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.