CHIP – The $9 Computer – The Basics

CHIP – The $9 Computer – The Basics

When I first read about this little board I was intrigued:

  • WiFi B/G/N Built-in
  • 1GHz Processor
  • 4GB of High-speed Storage
  • 512MB of RAM
  • Bluetooth 4.0

All this for $9!

It sounded too good to be true. After researching and waiting a bit I decided to take a gamble and ordered four of them. A gamble because after reading some of the horror stories of crowdfunding I was reluctant to say the least but I had a good feeling about this one and decided to risk $40+ on them.

The good feelings payed off, although it took a while before I received the boards. I submitted my order on December 3rd 2015 and totally forgot about them; I received an email in May 2016 that they were getting ready to ship and received them shortly after that in June.

When I opened up the first box I was pleasantly surprised by the small size, approximately 60mm by 40mm or 2-1/2″ by 1-1/2″. That makes it smaller than a Raspberry Pi 2 or 3.

C.H.I.P. - The World's First $9 Computer (credit Richard Reininger)

Smaller and they are packed with nice features for $9: no need for a micro SD card, no need for a WiFi or Bluetooth dongle, built-in serial through the micro USB port and a built-in LiPo charger!

No wonder the Raspberry Pi Zero W for $10 came out after the CHIP hit the market. The main differences between the CHIP and the Raspberry Pi Zero W are the following:

  • Display output: the CHIP has a composite output while the PI Zero has and HDMI output.  You can purchase an add on VGA or HDMI interfaces for the CHIP.
  • Storage: the CHIP has built-in 4GB of High-speed Storage while you will need to purchase a micro SD card for any Raspberry Pi . You cannot upgrade the built-in storage on the CHIP.
  • GPIO: the CHIP has two 40 pin GPIO interfaces versus one for any Raspberry Pi.
  • The CHIP has a built-in LiPo battery charger and you can monitor it through Linux or Python. The Raspberry Pi does not. You can purchase add-on LiPo chargers for the Pi, but none of them offer monitoring features yet.
  • The CHIP has a built-in serial interface through the micro USB port. You will need to use a FTDI serial interface and cable for any Raspberry Pi .
A comparison between CHIP and the Raspberry Pi Zero W

CHIPvsPi0Wbig2

Maybe I am coming across as bashing the Raspberry Pi, but I’m not: I am just pointing out the differences. So you know, I have 4 CHIP boards and 7 different Raspberry Pis. I do like the Raspberry Pi. Both have their strength and weakness. I like to use the CHIP in headless projects like a rover, while the Raspberry Pi  are best suited for multimedia tasks. Chose the best one for your project.

Of course being the new kid on the block, the CHIP only has a fraction of the support and resources available to the Raspberry Pi,  but hey, I like to tinker, and after all, how bad could it be if it runs Linux?

I have been playing with the CHIP on and off for a year now; one of them is dedicated to a remote control rover, however, my sporadic approach to my projects makes it challenging to remember what I did and sometimes why. This is the reason I decided to start documenting my work and share it as well via this Blog.

The CHIP is made by a company named Next Thing Co. and they offer a few different products on their website. The $9 CHIP is getting an upgraded CPU at this time so you cannot order one until the upgraded model will become available. They also offer a CHIP Pro which is much smaller and sells for $16, I might give a couple a try soon. I did place an order for their new Voder which I should receive next year, can’t wait to put it in my wife’s Fiat 500…

Now you are probably wondering how did I set one up after unboxing it? Look for that on my next post coming soon…

FYI, their documentation page is good and they have an active forum as well so you can get information quite easy.

Ciao for now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Arduino for Visual Studio

Arduino for Visual Studio

 

I have been programming microcontrollers for some time now, mainly Arduino based but played with others like Expressif, Texas Instrument and STM ARM Cortex MCUs.  I found that the IDE are either too simple (Arduino) or way different and proprietary.

I also like programming in Python, made a couple of small apps for work related stuff. I used the built in Idle at first but switched to Notepad++ soon after.

What I wished is that there would be a common IDE for everything.  I have heard of Eclipse being used for Arduino but not so much of Visual Studio, until I found this extension for it called Visual Micro; after reading how easy it is to set up, I figured I should at least give it a try.

Well, I just installed it yesterday and my first impressions is that I will be using Visual Studio for all my programming from now on. What triggered this is wanting to program the newer ESP32 controller in MicroPython and figured that if Visual Studio can handle Arduinos and ESP8266 along with other programming languages it must be worth trying it out. I haven’t found a way to program ESP32 in MicroPython in Visual Studio yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

It boils down to finding whatever is easy and comfortable for yourself. I like trying different things, but also tend to like Swiss army knife approach: one multi-tool.

 

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