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Linux-Powered Lego-Like Devices Target Developers

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the plug-and-play dept.

Hardware Hacking 164

An anonymous reader writes "A six-person startup is readying a product resembling nothing so much as a set of electronic Legos for device designers. The idea is to provide a set of snap-together components from which engineers can build 'anything,' the company claims, without having to learn solid state electronics. Both hardware and software (Linux/Java phoneME/OSGi) are open source, so that over time, the Lego box will grow, the company hopes. Initially, there's an ARM11-powered base with built-in wifi, and modules for camera, GPS, motion detector, LCD display, keyboard, touchscreen, and stereo speakers. Ooh, and a mysterious 'teleporter,' too."

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Do you program them in Logo? (4, Funny)

Apple Acolyte (517892) | more than 6 years ago | (#21246303)

Haha. It's a joke!

Re:Do you program them in Logo? (0, Redundant)

ady1 (873490) | more than 6 years ago | (#21246339)

Its LEGO, you insensitive clod!

Re:Do you program them in Logo? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21247517)

Grow up, get a real job, and just buy an iphone. There is seriously no room for hobbyists here. Everything is shifting towards black boxes and it is actually a good thing. With more blackbox technology run by competent tech companies we can actually have a coherent and stable technology infrastructure. Windows, for instance, was never the problem, it was the loose amount of software that could be run on it without any checks, and the pc industry breaking functionality. But seriously back to the point, what is the point of all this? You want portable, just get an apple product. Don't fuck with anything like the nokia tablets or anything like that. Technology will be able to flourish and at the same time be orderly and 'just work' if we just stuck to coherency.

Re:Do you program them in Logo? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21247679)

Dude, I hope that's not a real joke. You do remember that Legos offered a Logo interface, right? we were writing that shit when I was in like 4th grade. It was awesome. I don't remember exactly how it worked, but instead of moving around the little mark ('turtle') you'd send commands to the ports into which the Legos were plugged. The only real stuff I remember was one or two electric motors to spin stuff (I remember our merry-go-round) and both force (a button) and light sensors.
god, that shit was off the heezy.

so your joke was spot on, bro.

SLASHDOT SUX0RZ (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21246305)

+10, Furfags GTFO (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21246739)

anal bliss

Right.... (4, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#21246319)

But who's gonna wanna develop a hardware- and software-based solution from pieces called 'BugModules'? I mean, if I'm a developer, do I want to use something that has 'BUG' right in the name? That doesn't instill any confidence in the product, if you ask me...

Re:Right.... (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#21246373)

I mean...imagine going to your customer and saying "Yeah, and we built it outta BUGS!!!!"

Re:Right.... (4, Interesting)

Gospodin (547743) | more than 6 years ago | (#21247381)

Sell it as environmentalism. "We take discarded bugs from software around the world, run them through our industrial-grade recycling plant, and turn it into pure, post-consumer recycled BUGS(r)."

Re:Right.... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21247435)

"Yeah, and we built it outta BUGS!!!!"

Cue ASP.NET jokes in 3... 1... 2...

Re:Right.... (0, Redundant)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 6 years ago | (#21248399)

"Yeah, and we built it outta BUGS!!!!"

Cue ASP.NET jokes in 3... 1... 2...
Your countdown seems a bit buggy ...

Re:Right.... (2, Interesting)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 6 years ago | (#21246465)

Hm.. a GPS module.. Who wants to bet that someone makes a product called a "bug tracker" :)

Re:Right.... (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#21246493)

Or ... Bugzilla!

Oh, wait....

Re:Right.... (5, Insightful)

slashdotlurker (1113853) | more than 6 years ago | (#21246777)

Don't worry. The best selling digital multimeters in many labs are from a company called "Fluke" (German I think).

Re:Right.... (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 6 years ago | (#21247313)

I think that pales in comparison to a popular consumer electronic whose trade name sounds like a euphemism for penis.

