This weekend at the Bay Area Maker Faire, Arduino in conjunction with SiFive, a fabless provider of the Open Source RISC-V micros, introduced the Arduino Cinque. This is a board running one of the fastest microcontrollers available, and as an added bonus, this board includes Espressif’s ESP32, another wonderchip that features WiFi and Bluetooth alongside a very, very powerful SoC.
Details on the Arduino Cinque are slim at the moment, but from what we’ve seen so far, the Cinque is an impressively powerful board featuring the RISC-V FE310 SoC from SiFive, an ESP32, and an STM32F103. The STM32 appears to be dedicated to providing the board with USB to UART translation, something the first RISC-V compatible Arduino solved with an FTDI chip. Using an FTDI chip is, of course, a questionable design decision when building a capital ‘O’ Open microcontroller platform, and we’re glad SiFive and Arduino found a better solution. It’s unknown if this STM32 can be used alongside the FE310 and ESP32 at this point.
We’ve taken a look at SiFive’s FE310 SoC, and it is an extremely capable chip. It was released first at the HiFive1, and our hands-on testing revealed this is a chip that outperforms the current performance champ of the Arduino world, the Teensy 3.6. Of course, with any new architecture, there will be a few problems porting the vast number of libraries over to the FE310, but SiFive has included an Arduino compatible SDK. It’s promising, and we can’t wait to see SiFive’s work in more boards.
WiFi and Bluetooth were never meant to be the radios used by a billion Internet of Things hats, umbrellas, irrigation systems, or any other device that makes a worldwide network of things interesting. The best radio for IoT is something lightweight which operates in the sub-Gigahertz range, doesn’t need a lot of bandwidth, and doesn’t suck down the power like WiFi. For the last few years, a new low-power wireless communication standard has been coming on the scene, and now this protocol — LoRa — will soon be available in an Arduino form factor.
The Primo, and NRF
It’s not LoRa, but the Arduino Primo line is based on the ESP8266 WiFi chip and a Nordic nRF52832 for Bluetooth. The Primo comes in the ever-familiar Arduino form factor, but it isn’t meant to be an ‘Internet of Things’ device. Instead, it’s a microcontroller for devices that need to be on the Internet.
Also on display at CES this year is the Primo Core which we first saw at BAMF back in May. It’s a board barely larger than a US quarter that has a few tricks up its sleeve. The Primo Core is built around the nRF52832, and adds humidity, temperature, 3-axis magnetometer and a 3-axis accelerometer to a square inch of fiberglass.
The Primo Core has a few mechanical tricks up its sleeve. Those castellated pins around the circumference can be soldered to the Alice Pad, a breakout board that adds a USB port and LiPo battery charger.
Also on deck at the Arduino suite were two LoRa shields. In collobration with Semtech, Arduino will be releasing the pair of LoRa shields later this year. The first, the Node Shield, is about as simple as it can get — it’s simply a shield with a LoRa radio and a few connectors. The second, the Gateway Shield, does what it says on the tin: it’s designed to be a gateway from other Arduino devices (Ethernet or WiFi, for example) to a Node shield. The boards weren’t completely populated, but from what I could see, the Gateway shield is significantly more capable with support for a GPS chipset and antenna.
A partnership with Cayenne and MyDevices
Of course, the Internet of Things is worthless if you can’t manage it easily. Arduino has struck up a partnership with MyDevices to turn a bunch of low-bandwidth radio and serial connections into something easy to use. Already, we’ve seen a few builds and projects using MyDevices, but the demos I was shown were extremely easy to understand, even if there were far too many devices in the room.
All of this is great news if you’re working on the next great Internet of Things thing. The Primo Core is one of the smallest wireless microcontroller devices I’ve seen, and the addition of LoRa Arduino shields means we may actually see useful low-bandwidth networks in the very near future.
For the last two years, Arduino LLC (the arduino.cc, Massimo one) and Arduino SRL (the arduino.org, Musto one) have been locked in battle over the ownership of the Arduino trademark. That fight is finally over. Announced at the New York Maker Faire today, “Arduino” will now to Arduino Holding, the single point of distribution for new products, and a non-profit Arduino Foundation, responsible for the community and Arduino IDE.
