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Comment Re:old clunky junk (Score 1) 170

Arduino fill a niche that nothing else can fill...

My last design used some PIC16F and other... it took me several hours to get the program running on the prototype (breadboard and such)...

But last year's Halloween, I had a "last minute idea"... an Arduino, one servo, one movement detector module, some bamboo sticks, some nylon wire and a plastic spider... It took me about 1/4h to wrap it up (and 10 more minutes to install it in my entrance "black chapel")... that's the Arduino real strength... You can hack some stuff very easily and fast... If I wanted to do it with some PIC, I'd have had to begin with breadboard, pickit, doc and calculator to get my timer use correct, ... it wouldn't have been ready for the first child who came to ring at my door.

Comment Re:old clunky junk (Score 1) 170

I'd add that /* ... */ comments are cleaner and more powerfull than their // counterpart :

It allows things like :
void foo(int bar /* the bar parameter*/ , char *barbar /* the output buffer */) {...}

End of comment is explicit (unlike the // where the end is implicit) which makes more sense with C that uses explicit end markers anywhere ";", "}"; "]", ")"... and "*/"...

As for the variables declaration in the beginning of the function, it's also cleaner... Having a cleaner code requires more work but, in the end, helps for code maintenance.

so, the // comment and the variable déclaration anywhere in the block are not real improvements.

A real improvement was when we switched from
void foo (bar,barbar)
int bar;
char *barbar;
{ ... }

void foo(int bar, char*barbar) {...}

Comment Re:old clunky junk (Score 1) 170

Except that PCB design takes time, using a raw SMD AVR like the one you find on the mini pro/nano is not an easy task (unless you have some reflow oven) and the module already takes care of some of the burden...

That said, my latest design was PIC-based (using outdated 16F877 because I had it on stock and it's for a 1-unit production) and not arduino-based...

But should I use a design using some Arduino, I think I'll use the already made module instead of a DIP socket and a ATMega328 with some external components... for a footprint that is not much bigger, I'd get the regulator and the quartz for a lower price...

Comment Re:old clunky junk (Score 1) 170

So, the FPGA shield is not as stupid as it could feel.

The dumb part is that you can stick an AVR-compatible core in the FPGA itself and skip the Arduino.

Well, you also find Arduino FPGA shields like the "Gameduino" where the FPGA comes preprogrammed... Even if the user may reprogram it, if don't know anything about FPGA, ha can still use it...

Don't forget that Arduino is also a whole community sharing tips and code... the differences between AVR and Arduino are shields, easy to use libraries and community...

And, well, I don't see the point in using an AVR core in an FPGA... you could use smaller CPU cores which would leave you with more gates...

Arduino nano compatible bought from China end up very cheap with USB, voltage regulator, quartz... If you buy some quantity, you may drop below 1.75$/module. And the module is not much bigger than a DIP40... so yes, Arduino is a viable option at least for medium-sized production.

But... why? Why use a module when you can just stick the AVR right on your board and get a lot more flexibility? It makes a lot more sense to buy the USB-TTL converter as a module, since at least that is pretty much universal. Or just use a serial connector and have the USB-TTL converter as an external cable for testing/programming if your device doesn't rely on USB being around to actually function.

If you use arduino pro, you drop to 1.33$/module or less, still with voltage regulator and quartz... just no USB port...

If you look at Atmel web page, ATMega328 is at about 1.80-1.90$ for an order of 1000-6000 units... At banggood, you can get them at 1.25$/unit... add to this the quartz and regulator and you end up to something quite more expensive than the chinese module... So, I'm not sure that sticking the AVR right on the board is so interesting... They buy lots of reel of chips, number so big that for a small scale production (not an industrial one) we would never be able to reach these numbers... and the prices they get...

Comment Re:old clunky junk (Score 1) 170

Less than $200 for the 4 programmers... and you've got redundancy (TL866 allows to program both PIC and AVR, the mentionned PICKit 2 is for ICSP debugging (and direct interaction from MPLABX) and the AVR programmer would allow you to program "in situ" (TL866CS is only through the ZIP connector).

TL866CS => 38$-50$ (depends on the extra adapter that you want to get)
Byteblaster compatible JTAG => 12$
PICKit 2 => 12.5$
STK500 (AVR) => 20$ (there are cheaper alternatives)

If you buy through EBay and Chinese shops, that's less than 100$ (but you're not sure that these are genuine parts). Sourcing from some other place can cost up to twice the price (TL866CS at 70$ instead of 38$ for example)

And if you want to stay cheap, you may forget the last two.

