Saturday, August 24, 2013

MSP430 LaunchPad, the Arduino alternative Review

I was following the Arduino and maker movement for some time now, and I finally decided to jump in
to see what is it all about. but it was a long journey: first at the Arduino re-seller store 
while there is a large number of res-sellers all over the world, few of them offer shipping to Morocco and those who do at a large price (3x to 4x of the product price!) without counting the customs tax.

 So I decided to use another micro-controller instead, the MSP 430 LaunchPad from Texas Instruments.
it cost $9.99 only with free worldwide shipping by FEDEX, and surprise it also passed the customs without paying any tax (maybe to it's low price or because it's not a finished product?).

MSP430 LaunchPad (MSP-EXP430G2) unboxing


Energia, a port Arduino IDE to launchpad

Energia is a community project to port the famous Arduino IDE and language to make it compatible with MSP430 and the rest of launchpad family. Not all Arduino sketches are guaranteed to work 100% but most of code I found online work without modification.

ROCKETuC firmware alternative to Firmata

To communicate with your micro-controller through the serial port, you usually need to write a small piece of code called firmware that you flash to the micro-controller memory. Basically, It's goal is to interpret the command it receive through the serial/usb cable and turn them into something useful the CPU can understand, like writing to the digital or reading a value from analog pin.

To not reinvent the wheel, a popular library in Arduino world called Firmata  is used, unfortunately it is not available for other hardware but I found one on Github that do the job called ROCKETuC  with client binding for Processing and Java.

Ardublocks alternative to typing code :)

Another less known project is Ardublocks, it is a visual programming tool similar to Scratch, by drag and droping "blocks"and then it generate code that can be compiled and uploaded to the micro-controller directly from Arduino IDE as usual.I'm just mentioning it here because I discovered it work too under Energia.
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