Since early 2015, Arduino — not the Arduino community, but the organization known as Arduino — has been split in half. Arduino LLC sued Arduino SRL for trademark infringement. The case began when Arduino SRL, formerly Smart Projects SRL and manufacturers of the Arduino boards with a tiny map of Italy on the silk screen, began selling under the Arduino name. Arduino LLC, on the other hand, wanted to internationalize the brand and license production to other manufacturers.
All of this is now behind us. The open source hardware community’s greatest source of drama is now over.
I spoke with Massimo after the announcement, and although the groundwork is laid out, the specifics aren’t ready to be disclosed yet. There’s still a lot to work out, like what to do with the Arduino.org Github repo, which TLD will be used (we’re rooting for .org), support for the multitude of slightly different products released from both camps over the years, and finer points that aren’t publicly visible. In a few months, probably before the end of the year, we’ll get all the answers to this. Now, though, the Arduino wars are over. Arduino is dead, long live Arduino.
One of the big stories of last year was the fracture of the official Arduino supply into two competing organisations at daggers drawn, each headed by a different faction with its origins in the team that gave us the popular single board computers. Since then we’ve had Arduinos from Arduino LLC (the [Massimo] Arduino.cc, arguably the ‘original’, and Arduino trademark holder in the United States) and Arduino SRL (the [Musto] Arduino.org, and owner of the Arduino trademark everywhere except the US) , two websites, two forks of the IDE, and “real” Arduino boards available under a couple of names depending on where in the world you live due to a flurry of legal manoeuvres. Yes. it’s confusing.
Today came news of a supplier throwing its hands up in despair at the demands imposed on them as part of this debacle. Pimoroni, famous as supplier of Raspberry Pi goodies, has put up a blog post explaining why they will henceforth no longer be selling Arduinos. They took the side of Arduino LLC, and the blog post details their extensive trials and delays in making contact with the company before eventually being told they would have to agree to purchase substantial stocks both Arduino and Genuino branded versions of identical products and agree to sell them through separate supply channels for both Europe and the rest of the world before they could proceed. This is not a practical proposition for a small company, and the Pimoroni people deliver a very pithy explanation of exactly why towards the bottom of their post.
We’ve covered the Arduino versus Arduino debacle extensively in the past, this is simply the latest in a long line of stories. Pimoroni have hit the nail on the head when they make the point that the customers and suppliers really don’t care about spats between the various inheritors of the Arduino legacy, they just want an Arduino. And with so many other Arduino-compatible boards available they don’t have to look very hard to find one if the right shade of blue solder-resist or the shape of the map of Italy on the back isn’t a special concern. Can we be the only ones wishing something like this might knock a bit of sense into the various parties?
As we mentioned he starts off with a really succinct and well written tutorial on celestial coordinates that antiquity would have killed to have. If we were writing a bit of code to do our own positional astronomy system, this is the tab we’d have open. Incidentally, that’s exactly what he encourages those who have followed the tutorial to do.
The star pointer itself is a high powered green laser pointer (battery powered), 3D printed parts, and an amalgam of fourteen dollars of Chinese tech cruft. The project uses two Arduino clones to process serial commands and manage two 28byj-48 stepper motors. The 2nd Arduino clone was purely to supplement the digital pins of the first; we paused a bit at that, but then we realized that import arduinos have gotten so cheap they probably are more affordable than an I2C breakout board or stepper driver these days. The body was designed with a mixture of Tinkercad and something we’d not heard of, OpenJsCAD.
Once it’s all assembled and tested the only thing left to do is go outside with your contraption. After making sure that you’ve followed all the local regulations for not pointing lasers at airplanes, point the laser at the north star. After that you can plug in any star coordinate and the laser will swing towards it and track its location in the sky. Pretty cool.
For her science fair project, [David]’s daughter had thoughts about dipping eggs in coffee, or showing how dangerous soda is to the unsuspecting tooth. Boring. Instead she employed her father to help her build a Morse Code waterfall.
