I bought this multimeter(Minipa ET-870C) a while ago for $17, great value. I got it because its nice to have around multiple meters for when you wanna measure both input and output voltage/current. I believe it was advertised to have an auto-off feature for 15 mins but it didn’t. This eventually lead to many drained batteries because I often forgot to turn it off after using it. So during a boring weekend when the weather outside was bad I decided to add this nice feature to the meter. I knew it had to be a small circuit to be able to fit inside the multimeter so I picked the tiny25 the smallest micro I had around.

I quickly put together a simple schematic in Eagle, just the mcu, a voltage regulator a npn transistor and the associated capacitors and resistors. The circuit is powered from the multimeter 9V battery and cuts off the ground path to the meter to turn off its power. No ISP connector was placed on the board to save space but extra long pads were added so I can solder some wires for programming the mcu.


The npn transistor has its base pulled down so when there is no signal coming from the mcu the transistor is off. The pcb was made using the photo etching technique and it was assembled with some solder paste and hot air gun. I also soldered some wires to connect to my MKII programmer and I started writing the code.

To keep track of the time I used Timer0 to generate an overflow interrupt. Knowing the CPU frequency and the prescaler we can find out how often that interrupt will occur. Knowing how often the interrupt will occur we know how many times we need that interrupt to trigger to account for a given time in seconds. This is all calculated inside main.h where you can also specify the time in seconds.

To start the counting process I’m using a tact switch connected on INT0. When the button is pressed the level changed interrupt will trigger on INT0 and we change some flags to start counting as well as turning on the transistor to turn on the multimeter. When the counting reaches the setpoint, the flags reset and the transistor is turned off, thus turning off the meter. At this step the code was running ok except that for a 15 mins period there is ~12s error. I suspect this is because I’m using the internal oscillator which is not very precise.

Since the circuit was intended for extending the battery life, itself had to consume as little as possible. All measurements were made right before the voltage regulator at the battery leads. With no optimization the current draw at 9V was 3.67mA. The tiny25 has 3 sleep modes: Idle, ADC Noise Reduction and Power-down mode. The Idle mode would be good for when we are counting until the setpoint is reached, and the power-down mode for when we are waiting for the button to be pressed(INT0 interrupt trigger). So I’ve added some new lines of code to set the processor into Idle mode when the button is pressed, and to set it to power-down mode the the setpoint is reached and the transistor is turned off.

// Prepare for sleep mode in Idle mode so Timer0 can continue working and providing interrupts


set_sleep_mode(SLEEP_MODE_PWR_DOWN);	// Prepare for sleep mode in Power Down mode

With these new settings the numbers are: in Idle mode the current draw is 3.57mA(only 0.1mA saved) but in power-down mode the current draw is only 17.9 uA(a whopping 3.652mA saved). This will ensure the battery life is not affected by the small timer circuit.

Now that everything was finished all I had to do is mount the small pcb inside the meter. Luckily there was plenty of space between the LCD and the logic board. I attached the pcb with some double sided sticky tape and drilled a hole for the tact switch in a pre marked place(this was probably the place designated for an original on/off-standby button that would of reset the internal auto-turn off feature). The tact switch was fixed in place with some hot glue. The wires were carefully routed on the side of the case and everything was assembled back together.

Now I know what you’re thinking, this mod makes the meter more dangerous with all the wires running so close to the high voltage input jacks but this meter did not have much protection to start with. Only basic 250mA fuse on the small current scale so I don’t think I’ve made it more dangerous than it already was. I really don’t recommend getting this meter if you’re working with high voltages or currents. This is only suitable for small currents/voltages where the input protection isn’t going to make a big difference.

Also you should know that the mod will certainly void your warranty if there is one. I certainly didn’t had any real warranty with this meter.

The source code and Eagle schematics are accessible on github here. As you can see this was also a nice opportunity to get me started with using a code repository. And here are some pictures from the construction/assembly process:

July 18th, 2011

Bus Pirate case


I was looking around for a small case to put by Bus Pirate in and I found these Microchip sample bins in which the Bus Pirate fits just nice. No need to make any openings cause I’ll only be using it for storage probably. Checkout the pics below.

ATAVRSBIN1 and Bus Pirate

So in my last post I was telling you how I managed to mess up the ATAVRSBIN1 I got from Atmel during a crash with the quad. After the crash I noticed it didn’t respond any more so I hooked it to my Bus-Pirate and the result of a search on the bus was not pretty, no device found:

Searching I2C address space. Found devices at:
Warning: *Short or no pull-up

But I figured maybe one or two of the chips (ITG3200, AK8975 and BMA150)survived and the other one who got damaged is keeping the bus low, or shorted or whatever. So I decided to de-solder the chips one by one to find if any still works. I started with the ITG3200 gyro, removed it and the same error, no device found, next I continued with the BMA150 accelerometer and success!:

Searching I2C address space. Found devices at:
0x18(0x0C W) 0x19(0x0C R)

When there was only the AK8975 magnetometer left it replied. I also tried soldering back the ITG3200 but it didn’t work. So I was only left with the AK8975 but that’s useful for comparing with the other magnetometer that I’m working with the LSM303DLHC from STmicro. I guess you could call this whole incident a stress test and I’ve determined that out of the 3 chips only the AK8975 survived in conditions above its maximum ratings :).

Now for reading something out of the sensors I tried reading the WIA register which holds a fixed value(0x48 as mentioned in the datasheet) set during manufacturing. The WIA register is at 0x00 address so start by writing the address of the register then perform 1 read:

I2C>[0x18 0x00]

next perform 1 read:

I2C>[0x19 r]
READ: 0x48

And the returned value 0x48 matches the one from the datasheet. I’ve gotta say the BP helped allot during this debug session and it would’ve been much harder without it.

AVR ISP MKII Entering programming mode failed

If you ever get the message “Entering programming mode.. FAILED!” while trying to program your AVR device don’t start messing with your MKII or upgrade its firmware 10 times or messing with the windows drivers like I did, cause that’s probably not the cause and you risk damaging you’re perfectly working MKII. As it turns out its just a faulty connection between the programmer and the target board. This is not likely to happen if you only use the programmer occasionally but I used it for like 50+ times a day and that meant inserting and removing the little 6pin connector a bunch of times. I removed the old 6pin connector, crimped a new one and its working again, so long live the MKII because it is a great tool.

You might be wondering why would I need to use that many times, well its because I’m working on this new project, a quadrocopter based on an atmega64. The microcontroller was chosen because I had a bunch around and ATMEL was kind enough to send me a ATAVRSBIN1 for my project.


The Inertial One System Board delivers a full 9 degree of freedom sensor platform comprising a 3 Axis Magnetometer from AKM (AK8975); 3 Axis Accelerometer from Bosch (BMA150) and a 3 Axis Gyroscope from InvenSense (ITG-3200) connected through an I2C interface.

At $54 its probably the most accessible 9DOF breakout out there and it comes with great sensors. Unfortunately I only managed to test and fly with the ITG-3200 gyro before I had a crash(you crash allot when developing from scratch a new firmware for a quad). Because of the crash a short-circuit happened somewhere on my board and it messed up the ATAVRSBIN1 sensors.

The ITG-3200 is a very good gyro with low noise so to replace the damaged ATAVRSBIN1 and to continue flying I got a wii motion plus which has the ITG3205 inside(its supposed to be just an OEM version of ITG3200). I haven’t done allot of testing with this new ITG3205 but I did notice some problems on the I2C bus, like sometimes the sensor does not respond , which is strange.(maybe the 400KHz freq is too high for the ITG3205 ?).

Anyway enough for now, I’ll post some updates on the project soon.

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