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What do you think about FEZ?


#1

If you have used FEZ for more than a week, we would love to hear your opinion. If you only received it, then please do not comment until you have used it for a week at least.

There are developers out there that are doubting what FEZ can do and your comments will help shed some lights, for us to improve and for other to be comfortable using FEZ.
Tell us about your experience with FEZ, the goods and the bads.

We think the biggest complain so far is that it is not very clear you need VS2008 and not VS2010. This is clear in documentation but not everyone is seeing it. Also, VS2010 will be supported in the next few months.

The seconds issue is that not everyone is following the tutorial where it says you must check your firmware version and probably upgrade your firmware. This will be no problem in future as the firmware is now in final stage and firmware updates will be very rare in future. (The final release is coming in couple weeks)

It is funny how some users just want to be busy hating Microsoft instead of thinking about this great new Microsoft technology that helped us bringing FEZ to you! See the comments on sparkfun website! http://www.sparkfun.com/commerce/product_info.php?products_id=9797

Please do not comment or respond if you are not a FEZ users and haven’t used your FEZ for few days, so the comments are fair.


#2

In short, I love FEZ!
I’m an engineer who really operates over the whole spectrum of hardware and software every day. I taught myself C++ at 10. But I was new to was the embedded world. I guess I’ve been up high in PC land and just coming down to the embedded trenches, but I was really shocked to learn that most microcontrollers still have such primitive programming methods. I mean really, it’s 2010, the future! Why should we still be using C “like” languages and no debuggers? I thought for sure that the field had advanced since my Motorola 68HC11 days over 10 years ago. But I guess if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

So I was really happy to find FEZ. Now I could use the same skills and not have to learn a new API that I might never use anywhere else in my life! I really think this is the bridge between PC based engineers and embedded devices, and I consider myself lucky to be involved so early.
I’m already recommending them to colleagues and customers as a quick way to solve their IO and controlling issues.

“Wow, in 20 minutes I could give my blender RS232 with this thing.” - actual quote.

As for hating Microsoft, I’m not a fan of the big corporate machines myself, but you gotta admit, Coca Cola didn’t become Coca Cola because their soda tasted bad… :slight_smile:

Pros: Easy. Robust. Scalable. Powerful. Support is awesome (I’m an applications engineer myself so I know the joy of lmgtfy.com).

Cons: Arduino woulda been a great name for a Monkey.

PS> In addition to T-Shirts, I’d love to buy a hat. :slight_smile:

Thanks again guys. Good job.

  • Matt (un-boxed FEZ on 3-9-2010)

#3

I love my Fez Domino. Simpler than an AVR or PIC to use thanks to the .Net Micro Framework instead of C code, and the sample code out there continues to grow and provide a source (no pun intended) of inspiration for my own activities.

From a hardware perspective, I would have liked more IOs, but what is there is fine - and in line with Arduino for compat reasons. Power modes will be good when they arrive too, but otherwise I’m ultra happy. I’m only a hobbyist, so I don’t know stuff more advanced people would - but seems like a very flexible platform, and the open source hardware perspective means anyone can take the reference platform and build their own or integrate USBizi chip into an existing platform should they choose.

From a software perspective, I am also a novice. This is my first foray into .Net Micro, and into C#. That hasn’t been too difficult to pick up, and the tools are pretty easy to get your head around - much easier than my AVR GCC toolchain to set up and manage, thats for sure! Debugging this is awesome, can’t think of a better way to see what’s going on!

VS2010 is obviously new, and Microsoft are the ones that have to resolve the current inability to use .Net Micro with this, since they have to update the framework to operate within that new environment, then the vendors have to release their pieces. This is not uncommon, it’s just a challenge when developers have a toolset they like and want to move to the latest and greatest ASAP - sorry, that’s not always possible.

The support network here is first rate, and the community is growing and learning and sharing more and more - all that is GOOD for the rest of the community, and should help Fez and other .Net Micro platforms.

