Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Treks around Chikmangalore

It was 16th and 17th June 2007 that we chose for our Student Islamic Organization (SIO) meequath tour to "somewhere" in Karnataka. Initially plan was to trek around Madikeri in coorg and because of heavy rains prevailing there; we decided to go to Chikmangalore, which is near to coorg. Mudassir bai was our ameer (leader) of the trip who has the prime responsibility to lead the pack of 36. We started friday evening at around 11.30pm and bus stopped once in between at some place at around 3am... by the time the sun is about to rise, we were about to reach Chikmangalur. But we couldn't see any mosque on the way so had to do thayammum [doing cleaning with mud] and do our subah prayer inside the bus. It was wonderful and first experience for me of having a congregational prayer from inside the bus. Also prayers like this will really touch our hearts positively.

Reached Chikmangalore by 6.30 in the morning. Everyone had sound sleep it seems and everyone was in a thrill to explore the nature. We roamed around the city in small groups just to get a feel of the town. Chikmangalur is very small town, looks clean and calm. There are many tourists’ places near and far to this city. We freshened up from a masjid and we had enough time to take a peaceful breakfast. we started by 10am only and the weather was cloudy with no sun shine... we decided to go to Abbe falls(Hebbe falls) which is around 40Km away from Chikmangalur.once we came out of the city, roads become narrow and bad with patches, but it gave a wildness tune to the journey.. People had already started to return home from paddy fields and other lands after their work... many fields found to be ploughed and kept open with out any on going cultivation in it.. for a moment i happened to glance at the current situation of my village and understood the similarity of its past and the present scene i am having in front of me... I remember how cattle egrets roamed around the cows while they were on the fields and now I had to come to Chikmangalore to see such a scene!!! i felt so moved to see the man controlling his cows, pushing hard on the bar with his muddy foot to break the clay blocks, once I had enjoyed this when I was on the way to my primary schools.

Scene in front was amazing.. though trees hide the front view, hills are huge enough to reveal their elegance and beauty in the cloudy morning... hills were really shining in the limited sun light available and moving snow felt to have added to their beauty. some times we could see the hills very near and feel the plumage of them, the uniformity and diversity in their arrangement, the wildness in the trees occupied, new born tender leaves of the tall trees etc. It was a great feeling of acquiring the magic of the nature spread over the horizon with a 2cm eye, which revealed the creator and sustainer of the worlds. Sure these beautiful "big monuments" will stand as a witness for divinity. We had to take a diversion from the main roads to go to Abbe falls and we need to still travel 10Kms.. Bus was going very slow through the road surrounded by tea plantations. On the way we stopped at one place, from were the horizon is limited only by the hills...we traveled further and it started drizzling and strong wind was blowing...

Once we got down from the bus, we divided ourselves to three groups and started climbing down the hill. Wind was blowing wildly at the top and as we climbed down, we felt the force dwindling as we move... but the path was sloppy, slippery with rumbles and rocky. after this initial path, the route was open and fine with less vegetation around the way. later the scene changed to coffee plantations at one side and forest at the other side... and here comes the fourth stage, the wildness of the nature. We had to climb down the slippery mud which has more than 60 degrees of slope, there was hardly no targets for our foots to step on to control the forward movement and here the intermediate trees were also less. the way was surrounded by a good jungle... then we could see a barrier which had been kept down to the earth by some trekkers... the fifth part of the trek was still interesting slope increased further to more than 70 degrees and definitely there is no grip other than the shoe grip. I believe every member of the pack was thinking or formulating their own tactics to tackle the challenge and people even discussed about it. Since it is rainy season, there are enough leeches and by this time people have started looking inside their socks.. and most of the people are new to leech stories and the power of it...see how we are away from the nature... it is a wonderful creature with many abilities, it's attack is slow and steady without any harm, we wont even know if it is there own our body or not. the first process in any leech bite is application of a chemical substance which will prevent clotting of blood, this will ensure continues flow of blood and it has a special hook antenna that it put in to the vein and the more interesting part is how it finds the location of veins correctly. amazing, the creature of almighty God. Now comes the sixth part of the trek, journey through the side of a stream, we could hear the sound of the fall from here. we crossed the stream three times, we got lot of sweaty small mangos on the way, which was enough to satisfy all of us...at last we saw the fall which was around 168 meters height in two stages. We took around one and half hours to reach here after getting down from the bus.

