I’ve been into hardware hacking on and off for much of my life, but I’ve never really had the time and confidence to design and build my own hardware. In recent years, projects like the open source Arduino have been slowly convincing me that I just might be able to do this stuff.
When a recent Make blog article showed nearly step-by-step instructions for building a breadboard-friendly Arduino clone called the Boarduino, I felt compelled to order one and try to get it working with my new MacBook.
I ordered the DC Boarduino kit from LadyAda’s website, along with the USB TTL-232 cable that would connect to my laptop’s USB port. I also ordered the 9V power supply on the site to power the Boarduino.
I found building the Boarduino to be pretty easy (=ahem= with only one screwup on my part) thanks to LadyAda’s detailed instructions. It was the first soldering project I had done in awhile, so I am happy that it went so well.
I next looked to the Arduino OS X guide for the software download and installation instructions. I ended up grabbing version 11 of the Arduino software. After unpacking the .zip file from the site, I installed the FTDI driver and rebooted, then plugged in the Boarduino’s power and connected it to the laptop via USB.
Next, I double-clicked the Arduino application to start it, and nothing happened. After messing around with it on the command line for awhile, I determined that it didn’t like the version of Java I’m using (I have the 64-bit version of Java 6 as my default).
So, to run the Arduino software, I had to temporarily set my preferred Java version to 5.0 via the Java Preferences panel in /Applications/Utilities/Java/. Once I had changed my Java version, the Arduino app started right up with a double-click. Once I was done with the app, I could set my Java preferences back to Java 6.
In the Arduino app, I set it up to communicate with the Boarduino by selecting “Arduino NG or older w/ ATmega168” under the Tools | Board menu. I then opened up the Blink test program under File | Sketchbook | Examples | Digital | Blink. To load the program onto the Boarduino, I pressed its reset button, then quickly clicked the “Upload to I/O Board” button on the interface.
The red LED on the Boarduino blinked rapidly as data was received, then it started blinking slowly as it ran the Blink program! Hooray!
I’m excited that it’s so easy to get something as powerful and versatile as the Boarduino up and running in just a couple of hours. I’m going to try and think of a couple of projects for it. Whatever I do, I’ll be sure to post about it here.