Last summer, I reviewed a modular embedded system for hobbyists, educators and tinkerers called the BUGbase developed by Bug Labs. Reader feedback prompted additional interest in more programmable, relatively inexpensive embedded hardware systems. I have spent some time taking a look at a couple of these solutions and will be sharing my experiences with them throughout this month. Read on for more details.
While the Bug Labs product remains the most approachable to programmers due to its Java interface and relatively easy API, several readers suggested I take a look at less expensive systems that could provide an adequate level of programatic control and flexibility to become more familiar with introductory embedded system development. After evaluating many of these alternatives, I have narrowed my coverage selection down to the following choices:
Gumstix Overo Earth: I'll take a look at the newest and one of the most sophisticated Gumstix motherboards available today.
Gleason Research Handy Board System: Primarily designed for educators and industrial design prototyping, the Handy Board system and related products provide a wide variety of embedded application opportunities to explore.
Arduinos Pro: I will share my experiences with both the standalone Arduino board (available from various suppliers such as Spark Fun) as well as O'Reilly's Arduino Starter Kit.
Bug Labs BUG: I will revisit the Bug Labs BUG which now features a new OS update and new BUG modules including BUGsound and BUGvonHippel.
There were a few others I saw online but didn't have the opportunity for a hands-on evaluation. These include such offerings as the Beagle Board and the Virtual Cogs VC21 Portable Computing Kit (their website was not responding last time I checked). I mention them here for sake of recognizing that other alternatives exist besides the four choices I will be covering each week throughout the month of March.