[David] worked with his daughter to give her the lego bricks of knowledge needed, but she did the coding, building, and, apparently, wire-wrapping herself. Impressive!
She did the trick with two Arduinos. One controls a relay that dumps a stream of water. The other watches with an optical interrupt made from an infrared emitter and detector pair to get the message.
To send a message, type it in the keyboard. The waterfall will drop spurts of water, and then show the message on the decoder display. Pretty cool. We also liked the pulse length dial. The solution behind the LEDs is pretty clever. Video after the break.
At the heart of the board is an ATmega328 clocked at 8MHz to reduce power consumption and fused to drop out at 1.7V. The radio module is a HopeRF RFM69C which as supplied is a little bit too big for the AA form factor so [Johan] has carefully filed away the edge of the PCB to make it fit. Enough room is left within the shape of an AA cell for a couple of DS18B20 temperature sensors and an indicator LED. He provides a handy buyer’s guide to the different versions of a 3xAA box with a lid, and all the files associated with the project are available in his GitHub repository.
Especially with the onboard radio module we can see that the AADuino board could be a very useful piece of kit. Perhaps for instance it could be used as a very low power self-contained UKHASnet node.
We’ve featured quite a few Arduino clones over the years that try to break the size mould in some way. This stripboard Arduino almost but not quite equals the AAduino’s size, as does this PCB version barely wider than the DIP package of its processor. But the AADuino is a bit different, in that it’s a ready-made form factor for putting out in the field rather than just another breadboard device. And we like that.
What do you do with an RFID chip implanted in your body? If you are [gmendez3], you build a bike lock that responds to your chip. The prototype uses MDF to create a rear wheel immobilizer. However, [gmendez3] plans on building a version using aluminum.
For the electronics, of course, there’s an Arduino. There’s also an RC522 RFID reader. We couldn’t help but think of the Keyduino for this application. When the system is locked, the Arduino drives a servo to engage the immobilizer. To free your rear wheel, simply read your implanted chip. The Arduino then commands the servo to disengage the immobilizer. You can see the system in operation in the video below.
We’ve talked about RFID implants before. Using them as keys for your preferred transportation isn’t a unique idea, of course. Is this is the killer application that makes you want to get chipped? We doubt it, but we admit it is a matter of personal preference.
News Globus is an unusual physical interface that piques the curiosity of people and asks them to explore the world by the news putting in relation places of the world. It was designed by Bjorn Karmann, Charlie Gedeon, Mikio Kiura, Sena Partal wiring 20 regions to a Genuino board inside the sphere. When two regions are connected with the jack, the Genuino selects a country randomly from each region and queries the NY Times API for news containing both locations. A web server then selects a story and converts the headline and byline to a mp3 file which is played either from the headphone jack or the speaker at the base of the globe:
The shape of the globe is an interesting artifact from the past which was combined with modern technologies and online services. Instead of allowing people to hear the news of one place, the audio jacks bring to mind the metaphor of the phone operator to get people to discover surprising connections between places near and far from each other.
Hernando Barragán is the grandfather of Arduino of whom you’ve never heard. And after years now of being basically silent on the issue of attribution, he’s decided to get some of his grudges off his chest and clear the air around Wiring and Arduino. It’s a long read, and at times a little bitter, but if you’ve been following the development of the Arduino vs Arduino debacle, it’s an important piece in the puzzle.
Wiring, in case you don’t know, is where digitalWrite() and company come from. Maybe even more importantly, Wiring basically incubated the idea of building a microcontroller-based hardware controller platform that was simple enough to program that it could be used by artists. Indeed, it was intended to be the physical counterpart to Processing, a visual programming language for art. We’ve always wondered about the relationship between Wiring and Arduino, and it’s good to hear the Wiring side of the story. (We actually interviewed Barragán earlier this year, and he asked that we hold off until he published his side of things on the web.)