One thing I would say is that while things are “dynamic”, with firmware updates etc, the structure of documentation leads into some of the challenges I think we’re seeing, like firmware updates being missed. I don’t want to sound too critical here, as it’s not a big deal, but having a streamlined doco set would help - call out the big stuff early, like ONLY download VC# 2008, NEXT do the firmware. There’s currently the beginners guide to .NetMF, and the Fez Tutorial, and there’s a lot of duplicated information between the two. One however talks about checking the firmware version, one does not. The one that does, the Fez Tutorial, only talks about it on page 15, AFTER a package has been deployed to hardware. If you don’t get what you expect by that point, you won’t necessarily see the next bit. I’d have it appear before “the emulator”, so people get into MFDEPLOY and do this check, apply firmware if needed before proceeding to next section.

The GHI folk have obviously committed to making .NetMF work for us all. The great thing is they have a range of products, so if you see this one as being restrictive, you have a “next step” that you can go to, and not have to rewrite your code. I don’t think there’s anything like that in the Arduino platform, and probably only more confusing if you were to talk about porting code between AVR or PIC devices with specific registers/values that change.

Fez is great - the sparkfun forum thoughts make me want to crack on with the Mega design this weekend.

Long Live the Fez !!


#4

The book is updated to be very clear on the 2 things almost everyone is missing. No VS2010 and update your firmware. We may also add a note on the website to bee clear about this.
Our goal is to make the whole process “freakin’ easy” for users so we have to make everything very clear. Brett and Matt are experts by now and do not need these comments but new users will find them useful.

Thanks for the feedback


#5

This is neither a complaint nor a reluctance, just a dissatisfaction.
We un-boxed our FEZ-Domino on 4-20-2010 and thought we had a jewel in our hands. After installing all the needed software, in about 20 minutes, the first tests where done. Had some problems during the later works as the system changed and everything had to be updated. But somehow the board was running. Then the frustrating period started. There is no driver or any help,in form of skeletons, for all the shields we are using with our Arduinos.(Graphic Display, Ethernet, WiFi etc.) That means we have to write the whole bunch of software ourselves. This is a lack of time which is spent to optimize and rewrite a lot of driver software. The R&D Lab is already complaining and want to switch back to AVR’s or to other ARM boards. They are losing their fun factor and they say that this is not what they had expected. Okay so I will have see how the work will go on and think that once the hurdle is taken things will run smoother.


#6

I’ve been using the FEZ Domino for a couple months or so.

I’ve been a Microsoft developer for 15+ years, mostly VB.NET and last year started to do some work in C#. Now that the .NET MF only works with C# I guess I have no choice. I go back and forth writing software in both now. I am a EE but only did circuit design for a few years before switching over to software. I really enjoy developing embedded applications designing both hardware and software. I have about 3-4 years programming the PIC microcontoller and have designed several applications with thier 8 bit products. When I saw the price of working with a 32 bit ARM using C# had dropped to a very reasonable price (less than $100) I went for it.

I was writing apps very quickly and started to branch off into more sophisticated apps. I ran into a road block or two in that I really needed a good math library (see other posts) and I felt that MS really dropped the ball considering a decent math library is available for 8 bit PIC’s. I hope that issue gets resolved soon.

I would rather see the FEZ Domino have pins for all the I/O from the processor chip rather than being compatible with Audrino as I didn’t see that much use for shields unless one was building a robot, etc. I think it’s OK, but more I/O would be better.

Another weak point is display devices. I see the 2x16 line LCD, but a 4 line, graphics and color LCD would make a huge difference as well.

I would like to see additional memory both RAM and Flash available. For any high speed data aquisition a nice size chunk of RAM (1MB or more) would be great.

If I had to rate the FEZ Domino on a scale of 0-10, I would give it about an 8 as there is definately room for impovement and the impovements are not too difficult as I see them.

My two cents…

-Tony


#7

I have used domino/mini in many applications and never needed more than 20 or 30 IOs. In my own openion, more IOs is nice to have but I will probably never need them!

