Best "Brain" module?

Randy M. Dumse wrote:


The JStamp. http://www.jstamp.com /
Though I generally use my JStik, which is much faster and has ethernet (something I never thought I'd use in a robot, until somebody suggested an ethernet-wifi bridge).

I like the ITX-Mini also, but I can't afford one yet. :(

Well, I'm working on building an i/o board that works via the USB port. I just got my USB converter today, so I may have something later this month, if this project jumps to the top of my list. :)
Yes, there are other solutions out there, but they don't work the way *I* like them to work. -- D. Jay Newman
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Englander wrote:

Given that whatever you choose has sufficient memory and I/O functions, the 'intelligence' of any such device is quite purely a function of your programming skills.
If you have no prior programming skills, try one of the versions of Basic Stamp. Otherwise, I would use a PIC16F876: lots of I/O and 8k of program memory.
--
Luhan Monat, "LuhanKnows" At 'Yahoo' dot 'Com'
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On Sat, 06 Dec 2003 08:57:16 -0800, Luhan Monat wrote:

sure....
Ta for that, but.... what I wanted was something with a lot more than 8k memory (8mb perhaps) and a C compiler for development, preferably in a module with simple pins for hooking up I/O's . Something like the OOPIC-C but with boat loads of memory.
can anyone suggest any manufacturers modules? (I am an electronics novice)
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Englander wrote:

A number of microcontroller families fit the bill here. I personally like the Atmel AVR line, and there are lots of people who use the Microchip PICs.
Microcontrollers do not need 8 megabytes of memory. Most of the functions are processed in the background, or in response to simple keyboard or pushbutton response. They operate LCD displays, not large video monitors. The idea of a microcontroller is to compress CPU and memory and I/O into a single chip. If you need a system with this much memory a PC-104 card, some of which run Windows.
As a novice here, it's better to start small, with an inexpensive part that does not require an investment in software or support electronics. Get a DIP-package AVR or PIC, make your own programming cable, download a freebie or demo version of a compiler, and try it out.
-- Gordon
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This is pretty ambitious for a robotics project to start off with. I would suggest starting out small and work your way up. For example to do what you want, you need a Via MINI-ITX board running Linux or Windows, with the development system you prefer. Then you need a smart I/O controller (most any good MCU will do, but I tend to lean towards the ISOPOD(TM)s or AVR's myself. The I/O controller handles the low level stuff while the Mini-ITX board handles the high level stuff. The robot needs to be big enough to handle all of this, so the robot cost goes up. A robot about the size range of the www.robostuff.com robot or maybe the www.acroname.com Garcia bot would work. Or maybe larger even. A number of people have used regular desktop PC boards in robots with various degrees of mixed success. Some people have used the ARM based processors to good effect too (but these are very expensive, especially the compilers).
I suggest you get your feet wet with a simpler smaller robot to get started. You can tie it into your desktop PC later as you become more proficient. Then when that's working well, you'll know what all you need and how big you need it to be as well. www.budgetrobotics.com has some nice low cost robot chassis you can get. www.newmicros.com has some great ISOPODS(TM) to choose from. You wont outgrow the ISOPOD(TM) any time soon. If you want a all inclusive setup I can suggest the http://www.junun.org/MarkIII/Store.jsp MarkIII Mini-sumo bot as a good choice for both price and functionality. It's got a lot of expandibility too. The most popular beginner setups are the BOE-Bot from www.parallax.com of course. All of these can be tied into the serial port on a PC and then have the PC send high level commands to have the onboard MCU execute them. Then you'd move the PC to the robot and have the whole thing be mobile. I almost forgot that some guys used wireless link methods to control the robots from their PC's too.

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On Sat, 06 Dec 2003 11:40:39 -0600, Earl Bollinger wrote:

...
thanks for that... yeah start small (K.I.S.S.) , looking around the net and I came to the conclusion mini-itx with serial link to dedicated controller/s is best for what I want to do, wonder what the nano-itx will be like when its out... sounds cool... can just use windoze or linux programs... ace....
i'll have a crack with a simple kit first...
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If you are familiar with DOS and programming in C, you might want to consider the SBC offered by JK Microsystems. For example, I will be using a 386ex SBC for the main brain in my robotic experiments. See
http://www.jkmicro.com/products/flashlite.html
for details. This company offers cheaper models as well.
Hope this helps,
// Jim
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On Sat, 06 Dec 2003 15:09:40 -0500, Zagan wrote:

Yes, Thanks, cool, looks good, 512k + 512k Flash thats not bad.... and good old dos...
its always a trade off isnt it... this flashlight is good and small, but actually price wise I think mini-itx is cheaper and has all the usual PC ports, but.... need a bigger robot to fit the thing in.....
I like that it uses borland (except... could be that floating point optimisation could be better (maybe thats just windows BC)) I guess any dos compiler/assembler can be used which is very cool.....
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good old

[Zagan] I've used the Borland "Floating Point Processor Emulator" in projects designed to run in DOS, and I never noticed a problem. But then speed was not an issue in those projects.
If you go with the 386ex from JK Micro, the version of DOS is not a complete implementation of MS-DOS. I seem to remember that they include the 4.2 version of Borland C since later versions will not work. My guess is that the BIOS is limited as well, and this might be the reason. You could, of course, write your own startup code in assembler that doesn't call any BIOS function that is not present.
// Jim
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If you're thinking about going as heavyweight as Mini-ITX, you might want to think about PC-104+ instead. I've got a board from www.embeddedx86.com, which looks like it'll work really well for me.
--
Joseph J. Pfeiffer, Jr., Ph.D. Phone -- (505) 646-1605
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On Sat, 06 Dec 2003 14:52:10 -0700, Joe Pfeiffer wrote:

yes, thanks, another interesting option but couldnt get thru to embeddedx86.com, so checked for PC104, see its a major player, but may need a bit more electronics knowledge than I have. I'll check the site again later...
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Yup we are all waiting for the Nano-ITX board to see what it's like.

