I broke down and got an Arduino. I love it!
For the longest time, that big ol board seemed like a bit of an overkill. Digging around the internet, you can find folks building Arduino based projects that are WAY over engineered. Including anything on hack a day with an arduino tag. Why pay 35 bucks for a board when a $2 microprocessor will do the trick.
I started to play with Microprocessors with the Picaxe. Its a neat little chip.
Its basically a PIC, with a bootstrap OS of sorts. This firmware allows you to use a MUCH simpler programmer.
Just a few resistors and diodes…and a serial port. (Alas, I no longer have a laptop with a serial port)
Its very simple to program, but the ease of use has the trade off of less speed. Also, the chip programmer requires a serial port, which I no longer have. Just any usb to serial converter will not do the trick. (Seems that usb to serial converters do no pulse that juicy high voltage spike needed to erase the PIC).
They do sell a $30 cable for this, but considering that I have about $10 of picaxe chips, its not worth the hardware. I’m done with Picaxe.
The next thing I played with was just the straight up PIC chip. These are great, but, since I was going for speed, I used assembly. The speed is very nice, but its a pain in the butt. It would take forever to figure out whats what, and lets face it, every chip is a little different so its hard to find examples in the exact PIC dialect you are using.
Im done using Assembly. I can always go back if I need the fine control.
In September, I broke down and got a C compiler for the PIC. It saved a LOT of time with projects. There are still issues with getting started, but as with anything technical, most of that is setup. Once your up and running…works great.
There were so many projects that just bypassed the whole hardware design phase by using an arduino that I had to get one. On top of that, the processing language is very similar to Java. So why not. Yes, its overkill, but considering the time saved in building all the interfaces out, its worth it. It works like a charm.
So….what to build!
My girlfriend has a pretty extensive background with robotics after working at Hanson Robotics. It was a pretty small company so her work was not just finance, but a little of everything…including working with skins. So ultimatly, we would like to build on that and come up with some projects together.
In the meantime, I have a lot to learn about robots.
Ill be starting with plenty of small projects to learn just the mechanics and common sense things that you have to simply learn by doing. For example, with the arduino, its easy to hook up a servo to a PWM channel and tell it to go to a position. But the time it takes to get there is like an eternity to a microprocessor. My first experiment with servos seemed glitchy and stuttered. It took a few tries to realize…ah….delays are needed.
Robot stuff will be here.