Preparation of a classroom to use Gadgeteer for lessons

Hi,
today I want to write a report of my experiences in getting Gadgeteer ready to run in my lessons including wishes towards GHI for the future.
Here we go:
After several years of watching Gadgeteer I decided this year in spring that it was far enough developed to give it a try in my lessons.
In May I ordered 20 Cerberus Tinker Kits. Because of bureaucracy problems in the administration of my country it lasted until early August to get the kits.

Together with a collegue I started to prepare the kits. We had to:

  • Install the software. Here we had the following issue. Because of my experiments before I knew that Gadgeteer Core has Bugs. So I had fixed them according to the advices on Codeplex. After installation of Gadgeteer Core I had to overwrite these files with the recompiled.
  • Update the firmware. Especially updating the Tiny Bootloader is really annoying.Additionally some boards had a loader button some not. It is a drag to shortcut two holes 10 times.
  • Unpacking the modules and mounting distance holders on the modules to prepare them for the holey board.
  • Soldering pins on the extenders we baught additionally because we need them for our experiments.

All in all we needed more than 30 hours to get the classroom and the kits ready to run in our lessons.
This was all besides our lessons and without payment as it is usual in Germany.
Next month I’ll start my lessons. I hope it was worth the work!
:slight_smile:

Questions to GHI:

  • Do you know when there will be a fixed Core - package or can you offer one yourself?
  • Can you make the update process of the firmare (Tiny Booter) easier?
  • Is it possible to get Extenders and similar with soldered pin headers?
  • Unfortunatly GHI replaced the FEZ Cerberus during the time between ordering and shipment. Bad luck, you may think but what shall I do if I need more Kits or a replacement of damaged boards? For us it is important to have the same board for all pupils. Please make your announcements and plans far earlier and keep older boards in stock at least for replacements.
  • Can you please remove the warning that the board is “old fashioned” from the compiler warnings!! We know this and don’t need to be remembered every 5 minutes and three times per compiling!
  • Make NetMF 4.3 as standard for new projects. Otherwise this is often forgotten to be setup by the pupils and the programs don’t work.
  • Can you please update your samples to the new environment. Sometimes it takes more work to get your samples run under the new environment than to write them new. Unfortunately this is oftentimes too hard for beginners.

My conclusion is:
It takes a lot work to prepare Gadgeteer for classrooms besides developing content for lessons.
It would be very helpful if GHI would concentrate more on making this easier.

Manfred

3 Likes

[quote=“mflume”]

  • Can you please remove the warning that the board is “old fashioned” from the compiler warnings!! We know this and don’t need to be remembered every 5 minutes and three times per compiling![/quote]

I’ve got exact same problem with my 20 Spiders :frowning:

@ Simon from Vilnius - would this work?

Hi Gus,
It is really a job to do, if you have to do it on 100 computers!!
As we have server based profiles we probably also would have to do this for each account.
If we tell our pupils to do that at least 15 mins of the lesson is gone and it gives a “bad taste” on your products…
It would be much easier for you to suppress it.

@ mflume- I agree with you for schools. I was asking Simon, who is a commercial user. Now let me get to answering your questions.

First of all, GHI Electronics is a huge believer in education and there are many things we can do to help you, including discounts. We would love to have a private discussion and see how we can help.

We are actually working with Microsoft on changing Gadgeteer completely. We believe it should be simpler (see FEZ Medusa) and suited for windows 10 (see FEZ Cream) and it should be part of NETMF instead of a separate thing. There is a lot of work there so nothing in the near future.

All existing products https://www.ghielectronics.com/catalog/netmf can be updated using FEZ Config. The update process is simple and straightforward. Unfortunately, Cerberus can’t be made easier for many reasons and it is a legacy product at this point. Worry not, your kit is still useful. I suggest you update the mainboard with one of the new mainboard. Please contact us directly and we will find a way to help with the upgrade.

We are the manufacture so everything is possible, at a fee.

We allow for several months between the day we announce the product is legacy and the day it is not on our catalog. But back to my previous answer. Please contact us to upgrade to the newer mainboard that will be around for years to come.

This is very important so users understand this is a product that is discontinued. Warnings can be surprised if the warning is not desired. Another option is to use an old SDK without the warning but this is not recommended.

I am not sure this is something we can fix on our end as it is part of the Microsoft’s SDK.