The short version is that Arduino was basically a fork of the Wiring software, re-branded and running on a physical platform that borrowed a lot from the Wiring boards. Whether or not this is legal or even moral is not an issue — Wiring was developed fully open-source, both software and hardware, so it was Massimo Banzi’s to copy as much as anyone else’s. But given that Arduino started off as essentially a re-branded Wiring (with code ported to a trivially different microcontroller), you’d be forgiven for thinking that somewhat more acknowledgement than “derives from Wiring” was appropriate.
The story of Arduino, from Barragán’s perspective, is actually a classic tragedy: student comes up with a really big idea, and one of his professors takes credit for it and runs with it.
At the same time, Massimo Banzi is teaching a class in essentially microcontrollers-for-designers at Ivrea using a PIC-based board called the Programma2003 and a curious language that you’ve never heard of, “JAL: Just Another Language“. At the time, there was no GCC support for the PIC, so the choices for open-source development were few. Worse, most of the design students are using Macs, and JAL only compiles on Windows. It wasn’t user friendly.
Barragán’s thesis is a must-read if you want to know where Arduino comes from. The summary is everything you know now: it’d be revolutionary if one could make a hardware / software platform that were easy enough that artists and non-microcontroller-nerds could get into. This is exactly the revolution that was underway in the computer graphics front, powered by Processing. Make it open source and freely available, and you’ll take over the world. So he turned to the Atmel AVR chips, which had the GCC open-source toolchain behind it.
From Wiring to Arduino
So by 2004, Barragán had a few prototypes of Wiring boards out, and he and his fellow students were using them informally for projects. The GUI will look ridiculously familiar if you’ve used Processing or Arduino. Since the students were already familiar with Processing, it made a lot of sense to just clone it — with Casey Reas’ blessing of course. Barragán wrote a little program that maybe you’ve heard of: Blink.
Now Barragán needed a faculty advisor at Ivrea, and his interests clearly aligned best with Massimo Banzi. So with his thesis work well underway and Reas’ backing, Barragán took on Banzi as his advisor. With Banzi and three other faculty members, the Wiring platform got its first real test-run, the “Strangely Familiar” workshop and show (PDF). It was a stunning success — in the space of only four weeks students actually made stuff.
Barragán graduated in 2004 and moved back to Colombia. The success of “Strangely Familiar” lead Massimo Banzi to drop Programma2003 like a hot potato and teach his physical design classes using Wiring.
Work began on the Arduino project, according to Banzi, because he wanted a board that was cheaper to make than the Wiring board. So he replaced the ATmega128 microcontroller for a cheaper, smaller version, and chopped off everything that wasn’t “essential” from the Wiring board, like the power LED. This became the “Wiring Lite” board — and eventually the first Arduino prototype.
Giving Arduino its Due
It is not the case that Arduino doesn’t acknowledge Wiring at all. They do. There are a few sentences in the first paragraph of the Credits section of the website, as mentioned above. That and $4.50 will buy you a Grande, Quad, Nonfat, One-Pump, No-Whip, Mocha, but how much more can one ask for?
The Arduino project has been marketed with extreme savvy, something that cannot be said of Wiring. Banzi hooked up with influential people in the US, eventually friend-of-a-friending himself into contact with Dale Dougherty, who invented not just “Web 2.0” but also the “Maker Movement” and Make Magazine. Arduino and Make was a match made in heaven, and the rest is history.
But as mentioned at the top of the article, this is a classic tale of woe. Banzi had better connections and more marketing drive and skill. He pushed the exact same project — rebranded — a lot harder, better, and further than Barragán did, or probably could. Arduino is a household name simply for that reason. If Massimo Banzi hadn’t been behind the wheel, it’s unlikely that you’d be complaining about how many Wiring-based projects we feature.
And, being open-source software and hardware, Barragán gave away the shop. He probably (naïvely) expected to get more credit from his former advisor, or even get invited along on the ride. He asks why Arduino forked Wiring instead of continuing to work with him, and the answer is absolutely clear — Arduino was taking it for their own. And they could. It’s not nice, but that’s business.
Still, we feel Barragán’s pain. So we’re glad, after a decade of silence, that Barragán is speaking out on behalf of himself and Wiring, because it sets the record straight and because his project really was “Arduino” before there was an Arduino.