The Dallas .NET Micro User Group focuses on the .NET Micro Framework (NETMF) from Microsoft. The group meets on the 4th Wednesday of each month at Improving Enterprises and our meetings are free to attend. Please RSVP according to the monthly meeting announcement to assure plenty of food and drinks for everyone.


What is NETMF?

.NET Micro Framework (NETMF) is an open source platform that expands the power and versatility of .NET to the world of small embedded applications. Desktop programmers can harness their existing .NET knowledge base to bring complex embedded concepts to market on time (and under budget).  Embedded Developers can tap into the massive productivity gains that have been seen on the Desktop.


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Tuesday, September 16, 2014 7:16:25 AM
Yesterday, we opened another avenue to our customers, to those wishing to program natively, closer the metal. The mBuino Platform is live now at http://mbed.org/platforms/outrageous-circuits-mbuino/.

As you may know by now this avenue is called Outrageous Circuits and the platform started with the mBuino Development board, a smart programmable keychain. Starting with this platform, we developed many simple, fun and outrageous circuits. Circuits like, an electronics dice, an LED roulette, an LED picture frame and more. All of these hobby targeted circuits are available on our secondary website, http://www.OutrageousCircuits.com

Why mbed? When someone asks us what do we do at GHI Electronics, we say we are "where hardware meets software", a software development company that sells hardware not software! This has been our unique and very successful business model for over 10 years. As we always seek to expand the possibilities for our customers and to find a native programming solution for our customers, we found mbed to be the answer. mbed is an online compiler combined with a complete framework to expose the hardware in a simpler form. There is nothing to install, everything runs right in the browser, which can be on any modern operating system! The compiled binary is then loaded on the hardware using just a USB cable. If desired, the project can be downloaded and used in a commercial IDE for debugging.

As for our commercial customers and the main GHI Electronics website, we are working on few ideas with ARM's mbed team. We are open to suggestions and wish lists while we are still on the drawing board.

Going forward most announcements for Outrageous Circuits will be on the Outrageous Circuits website and the Outrageous Circuits forum board within the GHI community. To make sure you receive the latest Outrageous Circuits news please subscribe to the RSS feed found at http://www.outrageouscircuits.com.

Outrageous Circuits: http://www.outrageouscircuits.com
Outrageous Circuits mBuino mbed Platform: http://mbed.org/platforms/outrageous-circuits-mbuino/
Outrageous Circuits Forum: http://www.ghielectronics.com/community/forum/board?id=31
Outrageous Circuits RSS Feed: http://www.outrageouscircuits.com/news/rss

Monday, September 15, 2014 3:30:15 AM
Before we talk about new features, let us thank you all for your patience while we went through all of the major changes in recent months. The work load was huge and not easy but with the amazing team we have at GHI Electronics we were able to achieve amazing results. See previous news announcements for further details on these changes.

USB Host on the Cerb family of devices
We are proud to bring the USB Host feature to the Cerb family, just like all other NETMF SoMs. IF you have a FEZ Cerbuino then the USB host connector can now be used. If you have a FEZ Cerberus, you can now plug in the USB Host module and use it, just like you would on the FEZ Spider. But due to memory limitations, USB Cameras are not supported. USB mass storage devices, mice, keyboards, and even serial devices are supported.

RLP for the Cerb family
Not only were we able to add USB Host but we were also able to keep RLP for the Cerb family! The RLP memory size was reduced from 12k to 4k, however by using existing extensions you can dynamically use memory from the heap for use with RLP.

Commercializing the Cerberus firmware
As announced before, beginning in 4.3, the Cerberus firmware is no longer open source and it is not available for commercial use. We are still working on the details but we are going to release the next generation NETMF System on Chip (SoC). Simply put, we will provide you with an SoC that harnesses the power of NETMF in the package of a chipset. This is not all, by using this SoC you will have a full commercial license with no additional licensing fees!

Stability of the current SDK
The previous SDK was downloaded over 2000 times with only a handful of reported minor issues, which were all fixed in this release. There are still a few small issues that we are working on and they are posted on our issue tracking system. As for adding further features, we are not planning on adding any new features until all issues are 100% covered. Our goal is to have a rock solid NETMF SDK release before the end of this year.

The Internet of Things!
This is the new catch phrase that everyone is using these days, so lets talk about this a bit. We very strongly believe that NETMF is the answer for most networking needs, for the Internet of Things (IoT). It is right in the middle, in the sweet spot, between basic low-level-difficult-to-develop systems and full-blown-slow-booting-virus-magnet-operating-systems. We are concentrating all our efforts now on improving the networking features, including Ethernet, WiFi and even PPP. This includes showing some complete project examples on what can be done with NETMF and the IoT. And speaking of PPP, we were able to establish a connection between two NETMF devices over PPP but the TCP/IP layer is still not working properly. This feature will be addressed in the next release.

Thank you again for all your support through the years and we look forward to the challenges that lay ahead!

NETMF SDK 4.3 R3 2014: http://www.ghielectronics.com/support/netmf/sdk/21/netmf-and-gadgeteer-package-2014-r3
Issuer Tracker: http://www.ghielectronics.com/tracker/list/open

Monday, September 8, 2014 6:42:22 AM
Ok, so Neil Armstrong might not of said those exact words but he would have today if he were involved in our efforts to simplify assembled circuit board manufacturing. We have spent the last few months preparing our production lines and creating an easy-to-use website that brings custom assembled circuit boards right to your doorstep. Today, we are excited to announce the launch of TurnkeyAssembly.com, a contract manufacturing website for those looking for quick turnaround and low prices.

