Weekly Update – August 26, 2017

Yes, yes, I’m a day late.

Anyway. I wasn’t inundated with things happening this week, mostly due to not having a lot of time outside of my job to fiddle with things. I have some things about the DigiBadge Mini, the DigiBadge Standard, and two side projects of mine.

First up, though, is finances. As you may have inferred, the problems with the V3 led to a serious monetary setback. I put a lot on it, and it failed. This had led to me wondering if I would even be able to make it to Nightmare Nights and/or RetroGameCon. This week, I was approved for a business credit card, with a limit large enough to cover both of those conventions. I’m not going to go into more detail, but it was a significant relief.

For the Mini and the Standard DigiBadges, I have essentially the same news: Yay screens! The PCB house was able to find the screens I requested for the Mini, and they have also found a source for a 2.2″ TFT screen, with the ILI9341 driver, at a good price, too. I’m still waiting on more details – Does it have a touchscreen? What’s the pinout? What is the physical size/shape/etc of it? – but it’s a good start. Once I know these things about the screen, and perhaps get a sample one or two in my hands, I’ll really be able to start working on the Standard’s design.

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Weekly Update – August 19, 2017

And we’re back!

This week was great. Absolutely fantastic. Let’s get started.

First up, on Tuesday I received the prototype PCBs of the DigiBadge Mini. I wasted no time and assembled everything and got to testing it.

Everything worked. The first* time (*Except for me forgetting to change sketch defaults to correct pins). SD card works. Buttons work. Screen works. Flash memory works. Obviously, the ATMega works. Hell, even the card detector works, and that’s a particularly fiddly piece to solder by hand. I haven’t really begun doing much coding for it due to my day job’s work schedule this week, but I should be able to do some things with it next week. I plan on making some of the things that are common between the Mini and the Standard (Such as the Pride Flags and Badges) more compatible by removing hard coded things and having them compute sizes based off of screen size. That’ll likely take a while, though.

Throughout the week, I was communicating with my contact at the PCB manufacturer. I’ll share two bits of information that I think are exceptionally cool: First, there’s hope for a new screen for the DigiBadge Standard. It’s a little larger, at 2.4 inches, but it also may have a touch screen. And its driver chip is compatible with the ESP8266. I have been told that the screen can be acquired, but minimum quantities are still unclear. It may not work out, but it’s something.

Second, the price for purchasing and assembling the Minis is less than I expected it to be. Granted, they haven’t found a supplier for the 1.8″ screens, and I may need to put those on myself, but it’s still a better price than I was calculating. This means that I should be able to purchase more for Nightmare Nights in October.

That’s it for this week. I’ll be back with more next week – Early next week I plan on making a post detailing the costs of getting to and selling at Nightmare Nights, and what sort of things I plan on doing to raise that money. And then, of course, at the end of the week I’ll update you on the other things that happened.

Until then, you can find me on DiscordTwitter, or Facebook.

Post-BronyCon Update

Greetings, everyone!

BronyCon 2017 is over. It was great to see so many of you there, and while I wasn’t able to sell any V3s, I was able to sell the hell out of the Arduineigh boards that MintShard came up with. I was also able to give out quite a number of business cards, so hopefully that will translate into some interest.

So, what’s next?

First and foremost, the name change. And domain change. And a bunch of other changes. The new website isn’t ready to go yet, but over the next few days I’ll be setting everything up over there. As part of that, there’s a number of backend changes that’ll go on as things get accomplished. Both the Facebook page and the Twitter page have changed their @ usernames to @PhoenixbornTech, although their display names are still Matchfire Electronics. The names will change later, once the official paperwork has been filed and we have a new logo. Additionally, e-mails have started to be migrated. The old Matchfire e-mails will redirect to the appropriate Phoenixborn e-mails, but you may start receiving e-mails from the new domain.

Importantly, the Shop is being completely re-built. The new one will launch in a few days, and will completely replace the old one. I’m re-vamping a few things, and getting rid of some of the old products that don’t need to exist any more. Of note, the V2 will not be available on the new site, so if you want one now is the time to get one.

What will be available on the re-vamped store? At present, the lineup consists of these items: The V2/Mini case and Pre-Orders for the following items: DigiBadge Mini, DigiBadge Standard, Photoreactive Pendant, and the Arduineigh.

