Sunday, 27. November 2011 22:58
Mostly, this is an update to let you know that we are still active. CompanyDallas was a great place to meet and we are still thankful for the start they gave the group. But, CompanyDallas is no more and we are still searching for a good place to meet. We need a place that is open until a reasonable hour and will let a group of people work on building circuits and talking among ourselves. There are 2 candidate sites that may be available in early 2012.
We should start off the year with a project using the TI Launchpad. That is the little development board that Texas Instruments sells for under 5 dollars. It uses the MSP430 microcontroller which is slower than an Arduino, but fast enough for many thangs and consumes very little power. If you don’t have a Launchpad yet, you have time to get one before 2012. The project will also use a thermistor and an EEPROM. I’ll get a parts list up when I stop tinkering with the concept.
The last part of 2011 is bringing us several new products that should make interesting projects. I’ll list a few that I know about. If there is something else new that should be here, let me know.
The Raspberry PI is an inexpensive board targeted at teaching kids about the joys of tinkering. The developers speak of their experiences with the Commodore 64 when they were growing up and the desire to create something fun and inexpensive for kids like they used to be. The board should also be interesting to all sorts of hackers and I am sure looking forward to trying one or three of them out. It has an ARM processor and 128 or 256 megabytes of ram and a few ports. It is expected to sell for $25 or $35. http://www.raspberrypi.org/
The BeagleBone should be a nice step up from the AVR based Arduinos. It is also an Arm, but a more advanced one than the Raspberry PI. It seems to be a cost reduced BeagleBoard. The BeagleBoard was always interesting to me, but it was too expensive. Unless I can justify buying for a paid development project, I set a limit of 99 dollars for toys. The BeagleBone is under that limit. It also includes headers like the Arduino for interfacing LEDs and peripheral chips. So, it seems more friendly to hardware hackers. The BeagleBone leave out a way of connecting a video monitor, which is a shame. The Arduinos and Launchpads don’t have video out, so I’ll just think of it as the high end of that market. http://hackaday.com/2011/11/01/say-hello-to-our-little-friend-the-beaglebone/
The Arduino group has their own take on the Arm development boards. They are coming out with the Arduino Due(Italian for 2). I have seen estimates that it will be $60, but I have not seen anything official. The processor and memory are nice steps up from the Arduino Uno, but much less than the BeagleBone. There should be a degree of compatibility with old Arduino sketches and shields, which should be big pluses.http://arduino.cc/blog/2011/09/17/arduino-launches-new-products-in-maker-faire/
I have seen several sources for relatively bright chains of addressable RGB LEDs in the last year or so. They all seem to use the HL1606 controller, which works well with the Arduino. Adafruit Industries has an upgrade to that idea. They use a controller which seems much faster in addressing runs of LEDs. It goes for $35 a meter and I hope to have a meter if I can work out the problem I had placing an order. You can cut the meter up into smaller lengths. Two LEDs is the minimum length. I see several applications I want to make in the next year. http://www.adafruit.com/products/306 and I think a project for the group based on these LEDs would be good. I’d like feedback on that proposal.
I don’t know if this last one is really new. I just heard about it on TheAmpHour podcast. It is a dip version of an Arm CPU. That would be good for people like me who use breadboards for most of their circuits. I don’t know what it takes to program one, and that might be a show stopper.