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pcDuino and my first impressions

Discussion in 'Microcontrollers, Programming and IoT' started by smitthhyy, Apr 16, 2013.

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  1. smitthhyy

    smitthhyy

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    Apr 16, 2013
    Hi all. Thought I'd share my first impressions of the pcDuino. (And for those in Australia & New Zealand, I got my pcDuino from Electron Hobbies at a very reasonable price).

    A Raspberry Pi on steroids that can use Arduino shields and runs PC like OS. <-- That's how I'd headline my thoughts.

    Taking it out of the box and plugging in, it starts up with Ubuntu straight out of the box. No need to first get an OS image loaded. It certainly felt much quicker than the Raspberry PI which is not surprising when looking at the specs. The processor runs at 1GHz. The ARM Cortex A8 has both the Mali-400 GPU and the ARM NEON instruction unit. The NEON does audio/video codec decoding on hardware. Give the board 1GB of RAM instead of 512k and you have something quite generous from a horsepower perspective especially for the hobby electronics space.

    Looking around Ubuntu (or Lubuntu, a cut down Ubuntu for embedded systems), I noticed an Arduino folder with a number of examples. This board has Arduino headers on it. I should point out here they are not in the right position to be able to plug a shield directly into it and the board is 3.3V so some voltage level translation is required with 5V boards. So I know what I'm doing this weekend. Trying out Arduino sketches on it. :)

    Had a go at putting Android on the device to see how that worked. Downloaded the image from pcduino.com downloads page, put it onto a SD card, started the pcDuino and waited for the OS to install onto the board. Then pull the SD card and restart. I had Android running, so off to Googles app store and install some stuff. YouTube ran excellent in high def.

    It doesn't have SATA or IDE style ports for HDD though, but not sure if that matters now days with high speed SD cards and having the OS run on the board instead of from an SD card. Would be good for mass storage though.

    The Electron Hobbies pcDuino product page has a number of links to useful information so was very quick to find what I needed.

    In summary, I'm quite impressed. I think this is going to be a good base for a number of projects.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 17, 2013
  2. (*steve*)

    (*steve*) ¡sǝpodᴉʇuɐ ǝɥʇ ɹɐǝɥd Moderator

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    Jan 21, 2010
    It certainly looks like an awfully expensive base for a project.

    The criticism from some here for Arduino is that it is an expensive base for a project.

    I'm not sure that this really has anything very useful in common with Arduino. Does it run the same software? (perhaps have a cross-compiler for sketches?)

    Or does it just have a series of sockets carrying the same signals?

    Sorry for the skepticism, but your post does read a bit like spam too.
     
  3. Tannim

    Tannim

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    Apr 17, 2013
    I have only just started to play with my Arduino Uno and I was looking at micro PCs like the raspberry pi I saw the pcDuino on Ebay and started to check it out it does have the same or almost the same pinouts just laid out a little different. You can make or buy an adapter to use existing shields. The programming language is working on being the same but still needs some development. From my understanding(and I'll admit to my noob status and say I could be wrong here)the point of the Arduino is to let you build and test a circuit and then depending on what functions your using off the board you found cheaper chips/boards to use in production. Am I off base? I'll let you know more once the pcDuino gets here
     
  4. smitthhyy

    smitthhyy

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    Apr 16, 2013
    Hey criticism is ok. It does run Arduino sketches (so far that I can tell). I've run a couple of basic ones (probably akin to hello world level) and they worked. Had to compile using the command line, but once read how wasn't to difficult. As to complex ones, intend playing more over the weekend. For me, I'd probably do most of my stuff using native C or C++ that comes with the OS (Lubuntu).

    As to spam, not intended. I believe in contributing and sharing. If it is, do let me know and I'll move on. I think this board is great and that's what I'm sharing.
     
  5. smitthhyy

    smitthhyy

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    Apr 16, 2013
    I don't think your off base. And be interested to hear what you end up thinking when you get your pcDuino.
     
  6. (*steve*)

    (*steve*) ¡sǝpodᴉʇuɐ ǝɥʇ ɹɐǝɥd Moderator

    25,481
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    Jan 21, 2010
    Yep, that's fine. We are targeted with lots of spam unfortunately.

    On balance I thought it was less likely. Your response makes it even less likely :)

    Interesting that this device has a command line compiler for sketches. Probably makes it deserve the "duino" suffix.
     
  7. smitthhyy

    smitthhyy

    11
    0
    Apr 16, 2013
    Thanks Steve.

    Is that why my post had links removed by someone called Ian?

