Scott Hanselman

The .NET Micro Framework - Hardware for Software People

September 7, '10 Comments [24] Posted in Hardware | Micro Framework | Open Source
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imageI'm definitely a software person. I took EE in school and made an LED class, then a small computer like everyone else, and I know my volts and my amps for the most part, but that's about it. The limits of my skills are somewhere around adding an LED and some resistors to leech power off a USB adapter (which I recently did while working on the Hanselcade retro arcade build).

I look at hardware guys like Clint Rutkas in awe. I mean, seriously, who builds a T-shirt cannon from scratch for fun? Amazing.

Clint sent me a "Netduino" board today. It's similar to an Arduino board, except it uses the .NET Micro Framework. Micro you say? That's techie-speak for "tiny ass framework." I spoke to Colin Miller about this earlier in the year on video at Channel 9.

Remember my SPOT watch from 2004? That's Smart Personal Objects Technology, which is marketing-speak for "tiny ass framework." That watch is six years old (and still running nicely, sitting on my desk, in fact) and ran .NET.

Fast forward to today and I find myself plugging in this Netduino board to my computer and following Pete's Hello World Tutorial and I'm looking at this namespace.

using Microsoft.SPOT;
using Microsoft.SPOT.Hardware;

It's back!

Ok, putting it all together in context. The Netduino is a board that's mostly Arduino compatible and has a published schematic (PDF here) so you could make one yourself, if you wanted. The .NET Micro Framework (or TinyCLR as some folks have called it) is literally that - it's a tiny CLR that runs .NET byte code. You can write C# and it'll run on tiny CPUs with tiny amounts of memory (like 64k or something similarly smallish.) It's been with us all this time, and there is an enthusiastic community built around it.

The .NET Micro Framework 4.1 source is available, it's Open Source under the Apache 2.0 License. (Ya, the new Microsoft is freaking me out also. There's a lot of source that's quietly making its way out under increasingly liberal licenses.) There's lots of great details at Pete's blog.

Here's what a Netduino looks like:

Netduino Overhead Photo

I'm going to think of some hardware ideas that I can build with this. I also have a more capable and fancy Tahoe II with a touch-screen, accelerometer, buttons and more. If you're looking to prototype something quick, or even build a complete system with an off-the-shelf board, do check it out! Here's what a Tahoe II looks like. Remember, all these boards use C# and .NET. It's amazing writing something for hardware using a language and framework I already know how to use. It literally gets me 80% of the way there from a learning curve perspective.

TahoeII Large Development Board

There's also the GHI Electronics EMX Development system, so there's a lot of choices.GHI-00129 Large Development Board

With each of these boards (and others) you just need to get the Micro Framework 4.1, then the SDK for that specific board. It integrates into Visual Studio 2010. If you want to change the product, they are taking proposals in the .NETMF Forums.

Directly from Pete's blog:

Getting Started

What you'll need:

  • Netduino (Scott: or some other .NET Micro Framework board)
  • USB Cable (early Netduino units come with the USB cable) (Scott: Usually a micro- or mini-USB)
  • Visual Studio 2010 and the .NET Micro Framework 4.1 SDK  (you can use C# Express 2010 if you don't have Visual Studio)
  • Netduino SDK in 32 bit or 64 bit, depending on your host OS.
  • Optional: shields and starter kits to do cool things with netduino. Existing Arduino shields are compatible. A shield is just an add-on card that fits the pins on the board.

The SDK installs a device driver for talking to the Netduino. Make sure you select the one with the appropriate bitness, and that you install it before connecting the Netduino to the PC. I installed the VS2010 bits before the SDK, but it shouldn't matter.

Once you plug in the Netduino, using the USB cable, you should see the device driver get installed, and the power LED on the board light up.

Hello World with Morse Code

Now I just have the Netduino for now, so I haven't got any attachments. If I was a hardware guy, I'm sure I'd go try to take apart a toaster or remote control and declare something like "this toaster just needs a one OHM resister on pin-out 5A so I can invert the voltage and it'll toast bread over Bluetooth" but I have no idea what that means. All I can do with the Netduino out of the box to flash its LED, as Pete points out:

public static void Main() 
{
OutputPort onboardLed = new OutputPort(Pins.ONBOARD_LED, false);

while (true)
{
onboardLed.Write(true);
Thread.Sleep(500);

onboardLed.Write(false);
Thread.Sleep(500);
}
}

Let's make it fancier. How about outputting string using Morse Code? Wikipedia says a dot is 100ms long and a dash is 300ms. How hard can it be?

I could go to StackOverflow as they had a contest to see who could make the SMALLEST implementation that would take a string and output Morse Code. They have an extremely optimized (for lines of code) solution. But it's extremely silly. Certainly no more silly than me making an LED blink Morse Code as well, but I'd like to be able to actually read my code. ;)

So, here's a naive 10 minutes solution using this guys' two arrays because I'm too lazy to type up the Morse myself. I could have use a Hashtable also, but two parallel arrays was fine too. The .NET Micro Framework, being micro, doesn't have everything the full framework has. However, being open source, it has taken contributions and version 4.1 includes a Hashtable implementation.