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Englander wrote:

I like the Systronix JStamp and JStik. http://www.jstamp.com / http://www.jstik.com /
The smaller one, the JStamp, has 1/2 Meg RAM and 1/2 Meg Flash.
The JStik has 8 Meg Flash, and 4 Meg RAM.
These run Java bytecodes natively. -- D. Jay Newman http://enerd.ws/robots /
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Though the official release is a few months out, you may also be interested in my autonomous robot controller currently in development. Its got an AI program built in, and is ready for a plethora of sensor and driver attachments. Its not programmed in the conventional sense, its abilities and priorities are configured to make it want to do things.
A list of preliminary features will be available in about two weeks at my site.
--Ryan
www.siliconcybernetics.com

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On Sat, Dec 06, 2003 at 02:14:35PM +0000, Englander wrote:

I'll toss my MAVRIC / MAVRIC-II boards into the pot for consideration. Both use the Atmel ATmega128 microprocessor - Atmel's top of the line AVR. The GNU GCC C compiler works great with them and is freely available. Both boards have 128K of flash (program memory) on-board, MAVRIC has 128K of RAM (data memory) also and 128K of RAM is optional for the MAVRIC-II which include 4K RAM by default. Both have 2 level shifted UARTs, hardware I2C bus w/pull-ups, SPI interface, several timers and PWM channels, etc, etc. MAVRIC-II has RS-485. The boards are priced very competively.
For more information, see:
http://www.bdmicro.com/
If you have any questions about either, don't hesitate to ask me.
Cheers, -Brian -- Brian Dean, snipped-for-privacy@bdmicro.com BDMICRO - Maker of the MAVRIC ATmega128 Dev Board http://www.bdmicro.com/
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On Sun, 07 Dec 2003 05:20:42 +0000, Brian Dean wrote:

Thanks, they look cool, 8 ad's, 6 pwm and 50 i/o, for $150, cool, (can I have a discount...) how easy is getting AVR-GCC working, best to have a linux development box i guess?
can you ship to UK, (how much?)
I reckon though due to cost restrictions and my lack of electronics knowledge at the mo, think I'll start with an OOPIC but when I get serious, this looks like a/the top contender for a controller...
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[Zagan] Englander, you might want to pick up a book on basic electronics and then follow that with one on digital electronics. If you go with mostly pre-built boards, the main thing you need to know is how to interface these boards together. Include interfacing various sensors to your electronics on that list, too.
You don't have to be an expert in electronics, but you will need to know about things such as voltage and current requirements and limits of a given device. You'll also need to know about "sourcing" and "sinking" outputs and inputs. For the most part, you can follow the example applications provided by the manufacturer of a given device as a guide, but knowing the "why" of such designs will help.
Hope this helps,
// Jim
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On Sun, 07 Dec 2003 16:57:55 -0500, Zagan wrote:

What books do you recommend?
I've got a basic electric/electronic/chip/component knowledge but no circuit building experience.
i am experienced in c++ and basic A2D stuff
Sink and source i/o is something I was wondering about (did some programming ge-fanuc and siemens plc's a while ago)
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[Zagan] I have a recommendation for basic electronics, but I can't remember the name of it or who wrote it to save my life. I used this textbook in an engineering course I took many years ago in electronics engineering. Since I can't remember the book, you should search www.amazon.com using the terms "basic electronics". Most any book on basic electronics should fullfil your needs.
For digital electronics, I'd suggest "Digital Electronics" by William Kleitz.
If you can afford it, you might want to take one of the "distance education" courses offered by various companies. Try this link:
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&q=distance+education+electronics&btnG=Google+Search
As far as "sourcing" and "sinking" goes. think of sourcing as supplying a positive voltage (digital 1, assuming positive logic) and sinking as grounding (pulling the connection to ground or logical 0). The thing to remember is that "sourcing" outputs must be connected to "sinking" inputs and vice versa. However, some microcontroller outputs/inputs will both sink and source depending on the state of the terminal. If it sinks, then it wants to pull whatever is connected to it to ground (at or near 0 volts). If it sources, it wants to pull whatever is connected to it to positive (typically 5 volts with TTL logic). This is probably clear as mud, but once you get into it, it's really simple.
Please feel free to ask additional questions if you have any. I will try to answer to the best of my knowledge.
Regards,
// Jim
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I'd consider some basic robotics texts and books. The first book that I recommend to beginners in robotics is: "Vehicles, Experiments in Synthetic Psychology" by Valentino Braitenberg This is an easy book to read and offers you insight into beginning AI thoughts and robotic "action blocks". It's even cheap on Amazon.
First book on digital electronics should be: "The TTL Cookbook" by Don Lancaster. I've worn one copy out and am on the second one.
From here on things diverge depending upon your inclinations...
have fun, DLC
: On Sun, 07 Dec 2003 16:57:55 -0500, Zagan wrote:
:> [Zagan] :> Englander, you might want to pick up a book on basic electronics and :> then follow that with one on digital electronics.
: What books do you recommend?
: I've got a basic electric/electronic/chip/component knowledge but no : circuit building experience.
: i am experienced in c++ and basic A2D stuff
: Sink and source i/o is something I was wondering about (did some : programming ge-fanuc and siemens plc's a while ago)
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* Dennis Clark snipped-for-privacy@frii.com www.techtoystoday.com *
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