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Wrapping One's Brain Around the Arduino, Part 1

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Aeroengineer
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I have a project for you
Aeroengineer   10/4/2013 11:20:54 AM
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Blinking lights, that is for the birds.  Now you need to make that automated water gun to shoot down my quadcopter ;)  This should give you 6 months to perfect it.

Max The Magnificent
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Re: I have a project for you
Max The Magnificent   10/4/2013 11:28:45 AM
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@Adam: Blinking lights, that is for the birds.

That's fighting talk -- just wait till I get my Arduino-powered robot up and running :-)

B_Albing
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Re: I have a project for you
B_Albing   10/4/2013 12:12:17 PM
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@Max - don't use automated water guns -- we can use lasers - preferrably a CO2 laser. I'll get started on the design now.

Max The Magnificent
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Re: I have a project for you
Max The Magnificent   10/4/2013 1:01:43 PM
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@B_Abling: we can use lasers - preferrably a CO2 laser. I'll get started on the design now.

Funnily enough, one of the guys in my office building just stopped by to show me a new laser that's powerful enough to burn holes through stuff (I've managed to put the fires out and will clean up the office later)

B_Albing
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Re: I have a project for you
B_Albing   10/4/2013 1:39:31 PM
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@Max - I shall notify the authorities....

rich.pell
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Re: I have a project for you
rich.pell   10/4/2013 12:29:13 PM
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"...wait till I get my Arduino-powered robot up and running"

Speaking of which, you may want to check out the Arduino Robot video tutorials that just became available, featuring Arduino creator Massimo Banzi.

Max The Magnificent
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Re: I have a project for you
Max The Magnificent   10/4/2013 1:05:41 PM
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Speaking of which, you may want to check out the Arduino Robot video tutorials that just became available, featuring Arduino creator Massimo Banzi.

Very interesting -- I'm still trying to work out which robot kit to go for... (I'm sure that will be the topic for a future blog :-)

Caleb Kraft
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copy and paste
Caleb Kraft   10/4/2013 11:21:56 AM
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Welcome to the land of copy and paste development! 

Man, there are so many resources for learning how to use this thing, I don't even know where to start!

 

Obviously, there are the included tutorials, also found on arduino.cc

I'd also recommend checking out the adafruit learning system, incredible documentation there. 

Max The Magnificent
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Re: copy and paste
Max The Magnificent   10/4/2013 11:30:39 AM
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@Caleb: Man, there are so many resources for learning how to use this thing, I don't even know where to start!


I know -- it's wonderful -- I only wish I'd had something like this available back in the late-1970s when I was starting to play with microprocessors. The young kids of today don't know how lucky they are (mutter mutter moan groan :-)

B_Albing
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Re: copy and paste
B_Albing   10/4/2013 12:10:18 PM
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@Max - The young kids of today don't know how lucky they are -- you forgot to add, "Hey you kids, get out of my flower beds before I call the cops!"

Max The Magnificent
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Re: copy and paste
Max The Magnificent   10/4/2013 12:59:53 PM
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@B_Abling: You forgot to add, "Hey you kids, get out of my flower beds before I call the cops!"

LOL

antedeluvian
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For amateurs?
antedeluvian   10/4/2013 11:27:03 AM
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Max

I seem to have a bias against Arduino. It was originally aimed at amateurs- and I can't help wondering if is a bit on an insult to the kind of work that we do.

Having said that, I have considered using an Arduino for some of our test jigs. Our test jigs are required to support products that can go for many, many years- I have stuff here that is over 20 years old. PCs age and stop working and replacing them is sometimes impossible. maybe dedicated hardware will last longer?

We also have a dearth of qualified people who may help in creating test jigs, so a large portion of an an engineer's time goes in designing (and sometimes maintaining) the test equipment. If we use Arduino, maybe we can "lower the bar". From your experience what do you think? 

Max The Magnificent
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Re: For amateurs?
Max The Magnificent   10/4/2013 11:33:47 AM
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@antedeluvian: I seem to have a bias against Arduino. It was originally aimed at amateurs- and I can't help wondering if is a bit on an insult to the kind of work that we do.