I can even debug directly connected to the board!

netduino debugging

Here's my sad little program (it was very easy!)

using System;
using System.Threading;
using Microsoft.SPOT;
using Microsoft.SPOT.Hardware;
using SecretLabs.NETMF.Hardware;
using SecretLabs.NETMF.Hardware.Netduino;
using System.Text;
using System.Collections;

namespace NetduinoApplication1
{
public class Program
{
public static void Main()
{
OutputPort onboardLed = new OutputPort(Pins.ONBOARD_LED, false);

while (true)
{
onboardLed.Write(false);

foreach (char c in " hello scott hanselman ")
{
string morse = ConvertTextToMorse(c);
Debug.Print(c + " = " + morse);
TransmitDotOrDash(onboardLed, morse);
}

}
}

private static Char[] Letters = new Char[] {'a', 'b', 'c', 'd', 'e', 'f', 'g',
'h', 'i', 'j', 'k', 'l', 'm', 'n', 'o', 'p', 'q', 'r', 's', 't', 'u',
'v', 'w', 'x', 'y', 'z', '0', '1', '2', '3', '4', '5', '6', '7', '8',
'9', ' '};

private static String[] MorseCode = new String[] {".-", "-...", "-.-.",
"-..", ".", "..-.", "--.", "....", "..", ".---", "-.-", ".-..",
"--", "-.", "---", ".--.", "--.-", ".-.", "...", "-", "..-",
"...-", ".--", "-..-", "-.--", "--..", "-----", ".----", "..---",
"...--", "....-", ".....", "-....", "--...", "---..", "----.", " "};

public static String ConvertTextToMorse(char c)
{
int index = -1;
index = Array.IndexOf(Letters, c);
if (index != -1)
return MorseCode[index];
return string.Empty;
}


public static void TransmitDotOrDash(OutputPort port, string dotordash)
{
foreach (char c in dotordash)
{
TransmitDotOrDash(port, c);
}
Thread.Sleep(300); //gap between letters
}

public static void TransmitDotOrDash(OutputPort port, char dotordash)
{
if (dotordash == ' ')
{
port.Write(false);
Thread.Sleep(700); //gap between words
}
else //it's something
{
port.Write(true);
if (dotordash == '.')
Thread.Sleep(100); //dot
else
Thread.Sleep(300); //dash
port.Write(false);
}
}
}
}

Here's the debug output as I flash "hello scott hanselman" from the board.

Debug Output from the Netduino Board

All it all, it really couldn't be much easier. Next I'll try to get the Tahoe II working and maybe make a game for the boys. Perhaps hook up a speaker and a proximity sensor and see if they can sneak up on it.

Related Links

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Details on the 2010 Diabetes Walk and a Thank You

September 7, '10 Comments [10] Posted in Diabetes
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Over the last few months I've blogged and tweeted about diabetes (in between my regular stuff) and you guys, Dear Readers, have be so kind as to donate over US$32,000 to Team Hanselman via the American Diabetes Association. We haven't hit our arbitrary $50k goal, but I'm totally amazed we made it this far, using only and entirely social media.

If you're interested in learning more about Diabetes and Type 1 Diabetes (what I have) then check out some of the stuff made this summer.

As a point of interest, in 2007 I tweeted every single time I had to manage some aspect of my diabetes in a day. You might be surprised how often we diabetics have to think about diabetes. I hope YOU think about it as you enjoy that cookie! ;)

Also, check out "Diabetes: The Airplane Analogy" for a clear explanation on how blood sugar, insulin, and all this equipment works together.

This next Sunday the 12th, as a culmination of all this, we'll be walking as Team Hanselman in the ADA's StepOut to Fight Diabetes. If you are in or around Portland, you are welcome to join our team and meet us at the Team Hanselman tent.

We'll be walking with many thousands at the Rose Quarter in Portland. We'll be doing the three mile walk.

General Schedule:

  • 8am: Registration opens w/ light breakfast
  • 8:40: Opening ceremony begins – Red Strider Ambassadors, ADA Researcher Dr. Michael Harris, Warm-ups, NAYA Youth Dancers and NARA Drum Group
  • 9:00: One, three and six mile walk begins through Irvington District
  • 10:15ish: Lunch, entertainment, bouncy houses, basketball hoop, music from the River City Ramblers, Health Fair Tent, face painting and more.
  • 11:15: Kids Race Walk w/ Coach Carmen
  • 12:30: Portland Step Out: Walk to Fight Diabetes Finishes

Thanks to EVERYONE for all their help and support! Remember if you donated to please make sure your company matches your donation. Also, there's still time to make a tax-deductable donation and get it matched. Also feel free to give to your local country's diabetes organization as well!