I guess the question is, would you pay $25 more to get more IOs that you may never use?

Maybe more info would help us understand.


#8

Where does the $25 come from?

My point is why limit its capability when the capability is already there in the first place.

The chip can handle 8 analog inputs, but only 6 are available. I have an app that needs all 8, if possible. I can get 8 analog ports with an 8 bit PIC plus at least another 16 digital ports and serial and SPI and I2C and CAN too.

I don’t need all of those at the same time, but having the capability to create versatile apps is important.

I am just giving what I think is important to me and may be to others. If GHI wants my opinion then fine after all I am a paying customer!


#9

So I have only owned my FEZ for some days now, but I feel confident that I can comment, and my opinion will not change.

I LOVE my FEZ! It is a wonderful little board and it is able to do everything that the Ardunio struggled with, and far more.

I know .net, C, C++, and a whole host of web development languages, so I used to working is a somewhat high level environment (well, minus C anyway). My first MCU was an Atmel ATmega328 in the form of an Arduno. The Arduino was ok, but I found myself getting very frustrated with dealing with all of it’s little hidden tendencies. The final straw was when I found out that using some functions caused the unit to act weird or reset.

I bought the FEZ mainly because of the USB host, multithreading and the fact that it used C# as opposed to c or C++. Within a few minutes of installing, I was able to connect a USB joystick and control a multicolored LED with it. Very cool for all of 5 minutes of playing.

Like others have said, I would really like to see a sequel to the FEZ with built in Ethernet. I cannot emphasize that enough, built in Ethernet is a must! I don’t care if it deviates from the Arduino pinout, as long as it has built in ethernet. I would also echo what other people said about more memory/flash.

A few small things:

  • No offense, but you guys really need to look over your documentation. There are numerous spelling and grammar errors that need to be fixed. :wink:

  • We NEED a place to dump code! One of the reasons the Arduino is so successful is that there is a wiki for people to dump off projects. The FEZ needs this also.

  • I also echo the issues regarding the math library. I needed to use some advanced math for a project, and I found the math lib a little difficult to use.

Otherwise, you guys are doing a great job. I am very happy with my board, and if you guys release a better one (Cobra?) I will definitely buy it.

EDIT: "PS> In addition to T-Shirts, I’d love to buy a hat. "


#10

Thanks Chris.
You hit hit the nail on the head with your conclusion:

A few small things:

  • No offense, but you guys really need to look over your documentation. There are numerous spelling and grammar errors that need to be fixed.

  • We NEED a place to dump code! One of the reasons the Arduino is so successful is that there is a wiki for people to dump off projects. The FEZ needs this also.

  • I also echo the issues regarding the math library. I needed to use some advanced math for a project, and I found the math lib a little difficult to use.

:):):slight_smile:


#11

Tony2, I was just asking why. Your opinion is always welcome.

For the last few comments. a math library is already in the plan and code can be dumped on the project website (which we are enhancing).


#12

Chimpanzee,

Although the project website is good, we need a general place to dump code, meaning, snippets, and anything else. A MediaWiki would take all of and a half minutes to setup and brand, and it would be a perfect community resource. Please, please do this! Once people see that there is a community thriving, they will know that the FEZ is something that is going to be around for a while.


#13

I will forward this request to our management and to the web experts.


#14

Hi Chris,
I’m right there with ya. I think the project site will be totally different when they finish their changes though.
if it helps though, I use google code in the meantime to host simultaneously, since I needed an easy way to log feature ideas, bugs, change requests, etc. http://code.google.com/p/tater/

-matt


#15

Yes, the project website will be totally remade to support everything you would wish for. But, having a wiki may not be a bad idea, so we are looking into it.

Note to everyone posting on this thread, we are trying to get your opinion on FEZ itself so if you have suggestions on website, docs, project website…etc. Please let us know through a post on the “suggestions box” board.