Quail, the New .Net Micro Framework Board

Paolo Patierno (@ppatierno), Coding4Fun Hardware Friday Friend, recently blogged about something that warmed my heart...

We all know about .Net Gadgeteer "clicky" building, but we've not see many new entrants into this market. And I have to tell you, that had me a little worried.

Then I saw this post from Paolo...

Quail : a new .Net Micro Framework board is in town !

In the past few months, MikroElektronika release the Quail Board as a solution for building hardware prototypes using all the best features of .Net Micro Framework and the related “click” boards for a lot of type of external devices, like sensors (humidity, temperature, …), wifi module, OLED and so on.

The Quail board is based on the powerful STM32F427 MCU, a Cortex-M4 at 180 Mhz with 2 MB of Flash and 256 KB of RAM with the related porting of .Net Micro Framework 4.3. Added to the MCU we can find 8 MB of external Flash, USB port for external mass storage (other than the USB port for debugging and powering the board from PC) and 24 screw terminals (to avoid to use a “click” board and connected your component directly to the board).

To simplify prototyping, it has four sockets you can use to put up to four “click” boards without needs to solder your components. These sockets aren’t like .Net Gadgeteer sockets we know but MikroElektronika had developed a new type of standard socket called MikroBUS.

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A MikroBUS socket consists of two female headers both with 8 pins related to the most used MCU features :

  • SPI, UART and I2C pins for communication with other components like sensors and so on;

  • Pins with single function like PWM, Interrupt, Analog Input, Reset and Chip Select;

  • Pins for powering external devices with +5V, +3.3V and ground;

All the boards that supported the MikroBUS and provided by MikroElektronika are called “click” boards (about 50 so far) because it’s so simple to connect them to the board … with a simple “click” !

The idea of this new board with related support for .Net Micro Framework started with a collaboration between MikroElektronika and a team of software and hardware professionals from France called MikroBUS.Net. Thanks to this team we have an SDK for using MikroBUS on Quail board (like other SDKs for Netduino and .Net Gadgteer baords) and the source code for all “click” boards drivers written in managed code (using C#).

Other than original “click” boards you can reuse your .Net Gadgeteer supported modules (from GHI Electronics) thanks to the G-Adapters that are able to adapt .Net Gadgeteer socket with MikroBUS socket. Until today not all drivers are available for all modules but the team is still working on them....

Woot!

Quail Board

Quail is an STM32-powered development solution for building hardware prototypes with click boards and C# managed code. It brings together click boards and Microsoft’s .NET Micro Framework for embedded devices (NETMF). Write code for your Quail projects in Microsoft Visual Studio (free in the community edition); drivers for individual click™ boards are provided by the MikroBUS.NET team. Hardware-wise, Quail has 4 mikroBUS™ sockets for click board connectivity, along with 24 screw terminals for connecting additional electronics and two USB ports (one for programming, the other for external mass storage). The board runs on a 5V power supply.

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A MikroBUS.NET and MikroElektronika collaboration

Quail is produced by MikroElektronika, but the idea and design of the board was done by MikroBUS.NET, a team of software and hardware professionals from France.

The core idea behind Quail was to empower embedded developers with the same modern tools and technologies used by those who develop desktop applications. On the flip-side, Quail also allows desktop .NET programmers to delve into the world of hardware development, with ease.

For more information about the MikroBUS.NET team, visit their site.
The page also contains a detailed getting-started guide.

Hardware specs and features
  • STM32F427 MCU, 168mhz, 2MB, Flash 256KB RAM
  • 4x mikroBUS™ sockets
  • 24x GPIO screw terminals
  • USB port for prog/power
  • USB port for external mass storage.
  • Additional 8MB Flash memory.
  • 5V power supply
click™ board drivers and starting your first Quail project

The MikroBUS.NET team is constantly churning out new NETMF-compatible drivers for click™ boards. So far they’ve covered about 50 clicks. Once you installed all the required software you can find individual click board drivers on the official MikroBUS.NET webpage.

Official MikroBUS.NET click board drivers

The website also contains a detailed walkthrough on how to start a project in Visual Studio, include the necessary drivers and reference the needed assembleys in your source code.

click™ boards

click™ boards are add-on boards with a standardized mikroBUS™ socket. Each one carries a single sensor, transceiver, display or any other sort of module. There are more than a hundred click™ boards available so there's a great variety to choose from. Just attach it to your Quail, download the drivers and start coding in C#. Note that currently the MikroBUS.NET team created drivers for about 50 click™ boards but the number is rising fast. See the list of available drivers on the MikroBUS.NET page. Instructions for writing your own drivers are also available.

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