Many people asked about the Arduineigh at BronyCon, especially after I sold out of them. I can happily say that MintShard and I are working on bringing them to the web store as well.

As for Weekly Updates: Those will begin again this week. I have a prototype board for the Mini coming tomorrow, and I have all of the components to assemble it right away. I’ll let you know how that goes.

As always, you can catch us on Discord, Twitter, or Facebook. And, even though I’m going to have to re-work it in a few days for the new website, I now have WordPress posting to those three channels automatically, too!

Look! Over there! A pile of bad news!

I’ll get straight to the point here: There’s no silver lining to this post. There’s a lot of bad, and a lot of scrambling to make the best of a very bad situation.

To start it all off: The screens on the V3 badges did not work. More accurately, they do work but they have a different driver chip in them. It is a problem that is fixable via code, but I am not a programmer in anything more than the most basic things. I can take existing libraries and combine them, but interfacing with hardware on the level of a display chip is well beyond me. For completeness’ sake, the driver is an HX8347D – In SPI mode/pinout. I have had a hard time finding any libraries for the HX8347D in such a configuration, and then there’s another hurdle – None of the libraries I’ve found work on the ESP8266. Fixing this issue in, at this point, less than three days is just not going to happen.

In addition to that, the V3s have a handful of other problems. There’s something screwy between the ATTiny and the ESP8266, which is causing the ESP8266 to not boot properly. This IS a code issue, as putting the ATTiny into a bare code state with only specific pins set does allow the ESP to boot up. The CP2102 also doesn’t connect to the ESP module – I’m not sure what the issue is as I haven’t poked into it at all, but the module connects to USB, but it doesn’t connect to the ESP. And the final issue is that the adhesive used for the battery packs is just not good enough. The pressure from the wires is enough to eventually separate the battery pack from the board.

On the plus side: The voltage regulators work – Both of them. I had also included a method for bypassing the CP2102 when prototyping, so that works to upload code. It’s annoying because an external adapter is needed, but it works. The ATTiny also works largely as intended from what I can tell (Although I haven’t tested it much).

So where do I go from here, with a pile of largely unusable DigiBadges?

I’ll likely simply do nothing with the pile. Replacing the screens is costly and time-consuming, resources better spent making sure this issue is resolved for future versions. I may put them up on the shop with a notification about the issues. Doing this will take some time, however, so I’ll need something in the meantime.

That something is going to be a modified V2 badge. It won’t decode JPEGs, but it’s a known device. It works. I’ll have to do some modifications for components that the PCB house can source and place, but that should be fairly simple. It should also be a bit cheaper than the V3 design, since it has much fewer components. Depending on cost, I may keep it around as a “Light” version of the badge.

Additionally, because of the no-longer-linear progression of badges, I’m not going to call them the V2+, V3 New, or whatever. I’m not entirely sure what I WILL call them at this point, but trying to keep generation numbers would just become a headache.

As far as BronyCon goes, I’ll still be there, at booth #33 in the Artist’s Alley. I’ll be showing off the V3 badge I’ve made work by swapping the screen on, and will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.

As always, feedback, input, suggestions and the like can be voiced on Discord, on Twitter, or on Facebook.

BronyCon 2017 Marketplace (And other updates!)

With only a week and a half until BronyCon, things are going quickly here.

First up, BronyCon posted their Marketplace map and listings. You can find that information here. I will be at Artist’s Alley Booth #33, with the occasional appearance by Alabaster. He’s also on staff for the convention, so he’ll be wearing multiple hats.

I also have the artwork that will be going on to the Art Cards for BronyCon:

Three of those are by Sophie Scruggs (Facebook, Twitter, Website) and the other three are by LeekFish (Facebook, Twitter, Website). Sophie’s badges are adapted from larger-scale prints that she’ll have available at Booth #407. LeekFish’s art was custom-made for these badges, but you can still head over and compliment her work at Booth #224, where she’ll be with the My Dreamy Star crew.