A new unique approach
The first approach is in the fact that we, optionally, provide and stock a long list of stock components. This means that the customer doesn't need to buy full reels of parts, that mostly go to waste. Also, GHI does not need to sort through the parts sent by the customer. The parts will cost less as GHI buys the parts in very high volumes.

Secondly, while the manufacturing is done in our facility in USA, our service fees are lower than the competition and some cases even compete with Asian prices. Thanks to the system we put on our new website, most operations are automated. This means no human errors and lower prices. The website automatically outputs the data needed to go directly in the machines.

Effective for low volumes
All of the above allows us to build circuit boards in low volumes efficiently. An example would be a first run of a new design or small run of a community creation.

A cloud for circuit board projects
Even if not ordering, the website is a convenient place to store/maintain circuit board projects. These projects can optionally be made public, with an appropriate license, making this an ideal place for open source designs.

Prototyping on steroids!
It has never been easier to bring your ideas to life. By leveraging the power of NETMF and .NET Gadgeteer with the ease-of-use and convenience of TurnkeyAssembly.com, you will be provided with one central location for all of your rapid prototyping needs. If you are not sure what Gadgeteer is, Gadgeteer, http://www.ghielectronics.com/support/gadgeteer , is a rapid prototyping
platform that uses a variety of plug-n-play, open source, mainboards and modules that allow ideas to become tangible in a matter of hours! The Gadgeteer ecosystem continues to grow daily through the contributions of the community and their creations, https://www.ghielectronics.com/community/creations .

A one stop shop
If you have a prototype designed with our mainboards and modules but you aren't sure where to begin in creating the final product then our consultation services are perfect for you. Our consultation team will provide you with a low-cost, low-risk path to bringing your GHI inspired designs into production, http://www.ghielectronics.com/support/consulting .

Please visit http://www.turnkeyassembly.com for more information.

** EDIT ** The service is in BETA please feel to notify us of any issues you may find.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 1:55:09 AM
The source-code repositories
As we continue to streamline our processes and reorganize the company to be more efficient we have decided that we will no longer be pushing to any of our CodePlex repositories and they will be taken down at some point. Instead, we have moved all of our code to Bitbucket. You can see our available repositories at https://bitbucket.org/ghi_elect . Currently we have Gadgeteer, FEZ Hydra, NETMF 4.2 OSHW, Glide, and Gadgeteering. We will push to those repositories as we make changes and not just during an SDK release. This means that if the source is downloaded and compiled, it may be in an unknown or untested state, or it may contain features that may not be released. Where applicable, we will tag the last commit that made it into an SDK release with that SDK's name.

Where is the FEZ Spider II?
After months of back-and-forth and comparisons between the FEZ Spider and the FEZ Spider II, we have decided to release the Spider II on http://www.turnkeyassembly.com/ as a special order and keep the original spider as the stock item. Also, in the weeks to come, we will be releasing a new Spider kit and discontinuing the original Spider kit. The new kit will contain similar modules as the FEZ Cerberus Tinker Kit. This is being done to simplify the documentation process while still offering an exciting .NETMF kit.

All NETMF documentation is updated to reflect the latest NETMF 4.3 release. Everything you need, from the NETMF references to our library's are found on one page https://www.ghielectronics.com/support/netmf do not forget to click on tutorials to get to this page https://www.ghielectronics.com/docs?tags=netmf
The rest of the documentation is also in the works and we expect to have everything completed in the near future.

Micro USB
We will begin switching out the mini USB connector on devices in lieu of the micro USB connector. As we begin new production runs of products we will be installing the micro USB instead of the mini USB connectors.

RTC on Hydra
The RTC crystal will be installed on the FEZ Hydra in the next release.

CP7 and TE35 Displays
Unfortunately, we have recently been surprised by one of our display partners, they have informed us that they will no longer be able to supply us with the displays used for the TE35 and the CP7. As we research and develop replacement displays, the new displays may not be a "drop-in" replacement for the current display, especially the CP7. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. Please contact us if you have a high volume need and must use the exact display.

We would like to thank you for your continued support!

Thursday, July 31, 2014 7:11:05 AM
The long-awaited-for NETMF 4.3 release from GHI Electronics is finally here. We did not just switch to 4.3 but we have made some major changes that should simplify the use of GHI NETMF devices, for newcomers and for experts alike. For starters, there is no "premium" and "OSHW" libraries anymore. All libraries are now simply "GHI" libraries. They run across all devices, no matter what features are included

This release is highly recommended for everyone, unless a product is already released and locked with earlier versions. There will be no improvements or bug fixes made on the discontinued NETMF 4.2; however, NETMF 4.2 is still included in this SDK, along with NETMF 4.3. This should make it easier to transition to the new release.

Secondly, the software for Cerb-family devices is no longer open source. This was done to provide for better support and quality on these smaller and lower power devices. Users in need for open source can use the NETMF 4.2 sources or use the STM32 release found in the porting kit.

As a supporter of open source hardware (OSHW), we are keeping the FEZ Hydra open source with a new low price of $24.95! This at-near-cost price is a thank you from GHI to anyone interested in being part of the internal NETMF development efforts.

Documentation, documentation... we know that many of you, and sometimes even us, were lost between NETMF and Gadgeteer, between 4.2 and 4.3, between premium and OSHW! The new NETMF 4.3 is reorganized as explained earlier and we have rewrote the NETMF documentation to be directly related to this new clean release. All needed docs can be found under the NETMF tag, http://www.ghielectronics.com/docs?tags=netmf

Unfortunately, not all features have made it to the current SDK. Features like PPP and USB Host on the Cerb-family will have to be added in upcoming releases. On the bright side, all other features are stable. We would like to say "Thank You" to our great community for helping us in testing the earlier beta releases!

As always, the NETMF support page has everything needed, http://www.ghielectronics.com/support/netmf

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