Tuesday, August 28, 2012

New shield (2.2 BETA) and firmware (1.4) are up

If you have tried to build a Trackuino board, you will have noticed that the Venus GPS part from Sparkfun (GPS-09133) has been retired and replaced with GPS-10921, which has in turn been replaced with GPS-11058.

Unfortunately, the engineers at Sparkfun have deemed necessary to reshuffle the pinout and make the newer board incompatible with existing designs that used the older boards, including Trackuino. I'm still puzzled at this decision, this is like the 7805 reversing in and out just because it "makes more sense".

If you already have a board designed for GPS-09133 or GPS-10921 and want to use GPS-11058, there are two solutions: either run small cables instead of pin headers, or build a small adapter board to rearrange the messed-up pins.

The GPS chip has also been replaced (634FLPx becomes 638FLPx), but this should not be a problem.

Although I plan to run away from this problematic part, I have uploaded the Eagle files of a new design that is compatible with GPS-11058. Look for trackuino-shield-2.2.zip in the downloads area.

I have not tested this design yet. I will remove the "BETA" label as soon as I get some boards tested.

Since I haven't built any 2.2 board yet, all I can show is this nice 3D rendering from mayhem labs:

The complete feature set of the Trackuino Shield 2.2 is:

  • Replaced Venus GPS 634FLPx (sparkfun #9133) with newer 638FLPx (sparkfun #11058).
  • Auto 3.3/5.0v operation for Chipkit Uno32 compatibility
  • Eagle files converted to 6.x format.
  • Use Arduino's own 5V regulator to power the HX1.
  • Replaced TO220 3.3V regulator with SMT + board sink.
  • Added bleeder resistor for passive piezo speakers.
  • Battery (Vin) sensing (through a resistive voltage divider).

Matching this new shield, there is also a new firmware version: trackuino-firmware-1.4.zip in the downloads area. The new features are:

  • NEW: Support for PIC32 / Chipkit Uno32 platform
  • NEW: Support for active or passive buzzers (DC or PWM driven)
  • NEW: Battery voltage sensing
  • NEW: Slotted transmissions for multilaunch events
  • REMOVED: Support for the MX146 radio

Find more information in the project page at google code, and enjoy!


  1. Impressive redesign, good job! If you want to think about another GPS, I'm planning to buy this module from Adafruit which has already been tested in space http://www.adafruit.com/products/746

    It's cheaper than the Venus and it's TTL through software serial.

  2. Javi, please don't remove the support for the MX146 or MX145 Modules, I can help you to maintain the support for those modules.

    Alfredo Mendiola Loyola
    Lima, Peru

  3. Do you recommend using Chipkit Uno32 vs Adruino Uno? Other than speed, is there an advantage? Just getting started building one. Thanks

    1. The Uno32 has extra I/O pins, an extra UART, it is 3.3v/5v compatible, has a 32-bit CPU versus 8-bit and, of course, it's faster. It is, however, a more complex MCU, so if you want to hack around, the Arduino might be easier because of its simplicity. Also the Uno32 community is non-existent, the programming environment is outdated and the official forums are of no help at all if you ever have a problem with it.

      But from the trackuino point of view it doesn't matter. The firmware behaves the same on both.

  4. Are there detailed instructions on parts placement onto the board available? I could use them as my son is going to build it.


    1. Yes. In the project wiki -> Trackuino Shield 2.2 -> Mouser BOM you'll find the column "Customer Part No." has the component labels matching the PCB slikscreen.

  5. i'm trying to use it on a lilypad with direct connection to the transmitter module. but the rx aprs gateway in town can't decode my signal. What can be wrong?

    1. First try to decode it locally (use a pc + agwpe + receiver) to rule out antenna/rf issues. Make sure you're using 5v to drive the hx1 module. If you can't still decode it post some audio on the hab-ham.org forums and I'll take a look at it.

  6. Hello friend, I would like to know how the aprs frequency in Brazil is 145,570 Mhz

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