We will be announcing the 4.3 final release on Monday. This means we are done with the SDK for now and we will be full time working on demos and documentation. There is a big surprise announcement coming soon about this so stay tuned :slight_smile:

We agree with you and we need your feedback to make this easier. Have you seen the BrainPad? And its documentation? It is 100% made for education and everything is designed with teachers/students in mind. www.brainpad.com we think we can make Gadgeteer as easy as well but there is some work that needs to be done and your help (and the whole community’s help) is much needed and appreciated.

When you contact our sales directly, please include a link to this post. Here is how to contact us Contact Us – GHI Electronics

@ Gus - Those Spiders meant for teaching, I used spare EMXes that we exchanged for G400. So no, suppressing warning won’t work since I will not have access to students’ laptops. I guess I’ll just have to live with that. I assume Spiders will still be good until 2016R1…

@ Simon from Vilnius - why would you need 2016 on your EMX?

@ mflume - I’ve been teaching Gadgeteer for some time and both myself and students have been very pleased with the results thus far and really the only thing I’d like to be changed is the warning message about my Spiders and Cerberus mainboards being obsolete as I don’t believe a compiler warning is warranted or the right place to place that type of information. Other then that I get that I’ll need to update the firmware versions and such and I’m looking forward to getting a new SDK (new goodness is always appreciated) and looking forward to further Gadgeteer announcements from GHI and Microsoft (they know I’ll be in Redmond in November to check up on the level of Gadgeteer loving going on there), so I’m looking forward to another great year of using Gadgeteer in my classes, but remove the ‘obsolete’ messages as it just isn’t the right place for them.

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@ Gus - this isn’t about upgrading or anything, this is a direct violation of Rule #2 of marketing, never portray or describe your products with negative terms, something isn’t old or obsolete, something else is new and improved. So what will my students think when they see this obsolete message? My class is obsolete, certainly, and I don’t want that. The product is obsolete, certainly and you don’t want that. The technology is obsolete, as they don’t know who put this message in, was it Microsoft for example as they make the compiler (remember we are talking students here). When you use a negative term, you might have good intentions, but you never know where that term might show up, so the risks vastly outweigh the benefits here. I’m trying to think of any other hardware example where I’ve seen an obsolete message in a compiler warning and I can’t. The obsolete attribute was meant for marking software classes obsolete where another recommended option was available, its the question of availability that makes this inappropriate for marking hardware, I’m not simply making a code change to another recommended routine in the library, I’m replacing hardware to something I might not have.

I was looking forward to when asked about ‘how do I get this cool Gadgeteer hardware’ which always comes up in my classes to being able to say 'you can’t get ‘this’ hardware, as these boards have been replaced with newer faster with more memory and hence more powerful mainboards for the same cost that will enable you to do so much more, but now I have to explain a compiler warning and puts me in a defensive position, not where anyone wants to be who is trying to promote a technology.

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Well, 20 Spiders is quite a lump of money, so it would be nice to see it updated for a while. Especially, when it’s not clear (for a hobbyist), why G120E is better, and why EMX has to go. It costs the same, it looks the same, and it has similar performance. There’s a big difference between Cerberus and G120E, but not between EMX and G120E.

Once you remove it from catalog… Would it be possible to release vanilla-NETMF-only firmware?

Could we also get the “Obsolete” attribute at least only when EMX is truly gone from catalog?..

@ mflume - As far as extenders with headers, I’ve made a couple these for my Breakout Board drivers project (I like female headers, but you might like male, but if GHI offered these I’m betting they would sell), but otherwise I like using the Breadboard X1 Module ( https://www.ghielectronics.com/catalog/product/454 ), I just need to order a bunch more of everything as my projects are starting to overwhelm my supply of Gadgeteer components.

@ Simon from Vilnius - I am not saying it will be removed. But meant to understand what else you want to see added to emx. I think it is complete and mature by now.

@ everyone- I wish your feedback about the obsolete note was brought up earlier. This is why we have beta releases. We need your feedback to make a product you will absolutely love :slight_smile: The final sdk was just built with the announcement planned for Monday, so this is a tough one to solve.

Still, I will discuss your concerns with the team and see how we can address them appropriately.

Please keep the feedback coming.

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Oh!.. No, in this regard, I do not have any wishes. I just wish it to run latest NETMF releases, even if that means you’ll have to drop your ex-Premium library support. Would be totally fine by me.

That’s unfortunate, but postponing the announcement for one day would probably result in [em]not [/em]getting complaints for the next year, IMO…

We always do, just please provide feedback when the beta is out so no changes are needed after the release :slight_smile: this has been out for a while but no one said anything till now.