    Part of the message (besides sharing about the pcDuino) was to tell people especially in Australia where they can get these without being ripped off. And to point them to more info should they want it. We see things on US sites and then go to buy but you either have to pay huge shipping costs or pay inflated prices locally.

    Anyway, I'm going to enjoy exploring the pcDuino capabilities. I know my son is, He's got Android working on it. Was interesting how you get other OS's onto these. Quite different from the Raspberry PI. You load the OS on an SD card, plug the SD card into the pcDuino and then it installs onto the board so it doesn't run from an SD card.
     
  8. (*steve*)

    (*steve*) ¡sǝpodᴉʇuɐ ǝɥʇ ɹɐǝɥd Moderator

    25,481
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    Jan 21, 2010
    That "someone called Ian" is the bloke who runs these forums.

    We have a pretty hard line on advertising. He may have thought you crossed the line. (I thought it was close).

    In any case, you typically won't go wrong if you only provide links in responses to direct questions. We tend to be more strict on newcomers than we do for people who have a longer track record.

    What I would be interested in is an example of how you compile and run something like one of the demo sketches (like a LED flashing one). And then, do things like SPI, PWM, and RS232 work as you would expect them to.
     
  9. GreenGiant

    GreenGiant

    842
    6
    Feb 9, 2012
    I know this is a very specific question but do you know what percentage of the processing goes to the arduino side of it?

    Im guessing it doesnt make full use of the 1GHz from the processor or the 1GB of RAM, Im only asking because there have been times where the processor of a regular arduino is not sufficient to make things work smoothly.
     
  10. (*steve*)

    (*steve*) ¡sǝpodᴉʇuɐ ǝɥʇ ɹɐǝɥd Moderator

    25,481
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    Jan 21, 2010
    A possible advantage of an arduino is that you know it's the only software running and you can count clock cycles if needs be to get your timing correct.

    If you're running your code on something running an operating system, it could be stealing clock cycles from you and making things a lot less deterministic.
     
  11. smitthhyy

    smitthhyy

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    Apr 16, 2013
    I will be. Will not be quite as quick as I wanted, work has me traveling from tomorrow for the next 14 days so won't get a chance to play.

    and
    GreenGiant, that is a good question. It runs an OS, so that's going to naturally take some. But the rest should be available, ie it's not an Arduino emulator but performing the Arduino sketch commands at the OS level. So in theory, if the OS uses say 5% of each, there is 95% free for the Arduino sketch.

    There are other options as well to overcome the limitations of the basic Arduino. The Due is a 32bit Arduino from Arduino themselves that runs the code native without an OS. Then you have the chipKIT stuff based on Microchip's 32bit MCU's.

    Or the electric imp. An ARM based SD card with WiFi that leverages the cloud for heavy processing. A completely different approach to embedded electronics which was born from the very thing GreenGiant mentions about lack of power in the Arduino.

    Also something to not forget is this thing doesn't need Arduino sketches. It can, but being a device that uses an RTOS, there are so many more options.

    The attraction for a pcDuino type device is you have a PC type device with the ability to connect sensors and other things. I've been running a weather station for quite a while until the clunky and cumbersome software broke on my PC which needed to be running 24x7 chewing up power. This thing will replace the PC and be able to connect the sensors directly to it plus be a web server and database server all in one and without months of development.

    BUT <-- big but... It's not going to be the right device for everything. :)

    I'll be a little spasmodic in responses over the next 14 days while traveling for work. So if you don't see a response quickly, it's not intended.

    Have fun!!
     
  12. smitthhyy

    smitthhyy

    11
    0
    Apr 16, 2013
    Sorry for the delay. The Arduino side was recently updated and expanded. The examples can be found on github at https://github.com/pcduino/c_enviroment which include the basic all the way to things like SPI, I2C, PWM etc. Electron Hobbies have a how to compile and run Arduino sketches on the pcDuino tutorial. The pcDuino forum's Arduino Style Programming has more discussions as well including how to use arduino libraries etc.

    Just note the Arduino parts where updated and improved a few days ago. They are on a new github location instead of the old github.com/pcduino/arduino or what comes with the device today.

    In summary:
    • Add #include <core.h> to the top of your sketch.
    • Create your sketch in the samples folder (if your familiar with linux, makefiles, and compiling code, you could set up your own)
    • Modify the Makefile to include your sketch
    • Run make
    • Run the executable from the output/test folder.
    • You can introduce command line arguments into your sketch to make it more transportable.

    Also for those that like the Arduino IDE, pcDuino gets its own Arduino style IDE. Instead of writing code, compiling and then uploading to the device, it's all done on the device.

    Hope this helps :)
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2013
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