RoadTest: Microchip Multimedia Expansion Board
Evaluation Type: Evaluation Boards
Did you receive all parts the manufacturer stated would be included in the package?: True
What other parts do you consider comparable to this product?: I've been working with the mbed platform and some Atmel processors lately, so I will compare features for each.
What were the biggest problems encountered?: The biggest problems are finding the documentation on the Microchip website for the particular task needed to be done.
I'm going to start this now and edit as I work through the various functions on the multimedia board.
The board itself is layed out nicely. The connectors are all at the edges, so the entire assembly can be mounted in a box if needed.
The PIC32 ethernet starter kit plugged right into the board and extends out the bottom of the multimedia board LCD display so the USB and RJ connectors are easy to get at. There was even a hole and a nylon bolt already on the multimedia board to secure the PIC32 board to. If you mount the assembly in a box, however, getting at the switches and seeing the LEDs may be difficult. It looks like solder pads for a SMB ant. connector may be available for the WiFi also.
The connector for the PIC32 starter kit is not a common hobby connector. Someplace like SparkFun needs to design an adaptor breakout board for this one. I had to remove two rubber sticky pads on the starter kit for the two boards to assemble correctly.
Here's the Wifi pcb antenna and the SMB connector pads.
No software and minimal printed data comes in the package. The user is required to find all the required documentation, drivers, and software/examples on the Microchip website. Here's where the fun starts.
Be prepared to spend several hours downloading and installing software for a clean install on a new machine. I installed MPLAB IDE v8.66, MPLAB C32 v1_12a compiler toolchain, Microchip application libraries v2010_10_19, the Graphics display designer V22.214.171.124, and downloaded a few dozen examples, library install notes, data sheets, and application notes/help files.
After installing all this and plugging the two boards together, I connected the board to the PC (running Window7). The correct USB device driver didn't get installed, so I had to search around the documents to find out where the correct driver was located and re-install it. After about an hour, I had the joystick demo loaded and running successfully.
I managed to make a new screen for the LCD using the Graphics Display Designer tool and replace the screen on the joystick demo. The colors are nice and sharp, they look better than this picture makes them out to be.
I found that a cell phone charger makes a good temporary 5VDC power supply to power the boards from the USB port.
** Update 4/6/2011 **
I tried to run the TCPIP WiFi Demo, and got the following error:
"Executing: "C:\Program Files\Microchip\MPLAB C32 Suite\bin\pic32-gcc.exe" -mprocessor=32MX795F512L -x c -c "MainDemo.c" -o"Objects - TCPIP WiFi Demo App-C32\MainDemo.o" -MMD -MF"Objects - TCPIP WiFi Demo App-C32\MainDemo.d" -I"." -I".\Microchip\Include" -I"..\Board Support Package" -D__DEBUG -D__MPLAB_DEBUGGER_PIC32MXSK=1 -g -DPIC32_STARTER_KIT -Wall
In file included from ./Microchip/Include/TCPIP Stack/TCPIP.h:284,
./Microchip/Include/TCPIP Stack/Helpers.h:64: error: conflicting types for 'ultoa'
I've tried a few more of the demo programs from Microchip. The 3-axis accelerometer demo worked rather well, and also uses the touch screen feature. The accelerometers are DC, so you can tip the PCB in whatever direction and get a result on the screen. It seems to work up to a few hz, but I haven't been able to really calibrate the device or check limits yet.
The TCPIP and WiFi demos are getting on my nerves. I haven't been able to successfully compile the demos yet, all sorts of library/file location/declaration errors. I've spent several hours on them so far, and may just quit trying soon.
I started working with this board again because I have a project that it could be very useful for. To fix the "ultoa" problem, I had to comment out the declaration in stdlib.h:
//extern char * ultoa(char * buf, unsigned long val, int base);
and keep the one in Helpers.h:
void ultoa(DWORD Value, BYTE* Buffer);
I also had to modify the file "TCPIPConfig PIC32 Internal Ethernet.h" to match the range of IP addresses used by my router. After that, the demo program built and loaded ok. The server html file assumes a different hardware configuration, however, so some of the features work, and some don't.
It's clear to me that two different groups must have coded the demos for the PIC32 Ethernet starter kit, and the MEB. I will attempt to detangle this web.
.......to be continued.
I'm just getting back to this project, loaded MPLAB X, and tried to compile the TCPIP demo. No luck. It compiled and downloaded, but doesn't work. I reloaded the pre-compiled demo using MPLAB X, and the program runs ok. From some of the messages I've read, I shouldn't use the pre-compiled libraries, so I'll try again this week with different configurations. What I think I'm going to try and do is break up the demo programs into smaller programs that only access one feature on the board with the minimum amount of code required to run it. That's probably the best way to learn how to use this board.
I just got the MEB and PIC32 Ethernet Starter Kit, and I am having a tough time getting things to work together. But I've only put a few hours into it yet, so I have a ways to go!
Have you tried using the (new?) MPLAB X at all, instead of the MPLAB IDE v8.xx?
I liked the features of this board, and I can't just let it lie dead, so I purchased another and I'm going to attempt to fix the first one by using the new one for testing voltages, currents, etc.
So the first thing I'm going to try and do, is find the power feeds for each section and disconnect each section to find the one that's drawing too much power. Then I can replace the damaged power supply components.
Llyasse, do you know exactly what file(s) you need? I'll post them on my server for you.
I saw that many of the demos on the Microchip site were changed, so I downloaded them and ran a few. All was well until I ran the WiFi demo. Everything was working, and then U8 (LM2734) on the MEB started smoking. I removed what was left of the IC and tried to power up the MEB using 5VDC on the input of U5, and then it started to smoke also. I believe my MEB board has given up and died.
This ends my evaluation.
I talked to the Microchip reps at Chicago ESC last week and discussed the problems I had compiling the demo programs. They will investigate......
Have you sent a message to Microchip about your navigation problems on their website? They may not be aware of the problem and you could give them pointers on how they could help lead people through the process and documentation for this device.