Re:Right.... (1)

zurtle (785688) | more than 6 years ago | (#21247509)

Is that right? I remember as a junior I had to find the instruction set for an obsolete signal generator. The only source was from an English electronics company. [wayne-kerr.co.uk]

Maybe your popular penile electronics euphemism (P-PEE) may be serviced here?

corporate funnies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21248649)

How about old Wang laboratories on Pecker road? (littleton mass IIRC)
There used to be a real funny one in midtown Atlanta (the metrosexual area of town), I kid thee not, S&M Clutch and Brake company.

Re:Right.... (1)

tehmorph (844326) | more than 6 years ago | (#21247725)

And very nice they are, too. I personally could see these things taking off with developers- especially the younger generation, especially if the interface is nice and polished.

Re:Right.... (1)

KudyardRipling (1063612) | more than 6 years ago | (#21247447)

How about DOS for Dummies? A cardinal rule of marketing was violated by insulting the potential customer. What out there does NOT have its corresponding For Dummies(tm) book nowadays?

Re:Right.... (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 6 years ago | (#21248435)

What out there does NOT have its corresponding For Dummies(tm) book nowadays?
Is there a "Slashdot for Dummies"?

Re:Right.... (1)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 6 years ago | (#21247523)

Agreed - much better to use off-the-shelf hardware and tell your customer you sat in front of Gutsy Gibbon (or Flatulent Flamingo..whatever..) to develop the firmware - much more professional

So.. (2, Insightful)

Richard.Tao (1150683) | more than 6 years ago | (#21246331)

Is this like and adult open source version of lego mindstorm? I remember loving that as a kid, never really figured out how to make it do anything, though....

Re:So.. (4, Funny)

GiMP (10923) | more than 6 years ago | (#21246559)

Is this like and adult open source version of lego mindstorm? I remember loving that as a kid, never really figured out how to make it do anything, though....


They weren't even released until 1998. You either weren't a kid, or I have good reason to feel old.

Re:So.. (1)

satoshi1 (794000) | more than 6 years ago | (#21246651)

I was totally a kid in '98, when I first got my mindstorms. Graduated from my elementary school in the 6th grade in 2000. Currently in my second year of college. I know I shouldn't, but I totally feel old now realizing that I was playing with Mindstorms nearly a decade ago now.

Re:So.. (4, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 6 years ago | (#21246671)

To do: build a mindstorm robot that chases kids off your lawn.

Re:So.. (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 6 years ago | (#21246809)

To do: build a mindstorm exoskeleton that assists you in crushing small countries and chasing kids off your lawn

Re:So.. (0)

justfred (63412) | more than 6 years ago | (#21247419)

I for one welcome our Lego mindstorm exoskeleton overlords.

Re:So.. (4, Funny)

glittalogik (837604) | more than 6 years ago | (#21247891)

Next project:
- Build an adjustable motorized ramp, so your robot can go uphill both ways.
- Find some snow.

Re:So.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21246853)

They weren't even released until 1998. You either weren't a kid, or I have good reason to feel old.
You think you feel old? When we wanted to make something "similar" when I was a kid we would have to do it with cam controlled clockworks. Have any idea how much time that would take? How much wax, assorted metals, clay,,,,? Access to an anvil, forge, crucible, oven, files,,,,,. How many complete tear downs and redos? So mostly we just took our pocket knives, carved some stuff out and used our imaginations. Now get off my pile of wood shavings!

Re:So.. (1)

SQLGuru (980662) | more than 6 years ago | (#21248171)

Erector sets......that little red and white gear box ruled.....

Layne

Re:So.. (1)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | more than 6 years ago | (#21247297)

Or he's still a kid and he just thinks that he's not.

Re:So.. (1)

merreborn (853723) | more than 6 years ago | (#21248317)

Is this like and adult open source version of lego mindstorm? I remember loving that as a kid, never really figured out how to make it do anything, though....
They weren't even released until 1998. You either weren't a kid, or I have good reason to feel old.


I saw a demo of something functionally equivalent to Lego mindstorms in 1992, in summer school in Palo Alto. The 1998 launch date for mindstorms suggests that it wasn't the mindstorms brand, but *someone* had something similar back then (and presumably earlier).

Of course, being as this was in Palo Alto, it may have been some Stanford students testing a prototype on their potential target audience.

Re:So.. (1)

TheThiefMaster (992038) | more than 6 years ago | (#21248629)

I'm 22, in '98 I was 13. Most definitely a kid.

