Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Minibloq + Romeo + R/C Car

We want to share here the work of Jean-Daniel Planterose (who also helped with the French translation of Minibloq). The project uses the IR remote control capabilities of Minibloq and the PWM blocks to control the motors. Here is the link to the project page, and here is a picture of the hacked car:
Jean-Daniel also added a link to the code and a small video showing how it works:
Thanks JD for this nice example!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sources released and more news!

Yesterday, we finally released Minibloq's full source code in our Develpoment page (please go to the last section to get it, along with full compilation instructions). We would have preferred do it before, but the code is not so nice in our opinion. We will take this opportunity to talk about our plans and the project status.

Experience with Minibloq

Although Minibloq is in use by a lot of people, it's still something more like an experiment. We are happy to know that a lot of users are children. Minibloq has some unique features specially designed to help children and beginners to reduce the learning curve. Among these are:
  • Contextual block pickers, which only shows to the user the blocks that can fit as parameters for other blocks.
  • Real time error checking.
  • Automatic variable name management (which also works in real time). 
  • And for the advanced users, another useful feature is the real time code generator.
By other way, we are really happy with the community and the contributions from users, such as the translations to 14 languages (some of them still partial translations) and the contributed documentation and examples.

The experiment

So, why do we say that it's an experiment? Well, the mentioned features has proved to work nicely, but Minibloq still lacks a lot of really important things, such as:

  • User blocks, equivalent to functions and procedures.
  • More datatypes.
  • Multihardware subsystem, where the users can easily add their own hardware to the backend.
  • Plug-in system to expand the software itself.
  • User interface features, such as UnDo/ReDo, or multi block selection.
And there are more desirable things to add to the software which means that it still needs heavy development. We thought that we could add some of these features for the next version (v0.82), but after taking some time to design and to explore possibilites, and to analyze the project deeeper, we arrived to the conclusion that we need to make some things from zero. As that's a lot of work, we decided to see other ways of doing things, in easier ways, to reach the goals sooner and better. So we will make major changes in the whole thing. We are studying to move from wxWidgets. It's a really great library, but we think it's time to migrate to other technologies (more on this soon...)

The released sources and the IDE

Now the sources are published. We always sent them to anyone who has requested the sources, but now you can download them with just one click. If you take a look to the last section of our Development page (please go to the last section there) you will alfo find the instructions to compile both under Windows(R) and under GNU/Linux. Finally, we want to say that we worked a lot to publish an all-in-one portable Code::Blocks IDE for Windows(R), with precompiled wxWidgets included (among other things, like the Irrlich open source game engine):


As many of you know, we finished a successful Kickstarter campaign for our new open source robot building system called Multiplo. We are also working on the integration with new hardware related to Multiplo and want to make some improvements specifically designed to improve the user experience when working with robots. But of course, all this new stuff will take time. We are now working on the rewards belonging to this campaign.

The forum and the website

As we said in a post long time ago, we were working on a new website. This is not ready yet and also will take time. Among other things, there will be an improved forum. We will also work to keep spam controlled, which is nearly impossible in the current forum. Some time ago we started to receive an increasing number of spam posts, between 50 and 100 per day. The rate between legitimate posts and spam messages was probably nearly 1 to 300. And since Minibloq is now better documented, and since we did not received much questions via the forum, we decided to close the threads in the current forum. We are sorry for that, but we were not able any more to spend that big quantity of time moderating the forum. We hope to find a better solution in the future.

That said, we want to let you know that we are still here, working hard on the project but making big changes, which we hope will make it much better. But it will take some time.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Pequeña guía básica en español

RobotGroup armó una pequeña guía básica en español, tipo tutorial, donde se muestra paso a paso cómo programar las salidas de motor (en aquellas placas que las tienen, tales como los controladoers DuinoBot, o placas Arduino(R) equipadas con un shield de motores). La guía está en PDF y se puede abrir/bajar haciendo un click en la siguiete imagen:

Friday, November 9, 2012

New French documentation (Thanks Jean Pierre!)

We want to say thanks to Jean Pierre Raumer for his new translations to French of Minibloq and Multiplo documenation. Here are some links:
Please note that some of the pictures in these docs may not be visible without internet conection, since the docs may be including them as links.

Jean Pierre also translated Multiplo tutorials (written by Rodolfo Cossovich, and with help of Fabián Novell), and we added them in Multiplo's Doc Center (most of these tutorials include examples made with Minibloq):

I also want to take this opportunity to say thanks to the guys at Sparkfun for their post about Multiplo (where Minibloq was also mentioned), a few weeks ago.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Minibloq+Multiplo @ Shanghai Maker Carnival

Multiplo was invited to participate in the Shanghai Maker Carnival 2012. Rodolfo Cossovich was there showing the upcoming Multiplo kits, which can be programmed both with Minibloq and the Arduino IDE:

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Minibloq en la Provincia de San Luis, Argentina

Minibloq está siendo distribuido desde fines del 2011 en escuelas públicas de la Provincia de San Luis, Argentina, en el marco del programa gubernamental Todos a la Robótica. A la fecha, más de 1200 kits Multiplo, producidos por RobotGroup fueron entregados, y están siendo utilizados por chicos de entre 6 y 12 años:

Friday, November 2, 2012

Minibloq en el "Encuentro Linux Curicó 2012", Chile

Hace una semana, pudimos participar del Encuentro Linux 2012, llevado a cabo en la Universidad de Talca en Curicó, Chile. Allí pudimos exponer sobre Minibloq + Multiplo, y hablar de hardware open source. Aquí hay un link al programa del evento.
Queremos agradecer desde aquí la invitación (¡gracias Rogelio!) y la hospitalidad recibidas.