we cant see the first stage from the bottom of the fall. There had enough water to have a satisfying bath and we took it... we climbed up the fall to some extend over the slippery rocks to explore the shower like arrangement there. Believe me the force of the falling water thread over the rock was strong enough to destabilize our head and uncontrol the flow of water to our ears. water made loud sound, water drops sprinkled around and cold climate motivated us... nature keeps perplexing us with its charming forms... we felt the rocks were too slippery and some of us I had to pay them back two times for checking them for once, and my second injury was enough to harm my tongue. We spent more than a hour there and by that time, rain started to shower. we took our shelter under a rock which had enough space to accommodate more than one third of us. Leech biting became an interesting this by this time and people started help each other get out of them. there were people who kind of raced in leech biting and counting their bites... i feel that we are helpless if two leeches bite simultaneously, we become panic and we can't just do any thing... see how helpless we are ourselves.. May be God teach ourselves some lessons that looked to be silly, but holds immense principles. We took less time to come back.. we had our lunch at 5'o clock from the place we started our trek. Wind became more vigorous and risky and we had to offer our prayer from inside the bus. We returned to chikmangalore and stayed there.

Second day, we started a little earlier, by 9am. We rocketed to Z-point which is in Kemmangudi hills. The route is almost similar to yesterdays but the weather was shiny bright morning... I took my seat in the cabin of the bus to have a taste and better feel of the route. Could see people waiting for the bus for a long time, and Anwar told me that some times it even takes hours to catch a bus in these types of interior areas. I felt that he too liked to enjoy and explore nature more closely than others, he shared some his thoughts too on his exploration. there had fascinating hair pins bends on the route with a top of vast cultivation lands down the valley. we could clearly spot the divisions made in it and the difference in cultivation... after that the route was nearly horizontal and later we started climbing the hills one to another through roads. we could feel how we are tackling the height and the depth of the valleys...the route is being cut over the curvature of the hills with sharp bends because of scary steep valleys..it is almost like feeling the shape of the hills, really wonderful feeling!!!

we reached the place, it is also called kr hills. we had to walk some 3kms to reach the Z-point. the initial part is very easy and striaght forward with a good jungle around the road... then the path becomes narrow with astonishingly arted rocks on the right side and steep valley on the left side..in some places, steepness is such that we can't see the bottom of the valley as such. Water seen to be coming in drops from the rocke in one area and there is a small waterfall too. then we had to take a zigzag path because the slope was almost 90 degrees. the path is like going 45 degrees in vertical plane, going back straight and then moving forward at some angle... felt like an inverted 'Z'. we could feel the height of the location from the force of the wind and towards the end of the journey to the peak, the height increased drastically and so the wind speed. we reached the top and grouped there.. wind was too wild that it tended to take us along with it and the risk was the peak has lesser surface area. some times some us had to keep sitting on the ground to save ourselves from the stormy wind. this was my first experience of a wind having this much air flow force... that too is a sign of almighty God and the disability of man. Praise the Lord!!!

I was more scared about climbing down the initial part of the hill... my shoes had already gave a signal about it's inability to save me and indicated that myself had to take full care. there is a beautiful green cattle feeding land down the peak, but it is almost not accessible from the top since it is very steep. we returned from there and gathered in garden called "rock garden" to discuss some things about leaders of world Islamic movements and had our prayer from there. after taking our lunch, we returned to Chikmangalore..on the way we went to Kallathi falls, we found many people drinking there in the falls and we couldn't take a bath. we continued our journey to Chikmangalore and reached there by 6pm. we took 3hours rest there and started to Bangalore. we had our dinner from Hasan and we met my brother and his friends there. we reached Bangalore on Monday 2am.

Chikmangalore trip is my first two day trekking experience and I enjoyed it in the full true sense. Intention of the trip was clear among all of the members of the pack and for me it is for the first time that I am in to a pack having a uniform spirit like this. The team was calm and understanding each other even though the pack was more than 35. I thank God for having a wonderful trek like this with lots of everlasting natural sittings and good moments...

Friday, June 08, 2007

Starting with AVR microcontrollers: Code to burning

Microcontrollers are widely used in the electronics design arena, whatever may be the application we have. With the continuing competition among the microcontroller devices, more and more software and utilities are coming in to picture. Microcontrollers have drastically changed the design approach of an electronics engineer. In today’s world, even a so called complex design can be realized with minimum time, effort and resources. Microcontrollers are loaded with all resources in the form of on chip peripherals, both analog and digital; utilizing them effectively is the only design aspect that a designer has to do.