Enjoy feeling old.

Re:So.. (2, Interesting)

Kamots (321174) | more than 6 years ago | (#21246735)

Mmm... adult?

We used the lego-mindstorms in my grad-level robotics class. We were using a C compiler for them (think it, and the OS we were loading were open source even), and as long as you remembered that you didn't have any floating point... (i.e., 5/2*2 would be 4 not 5...) and that you had very limited stack space with no protection (use more than 1k stack and you were overwriting your heap...) you could do pretty much whatever you wanted. For example we were doing onboard inverse kinematics and pathfinding algorithms. Then you add in the ability to talk to them... and you start being able to get them to perform cooperative tasks.

What I found most interesting about them was due to thier "legotastic" nature, it become very apparent how much influence the physical design has on your software design... and how difficult software problems could be changed with minor hardware tweaks and vice-versa. Having the ability to modify the physical design of the robot taught a *lot* more than merely being able to work with software did (as some work we later did with some Aibo's showed).

Re:So.. (2, Informative)

Tetsujin (103070) | more than 6 years ago | (#21247817)

and as long as you remembered that you didn't have any floating point... (i.e., 5/2*2 would be 4 not 5...)
That's actually true whether you have floating point or not... Not a policy I really love but it makes sense from an efficiency standpoint...

Adult Lego (0, Troll)

CheeseburgerBrown (553703) | more than 6 years ago | (#21246781)

Now there is an idea worthy of speculation -- modular porn.

Capella (1)

Prysorra (1040518) | more than 6 years ago | (#21246347)

Remember those toys?

This makes me think of an adult version of that. Just sayin'.

Re:Capella (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21246613)

Re:Capella (1)

bendodge (998616) | more than 6 years ago | (#21247377)

I think you mean http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capsela [wikipedia.org]
I was playing with some of those just the other day (got tons of them from various sources). They are some of the coolest toys ever made. It is a shame, though, that the new owner has introduced funky colors. And that it costs a fortune to buy a large enough collection to really have fun.

Attn: Mods (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21246349)

This is just another article to prove that Stevie [slashdot.org] doesn't know what he's talking about. Mod down.

Stevie, don't you get it? You'll never amount to anything. We don't like you. Nobody likes you. Nobody will hire you--shouldn't that tell you something? We just modded your last three posts Troll just for the hell of it! KILL YOURSELF!

Yes, but... (3, Funny)

crowbarsarefornerdyg (1021537) | more than 6 years ago | (#21246365)

Oh, wait. It DOES run Linux!

The plural of Lego (4, Informative)

lobiusmoop (305328) | more than 6 years ago | (#21246375)

is Lego. (or Lego Bricks [faqs.org] to be _really_ picky)

Re:The plural of Lego (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21246407)

For anyone who watched family guy last night:

Commence the beat down followed by the "It's the law, asshole" stamp.

Re:The plural of Lego (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21246433)

Uh, I meant Robot Chicken, not Family Guy

Re:The plural of Lego (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21246517)

If you have to be picky then it is actually LEGO (all caps)

Re:The plural of Lego (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21246635)

LEGO my Eggo!

Re:The plural of Lego (2, Funny)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 6 years ago | (#21247099)

Legoose?

What's good for legoose is good for le gander?

Re:The plural of Lego (1)

jcuervo (715139) | more than 6 years ago | (#21248243)

Legoose?
Anyone else read that and immediately think "legose.cx"?

Yes, but (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21246381)

will it blend?

Without Learning? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21246399)

Great, now so-called engineers can build things without knowing how they work, doesn't sound like an engineer to me, more like a simple programmer, more specifically, a java programmer. Nothing more than a glorified typist.

Don't worry about the 'complex' stuff, let java do it FOR you.

No need to learn electronics, let other people do it for you. Just snap together the components.

I look dread the new crop of programmers and 'engineers' being 'output' by the educational system.

Re:Without Learning? (-1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 6 years ago | (#21246479)

"Great, now so-called engineers can build things without knowing how they work, doesn't sound like an engineer to me, more like a simple programmer, more specifically, a java programmer. Nothing more than a glorified typist."

