August 19, 2022

EtherTen and EtherMega: victims of the global chip shortage

I need your help to bring back the EtherTen and EtherMega, updated to suit the very limited range of silicon that's now available.

These days wireless networking is the popular way to build network-enabled devices, but there's still a strong need for Ethernet in many situations.

Wired Ethernet:

  • Avoids interference issues
  • Allows power to be supplied to the device down the same cable
  • Keeps your IoT devices isolated from other network users

The EtherTen and EtherMega are the most popular boards that Freetronics has ever made, but for the last 2 years the global shortage of AVR microcontrollers has prevented me doing more production runs. Sadly they've been out of stock for a long time and there's nothing I can do about it.

There are a few options for creating equivalent boards. For example, a board in the EtherTen format but using another MCU such as the ATmega4809 that is used on the Arduino Every.

Unfortunately, the 4809 has now also moved into the "unobtainium" category!

However, not all MCUs have been impacted. Strangely enough, it's older MCU designs based on more primitive fabrication technology that have seen the worst of it. That's because new chip fabs are built for newer (and smaller) manufacturing processes, and the old chip designs can't simply be moved to these new fabs. The world is losing its ability to manufacture older chip designs, and the economic incentive to replace that capacity just isn't there.

So the strange result is that older, simpler MCUs such as 8-bit AVRs are now almost impossible to find, but newer, more sophisticated MCUs such as the Espressif ESP32 are readily available at low prices with seemingly unlimited stock.

Very frustrating for anyone relying on existing board designs!

But this does open up an interesting idea

Although the ESP32 is known for its onboard WiFi, it's also capable of having a wired Ethernet interface. I've designed several ESP32+Ethernet boards, including the SuperHouse Rack32 which is specifically intended to be used in rack-mount projects:

It has an ESP32 with WiFi, but also has onboard Ethernet with PoE support. In many ways it's similar to an EtherTen or EtherMega, but in a different physical form factor so it's not a direct replacement for either of them.

This is where you come in!

I'm weighing the options for making a version of either the EtherTen or EtherMega with an ESP32 onboard that maintains shield compatibility, but there's no way for it to be a 100% direct drop-in replacement:

  • The Arduino IDE board profile is different, and existing code would have to be modified
  • I/O would be at 3.3V, instead of 5V
  • I/O pin allocations wouldn't be a direct match

In the case of an EtherMega equivalent, the ESP32 doesn't even have enough I/O pins so there would need to be an I/O expander onboard to add those pins. This in turn adds to the software burden of converting existing projects.

What I'd like from you is your feedback on what's important to you. For example:

  • Does 5V I/O matter, or is 3.3V ok?
  • Do you prefer the Uno (EtherTen) or Mega (EtherMega) form factor?
  • Does Ethernet even matter to you anymore, or is that irrelevant these days?

Please have your say! You can comment on this post on the Freetronics site, or email me personally.

Thanks for your input!

-- Jon

June 19, 2021

Shipping has resumed after storms

After being without power and Internet, things have now returned to normal at Freetronics HQ so I've been able to ship orders again this week.

Please note that I still can't ship international orders as "letter" class. That option is displayed at checkout for small items because the shipping calculator still thinks it's valid, but Australia Post won't accept them.

I have customers placing orders using "International Letter" as the shipping method all the time, and I always have to cancel the order and provide a refund. Please don't select that method! If I could disable the option in the shopping cart, I would.

International orders are fine at "Standard" class or above though.

Thanks for your patience!

June 11, 2021

Big storm and blackout: no orders shipping

Here in Melbourne we had a huge storm on Wednesday night, and a large part of Melbourne has been without power, Internet, or phones since then.

Right now I can only get a connection on my phone if I walk to the top of a nearby hill, so I can't process or ship any orders. Sorry!

We've been told we may get power back on Sunday. Once power is back I'll ship all orders.

I apologize for the inconvenience.

April 29, 2021

Some products put on hiatus due to global parts shortage

One of the odd side effects of COVID-19 has been a dramatic decrease in manufacturing capacity of electronic parts through 2020 and 2021. Supply chains managed to keep things going for a while, but the world has now reached a critical point where stock of common parts has become critical.

This has started to impact all industries that rely on electronics: everything from household goods to cars are seeing production slowdowns.

Some parts including ATmega MCUs and Wiznet Ethernet controllers have either become very hard to buy, or have increased dramatically in price.

Sadly this means we've had to place some products on production hiatus. When the current stock is gone, we can't make any more.

Those products have been put in a special "Last Time Buy" category, so if any of those products are important to you this may be your last chance to buy them for a while. If any more products are affected they will also be added to that category.

We're working with our suppliers to source more stock of parts, and we'll do our best to assemble more of these products as soon as possible.

Thanks for your patience!

August 22, 2020

Sick of jigsaw puzzles? Try an Experimenters Kit instead!

Stuck at home in isolation, and sick of doing the same jigsaw puzzle that you did last week?

The Experimenters Kit for Arduino is like a 3D electronic jigsaw puzzle, but it doesn't just make a cardboard picture.

