Friday, November 23, 2012

Philips Pronto TSU3000 Universal programmable remote resurrected

Update 1/26/13 - I just uploaded a full video tutorial on how to take apart your remote, perform the fix, and re-assemble. See the very bottom of this post for the video.

The beautiful remote shown below is the Philips Pronto TSU3000 remote. It is an incredibly flexible and powerful remote. Brand new I think they sold for around $350-$400 (depending on where you bought them). I picked this one up on eBay a few years ago for around $230. Unfortunately Philips doesn't make them anymore. And even more unfortunately, for mine, the touchscreen stopped working a couple years ago, rendering it pretty much useless.

Philips Pronto TSU3000
Philips Pronto TSU3000
I opened the remote up when it happened a couple of years ago, and had no idea what to look for. I also searched the internet and found that this was a fairly common problem for this particular model of these remotes. (There are several other models, ranging in price and features, but this one is the most common it seems).

The problem, specifically, is that you touch the screen, and it turns on as it should, but after that, is unresponsive to anything else - any buttons that are on the screen will not work. :( The 'hard' buttons still seem to work, but that does no good if you can't select your 'device' from the touchscreen.

Below is a brief video demonstrating the remote's problem:

If you have this remote with this particular problem, read on to learn how to resurrect it...I just resurrected mine, saving me a couple hundred bucks (buying another used one on eBay).

A couple words of caution: You should wear an anti-static wrist strap when performing the following steps. At the very least, don't rub your feet around on the floor (especially if your floor is carpet) while working. If you don't wear the anti-static wrist strap, touch something metal once in a while. Also, try not to touch any of the circuitry/electronics of the remote...only touch edges of the circuit board if you have to. Only touch plastic parts where possible.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for any damage you may cause to yourself, your remote, your pet chinchilla, or anything else while performing any of the below work. That being said, it's pretty straight forward, and if you use common sense and caution, everything should go well without any 'incidents'.

One more thing: I am not guaranteeing that this hack will work for you. Even though the 'symptoms' may seem the same, the 'cause' may be different. Or, you may not follow the procedure properly.

Now that all of that stuff is out of the the 'read more' link below to get started!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Arduino - burning chips, saving money...and an important tip!

No, not potato chips...'computer' chips you silly goose!

I'm always looking for ways to save money, and I recently used up one of my last ATMega328 (with the Arduino bootloader pre-programmed on it) chips in a project. I've always been under the impression that to burn the bootloader, it takes extra hardware (pre-built from a retailer) and complicated software configuration/setup.

It turns out it's pretty easy to burn the bootloader yourself. There's a great tutorial that shows you how to do it right on Arduino's website. All you need is an Arduino, a 16MHz crystal, a 10K resistor, and 2 18-22 picofarad (ceramic) capacitors.

Here's a screenshot of the part of the page that shows how to hook everything up:

Here's what it looked like on my breadboard(s):
(You don't need to use 2 breadboards...I was just running out of empty breadboards, so I used the mini-red one and one side of a pre-occupied one)

Where does the money savin' part come in? Well the point of all of this is that you can buy an ATMega328 pre-loaded with the Arduino bootloader on it @ Sparkfun for $5.50. (Note that this is for the Arduino Uno). Orrr, you can buy the chip with no bootloader @ Digikey for $2.88. So would you rather pay $5.50 for a chip with the bootloader already on it, or spend a couple of minutes and pay half that price? I personally would rather pay half the price...I have 2 minutes to spare usually. ;)

I do have 1 tip if you go the route of burning your own bootloader though. There are 2 ways you can set up your new chip on a breadboard. 1 way uses no external parts - just the ATMega328 itself (described at the bottom of their page). The other way (described at the top of their page) uses a few external parts which I mentioned at the top of this article. Go this route! It's a few extra parts to hook up, but it's worth it.

The reason I say go the route with a few extra parts is that the timing will match up with the Arduino board. I first tried the method without any extra parts, and when I put the chip back on my Arduino and uploaded a simple 'blink' ran at what appeared to be 1/2 the speed. :( I'm assuming that because of the internal 8MHz clock of the chip 'conflicts' with the 16MHz crystal on the Arduino. But when you burn the bootloader the way I recommend, you use a 16Mhz crystal for timing, and I had no problems when doing it this way.

If anyone has any questions or comments about this, feel free to leave them. I am also curious if my theory about the timing difference is correct or not. (Regardless, the results are what matters in the end and now I know how I am going to burn the bootloader in the future)

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Git is Great!

I've been hearing a lot about Git which is a 'free and open source distributed version control system' (according to Git's official web site), so I dug in a little bit:

There is a lot of great documentation on their site, so I read a little bit. It was a bit confusing to myself not having any background in any kind of version control systems. However, I started to appreciate the potential power of it, so wanted to learn more. I happen to have a subscription, and they happen to have a 6 hour course on it. Over the course of several weeks, I completed the course and now have a greater understanding of it. I just started using it at work (I created and maintain the company's Intranet and Extranet).

The real power of Git is how it allows multiple people to work on a single project. They can all be at the same physical location, or separated physically by thousands of miles. Git is very fast, powerful, takes up little space (the 'program' itself, and the revision history), and to use the basics, it's pretty easy to get started. Oh, and it's available to Linux, Mac and Windows...and did I mention it's free?

I highly recommend it to any kind of coder - web developers, application developers whether you're just one person or on a team.