Head of a Pin

Ok, this really is a nanowonder!  Admittedly, this chip came out by Freescale last year but I just received it in a business card like format:

Did you miss it?  That’s the MCU (microcontroller unit) there in the little window set into the card next to the lifesize image of a pushpin.

Screenshot 2015-01-24 at 11

“I love it when we put things on the head of a pin!”

The KL03 (as of last 10 months), claims to be the smallest ARM-powered MCU at an uber-tiny size of 2mm x 1.61mm!  Most importantly the height of the chip is only 0.56mm, making it very easy to come up with all kinds of applications!

The form factor is WLCSP (Wafer Level Chip Scale Package) which instead of using pins uses tiny solder balls that you heat up as you drop the chip onto a board:

With such a tiny device you might wonder what can you really do with it?  First off with only 20 pins I took a look at the pinout diagram to see what exactly I could access:

Besides VDD and VSS (power and ground), it appears you can access 11 pins of Port A (PTA0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,12) and 7 of Port B (PTB0,1,2,3,4,5,13).  These of course are multiplexed to permit access to I2C, GPIO and UART interfaces as well as a 12-bit ADC.  What is most impressive is that there is an ARM Cortex M0+ core inside that can go up to 48MHz and the device is self-booting (has its own boot ROM)!

The application for this little guy is the so-called “Internet of Things,” or IoT.  Since it is very small it consumes very little power at 50uA/MHz.  You set the clock as high as your application may require but not too high to minimize power consumption.

I have no idea yet what applications are using the KL03, but I would imagine things like having them implanted in small, wearable devices or inside smart light bulbs, light switches, etc.  I’ll let you know here as soon as I see one “in the wild.”

Here’s the official page:  http://www.freescale.com/kinetis/kl03csp

Wonder what’s coming next?  I hear Freescale may be wanting to go even smaller…

Hanging out with Abe on the back of the $5 bill!

(Disclaimer, yes I work for Freescale– but not for marketing or applications– but here can’t help but be wowed.)


The Teeny, Tiny, Teensy

It’s Teeny!

It’s Tiny!

It’s a Teensy!


Speaking of little things making a big difference, I just got this little board called “Teensy” to try things on.

Here are some basic specs as compared to some popular Arduino models:

BoardTeensy 3.1Arduino Uno R3Arduino MicroArduino Nano 3.xArduino Due
ProcessorFreescale K20 (Kinetis)
Cortex-M4 (ARM) 72MHz
Atmel ATmega328
Atmel ATmega32u4
Atmel ATmega328
Atmel SAM3X8E (ARM)
Digital I/O34
(12 PWM)
3.3V (5V tolerant!)
(6 PWM)
(7 PWM)
(6 PWM)
(12 PWM)
Analog In
21 (13-bit)6 (10-bit)12 (10-bit)8 (10-bit)12 (12-bit)
Analog Out
1 (12-bit)0002

With its 256kB of Flash, 64kB of RAM, and 72MHz processor, it fits between an Arduino Uno and Arduino Due in capabilities, although closer to the Arduino Due, which has 512kB of RAM.  It is roughly the cost of the Arduino Uno, with almost all the capabilities of the Arduino Due!

And all that in a roughly 13mm x 36mm size board!

I see great things coming…

Yummy, yummy!

“Even better, longer lasting”

(Above: 5 Teensies in a box of gum.  Wonder what I’ll do with them??)


Late last month I received my second Arduino, which took a bit longer than usual to arrive, and when it did, it came directly from China in a small package.  There was not the usual colorful little box and package of stickers, which made me suspicious.

Sure enough, looking more closely revealed that I have one of the fake arduino boards.

Here they are side by side:

Left: Fake, Right: Authentic

Since Arduino is an open source board design it stands to reason that there would be some similar boards designed, or derivatives that are Arduino-compatibles, but they shouldn’t try to attempt to pass themselves off as the original and definitely not infringe on the trademark.

Since I have a fake, I thought it would be fun to note what I could spot as differences before attempting to return it (don’t want to encourage this sort of behavior).   NOTE that the Amazon ad from which I purchased it said it was the OFFICIAL one but several commenters noted they received fakes as well.  So be careful when ordering!

To start, the official Arduino counterfeits description page gives the most common features of the fakes to be:

  • Color
  • Font/Silkscreen
  • Logos
  • Components
  • Connections
  • Header labeling

Definitely noticed the color differences off the bat.  But on closer inspection also could see also other differences:


Note the green 501k resistor on the left (fake) under the USB port.  Arduino has their own 501k resistor custom made to stand out (right).

Generally, the soldering job on the fake was worse quality.  Note the crystal oscillator (oblong silver thing left of center) is not soldered in straight on the fake.   Also:


Note the silk-screening is better on the real one (right) vs the fake (left).  The hole in the “A” is missing on the fake.  Generally, through holes are not as well done on the fake as well.


The boot of Italy is not as well formed on the fake (left), although at first glance it seemed ok.  Notice the distance between the tip of the boot and the island of Sicily.

One might say “what does it matter?”   Well, besides the fact that it encourages illegal trademark infringment, you might not get as high quality a board, that may break over time.


Notice here the poor soldering job done on the fake (left).  The 4th pin from the left on the bottom isn’t even soldered completely!   This is sad also because there are purple marks on the board indicating someone had to have inspected it at some point!  Who knows what kinds of problems you would have to debug with the fake board!

A couple of big indicators, 1, no silkscreening on the pin headers:



and the biggest thing of all, no board number on the corner of the board!


I’ve given a 1-star review of the vendor on Amazon and will be reporting them for trademark infringement per the recommendation on the Arduino official page.

Hopefully I’ll get my money back, stay tuned.

In the future need to check the list of official vendors here, I guess imitation is a form of flattery, but in my mind it’s just an attempt to grab a piece of the DIY Arduino market.

At least with this one it was easy to tell, I’m sure I have other undiscovered fakes in-house.

Look carefully!



Been in contact with the Arduino Trademark people after reporting the seller to them.  Sent them some detailed pictures, shown here: http://goo.gl/gTY1pj

Also, after some back and forth with the seller they have refunded my money ($15 which should have been a hint as to the fact it was counterfeit), without asking for the board back.  Won’t use it.  It will serve as a reminder to be careful ordering these and other boards in the future.