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November 6, 2011 1:58 PM   Subscribe

This video introduces the concepts behind Microsoft .NET Gadgeteer, a new open-source toolkit for building small electronic devices using the .NET Micro Framework.

Starter Kits and modules are already available.
posted by Ad hominem (29 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
MS haters insert rants about SkyNet or something below.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 2:33 PM on November 6, 2011


Beacuse nothing says "innovation" like reimplementing the entire open source Arduino hardware and software stack from scratch with a closed-source compiler and operating system.

Call me in five years when they cancel it. I love watching nerds cry.
posted by sixohsix at 2:34 PM on November 6, 2011 [15 favorites]


Yes, we should all use a single codebase decided upon by one person's biases. What harm comes from options?
posted by yerfatma at 2:39 PM on November 6, 2011


Options are good, but this doesn't directly compete with the Arduino. Even the Arduino Mega 2560, which is the closest competitor in terms of the number of I/O pins, is a little less than half the price of a Gadgeteer-compatible mainboard.

On the other hand, the Gadgeteer sports a 72MHz ARM processor, so the real question is how it will compare to the 96MHz Arduino Due when it comes out (when is that, by the way?).
posted by jedicus at 2:51 PM on November 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


What harm comes from options?

No harm, but they're stepping into a vibrant, well-developed ecosystem here. For thirty five bucks, you can already get an open source .NET Micro Framework based platform that's hardware compatible with most existing Arduino shields, if that's your poison. ChipKIT is a pretty nice PIC32 based alternative. If you want something beefier, there's always BeagleBoard. The market is already saturated, and at a lower price point. As jedicus points out, the Due is waiting in the wings, and you'll now be able to buy the existing Arduino line at your local Radio Shack, FFS.

The whole platform looks more like a monument to Not Invented Here syndrome than anything else. I'm sure the engineers involved have their hearts in the right place, but would have been better served by having a manager willing to look beyond their own walls.
posted by phooky at 3:28 PM on November 6, 2011 [8 favorites]


Yeah I almost liked to netduino. My understanding is gadgeteer aims to standardize things enough to create a lego for electronics. I think it was first invented by the microsoft hardware group for prototyping perhaps they could have used an existing framework, still cool of them to release it. I just think it is cool I can use C# to program stuff like this.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:59 PM on November 6, 2011


but we already have a lego for electronics
posted by LogicalDash at 4:06 PM on November 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think a lot of the people I know in this space kind of look at .NET and go "ewwww". Still, I suppose I wouldn't be too shocked if it got some amount of traction. There are a lot of smart people at Microsoft Research, and MS certainly has resources.

I'm in the grossed-out-by-Microsoft-stuff camp myself, but I can respect that people who already know C# and Visual Studio and whatnot want to leverage those skills to play with hardware.
posted by brennen at 4:17 PM on November 6, 2011


Hardware applications for such a complex system are much more difficult to grasp. Me, I'm programming ATTiny85s: same size as a 555, under $3 each, 8KB for programs, programmable with gcc, 10 MIPS (with an external clock). What's not to like?
posted by scruss at 4:34 PM on November 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm always attracted by this sort of stuff, but at present I already have an small investment in MicroChip PIC development boards, books, development software and training, and I have the electronics chops to quickly interface to most things. I also concur with others that the Arduino is a very well-supported platform. So, late to the ball for sure.

What might be interesting is to see to what extent the .NET Micro framework enables fast efficient development. I've spent some time using C#/.NET for webapps, and it's pretty good, but not enough to drag me completely away from Java and PHP.

I guess that as insanely powerful MCUs become more prevalent in the microcontroller world, bitbanging in assembly or C will become less efficient, and big languages and libraries will be the norm.

(but I'm still gonna have a look at the ATTiny85, thanks for the tip. I have been using PIC12F675, and I bought a tube of'em for under $2 each)
posted by Artful Codger at 4:40 PM on November 6, 2011


Scruss, I haven't built a circuit with a 555 for years either. It is very liberating to be able to drop an 8-pin DIP MCU into the breadboard or a 8-SOIC on a PCB and generate arbitrary waveforms without concerns of finding the right 1% R and C values. The ATTiny85 is a marvelous little package.

I've just ordered a spool of ATTiny10's in SOT-23 packaging. Now anywhere I might have thought about putting a small signal switching transistor can be replaced with a $0.40 chip running a C program.
posted by autopilot at 5:43 PM on November 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ack, spiders.
posted by kmz at 5:55 PM on November 6, 2011


Well, good for them, but I'm not really sure who their customers are. All this stuff already exists, cheaper: is "but you can program it in C#" really enough of a draw?
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:46 PM on November 6, 2011


is "but you can program it in C#" really enough of a draw?

It is for me, I know C but I have no idea how to compile for or deploy to some of the chip a you guys are about.With these things I have the entire toolchain already running complete with emulator and debugging. One day I will probably see the light and move to something lower cost with more nerd cred.

Just look at this I can use all my useless WPF knowledge to build tiny devices! How cool is that.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:58 PM on November 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


This guy has been working with it and has a pretty good step by step guide. You guys are jaded because you know what an ATTiny85 is but this stuff is cool to me.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:07 PM on November 6, 2011


It is for me, I know C but I have no idea how to compile for or deploy to some of the chip a you guys are about.With these things I have the entire toolchain already running complete with emulator and debugging. One day I will probably see the light and move to something lower cost with more nerd cred.