That would explain VISTA!

Re:Without Learning? (5, Insightful)

SigILL (6475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21246653)

No need to learn electronics, let other people do it for you. Just snap together the components.

Actually, this is ideal for prototyping.

MOD DOWN! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21246687)

Mods... really... you should know by now... MOD DOWN!!!

The parent is just our well-known Stevie [slashdot.org] once again spouting off about things that he knows nothing about.

Stevie: KILL YOURSELF YOU STUPID FUCKTARD. There is nothing for you. We won't let you have anything. Wherever you go, whatever you do, we will find you. Look at your comment history you stupid piece of shit. We just modded your last three posts Troll just because we can, because it amuses us to piss all over anything you do. That's what we want for you. We want you to fail. We want you to be frustrated. We want to show you that, no matter what your own egotistical view is of yourself, we can sh*t all over anything you do whenever we want and there's nothing that you can do about it.

KILL YOURSELF YOU WORTHLESS FUCKTARD and quit wasting our bandwidth!

Re:Without Learning? (3, Funny)

edittard (805475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21246709)

Bah! Off the shelf standard screws? In my day each one was individually designed to fit. And the apprentices had to cut the threads using their own teeth. If they'd grown any yet, otherwise, better toughen up them gums, kid.

Re:Without Learning? (5, Insightful)

kebes (861706) | more than 6 years ago | (#21246713)

And I suppose you wired your house yourself, then? You would never use an ethernet card without first fully understanding all its circuitry? And you programmed all your apps yourself, in assembly?

There's nothing wrong with using high-level programming languages, software libraries, and pre-built hardware. Using these pre-built components to build a useful device is no different than combining servers, routers, and wiring to build a network. You do *not* have to be intimately familiar with the low-level details of all the hardware in order to combine it together in a useful way.

These hardware modules looks like they could be very fun and very useful. A great way for a DIY person to put together a fun toy, or an inexpensive solution to a problem, etc. It could also be quite useful for people who want to prototype new device ideas without commissioning expensive custom components.

No one is arguing that the existence of these modular devices will replace the need for dedicated hardware for many applications (and the associated specialized engineers who design that hardware). The idea instead would be to lower the barrier to creating novel devices, so that hobbyists and non-specialists can try out new ideas that would have been prohibitively expensive otherwise.

I know many people bemoan this "Cult of the Amateur [wikipedia.org] " (e.g. Wikipedia, blogs, citizen journalism, high-level programming languages, etc.); but to me the whole "point" of technology in general (and computers in particular) is to reduce the barriers, so that "ordinary people" can do things that previously only a "selected few" were allowed to do. I find that this push towards community-driven work and lower barriers to technological progress and education are very much good things.

Re:Without Learning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21246831)

And I suppose you wired your house yourself, then? You would never use an ethernet card without first fully understanding all its circuitry? And you programmed all your apps yourself, in assembly?

Yes, I did wire my house..it's nice to have an electricians license.

I do program in assembly, I learned on a 68HC11, I learned to program small and fast code. I built most of the support circuitry myself, a keyboard reader, LCD module, extra RAM, DAC, etc.

"You do *not* have to be intimately familiar with the low-level details of all the hardware in order to combine it together in a useful way."

OK, I agree, but simply mashing together some technologies does not an engineer make.

Re:Without Learning? (2, Interesting)

glindsey (73730) | more than 6 years ago | (#21247309)

You do *not* have to be intimately familiar with the low-level details of all the hardware in order to combine it together in a useful way."

OK, I agree, but simply mashing together some technologies does not an engineer make.
Perhaps not, but it's a damned good start. I was just thinking about the world my seven-month-old daughter will be growing up in. Computers are ubiquitous, nearly throwaway, and run extremely complex operating systems that abstract out the hardware as much as possible. Electronics of any complexity require you to use surface-mount components on two or four-layer PCBs, well beyond the breadboard-and-solder level. There's no real analogue to the DOS command line and GW-BASIC I grew up learning to program on. Assuming she grows up being a computer geek like her father (a huge assumption, but still something to consider), what's out there to honestly get her interested in electronics or computing?

