Announcing Copper Beta

It all started with quite a complex PCB that I have been developing with Eagle CAD. A 4-Layer PCB with a lot of parts (>100) and quite a few ICs with a lot of pins. All these traces, all this pins and pads. There are so many possibilities to screw it up, that I always thought about this sentence all of you interested in this kind of stuff know well: “Hardware is hard”. It is.

And after triple checking every pin and trace, working through dozens of data sheets and controlling pin layouts I had it in front of me: My very own awesome PCB and hundreds of parts lying in front of me. I have a reflow oven and had to place parts on the board, prepared with solder paste. As you perhaps know, solder paste dries out after some time, so I had to be quick. I knew, that I had to place the 0.1uF capacitor on C1,C2,C3,C5,C6,… Searching for these parts on the boards silk screen drove me crazy. I had printed out assembly plans, etc. I had my MacBook running Eagle and started to search for each Part to get it selected in the board to know where to place it.

In these hours the idea of Copper took shape. At first, I only wanted a software that renders a simple representation of the PCB with a parts list. Select one or multiple parts and they are highlighted on the board. I fired up Xcode and a few days later I had it up and running. And it worked great. Whenever I discovered issues and shortcomings in Eagle CAD or my workflows and didn’t find a solution I added my own solution to “EagleCAD Viewer” (that’s been the name for quite some time).

Although I just did write this application for my own use, I invested quite some time to get rendering right, make the App look great and ironed out any bug I could find. Why? Because I just hate buggy, bad looking software, especially when it’s my own software.

A few months ago I decided to commercialize my Application and named it Copper. I think you will love it, and I really hope it will make your life easier. But before I sell this Application I must be sure it works great on all Mac OS X versions and with your PCBs. I don’t want you to buy into a beta test.

Update: Copper is available now for purchase (24,99 USD/Euro). There also is a free, fully functional Trial for Mac OS X 10.10+ available.

More Info and the Trial is available at our Copper product page.

Please report any questions to: support@copper-app.com.

Smarthub_Rev_1.8

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Compiling Qt 4.8.5 for Arietta G25

Arietta G25

On my way building an automated wireless home automation system I have been finally been drawn to Embedded Linux. It just makes sense. Driving Internet of Things devices based on Arduino or other directly programmed MCUs is not very efficient. You will have so much work with just building up a network stack for example based around a CC3000 (Available as a nice breakout board from Adafruit). And you will just redevelop what is available for linux for decades. But: Embedded Linux is a beast of a monster. It’s just a whole different universe.

There are so many devices to choose from, the most prominent example being the Raspberry Pi of course. But I wanted a solution that I can use for a final product. For my work I need a very small device and I don’t need all these connectors (Ethernet, HDMI, etc) so I have been searching the large catalog of SoMs (System on Module) and found “Arietta G25” by Acmesystems. I really love this little device and Acmesystems provides a lot of tutorials and help documents to get started quickly.

Find more infos about their great product line-up here: acmesystems.it.

After I had attached a 3.5 TFT (acmesystems has a well written tutorial on how to do that) I wanted to use it for a great User Interface. As you don’t want to build your own UI-System you will most likely find Qt. Qt is more than just a UI frameworks. It’s awesome as it features more or less the same as the whole Apple iOS system. It features it’s own (great) IDE, Interface-Builder for doing design work the WYSIWYG way and features an almost complete Framework with hundreds of C++ classes for all kinds of stuff. They even have a well written network stack helping a lot in doing IoT stuff.

But: Getting Qt to run on an embedded linux device is not that easy. It’s hard work. Requires hours of hours of your time building stuff. Of course there are systems like Yocto and Buildroot – I just got started with them and so far I don’t see it’s easier. As acme systems provides a few images to get started, I wanted Qt installed based on the acme systems solution.

(more…)

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