Ann: Robotics miniFAQ

The "Robotics miniFAQ for Beginners" is a general introduction to amateur
robotics that should be especially helpful to those getting started in this
fascinating hobby/obsession. It contains links to sites with extensive
robotic links, a guide to introductory books and magazines, a list of
suppliers where you can find the specialized parts needed for robot
building, a section on sensors for mobile robots, an introduction on
easy-to-use microcontrollers, and a list of sites offering robot kits. All
of this maerial, except for the kits, comes from my or my senior design
students' personal experience. I hope you will find the miniFAQ useful. I
update it about once a year and welcome your suggestions, comments, and
criticisms.
Presently, the miniFAQ is hosted on the following sites:
Steve Richard's Acroname
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Gordon McComb's Budget Robotics
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Seattle Robotic Society
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John Piccirillo
Reply to
Harry Rosroth
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This is a nice resource. For the "What's An Easy To Use Computer For A Robot Brain?" section, I'd suggest looking at Coridium ARMmite:
At $50 it's quite affordable, it has some nice features (e.g. 8 10-bit A/D inputs, up to 24 digital I/O pins, 60 MHz clock speed), and looks like it's very easy to use -- it has an onboard BASIC compiler, so all you need to program it is a computer with a USB cable and a terminal program. I haven't tried it yet myself, but I intend to -- it looks like a great combination of power and ease of use, at a decent price.
Also, as a newbie who's recently been trying to get started with AVR chips, I might suggest you take them off your list (and probably the PICs too). They're extremely difficult to get started with, even for an experienced software engineer. At least, this is certainly true if you don't use Windows (it's probably easier if you do). But if your FAQ is aimed at beginners, you should probably recommend products that are more ready to go out of the box. But maybe that's just me.
Best, - Joe
Reply to
Joe Strout
Regarding the AVR, there exists an AVR butterfly resource which seems EXTREMELY promising from a beginner's perspective (so much so I've ordered one, and am anxiously awaiting the arrival). Smiley Micros has a beginner level book based upon the AVR butterfly, with a resource kit and compiler for under 90$usd.
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Now, I haven't actually tried it, but I did read the sample chapter of the book provided online, and surely, if I can follow it, then just about anyone can. As a rank amateur with respect to h/w, I figure this is just about the best way to dig in, and get up to speed with embedded micros with a 300 pg book to hold your hand. There is even some soldering required. 8-).
Reply to
spam
That does look good -- but it also seems to be based on WinAVR and AVRStudio (another Windows app). I have moral objections to supporting Microsoft, so those are out for me. I know, that limits my options, but I'm willing to live with that. :)
It could be that this book would be helpful in other ways, though. I'll read through the sample chapter and see what I can adapt to the gcc/avrdude toolchain.
Thanks, - Joe
Reply to
Joe Strout
I am sorry to be rude, but if you found it difficult to program an avr in linux, you are not an experienced software engineer. I am an inexperienced software engineer and I found it to be trivial. All the software I use I installed from standard debian packages (# apt-get install gcc-avr avrdude) and I made a simple programming cable out of nothing but a db-25 connector and some ribbon cable. The avr is, by far, the easiest mcu I have ever worked with.
Besides, for $50 you can get a whole tube of avrs. I find myself using them for things that I used to do with either a pile of 74xx or a cpld simply because they are so damn cheap.
-chris.
Reply to
e c kern
Well then you're sorry, rude, and wrong all at the same time. :)
Reply to
Joe Strout
Sounds like a job for REALBasic, don't you think? And imagine, simulators for the Mac and PC!
-- Gordon
Reply to
Gordon McComb
Hi Joe,
So - are you using Linux or Mac?
I've been working with embedded processors so long that I can't see the places that newbies trip over, so I'd be very interested to hear your perspective.
What are the specific areas that you're having (or had) difficulty with?
I think you'll like the smileys book.
-- Dave Hylands Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Reply to
dhylands
Another good microcontroller to consider for beginners is the Arduino board. It's pretty cheap, open-source, and looks fairly powerful. It also has really great documentation for Mac, Windows, and Linux, including extensive tutorials.
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Best, - Joe
Reply to
Joe Strout
Actually, I don't use Windows at all, but only FreeBSD (some linux, not much), so I was figuring upon adapting the book to a FreeBSD based gcc toolchain, and winging it ... It's just my way.
I suspect that you are correct, the book will be helpful in numerous ways, notwithstanding the windows app ...
Reply to
spam
My understanding of the Arduinio (wiring/processing) app dev'nt is that it is Java based. Java, IMHO, is *NOT* so open, controlled as it is by one company (Sun Microsystems), and Java seems to have a very large footprint on whatever platform happens to run it. Correct me if I'm wrong, but in the absence of a decent gcc like tool-chain, there are some encumberances which are too much to swallow. Don't get me wrong, Processing/Wiring are cool projects, and the choice of Java in an academic setting might have actually hit the sweet spot, but for an old sw guy just trying to learn embedded hw/dev'nt, not to my personal taste.
I'd turn instead to something like the TI-MSP430 ... a somewhat under rated/utilized processor IMHO, and they even have a USB dongle based dev system (albeit for an entry level chip F2013?) for about $20.00, and there does exist an MSP430 gcc toolchain.
Having said that, the Smiley book will be here any day, along with my very own AVR Butterfly, and a bunch of wires, and spinny thingys, a bread board thingy (whatever that is for?) and lighty up LED thingys, and neat stuff like that -- and so I'll learn how to add a resistor to an LED (and why I have to), and then (even) I too can make spinny moving blinkenlights and get feedback from my surroundings hoo haaa while happily programming -- in C! 8-). I feel like a kid at Christmas! This is gonna be so neat !!!
Reply to
spam
I need to post a correction to one of my earlier suggestions...
I said that the ARMmite board has an onboard C compiler, and so can be programmed from anything with a serial connection. That turns out to not be the case (and SparkFun's item description also makes this mistake). It's true of the ARMexpress board, but the ARMmite has less RAM, and no room for an onboard compiler -- so they give you a Windows program for compiling and downloading your code.
Not a big deal, but well worth being clear about.
Best, - Joe
Reply to
Joe Strout
Hi,
snipped-for-privacy@c> My understanding of the Arduinio (wiring/processing) app dev'nt is that it
Sun released Java under GPL about a week ago:
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Also, while the host side of wiring is running Java, it actually generates C code and compiles that C code using avr-gcc.
They're just using Java as a tool, like they do with Eclipse.
-- Dave Hylands Vancouver, BC, Canada
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Reply to
dhylands

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