It comes complete with a detailed booklet showing a variety of simple projects that make it easy for a beginner to get started with electronics and programming. So if you or your kids are bored at home in our crazy COVID world, grab an Experimenters Kit and build something awesome.

August 22, 2020

Sneak preview of the latest EtherUNO prototype

The EtherTen has been one of the most popular boards that Freetronics has ever made, but its design originated in 2010 and it hasn't had a major update since 2013.

The time has finally come to reveal the next major iteration: the EtherUNO!

Over the last couple of months I've experimented with several prototypes, exploring different options for the Ethernet chip and other features. After some very productive discussion on the SuperHouse Discord server and on previous livestreams, the specs for the 2020 EtherUNO have now been finalised.

To see the latest prototype and learn about the future of the EtherTen, join me on my regularly weekly livestream on Sunday morning.

 -- Jon Oxer

May 12, 2020

International shipping is back! (Mostly)

Limited international shipping is back!

Unfortunately "Letter" class packages aren't being carried anymore, and "Economy" class packages are extremely unlikely to arrive.

The cheapest international shipping option that is reliable is "Standard".

For the latest status from Australia Post, you can check on their COVID-19 updates page:

Thanks for your patience!

April 23, 2020

International shipping suspended

Because of the decrease in international travel over the last couple of months, the postal service doesn't have enough flights available to carry international letters and parcels.

As of this week, Australia Post can't process "Economy" class international packages at all. Some premium classes of package, such as trackable services and International Express, are still being accepted at post offices. However, even these more expensive shipping options are experiencing weeks of delays.

Sadly, this means that I simply can't ship international packages at the moment. I can still ship orders to Australian customers without any problems: domestic packages are being processed and transported as normal. It's the lack of international flights that is the big problem.

I've now turned off all shipping methods for international customers.

The moment that the postal service has resumed international service, I'll turn international shipping back on. Until then, I can only process orders for Australian customers.

I'm really sorry about that :-(

In the meantime, please join the SuperHouse Discord chat server and the SuperHouse forum, and join me every Sunday at 10am Melbourne time for a livestream to chat about whatever fun projects we're working on during the lockdown! This period of isolation can be hard, but we can also use it as an opportunity to connect more online and learn from each other.


January 31, 2020

Coronavirus and electronics production

I'm sure you've heard of the crazy coronavirus epidemic that's rapidly spreading around the world, and has now been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization.

One of the areas that has been hardest hit by the virus is the city of Wuhan, on the Yangtze River in east-central China. Wuhan went into a state of lockdown on January 23rd, with businesses closed and everyone told to stay home and avoid contact with other people.

China is taking this threat extremely seriously, responding on a scale that I don't think would be possible in any other country. I don't know of anywhere else in the world that could build entire 1000-bed hospitals from the ground up in 6 days, just to respond to a sudden medical need. If anyone can face a challenge like this, it's the Chinese.

The primary focus has to be on the health of those in the affected areas, of course. So far I haven't heard of any of my Chinese colleagues being infected, and I hope it stays that way.

Bare PCBs for both Freetronics and SuperHouse products are mostly produced by Gold Phoenix, which is located in Wuhan, right in the bullseye of the epidemic. Like almost all businesses in Wuhan, Gold Phoenix has told workers to stay home and stay safe.

Some of our prototype PCBs are produced in factories around the city of Shenzhen, in southern China just over the border from Hong Kong. Those factories are currently closed too.

Our PCBA (PCB Assembly, which includes pick-and-place installation of parts on the boards) and final testing and packaging is done in Beijing, which has now also gone into lockdown. Not only are factories closed, but roads out of the cities have been closed to prevent the spread of infection so any boards that have aleady been produced are stuck in warehouses.

There are currently batches of EtherMega and EtherTen boards that were scheduled to ship a few days ago, but they are now caught up in the lockdown and can't leave Beijing.

So over the next little while there will probably be stock problems for both Freetronics and SuperHouse. Please be patient while I do my best to assemble what I can using local stock of bare PCBs and parts, and keep in mind the millions of people who are now stuck at home with dwindling food supplies. It may be frustrating that products are out of stock, but that's really not important when the health of so many people is at stake.

June 12, 2019

Broken links on the Freetronics site

You may have noticed problems getting to some pages on our site, particularly if you used a link that's printed on a PCB.

We've had problems with the domain registrar for the ".com" version of our domain name, which has meant it's been offline for several weeks. Our site normally uses the "" version of our domain, but many of our products have URLs printed on them that point to the ".com" version of the URL because it's shorter and easier to fit on the PCB. There are also nearly 4000 internal links on our site that point to it.

We've been fixing internal links as quickly as we can, but there's nothing we can do about URLs printed on the hundreds of thousands of PCBs that we've shipped over the years.

Don't worry! All the pages are still there, and if you find a broken link you can still get to the page by simply adding the ".au" to the URL in your browser.

For example, if you were trying to get to the address "", simply change it to "" and everything should be fine.

We're really sorry about the inconvenience. Hopefully the .com version of our domain will be back and working very soon.