I also received word that the DigiBadges have been shipped from the assembly facility, and should be arriving here tomorrow. Now, there WAS a slight issue with them, but that’s a bit of my fault. Somehow, the Micro USB connector never made it on to the Bill of Materials. What does this mean? Well, the facility never bought the parts, and never put them on the boards. At this point, the time that it would take to have them do it would make the boards arrive AFTER BronyCon – A bad thing, obviously. So I’m going to have to purchase and solder on the Micro USB connectors by hand. Not the hardest thing to do, but still time consuming. It’s something that’s easily rectified for future orders.

That’s all for now. I’m going to put the “Weekly Updates” on hold until after BronyCon, and will just update as things happen. As always, you can catch me on Discord, on Twitter, or on Facebook.

Weekly Updates – July 15 & 29, 2017

So, apparently, I forgot to write an update last week. Oops.

The past two weeks, not a ton has happened. Mostly, it’s been answering e-mails from the PCB manufacturer about the boards, but I’ve also grabbed a few addressable LEDs from Amazon and have been fiddling with them on an ATTiny84. Between those and some photoresistors, I’m starting to come up with an idea for re-imagining the LED Pendant concept from ages ago.

Instead of using the three-color RGB system for the LEDs, I’ve been using the HSV color system. This is a much nicer system for LEDs, as it allows for super easy tweaking of the brightness of the LED without changing the color. Additionally, as the hue is determined by a single number, it’s very simple to have the color selected by a single variable. Such as, say, a potentiometer or a photoresistor. The addressable LEDs also have a large advantage in that they only need a single pin to control a large number.

My current thought for the LED Pendant is six LEDs, each paired with a photoresistor. The light input on these photoresistors will determine the color of the paired LED. However, I’m not 100% set on this method, and there’s a number of other things I want to try before making a commitment to one design.

There’s not much else for the past two weeks. As said, mostly it’s just waiting. The V3 boards are in the process of being manufactured and it seems that they’re “Close” to being finished, but I’m not 100% sure on when they’ll be done and shipped.

As always, you can catch me on Discord, on Twitter, or on Facebook.

Weekly Update – July 15, 2017

In this update, I’ll be covering two primary things: Convention Appearances and Future Devices. At the moment, I’m simply waiting on updates for the V3 orders, so there’s not much to go on with that.

Convention Appearances

There are three scheduled and confirmed conventions that we’ll be appearing at:

  • BronyCon, on August 11-13, in Baltimore Maryland. This will be the final appearance of Matchfire Electronics. Future appearances will be as Phoenixborn Technologies.
  • Nightmare Nights, on October 27-29, in Dallas Texas.
  • Retro Game Con, on November 18-19, in Syracuse NY.

At BronyCon, we will only have the DigiBadges. There just isn’t enough time or money to get anything else done. I’m hoping that we can get a case design by Nightmare Nights, but that’s going to be a lot of pressure on Alabaster, so I guarantee nothing. Hopefully we’ll have them ready by Retro Game Con, but again, no guarantees. It’s not that long after NMN. Beyond cases goes into the next category:

Future Devices

There are currently two devices slated for certain investigation, and a handful of others that are categorized under “Hopeful Thinking.”

For the first two, I have Product One and Product Two.

Product One is a “DigiBadge Light” – Those of you that were around for the Kickstarter for the V1 should remember this. The difference in the V1 Light and V1 Hacker, or V1 Standard, was primarily that the Light used the ATMega168 instead of the 328. Additionally, the 328 on the Hacker was socketed rather than soldered directly to the board, and the screen was similarly detachable.

For the new DigiBadge Light, there’s a slightly different goal in mind. The V3 DigiBadge is significantly more expensive than the V2, with a final price of $50 vs the V2’s $15. This is due to a number of things, but primarily it is due to components. I personally assembled the V2s, which meant that I saved money in two ways. First, I could use components from non-standard sources, without datasheets and sent to me in ziploc baggies. Second, I didn’t have to pay an assembly cost.

However, there was a significant issue: Of the 150 boards and components that I assembled, only 85 were in functioning order at BronyCon. This was a significant problem. I managed to fix a decent number after the convention, which I then sold at Nightmare Nights, but that should never have happened in the first place. The root of the issue is split between time and equipment. As it stands, time would have been extremely tight again, and getting the proper equipment is incredibly expensive and also takes up space I don’t really have.

