stm32f103xb.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal_usart.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal_nor.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_ll_usb.o ..\obj\printf.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal_spi_ex.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal_cec.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal_hcd.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal_flash.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal_gpio.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal_dma.o ..\obj\usbd_desc.o ..\obj\usbd_conf.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal_adc_ex.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal_irda.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal_sd.o ..\obj\sh_cmd.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal_spi.o ..\obj\syscalls.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal_i2c.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal_msp.o ..\obj\usb_ctrl.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal_eth.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_ll_fsmc.o ..\obj\usbd_cdc.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal_rtc.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal_tim.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal_flash_ex.o ..\obj\usbd_ctlreq.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal_pcd_ex.o ..\obj\usbd_cdc_if.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal_nand.o ..\obj\usbd_ioreq.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal_pccard.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal_sram.o ..\obj\usb_device.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal_rtc_ex.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_hal_tim_ex.o ..\obj\stm32f1xx_ll_sdmmc.o -lm -lgcc -lc
[cc] c:/program files (x86)/gnu tools arm embedded/5.3 2016q1/bin/../lib/gcc/arm-none-eabi/5.3.1/../../../../arm-none-eabi/lib/armv7-m\libc.a(lib_a-impure.o):(.data._impure_ptr+0x0): multiple definition of `_impure_ptr'
[cc] ..\obj\printf.o:(.data+0x428): first defined here
[cc] collect2.exe: error: ld returned 1 exit status

It turns out that after a lot of googling, pulling out of hair and cursing, the answer is rather simple. It seems that the struct “r” and “_impure_ptr” are being redefined in printf.c; so we just need to comment them out from the printf.c file in our project:

#include <semihosting/semihosting.h>
void PrintChar(char c)
/** Required for proper compilation. */
//struct _reent r = {0, (FILE *) 0, (FILE *) 1, (FILE *) 0};
//struct _reent *_impure_ptr = &r;

Rebuild and problem solved.

Avoiding Panic

This is a re-post of a comment that I made on my Facebook profile a couple of months ago regarding the temporary dumping of raw sewage into the local river by a city near where I live. There was a fair amount of buzz around this issue, which in the end, I can understand the need to discuss, but was seemingly blown out of proportion.

I’d like to preface this with saying I am totally, 100% against the dumping of raw sewage into our rivers and lakes as a policy. And 8 billion liters sounds like an awful lot of raw crap to be dumping in our river. The St. Lawrence flows at a rate of approx. 16800 cubic meters per second. This is the amount of water if you picked a point along the river and measured the volume of water that passed across that point in 1 second. And that’s every second (and it obviously changes with seasons). So how long will it take to “flush” the 8 billion liters of crap the City of Montreal wants to dump in the river? Well, there are 1000 L in 1 cubic meter, so 8 billion liters can be converted to 8 million cubic meters (still horrifying!). To find out how long it takes the St. Lawrence to move 8 million liters, we divide 8 million by 16800, which gives us… 476 seconds. That’s about 8 minutes. I believe the City wants to dump this sewage over a 1 week period, so if we assume they do it evenly (which of course is a guess, I’m sure it will vary), that means 8 million cubic meters divided by 7 days, giving about 1.2 million cubic meters per day. Divide that by 24, you get 50000 cubic meters per hour. Divide that by 60, you get 833 cubic meters per minute. Divide /that/ by 60, and you get about 14 cubic meters per second. That’s a lot of crap. But considering even if the 16800 cubic meters per second flow rate is off by 100 (so 168 cubic meters per second instead), the river will wash that crap towards the ocean in about 1/100th of a second after dumping it.  This is a travesty if it were done on a daily basis as a policy. But as a once in a while thing?  I’m not so sure it’s all that important to get terribly worked up over. I will leave it to you the reader to figure out where that sewage would normally go if it was extracted from the waste water when all the sewage handling systems are working. The answer might surprise you.


PCBs in the Wild!

I have been working on a couple of prototyping boards for general “hey I need a PCB for this oh I have one here” type of projects. Since I’m working more with Surface Mount Technology (SMT) these days and have more of those part in my “stock”, I designed some prototyping boards with this in mind:



I have sent a few of these to some people that I chat with on the #eevblog IRC channel, and one of them was kind enough to send me an “action shot” of a little LED-based project he used my PCB for!