I came up with a concept about a year back that was similar to this, although cheaper and cruder in concept: modules a bit more complicated than Mindstorms, all cubes in shape, communicating and getting power along a sort of wire mesh using a serial protocol favoring fault tolerance over speed. A CPU module could query everything on the bus to see what is connected, get responses back, and interface with a PC, which would present a list of the modules and the functions each of them can provide. (You know, like object-oriented programming, but with physical objects.)

Unfortunately, I don't have the time, money, or mechanical/electrical skills for such an endeavor, but that's the sort of electronics and programming lab I would have killed for as a kid. You get the cost of each module down to around one to five bucks (depending on the module's capabilities) and you have a totally expandable, programmable building system.

Re:Without Learning? (2, Interesting)

Indiana Joe (715695) | more than 6 years ago | (#21248127)

There's no real analogue to the DOS command line and GW-BASIC I grew up learning to program on.

Maybe on your computer there isn't... but I can double-click Terminal and drop straight into bash. From there I can launch vi/emacs, code in C, Java, perl, python, or ruby, and then compile and launch the program, all from the command line. I admit there isn't a Basic interpreter - should there be one?

Re:Without Learning? (1)

obarel (670863) | more than 6 years ago | (#21248271)

10 LINE(100,100)-(200,200)

Now do it in C, Java, perl, python or ruby.

Then explain it in a single sentence.

Re:Without Learning? (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 6 years ago | (#21248567)

You forgot the SCREEN 2 to switch to graphics mode. You cannot draw lines in text mode.

Re:Without Learning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21248599)

But can you write a simple graphical game from scratch in any of those languages from scratch without resorting to Google or a CS education?

GW-BASIC was of immense value in making young people (like myself) interested in programming for one reason - it was easy to learn and easy produce results which were flashy and interesting.

When I was 10, I wrote a program in GW-BASIC which approximated the random swimming behavior of a sea monkey, all using the simple built-in functions and the integrated helpfile. I'd never had any computer science education of any kind - this was 1985.

Doing the same in Java would probably be easiest out of all the languages you mentioned, and even that would require digging through the impenetrable and massive list of functions in Java, as well as Googling for a few hours to find some good examples which could make clear to you the fundamentals of the language.

His point was that there isn't that easy little thing sitting there to attract the attention of a child around anymore - at least nowhere near as easy to use.

Re:Without Learning? (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 6 years ago | (#21247329)

OK, I agree, but simply mashing together some technologies does not an engineer make.

Did anyone say that? No. Nice strawman, though. You knocked it down valiantly.

I, however, can only assume you are, yourself, an engineer. And evidently a rather defensive one...

Re:Without Learning? (1)

moogied (1175879) | more than 6 years ago | (#21246719)

Ya hes right..

the second people stop reinventing the wheel the world wilL END!

Eventually it will become so complex that learning both the higher levels of engineering(See robots, networks, etc) and the lower levels(EE, Circuit desgins, etc etc) will not be possible.

No need to learn electronics, let other people do it for you. Just snap together the components.

EXACTLY RIGHT. Stop working about electronics, concentrate on making impressives designs.

It sounds to me like someone got an EE degree, and now wish they had simply major'd in robotics.

Re:Without Learning? (5, Funny)

RManning (544016) | more than 6 years ago | (#21246741)

I have mod points today. I was going to mod your post but I couldn't find 'Bitter' or 'Grizzled'.

Re:Without Learning? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21246747)

Great, now so-called engineers can build things without knowing how they work, doesn't sound like an engineer to me, more like a simple programmer, more specifically, a java programmer. Nothing more than a glorified typist.


That's right! How dare anyone presume to build something without the proper background? I would never consider a project that didn't allow me to design my own programming language, write a compiler, write and compile my own operating system, and all running on silicon I designed and fabricated, after mining the silicon myself mind you, up hill both ways in the snow!

How about you get over yourself? You do not need to be a professional engineer or computer scientist just to touch hardware or code. Allowing more people to work with hardware on a budget is a great tool for students, hobbyists, and even engineers. Exposing more people to these fields is a good thing; you don't need to be a professional chef to cook dinner, you don't need a degree in literature to write your blog, and you don't need to be a professional engineer before you can touch any piece of hardware.

