Single Board Computer Recommendations

Levi Pearson levipearson at
Tue Mar 16 10:27:30 MDT 2010

On Tue, Mar 16, 2010 at 10:04 AM, Dave Smith <dave at> wrote:
> Levi Pearson wrote:
>> That doesn't look wireless to me.
> I'm pretty sure it's wireless. Besides the fact that X10 devices are
> (all?) wireless, the users manual[1] seems to hint that it's wireless. I
> imagine that's how you "control your sprinklers from your couch". :)
> I guess that means I would also need a transmitter -- more cost.

Ah, I thought you were talking about the relay board, not the X10 stuff.

>> And, if you're using a
>> microcontroller instead of a regular CPU, you've probably got a bunch
>> of I/O pins you can drive relay circuits with so you don't have to use
>> a silly USB-to-Serial interface and another microcontroller to decode
>> the serial commands.
> Yes, that's a big decision. Do I take the simple but slightly more
> expensive route using a microcontroller, or do I get a pre-made board
> with USB and Linux. I'm not at all familiar with how I would program a
> microcontroller. Would I need special tools (physical or soft)? I also
> worry that getting WiFi to work with a microcontroller would be (very)
> difficult, relative to a Linux board.

An Arduino would probably be cheaper than a Linux board, especially if
you custom-built something.  The big draw of Arduino is that it's got
an easy development platform put together, so you don't have to learn
all the low-level details.  There are also several hobbyist-level
books about building projects with Arduino, and there's a local group
called 'The Transistor' ( that holds free
Arduino days every Saturday in Provo.  They even sell a 'minimalist
Arduino' set of chips for $7.50, but it's probably not the best choice
for a first-timer.

> I think this would be super fun. What would you recommend I buy to get
> started? I'm an electronics noob. All I've done is solder R/C stuff
> together to wire up motors, speed controllers, servos, and the like, but
> that stuff was all pretty much plug-and-play. I'm thinking I'd need a
> board to wire it all up, some reference material to prevent magic smoke
> escaping, and some software tools to write the code.

There's a ton of information at and you could
probably drop by and chat with the Transistor people on Arduino days
for more help, and I'm sure there are a bunch of online
forums/IRC/whatnot for support as well.


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