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Hackster.io - Microsoft Azure Challenge - $5k prize


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Ran across this on twitter the other day - hackster.io is running a contest with a $5k prize for azure-connected hardware projects.  I know there are at least a couple of other Microsoft developers out on the forums - in case you're making anything internet-connected.  Submissions close on 8/31/2015. 

 

In the context of IoT computing, Microsoft Azure is king. What's the craziest hardware project you can create, powered by Microsoft Azure? Enter the challenge for a chance to win $5,000!

 
All internet-connected projects are eligible to enter, as long as they use Microsoft Azure to power the cloud component. 
 
When submissions end, we will open up the challenge to a public online vote. The project with the most votes receives $5,000!

 

 I don't see any rules on the contest about location, and there is only one prize - no runners-up.  However - the other contest they still have up on the site only had 42 submissions - not bad odds.  

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In the context of IoT computing, Microsoft Azure is king

 

I find the above statement rather hilarious. Considering that MS probably has an OS on about 1% of the embedded devices available out there. Don't get me wrong, I run Windows on all my own personal desktop systems. So I'm not necessarily an MS basher. But MS is the last thing I personally think of when it comes down to embedded systems - And I know I'm far from alone.

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I'm at a Microsoft IoT event a Microsoft's UK HQ on Wednesday. Should be interesting. It's focusing on Windows 10 IoT on the Raspberry Pi 2, but it's definitely run by the Azure team and is pushing that. From other events I've been to it seems the Azure team has a lot of funding for promotion.

 

I find it strange that they're going for Windows core for embedded work when their .NET microframework is better suited to it. It has its quirks, but is great for getting a C# coder into embedded stuff. That's what got me hooked anyway.

 

Slightly heading off the Microsoft topic but back onto MSP430, I volunteered to do a presentation there which will be on my F5529 based Vader build monitor.

https://0xfred.wordpress.com/2013/10/29/animated-lego-darth-vader-build-monitor/

It's nothing complicated - just a CDC serial port used to control a servo and an RGB LED.

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I find the above statement rather hilarious. Considering that MS probably has an OS on about 1% of the embedded devices available out there. Don't get me wrong, I run Windows on all my own personal desktop systems. So I'm not necessarily an MS basher. But MS is the last thing I personally think of when it comes down to embedded systems - And I know I'm far from alone.

As far as embedded operating systems - I'd say yes.  They actually have a very rich environment for systems to supported embedded hardware - especially with what they're adding in for IoT bus, Machine Learning, etc. - especially since they're embracing a lot of open software.  

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@@cubeberg

 

Not really arguing against your point. In fact I do know of, and have known of Windows embedded since ~Windows XP. CE never really interested me. Maybe my perspective is skewed, but Win CE always seemed like a half-fast attempt at embedded Windows . . . While XP Embedded, at least from the outside looking in seemed like a modularized, very good attempt at it. I say "seemed" because I never got my hands dirty on any of it, but I did do a good bit of reading on WinXP embedded.

 

Since then, the only real experience I've had with WEC is with WEC7, in an attempt to get it working on the beaglebone black. I followed the instructions to the letter, as provided by the person making this BSP / image available. It failed . . . This is at a point in my own life where I am very experienced with the board, running Linux ( debian ) on it since May / June 2013. So, perhaps some of you may understand my frustration. *Except* in this specific context, I do not care enough about Windows to even be frustrated.

 

I am long passed caring about ever using the .NET BCL on even a Windows PC now days. Having gone back to C, and investing my time to get a much better understanding of the standard C language. But at one point VB.NET, C#, and ASP.NET were all I cared about. So in my case, and possibly in cases like this for others. Microsoft dropped the ball. Now, I'm too deeply entrenched into Linux + the C language to ever go back. Honestly though, I am quite happy where I am right now anyway.

 

I still use Windows on a day to day basis on my own personal desktops. I honestly quite like the "feel" of the Windows desktop, and can not see myself using anything else yet. Well, actually Lubuntu's desktop when tailored to my liking is fairly nice too. But  it is not the same *somehow*. When working with embedded devices though, I do not use a desktop, and actually prefer a command line interface only. To keep things as simple / problem free as possible . . .

 

So, not that anyone need to do things like me, but the above is my own reasoning / experiences with Windows.

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@@yyrkoon - I did some windows CE development quite a while back - it was kind of a mess and there wasn't a lot of documentation.  I was interested about the concept of putting Windows 10 on the RPi 2 when announced, but once I realized that it's pretty minimal - I switched back to raspbian.

 

I use C#/ASP.NET because it works well for what I do - it gets what I need done quickly without having to re-invent the wheel (hated Java for that very reason).   

I'm not horribly familiar with Linux unfortunately - so I tend to stay away from it - only so much time and room in my brain :)  But just like everything - some tools are more appropriate for certain jobs.  Windows on an embedded device seems like trying to run over a fly with a dump truck.  Probably not the best way to get things done :)  

 

When it comes to my own hardware projects - I prefer to stay low-level so I know exactly what's going on - that's why I prefer CCS over Energia unless it's a quick project.

