I spent some time learning about the chipKit and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to get up and running. I assumed that “Arduino Compatible” was a marketing gimmick, and the only thing compatible was the shield pinout.
However it uses an IDE forked from the Arduino IDE, and uses many of the Arduino functions and libraries so that many Arduino projects can be recompiled for the 80MHz PIC32 with little or no changes to the source. You can also use Microchip’s MPLab too if you need a more powerful development environment.
The Basic I/O Shield is very convenient. What caught my eye was the four FET switches (20V, 3A) and 4-line OLED display. It also has an EEPROM, temperature sensor, I2C, and some switches and buttons. You can learn more about the board from Microchip, and there are some reviews of the board.
The Uno32 itself is also impressive. Besides running at 80MHz and 32 bits (versus 20MHz and 8 bits for the Arduino), it has 2 UARTs, SPI and I2C, way more memory, a RTC, and 42 I/O pins, including 12 analog inputs. Microchip has more details. There’s also a review. One gotcha I’ve seen so far is that the board is 3.3V and not 5V like the Arduino.
To get it running on my Windows 7 PC, I had to do the following:
- Download and install MPIDE from GitHub.
- My PC couldn’t detect the Uno32 board, so I installed the latest FTDI drivers.
- I downloaded the Basic I/O Shield libraries and unzipped them to My Documents/mpide/libraries.
That was it. It took just a few minutes to look at their samples and get something working.
There’s an active forum at http://www.chipkit.org/forum/ with links to additional libraries, and help/information.
I’ve only been using it for the morning, but I”m quite impressed with it so far. I’ll try porting my Arduino MIDI-CV Shield which will be a true test. But in the meantime I have an idea for another project that’s perfect for this board…