Sunday, December 25, 2011

Tutorials and posts in different languages, thanks!

We are happy to see posts and tutorials about Minibloq in different languages. And as we did before, we want to say thanks and mention some of them here.
  • Antonio, from Spain has been writing tutorials in Gallego (Galician). You can take a look to his very interesting educational website here.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Minibloq & Sparkfun Inventor's Kit for Arduino

There is new material ready-for-use, created by Sparkfun (thanks Linz!) using Minibloq and the Sparkfun Inventor's Kit for Arduino. Currently there are 7 new examples, which include nice printable guides, both in pdf and odt (LibreOffice) file formats, under a Creative Commons Attribution -ShareAlike (CC BY-SA) license. Also, each example includes the Minibloq code (mbqc file). You can download a complete package with all the examples from this link (~ 2 MB). Once you have downloaded and decompressed it, you will find the printable guides under the /Doc subdirectory, on each example's subdir.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

New ready-to-use Examples with Videos, Code and Fritzing Circuits

Hi! As part of the new preliminary documentation, we have added a page with complete examples, most of which include Frizting diagrams, videos and Minibloq code (mbqc files). These examples start from the simple ones (like the well known "blink", to get started fast) adding complexity progressively. All of them include the parts list and most can be built using spare components as well as sets such as the RobotGroup Multiplo TechBox, the SparkFun Inventor's Kit for Arduino, or the ::oomlout:: ARDX. We encourage Minibloq users to add their own designs to the forum, so we can post about them too! You can click here, or in the following image to go to the page:
And talking about tutorials and examples, I want to mention here two Minibloq users who wrote about how to use Minibloq:

First I want to say thanks to Andrew, from Australia, who is using Minibloq in classroom. He made the first "third party blocks", and also wrote an introductory tutorial on the forum about this. Thanks Andrew!

And finally, thanks to Guntur, from Indonesia, for these three posts in his blog:

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Minibloq's preliminary documentation ready!

Well, finally the preliminary documentation is here. It's still a work in progress, but it covers at least the basics. There is a lot of things to do, like indexing or explaining how to add custom blocks, for example. Although this blog is a temporal website (we are working on a new one), we want to have the project as good documented as possible.  You can see the main documentation page here:

And here is a new page with brief explanations about the current blocks:

I also recommend to take a look to this small page also:

    And please don't forget that these pages can be translated, be mirrored, etc.. Any help making Minibloq's documentation more accesible will be very welcome.

    Finally as most of you may know, we have a forum! Build a large community of users is probably the most important project's goal right now. And an active forum will surely have a central role for the community.  Please become part of it. You can register here, and start participating on the project. We are also working on improve it, and trying to keep spammers away.  I want to thanks to Robert Sellers, from Tesla Robotics who is actively helping witht the forum.


    Sunday, November 13, 2011

    New Minibloq forum

    Hi! I've been working to put on-line a forum for the project. It's a standard forum phpBB3, and although it's not yet fully integrated with this blog, it's working since today:

    By now, bugs can be reported there (starting a topic here). Anyway, in the future, the bug reporting system will be improved a lot (with a ticket system).

    I did not create categories for different languages, to avoid complexity, but I encourage users to post in any language in the current categories. Suggestions about the forum itself can be made in the category Forum, Spam & Website. I hope the forum will become a nice way to improve the communication between Minibloq users. Any help spreading the word will be welcome, as always.

    Finally, I want to thanks John from, who made a post about Minibloq's development history: And also thanks to ROMILLY, for his post here.


    Sunday, November 6, 2011

    Thanks for the posts and the mirrors! And some news...

    Hi! Has been two weeks since Minibloq.v0.8.Beta was released. So I want to say thanks! First, thanks for the feedback, the tweets, the comments, and the posts in other blogs. I'm sure I'm missing some of them (please add your link in the comments belonging to this post), but there are some interesting ones about the project I want to mention here:
    Arduino's official blog (thanks Priya!)
    Hack A Day (for the second time! Thanks Mike!)
    Maker Masters (thanks again Bill!)
    I Programmer (thanks Harry!)
    Mexchip (en español, ¡Gracias!) and Planet FLOSS India (thanks Chetan!)

    Spreading the word is now very important to help the project. I'm already working on the next version (v0.81.Beta), and some friends are helping with the code and with the porting to other OSs (such as Mac OS X). But the most important thing now is to strengthen the user community. I hope to have also an online forum this week (or the next one). I want to say thanks to the mirrors too, in Mexico (thanks again to Mexchip) and in Netherlands (thanks to Gijs Noorlander) and in Finland (thanks to Jari). Please visit the Download section to get Minibloq from RobotGroup's server or from the mirrors.

    And there is also a good new for Mac OS X users!
    Ulises Mendoza, from Spain, has finished a first approach to run Minibloq.v0.8.Beta under Mac OS X, using Wine. I know it's still difficult to install, and I will really like to have the native version ready as soon as possible, but it's just the first step. Minibloq was developed with cross-platform and open source tools (wxWidgets and GCC), so I hope to have native versions both for Linux and for Mac OS X in a not-so-far-future. Here is the screenshoot of the previous (Alpha) Wineskin version running:

    Regarding the native Linux version, a company from Chile (, special thanks to Juan Pizarro) is helping to compile Minibloq for Debian-based Linux distributions. More on this soon...