In th ecase of someone who works with microcontrollers all the time, the Arduino is a bit simplistic -- but there are a lot of folks like mechanical engineers and non-engineers and even software developers, for example, who aren't used to getting their hands dirty at the "pin twiddling" level -- for them, the Arduino platform can be a great introduction into the wonderful world of MCUs

antedeluvian
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Re: For amateurs?
antedeluvian   10/4/2013 11:41:01 AM
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Max

 but there are a lot of folks like mechanical engineers and non-engineers and even software developers,

In a previous e-converstaion we had, you had said the programming language was "C-like". How like? C is not a particularily easy language for even for technical people (or at least me) to start using. I have a friend (really!) whose son is took a course in theatre (scenery and lighting etc.) and he was using Arduino for some of it. Is he particularily talented (and I have felt that he did have a propensity for engineering) or can anybody pick it up?

Duane Benson
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Re: For amateurs?
Duane Benson   10/4/2013 11:49:06 AM
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AD - The structure for an Arduino program is a bit wierd, but the syntax is mostly like C. It has looser typing and doesn't require any kind of garbage collection. One of the biggest values to beginners is that it has a very thorough set of libraries. It also takes care of pretty much all of the chip configuration.

Max The Magnificent
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Re: For amateurs?
Max The Magnificent   10/4/2013 12:53:25 PM
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@antedeluvian: In a previous e-converstaion we had, you had said the programming language was "C-like". How like? C is not a particularily easy language for even for technical people (or at least me) to start using.

I'm going to "punt" my answer to this question to my follow-up blog (I just didn't want you to think that I was ignoring you :-)

Garcia-Lasheras
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Re: For amateurs?
Garcia-Lasheras   10/4/2013 12:49:53 PM
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@Max: "In the case of someone who works with microcontrollers all the time, the Arduino is a bit simplistic"

The first time I heard about Arduino, I took a look to the programming language and IDE and I thought that it was cool for non-EE guys, but not for me...

Now, the huge number of compatible shields available had changed my mind. If you are a MCU hacker, you can purchase a bunch of interesting and cheap hardware an build a project without using the Arduino language -- i.e. if you are an AVR lover as I'm, you can squeeze all the power of the Arduino Uno by using AVR Studio ;-)

 

 

Max The Magnificent
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Re: For amateurs?
Max The Magnificent   10/4/2013 1:07:39 PM
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@Garcia: ...if you are an AVR lover as I'm, you can squeeze all the power of the Arduino Uno by using AVR Studio ;-)

Another good point -- thanks for sharing

Caleb Kraft
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Re: For amateurs?
Caleb Kraft   10/4/2013 11:44:01 AM
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After the recent post about engineers who can't solder, I have to say that the arduino might compliment many professional's skillsets. Maybe not yours, but many. 

antedeluvian
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Re: For amateurs?
antedeluvian   10/4/2013 11:48:29 AM
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Caleb

 Maybe not yours, but many. 

You're not out to win any popularity contests, I take it.

Seriously I was told that in any engineering organization 10% of the engineers carry the rest of the engineers. This might be a topic for a blog that will attract many responses, but you may have to check the post for suspicious packages, so i am not about to write it.

Max The Magnificent
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Re: For amateurs?
Max The Magnificent   10/4/2013 12:58:31 PM
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@antedeluvian: This might be a topic for a blog that will attract many responses, but you may have to check the post for suspicious packages, so i am not about to write it.

You are right -- this might stimulate a vigorous conversation -- suppose I write thsi blog (and give Caleb's address LOL :-)

Caleb Kraft
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Re: For amateurs?
Caleb Kraft   10/7/2013 2:48:46 PM
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haha, I don't think anyone who wants to learn arduino will be offended with me telling them it is a good idea. Usually it is the ones who build their boards from scratch who get annoyed at the mention of the arduino.

