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Sparkfun Arduino kit?

Gary Rubin

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The Arduino, by itself, is pretty good. I found the Arduino kit + manuals to be about the equivalent of the old Radio Shack kits (do they still sell those?). Most of the how-to/tutorials on the Arduino website look to be at the same level.


The LabVIEW student edition, by itself, is available at Studica (http://www.studica.com). I believe you're supposed to be a student to order from that site where as I don't see the same restriction at SparkFun.

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Yeah the Student License of LabVIEW isn't restricted to only students enrolled in a college course.  I remember seeing the wording being very loose, something like for educational purposes.  Stuidica probably has a blanket rule for anything they sell for students/educators only.


The Sparkfun bundle is great to get your toes wet.  Just remember being student edition I believe you'll always have the watermarks, and no application builder.


LabVIEW does have a student license for free for 6 months now too.


The LIFA toolkit is the way to go.  It hasn't been updated in a while but it doesn't really need to be.  The Arduino hardware hasn't really changed much and its open source anyway.  LINX is supposed to be the successor to LIFA but I haven't seen a need to use it yet.


This is also a great opportunity to get into Arduino which is a fun little micro to play with.  You can build your own from raw components for around $10 on a breadboard, then use another Arduino to program the bootloader.

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Regarding LIFA, I just saw this little disclaimer:


Note: The Arduino microcontroller must be connected to the computer with LabVIEW through a USB, serial, Bluetooth, or XBee link. This toolkit does not provide for headless operation. 


Does this mean that the LIFA toolkit just supports the Arduino as an I/O device for code running on the PC?  I was hoping for something that would actually run on the Arduino microcontroller.

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Does this mean that the LIFA toolkit just supports the Arduino as an I/O device for code running on the PC?  I was hoping for something that would actually run on the Arduino microcontroller.

That is exactly what it means.  LIFA is a communication protocol between a LabVIEW and the Arduino using serial as the transport layer.  LabVIEW code does not compile down to the microcontroller.


That being said you can still use it similar to an FPGA, in that you tell it to do something, then it does so with its tight timed loops and can then return the result.  That's where you could tell it something like "Turn the UUT On" which the Arduino knows is a large series of SPI commands that it sends out, then it returns after it has turned the UUT on.


Even for a general purpose DIO device it's hard to find one for sub $20 with LabVIEW support.  As mentioned before the SPI and I2C protocols are also supported on the LIFA palette.  What is the cheapest SPI device NI sells?  I think the 8451 which is over $400.

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The LIFA interface got me to finally start playing around with an Arduino, and since then the need to be tied to it has given me an additional push to start coding it directly in C.  The wealth of libraries and information out there make it quite easy to put together a few hobbyist projects.  You can buy some bluetooth or wifi modules which transparently connect the arduino to the computer.  Only downsides are they are a little pricy and you have to have power for the arduino (9V battery) and the wireless module which can suck some power.

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