• Update: Modules are in, Tessels starting to come off the line

    Thursday, May 15, 2014

    5/15/2014— Updates

    Manufacturing update:

    We have all of our modules back from manufacturing as of yesterday.

    The last Tessels are going through assembly as of this morning, so they’re moving full-force into the process of programming and testing. The testing process actually uses a Tessel and a Raspberry Pi to program the new Tessel boards and live stream their test results to an internal webapp that Jia wrote. You can read more about it on her blog post.

    When they’re done, they go in a bag with some stickers and a cable. This is the first one off the line:

    Our manufacturers made a really cool video of the whole process, which you can see here.

    Software update:

    We’re cleaning everything up to get ready for release! We’ve open sourced the module drivers for Accelerometer, Ambient, GPS, Relay, and Servo. Enjoy, and pull requests welcome!


    While all of this was going on, we also moved to California! Feel free to visit at our new address: 1101 Cowper Street in Berkeley CA. Jon blogged about it.

    Until next time,
    Kelsey, Jon, Eric, Tim, Kevin, and Jia

    #update #updates #tessel #technical machine #manufacturing #progress #modules #open source #module drivers

  • Wednesday, May 14, 2014

    #tessel #technical machine #manufacturing #worthington assembly #pick and place #packaging

  • Testing Tessel with Testalator

    Tuesday, May 13, 2014

    5/13/2014— Jia Huang

    We recently started a production run of 2.5k Tessels. When we put something in production, it’s not just a matter of telling our manufacturer to start placing components on boards. We also have to make sure that every Tessel we produce is programmed and tested, and that’s where Testalator comes in.


    Testalator is Tessel’s programming and test rig. It programs Tessel up with all its firmware and then makes sure the Tessel can operate to spec.

    The physical Testalator is made up of a few key parts:

    • A mechanical jig that holds the Tessel in place
    • A second Tessel that checks that all the pins on the Tessel being tested works.
    • A Raspberry Pi that hooks up to the jig, programs and checks Tessel, and then streams those logs online.

    The jig

    This is the physical setup required to connect all the pins of Tessel for testing. It involves around 60 pogo pins, 22 standoffs, and 2 cut pieces of acrylic that hold the Tessel in place. There’s also a few indicator LEDs showing the progression of the test.

    “Wow Jia, you should try Mechanical Engineering”, said no one. The clear flanges that held the Tessel in place were too loose at first so Eric “fixed” it with some hot glue.

    The Pi

    A Raspberry Pi operates the entire test. The jig connects to the Pi’s GPIO and USB ports. Testing & programming involves going through the following stages:

    • One Time Program (OTP) the board. This sets up the version of the board, and makes it boot from internal flash by default. We also stick on our custom bootloader so we can update the firmware later.
    • Put Tessel’s firmware on the board
    • Upload some JS to do a pin test
    • Upload some JS code while switching power sources
    • Connect to wifi and do a ping test

    There are some more checks in between each stage, but this covers most of the functionality of the board.

    Tessel tests Tessel

    One core part of Testalator is the pin test. The pin test is the test that checks to make sure that all the pins on the module headers (GPIO/SPI/I2C/ADC/etc) can operate as intended.

    We use a Tessel to do the pin test on Tessel. The Tessel tester is hooked up on the bottom of the jig using vertical headers:

    The Pi uploads some JS code to the Tessel being tested which starts up the pin test. After that, the two Tessels communicate for which test is commencing and what the expected output should be.

    Streaming test logs

    Testalator also streams all the test logs online as it operates.

    Since manufacturing is still done in Massachusetts and we’re across the country in Berkeley right now, these logs give us an easy way to see which tests have passed or failed, and which bench did the testing. We’ve found this pretty helpful in debugging any consistent failures during manufacturing. Using this, I can see which failure modes are happening often, ssh into the Pi, and fix the test remotely.

    The Testalators have programmed and tested about 100 boards so far, so there’s still quite a few more to go.

    Here’s to hoping everything goes according to plan.


    #jia huang #testing #hardware #testalator #tessel #technical machine #manufacturing #qa #quality control #firmware

  • Hidden Costs of Office Space

    Friday, May 9, 2014

    5/9/2014— Jon McKay

    In the past year, Technical Machine has worked out of an incubator, college dorm rooms, various apartment buildings, and a co-working space. But we’ve always wanted an office to be able to hack on projects with other people and to generally be our loud, boisterous selves without upsetting others. We started looking for a space in March, and now we’re finally moved into a beautiful workspace in Berkeley!

    As with most tasks involved with starting a company, I had no experience finding and leasing an office. As someone who hasn’t lived in the same place for more than a few months since 2009, the process of securing a multi-year lease was pretty abstract. In my mind, the only operating figure was rent but I was wrong. Some of the logistics will be familiar for anyone who has rented housing before, but others are unique to offices.