Max The Magnificent
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Re: For amateurs?
Max The Magnificent   10/4/2013 12:55:10 PM
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@Clabe: After the recent post about engineers who can't solder...

My 3D LED cube had over 400 solder joints (I'll be talking about this in a futture blog) and it worked first time ... I'm so glad I know how to solder LOL

Duane Benson
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Re: For amateurs?
Duane Benson   10/4/2013 11:45:23 AM
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AD - The 8-bit Arduinos really don't have enough capacity (in my opinion) to be of real value in commercial applications. There's too much overhead, both hardware and software and not enough memory left over to do much.

Recently, though, a number of 32 bit Arduino compatible boards have been released. With those boards, it's just another high level language with a relativbely low learning curve. These seem to be pretty capable devices.

Max The Magnificent
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Re: For amateurs?
Max The Magnificent   10/4/2013 12:56:50 PM
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@Duane: Recently, though, a number of 32 bit Arduino compatible boards have been released....

And the great thing is that any programs you've written for the 8-bit boards will compile down to the 32-bit boards without any problems -- all you have to do is tell the compiler which board you are connected to...

Duane Benson
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Re: For amateurs?
Duane Benson   10/4/2013 1:52:49 PM
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Max re: "And the great thing is that any programs you've written for the 8-bit boards will compile down to the 32-bit boards without any problems"

It's not 100%, but it's actually the closest I've seen to the elusive goal of write once run anywhere.

TonyTib
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Re: For amateurs?
TonyTib   10/4/2013 1:20:11 PM
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If you're getting into 32-bit land, it's worth checking out alternate ecosystems, such as the BeagleBone Black ($45) which is cheaper than the Arduino Due ($50).

As far as ecosystem size goes, the Arduino is by far the biggest, but I think some others are enough including:

--Beagle family (especially BeagleBone Black).  The BBB has some really cool capes such as FPGA and multi-axis stepper - and even an Arduino cape!  The Beagle has BoneScript for rapid development.

--Gadgeteer-based systems such as the FEZ Hydra from GHI which run .NET micro framework.  There are also .NET MF Arduino compatibles.

--The MSP430-based Launchpad and its BoosterPaks and Energia IDE (similar to Arduino IDE).

Then there are the plug in sensor and IO systems that standardize cabling which allow easily attaching many devices that can be located away from the board, such as:

--Grove from Seeedstudio

--Tinkerkit from the Arduino folks

--Gadgeteer from MS

--Phidgets

--Pmod from Digilent

Many of these systems can be used with different base boards.  For example, you can get Grove shields for Arduino and there's a Grove BoosterPack design on Upverter.  The Cypress PSoC Pioneer kit can take Arduino shields and Pmods.

Max The Magnificent
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Re: For amateurs?
Max The Magnificent   10/4/2013 1:24:03 PM
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@TonyTib: If you're getting into 32-bit land, it's worth checking out alternate ecosystems, such as the BeagleBone Black ($45) which is cheaper than the Arduino Due ($50).

I agree that anyone starting out from "ground zero" shoudl look around at all of the different alternatives before making a decision. In some cases it could be as simple as having a friend who has already opted for a particular platform, because that way you can share code and ideas and help each other answer problems.

In my case I'd purchased a 3D LED Cube with an Arduino-compatible controller -- plus I've sponsored a couple of Kickstarter project sthat also feature Arduino-compatible controllers ... so "Going Arduino" made total sense for me.

Duane Benson
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Re: For amateurs?
Duane Benson   10/4/2013 2:29:28 PM
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Tony re: "If you're getting into 32-bit land, it's worth checking out alternate ecosystems, such as the BeagleBone Black ($45) which is cheaper than the Arduino Due ($50)."

It's kind og a golden age for systems like this. Critical aplications generally take custom hardware, but for applications that can deal with off-the-shelf, there an incredible number of good options.

8-bit Arduinos are great for hobby and staters. 32 Arduino compatibles look like they may become a viable tool for non-critical embedded applications. The mbed fits that same place. The Beaglebone, Raspberri Pi and a few others are great low-end Linux systems. Move up to the Beagleboard XM and you've got a tablet-power system.