Re:Without Learning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21247165)

Oh cute little Stevie [slashdot.org] , you're so funny when you try to sound like you know what you're talking about. BUT YOU DON'T.

Look at your posting history you stupid piece of shit. Look at it. Hardly a single comment has gone by in the last three months without us being able to turn it into a way to insult you. Do you honestly think you'll ever be able to get away from us? Do you honestly think we'll ever stop watching for you? We modded your last three posts Troll just because we can, because nobody likes you. Nobody ever has. Nobody ever will. Face it: We have more money, we have more social connections, we know more system administrators, we know more managers, we have people in insurance and investing and banks and in military and in government. We can find you wherever you go.

And wherever you go there will we be. We will be there just waiting to SHIT ALL OVER ANYTHING YOU DO!

So KILL YOURSELF Stevie [slashdot.org] ! It's the only thing left for you to do.

Don't worry little Stevie. You can always run off into the mountains... and then we'll just hunt you down and kill you where there won't be anyone to see, hear, or even care that you're dead.

Not like anyone ever did anyway. You're so fucking worthless you should have died in a fire a long time ago.

There are different levels of organisation (4, Insightful)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#21246755)

If you're trying to produce an artificial intelligence to run the robot then the low level electronics aren't terribly important to you.
 

Re:There are different levels of organisation (1)

wilder_card (774631) | more than 6 years ago | (#21247729)

Ah, but maybe the low-level electronics are important. There are some good arguments that true intelligence can't be produced with standard digital circuits. For one thing, neurons are radically different in operation. I'd find some good links, but my neurons are misfiring at the moment.

Re:There are different levels of organisation (1)

smellsofbikes (890263) | more than 6 years ago | (#21247855)

>If you're trying to produce an artificial intelligence to run the robot then the low level electronics aren't terribly important to you.

Right up until the moment when a power spike caused by a big relay opening causes the robot arm to punch a hole through a wall you used to like...

Which, granted, is a good time for the observers, but maybe not what the programmer was hoping to accomplish.

(Under some design circumstances, power relays should have a nearby diode to shunt the back-EMF caused by the relay inductance. If your black box design doesn't happen to include that diode, and you don't think low-level electronics are terribly important, you could find out some very exciting things. I speak from personal experience on this particular subject.)

it'll just be more accessable (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21246799)

No, it will make 'buliding' stuff available to a larger audience.

The engineers will still have to learn C, BSIM and low pass filters. The market might insist on hiring cheaper, non-engineers in the positions formerly occupied by engineers, but engineers will still be engineers as long as there is a demand for them.

Re:Without Learning? (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 6 years ago | (#21246841)

I'll go with the "prototypes" idea. I can actually deal with a lot of basic electronics, but being able to get the concept right and present it to someone that's paying for the work before going though an otherwise tough prototype development phase has plenty of value. There's nothing more annoying than a miscommunication about the functionality and having to rework the project.

Re:Without Learning? (1)

langelgjm (860756) | more than 6 years ago | (#21246939)

I figured someone would post exactly this comment. I sort of had an urge to mod you down as a killjoy, but you are partially right. I know from experience how much more you learn by building things from scratch than using some sort of kit.

But the benefit this sort of kit can have is to lower the barrier to entry for more people. Maybe this kit will get people excited and show them the potential of what's possible to build; then, if they go on, they can learn the details. People have to start somewhere. Or is LEGO itself too simplistic for you? Sure, some kids rebuild junk cars for fun, but others don't have the time, space, or resources to do that. LEGO is a great way to get kids interested in mechanics; most of them might just end up building pirate ships, but there are always a few that take it further.

Re:Without Learning? (2, Informative)

MythMoth (73648) | more than 6 years ago | (#21247037)

Good programmers are good programmers on any platform. Even ones you think are crappy.

Bad programmers think they're good programmers, think pretty much everyone else is a bad programmer, and thinks that platforms matter more than they do.

Re:Without Learning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21248283)

Grow up you asshole. I bet you don't understand the minutiae of every single device you use in your work from its interface all the way down to the physics beneath it. There's a little something called abstraction that you must have ignored when you were at school.

