Mini Gadgeteer Game Console on a Wii Controller

GadgeteerChuckyValentin Ivanov (aka Architect on the TinyCLR Forums) just posted one of the more awesome projects I’ve seen for .NET Gadgeteer. He’s built a mini game console using a repurposed Wii controller, plugged into his custom Chucky module, to control a ported version Pac-Man (he’s also working on a port of Space Invaders). This is just the kind of project that I think makes Gadgeteer so awesome.

Go read his blog post for all the details, including his hand-cut and drilled mounting board that connects the FEZ Spider mainboard and T35 LCD to the controller.

Oh, and if you’d like to see this awesome project in action, come to MADExpo next week. Valentin’s is just one of the many cool projects that will be on display in our demo room. I’ll also be bringing some Gadgeteer coolness, as will Pete Brown, and Sean Westcott (and Sean’s project involves electroluminescent wire…awesome!). And I hear the peeps from 757 Labs will be back as well. Should be great fun!

Register now!

Pete Brown Geeks out on .NET Gadgeteer and Netduino

This past week, my friend and fellow Microsoftie, Pete Brown, ran a neat online symposium for the Microsoft Patterns & Practices group. As part of the event, Pete did an hour-long session introducing the .NET Micro Framework, and many of the cool things you can do with the various devices in the NETMF ecosystem, including Netduino, Netduino Go, and .NET Gadgeteer boards like the FEZ Spider. He was even kind enough to do a demo of the Meeblipiator project I put together using his Gadgeteer MIDI module (the demo is at around 45 minutes in). Here’s the video…enjoy!

Continue reading Pete Brown Geeks out on .NET Gadgeteer and Netduino

Gadgeteer and MIDI: Making Music with Microcontrollers

At the end of what’s been a kind of tough week, with a spring cold making its way through my entire family (one of the perils of having young kids at home), I got a nifty package in the mail. Inside was an anti-static foil bag containing the parts for a nifty addition to my Gadgeteer hardware collection, the new MIDI Module created by my friend and fellow Microsoftie Pete Brown. I should have thought to snap a photo of the kit before assembling it, but I was sufficiently excited I could hardly wait to heat up the soldering iron. Here’s what the finished module looks like:

MIDIModule_2

So, OK, you might ask. Looks neat, and all, but what does it DO?

Well, for the uninitiated, MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface, and the short definition is that it’s a serial protocol specification that lets musical instruments “talk” to one another. MIDI allows devices to communicate musical information (which note to play, how loudly to play it, etc.) digitally in a highly efficient format. Instead of creating a waveform and pushing it through limited bandwidth pipes, MIDI allows a controller device to simply provide instructions on what note should be played, which channel it should be played on (MIDI supports up to 16 channels per interface), along with any information on the specific sound (referred to in MIDI parlance as a patch) and parameters (referred to as control change) for the target device. Then the controller leaves the actual generation of the sound up to the receiving device.

So what Pete’s module does is allow a .NET Gadgeteer program to act as a sender or receiver of MIDI data. Which can be pretty fun stuff, with just a little work.

Continue reading Gadgeteer and MIDI: Making Music with Microcontrollers

What Can You Do with .NET Gadgeteer?

A better question might be…what CAN’T you do?

So, for folks who might have missed my earlier posts, here are a few posts that provide background on .NET Gadgeteer:

Are you a Gadgeteer?

Gadgeteer Hello World

Great Sites and Blogs for Learning about .NET Gadgeteer

Introducing Devhammer’s Garage

In today’s post, I want to show some examples of the cool stuff folks are doing with .NET Gadgeteer. One great place to find out about projects is the .NET Gadgeteer Showcase. There are currently 20 projects in the showcase, which run from simple demos to tutorials.

Some of my favorites include:

Gadgeteer Binary Clock

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Gadgeteer-powered Robot

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Gadgeteer Servo Control & Windows Phone Client

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The cool thing about Gadgeteer is the speed with which you can come up with and execute on your ideas. With the right modules in hand (or a breadboard), you can build something fun or practical, prove out the concept, and then pull it all apart again and build something else.

The current project I’ve been working on is controlling a Syma S107 infrared remote control helicopter using my Gadgeteer board. I started on this several months ago, with a very simple setup that could record a stream of IR commands and replay them. So I could basically get the copter to launch and land (or perhaps crash), but not much more. You can see an example in Part 6 of the video series of myself and Pete Brown talking Gadgeteer at CMAP Code Camp.

I’m planning a series of blog posts about the development of the helicopter controller, but the TL;DR version is that I now have a full replacement controller for my helicopter, built completely with .NET Gadgeteer. The only part that didn’t exist as a module was the infrared emitter, which I ended up designing myself. Here’s the result:

Syma S107 Remote Control with .NET Gadgeteer from G. Andrew Duthie on Vimeo.

There are more videos on my Devhammer Demos channel on Vimeo.

