Sunday, July 20, 2014

Like Arduino? Like Python? Check Out Micro Python.

My knowledge about electronics and microcontrollers (MCUs) leaves a lot to be desired. My knowledge about computer programming, and Python in particular, leaves even more to be desired. However, if you like MCUs and Python, you might want to take a look at Micro Python, as I'm doing tonight.
Micro Python pinout (from Kickstarter)

A Design News article from July 17 that I saw gives a brief overview of Micro Python. One of points of interest for me on this board is that the MCU is from STMicroelectronics. The only other blog post I've written about an STM board is the June 22 one about the $50 Lab-in-a-box. That board also had an STM32F4 MCU.
"The Micro Python board is based on the STM32F405 Microcontroller. It comes ready for Python programming...running 168MHz, with 1MiB Flash and 192KiB...The Micro Python board has a built-in interface for USB and functions much like a storage device. Programmers can write their Python scripts directly onto the battery-operated board and once stored, the Micro Python board will function entirely independent of a PC...the micro Python board comes pre-loaded with a micro SD slot, four LEDs, a clock that functions in real time, accelerometer, switch, and 30 I/O pins, including USARTS, SPIs, 12C buses, DAC and AC pins, and four powered servo functions right out of the box, as it's pre-installed with Micro Python...What’s really unique about this board isn’t the board itself, but the program upon which it’s based...Python can write functions, execute string processes, write classes, create lists and dictionaries, read and write files, create a generation
Packing Micro Python for shipment (from Kickstarter)
system, execute closures, design list comprehensions, and deal with execution handling. The Micro Python software is a leaner, cleaner version of Python intended for the microcontroller, but it actually works for PCs, too...Micro Python software is already available to the public through the MIT open-source license
The development of Micro Python board was completed with funding from a Kickstarter campaign that was successfully funded on December 13, 2013. The campaign generated more than six times the initial funding goal of £15,000 set by its founder, Damien George, an Australian theoretical physicist at the University of Cambridge. In Damien's latest update on the Kickstarter site (June 21), he says they just finished sending out the last of the kits and boards to his Kickstarter supporters. The picture above looks like he had a pretty crowded apartment or house when they were packing everything up for shipment! An interesting Kickstarter side-note is that another campaign on there, SliceCase, leveraged the popularity of Micro Python by offering a case for that board as one of the SliceCase rewards. The SliceCase campaign only asked for £1000 and got 9X the original ask.
Micro Python SliceCase

The SliceCase / Micro Python synergy brings up a revenue opportunity that takes advantage short term trends. In my recent post about, two principles I mentioned for the Humboldt tech, innovator, maker and entrepreneur (TIME) community to leverage are (1) focus on emerging technologies and trends (e.g. Python language and the 'maker movement') and (2) use Kickstarter and similar sites to launch products and gain visibility. In this instance, SliceCase no doubt benefited from the buzz that Micro Python had generated. It would be fun to launch a Humboldt Crowdfunding Entrepreneurs Meetup group, where half the purpose is to take an 'abundance economy' approach ('a rising tide floats all boats' rather than 'I want my piece of the pie') to Kickstarter and Indiegogo and people in the Meetup group would help each other become more successful at crowdfunding campaigns. The other half of the group's purpose would be to monitor crowdfunding projects on Kickstarter, Indiegogo and elsewhere, and to quickly and efficiently build crowdfunding campaigns that leverage publicity and successful funding of other crowdfunding campaigns.

The Micro Python is open source. Here's the GitHub project site to check out if that's of interest to you. I was glad I took a look at the GitHub site because it showed me that at least one GitHub site has a wiki component. I know less about GitHub than I do about microcontrollers and Python (sensing a theme here??), but I have several reasons to learn how to use GitHub effectively. One of those reasons is because the Humboldt Laser Harp (HLH) project code repository is being put on GitHub. I like wikis for aggregating and organizing technical information, and I'm looking forward to giving the wiki component of GitHub sites a look to see if has benefits for the HLH project.

In addition to finding out about wikis on GitHub, tonight's blog post also made me aware of a tech acronym that I either haven't seen before (which is hard to believe) or just don't remember. That acronym is MiB. And it doesn't mean "Men in Black." What it does stand for is mebibyte, where mebi is a binary prefix which means 2 to the 20th power. It is apparently used as a more accurate alternative to megabyte (MB). The Wikipedia entry for mebibyte says:
She turned me into a newt!
"1 mebibyte is 1048576bytes...The unit has been accepted for use by all major standards organizations, appears increasingly in scholarly literature and is part of the International System of Quantities. Many Linux distributions use the unit, but the unit has not been widely accepted in the computer industry or popular media."
Micro Python has enough visibility that it was written up in Wired in December 2013, and in June 2014 there was a blurb about it in InfoWorld. With Python currently being "the most popular language for teaching introductory computer science courses at top-ranked U.S. departments," and with a relatively active community on GitHub with 31 contributors, 2544 commits and 1082 stars, the Micro Python project stands a decent chance of building critical mass and being around for a few years. Lastly, if you're interested in learning more about the creator of Micro Python, there's a Hack A Day interview with him from November 2013.

If you want to play with a Micro Python board, you can sign up on the project's website, although I didn't see any estimated shipping date for people who weren't Kickstarter supporters.


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