    Sunday, October 23, 2011

    Wednesday, October 19, 2011

    Minibloq.v0.8.Beta: New features

    Minibloq.v0.8.Beta is nearly ready and will be soon available for download. Here is a small video showing some of the new features:

    Sunday, October 9, 2011

    More blocks! Report #2

    As promised, here is another post about recently developed blocks for the upcoming Beta. Let's start with the Servo block:

    There is also a work in progress to improve some existent blocks. For example, now the Serial block can manage several serial ports. This is very important for some boards, like the Mega, the DuinoBot, or the Maple:

    Another improvement are the small icons on blocks with multiple params, like the buzzer, or some math blocks. This will help to identify quickly the parameters. For example, here you can see the icons for the two params belonging to the buzzer block: Note (or frequency) and Duration:

    Wednesday, October 5, 2011

    ATTiny + Arduino ISP example: Meet the TomiBot

    Now the Tinys can be also programmed with the ArduinoISP (thanks to Adam Emberton for the idea!). Although this will be a preliminary feature in the upcoming Beta, I'm testing it as much as possible. And as an example app, I mounted by hand a small Tiny25 into a universal PCB on a RobotGroup's TomiBot (this low-cost-open-source small robot has not been released yet). Here are some pictures of the creature:

    And why not use Minibloq with other very small boards, such as the Sparkfun's AVR Stick or 8 Pin AVR Development Board?

    Sunday, October 2, 2011

    ATTiny25/45/85 + AVR-Doper or USBasp = very little board added

    Based on a port of the Arduino core libraries created by Alessandro Saporetti and slightly modified by HLT, new hardware has been added to the upcoming Beta: the ATTiny25ATTiny45 and ATTiny85 microcontrollers, running @ 1MHz with their internal osc. These incredibly useful, yet small MCUs, can be programmed easily with some external programmer, such as the open source AVR-Doper or the USBasp.

    Tuesday, September 27, 2011

    More blocks! Report #1

    I have been working on some important new blocks before the Beta release. Here are some of them (another post with more blocks soon!). I know, someone can think that this is complex, but there are good news: a teacher or any other user who wants to simplify the GUI, can configure Minibloq to load only some blocks (I will write more on this with the Beta documentation):

    Another new feature is a better organization subsystem for the blocks. The last row, for example, now contains the special sensors blocks. Although in Minibloq it's possible to read a sensor with the AnalogRead standard block, now there are some special sensor blocks, like Seeedstudio's ultrasonic ranger. I'm working with different manufacturers to add more sensors soon.

    Monday, September 19, 2011

    Mega boards added!

    Three new important boards has been added:

    Arduino™ Mega 2560
    Arduino™ Mega (ATmega1280)
    Seeeduino Mega

    They will be included in the (coming soon) Minibloq.v0.8.Beta:

    Sunday, September 18, 2011

    Open source robotics activity pads!

    We have designed 3 activity pads at RGLabs, and RobotGroup has released them. I want to share the links here because they may be useful to Minibloqers. Those pads belongs to the Multiplo project, which is an open source robotics platform under constant development.

    The pads has been designed using Inkscape, an Open source SVG graphics editor and there are 3 of them: The one shown here allows to do general activities, like line-following, etc.. There is also a sumo pad and a millimetrical grid. The 3 were designed to be printed with a standard plotter. You can download the PNG version (just to go and print) or the SVGs (which in this case are "the sources"). You can download them this GitHub link.


    Tuesday, September 13, 2011

    Maple 32 bits board is here!

    We are having a lot of activity in the project these days. Since the v0.8.Alpha was sent to backers and alpha testers we got a lot of feedback, and we are now working hard to release the Beta. One of the Beta's biggest improvements will be the ability to work with a lot of boards. Most of them will be Arduino-compatible boards, with 8-bit AVR microcontrollers. But this week we added a very different board to the list of supported hardware: The Maple (32-bits!) from LeafLabs. It features an ARM Cortex M3 processor running at 72 MHz. Although the multiboard subsystem is still a work in progress, this shows clearly Minibloq's capacity to deal with different hardware and backend compilers.

