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Archive for March, 2009

Arduino and Amazon Marketplace, a review

Chris Barber from Carrot Media was first to the podium to tell us about a project that he as recently worked on integrating an online apparel shop into the Amazon.com market place. Chris’ client was already selling their clothing products very successfully through their existing online shop and on ebay but wanted to expand their exposure.

Amazon can expose your products to huge numbers of people and using an XML feed it is easy to manage your sales, stock and returns. An added advantage to the system is that all payments are handled by Amazon…which lends credibility to the enterprise.

Once the project was in place the client was very happy to receive the first order within a few days and since then orders have kept flowing. Due to the automated nature of the system it is expected that the system should manage it’s self and that the client will be able to use a simple CMS to add, update and modify products.

But the project was not as smooth as expected; Chris was amazed at the lack of support and documentation for the project and the time that it took to get the project completed. While the actual work only took two weeks to complete it took over three months to get the answers necessary to complete the project.

Chris felt that the project was a great learning experience and judging by the questions from the audience it seems that he can now be considered an expert in this area…if you have a need to integrate an online shop to Amazon.com then you should give him a call! You can download the powerpoint presentation here.

You can fiew a video of Chris here.

Oli Wood told us about Arduino, the open source micro processing board. Oli learned to read on his first computer, a Spectrum ZX. The Spectrum XZ was remarkably easy to write functional software on. Using the Spectrum and the later BBC Model B, a whole generation of enthusiasts learnt how to change the background colour of their monitors. Since then the scene has dried up.

Arduino was developed in 2005 by a team of Italian hardware developers (Gianluca Martino, Massimo Banzi, and David Cuartielles). They became frustrated at how hard it was to find an inexpensive, powerful microcontroller to drive their arty robotic projects.

In the winter of 2005 the team produced their first prototype with an initial 200 boards after a personal investment of €3,000. Since then they have sold tens of thousands of the unit to buyers all around the world.

Arduino is intended for artists, designers, hobbyists, and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments. There now seems to be a rather healthy community of people who are using Arduino in commercial, artistic and hobbyist projects. Arduino is a cheap and stable unit which is very well supported by excellent software and a vibrant enthusiast community. These are the qualities that make Arduino an excellent tool for rapid prototyping.

Tinker.it is the official UK distributor for Arduino. The official boards sell for around £20 each but due to it’s open source status there are hundreds of cloned boards that are available from a multitude if suppliers around the world. Some of these clones are exact replicas of the original but there are a few boards with smaller form factors and some with additional components and features.

If you want to produce your own boards there are only two rules, the first is that the team has reserved the name Arduino, which it trademarked. The second rule is that you can not distribute your board on a blue background. If anyone wants to sell boards using the name or blue colour they must to pay a small fee to Arduino.

You can see a video of Oli here.

If you would like to find out more about Arduino then check out the official website here:

Powershell, Offline/Online and CloudComputing…a review

It is with thanks to Shuoling Liu that we can show you the following videos of the February event:
  •  Jonathan Noble — Microsoft Windows PowerShell, an introduction
    Microsoft released Windows PowerShell in 2006 to finally give Windows a decent shell and scripting language  for automation and PowerShell V2 will come installed and on by default in the forthcoming releases of Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2. Jonathan gave an excellent overview of PowerShell and he explained why it’s not just of interest to Windows sys admins.
  • Jonathan Bradford: Online, Offline?
    A new generation of applications are emerging which will bring “online” applications to “offline” situations.  What might they look like? And how will they be built? Jonathan covered this topic in an engaging talk.