Project update 19 of 21
My assembler managed to deliver me more than 2/3 of all orders just before Christmas. Which means I’ll be shipping the majority of the orders this week as planned, followed by the rest mid-January. Please check the delivery address on your order now, and change your address within the next 24 hours if necessary. This was the important part of the update. Read on for the "random rant" part.
This is a very μArt-y Christmas for me. The weekend before the holidays was spent mostly by writing an automated testing and programming tool (yeah, you could argue I should have done it earlier, but hey, I’m not perfect either). The tool is pretty cool now. I can start it in mass-programming mode, and then I just plug in each μArt one after the other, attach a loopback cable, and it burns some parameters into their EEPROM and runs a series of automated tests. No need to touch the PC at all between units. After each device, it reports failure or success, and records the μArt’s serial number (by the way, all units passed the function tests, so things are looking good). On the two subsequent days after Christmas Eve, me and my family spent 4-5 hours each day just applying stickers, putting the units into their enclosures, and running all the units through the aforementioned testing tool. I’ve got my whole family helping me out with this endeavor, for which I’m really, really grateful. I’d probably have needed 4-5 full days to do all this stuff if I had been alone.
Did I say stickers? Well, only on the board, nothing on the enclosure, so no worries. But what is this? Unfortunately, even after the re-spin of the PCBs, their manufacturer still managed to mess up a small thing. They misprinted the UL information for their 94V conformance on the boards, and this is the thing we’re accounting for with the board-stickers. The manufacturer assured the conformance of their delivery, but I immediately requested a so-called Certificate of Conformance to prove this (and to act as support for the stickers), which they’ve promptly supplied, accompanied by a full outgoing inspection report, and, of course, everything checks out. Long story short, since this clearly seems to be a factory oversight only in the human-readable surface print (the "silkscreen") of the boards, we’ve chosen to apply the RU-marking post-board-production for this batch, make support documentation available online (link), and avoid an unnecessary respin.
But back to the testing tool. It is actually a configuration-and-testing tool. I’ll make it available as a public download shortly, and you’ll be able to use it in its default mode, to change some parameters of the μArt, more specifically the function of the GPO pin or the behavior of the LEDs. This fulfills my promise about the μArt’s customization possibilities and configurability. You won’t be able to use the tool for factory programming, as the manufacturing data is protected by a cryptographic signature in the μArt’s EEPROM, and the public tool will only contain the public key of course (for verification purposes). Some cool reconfiguration options are disabling the dynamic LEDs if they disturb you, repurposing them as a visual GPIO, or using the GPO-pin for clock generation or USB charger detection. You could, in theory use the native tool provided by FTDI too, but that requires admin-privileges to install, it is non-intuitive to operate, and offers many unsafe/dangerous options that could ruin your adapters if used naively. In contrast, the μArt’s companion tool is simply download-and-execute, very easy and intuitive to use, and completely safe.
This about sums up the important things that have happened recently. As of now I have almost 450 units fully tested and assembled as discussed above, and I’ve still got to do the addressing, packaging and shipping for them. Should be done by the end of this week (famous last words), and then only a few will remain to be shipped in January. Until then, I wish all of you happy and loving Holidays, and a successful and healthy New Year. Let’s meet again in 2019!