The Internet of Holiday Lights RoadTest Plus - Review

Table of contents

RoadTest: The Internet of Holiday Lights RoadTest Plus

Author: peteroakes

Creation date:

Evaluation Type: Independent Products

Did you receive all parts the manufacturer stated would be included in the package?: True

What other parts do you consider comparable to this product?: TI Launchpad, Raspberry PI

What were the biggest problems encountered?: Lack of program space to get everything installed that I waned to, this is known ahead of time of course so it is not too bad an issue The Infinion board requires stand alone LEDs rather than LED strips that utilize a constant voltage rather than current, it was necessary to adapt the settings and expectations in order to run with strips as I could not get the requisite power LEDs in time for the evaluation. Again this is a minor thing overall but it was the worst as asked an this section

Detailed Review:

So a scoring is difficult to achieve due to the fact that there are three different products in this challenge but overall I think the scoring reflects the average of all of them

 

Starting with the Arduino UNO

This is a well established and capable educational MCU board, while I did not manage to blow this one up, it is good that the main MCU is socketed for easy removal, either for populating into a permanent project or  to replace one that is blown. remember this is a dev board and there is no protection on the IO for stupidity or simple mistakes, a replacement 328 is far cheaper than buying a new board.

 

This board is so well known that I will not attempt to carry out a full review here as it has all been said before.

The one thing that I did notice though which is a great addition is the screen printing on the side of the sockets identifying the use of each pin (The primary use anyway), this will help new comers considerably to get the wiring right the first time and provide a constant reminder as to the use if the pin

 

Next up, The Arduino YUN

This new board from the Arduino cartel sports some great new features

 

Built in WIFI courtesy of the embedded LINUX sub system (specifically the Busybox OpenDWR distro), the great thing about this is that it off loads the networking libraries from the Arduino side of the equation making up for the slightly less memory available to the MCU. I do think however that there could have been a more significant migration of the networking libraries to the LINUX side of this device. There is still a significant amount of networking code on the Arduino side where a simple serial communications to the LINUX side may have resulted in better efficiencies. Now to be fair this is a new board and there is time for things to improve as libraries are developed and people discover the usefulness of having that LINUX subsystem so close to home

 

On first powering up the YUN, the thing you notice is the additional time it takes to get ready for you to use it. With an UNO it is almost instantaneous but the YUN can be in excess of 60 seconds or more. Not a long time in the scheme of things but for ever if your rebooting frequently while in a heavy development cycle.

 

The other thing i was a little frustrated about was having to upgrade the firmware on the YUN almost immediately to get MQTT working correctly and on top of that it seems that if you do this you potentially invalidate the warranty, if this is true then that needs to be corrected. I unfortunately lost the link to where i saw this so we will have to see. In my case I needed to get the MQTT Mosquitto software up and running so i went ahead anyway, the whole process was quite painless and error free

 

So as I had mentioned above, there is less memory for this MCU than on an UNO, the reason for this is the extended boot loader, the UNO has a separate USB stack and processor so it only requires a serial interface. On the 32U4 it has built in USB hardware and as such the boot loader is extended to handle this robbing the sketches of 2K additional flash. So far this has not been an issue and hopefully the fact that networking and the like is off loaded should compensate for that.

 

One other significant issue with the YUN which it has n common with the Arduino Ethernet is that the Ethernet ports causes many shields to not fit correctly as they hit the metal of the port. A set of stacking headers was necessary to get the board to mate with the Infineon shield

 

Without the stacking headers and then with... much better

As I am used to with the Arduino boards, there is an extensive support community and no lack of example code to get you going. Even getting to grips with the Linux side of the Yun was very easy, all the standard SSH capabilities are there, and the learning curve to get mosquitto up and running was minimal

 

see the blog post here :BYOB Party #5, Mrs Yun gets her MQTT on for more details on this

 

Time will tell how well this new board will stack up against the UNO when coupled with the up and coming ESP8266 as the resulting price difference is quite significant and it too supports local programming in the wireles adapter using LUNA

 

Overall I like what has been provided with the YUN, it is a fun board to play with and gives the best of a UNO and a PI (Within limitations of course)

