Saturday, June 22, 2013

Getting Started with .NET Gadgeteer

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A few weeks ago I had the change to attend a very cool and different kind of workshop in East London. I joined the event on an early start with other fellow developers, but this time, to play around with software AND hardware. Welcome to the realm of hardware prototyping and smart gadgets creation with .NET Gadgeteer!

The even took place at Modern Jago, and was hosted by Dr Steven Johnston, from Microsoft Research. The workshop was a delight and everybody who attended was having a great deal of fun.

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We first started by creating our very own multi-led Gadgeteer module. Each of us “cooked” a multi-led circuit having a multi-led light, which we then tested with a .NET Gadgeteer main board and a simple piece of software. If you though Open Source was relevant, Open Hardware is the real deal. Justin Wilson from IngenuityMicro was our mentor here, teaching us how to build and cook our module.

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Next, Dr Johnston took the lead, and formally introduced us to .NET Gadgeteer. We were given starter kits and jump straight away to build our very own gadget, a touch-screen digital camera! Let me tell you, this is really cool stuff, in its easiest and most developer friendly way. Anyone who has done some fiddling with raw components, transistors and breadboard knows that making a gadget can be quite a challenge. Even working with Raspberry PI and Arduino, especially if you are trying to extend them and use them to create your own devices, can also be quite tricky.

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.NET Gadgeteer is intended to make it really easy to create components. All modules already come with the required connectors, and you can even use extender modules to connect to other non-Gadgeteer modules. To give you an example, I was able to build my version of a fully functional touch-enabled digital camera in less that an hour, and with less than 10 lines of code! That is unbeatable!

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I then extended it to use light sensors to trigger the pictures and even connected it to a mechanical motor just for the fun of it.

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What is most compelling about .NET Gadgeteer is that because its solderless assembly and computer-aided design you can build things really fast. This makes it a truly rapid prototyping platform for small electronic devices. I have been enforcing rapid prototyping techniques for efficient software development at my work and with different multi-disciplinary teams for the past couple of years, and being able to apply this techniques to hardware prototyping open a huge potential for digital solutions in the short-term future.

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.NET Gadgeteer is an open source/open hardware project that uses the Microsoft .NET Micro Framework. You can learn more at Gadgeteering.net.

Make sure to check out more about .NET Gadgeteer, and start building your own gadgets and becoming part of an exciting community!

Other useful links to get started:

http://www.netmf.com/gadgeteer/get-started.aspx
http://www.gadgeteering.net/
http://www.microsoft.com/net/multiple-platform-support
http://netmf.codeplex.com/releases/view/81000
http://www.ghielectronics.com/support/.net-micro-framework
https://gadgeteer.codeplex.com/releases/view/105366

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