Sunday Feb 24, 2008

Campus Ambassadors and SPOTs

So we (the Sun SPOTs team, and the Sun Educational folks) made sure that all of the Sun Campus Ambassadors got a Sun SPOT kit. Seemed like a good investment. And now they are starting to make presentations about them. See this blog entry about one such presentation at UC Berkeley.

Rock on!

[ If you can survive death, you can probably survive anything. ]

Sunday Feb 17, 2008

I'm old

Apparently, according to a former colleague and friend (and long ago, my arch nemesis! :-) ) I'm "starting to look like a wizened "old" man" and now need to work on my skills as a curmudgeon. News Flash for you Steve: Way ahead of you there!

He saw the picture of me on John Edstrom's blog taken when we did our Sun SPOTs presentation there (note to self: no more going to Virginia Tech unless John agrees not to take any more pictures!)

[ The surest protection against temptation is cowardice.

-- Mark Twain ]

Saturday Feb 16, 2008

The SPOTS are driving

SPOT's apparently have at least a learner's permit, if not their driver's license. ChecK this out: A SPOT Controlled Car. Hardware for Software guys rules!

[ Oh, I don't blame Congress. If I had $600 billion at my disposal, I'd be irresponsible, too.

-- Lichty & Wagner ]

Friday Feb 15, 2008

Blogged by a Hokie

So back in November Arshan, his intern Martin and I all went on a SPOTs mini-tour around North Carolina and Virginia. We presented Sun SPOTs at Virginia Tech for a presentation. John Edstrom has now blogged about that, complete with some horrifying pictures that I should pay him to take down.

I've got to stop blogging about Arshan.

[ Why does New Jersey have more toxic waste dumps and California have more lawyers?

New Jersey had first choice. ]

Truth or Consequences

So following up to my previous post about SPOT Manager v3.0, I thought I'd go into a bit more detail about what users will see, and how it all works.

First, the "Configuration Check." The Sun SPOT SDK requires some basic software to be already installed before you can use it. In order to make our lives easier, we won't even install the SDK until those prerequisites are met. Those are:

  1. A functioning Java Development Kit. That's the JDK, not just the JRE (Java Runtime Environment). You have to be able to compile Java Apps, so you need the JDK.
  2. Ant. All of our build scripts are based on Ant. You have to have at least version 1.6.5, since we rely on some of the newer features of ant included in that and subsequent releases.
  3. NetBeans. While you can use any development environment you choose, we recommend NetBeans. At this time, we support NetBeans 5.0, 5.5 and 5.5.1. We have several add-on modules to make development of Sun SPOT applications easier, and we have not yet ported these to NetBeans 6.0.

So the initial screen of Truth or Consequences looks like this:


Once you read up on what's required, you can click the "Start..." button and a configuration check will ensue. As with the CD-based installer, I look for the proper version level of Ant, and then create and try to compile a sample Java Program. I look for NetBeans, but not having it is not a show-stopper, whereas the other two are show-stoppers.

If the configuration check succeeds, then you see a confirmation screen:


And you can either look at all the gory details of what was done, and what was found, or just go right to the SPOT Manager by clicking on the 'OK' button.

This configuration check is only run the first time you run Truth or Consequences (or until you manage to pass the configuration check). Even if you have previous versions of the SDK installed, it will be run on the initial start-up.

For those of you that have not previously installed the Sun SPOT SDK, you'll be given a chance to install it in the following screens. If you already have it installed, you will see your existing installations, as well as any upgrades available, just as you do now. The following screen shot is what it looks like for those of you with no existing Sun SPOT SDK installed:

You can then select an SDK from the list and install. Current users will notice something in the next screen that has changed: You can install the SDK in any location you choose! This has been requested for a while, and I have finally made it a reality.

So choose where you want it installed, and away you go!


Once installed, the SPOT Manager looks just about the same.

But what's that new Panel?? Yep, all the documentation is now loaded in the tool and browsable. And I do mean browsable. You can read the Javadoc and all the PDF documents right in the SPOT Manager!


Live, clickable links. Everything just works. Oh, you'd rather read all this in an external viewer, like Firefox? Great, just right-click on the document and choose "Open Externally" and you have your wish.


Yes, I realize that reading that PDF file in that little window will be a challenge. Which is precisely why I have gone to considerable pain and effort to make the entire application full resizable. From the basic size all the way up to full-screen. You can't go below the default size, for usability reasons, but make it as big as you want!

Now, if I can only solve the last few remaining issues and get this out the door ...

[ "I had to hit him -- he was starting to make sense." ]

Tuesday Jan 29, 2008

Officially Open Source

Well, it's finally official! We, the Sun SPOTs project, are now officially Open Source! We have Open Sourced the whole ball of wax. The Software, the VM (Squawk), and even the Hardware.

Yep, all fully Open. And there are a bunch of new projects on for you to dive into.

Head on over to and sign up to join the project!

[ That secret you've been guarding, isn't. ]

Wednesday Sep 26, 2007

Moving towards Purple

So we in Sun SPOT land seem to have a particular affinity for colors. We started our with animal names for our releases, but quickly realized that we didn't know enough animals that actually had spots on them (Beagles don't have proper spots, and neither do giraffes) after which we gave up. (To quote one of our British friends "could we use an animal that actually has spots next time?" :-) )

728302642_2b11b18b10 [2]
So our first release was called 'Green.' That was v1.0 of the Sun SPOT SDK. Good, solid release. Lots of features, and we supported a fair number of platforms. Actually, it was way better than that. It rocked. Servo controllers built in. Tone generators built in. Lots of supported sensors. Fabulous stuff.

217083999_36467ae647 [3]
Then came 'Orange' our 2.0 release. More platforms supported (Solaris x86 and Intel Mac, to be specific), and better performance, more features, and lots of other coolness. Multi-hop support, access to the UART, better sensor support. It out-rocked Green, for sure. But software is a moving target. And perfection is even faster-moving. Before Orange was even out the door we had already begun work on

202093703_578566f363 [4]
So now we're in the final stages of preparing our next release (Purple) for beta. We hope to be going live with a Purple Beta as soon as this weekend, if things check out with the latest release. We spin an SDK, and then we all pound away at it for a few days. If we can't break it, we figure it might be ready. Hey, this stuff does say "Experimental" right on the box. :-)

So look for a Beta of the Purple (v3.0) Sun SPOTs SDK soon. Don't know where to look? Well, I'll post something else about looking for Betas later.

And yeah, we're already starting work on ...

["Whom are you?" said he, for he had been to night school. -- George Ade ]

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[1] (photo courtesy of carrera911e under Creative Commons license)
[2] (photo courtesy of watertownsurfer under Creative Commons license)
[3] (photo courtesy of vigneron under Creative Commons license)
[4] (photo courtesy of rooneg under Creative Commons license)




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