Well, I mean, Arduino is pretty darned painless to start with. I'm no kind of C programmer (I write code to sell people this stuff, not code that runs on it, most of the time), but my experience of it has been pretty much "plug it in and push the play button". So I wouldn't be afraid of the toolchain. If you know some C, you definitely know enough there.

(Of course, if we're talking about nerd cred here, Arduino is a whole flamewar unto itself, but this is one of those Internet Dick Measuring Contests I'm not especially interested in. It gets people hacking and it helps pay my rent. I view these as positives.)

Anyway, I don't wanna rain on your parade at all. Building tiny devices is cool - more power to you. Just, like other people have observed, know there're a bunch of other options out there that might be lower cost and less overhead, once you get further into it.
posted by brennen at 10:23 PM on November 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I hear you, but one thing Microsoft excels at is providing an end-to-end development solutions. This stuff has intellisense and design surface support.

The Arduino stufffor windows does looks easy but I would lose intellisense. I program 8 hours a day with intellisense, I don't think I could program without it anymore.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:10 PM on November 6, 2011


> complete with emulator and debugging

Can it emulate an accidentally-reversed sensor, a dodgy solder joint or a blown capacitor? Interfacing is the hard part, and for me is the most rewarding.
posted by scruss at 2:40 AM on November 7, 2011


phooky: "The whole platform looks more like a monument to Not Invented Here syndrome than anything else."

A few years ago, I hired an undergrad intern who was planning to work on a project under the aegis of Microsoft's NIH Summer of Code ripoff. I investigated, and sure enough it differed from GSoC in one important way: they claimed ownership on all code and ideas produced by the students even if they didn't earn a payout. Both banal-evil AND tone deaf - it's a Microsoft hallmark.

He ended up working on GSoC, completed it on time, and bought himself a car with the proceeds. So, happy ending in one case at least.
posted by vanar sena at 5:35 AM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm an embedded systems developer, and I've been designing, implementing and debugging "black box" type stuff for over ten years, and for hobbyists projects, and I suspect many industry projects as well, I'd ditch C and C++ for .NET in a heartbeat. The tool chain is excellent, and the language and the libraries are very well designed.

Don't get me wrong; mastering C and C++ has its rewards, but for someone starting up or needing something for i DIY project going up that ladder is a steep climb...
posted by Harald74 at 5:38 AM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Arduino. Raspberry Pi. BeagleBoard.

Or a closed platform. Hmmmm...
posted by DU at 5:59 AM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's not ultimately that new - what is new is that they have finally commercialized it.

Generally Microsoft understands developer tooling very well - my biggest concern would be longetivity. However - now that they are selling their own embedded solutions again (i.e. Ford Sync, Windows Phone 7), I am thinking that it is here to stay.
posted by jkaczor at 6:52 AM on November 7, 2011


I hear you, but one thing Microsoft excels at is providing an end-to-end development solutions. This stuff has intellisense and design surface support.

They have really fallen behind in that, in my observation, unless you are willing to part with $$$ for their high-end IDEs. I had to write occasional C# at my previous job using Visual Studio Express, and what a horrible experience that was coming from Eclipse for Java. Maybe this is better than the options for Arduino, that I can't comment, but the idea that MS generally provides better end-to-end development solutions seems to me woefully out of date.
posted by ch1x0r at 9:20 AM on November 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dunno, I use Visual Studio Ultimate so I can't comment on express. They really are hyping the shit out of intellisense for gadgeteer though so I would be pretty stupid if they didn't nail it.

Apparently part of the spec requires module developers to provide design time support, so in theory you should be able to drag visual representations of the hardware onto the design surface and it will show you how to wire them up. This has some screen shots.

Yeah I know, the design parts of VS always kinda suck I usually turn off all the design panes myself. For occasional use they are pretty handy though.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:09 AM on November 7, 2011


You know what. The fact that I already have VS and use it every day was really a point in gadgeteer's favor for me. If I didn't already use VS I would probably never have looked at it. I suppose that is the target market, people who already use VS on a daily basis.

I get where you guys are coming from, I wouldn't install VS just to mess with some expensive toys either.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:34 AM on November 7, 2011


Ah, well, more choices can never be a bad thing. I feel uneasy about this because Microsoft always seems to find a way to reduce the number of choices once they've succeeded in some new market. Fortunately, they are unlikely to take over this market to a degree that would allow them to crowd out the options I prefer.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:52 AM on November 7, 2011


The Arduino stufffor windows does looks easy but I would lose intellisense. I program 8 hours a day with intellisense, I don't think I could program without it anymore

<intendedtobeplayful>Tell me, how do you feel about the musical "Cats?"</intendedtobeplayful>
posted by JHarris at 2:00 PM on November 7, 2011


I get what they're trying to do with the solderless connectors, but I started cringing watching them hook up a SPST button with like, a 9-pin ribbon cable. I mean... come on.
posted by odinsdream at 9:16 PM on November 7, 2011


> in theory you should be able to drag visual representations of the hardware onto the design surface and it will show you how to wire them up.

You mean like Fritzing already allows you to do in practice?
posted by scruss at 5:45 AM on November 9, 2011


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