Open questions for anyone familiar with Arduinos

And, I’ve got several.  I’m not entirely sure what I’d end up using an Arduino for – perhaps making tiny silly robots.  However, there are so many choices and not a really good way to differentiate among them.

  1. Chips
    1. There appear to be several.  From my friend Google, I understand that the “ATmega328” is significantly better than a “ATmega168” in terms of double the flash memory, RAM, and baud rate.  But, I also see “ATmega328P.”  What’s the “P”?  Is it important?  Does it mean pre-programmed?
  2. Power
    1. I’d like to be able to run whatever Arduino variant I end up with from a variety of power sources.  It’s my understanding that a preassembled Ardunio has that capability – accepting between 5V that could be supplied from USB to 9V from a typical 9V battery to a 9-11V AC power adapter.  If I build a MintDuino, will it only run from a 9V?  Would it run from USB if I use an FTDI cable or an FTDI Friend?
    2. Wait, I may have answered my own question – I’m guessing that a Breadboard Voltage Regulator Kit would be needed to run a MintDuino from a variety of power sources.  Is this the case?
  3. USB
    1. I have an FTDI cable from my Cupcake CNC, so I think I could use that with any kind of board that doesn’t have a USB port.  Having fiddled with an FTDI cable a bit now, I don’t have any preference whether my board has a USB or FTDI interface.  Is there any reason I should?
  4. Programming
    1. Are all of the *Dunio variants identical to program?  I seem to recall reading that the NetDuino is “.NET”  I’m not sure what that means, but I’d prefer to use something that utilizes the Processing environment – if for no reason other than I could use what very very very little processing I was exposed to when fiddling with my Cupcake’s temperature tables a million years ago.
  5. What should I start with?  Please assume I know nothing about electronics, Arduinos, electricity, computers, programming, or things that rhyme with “minternet.”
    1. It’s hard for me not to like the MintDuino package.  A small breadboard, a little tin, some parts, no soldering.  The Mintronics Survival Pack seems interesting too – again a little tin. 12  Is the “Survival Pack” useful?  Useless?  Kinda useful?  It looks like it has a small breadboard, some LED’s, wires, 9V battery clip and wires, etc.  As I understand Arduinos3 , they can accept a variety of voltages.  Will a MintDuino do the same?  It looks like I’ll need an FTDI cable, which I have from my Cupcake, so I’m not overly concerned about this limitation.
    2. Should I go with a fully assembled Ardunio like the Uno, a breadbord kit, or a kit that I solder together?  I’m leaning towards a breadboard to start for simplicity’s sake.
    3. Should I go with a Sanguino, Ardweeny, Arduino Mini, Arduino Pro Mini, Ardunio Mega 2560, TinyDuino SB, Sippino 328, FreeDuino, DC Boarduino, NetDuino, NetDuino Plus, NetDuino Mini, Ardunio Nano, or RBBB?  If so, why?!  Can you understand my choice paralysis here?
  1. I like tins. []
  2. Then again, I’ve got a robot that can make me plastic tins, so they’ve become less fascinating to me. []
  3. Which isn’t much []

6 Responses to “Open questions for anyone familiar with Arduinos”

  1. Azdle says:

    1)The P stands for picopower. That means it can accept lower voltages and has been better optimized for low power consumption.
    2.1)The Uno (for example) can be powered off USB’s 5v or any other DC source that is 7-12V (recommended, max of 6-20V)
    You could power it off the 5V from USB or that kit comes with an LM7805 Linear Regulator which will take 7.2-35V DC and turn it into 5V DC.
    2.2)You could use that kit if you wanted to use a dc barrel jack, but it is not necessary you can use the LM7805 that is included with the kit instead.
    3)Nope, it’s just a matter of where the FTDI converter chip is, on the board or in the cable.
    4)With the exception of the netduino all the *duinos use wiring, which is a derivative of processing, which is a derivative of c.
    5.*)I’d suggest going with an Arduino Uno. (Get the DIP version of you can, just cause) For only $10 more than the kit you get a more fool-proof solution that’s going to be miles easier to work with. The official boards are going to be much more supported in terms of shields and working out of the box with software.

  2. MakerBlock says:

    @Azdle: Dude! Thanks for the in-depth reply!

  3. cyrozap says:

    Chips:
    1. http://www.societyofrobots.com/robotforum/index.php?topic=12269.0

    Power:
    1. The Atmega 328 operates between 1.8-5.5 volts. You’ll need a voltage regulator to use any power source with a voltage greater than 9V.

    2. See above.

    USB:
    1. No.

    Programming:
    1. All Arduinos can be programmed in Assembly, C, and C++. Processing is a Java variant. The NetDuino is a misnomer–it doesn’t use an Atmel chip.

    What you should start with:
    1. I would advise against getting this as your first Arduino.

    2. Get a fully assembled Arduino.

    3. No.

  4. cyrozap says:

    Aw, Azdle beat me to it!

  5. ross says:

    Hi!
    1) AFAIK the “p” doesn’t mean anything signifigant. I think some people leave it off, but they are all referring to the same chip

    2) yes, the arduino has an onboard power regulator

    3) the ftdi cable will work if you get one of the board that doesn’t have one built in. The rbbb is the first example of that, that I recognized in that list. The benefit is that it enables the board to be cheaper, and you can use one cable with many arduinos.

    All of the stock “Arduino” branded boards come with an onboard ftdi chip (or in the case of the uno, something that does the same job)

    4) Yes, all of the things called arduino can be programmed with the arduino programming environment. It is very similar if not identical to processing.

    5) 1,2 and 3.
    My suggestion is to at least go for a form factor that enables you to use shields. Those are circuit board with pins on the bottom that you can drop onto your arduino to enable it to do something. Just like the RAMPS shield for the arduino mega.
    I think the beauty of the whole ecosystem is that you can start with a known good board and work on the programming. I suggest you go for an arduino 328 uno. It is only slightly more expensive than the mintduino, and it is so much more useable.

    If you want to save money, then go for one of the other types of full size arduinos. I seem to recall that seeed studios have one for around $20 They all ought to work, but save the breadboard-only ones until you have a specific breadboard only need.

    I hope that helped!

    _Ross

    PS Thanks for the chocolate! I had a lunch of heat core building and one chocolate square from your last shipment.

  6. MakerBlock says:

    @Ross, @Cyrozap: Thanks guys! A pre-assembled Adruino Uno it is!