 

On a side note, the LINUX sode of the YUN is connected to the SD card and while the Arduino side has access to it via the bridge interface, the Linux system has a very nice feature right out of the box, it will host any web pages copied onto the SD card as soon as the card is plugged in, no need to load drivers or apachi, it just works, now I have only tried using HTML pages for use with he Internet of Holiday lights challenge but it was easy to use. I like it alot. see here for details : BYOB Party #7 - Mrs YUN gets chatty with iot.eclipse.org and NRF24L01

 

 

OK, now the board everyone is waiting for... The Infineon RGB LED driver sub system

 

my initial thought on this board was simply WHY!!!!!, that is what you get with false expectations, now my thoughts are more of WOW!!!

 

the board on the face of it looks very simple and I think everyone who reviewed this has the same thought, wack in an LED string and away you go... WRONG

 

This board is not designed for LED strings, they need a constant voltage supply as they are made up of many series and parallel sets of LEDs that have resistors in them to limit the current based on a fixed input voltage, sure you can adjust this board to compensate for most of this but it will not come into its own without a real set of LEDS connected to it

 

Like this one

detailed here Nano Liner XB Product - Traxon Technologies

 

The Infineon processor is designed to handle LEDs directly, it has built in BUCK regulator output stages that actively measure the current flowing through the LED, there is no way to actually configure it for voltage mode so you can adjust for roughly the right parameters given a fixed set of parameters but it is only really a stop gap, as soon as you start messing with brilliance of he leds etc, the colours drift and you have to re-compensate, this is not a fault of the board, on deeply studing the way it operates they have thought of everything the general lighting controller would need. Set a colour and forget about it, want it dimmer, dont change the colour, just change a separate intensity conrol... Done.all the work of smoothly blending from one colour to another is done, you can program the change rates from one colour to another. change te brilliance, same goes for that, slew ate control built tight in. Now you code only has to worry about how it wants to use the lights, not how to drive them of all the math involved with changing colours of dimming at a rate that looks good to the human eye, (Exponential), this is all built in

 

You can also save the settings so that when the board powers up again it will revert right to were you left it. Nice

 

There is no library for the UNO, though it did not take me and a few other reviewers to adapt the examples and create our own, we are actively working on adding features and refining it and will make it freely available to whom ever wants to use it

 

So overall I really like this new RGB driver board, I am in the process of getting some real RGB LEDS to use with it and then we will have some fun, once I have them I will be posting the results for you to see.


This review is rather shorter then my normal reviews because a significant detail is provided in my separate blogs as linked

 

Here BYOB Party #2, Re-Configuring the Infineon for regular 12V LED strips and here BYOB Party #3, Infineon Library Available

 

This is the manual location detailing all its capabilities Infineon Technologies

 

Overall I found the Infineon board to be an Awesome board with extensive capabilities and I cant wait to try it wiih some real LEDs attached, were talking 700mA > 30V types so that would be some bright light

Anonymous
  • Ahh I see now (said the blind man)

     

    later I must look at using the linux side some more.

     

    Thanks

    Mark

  • Installing Mosquitto MQTT Broker to run locally on the YUN in the LINUX environment was the issue, I agree that from the Arduino side, all was good right out of the box

     

    Once the firmware was upgraded it work perfectly, though I have yet to get it to act as a relay broker but that's nothing to do with running on the YUN

  • Peter

    Difficult to review as you say since there are three products.

     

    I have yet to blow up an UNO (or heard of someone) as the outputs are current limited, and they seem extremely robust to mishandling, so ESD doesn't seem an issue.

    If you want to put x hundred volts into the power input, then I guess most baords are going to cry " enough I give in "

     

    The YUN should have had higher sockets from the start.

    Maybe the 2nd version will have these as standard, since very few of the existing shields will fit it.

     

    I did note the considerable time for a boot, and it does take some getting used to.

    Compared to a Raspberry Pi its short, so I guess we need to remember you aren't just powering a Atmel chip, but loading an OS.

     

    I simply ran mine from the box and so far it seems to happily subscribe to element14_IoT, so not sure what wouldn't work for you.

     

     

    Mark