    Below is a list of costs associated with leasing an office that may not be apparent if you’re in shoes similar to mine:

    • Rent: I thought this would be a simple term in the lease but it turns out to be way more complicated. Obviously, rent will vary from location to location; property in Berkeley is about $1.50 per sq. foot, whereas SF proper is about $4 per sq. foot. You will probably be required to pay several months of rent up front. You might have more negotiating power if you can pay more upfront than the landlords originally ask for. Here are some other good questions to consider:
      • How many years will you be leasing at this price, and do you have the option to stay longer?
      • If you are staying longer, is the price for the extension pre-negotiated or will you figure it out in the future?
      • What’s the fee for paying rent late?
      • Can you rent your space out to other people? For example, if you wanted to let a smaller companies rent extra square footage.
    • Security Deposit: There will be a security deposit to make sure you don’t destroy the building. Ours was $10k for the 2800 sq. feet workspace.
    • Insurance: Most leases will require you to get several types of insurance before you can step foot on the premises. Your insurance costs will vary by the insurance coverage and size of your company. As a benchmark, our insurance for six people will cost about $1500 a year. If an incident occurs, you will have to pay a deductible – ours is $500. I recommend asking around for an insurance broker to save you from having to talk to insurance companies directly. They charge anywhere from 15 - 25% of the annual cost. The common types of insurance are:
      • General Liability (if a non-employee gets injured on the premises, someone drives their car into a wall, etc.)
      • Property (cover the items inside the property such as computers, furniture)
      • Business Interruption (if something outside your control prevents you from doing business and you lose sales)
      • Worker’s Compensation insurance (an employee gets injured on the job).
    • Utilities: Gas, electric, and water! Don’t forget to set it up before you get there. As with personal housing, you may be splitting your utilities with other tenants of the property, or you’ll have to set it up yourself. I don’t have a good estimate of how much utilities will cost per month yet but I expect it to be several hundred dollars.
    • Internet/Phone: You may not need phone service, but you’ll need internet. Check with the landlord to see what service is already available at the building. You can get a cheaper installation cost with a service that’s already routed to the building. This will cost you $100-$200 per month depending on the speed of internet. I recommend buying your own cable modem and router.
    • Furniture: As we found out the hard way (literally), you’ll need things to sit on besides the floor if you want your employees to be happy and healthy. We went to IKEA, bought about $4k worth of shelves, desks, chairs, and conference tables. The real kicker here will be the time spent putting it all together. We opted to use TaskRabbit to hire to guys to come put it together for us. Instead of paying IKEA $3k to install it, we paid for 15 man hours with only $300. Don’t try to do it all yourself!
    • Miscellaneous: You never really notice all those little items you depend on every day until you try to work in an empty office. I’m talking about tape, scissors, kitchen towels, printers, drills, vacuums, soap, and TP. This is where you could really break the bank. I’d estimate that we’ve spent about $2k on these types of items so far.
    • Time: The biggest cost here is time. Negotiating lease agreements back and forth, opening up Amazon shipments, online shopping, putting checks in the mail. It takes hours out of your day and pulls your attention away from the product. You really need to outsource as much as you can. Use insurance brokers, real estate brokers, TaskRabbit, Amazon Prime. If you have the money, it’s totally worth it.

    If we include all those factors, (non-recurring costs spread out over the remainder of the lease), the actual cost per month is about 20% higher than just rent alone. Be sure to account for that in your planning.

    Now that we’re starting to get acclimated to the new office, I love it and think that the whole process was totally worth it. I can’t wait to get some picnic tables in here, start hosting events and meet the community. If you’re in the bay area starting next month, keep your eye out for meetups! Or just drop on by:

    Technical Machine
    1101 Cowper St.
    Berkeley, CA 94702


    #jon mckay #tessel #technical machine #office #startup #budgeting #startup advice

  • Tessel Update 20: Manufacturing

    Friday, May 2, 2014

    5/2/2014— Updates

    Current Status

    2500 Tessel PCBs have been manufactured, and have just arrived at Worthington Assembly in western Massachusetts:

    Worthington will assemble the boards, using pick-and-place machines to surface-mount solder the thousands of circuit components onto the PCBs, load our firmware code, and run the shiny new Tessels through a suite of tests.

    When they’re satisfied, they package them up in antistatic bags for us and send them to Gilroy, California for fulfillment by Rush Order.

    Rush Order is already receiving modules that have completed manufacturing . When they have received all of the modules and the Tessels, they will begin packing and sending individual orders.

    What we’re working on

    Meanwhile, we’re making sure all of the software is ready: making last-minute improvements to Tessel’s firmware, adding polish to the module code, writing lots of documentation.

    We opened up our first pass at Tessel’s API documentation last week, and updated our hardware documentation as well.

    Expect to see more of our code open-sourced soon!

    All the best,
    Kelsey, Jia, Tim, Eric, Kevin, and Jon

    #updates #tessel #technical machine #manufacturing #fulfillment #PCBs #assembly #timeline #firmware #hardware #documentation #update

January 2018

July 2017

February 2017

November 2016

October 2016

September 2016

August 2016

July 2016

June 2016

April 2016

March 2016

February 2016

November 2015

September 2015

August 2015

July 2015

June 2015

May 2015

March 2015

February 2015

January 2015

December 2014

November 2014

October 2014

September 2014

August 2014

July 2014

June 2014

May 2014

April 2014

March 2014

February 2014

January 2014

December 2013

November 2013

October 2013

September 2013

August 2013

July 2013