Arguably the biggest advantage of the Arduino platform is its ease of use, especially when compared to what microcontroller development looked like before the introduction of the open source board and its associated software development environment. All you need to do is download the IDE for your platform, plug in your Arduino, and you can have code running on the hardware with just a few clicks.
But can it get even easier? [Gabriel Valky] certainly thinks so, which is why he’s developed the cloud-based Gabuino platform. As of right now it only supports the DS213 pocket oscilloscope and LA104 logic analyzer, but he says the code is lightweight enough that it should work with any STM32 board that has the appropriate bootloader. Using Gabuino requires no software to be installed on the computer, just plug in the board, and you’re already half way there.
The trick is that the code editor and compiler have been moved into the cloud, and are accessed through the host computer’s web browser. The web interface also integrates an impressive “Console”, which [Gabriel] likens to the Serial Monitor and Plotter functions of the Arduino IDE, but is actually far more capable. The Gabuino Console is not only bi-directional, but through the use of libraries such as Three.js and WebGL, it’s able to render video output from code running on the microcontroller.
[Gabriel] takes us through some of the capabilities of Gabuino in the video below, and we have to say, it looks pretty impressive. We especially liked the built-in debugging capabilities that let you set breakpoints and examine variables. This plug-and-play approach certainly holds promise for students or beginners, though we think the hardware compatibility will need some work before the project really takes off.
The Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) is one of the most exciting tools in the modern hacker’s arsenal. If you can master the FPGA, you can create hardware devices that not only morph and change based on your current needs, but can power through repetitive tasks at phenomenal rates. The only problem is, working with FPGAs can be a bit intimidating for newbies. One could argue that the technology is waiting on its “Arduino” moment; the introduction of a cheap development board coupled with easy to use software that brings FPGA hacking into the mainstream.
If everything goes according to plan, the wait might soon be over. [Ryan Jacobs] believes his project WebFPGA is the easiest and fastest way to get your hands dirty with this incredible technology. Outwardly the hardware could pass for an Arduino Nano clone, with a bunch of GPIO pins and a couple of LEDs on a small breadboard-friendly PCB. Certainly a no-frills presentation. It’s the software side is where things get interesting: all you need to develop for this FPGA is a modern web browser.
Currently Chrome, Opera, and Edge are supported, even if they’re running on relatively low-end computers. [Ryan] says this makes it much easier and cheaper to roll out FPGA classes in schools, as students can do everything with their existing Chromebooks. As the video after the break shows, you can even get away with using a sufficiently powerful smartphone to do some FPGA hacking on the go.
So what’s the trick? Essentially the heavy-lifting is done remotely: all of the synthesis is performed in their cloud backend, with the final bitstream delivered to the user for installation through WebUSB. If you’re more comfortable on the command line, [Ryan] says they’re currently working on tools which will allow you to perform all the necessary interactions with their cloud service without the browser.
The more critical Hackaday reader will likely be concerned about lock-in. What happens if you buy one of these development boards without a license for the service, or worse, what happens if WebFPGA goes belly-up down the road? To that end, [Ryan] makes it clear that their hardware is completely compatible with existing offline FPGA development tools such as the open source IceStorm.
If you can’t stand the thought of using an application in your browser, you might as well jump ahead to the comments and start flaming.
Still with us? Imagine this scenario. You are at the office, at a client’s site, at a school, or visiting your mom. Suddenly, for some strange reason, you need to edit a hex file. We don’t know why, but if you are reading Hackaday, it isn’t that big of a stretch to imagine it. What do you do? Download and install a hex editor? Maybe you can’t. Or, if it is mom’s computer, maybe you just don’t want to. Your next option is to navigate to HexEd.it.