Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Arduino and Mile High Con

I will be at Mile High Con this weekend. I'm not on any panels or doing any readings. For the second year in a row, I'm just going as a fan. It just worked out that way. I wasn't sure enough I'd have new fiction out to sign up for anything when the deadline came...and went. But I'll be around, so if you have a copy of something I wrote and want it signed, hit me up.

 Some thoughts on Arduino: When I was writing Junkbox Arduino, I did not realize how much I was taking the Arduino IDE and compiler for granted. There are better microcontrollers out there, most notably the NXP LPC1114, a 32 bit ARM device capable of running at 50MHz, and available in a DIP package. It sounds great until you try to get a development environment for it. Just try, I'll wait. Waiting... You can get the non-free one from NXP, windows only, you can get the GNU suite (a big install, whole separate compiler and everything) or you can diddle Clang/LLVM to generate code for it... but libraries? Documentation? It's all fragmentary, and much of it seems to be unfinished. For better or worse, Arduino puts all of that in one convenient glob. (I hope they keep doing that. There's talk of a web based tool, which I can't get behind at all.)

 It's worse if you want to get into programmable logic. There, you're either stuck with closed source, licensed stuff (free as in beer in some cases, but still) or stuff that's reverse engineered and of questionable legality (to say nothing of the fact that it could be weeks or months before API changes are caught up with) Even with old ICs like GALs, the tools are either antique (DOS based) or good but undocumented (Palwiz), and all the programming devices are reverse engineered. If you're wondering why I haven't started a new technical book, this stuff is why. The proprietary BS is on my nerves in a bad way, and I have a lot of questions whether I even could write about these things without stepping on someone's IP if it's not in the datasheet. I got a taste of it with the PATA/IDE project in Junkbox Arduino, and while the ANSI folks were very kind and helpful, (full props to them) I still didn't like it.

 I may have to go back to software books. I can, at least, write about open source projects with impunity. Meantime, I'm starting to make some headway on Brass and Steel: City of Glass, the second installment of the Brass and Steel trilogy. All I can say right now is this: airship collisions are complicated. :)


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