Arduino on steroids and .Net Micro Framework

FEZ Panda II compared to Duemilanove

Another gadget to tinker with arrived yesterday; a  FEZ Panda II from GHI Electronics. Arduino pin compatible, compatible with most Arduino shields, 72 MHz 32-bit CPU, 512 KB flash, 62 KB RAM for application, Micro SD socket, RTC and more, much more.

It’s a bit bigger though; the length is about  10 mm more than the Duemilanove.

The FEZ Panda II runs on the .NET Micro Framework and you can program (and even debug) the Panda with Microsoft Visual C# Express (free). Deployment to the Panda is done from within the Visual Studio IDE, and setting breakpoints, stepping and adding watches all (seem to) work. I got a ‘blinking LED’ example up and running in no-time – downloading and installing the .NET Micro Framework 4.1 and the GHI NETMF 4.1 cost me more time than getting the LED to blink; so far this looks OK.

using System;
using System.Threading;
using Microsoft.SPOT;
using Microsoft.SPOT.Hardware;
using GHIElectronics.NETMF.Hardware;
using GHIElectronics.NETMF.FEZ;
 
namespace MFConsoleApplication1
{
  public class Program
  {
    public static void Main()
    {
      OutputPort LED;
      LED = new OutputPort((Cpu.Pin)FEZ_Pin.Digital.LED, true);
      while (true)
      {
          LED.Write(true);
          Thread.Sleep(20);
          LED.Write(false);
          Thread.Sleep(2000);
      }
    }
  }
}

Why did I buy this FEZ Panda II? Well, for the fun of it ofcourse! And second, I wanna know more about these kind of devices and check some of the statements made.

For instance, the statement that the Panda is compatible with most Arduino shields intrigues me; to what extent is this true? “The shield fits in the headers” is not enough ofcourse; most shields come with a library to support the hardware that’s on the shield, but those libraries are for the Arduino platform, so how easy is it to plug in a Arduino shield and get it  really working? Can, and if so, how hard is it to port Arduino code to this C# environment?

Another thing is: how does the .NET runtime influence time critical I/O, where output pins have to be switched very fast? How does this Panda perform, knowing there’s an additional layer (the CLR, Common Language Runtime) between the C# code and the bare hardware?

And how about memory usage? 62 KB user memory may sound like a lot compared to the Arduinos 2 KB. OTOH, when I compare my VB.Net touchscreen application to my Delphi Domotica system, the memory usage of the first one is huge compared to the 1.3 MB my Domotica system uses. So what will using a .Net environment do in this particular case? Will adding a few hardware drivers to a C# program quickly make the available memory vanish, or what?

And I’m also interested in how I will perform with C#; I hope that seeing/writing code in all kinds of programming languages from the early 80’s will help me to get started ;-)

Questions, questions… which I hope to be able to answer in the next weeks; I was getting bored with watching that blinking LED on the Panda II, so I decided my first “Panda project” will be an I2C exercise with a JeeLabs Lux Plug to see how hard (or easy) it is to talk I2C with this sensor. And if all goes well, next thing will be to write some text on a spare 20×4 LCD I have one laying around. Those sound like some good beginner projects, right?

And if both succeed, the 2.8″ TFT LCD Touchscreen I bought recently, will be next.

That’s it for now; new challenges are waiting!

 

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3 Responses to Arduino on steroids and .Net Micro Framework

  1. Eric VDB says:

    Cool, you bought one ;) I’m not gonna answer all your questions here, that would spoil your fun I guess. But regarding drivers for various shield, make sure to check out http://www.tinyclr.com/codeshare before converting one from C++. In any way, feel free to jump on the tinyclr forum and shoot your questions.

  2. Yep, I couldn’t resist :-) Discovering and creating new things is the most exciting there is, right? Again thanks for the tips; I did find the tutorials, Codeshare looks like a good source of information too, I’ll have a look at it – it will definitely save me time!

  3. Pingback: FEZ Panda II with HD44780 controlled LCD | Digits Domotica Blog

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