And another one from c4757p:



Macro Rings and Test Shots

I’ve been into photography for many many years. A long time back, when I first started, I acquired a macro lens. This was essentially a regular lens but with an adjustable bellows on it. I have not had any kind of macro lens since then, and now that I’m getting back into documenting some of the work that I’m doing in electronics, I decided to “spring” for a set of macro rings:


And this is what they look like attached to a lens:


(you can use any lens; the focal length of the lens used will make a difference on the magnification that you end up getting)

And a couple of test shots I took with the rings:

IMG_5770 IMG_5769

Power Designs Inc 6050C Display Mod

Here’s a modification that I have been meaning to do for a while. It involved replacing the PCB in one of my power supplies with a modified version designed by me that upgraded the size of the 7-segment LED display.


I ordered the board from OSHPark. My experience with them has been positive; the turn around time was about 2 weeks and the gold finish is very nice. I’m fine with the colour of the solder mask, however note that the mask is a matte finish rather than the typical “pearl” or “glossy” finish that I am accustomed to seeing on PCBs. Not a big deal, but something to think about. Also, the traces are a bit difficult to see through the solder mask.

IMG_5737 IMG_5739 IMG_5741

I of course did not fully check my notes when throwing together the schematic for this project which resulted in the boards I received having the ‘a’ and ‘g’ segments reversed. A few cut traces and a jumper wires later and all was working as expected.

IMG_5745 IMG_5744  IMG_5742IMG_5743

I originally tried to think of a better way of re-attaching the new display board to the existing display measurement/logic board, but in the end the simplest solution won out and  I just re-soldered the new display board back. The header pitch is 3.81mm and was a total pain to find (yay eBay!).


The end result is a bright, clear and LARGER display. Here I have contrasted it with the model right after the 6050C, the 6050D which has a larger digital display (and also does not display the measurement mode as the 6050C does, E or I).IMG_5748If I decide to pick up any more of these supplies, I think I’d make the same display modification to them as well. I have been looking at the 6050A models (which can usually be had for cheaper): these might also be good for a “digital makeover” involving removing the analog meter and designing a new digital display PCB.


Tektronix DMM 916 Back-light Mod

In keeping with the theme of back-light mods, I have another one here for you all. Recently I was able to get my hands on a well-loved (read: had the piss kicked out of it) Tektronix DMM 916. The specs are nice:

  • 4.75 digits
  • 40,000 count
  • Basic DC accuracy of 0.06%+1 count

The only problem which I didn’t know until I got the meter in my hands was that the back light was horrible:


Wait, where is that back-light?IMG_5671

Still can’t see it? Turn off the lights!IMG_5670

I’m not sure if this is “factory standard” or just a sign of the age of the unit, but either way it needed some change. The first thing I did was to open up the meter and check out the display:


There is a small slot on one side of the display assembly where the lamp bulb pokes into the light pipe. At first I thought I might use a standard through-hole LED, but realized that I wouldn’t be able to mount it without either cutting the trace (for the limiting resistor) or cutting the display. I didn’t want to mod the board, in case I or someone else wanted to restore it back to a incandescent bulb. So I choose to use a SMD chip LED and resistor, and build it “tee-pee” style on the top of the display PCB, so that the LED and resistor would stick up vertically into the display light-pipe recess:


The LED is blue, Digikey part number 475-2816-1-ND with a 270ohm current limit resistor. The bulb sank about 20mA while the LED uses ~18mA, so a bit more efficient. I’m still not sure about the blue, but I figured it matches the theme of the case, so why not:


And as is evident, it is much brighter even with the lab lights on. Curiously, it is not much more legible in the dark in terms of the digits on the screen as I would have thought.

HP8642B Signal Generator Mod

A quick mod post here. I saw this post by Kerry Wong, and having the same hardware myself (and finding the backlight ridiculously dim) I thought this mod was a great idea and wanted to try it myself. First, here is a shot of the original backlight:


I pulled the front panel apart, and decided to use white SMD LEDs for my replacement mod:


After soldering up everything and reassembling (and of course cursing a lot due to the number of defective white LEDs that I didn’t realize that I had), the result is beautiful!



And here is the same Easter egg that Kerry found (hold down the MSSG key while powering on the unit):