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Building libnfc 1.7 to support Adafruit PN532 Breakout Board

Image (c) Adafruit Industries

I Received a new PN532 NFC breakout board from Adafruit today and was attempting to get it to work properly with libnfc.  The instructions linked from the Adafruit docs reference the rather crufty libnfc-1.4; I was able to get this version to build cleanly on my Ubuntu 13.10 laptop, but could only communicate with the breakout board intermittently.  I had no luck at all with the latest code (1.7 as of the time this article was written).  The nfc-list and nfc-poll commands always seemed to return “No NFC device found” with 1.7, and nearly always returned this under 1.4.

Normally I would have dug deeper to find a solution, but I was already pressed for time.  I’ve got a couple of NFC gizmos that I’ve been dying to look into more closely, so I looked around on the Adafruit forums to see if anyone had already solved the issue.

Found this gem on the Adafruit forums here.  Forum user “webnology.ch” posted instructions for building libnfc-1.7 to properly support the Adafruit PN532 NFC breakout board (via USB/UART).  For the sake of posterity:

sudo apt-get install autoconf automake libtool
sudo apt-get install libusb-0.1-4 libusb-dev libpcsclite1 libpcsclite-dev libccid pcscd
sudo apt-get install git
sudo git clone https://code.google.com/p/libnfc/
cd libnfc
mkdir /etc/nfc
mkdir /etc/nfc/devices.d/
sudo nano /etc/nfc/devices.d/pn532_via_uart2usb.conf

paste the following 5 lines into the pn532_via_uart2usb.conf:

## Typical configuration file for PN532 board (ie. microbuilder.eu / Adafruit) device
name = “Adafruit PN532 board via UART”
connstring = pn532_uart:/dev/ttyUSB0
allow_intrusive_scan = true
log_level = 3

sudo autoreconf -vis
./configure --prefix=/usr --with-drivers=pn532_uart --sysconfdir=/etc
sudo make clean
sudo make
sudo make install all
cd examples
sudo ./nfc-poll

I was able to confirm functionality with these instructions.  Hopefully this helps some folks out…

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Cook Technologies Steel Raspberry Pi Case

ButtonedUp

I discovered this case while browsing through eBay looking at Raspberry Pi offerings. I’ve been looking for a slightly more rugged case for one of my Pis, and this one seemed to fit the bill nicely. Some may argue that spending $28 for a case for a $35 computer is excessive, but given how difficult it is to actually lay hands on a Raspberry Pi these days it seemed like an easily justifiable expense. I ordered two Raspberry Pis on November 1 and just received the first one a couple of days ago. I ordered this case from eBay on 11/28 and it arrived today (12/3).

Initial impressions of the case make it very clear that the case was designed and built by a competent, experienced manufacturer who actually cares about quality. The case is hefty, made of 19 gauge cold rolled steel, and is beautifully painted with a black powder coat finish. No sharp edges to be found. Screw holes line up evenly and are cleanly drilled and tapped. Cutouts for the Raspberry Pi line up precisely, have ample clearance for their intended use without providing too much of a gap. Inside the case the manufacturer has provided foam inserts to firmly hold the Pi in place and prevent any circuitry from shorting against the steel case. The Pi fits snugly within the lower half of the case without being “wedged in” to the provided space. Once assembled, the Raspberry Pi is held firmly in place and the case feels substantial.

I only have a couple of complaints about the case, and they are really minor quibbles. First, an option for mounting ears would be extremely beneficial; a provision for securely mounting the case to a cabinet would expand the case’s potential applications. Finally, the case really should have some kind of light pipe arrangement for the Pi’s LEDs. A hole is indeed provided for this purpose, but it seems odd given the otherwise stellar build quality of the case.

I am in no way associated with Cook Technologies, I’m just a VERY happy customer. It is, unfortunately, rare these days to discover a manufacturer who provides this kind of fit and finish in a product geared towards the hobbyist. This case is a pleasant exception to this unfortunate rule. The case is currently available for $28 USD from eBay seller cooktechinc with free shipping. Worth every penny, IMHO.

More pictures of the case follow…

Windows 7 – OK, so it doesn’t suck.

July kept me insanely busy.  My daughter underwent extensive surgery at the end of June and had some complications.  She is fine now and recovering well, but the month of July is an insane blur.  In any case, I’m back in the game now and intend on posting lots of new content here.

I picked up a little Asus EEPC 1001PXB for 75 bucks on EBay and it arrived the other day.  Nice little netbook: 10.1″ screen, 6-cell LIPO battery, dual core Atom N450, 2 gigs RAM.  Previous owner sold it cheap because the hard drive had failed.  I replaced the bad drive with a 40 gig OWC Extreme SSD and installed Ubuntu 11 (Natty Narwhal); it’s surprisingly responsive.  Cold boot to usable system in a couple of seconds; sweet!

Those of you who know me are all too familiar with my disdain for Windows.  I’m a grizzled old MCSE from back in the day, and know Windows quite well inside and out.  At one time I was quite proficient with the Win32 API, and made quite a decent living developing custom Windows applications with C++ and Delphi.  I switched from Windows to Mac in 2006 after buying an Intel Mac Pro, and eliminated all things Windows from my home in 2007.  It has been a blissful migration, and I really haven’t missed the platform.

I recently dove wholeheartedly into digital electronics and Microcontrollers; the topics have been on my interest list for quite some time.  After working with the Arduino platform for a couple of months, I decided to dive into straight AVR development.  I really like the platform.  I recently ran into a couple of tools that I wanted to try which are Windows only – specifically the Atmel AVR development suite and the 4D Systems 4GL IDE.  Rather than delving into the ball of pain which is XP, I decided to give Windows 7 a go.

Short review?  It doesn’t suck.