Prototyping with the Cubieboard

So one downside to the Cubieboard is that the pin spacing on the U14/U15 headers is 2mm, rather than the more common 2.54mm (0.1") headers that you find on protoboards and breadboards. After searching a bit for an easy prototyping solution, I finally settled on a pair of 50 pin IDC cables off of ebay. They're not too expensive, and you have all the wires you need in a single connector.

Now obviously you're still dealing with 2mm spacing on the other end, so that doesn't fully solve the issue of wiring things to a breadboard. To work around that, I simply cut one of the ribbon cables in half, giving me 2 female connectors with a bit of ribbon cable still attached to each. I then stripped the wires, spliced and soldered them with a more appropriate gauge wire (the ribbon cable wire isn't thick enough to fit in a breadboard too well), and could then start prototyping with ease. I salvaged some old CAT5 wire for the breadboard wire, and it worked out quite well. You get 8 different colors to help keep everything straight and even one cable would go a very long way here. Since it is stranded you'll need to tin the side that goes in to the breadboard, but you're already soldering anyway so it is very quick.

This setup makes it a cinch to connect and disconnect from the breadboard whenever you need to, and using the red line indicator you'll always know that you're connecting everything back the right way around. Just make sure to be careful when removing the cable from the cubieboard, since if one side comes off before the other it is very easy to bend the header pins.

One downside at least with the cable that I purchased, the wire pairs are actually swapped. So, instead of the first wire being Pin 1, it is actually Pin 2. So it goes 2,1,4,3,6,5,8,7, and so on. Not a big deal if you know about it, but it means you should be absolutely sure that you have the right wire before connecting up your circuits (a continuity tester is excellent here). I'm not sure if this is caused by the cubieboard's numbering scheme, or if there's something off about the IDC cable that I'm using, but it is definitely something to keep in mind.

Oh, and watch out for bad solder joints on the cubieboard. I was experiencing some erratic results, and reflowing the pin on the header seems to have cleared it up. Annoying to have to do, but simple and easy solution.

For my final install I'll probably still be using these ribbon cables, but soldered to a perfboard rather than in a breadboard. Should be the same concept, but a bit simpler since I'll be able to solder the wires directly and and won't need the extra bits of wire. So far this seems like a very nice solution to prototyping with the cubieboard.