Recent blog entries for malan

3 Feb 2007 (updated 3 Feb 2007 at 22:09 UTC) »

I am an electro-optical engineer with an MS in EE. I have done a lot of upper level programming (labview) of motion control systems for fiber optic and semiconductor laser applications. I am now looking to switch fields to robotics. I have ideas for robots I want to build at home. I have looked at robot kits and a lot of these have BASIC stamp microcontrollers. I'm really interested in building PC/MAC controlled robots. I know C++ but do not know the lower level programming necessary to communicate over USB. I don't want to do hobby level robotics but rather University level robotics at a 1st year grad school level. However, I don't know some basic things about microcontrollers. I realize I have to learn the basics first.

What I'd like to do for a beginning project is to get a USB controller that will simply move a stepper or servo motor. I would like to write a program that sends commands over the USB port to make the motor move and control velocity, acceleration of said motor.

I don't know anything about basic USB programming so I'm going to need a book. I would like a book that they would use at the university level for teaching USB programming in C++. I'm going to be doing this programming from Mac OS X (X code) but I also have a PC that I could use (Windows or Linux). Could anyone recommend a good USB programming book that fits this bill. I looked at the offerings at Amazon so far and the reviews weren't that great.

I could also use some advice on other learning tools I could use. I think learning microcontroller fundamentals would be beneficial. As I said before, I'd rather stay away from things releated to basic stamp. However, I was wondering if people here may think it would be a good introduction to the basics of microcontrollers at home. I've looked at the products on this website and the Stampworks V2 looks interesting.

However, when I was doing research at MIT they had these great protoboards for their digital electcronics class. I downloaded the whole course from MIT open courseware and am considering going throug it. I think the labkits would be ~$1000 compared to the basic stamp kit above for $250. The MIT course teaches verilog. That seems like it would be a more important skill than basic stamp if the two can be compared?

Advice is greatly appreciated for these home learning projects I'm trying to get started.

I don't understand the organization of this blog as I'm new to this website. I don' see my e-mail address listed as public and the discussion isn't organized like the forums i'm used to on ARStechnica or MacNN. If you have any advice for me along the lines I requested above please e-mail me at

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