I've done a number of hardware posts recently, mostly focusing on Netduino related projects. But what if you're like me and you're not sure where to start when getting the actual hardware kits? Or don't really know what options there are, types of kits available, etc.? Yeah, and you're interested in the Holy Grail of geekdom, robots, but again, are not sure where to start?
What we need is a getting started guide. Maybe from someone who's at the top of the .Net Micro Framework/hardware Leaderboard?
In a nutshell, .NET MF is a CLR and set of libraries that runs on tiny low-cost microcontrollers which have limited resources. Many of these have memory measured in KB, as opposed to GB, and processing speeds well under 100Mhz. Over 1.5 million devices, commercial and hobby, are currently running the .NET Micro Framework. This includes things like vending machines, and the various components we'll talk about in this post.
You code for the .NET MF using either a free or retail version of Visual Studio, and an SDK and drivers provided by the microcontroller or board manufacturer. As each unique microcontroller requires the .NET MF to be ported to it by those vendors, they are the source for all the software you'll need. Since it's open source, you could also port it to any processor of your choice if you have the skill and time.
There are many ways to get started with the .NET MF, and there are hundreds of boards available, ranging from tiny $30 chip-sized designs all the way to full boards that resemble hand-held game devices. In this post, I'll focus just on the Arduino-form-factor devices, as those are the most popular.
My recommendation for getting started with .NET MF Robotics
If I was looking for the easiest way to build my first robot, I'd probably go with the GHI FEZ Mini Robot kit. With that kit, you don't need to worry about pairing up the various components, and you get a robot that you can build and start coding for in an afternoon.
So pick out the board or kit you find interesting, and go build something today. This can be fun to do by yourself, or as a family activity with your spouse or kids. Once you start designing and coding for these little microcontrollers, you'll find you suddenly have tons of ideas on where you can take them (home automation and security, monitoring, small electronics projects, synthesizers, robots, video games, fun gadgets, automated fish tanks, self-propelled lawn equipment, computer room water and temperature alerts and more).
In short, if you're interested in getting some .Net Micro Framework compatible hardware kits, this is the post to start with.
Here’s a few more links you might find interesting:
- Six Places Where I buy Netduino and other Electronics Bits
- A Gentle Introduction to Netduino
- Netduino is opening up to an wider audience with the .Net Micro Framework v4.2 release
- Netduino is RAD
- netduino Helpers
- New in the Maker Shed: Netduino, a .NET-powered open source electronics platform
- TWC9: Netduino, Twitter oAuth in Windows Phone, App skinning, and universal physics
- Netduino - .NET Micro Framework, open source, electronics platform, free (software), code walk though, cool…