3 June 07

This weekend I made my first forays into robotics. I’ve been reading a lot in preparation:

The options would have been to start at RadioShack, and do a bread-board robot from the Cook, or to get an iRobot Create and start hacking.

Soldering or Hacking?

My software skills are sharper than my hardware skills, so I thought I’d start with Create kit, and build circuits for a later project.

(From a pedagogical perspective, if I were teaching this to kids, I might do it the same way. There’s a lot of instant gratification to be had with the iRobot kit. It beeps and twirls, and interfacing with the LEDs is really easy. Staying motivated is not a challenge.)

I hate Vista

I’m not a Windows guy. I run Ubuntu at work, and use an iBook at home. I can use Windows machines, but I don’t enjoy it.

The iRobot kit comes with WinAVR, a C compiler for the Atmel® ATMega168 microcontroller in the robot, and it’s Windows only. Yes, I could probably have found an avr-gcc port for my Mac, but installing a C compiler from source is not how I wanted to spend the weekend.

Getting everything working on my Vista laptop only took about five and a half hours.

The iRobot kit comes with a CD that has USB drivers for talking to the robot’s command module. Those didn’t want to install under Vista.

Making it Work

Here’s what I wound up doing:

I had tons of problems getting the iRobot Create USB drivers and the WinAVR software working under Vista, but the steps I’ve outlined above are (I think) what got all my problems solved.

In the next article... my first piece of robot code.

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