Sunday, May 5, 2013

Installing the Gertboard Software and ATmega328P

First I would like to mention a site for anyone new to linux. I consider myself a newbie although I ran a multi-line Dial-up BBS (1200Bps!) on DOS back in the late 80's early 90's and used a linux shell account to import Internet e-mail and Usenet newsgroups for my users.   Now that I am starting with the Pi,  I have to learn the basics all over again.  Anyhow this site is a really quick read, just over an hour and I think I am up to speed with the basic shell commands again.  Someone with no experience with CLI might take a bit longer, but it is a free site and very informative. I  Absolutely recommend it to the beginner. (I am now using the sister site for Python ..looks like it will take a bit longer to complete, but just  as "easy going"!)
Now for what I have been doing the past few days with the Raspberry Pi.  I have fully installed the Gertboard and all of the related software.  It has taken a lot of research and hunting since the software and details of the complete setup are in several different sites.  I read and did ALL of the sample projects in the user manual. (Python Samples, not the "C".  I also got both the RPi.GPIO and the WiringPi for Python versions working so I could try all the examples!)

Not knowing Unix very well, was quite a learning experience.  The hardest part was actually getting the ATmega up and running properly with the Arduino IDE. Not at all like installing an arduino ATMega (voltage is different as well - 3.3v not 5v!)  I was at a loss a couple of times, A complete brick wall with no possible fix!   But managed to "learn" why it wasn't working properly and how to get it running... A couple times I thought, as others do all the time, that I had a bricked or burnt out chip or board.  (yes, smoking equipment was involved once again!)  I didn't take the easy way out and ask on a forum.  I would examine the software, see what it was actually supposed to do, find all the associated files and settings and make it work.  I did this a couple times and think I learned so much more about the actual hardware than I could by following a lesson plan. (even got minicom up to monitor the GPIO UART..nice. a must have tool! Don't skip this one.)
As mentioned above, I am now delving into the Python programming aspect of the board.  Also plan to take a few breaks and practice connecting it to different non-standard sensors  that I plan to use in my grand project and see what I can get it to do.  With the pin assignment of the ATmega a little different and the voltage also different, it is going to take quite a bit more work on my part just to get things working right.  Most arduino code won't run straight on this device, has to be re-written just to get it working.
With all of this in mind. I would not recommend this set up for the absolute beginner that wants to plug in and go. If you plan to learn it complete... it is worth setting up and VERY rewarding.  A couple hints,  following everything step-by-step!  Don't skip anything.  Print out the documents... IN COLOR!  It does make a difference.  When following schematics, align the board and diagrams the same way.  Don't make assumptions, check and double check!
well, back to the books!

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