Assembly costs are completely necessary and will end up saving me a ton of time and a decent amount of money, too. Fewer bad units means more potential sales. However, assembly requires a different set of components. While I could potentially use the dirt cheap components like I used for the V2, I would have to purchase them myself, wait for them to arrive to me, and then send them off to the assembly warehouse. That would waste a lot of time and the money spent shipping them would probably make it not worth doing. For components on the V3, I had the assembly warehouse source them. This meant some things which cost $0.10 each on the V2 cost almost $1.00 each on the V3. And there are significantly more components on the V3.

The Light version will be trimming down things on the V3 to make a more affordable version. My current plans have the Light having the same ESP-12 module as the V3, but some other features will be removed. There will be no on-board USB support, and I’m considering making the V2 run off of 3 AAAs and then through a LDO regulator to a lower 2.7v. The Light also won’t have the ATTiny power controller, instead using its on-board ADC to monitor power. Because the ESP8266 has built-in Flash memory, I am also considering removing the SD card slot. There are a lot of things to take into consideration, but hopefully I can get the device to a cost that’s a little bit lower.

Product Two is a direct result of the Light. Without the CP2102, there will need to be a way to program the Light. For that, I intend on making a CP2102 breakout board. Why, when there are so many readily available on places like Amazon?

For one, almost all of them do not break out the RTS pin, which makes programming the ESP8266 a bit more difficult than it needs to be. And those that do often have them in an awkward location. A CP2102 board designed with breaking out the RTS pin in mind would be a lot easier to use, and could be consistently available for purchase with the DigiBadge Light.

Another thing is that none of the CP2102 breakout boards I have seen have a voltage regulator. The CP2102 does have a built-in 3.3v regulator, but it is very small and can’t power much of anything. Putting a LDO on the board should be fairly cheap and easy to do, and gives a significant boost to available power.

The final reason is simple logistics. I want to be able to sell the means to program the DigiBadge Light right alongside the badge itself. Yes, I could purchase and re-sell the programmers, but I would have to mark up such devices in order to make it worth it. At that point, people could get it from where I got it, for cheaper. I don’t like to rip off my customers. Then there’s also the matter of supply. I would have to hope that the supplier decides to keep them in stock, and in decent quantities. Otherwise, I’d be in an interesting situation if they decide to discontinue it.

Creating my own CP2102 breakout allows me to have the features I want on it and also to ensure they are available.

What about “Hopeful Thinking?”

Well, there’s a handful of devices I would like to visit or re-visit. The LED Matrix pendant, for one, would be a great thing to re-try my hand at. I have most of the supplies to build them, but at this point in time I know I could design a better version. I would love to investigate a different battery and make the PCB only slightly larger than the LED Matrix.

I also want to visit further on the idea of a magnetic field viewer. It would function along the same principle as the Elektrosluch, except instead of directing two inputs into an audio output, it would direct an array into a visual output. It would require a lot of fiddling on my part, but it’s theoretically possible.

Another thing I want to work on is a remote control vehicle core. Due to the cost of getting anything with custom wireless certified, I would build it around something that’s already certified, and it might not be practical, but it’s something I want to look into at the very least.

That’s all for now. As always, you can catch me on Discord, on Twitter, or on Facebook.

Weekly Update – July 8, 2017

I had half of a thing typed out, but that was last night before I got the latest PCBs to test. And then, today, I had a friend’s wedding to go to, so I forgot to write anything in the morning.

However, there is good news! After a bit of bungling and several strokes of luck in a row, I managed to independently test every component of the PCBs. Good news is they work. Bad news is, I would like to fiddle some more, but I don’t have time. Total lead time from order is about four weeks, which means I have to order on Monday. No exceptions. It’s a little bit frightening. As each individual piece works, I’m not worried about the device not working. There are a few quirks that I’d rather not have, but they’re largely unavoidable.

First up is the boost regulator. These things have been the bane of my existence for an age. They’re small, symetrical, and hard to tell which pin is pin 1. So, unsurprisingly, many of them that I soldered on, were backwards. I ended up with two left, and with some spare PCBs I decided I’d put one on one way, and one the other. In the end, I managed to solder them both on the same way. Backwards. I was in the process of starting to attempt to remove one when I saw, lying on my work table, a little six-pin IC. I picked it up, looked at it, and while it could have been one or two other devices I’d used in the past with a similar pin configuration and size, I HAD managed to lose one of the regulators earlier. So, I shrugged, mostly guessed as to which pin was pin one, and soldered it on.