Feel free to spread the word on social networking sites with this short link: http://hnsl.mn/diabeteswalk

You're a wonderful bunch of Dear Readers and I truly thank you for your support.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Hanselminutes Podcast 230 - Continuous Deployment with Jon Tørresdal

September 7, '10 Comments [2] Posted in Agile | ASP.NET | Podcast
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JonTorresdal

This week Scott talks to Jon Tørresdal from Norway via Skype. Jon is an Architect for a Norwegian insurance company, and an editor for InfoQ. His agile team practice Scrum and Jon shares his experiences making web deployment a no-click affair. What are the tools and techniques you need to make your automated build automate deployment to a production web farm?

NOTE: If you want to download our complete archives as a feed - that's all 230 shows, subscribe to the Complete MP3 Feed here.

Subscribe: Subscribe to Hanselminutes Subscribe to my Podcast in iTunes

Download: MP3 Full Show

Links from the Show

Do also remember the complete archives are always up and they have PDF Transcripts, a little known feature that show up a few weeks after each show.

Telerik is our sponsor for this show.

Building quality software is never easy. It requires skills and imagination. We cannot promise to improve your skills, but when it comes to User Interface and developer tools, we can provide the building blocks to take your application a step closer to your imagination. Explore the leading UI suites for ASP.NET AJAX,MVC,Silverlight,Windows Formsand WPF. Enjoy developer tools like .NET reporting,ORM,Automated Testing Tools, TFS, and Content Management Solution. And now you can increase your productivity with JustCode, Telerik’s new productivity tool for code analysis and refactoring. Visitwww.telerik.com.

As I've said before this show comes to you with the audio expertise and stewardship of Carl Franklin. The name comes from Travis Illig, but the goal of the show is simple. Avoid wasting the listener's time. (and make the commute less boring)

Enjoy. Who knows what'll happen in the next show?

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Hanselminutes Podcast 229 - OpenID and OpenAuth with DotNetOpenAuth open source programmer Andrew Arnott

September 7, '10 Comments [4] Posted in Podcast
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image Scott talks to Andrew Arnott about OpenID and OpenAuth. What are these two protocols, how do they relate to each other and what do we as programmers need to know about them? Do you use Twitter? Then you use OpenAuth and may not realize it. Andrew works at Microsoft and works on the side on his open source project DotNetOpenAuth.

NOTE: If you want to download our complete archives as a feed - that's all 229 shows, subscribe to the Complete MP3 Feed here.

Subscribe: Subscribe to Hanselminutes Subscribe to my Podcast in iTunes

Download: MP3 Full Show

Links from the Show

Do also remember the complete archives are always up and they have PDF Transcripts, a little known feature that show up a few weeks after each show.

Telerik is our sponsor for this show.

Building quality software is never easy. It requires skills and imagination. We cannot promise to improve your skills, but when it comes to User Interface and developer tools, we can provide the building blocks to take your application a step closer to your imagination. Explore the leading UI suites for ASP.NET AJAX,MVC,Silverlight,Windows Formsand WPF. Enjoy developer tools like .NET reporting,ORM,Automated Testing Tools, TFS, and Content Management Solution. And now you can increase your productivity with JustCode, Telerik’s new productivity tool for code analysis and refactoring. Visitwww.telerik.com.

As I've said before this show comes to you with the audio expertise and stewardship of Carl Franklin. The name comes from Travis Illig, but the goal of the show is simple. Avoid wasting the listener's time. (and make the commute less boring)

Enjoy. Who knows what'll happen in the next show?

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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A New Podcast for Developers - This Developer's Life

September 3, '10 Comments [12] Posted in Podcast
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My friend Rob and I don't always agree on technology but we do agree that This American Life is one of the best, if not the best podcast in the world.

That podcast is all about storytelling. It's masterfully produced, thoughtfully narrated and generally loved. It's cared for, curated and shepherded. It's nurtured.

Rob's new experiment, This Developer's Life is, on its surface, a straight and unapologetic rip-off of This American Life; but in the flattery is the sincerest form of flattery sense. It's brilliant because it works. The narrative flow works, the "stew on that and think for a second" musical interludes work.

If you love being a developers, then this show will resonate with you. Even more, if you are around developers (and perhaps not one) then this will explain our psychoses.

There's no talk of code, no hand-waving or explanations of architecture diagrams. There's just our stories. I think This Developer's Life has the potential to bring back some emotional context that's been missing in our space. Why DO we choose this job? What drives us and how far will we go?

Perhaps this format will resonate with you, perhaps not, but it is a breath of fresh air (!) in the developer community space.

I had the pleasure of being a part of episode two so check it out.

You can subscribe to this experiment via RSS or subscribe on iTunes. You can also listen to it directly on http://thisdeveloperslife.com.

I look forward to working with Rob some more on this venture. I think, even after just two episodes, he's got something special and I encourage you to give it a listen.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.