Hopefully, some of the projects you’ve seen here give you an idea of the broad flexibility of the .NET Gadgeteer platform. As I said earlier, I’ll be sharing more details on my helicopter project in future posts, so stop by again soon!

A new Gadgeteer blog – VB Magic

Well, so the blog isn’t only about Gadgeteer, but I love the title, and the fact that his most recent post shows the beginnings of an RPG (open source, no less) running on the FEZ Spider Gadgeteer board, is Awesome in my book. A definite Critical Hit.

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I love Gadgeteer, and I love RPGs, so it’s a great combo in my book. He’s also got some good posts on Windows Azure as well, so don’t just stop at the Gadgeteer posts…lots to learn here.

Gadgeteer Hello World

Introduction

Some time ago, I posted an unboxing video for something new, my FEZ Spider .NET Gadgeteer starter kit. Since then, I’ve been busy with both my day job, and spending a lot of my “free” time playing with my Gadgeteer stuff, learning about breadboarding, and generally diving head-first into the world of electronics hardware and microcontrollers.

At first, working in this world was quite intimidating, and I felt almost completely lost. I plugged my first board into my computer with the LCD screen hooked up, and all it showed was some debug information. OK. Where do I go from here, I asked myself?

To help other folks who might be in the same boat (whether you’re a software geek just jumping into Gadgeteer, or someone experienced with other electronics work, but not familiar with Gadgeteer), I’m going to start posting some blog/video posts walking you through the basics of working with .NET Gadgeteer. Some of this information (such as breadboarding, for example, which I’ll cover in a future post) may be applicable to other microcontroller environments, while some will be Gadgeteer-specific.

In this post, I’m going to take you from receiving a .NET Gadgeteer mainboard to the “Hello, World” of embedded electronics, which is flashing an LED.

Continue reading Gadgeteer Hello World

Introducing Devhammer’s Garage

Over the last few months, I’ve spent a good bit of my free time (and some of my not-so-free time) learning about hardware and microcontrollers. One product of this will be a series of blog posts I’m working on detailing one of the projects I’ve built using Kinect, .NET Gadgeteer, and a few other odds and ends. I also just started working on my first from-scratch robot with my kids yesterday. So I figured there might be a need for a specific landing point on my site for my hardware-related adventures, and I’ve decided to call it Devhammer’s Garage.

In the garage, you’ll find information about my current hardware projects, including photos, links to other interesting sites, and more. If you’re a geek who’s into making stuff, I hope that you’ll find Devhammer’s Garage a useful addition, and I welcome comments, questions, and suggestions. And to whet your appetite, here’s a picture of my next build-in-progress, which I call the Hydrabot (so named for the fact that it’s powered by GHI‘s FEZ Hydra .NET Gadgeteer mainboard):

Hydrabot_2

The gearbox is a Tamiya double gearbox geared at 114.7:1, and powered by two separate motors. The wheels are from a LEGO Mindstorms NXT set, attached using adapters that Tamiya offers for their hex shafts. The Hydra mainboard and Seeed Studios OLED Display module are mounted to a Tamiya Universal Plate kit, and not visible in the photo above is a ball caster which will allow the robot to turn easily based on difference in speed between the two front wheels.

I’m early in the build process, and I’m kind of designing this first robot as I go along, so I’m still deciding on what kind of sensors to use to help it navigate, etc. The Tamiya parts are very easy to work with. Assembling the gearbox took about 40 minutes or so, in part because I was showing my kids what I was doing as I was doing it, and in part because I took my time to ensure that both sides were geared identically. One advantage of using a gearbox like this is that you can get pretty good torque from even the small DC motors that come with the gearbox, which should help power over any obstacles in the way.

I’ll post more pics and videos as the project progresses, and will have more detailed build information over at the Garage.

Great Sites and Blogs for Learning about .NET Gadgeteer

As anyone following my blog or twitter feed could probably tell, in between HTML5 Web Camps and Game Camps, I’ve been doing a fair amount of work (and play) with .NET Gadgeteer. It’s a great platform for learning about electronics and microcontrollers, and since the code is in C# and based on the .NET Micro Framework, it’s familiar territory, at least on the software side.

As I’ve been moving from complete newb to a bit more experienced, I’ve had the pleasure of presenting some talks on .NET Gadgeteer with fellow Mid-Atlantic Microsoftie Pete Brown, including at CMAP Code Camp last month (Pete has a post up on his blog with a series of videos of our talk, recorded by Lewis Berman, from Loyola University, where the code camp was held).

Continue reading Great Sites and Blogs for Learning about .NET Gadgeteer

Are you a Gadgeteer?

In a recent post, I mentioned that last week I received a very cool package, the GHI FEZ Spider .NET Gadgeteer Starter Kit. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to take the kit with me to Roanoke, but I did record an unboxing video last week.

The Unboxing

(note to self…need to get a macro lens for my video camera…sorry for the focus issues)

Continue reading Are you a Gadgeteer?