Turns out, it was the regulator, and it was in the correct orientation. Super lucky! The regulator works, but has one significant flaw – When disabled, it allows the battery voltage through. This is annoying because raw battery voltage IS enough to power the ESP module, but I can program the ESP to go into a deep sleep until the ATTiny tells it that it’s supposed to be awake.

I also had issues with the soldering SD slot on one device (Something went wrong with the other and I haven’t been able to get anything to upload to it). As with the boost regulator, I had used up all of my existing components. So, I improvised.

On the left: The designed SD card slot.
On the right: Don’t judge me, it works.

The one on the left has some issues with assembly that I couldn’t figure out, making it so that I was unable to upload code. The one on the right functions except for a missing boost regulator. The SD slot is an extra from the V2s, but it couldn’t lie flat due to the SD card’s decoupling capacitor. Somehow, the pins line up and it works. This will let me build the code for the final version while I wait for them to arrive.

There are a number of minor and insignificant tweaks to the PCB that I need to make, but those are primarily things on the silkscreen. Aside from putting in a trace to tie one of the ATTiny’s GPIOs to the board reset, there are no design changes.

Now, for other news!

I mentioned previously that Matchfire will be undergoing a name change. I’ve finally decided what that name will be. It’s going to take some time to implement – I’m not certain when it’ll go into effect and there’s a bunch of paperwork to do. In all likelihood, it’ll happen after BronyCon but before Nightmare Nights. I also currently don’t have a replacement logo, but I have commissioned one. You’ll see it pretty much as soon as it is done.

Oh, right. You probably want to know the name. Well, here you go!

Phoenixborn Technologies

Why Phoenixborn Technologies? Well, one, I like phoenixes. It also loosely ties into matches and fire, so there’s some connection. I also chose to swap out “Electronics” for “Technologies” both due to shortening (IE, Phoenixborn Tech) and the fact that not everything I deal with will be electronics. I will still primarily deal with electronics (It IS what I do best), but there’s space for plenty of other things under a “Technologies” umbrella.

I look forward to working as Phoenixborn Technologies. There will be warning as to when things change over to the new name – I need to take care of legal paperwork and other information before then. The Discord channel will stay the same, and if you follow the Facebook page or the Twitter feed you won’t have to worry about the name changes. However, for the latter two, the link to them will change.

Until next week!


Weekly Update: July 1, 2017

Late? It’s like a habit or something.

This week’s lateness is due to some problems at my day job, along with spending most of the day poking at the latest prototype.

Good news! It works… mostly. There are a number of issues with the board, some dumb, some not, but it serves its primary function.

The bad parts about the board:

  • The ESP-12E Module’s Ground pin ended up not being connected to the rest of the PCB’s ground plane.
  • Connecting GPIO 0 to a transistor to control the backlights ended up in failing to boot.
  • The resistor setup for the buttons ended up being too varied to be usable how I wanted it to.
  • The footprint for the boost regulator had pads that were too small and couldn’t be soldered by hand

However, those were either jury-rigged to work with the prototype, worked around, and all have been fixed on the next prototype:

  • Re-routing traces re-connected the ESP-12E Module’s ground pin to the rest of the ground plane.
  • The backlight will be controlled by the ATTiny84
  • The Resistor setup for the buttons is scrapped, and they’ll be detected and controlled via the ATTiny84
  • Footprints have been adjusted as necessary.

I spent most of my programming time working on the code for the ATTiny84, and I’m willing to call it functionally complete. I may go back and tweak or change some things, but it works as it sits. I’ll probably upload it to GitHub later in the week. It’s both a program for the ATTiny84 AND an Arduino library to communicate with it easily. I’m pretty happy with the latter – It was a lot easier than I expected, too!

And in non-DigiBadge news, Matchfire will be changing its name.


Well, I’ll toss a link at you: http://www.matchfire.com

These guys are a marketing firm, but they look a little too similar to this Matchfire. In the name of not causing confusion or friction down the road, I’ve decided to re-name my company. To what, I’m not sure, but it’ll be changed. If you have any suggestions, you can send them on Discord, on Twitter, or on Facebook.