Tag Archives: microsoft

LabVIEW: The Simple Talking Voltmeter

A couple of weeks ago I spent some time examining a fairly complex circuit board from my old, but still functional, clock radio/CD player.  I was using the probe of my handheld multimeter to measure voltages at various IC pins and circuit traces.  At one point during the process I thought, “Gee, wouldn’t it be nice if I had someone here to read the voltmeter to me as I test various points?  That way I could focus on my probe and not accidentally short neighboring pins.”  But then I realized that I did have someone to do just that: Microsoft Sam.  I present to you the NI LabVIEW talking voltmeter:

For those of you without LabVIEW, here are a few screenshots of the subVIs shown in the video above.  Don’t forget that you can always download a free, unrestricted 30-day trial of LabVIEW from the NI website (seriously, it’s awesome, you should try it).

First, the initialization VI, which opens the Microsoft ISpeechVoice reference:

Initializing the Speed Interface

Next, the blocks responsible for detecting new steady-state voltages:

Detecting New Steady-State Voltages

Finally, the code which converts numbers into strings and sends them to Sam:

Convert and Speak the Values

Many thanks to Grant Heimbach, whose sample speech VI saved me a lot of development time (his original code is available on the NI Developer Community).

Click here to download a simple example VI which utilizes the code shown above.

The full, unmodified IOBoard Voltmeter program, as well as all of its supporting components, can be located at the bottom of the Mobile Studio Downloads page.

Got questions or comments?  As always, feel free to leave them below!

Small Stuff: An Optical Mouse Sensor

A few weeks ago I was given a broken Microsoft Wireless Optical Mouse 4000.  When powered on, its LED glowed and appeared to blink and fade as expected, depending on whether or not the mouse sensed motion.  The USB receiver seemed to be working fine as well; Windows detected it and installed the appropriate drivers.  And yet no mouse clicks or motions would register.  So I decided to open it up and take a look.  Long story short: I couldn’t find any obvious problems, but I did snap a few pictures of its optical sensor.  Sadly, I can’t find a datasheet for this particular part.  One document I found called it a Microsoft proprietary sensor.  Oh well.  Here are some nifty pictures taken with a sweet microscope I have access to through work:

Other cool links on the subject:

  • The optical mouse cam (an optical mouse text scanner)
  • An overview of various optical mice and sensors (a bit older, but still cool)
  • More neat pictures of the same sensor (and possibly the same mouse?)
  • A datasheet for the VD5376 optical mouse sensor (comparable, not identical)

DreamSpark Plug

Microsoft DreamSparkWhat do you think about when you think of Microsoft? An evil corporate giant? Frustrating software? Viruses and worms? Or perhaps you’re actually a fan of M$?

Well regardless of your opinion, if you’re a student in high school or college, Microsoft wants to give you some of their software – free. Indeed, full versions of Windows Server 2008 R2, Visual Studio 2010 Professional, and more, are free to download with no strings attached. The program is called DreamSpark, and was announced over two years ago by Bill Gates himself during a speech at Stanford University. Somehow I didn’t catch word of this until just a few months ago when I started to look into building a new server.

So why am I mentioning this? Well, to be honest, I am a bit of a Microsoft fan. I’ve been using their operating systems and software ever since the arrival of the 486. But I’ve also now taken advantage of the DreamSpark program to download and install Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard (an OS that would normally set you back more than $500). In fact, it’s now hosting this blog (and playing a few other roles as well).

In the future I’ll probably comment on my experience with Windows Server, but for now I’ll just say the setup was pretty painless. I’ve toyed with Linux servers in the past, and configuring 2008 was, by comparison, approximately one million times easier. So, thank you Microsoft! (And please, Linux users, be nice to my new server. K? Thx!)