Now that school is (mostly) wrapped up, I anticipate having some more time to do things. Like bike riding. And catching up on all those episodes of “The Wire” and “Top Gear” I haven’t watched yet. And maybe starting back up with the MIT OpenCourseware thing. And writing the third and subsequent installments of “Talking GPS Blues”.
One thing I’ve been wanting to dabble in and learn more about is microcontroller programming. In the past, I’ve given thought to purchasing one of the Basic Stamp or Propeller kits. But these days, it seems like everyone is going the Arduino route. It looks like there’s a vast community behind that particular family of devices, plenty of reference material, and a great deal of hardware that can interface with those devices. So I’m leaning in that direction.
But I’m confused. There’s the Arduino Uno, there’s the ADK Mega, there’s the Mega 2560, the Netduino and Netduino Plus, Fry’s has a bunch of Arduino clone boards, and I can even get Arduino boards at Radio Shack. (“You’ve got questions? We’ve got blank stares.”)
Question: what’s the best board for a beginner? My object is to learn how to program the Arduino, and to have some fun interfacing devices to it. I may eventually want to branch out into robotics (the 4WD platform interests me). I think I want something with headers and that “shields” can be added to, since I’m not planning at the moment to build any embedded projects and would prefer something that requires a minimum of soldering. Is something like the “Getting Started with Arduino” kit worth the bucks?
You would think the Make folks would have a guide to the various Arduinos on their site, but if they do, I have not been able to find it.
By the way, I actually do not have a soldering iron, and my skills in that area are weak. Can someone recommend a good soldering setup for electronic work as well? I’m not going to start out soldering surface mount stuff, but I’m willing to spend a little money to get something that will give me flexibility to do more advanced stuff as my skills grow.
I’d also appreciate any book recommendations folks have. I have Programming Interactivity: A Designer’s Guide to Processing, Arduino, and Openframeworks which looks like a decent high-level guide to working with Arduino (among other things), and am considering purchasing the Arduino Cookbook since that seems to have a great deal of “how do I do thing X” instruction in it. Are there any other recommended Arduino books? Is Getting Started with Arduino worth purchasing?