It seems a bit late to the party, but Microchip has just announced a family of PIC development boards for Apple products. The three offerings include a digital audio development kit, 8-bit accessory development and charging kit, and a 16-bit accessory development and charging kit for iPhone or iPod.
We’ve seen a lot of homebrew Apple addons that use microcontrollers. This not only takes the hardware interface to the next level, it does it with Apple’s blessing. But somehow that doesn’t seem like quite as much fun.
How would you like to have a 3-axis accelerometer, pressure sensor, temperature sensor, RF wireless, and an LCD screen in a development package? What if we told you that you can have it in the form factor of a wristwatch offering from Texas Instruments? How much would you pay for such a device? Quit guessing, you can pick it up for just $49 with an estimated delivery in mid-February of next year.
Our tip-line has been packed with emails about this since it was announced on Monday. The device ships with the firmware to serve as a sports watch with heart rate monitor. The price is pretty good just for that functionality but this package also includes a USB programming and emulation dongle so that you can develop your own firmware. It looks like the included development software is written for Windows but we’re hoping you can get it running on other platforms as well.
The LCD is a segment display, so you won’t see DOOM running on board. That said, we expect your first project to turn this into a wireless controller using the buttons and accelerometer.
If you haven’t checked out SparkFun Electronics’ prototype collection yet, you’re missing out. They unearthed many of their old prototypes and published them to show what kind of mistakes could be made. You’ll see plenty of errors and get hints on what to look for while developing your own hardware. This pairs well with their Design for Manufacture post. Along with the pile of broken board iterations, they also walk through how the company developed. Finally, they specifically cover the individual iterations of the BlueSMiRF.
One of the interesting modules in the gallery that never saw full release was the SparkFun Toys line pictured above. The individual units used the standoffs as the power and data bus. The four posts were arranged so they could only be connected in one orientation: power, ground, TX, and RX. It’s an interesting idea that seems like it might be worth exploring further. SparkFun says that it worked fine, but didn’t feel they had the resources to market it to the intended audience.
A first look from Ars Technica at the newly released Neo FreeRunner phone by OpenMoko reveals some interesting information. There are three different software stacks available to use; the Neo FreeRunner will ship with the GTK-based stack, referred to as om2007.2. It offers conventional smartphone applications, but most importantly, it includes “full root access to a Busybox shell with all of the standard scripting tools like sed and awk”. The ASU stack is what OpenMoko developers are currently working on; there are promises of a more user-friendly experience. The FSO stack, also currently in development, aims to resolve the issues brought up by having different software stacks for the same phone. Since none of the stacks are considered “fully functional”, OpenMoko may have a difficult time attracting a mainstream audience. Hackers may be hampered by the lack of available documentation, although there are resources for OpenMoko enthusiasts, if you just search hard enough. The final conclusion? While OpenMoko may be difficult to use, it compares favorably to competitors such as Google’s Android platform, which is less flexible.