Playing with the Sparkfun Digital Sandbox on Linux

Gary Schafer, 28 September 2014

Yes, I realize that I've been remiss in not updating this website. Two issues. First, there hasn't been much that I felt I could add to any particular conversation and, second, I've been busy. Fair enough?

I recently purchased a Sparkfun Digital Sandbox. I've never done much with digital circuits. The last time I built something with them was some TTL-based chips (7400 series, if that means anything to you) that I put together to create a simple light on my father's car phone. It let him know that someone had called while he was out.

The Sandbox is based on the Arduino, a small, programmable circuit board. This board is designed to allow for fairly complex tasks that can be electrically controlled. The great thing is that it allows for inputs as well as outputs. The inputs can even be temperature readings or light measurements. Quite cool, if you ask me. The Sandbox is primarily designed for beginners, and it comes with a special set of software tools called "Ardublocks".

Frankly, when I purchased the Sandbox, I assumed that the actual coding would be difficult. I've been playing around with a Raspberry Pi, which (unfortunately) primarily uses the Python coding language. Python, which many tout as a "simple" programming language, is anything but. It uses its own conventions and syntax, and does not follow any of the previous conventions. That might be all well and good, but I've simply found it frustrating.

But coding an Arduino? Much better. The Sandbox is designed to be used only with Windows or Mac OS. The "Ardublocks" does not have a Linux equivalent. But I found that it was fairly straightforward to program my Sandbox without using Ardublocks running from a Linux platform. Here's how I did it.

I'm currently running Ubuntu 14.04. First, I had to load basic Arduino IDE onto my system. That was the following code entered into a terminal:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install arduino arduino-core

That should load the Arduino IDE. Note that the drivers should already be available in Linux, at least since v2.6. Now the only thing left to do is to choose the proper Arduino within the IDE. I connected my Sandbox to my computer using the provided USB cable. Then I opened the Arduino IDE. Under Tools, I selected Board and then about half-way down the list, I selected Arduino Fio. Then I tried a couple of the simple programs provided, and they worked. I hope it works for you, too. Good luck!

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