Comment Re:old clunky junk (Score 1) 170

1) Arduino with FPGA shield
While it may sound stupid (as you said, the shield was more powerful than the arduino), don't forget that FPGA programming is much more complex than Arduino/C...
FPGA could be great to generate a video signal but will be very poor when you want to do string processing and maths... FPGA and Microcontroller don't share the same kind of uses...
So, the FPGA shield is not as stupid as it could feel..

2) Arduino is a commodity
Even if you can program a microcontroller in assembler, using direct port access, don't forget that not everyone can/want to do it. Arduino is often used by people who can barely program but need some way to sequence things (artists for example).

3) Arduino as a learning tool
Arduino also has a great teaching potential. In 80's, we had computers like Commodore, Spectrum, Amstrad, CPC, ... which were used as both game station and computer programming learning tool. When you bought some, you had BASIC available and most of the manual was about programming BASIC. Today's computers don't fill that spot anymore... but Arduino can fill it. Someone who makes a led blink under arduino has learned the basics of loop and sequence of instructions... Shields and other will help to go further...

4) PIC16F84
It's amazing how Microchip managed to get their micro-controller similar. You can switch from a 16F877 to a 18F4550 (or other), only one pin will be incompatible (RC3 which becomes Vusb if I remond well)... And 18F PIC share the same SFR map (except for the model-specific registers, for example, the USB-related registers of 18F2550/18F4550).
But it's also true that the number of available chips is huge and selecting one may feel difficult (mostly when only basic functionalities are needed) So I can understand that people will end up stocking one or two "generic" models and stick to them.

5) design with Arduino
Arduino nano compatible bought from China end up very cheap with USB, voltage regulator, quartz... If you buy some quantity, you may drop below 1.75$/module. And the module is not much bigger than a DIP40... so yes, Arduino is a viable option at least for medium-sized production.

Comment Re:old clunky junk (Score 1) 170

You can find cheap PICKit 2 on EBay. You can also find cheap AVR programmers, JTAG interfaces and you may even find cheap (E)EPROM/PAL/GAL/PIC/AVR/8X51 programmers like the TL866 which is supported both under Windows and (using a 3rd party project) under Linux.

You can buy PICKit 2 + TL866 + AVR programmer + JTAG for less than 200$ and it'll open you a very vast choice of devices... more than needed for an hobbyist.

Comment Re:old clunky junk (Score 1) 170

On the other hand, if you want to work with FPGA, you'll be toast with your mac as Xilinx and Altera both support Linux and Windows but no Mac...

Linux UI is not that poor... don't mix Linux and the apps... I'm quite sure that The Gimp on your Mac will give you the same time loss than The Gimp on Linux... it's not Linux' fault but the Gimp's fault.

For coding tasks, Linux is on par (or sometimes superior) to the other OS... Netbeans, Eclipse, Microchip's MPLABX and even Arduino are all supported on Linux...

For electronics (and this article is about electronics after all), you've Eagle (one of the leader in PCB design), FPGA tools (see above, not available under Mac), SPICE simulation, ...

And Linux is very ressource-efficient and work on pretty much any hardware... I don't think that the same can be said of MaxOSX...

Comment Re:TIP series are good devices (Score 2) 170

Bipolar transistors and FET works on very different principles. For example, the input capacitance of a FET is much higher which can bring some problems in "high frequency" (sometimes, not so high) designs.

FET are also more sensitive components (Vgb can get quite high due to static electricity and lead to component destruction) and may need special driver circuits (for example to make the switch faster).

And, don't forget that more and more of "today's" components are SMD only... which makes using them on a breadboard, a perfboard or a stripboard either difficult or impossible.

Comment Re:Ha hA! (Score 2) 109

It's Slashdot so let's pretend that no one here plays World of Warcraft (update done using Bittorrent protocol) or any other big game using that protocol for update distribution...

And let's pretend that no one here uses Linux which uses Bittorrent to distribute the ISO as it allows both faster transferts and less charge on the distribution's servers.

Many people use bittorrent for legal purposes... but sometimes, they don't even know that they are using it !!!

Comment Re:Cheaper? (Score 1) 42

Given the FTDI debacle, I think that their claim is correct. If you buy some chinese "arduino" using a fake FTDI and it gets bricked by the FTDI driver, Arduino don't want people turning against him saying "look, your boards don't work".

You may call it Induino (as some Chinese clones do), you may say it's Arduino compatible, the only restriction is that you may not say it's an Arduino unless aproved by Arduino project... seems quite fair to me...

To downgrade the human mind is bad theology. - C. K. Chesterton