Re:Without Learning? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21248447)

Yeah, I hope you finish writing your string function "class" (not 'String' of course) before the end of the month. I'll just use the one that exists in the JDK for now...

Cheers,

A java developer

Stuff of Nighmares (1)

wsanders (114993) | more than 6 years ago | (#21246403)

That big picture at the top is the stuff of friggin' nightmares:

http://linuxdevices.com/files/misc/buglabs_community_legos-sm.jpg [linuxdevices.com]

"How come I don't hear nothin' when I connect my speakers to my GPS? I tried calling support on the video camera and got no answer!"

Bugs versus features (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21246415)

So it truly isn't a bug - it's a feature...

Fantastic (0, Troll)

divided421 (1174103) | more than 6 years ago | (#21246427)

Now we can have open-source linux fanatics...graduating from elementary school.

TLG Lego(tm) Bricks? Or BugLabs Bricks? (1)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 6 years ago | (#21246437)

The Lego Group has a trademark on Lego(tm) brand plastic building bricks. Maybe better to call BugLabs' products building bricks?

Gumstick (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21246463)

These are nice, but at what additional cost over something like the Gumstix (http://gumstix.com/)? For a kid or someone who really does not know computers, etc., these might be good. However for a hobby, I would think the gumstix and similar (even a WRT54GL) would be a cheaper alternative.

The real proof will be the software and the marketing. If they can get the price low enough and can market it to smart teenagers as the "must have", and if they can get the software easy-enough for entry level developers, it might (should?) succeed.

Re:Gumstick (2, Interesting)

megaditto (982598) | more than 6 years ago | (#21246783)

Gumstix aren't exactly cheap (seems to be in the $100+ range for anything useful).

It's a little sad that people have to pay that much when all they really need is a $5 PIC and a few throwaway components.

Some assembly required (1)

overshoot (39700) | more than 6 years ago | (#21246957)

It's a little sad that people have to pay that much when all they really need is a $5 PIC and a few throwaway components.
You still have to put that PIC in a circuit. Alternately, you could let Microchip do it for you [microchip.com]

Re:Gumstick (1)

DrSkwid (118965) | more than 6 years ago | (#21247715)

try an AVR they are pennies not dollars

Oop! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21246545)

Douglas Coupland got there first [wikipedia.org] , well sort of anyway.

cool! (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 6 years ago | (#21246591)

I'm the proud owner of a slug [nslu2-linux.org] (ARM + 32M ram + ethernet + 2 USB ports for $100). I love it, but the memory limits my options. This looks like what I've been dreaming of (excluding NSFW stuff).

Don't combine the two, VW will sue (1)

DigitalReverend (901909) | more than 6 years ago | (#21247385)

Can you even put a slug and bug together?

Building blocks need a good foundation (4, Insightful)

smellsofbikes (890263) | more than 6 years ago | (#21246715)

Speaking from personal experience, this sort of building-block approach to electronics can let a person down. I've designed a bunch of electronics, small simple chunks that do things like translate a logic-level signal to a relay that can switch ovens or computer-controlled A/D converters. By themselves, they work, but when you start just stacking them together like black boxes, their cumulative errors start to bite you -- or you put in a black box that contains a switching regulator and the line noise on the output wipes out everything downstream. If you don't know what they're actually doing, you don't know what their side-effects are going to be. The amount of post-regulator processing required to make a switching regulator look like a good, pure voltage source would be bulky enough to make that black box significantly less useful, and all that processing might not be required for 95% of possible loads.

Likewise, my coworkers do analog design of IC's, and even though we have a design reuse library for the company, every design they do is basically ab initio because another similar design does something they don't need and as a result uses up vital silicon space, and they can't simply remove just that bit.

A talented designer could use building blocks to build something great. A lousy designer could use those same blocks to build something dangerously unsafe -- they facilitate only design, not quality. Speaking as a lousy designer, I think it's a much better idea to actually do the work in analyzing the problem and coming up with an adequate design, and the good designers, in my experience, already *have* a head full of black boxes, for which they understand the limitations and how they interact.