    Wednesday, September 7, 2011

    Minibloq at the Universidad de Buenos Aires

    Minibloq is being tested on a postgraduate course on physical computing and robotics at the Facultad de Arquitectura, Diseño y Urbanismo de la Universidad de Buenos Aires. Using equipment provided by RobotGroup, this course belongs to the BIME, a postgraduate career on design and mechatronics:

    Tuesday, September 6, 2011

    Hardware for primary schools and Minibloq

    Multiplo equipment produced by RobotGroup, is being used by the Universidad Tecnológica Nacional - Facultad Reginal Buenos Aires, for a project called KimTech. Minibloq is the software selected for the project. Here is a small (initial) video showing one of the possible models that can be constructed to teach automation in primary schools (you can see more videos here):

    Monday, September 5, 2011

    Small video about Minibloq.v0.8.Alpha's variables

    As promised in a previous post, here we have another small video with features belonging to the last Minibloq version (v0.8.Alpha). This time it shows quickly the real time error-checking in the variables subsystem:

    Sunday, September 4, 2011

    First approach to run Minibloq under OS X

    Ulises Mendoza, from Spain, has been working on a Wineskin wrapper for Minibloq. Thanks Ulises! Here is a screenshoot:

    This wrapper was sent to backers and alpha testers today. I hope to have it working fine for the Beta release...

    I'm also working on the project's Documentation page these days, so you will find there instructions to run Minibloq in Ubuntu and in the OLPC XO, among other things.

    Sunday, August 28, 2011

    Minibloq v0.8.Alpha sent to backers and alpha testers!

    Today, the last Minibloq's Alpha version was sent to backers and alpha testers. This means that the next version (v0.8.Beta) will be available for download. I think this will be soon. Here is a small video showing some of the new features:

    I will upload examples (with videos) and improve the online documentation these days. So once the Beta becomes ready, it will be easy to get started!

    Monday, May 2, 2011

    Kickstarter campaign launched!

    FUNDING SUCCESSFUL! Yesterday Minibloq successfully raised its funding goal @Kickstarter. Thanks! I will have news soon.

    UPDATE #3: Yesterday we have reached our Kickstarter goal. Many thanks again for all your support!

    UPDATE #2: Thanks to Sparkfun for their support! Here is a link to the article in their blog.

    UPDATE #1: Thanks to Seeedstudio for their support. Seeeduino is going to be included in the official Minibloq package. Here is a link to the article in their blog too.

    Today is a great day! the release is coming! This is the link to Minibloq in Kickstarter:

    Any help making this public (Twitter, Facebook, blogs...) is very very welcome and will accelerate the project. Thanks!

    Thursday, April 14, 2011

    Minibloq-RG tested in an touch Intel/Exo Classmate

    This time was the turn of another netbook used in education: an Intel Classmate, shipped with Windows 7 and equiped with a pen-based touch screen. The target is a RobotGroup's DuinoBot.Kids (a not yet released Arduino-compatible robot controller, but as I was one of the designers, I have one :) here), and I'm running Minibloq-RG, the own RobotGroup's version (open source too!, which will be available together with the Minibloq standard version).

    Here are the results:

    Tuesday, April 12, 2011

    Minibloq is running in the OLPC XO!

    Working hard, as release day is approaching. This week (and thanks to Wine) Minibloq finally ran in an OLPC XO. As Wine is a compatibility layer, not a full emulator, the performance is pretty good! For the release, I will try to improve the GUI to make it more readable in small screens. Here is a small home-made video, programming an Arduino UNO:

    And here is another test, with Mutliplo hardware (the new DuinoBot.Kids controller, with a basic Multiplo robot):

    Wednesday, March 9, 2011

    What is Minibloq?

    Minibloq is a graphical programming environment for Arduino™ and other Arduino™-compatible boards, such as DuinoBot. It's currently under development, and I will soon launch a Kickstarter campaign, to finish the software and make it available to everyone. One of it's main goals is to bring closer Arduino™ and  Multiplo™ platforms to primary schools.


    • Easy, just a few clicks and the first program is running.
    • Fast: I'ts compiled with C++ (gcc), using wxWidgets. For this reason, Minibloq is suitable for low end computers and netbooks.
    • Free and ¡with sources!: The program will be available for free, in its full version. No fees for advanced features or the like. Just download and start using it. In addition, the full source code will be available too. The license? Something called RMPL (RobotGroup-Multiplo-Pacifist-License). This license is basically a MIT license, but with a restriction that bans military projects. More on this soon...
    • Advanced interface: Zoom, Copy, Cut and Paste, Undo/Redo, and keyboard navigation are just some of the features the Minibloq's interface has. And there are more...
    • Modular and expandable: The user can easily create it's own new blocks.
    • All-in-one-ready-to-use-solution: This is "batteries included software". The package includes everything to start working.
    • Portable: It does not requires installation (except for the drivers required for the specific boards, like Arduino™). It can run from a pen drive too. Oh, and it runs completely off-line, all in your own computer. More: You can have parallel copies of Minibloq, even with different settings running in the same computer.
    • Easy integration with new hardware: Adding support for new platforms and boards (in Minibloq are called targets) is straightforward. This may be not a feature for beginners, but it will not be so difficult anyway. Even different compilers and languages could be added.
    • Ready for the transition to text-based programming: Minibloq shows the generated code in a syntax colored window. In the first version this will be Arduino™ code, so this may be very useful for the users and students who want to start fast with graphical programming, and then go to to the next step.
    • Internationalization: The first release will be available in English and Spanish, but the user and the community can contribute with new translations, since this only implies editing a text file.