Thing a week? Thing a month?

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Lately I’ve had the desire to push myself to make things with some sort of regular cadence. Usually I go for really hard projects that take a long time to come together. Unfortunately it’s easy to get busy with my day job and let large spare time projects go by the wayside. In light of that I’m going to start playing around with some smaller projects to see how far I can get. For posting, I really liked the Thing-A-Day community while it was around – it was a pretty neat way to post any random thing at any level of progress (including failure) and get good feedback. The project site run by hackaday is pretty neat but I’m not sure it’s the right format for small projects at a quick cadence. I’m thinking I’ll just change the format of this blog and use it in combination with flickr. So, changes afoot.

Fixing 64 Bit Xilinx Apps Crashing Under Windows 8.1

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Several pieces of the Xilinx toolchain use the SmartHeap library. This library hooks allocator functions in msvcrt.dll by export – overwriting the original functions with jumps to their patched versions. This used to be fine, but now several of the allocator entrypoints on msvcrt are simply jumps to the real implementation. These are short jumps, so the instruction size count is small (typically 2-3 bytes). Add to that the 5 NOP bytes that usually pad functions apart and that isn’t enough for SmartHeap’s overwrite jumps. Here’s an example of the trampoline they write:

That’s 12 bytes – 4 too many. What I was seeing is the overwrite for operator new stomping over wcscmp which is right after it, and the application crashing later when calling this function:

You can see here how wcscmp has been overwritten by the tail of the patch. I did some searching around and found this post by a Xilinx employee, explaining how to turn off SmartHeap.

Basically the gist of it is that in the ISE_DS\ISE\lib\nt64 directory, back up libPortability.dll (which links to SmartHeap), and rename libPortabilityNOSH.dll to libPortability.dll. This fixed ISE for me, but unfortunately a lot of the other Xilinx tools have their own lib\nt64 directories with duplicate copies of libPortability.dll. For each lib\nt64 directory, you’ll need to overwrite libPortability.dll with that original libPortabilityNOSH.dll – which is not duplicated in the non-ISE lib\nt64 directories.

I checked for updates and it appears I’m running with the latest version (14.7) with no updates available. Hopefully Xilinx will distribute an update for the SmartHeap binaries.

Making OLEDs – a post-mortem of my first attempt

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Some years ago, I set out to make my own OLEDs. This took a lot of persistence as many materials providers, manufacturers, and researchers refused to work with me, some of them providing their own brand of discouraging words along the way. Luckily, I was able to find several companies and people researching and working in the field who were very helpful.

Anatomy of an OLED
I was able to successfully make several differently-colored devices of varying quality level. In some cases I used indium as a cathode. Here’s what the successful stack I chose looks like:OLED Stack

AllWinner getting serious about high end chips

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AllWinner has been manufacturing cheap multi-core ARM processors for Android devices for some time now. It appears all of that success on the low-end has given them the funds needed to produce a high-end chip – the A80 Octa, which has 4 A15 cores and 4 A7 cores (ARM big.LITTLE).

Processor roadmap here, with specs – check out their Q4 2015 deliverable!


How to upgrade onboard NAND flash in allwinner A10 based devices (and possibly other members of the AllWinner processor family)

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Ever since I saw a YDPG18A mod post where flash was upgraded (unsuccessfully), I’ve been curious about upgrading NAND flash. After I started investigating I realized the upgrade mentioned wouldn’t work, so I called the guy on it and he mentioned it didn’t work, just that he hadn’t gotten around to posting about it. If he’d found the exact same model flash chip as the existing one, soldered it on, and reflashed, it would have worked. But a lot of the flash chips used in these devices are old and hard to get ahold of. Luckily, they use a standard footprint (TSOP48), and a standard pinout used for SLC and MLC NAND flash.