Ar­duino Cre­ate

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or years, the Ar­duino IDE (In­te­grated De­vel­op­ment En­vi­ron­ment) was the gold stan­dard for ease of use when it came to pro­gram­ming em­bed­ded plat­forms, which wasn’t say­ing much. Cross plat­form by dint of be­ing writ­ten in Java, the IDE grew over the years, adding sup­port for mul­ti­ple boards in the Ar­duino fam­ily – and, later, other mi­cro­con­troller-based de­vel­op­ment board fam­i­lies, via third-party board sup­port pack­ages (BSPs).

Cre­ate is the Ar­duino project’s at­tempt to repli­cate the suc­cess of the Ar­duino IDE as an in-browser pack­age, and now it has a fea­ture that makes it hard to ig­nore: the abil­ity to take al­most any Ar­duino sketch and port it to a range of pow­er­ful sin­gle-board com­put­ers, in­clud­ing the Aaeon UP², Bea­gleBone and – nat­u­rally – the Raspberry Pi.

There are ob­vi­ously trade-offs. The big­gest is that a Raspberry Pi, for ex­am­ple, has no real-time ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Com­par­a­tively, even the cheap­est Ar­duino clone op­er­ates in a wholly real-time man­ner, so a task that takes a sec­ond to com­plete will al­ways take a sec­ond to com­plete. ON a Pi, though, that task may take more or less than a sec­ond de­pend­ing on a wide va­ri­ety of fac­tors.

There are ad­van­tages, too. A Raspberry Pi 3

B+, with its 1.4GHz quad-core 64-bit CPU and

1GB of RAM, is rather more pow­er­ful than an Ar­duino Uno with its 16MHz sin­gle-core 8-bit pro­ces­sor and 2kB (not a typo) of RAM. As a re­sult, it’s pos­si­ble to run mul­ti­ple sketches si­mul­ta­ne­ously on the Pi, and even have them in­ter­act with each other through a new fea­ture dubbed the Ar­duino Con­nec­tor.

Us­ing Ar­duino Cre­ate is about as straight­for­ward as pos­si­ble; visit https://cre­ate.ar­duino.cc in any mod­ern browser, and you can cre­ate a free ac­count. Log in, and you have im­me­di­ate ac­cess to the web ed­i­tor – a browser-based suc­ces­sor to the Ar­duino IDE – and a new De­vice Man­ager sec­tion. Adding a new de­vice runs you through a wiz­ard in which, if your Pi is con­fig­ured for SSH ac­cess, you can in­stall the re­quired soft­ware by sim­ply en­ter­ing the IP ad­dress, user­name and pass­word. If it doesn’t have SSH ac­cess, you’re given man­ual in­stal­la­tion in­struc­tions in­stead.

Once in­stalled, the soft­ware talks to Ar­duino Cre­ate au­to­mat­i­cally, with a sim­ple

dash­board for mon­i­tor­ing disk space, mem­ory and any sketches up­loaded. These can be tog­gled on and off with a sim­ple mouse click, and up­dated or re­placed re­motely across as many de­vices as you like.

The dash­board also links through to a few (cur­rently ba­sic) main­te­nance func­tions, too. You can in­stall or up­date pack­ages through a web in­ter­face and add or re­move repos­i­to­ries, although there’s no op­tion to launch a se­cure shell for browser-based in­ter­ac­tiv­ity. That’s a dis­ap­point­ment when al­low­ing you to add cus­tom soft­ware repos­i­to­ries is al­ready a se­cu­rity con­cern.

There are a few rough edges though. Aside from small nig­gles such as spell­ing mis­takes, the soft­ware cur­rently feels slightly un­fin­ished. Load­ing ex­am­ple sketches makes no at­tempt to en­sure they’re suit­able for your par­tic­u­lar board – the ‘Blink’ sketch, for ex­am­ple, re­lies on a pin name that doesn’t ex­ist out­side the true Ar­duino boards, and must be man­u­ally edited be­fore it can be com­piled and up­loaded. There’s also no read­ily ac­ces­si­ble doc­u­men­ta­tion on what pin num­bers cor­re­spond to which phys­i­cal pins on a given board.

It’s an im­pres­sive first at­tempt, though, and it will be worth watch­ing as the Ar­duino team con­tinue to build up its fea­ture set.

Ar­duino Cre­ate now sup­ports boards such as the Raspberry Pi, with a sim­ple setup process

The management in­ter­face is neat, but lacks some rel­a­tively ba­sic fea­tures, such as re­mote power-off

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