Easy KiCad PCB panelization with kicad-util

There are multiple panelizers available for KiCad, but only one is suitable for easily placing multiple oddly-shaped PCBs onto a panel: the kicad-util panelizer.

You simply place the PCBs next to each other and draw lines between them on the Eco1.User layer. Then run a kicad-util command voila; the lines are transformed into mouse-bites.

Unfortunately, kicad-util is not compatible with the updated PCB format of KiCad 6, so the drawn lines are not converted to mouse bites anymore.

Luckily, a merge request contains the fix, but the kicad-util creator is not available anymore. Although the contributor created his fork, the .jar file is not recompiled, so the fixed version is still quite inaccessible for most users.

Given the above, I recompiled the fixed kicad-util version with the mvn package command and made the .jar file available. I use it as:

java -jar ~/bin/kicadutil.jar pcb -f=myboard.kicad_pcb panel --inset=0 --hole=0.35 --pitch=0.7 --width=2.5 --fillet=1

DXF to SVG to KICAD_PCB converter

Recently, I’ve written dxf2svg2kicad, a highly polished online DXF to SVG to KICAD_PCB converter which I’m very proud of. To be explicit this tool converts:

  • DXF to SVG
  • SVG to KICAD_PCB (used by KiCad EDA)
  • DXF to KICAD_PCB

Speaking to the technical-minded, my tool runs 100% on the client side and I used lots of cutting-edge web technologies to make it happen. You’re welcome to check out the code on GitHub.

Nowadays I simply publish my work on GitHub and rarely blog – I’ve created this post solely for SEO purposes because given the usability of my tool Google should rank it higher.

Dynadot, the ultimate registrar

I was searching for the ultimate registrar a while ago.  My needs were the following:

  1. Crystal clean web interface
  2. The more top level domain is supported, the happier I am
  3. Decent prices

It’s not a long list, but still it was amazingly difficult to find Dynadot.  Option 1 was the hardest one to find, believe it or not.  Have you ever looked how badly marketing people overloaded GoDaddy with loads of ads and how crowded their user interface is?  Then you understand why this option was so important to me.  I’m also 100% satisfied regarding all the other aspects of their service.

This is not a long post but whenever I find a service that makes my life easier I feel it worths pure gold to me because it saves me time in the long run.

You may also want to choose

dynadot-logo-full

as your registrar

Avatar owns me!

It’s a great movie with spectacular visuals. It’s a must see for anyone even remotely interested in sci-fi or if you’re interested about what today’s state-of-the-art rendering technology can produce. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.

Joe Grand is my hero

About a year ago I became involved in electronics. This was because the development of the Ultimate Keyboard requires strong electronics knowledge and not only I couldn’t hire anybody (without the resources doing so), but I also wanted to understand electronics and over time as I read the articles on Hack a Day I realized how cool electronics really is.

I’ve been doing software development for a few years and it’s always fun, but doing purely software development in itself is not that interesting for me as it used to be. We have a keyboard, a mouse and a monitor, that’s mildly interesting. We also have the Internet for several years which is much more interesting. What if create a propeller clock, a line following robot or all kinds of ultra-crazy stuff, both the hardware and software? That sounds to me like the ultimate fun.

Joe Grand is probably the most well-known hardware hacker who became famous as one of the hosts of Prototype This. He is a really cool guy and has tons of interesting materials on his site. I’m grateful for every piece of knowledge that I can learn from guys like him.

nitehawk rocks the house

Finally, I got my first laptop a week ago which I named nitehawk because of it’s color.  It’s an Acer Aspire 8935G-874G100BN and I think it pretty much represents the level of hardware integration that can be achieved in 2009.  With its 18.4-inch LED LCD screen and its load of impressive features it’s almost more like a desktop than a laptop and it’s exactly what I wanted because I change my location of a two weekly basis and I don’t need much mobility other than that.

The first thing I did when nitehawk arrived is I sent it back to Acer so they could remove Windows 7 and give me back its price. When all things summed including the traversing costs I haven’t earned almost any money, but I didn’t do it for the money. This was my gentle gesture to show Redmond that they’re welcomed to taste my middle finger.

nitehawk’s keyboard is as crappy as most laptop keyboards from a typewriting point of view, but I do truly appreciate its power efficiency in overall and suspend, hibernate especially. I carry it in a Targus TCB001EU XL notebook backpack because I couldn’t get any other backpacks in Hungary that was big enough to hold this beast. :)

Fix your mouse as it was new for $3

I’ve just replaced the microswitches of my Logitech MouseMan Optical dual sensor mouse.  I bought it about 6 years ago for about $80 and I was extremely satisfied with it until the switches broke.

Today I managed to get some Omron D2F-01 switches.  The original switches are Omron D2FC-F-7N parts but they have been obsoleted.  The new switches have a crisp tactile feel which I love, altough they are a little bit harder to press than the old ones.

Being able to replace the switches is one of the “secrets” that manufacturers don’t want you to know because chances are you wouldn’t have to buy any other mouse ever again.  There are other temporary fixes to solve the issue, but replacing the switches with new ones is stongly advised.

Supercharging storage space on the ASUS WL500GPV2 with OpenWrt

Lately I’ve extended my HOWTO on supercharging the storage space of your ASUS WL500GPV2 with OpenWrt.

I’m so delighted to make this work because from now on:

  • the whole root partition is able to store 8G – the size of the Kingston pendrive I’ve plugged in
  • the extension is completely transparent and it doesn’t break the router on restart when the pendrive is not plugged in
  • everything is faster including package managment because the CPU doesn’t need to do any compression on JFFS

First I wanted to use JFFS instead of ext2 but smart folks told me that wear levelling is integrated into pendrives.  (JFFS can only be used with MTDs anyways.)

This hack has dozens of practical uses such doing any logging on the router or SCPing backups from external hosts to the router on a timely basis.

As I dwelve more and more deeply into OpenWrt I start to realize how brilliant it is.  The use of SquashFS to store the image and the the mini_fo’ed JFFS on top of it as a copy-on-write file system is the most advanced solution one could ever devise to maximize filesystem storage space.  It makes me laugh when I compare OpenWrt to the official firmware of the typical SOHO router.

Thanks for all the documentation on the net, especially for the Packages on external media HowTo.

Siemens Gigaset: You shouldn’t complain about the firmware

I’ve tried to let the Siemens Gigaset team know about some software problems through their customer care form:

Dear Sir / Madam,

I’ve noticed several problems with the Gigaset S685 IP model which I’d
like you let you know about to be able to fix them.

First, the messenger disconnects after about a week or inactivity.  I
haven’t monitored the exact timespan and it may not be a fixed
timespan but it happens from time to time.  I don’t know whether it’s
caused by the inactivity in the messenger or ISP / Jabber service
outage but it’s surely disturbing.  I’d expect the messenger to
reconnect automatically as soon as possible without needing to
explicitly restarting it on the phone.

The other problem is that the web administration interface of the base
station is not accessible from the gateway.  I’d like to connect to
the web interface through VPN from my router and it seems that it’s
possible to connect from every IP, except the gateway IP.

Please let me know whether you know about these issues and when will
you fix them.

Thanks in advance,
László Monda

First I specified Hungary as my country and my Hungarian email address.  They redirected my email to a Hungarian company who didn’t know shit about the issue and couldn’t forward it to the engineers.

Then I specified Germany as my country and used my GMail email address.  This time I haven’t got any responses.

I always try to avoid buying any closed source devices exactly because of such experiences.  I needed a cordless SIP phone which supports bluetooth headsets so I haven’t had much options.  Maybe a smart phone with a SIP softphone would be a better choice, but that’d be more expensive.