NEW PRODUCT – mbed + extras – LPC1768 development board [v5.1]
NEW PRODUCT – mbed + extras – LPC1768 development board [v5.1]. The mbed is a tool for rapid prototyping with microcontrollers using the beefy LPC1768 ARM Cortex M3 chip. While it looks like a classic breadboard-friendly breakout board, this dev board has a few tricks up its sleeve. First of all, underneath the PCB is a second LPC chip which acts as the programmer: when plugging into a USB port the mbed shows up as a flash drive and programs can be ‘dragged’ onto it for uploading. This makes it easy to program without an external device, and makes bricking impossible. There’s also a bunch of indicator LEDs, and a little flash storage chip as well.
Writing code for the mbed is a little different than you may be used to. Instead of downloading the IDE and installing it locally, the user must instead visit the http://mbed.org website and use the web-based ‘cloud’ programming system. Since the board is programmed via drag-n-drop, no software is installed. The good news is that it means its easy to work on anywhere you are just by logging on, and there’s a vibrant social network sharing code on the mbed site. The bad news is that Internet access is required to work on a project.
New users can get started with mbed tools in 60 seconds, by plugging in an mbed microcontroller, going to the mbed.org website to sign up, and downloading and running a “Hello World!” binary just like saving to a USB flash drive. Compiling a first program takes only 60 seconds more; Launch the browser-based compiler, create a new template project, click ‘compile’ to build and download the binary – there is nothing to configure or install, and everything works on Windows, Mac, or Linux.
For experienced users, mbed provides a fast way to create proof-of-concept designs in the early stages of development. For developers using older microcontrollers, discrete logic, or even those new to the industry, mbed removes the barriers to the world of modern 32-bit microcontrollers.
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There are also options for using a locally installed compiler/toolchain instead of the online tools; ARM gcc for instance works fine, it just takes a bit more work than the zero work it takes to use the awesome online tools.
Interesting – a couple years ago, you wrote a somewhat critical post about the mbed, due to the closed-source nature of the dev tools. Did you have a change of heart?
I used the mbed for a project a year or so ago, and found the overall development experience very pleasant. The web-based tools are much less trouble to deal with than installing and maintaining code on your local system. And it was really handy a couple times to hop on and add some new functionality while waiting in a coffee shop with my laptop.
It is annoying that the source for the runtime library is not available – I’ve had a couple of nagging bugs with serial I/O I think I could have tracked down if I’d been able to look at the code. As it stands, I may wind up going directly to the hardware with my own code if I can’t find a work-around.
When you do a New Product post, could you save us a click and include the price in the post?
hi j! there are enough options now we think for offline use (export projects and compile offline using GCC for example). we’ll continue to encourage anyone to consider open source because that’s part of our mission – but we also understand that it might not make sense for everything/everyone. you can export to GCC (ARM embedded) now and that’s open source and what kevin here at adafruit uses 🙂 ARM also seems to have hired one of the people who was pushing for open source libraries, so we think as they’ve previously said they’re opening up more and more (http://mbed.org/users/emilmont/)
“Our goal with mbed is to enable a consistent and stable fully integrated development platform that just works. This helps provide a consistent context for development, code sharing, and questions and answers with other developers that helps you be more productive, especially when prototyping.
However, the mbed C/C++ SDK used with the mbed Online Compiler is also compatible with a number of other popular ARM microcontroller toolchains!
If you’d like to use the mbed C/C++ SDK with an alternate tool, or migrate to one as your project develops past prototype, you can choose to export an mbed project for the toolchain of your choice”
that’s one of the things were hoping for (and so were others)!
While I’m not a huge fan of the whole online thing, I have to admit these modules are pretty darn easy to use, and the online IDE is actually pretty good. I don’t know an easier way to get started being productive with ARM, and a lot of good libraries are already available for the platform.
While I haven’t tried using the feature myself, I was happy to see that they recently added the ability to export your projects so that you can at least compile offline (in Keil, GCC, etc.).
Glad to see these in the shop, even if the libraries are still (alas) closed, though they’re clearly making an effort to open things up a bit.