Starting out Pand 2 or Arduino or something else?

Ok, so I want to get in the the micro-processor hobby and need some assistance. I plan to do some home automation in the future but firstly I just want to learn the ropes as I have almost no experience in hardware. Where is a good place to start, and what processor?

From what I have read Panda II is a nice one with quite a lot of supports for arduino shields(if the voltage is right that is). I am mostly a .NET developer so that suites into my glove. I do however have concerns about the documentation and support for this device as the Arduino seem to have ALOT more(even books about home automation with it). So what are your thoughts, where should one start?

I have quite a lot of programming experience, not professionaly but still. .Net, c++ (some c), some assembler, java, python so learning new programming languages (non-functional ones) should not be too difficult. What I am more afraid of is the support in coupling with server-structures etc, meaning communicating with my own-made .NET server apps(ultimately for controlling my house).

So where are good places to start? Buying a kit with multiples shields/accessories for just basically tinkering? Buying a “Start here” book.

I hope this question is not asked too often(I did search :D).

Thank you in advance!

Edit: In the future when I learn the ropes I plan to perhaps use something like X10 compatible product for automation.

look at the free beginners ebook in the download section!

this is a great introduction to .net MF

I’d recommend you start by reading an electronic magazine on a regular basis.

I get Elektor Electronics every month. They are currently running a series called “Here Comes the Bus!”, which takes you through the development of a home automation system from first principles all the way through to actually building some modules to do real world stuff. What’s nice about this series is that it teaches the principles of communications, protocols, signalling standards etc. - and those things are good to know irrespective of which chips you’ll be using in the end.


You can buy the articles individually - but investing in a year’s worth of magazines is definately worth the money in my opinion.

.NetMF is a great platform for high end devices. You’ll probably find it great to build something like a home automation central controller that will take commands over TCP/IP and implement a lot of logic to control things according to your liking. C# shines as a language for “business logic”. It is however not very good at real time functions and it is expensive when you start looking at a controller for each light in the house. This is where you will really enjoy the ability to mix NETMF (at, say, $40 a pop) as a master with chips like AVR’s and PIC’s (from about $2) as slave devices. To me the most interesting projects are the ones where you mix it up use specialised devices for what they are good at.

I’d say, start with a Fez Panda II or a Fez Mini, get to know the platform and build some “led blinkers” up to controlling things at TCP/IP level. Then get yourself an Arduino (or just the ATMEGA168 or 88 chip really), hook the two up and the world is your oyster.

Thank you very much for an elaborate reply! Since I have no experience looking around is a bit overwhelming but you have both given me some great pointers. It would just be nice to have a relaxing hobby with some real-physical interaction :smiley: . I will definetely be looking into that article series.

@ Todilo,

You might also want to have a look at the .NET Gadgeteer platform, as it can provide a nice on-ramp to working with electronics and microcontrollers:


I started with GHI’s FEZ Starter Kit (GHI is one of three companies making Gadgeteer hardware at present, the other two being SEEED Studio and Sytech) in October, with no experience at all in microcontrollers, but with a deep background in software, and I’m now breadboarding my own circuits and soldering on a fairly regular basis. I can’t claim yet that I’ve become an expert, but I know a lot more than I did two months ago. :slight_smile:

The nice thing about Gadgeteer is that the physical hardware is modular, and pretty difficult to connect the wrong way (sockets are all identical, and include labels to ensure you can match up the desired module to the right socket). And the default for programming is a higher-level API that makes things very intuitive. But you’re not limited to the high-level API, so if and when you’re ready to get down closer to the hardware, you can still easily do that as well.

Another thing to like about Gadgeteer is that it has its own dedicated TinyCLR forum:


which has been very active in the couple of months that the platform has been available.

Hope that helps!

my 2c (australian cents too, who knows what they’re worth in whatever your currency is :slight_smile: ) is you should steer clear of x10, but that’s a personal bias; there are many issues with it, and it (and many other home automation technologies) don’t seem microcontroller friendly

A small digression - does anybody know of an open source home automation framework? Having monitored the market for a couple of years, it seems like there are several proprietary “standards” like x10 all competing to be king.

@ ransomhall Let’s start a new thread on that. That’s something I’m interested in also and would like to add a “watch” to it.

Thank you all, very good suggestion. Perhaps there are something else than x10 I can use, I will see. I want to do it step-by-step so we will seee.