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Thursday, 5 August 2010

The mbed is here, along with his brother...

Yesterday my mbed arrived from Farnell/Element14, ready for me to road-test. It was accompanied by an LPCXpresso board which I'd ordered from Farnell at 6pm the evening before. Amazing!

I'm posting my first impressions of the mbed on the element14 website, but it's worth posting a quick comparison of the two products here.

Getting started with the mbed

 The mbed really is as easy to get going as the website suggests; the cloud-based compiler means that there is no software setup for you do do. Fantastic!

Here's all you have to do to get started:
  1. Connect your mbed to your PC using the supplied micro USB connector. This opens a USB storage device.
  2. Click on MBED.HTML and register.
  3. Download the HelloWorld.bin program.
  4. Copy to the mbed's file folder.
  5. Press reset on the mbed and watch its LED blink. Job done!
This took less than 60 seconds; another 60 and I'd compiled my own variant of hello world, downloaded and ran it.

There are lots of easy-to-use libraries on the mbed website, with plenty of sample code to steal reuse and modify.

Getting started with the LPCXpresso

The LPCXpresso uses Code Red's extended version of the Eclipse IDE driving the GNU gcc compiler.

Installation takes a few minutes; during the process, you'll need to request an activation key, which arrives by email. For me, this was almost instantaneous.

I've been using Eclipse for longer than I care to remember, and I found the development environment very familiar. If you haven't used Eclipse before, there's a good tutorial in the getting started guide. Eclipse can be a little daunting, but it's worth the effort. The development environment includes a JTAG debugger, which I suspect is gong to be a real time-saver.

Like the mbed, the LPCXpresso has n extensive set of libraries. These are provided by Code Red, and cover a wide range of the NXP ARM peripherals.

It's going to take me a while to explore the two development environments. My first mbed project is shaping up to be embarrassingly quick to implement; I'll publish details here when it's ready. After that I'm going to port my Arduino microwriter-clone keyboard code to the two ARM environments.

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