I have been using 8051 family of microcontrollers starting from 2002. There had been lost of effort, money and search I put to prototype one design using a microcontroller, finding the intended microcontroller in market, more than that getting the programmer, selecting suitable easy development environment etc. I remember when I bought an 8051 microcontroller programmer for 2400/- rupees. Things has been changed drastically nowadays, in the sense, resources are available right at our finger tips with less cost and full documentation. It was in May '06 that I seriously searched and thought about AVR microcontrollers. They really amazing in the sense, blessed with plenty of on chip functions, freely available development/ debug tools, plenty of articles and sample projects etc. A simple example for AVR's power is, most of them come with onchip 10 bit ADCs. They really help you to design your system fast and aviod much of the integration work, so that you can concentarte on the actual design problem. They have In System Programming (ISP) capability too, that really help during the initial stages of development of a design, where you will download the code to the flash many times. Else we have to take the chip out of the circuit and put in an external programmer.

I have woked with ATMEGA8515 and ATMEGA32 AVR microcontrollers. My main design was an Automatic Incubator using ATMEGA32, that used many on chip facilities of AVR. Out of them, the on chip I2C facility was the important one that I utilized much. It helped me to speed up interfacing of thermometer chips with the AVR. The negative side of the game is the device cost. But I think that can be balanced if we look at the utility of the device. If you are going for a uC+ADC design, compared it with a single AVR device with built in ADC.


1. Development Environment:

WinAVR I use C programming with WinAVR for code development. WinAVR contains different tools for code development and debug. Programmers notepad is an easy to use coding environment and it is a continuesly upgrading free software. C compiler used by WinAVR is avr-gcc. It has built in definitions and macros for onchip peripherals and their access. This ease the code development very much, we need to concentrate only on the high level implementation. Currently I am using WinAVR 20070525 release. Latest WinAVR release can be downloaded at http://sourceforge.net/projects/winavr/. Lets go through the code development steps.

I. Download WinAVR to your HDD and install it to a suitable location
II. For every project you develop using WinAVR, you need to keep a Makefile along with it, which will specify or hold the details about the project like, device used, name of C file, frequency of operation etc. It is better to keep the Makefile in the directory where your C code resides. Some of the important fields are

# MCU name
MCU = atmega8535
#Proseccor frequency
F_CPU = 12000000
# Output format. (can be srec, ihex, binary)
FORMAT = ihex
# Target file name (without extension).
TARGET = nokia_3310_lcd
# List C source files here. (C dependencies are automatically generated.)

III. write your C program using Programmers notepad and compile it Use Tools -> Makeall
IV. Output window will show the warning and errors, if any. else it will show that *.hex file has been generated successfully. This file is in intel hex format and this is to be downloaded to avr flash.

2. Programmer/ Programmer software:

Initially I started with PonyProg which used parallel for ISP. Look at http://www.lancos.com/prog.html for AVR ISP (STK200/300) parallel port interface[ If you plan one, download atleast 2.06C version of Pony programmer software] It is very easy to build with fewer components and easy to use too. It comes with its own programming software. I was really satisfied with it, but I found problems with parallel port when I used in other PCs. It requires some parallel port settings to work it properly, that I couldn't summarize till now. So I thought of looking for an ISP USB programmer for AVR. I could find one design from http://www.fischl.de/usbasp . Thought of trying once, and believe me or not it took less time to develop this programmer compared to my first parallel port programmer. I used PonyProg to program the ATMEGA8 present in the USB programmer. USB driver and README files are available to download at the above mentioned webpage.

I have incorporated one 28 pin IC socket and one 40pin ZIF socket with a common crystal for both. The above figure shows only 28 pin socket. I have also provided a 6pin male connector on the board which can be utilized to use the programmer for ISP purpose. I didn't provide any separate power supply for the board, else I am directly powering from USB. I couldn't find 68 ohm resistor in my component box so I used two 150 ohm resistors in parallel to form 75ohms. Also, I used 3.3V zener instead of 3.8V zener as prescribed in the above webpage. Other than these connections that are intended for USB, all others are straight forward. Going forward, I am planning to use USB code to utilize for my future projects to give PC access to the microcontroller system through USB. So we can configure settings, transfer data etc between PC and the design board. My practical Programmer circuit is shown in the first figure.

To download the hex file to flash, go to the folder where avrdude is available[…/WinAVR/bin/], run avrdude -c usbasp -p atmega8 -U flash:w:main.hex

3. AVR devices are available at,

Universal Electronics
#4, Mandi Veerappa Lane
Silver Jubilee Park Road
Parallel to Sardar Patrapa(S.P) Road
Bangalore 560 002PH:080-22238686,080-41140023

4. Sample project

http://www.circuitcellar.com/avr2006/winners/AT2951.htmI would suggest to use AVR for your newer designs. Surely that will help you much all through out your design phases.

I am happy to share and discuss designs with you if you like to do... Happy designing!!!