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@@cubeberg

 

I agree with you on just about everything - To some degree. Using .NET for pretty much the same reasons. Except that since I've been toying with Linux since around '93, I do have a great deal of experience with Linux. Granted I do not know *everything* ( obviously ), but I consider that good too - As I love to learn. Also, I do have far more experience with Windows. Windows being my everyday go to desktop OS. Heck, when working on the beaglebone black, I do many tasks through Windows. Using ssh, and network shared drives. As well as editing / writing code in sublime text ( in Windows - remotely ). Most compiling however I do natively, Sometimes, the beaglebone black is not even involved, until it comes time for the final compile( testing and writing code to compile on an i386 platform - VM or real ).

 

Windows on the other hand I tend to view as being too inflexible to do most of the things I can do on Linux( in the context of embedded ). Sometimes, I do not want to just use someone elses' program. Sometimes I do want to reinvent the wheel. Not because I *have* to, but because I *want* to. Mostly to do with the end application being tailored to how I want it to work, and perhaps because I find it an interesting challenge. Another huge hurdle is cost and availability. In several contexts. Just to illustrate one:

 

"So you want WECx do you ? Are you a partner ? Do you have an MSDN subscription ? Or would you just like to shell out $XXX for a license or 20 ?" . . . 

 

Anyway, I do think that to some small degree Windows on embedded devices can be a plus. It can also drive the "market", but unfortunately for Microsoft. I think Microsoft is being driven by the market ( playing catch up ). So instead of being a technology leader in this respect, they're instead chanting: "Me too !" Also a bit too late if you ask me In the end though, it is just a matter of perspective I guess. The perspective I'm coming from may not even be a majority perspective. Which is fine by me.

 

EDIT:

 

Also one additional note. .NET did make me a good amount of money around 2000-2005 ish. I used it to write stupidly simple applications to help me eliminate viruses. Such as a simple task manager "complement" that had several features such as quick killing, and deleting processes off the hard drive. And right click option to google a process / executable name in order to help find malicious executables. Checking run / runonce registry keys, etc . . .  But those were simpler times . . .

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cubeberg,

 

Also I was curious - How do you like your PI 2? I was considering buying one myself, since this newer board is now ARMV7, and should run just about any modern distro to date. My own motivation here is building a "small", low powered MAME cabinet. But also figured I could use it as a "cheap" multi core native compile system with a decent amount of RAM.

 

Everything I've read so far seems to indicate that it should work fine in both cases - Above. Although when comparing to the BBB I feel that it would still be like comparing apples to oranges. One does some things well, while the other does other things well. Mostly related to graphics versus abundance of IO options.

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I got to play around with "Windows 10 for IoT" on the Pi 2 at Microsoft HQ (Reading, UK) yesterday. It's obviously unfinished but looks OK. Writing a C# app and deploying to the Pi (either simple UI or headless) was easy and familiar for a desktop .NET developer. I managed to swap out the F5529 in the Vader build monitor that I was demoing for a Pi in minutes - although not running much more than blinky really.

 

The core idea is that you can write an executable that will run on everything from a Pi, mobile, desktop and up to the new Hololens or Surface Hub. You can check device capabilities at runtime and tailor the experience. Caveat - you need a different build for x86 and ARM.

 

I bought a Pi 2 but not done much with it yet. Big plus is that all you have to do is switch the uSD card to switch it between Windows and Linux.

 

Also, it seems that the .NET microframework will live on for devices smaller than the Pi. A little up in the air though I think.

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@@yyrkoon - I haven't used it much unfortunately.  So far I've used it to upload CPU temp to a Phant install and fiddle with BTLE connectivity with a Sensortag.  I have 3 Pi's (two b+, one v2) sitting around that I'm really not using unfortunately.  I believe you're correct though - the BBB doesn't do video very well.  I tried loading a MAME image onto it and it was pretty laggy (plus I couldn't get it full screen for the life of me).  

 

I definitely agree with you on Microsoft letting the market tell them where to go rather than be a leader.  There seem to be way too many companies jumping on the "Maker" bandwagon right now.  It's either that or IoT which a lot of people are trying to build a solution for.

 

At some point I'll revisit the Pi2/Win10 setup - although at this point I'm waiting for them to make the imaging process easier.  Having a Win 10 machine and being connected via wired ethernet is a pain right now.  

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I got to play around with "Windows 10 for IoT" on the Pi 2 at Microsoft HQ (Reading, UK) yesterday. It's obviously unfinished but looks OK. Writing a C# app and deploying to the Pi (either simple UI or headless) was easy and familiar for a desktop .NET developer. I managed to swap out the F5529 in the Vader build monitor that I was demoing for a Pi in minutes - although not running much more than blinky really.

 

The core idea is that you can write an executable that will run on everything from a Pi, mobile, desktop and up to the new Hololens or Surface Hub. You can check device capabilities at runtime and tailor the experience. Caveat - you need a different build for x86 and ARM.

 

I bought a Pi 2 but not done much with it yet. Big plus is that all you have to do is switch the uSD card to switch it between Windows and Linux.

 

Also, it seems that the .NET microframework will live on for devices smaller than the Pi. A little up in the air though I think.

I think this caveat you mention is true for any software->hardware platform. Different ABI's . . .Unless you mean that some .NET functions will not work cross platform. Which would be terrible.

 

EDIT: Ah unless you're coming at this from the 'interpreted language angle . . . In which case I do not know enough about .NET byte code to really comment. But I do see your point in this case.

 

I just view this whole situation as an added step. e.g. write once, compile twice - if using a different hardware platform to develop the app in the first place.

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