There's this new Intel Arduino compatible too. I'm not sure what to make of that one.

BillWM
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Re: For amateurs?
BillWM   10/4/2013 3:54:20 PM
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There are just so many good options --- for many applications there are several solutions -- for others carefull sifting and study are needed.

Max The Magnificent
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Re: For amateurs?
Max The Magnificent   10/7/2013 9:39:59 AM
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@BillWM: There are just so many good options --- for many applications there are several solutions -- for others carefull sifting and study are needed.

It's like Duane said, thsi is sort of th e"golden age" for this sort of stuff -- who coudl have imagined anything like the processor platforms and associated ecosystems say 20 years ago?

DrFPGA
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Kits are Cool Beans
DrFPGA   10/4/2013 12:17:04 PM
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Max-

There are some dynomite kits for the Arduino that do let the beginner get up and running quickly. I got my son one of the mid range kits an he was making LEDs blick and playing notes on a speaker in just a few minutes! No soldering required either!

Max The Magnificent
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Re: Kits are Cool Beans
Max The Magnificent   10/4/2013 1:02:59 PM
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@DrFPGA: There are some dynomite kits for the Arduino that do let the beginner get up and running quickly.

Yup -- I'll be talking about some of these kits in my next Arduino blog -- good point about them not needing soldering -- I'll have to remember to mention that in the blog.

RichQ
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For training
RichQ   10/4/2013 12:39:52 PM
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The original intent of the Arduino was to create a learning platform. Seems to have worked, lots of folks learning about MCU development with it. But it is the support ecosystem that grew up around the original Arduino that has captured the professional's attention. With the Arduino-compatible 32-bit, professional-grade development boards now coming out from MCU vendors, that support base is increasingly tempting for creating prototypes and proof of concept designs for commercial applications.

THe Arduino itself may be for amateurs (or students) but Arduino compatibles are finding their way into the professional's toolkit.

Max The Magnificent
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Re: For training
Max The Magnificent   10/4/2013 1:06:40 PM
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@Rich: THe Arduino itself may be for amateurs (or students) but Arduino compatibles are finding their way into the professional's toolkit.

Very good point -- thanks for sharing -- Max

 

David Ashton
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Arduino vs the rest
David Ashton   10/5/2013 4:49:16 AM
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Very interesting Max, especially the comments, and I look forward to the next thrilling installment.    I have heard reactions like Antedeluvian's before - ie that Arduinos are for amateurs - but in my case that's probably what I need.  BUT - one of my current "to do's" is to learn C, and that fact the the Arduino environment is "C-like' does put me off a bit - I wonder if I would not be better dealing with a pure C environment like Microchip's PICs - which do offer a vast array of capabilities and sizes.   Could you - and others - comment?

Max The Magnificent
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Re: Arduino vs the rest
Max The Magnificent   10/7/2013 9:41:51 AM
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@David: ...one of my current "to do's" is to learn C, and that fact the the Arduino environment is "C-like' does put me off a bit [...] Could you - and others - comment?

Hi David -- I hope to be posting Part 2 of my advantires in Arduinoland later today or tomorrow, and I will discuss this stuff then.

Caleb Kraft
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Re: Arduino vs the rest
Caleb Kraft   10/7/2013 3:11:01 PM
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It depends on what you want to achieve. Do you specifically want to learn C to carry that forward as a skill? If so, there's no need to focus on arduino.

Do you want to slap prototypes together quickly while getting a feeling for the programming? Arduino might be a good place to start.

kdwyer
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Re: Arduino vs the rest
kdwyer   10/9/2013 12:03:20 PM
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Yeah, I agree. Whatever about the Arduino IDE, the benefit of the Arduino shield compatible hardware is great for prototying and proof of concept or just plain old messing around! We @NXP are now making our LPCXpresso boards with these shields so customers can piggy back on this hardware ecosystem.

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