Tag Archives: USB

Dice Clock

Introducing the DICE CLOCK, shown here displaying the time in several different modes.

Dice Clock with boxes around time sections

Dice Clock with boxes around each time section (13:25 and 57 seconds)

Dice Clock with boxes around each mumeral

Dice Clock with boxes around each numeral (13:27 and 3 seconds)

Dice Clock showing hours, minutes and seconds

Dice Clock showing hours, minutes and seconds (13:54:18)

Dice Clock showing "domino" mode where hours, minutes and seconds are shown together

Dice Clock showing “domino” mode where hours, minutes and seconds are shown together (16:44:40)

The time is displayed as pips on a dice; a pair of which are used for hours, minutes and optionally, seconds.

Simple, elegant, cheap and, above all, HACKABLE!

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Nano with CH340G USB chip driver

For those of you familiar with buying Arduino-related products on eBay, you probably would have seen a slew of cheap Arduino Nano boards (specifically the V3.0 ATmega328 16M 5V) being sold ($4 vs. $7.50).

So, what’s the catch?

Well, instead of the more common FTDI (FT232) chip, these modules include a CH340G USB interface chip, which is apparently much cheaper. Now, while the FT232, and specifically the FT232R, can throw driver errors (see this post for discussion), the CH340G requires a specific driver. I found the driver online although there were only Chinese instructions. However, installation is very straight-forward (on a Windows 7 (64 bit) machine, at least.


I cannot attest to the quality of the download files. I have tried it, successfully run a Microsoft Security Essentials scan and it does not trigger any issues with virus protection. Please proceed at your own risk!

Click here for the driver software

Before connecting the Nano to your USB port:

  1. Download the “ch341ser,exe” file and run it.The software extracts about 8 files.
  2. The software asks whether it can install the CH341SER.INF driver for the CH340 chip (Version 11/04/2011, 3.3.2011.11). Click INSTALL
  3. A Windows message asks whether the driver has installed correctly. Click YES.
  4. Connect your Nano.
  5. From Control Panel, open Device Manager and Ports. If installed correctly you should see an entry “USB-SERIAL CH340 (COMXX)

That’s it… Cheap Nanos for all!

Dirty Boards: PCB manufacturer

If you’ve been following some of my most recent posts (and I hope you have!) you will have seen several different clock designs. While they are quire different, they share several things in common – namely being built on an Arduino platform, incorporating a DS3231 Real Time Clock (with battery backup) and driving some number of addressable LEDs.

While I have built prototypes using the UNO, Nano and Pro Mini Arduino boards, I needed a more cost-effective solution. I designed a PCB to take an Atmega328 and its associated components, the RTC module and a 6-pin header for a removable FTDI USB interface module (only required to download software). While this is a very simple design I added headers for all analog and digital pins. I created the schematic and PCB routing using the free Fritzing software. The software is pretty intuitive and comes with a large library of pre-defined components, although I did find it challenging to create and edit new components. Nevertheless, I’ll use it again and recommend it to others.

Dirty Boards - PCB Manufacturer

Dirty Boards – PCB Manufacturer

I read a message on a local bulletin board that mentioned Dirty Boards, a Hong-Kong based low-cost, no-frills PCB manufacturer. I uploaded the boards’ design files (more on that later) and 3 weeks later (and $24 lighter) I received 12 (not the 10 promised) boards. Excellent!

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Arduino NANO and FTDI boards: FT232R drivers not installing…

A couple of weeks ago I received an “FT232R driver installation failure” notification when connecting a USB cable to one of my FTDI boards (see below) that I use with Arduino Pro Mini boards and discrete Atmega328 chips. As this had been working previously, not surprisingly, I immediately concluded that the hardware had failed and put the unit aside. Later the same day, I tried to upload some new software onto one of my Arduino Nano boards and received the same message that the “FT232R” USB drivers for the board had failed to load. Ah ha! Something was afoot!

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