Re:Building blocks need a good foundation (1)

overshoot (39700) | more than 6 years ago | (#21246903)

Likewise, my coworkers do analog design of IC's, and even though we have a design reuse library for the company, every design they do is basically ab initio because another similar design does something they don't need and as a result uses up vital silicon space, and they can't simply remove just that bit.
Speaking as one of those analog IC designers, you're about half right. There's a good bit of NIH, too.

A talented designer could use building blocks to build something great. A lousy designer could use those same blocks to build something dangerously unsafe -- they facilitate only design, not quality. Speaking as a lousy designer, I think it's a much better idea to actually do the work in analyzing the problem and coming up with an adequate design, and the good designers, in my experience, already *have* a head full of black boxes, for which they understand the limitations and how they interact.
If design were the only obstacle, I might be more in agreement. However, fabrication is quite different today than in the through-hole DIP days I grew up with. Homebrew design and fabrication of multilayer SMT boards is just not feasible, so a realistic experimenter is going to use a relatively standard kit. The alternatives are far too much of the "doing it the hard way just to prove that I can," like smelting your own iron for a backyard smithy.

Re:Building blocks need a good foundation (1)

smellsofbikes (890263) | more than 6 years ago | (#21247787)

Well, okay, I admit I've smelted iron in my back yard... but it's amazing how much you can pack on a two-layer board if you're patient, and circuit board plotters/CNC mills have come down dramatically in price. Once you have that kind of technology, you can start doing multilayer boards by stacking them, if you're willing to deal with the frustrations of having to hand-solder every via (and in the case of stacked boards, not being able to rely on contact on one inside-facing board, although that's okay if it's a shielding ground plane and you can get a wire soldered onto the edge.) But given that you can get multilayer SMT fabbed for you for $30 for a small board, it's hard to justify DIY.
Obviously it depends on circuit complexity, but designing a recording electrocardiogram that writes FAT32 to a hard drive -- a nice mix of analog and digital -- is easily manageable using homebrew design, free software, and cheap board fab houses.
(I personally think that SMT is *far* easier to work with than through-hole, but then again I have a cheap stereomicroscope.)

Connector problems (3, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#21246775)

Brick-like things with multi pin connectors are usually a headache. Either one side of the connector has to float, or you need a very rigid mounting system. Military systems tend to be built with boxes that you shove into a slot, and even with military grade components, heavy latching systems, and high insertion forces, those connectors are a trouble spot. That's why you don't often see things like that in consumer products.

Cute idea, though, if they get all the mechanical details right.

Pricing (1)

bperkins (12056) | more than 6 years ago | (#21246807)

I've been following this and it looks interesting, but I'm waiting to hear about pricing.

I'm afraid I'm not going to like what I hear, though.

First release bug free? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21246817)

How's that going to work? The only way they can ship a product bug free is not to ship the product... Maybe their marketing guys should have spent a little more time coming up with a name...

Home automation: the garage just got cheaper (1)

overshoot (39700) | more than 6 years ago | (#21246821)

Keep in mind that this kind of platform is what we need to get useful home automation -- not some beast that requires a WinTel box to have 24/7/365 uptime and outage recovery.

Currently, the ante is just too high for most home-automation experimentation -- and I speak as one who actually works with the applications department of a semiconductor manufacturer.

Reminds me of the Gakken Denshi Experimenter's Kit (1)

bitrex (859228) | more than 6 years ago | (#21246895)

This [retrothing.com] was a big improvement over the Radio Shack kits that used springs and jumper wires.

Slashdot users are fucking bastards. (1)

1337 Apple Zealot (720421) | more than 6 years ago | (#21246901)

You are all fucking obese nerds who vandalize wikipedia.

Could someone explain (2, Insightful)

slashdotlurker (1113853) | more than 6 years ago | (#21246919)

How does this differ from LabVIEW / G programming ?

Misleading title! (1)

StefanJ (88986) | more than 6 years ago | (#21247407)

Am I the only one who, on reading "Lego-like devices target developers" pictured clunky little robots chasing terrified geeks around their labs?

Official Website (1)

achillean (1031500) | more than 6 years ago | (#21247663)

Here's the link to the official website of BugLabs [buglabs.net] .
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