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Hanselminutes on 9 - The .NET Micro Framework with Colin Miller

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Scott's in Building 42 today and stopped by the offices of Colin Miller. He runs the .NET Micro Framework, which is a "Tiny CLR" and supporting libraries that run on embedded systems in as little as 32K! (although usually more).

This means that C# developers with little or NO background in electronics can create very sophisticated hardware systems including sensors, servos, whatever! Colin gives me the whole scoop and explains how the whole thing works from Virtual Machine to Firmware to Hardware.

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  • That is cool.  I could run my entire house on .NET.  I would love to have my appliances, lights, heating and cooling all controllable through web services and through a portal, that would be great.  Consider how you could track the energy you use.

  • My father owns an Air Conditioning company in which we sell, install, and repair a/c's and heaters.  Carrier is our primary brand.  The other day we installed a Carrier Infinity System, and  you can order an extra module for internet connectivity.  It automatically detects your wireless network, and basically sets itself up, with only a few things needed to be entered in the thermostat.  The customer can now log in via a Carrier-hosted webapp, and check/change the temperature in his house from anywhere he has internet access, remotely.  Carrier also offers monitoring of the system, for a year based fee for which they have a promotion for right now.  Also, the customer can elect to give the dealer (us) access to his system, in which case when he calls us to come service the unit in the event it isn't working right, we can log in and receive error codes, status reports, etc, so that before we leave the shop, we can know what parts we need to bring out there and other useful information.  I just had to tell that story in response to Chris's comments about the heating and cooling. 

    Scott and Colin, I had been reading about the .NET Micro framework recently, and it was very cool to see it in action.  This definitely has the potential to completely revolutionize the embedded industry/community.  Previously this area has required vast EE knowledge as well as complex, low-level C and assembly code.  I never imagined being able to control embedded devices with C#! I recently joined an open-source project and was talking to my team members today about how C# is being used for all kinds of cool things nowadays.  This is truly amazing!  I'm interested in how the performance measures up compared to native/low level code that's usually used in hardware.  I've heard of BASIC being used on some PIC microcontrollers before, which is interpreted directly into the PIC chip's assembly code, and this was way back.  Surely if that can be done with BASIC, then .NET can muster up some pretty good performance.  Thanks for the great demonstration guys, and Scott I've been following you avidly on Twitter - keep up the good and interesting tech news! .NET is the best thing since sliced bread! Smiley

  • Personally, I'm waiting for the .NET version of the Star Trek tricorder.  Awesome video! Smiley

  • Bent Rasmussenexoteric stuck in a loop, for a while

    This is truly cool. One can start programming hardware with no hardware skills.

  • Tommy CarlierTommyCarlier Widen your gaze

    What a cool job Colin has. There's something exciting about running your code on something that is not a PC. I had that feeling a couple of years ago, when I built a calculator for Windows Mobile and to have it run on an actual device gets you excited. I bet it gets even better when you can run your code on something like this, which lies even further away from a PC.

    PS: I'd like to see more Hanselman on C9. He's geeky, funny and has a Rory-esque quality. Also, the length of this video is just right. Not too long, not too short, with a lot of information. Great job.

  • CharlesCharles Welcome Change

    Agreed. Scott has a great personality and always converses in a natural and insightful way. You will continue to see his interviews on C9. We're very happy to have him as a regular contributor. Thank you Scott!

    C

  • BasBas It finds lightbulbs.

    I second this statement. Or third it, whatever. But yeah, more Scott.

    As for the Micro Framework: I've always wanted to get into that, because I have plenty of hardware systems I want to build but I have extremely limited experience in electronics, and I find Robotics Studio just too hard to get into from scratch. Never knew there was an emulator and that you don't actually need to get the hardware. Cool.

  • We are running a contest called 'Dare to Dream Different' and tehre have been some absolutely great submissions.  We have videos of them which we will be posting.  A few are already out on YouTube if you search for the contest name.  The entries make it clear that there are more applications for small computing devices than any of us had thought about.  I have to agree with Tomy - I do have a pretty cool gig. 

  • Excellent video.

    I've been toying around with the robotics studio and Mindstorms for a prototype machine.  My production build would have required me to learn another language to program other microcontrollers as well as have a PC master connected all of the time.  I'm excited to hear about the .NET MF though, that's one less device-specific language to learn and one less PC I require in my equation if all works out.

  • BassBass I need better writers.

    This is awesome.

  • Hi Colin,
    Great interview - what was the sub 100 buck board you mentioned, think it was ARM7 based.

    Cheers
    Dave

  • Colin,
    Ive just had a look at the board you provided to the DareToDream semi finalists - any chance you could tell us where to get this exact model, it has absolutely everything!

    Thanks
    Dave

  • Scott HanselmanGlucose Scott Hanselman

    The finalists had, I think, a Tahoe II Development board.

     

    All can be found here:

    http://www.microsoft.com/netmf/hardware/default.mspx


    Here's a little $100 one: http://sjjmicro.com/EDK.html

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