Fun with Arduino

So I decided to finally poke a little at my Arduino Mega 2560 last night, mostly as a random thing to do on the couch while watching Netflix. I wrote some simple programs to poke at IO ports – nothing that exciting. But I do now see the value of Arduino as a platform, especially if you just want to do something fun and not have to build an entire universe to get there. It’s not a full Linux environment, but that can be a good thing.

With Arduino, you don’t need to worry about lots of the usual microcontroller stuff since the AVR chip comes with a bootloader that interprets the “Sketch” you have compiled from Wiring (C-like) source code. You also don’t need to worry about flashing and driving serial lines because the board has one of those standard FTDI USB parts that provides both the serial programming interface and easily usable serial output, too. In other words, it’s a simple design, but also complex enough to be useful, and easy to use if you just want to make a simple gadget. At the same time, there’s a huge amount of potential there too.

As it was late, I ordered some parts on Sparkfun to replace a few in my trusty component box. I used to enjoy going to Maplin back in the day, but like Radioshack, their component selection shrank and I never really found a good place to buy small numbers of parts. Sparkfun isn’t perfect, but like Adafruit, it does seem to be one of the better places for hobbyist purchases these days. I picked up one of their FTDI based generic USB interfaces, some solid state relays, and a bunch of other bits for playing with Arduino some more as time permits. Maybe I’ll build a remote control power switch or whatever.


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