FLiP breadboard suggestion

DrPopDrPop Posts: 149
edited November 11 in Propeller 1 Vote Up0Vote Down
Looking at the Propeller board offerings while trying to get a friend interested in purchasing Parallax instead of Arduino, something dawned on me. For quick solderless projects, Parallax appears to be headed toward standardizing on two offerings for the P1: the Activityboard WX, and the FLip. At $79, you're asking new adopters to pony up considerably more than they would elsewhere, just to try the Propeller if the ABWX is their first board. Which is fine if they see the value. If they don't, you might have to convince them of what the Prop can do vs Brand X first.

Enter the FLip. Great product, everything in a nice, tight, powerful package for $35.
However, it needs a breadboard to really be useful to someone new to microcontrollers / electronics, and unlike most forum members, they don't already have one. If you make them hunt for one, you might lose a sale. A quick Internet search found a 400 point, 3.25"x2.15" breadboard for $1.11 shipped. If Parallax bought in quantity, you could probably purchase closer to $1. A breadboard that small is unlikely to increase the price of shipping the FLip.
Maybe you would consider raising the FLiP price to $35.99 and include the 400 point breadboard for "Parllax / Propeller newbies"? The offering then looks more robust or complete to them, and they can use it right out of the box without having to track down another part.

This is only meant as a helpful consideration after my recent experience trying to convince someone to give the Propeller a try.
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  • 35 Comments sorted by Date Added Votes
  • DrPop wrote: »
    Looking at the Propeller board offerings while trying to get a friend interested in purchasing Parallax instead of Arduino, something dawned on me. For quick solderless projects, Parallax appears to be headed toward standardizing on two offerings for the P1: the Activityboard WX, and the FLip. At $79, you're asking new adopters to pony up considerably more than they would elsewhere, just to try the Propeller if the ABWX is their first board. Which is fine if they see the value. If they don't, you might have to convince them of what the Prop can do vs Brand X first.

    Enter the FLip. Great product, everything in a nice, tight, powerful package for $35.
    However, it needs a breadboard to really be useful to someone new to microcontrollers / electronics, and unlike most forum members, they don't already have one. If you make them hunt for one, you might lose a sale. A quick Internet search found a 400 point, 3.25"x2.15" breadboard for $1.11 shipped. If Parallax bought in quantity, you could probably purchase closer to $1. A breadboard that small is unlikely to increase the price of shipping the FLip.
    Maybe you would consider raising the FLiP price to $35.99 and include the 400 point breadboard for "Parllax / Propeller newbies"? The offering then looks more robust or complete to them, and they can use it right out of the box without having to track down another part.

    This is only meant as a helpful consideration after my recent experience trying to convince someone to give the Propeller a try.

    An excellent idea imo, but a newbie would also need a USB A to Micro B cable to power and program it, so that should be added to the kit as an optional item.
    In science there is no authority. There is only experiment.
    Life is unpredictable. Eat dessert first.
  • Parallax does offer a breadboard for the Flip. It is not a buck but it hase 600 points and good power rails.

    https://www.parallax.com/product/700-32023
    Infernal Machine
  • DrPopDrPop Posts: 149
    edited November 12 Vote Up0Vote Down
    @Publison, good point, and nicer breadboard! My aim was to get them to have it all in one and not increase shipping size/cost though, so that's why I was looking at the smaller, 400 point board.

    Edit:
    @Kwinn - even better, though most will have a micro USB cable (or two or three) around the house from cell phones and tablets. An inexpensive micro USB cable would work perfect for this. No one is pulling too many mA down this thing just to program a Prop. Adding in your suggestion, maybe Parallax can make a "FLiP Bundle" for Propeller Newbies and price it at $37.99 or whatever. Include a FLiP, small 400 point breadboard and a micro USB cable inside to compel "budding makers" to become Propeller enthusiasts and start programming from the moment they excitedly tear open that package with the gorgeous ParaLLax sticker on the outside. :smile:
  • DrPop wrote: »
    @Publison, good point, and nicer breadboard! My aim was to get them to have it all in one and not increase shipping size/cost though, so that's why I was looking at the smaller, 400 point board.

    Edit:
    @Kwinn - even better, though most will have a micro USB cable (or two or three) around the house from cell phones and tablets. An inexpensive micro USB cable would work perfect for this. No one is pulling too many mA down this thing just to program a Prop. Adding in your suggestion, maybe Parallax can make a "FLiP Bundle" for Propeller Newbies and price it at $37.99 or whatever. Include a FLiP, small 400 point breadboard and a micro USB cable inside to compel "budding makers" to become Propeller enthusiasts and start programming from the moment they excitedly tear open that package with the gorgeous ParaLLax sticker on the outside. :smile:

    Making it an "open, plug together, and program" experience was what came to mind when I read your post. Adding check boxes for including a breadboard and USB cable would make that experience easy to get.
    In science there is no authority. There is only experiment.
    Life is unpredictable. Eat dessert first.
  • Thumbs up on including the breadboard. Not so sure about the micro USB cable. I have an abundance of the darn things, as I'll bet most tech-aware folks do. 'Not even sure where they all came from. I'm careful not to leave two of them coiled together, lest they reproduce like coathangers in a dark closet. So I suspect including one with the FLiP module at an increased price might be a tad wasteful.

    -Phil
    “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. -Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  • Add a check box beside related and suggested items on the product page. That way people could add multiple items to their shopping cart in one go rather than searching around like the have to do now. The Flip product page would include check boxes for the breadboard and the cable.
    Infantryman's Axiom; Always cheat, always win.
  • Perhaps an occasional sale on the FLiP module that, rather than dropping the price, Parallax tosses in the breadboard? (that's basically 11% off)
  • That might work, though it's pretty obvious you can't compete on price alone. We can get Arduino and ARM boards for peanuts. I wasn't necessarily after Parallax to lower the price of entry, but more suggesting that if this is going to be their portal of entry for first time Propeller buyers, it might compete better if complete.

    Then again, maybe not, and it was just an idea. I don't mean to be causing a ruckus around here either! :lol:
  • You mean something like the FLiP Tri-It kit?
    https://parallax.com/product/32023
    DrPop wrote: »
    We can get Arduino and ARM boards for peanuts.

    I'm not sure what boards you are talking about, but the Due is like $37, the M0 Pro it over $42, and so on. However, there were boards like the LeafLabs Maple Mini at $8 but those were not Arduino brands and I believe they have been retired.
  • For me, what would be cool would be a carrier board for the FLiP that has the same foot print as the Activity Board and the BOE which breaks out the GPIO pins from the FLiP and offers the XBee header, Servor Headers, sound port and such. Perhaps something like the BOE for Arduino but has a place to plug in the FLiP instead of an Arduino.
  • Add a check box beside related and suggested items on the product page. That way people could add multiple items to their shopping cart in one go rather than searching around like the have to do now. The Flip product page would include check boxes for the breadboard and the cable.

    Exactly.

    @PhiPi
    You and I and most of the folks on the forum probably have USB cables out the wazoo but that may not be the case for a newbie. Having check boxes for ordering the accessories needed to make the Flip usable out of the box makes it simple for someone new to Parallax to get started.

    Probably not a bad marketing strategy to do the same for some of the other products. It's frustrating to receive your order and then find you are missing an item that is needed to make use of it.
    In science there is no authority. There is only experiment.
    Life is unpredictable. Eat dessert first.
  • kwinn wrote:
    It's frustrating to receive your order and then find you are missing an item that is needed to make use of it.
    Especially now that there's no RadioShack around to fill in the gaps.

    -Phil
    “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. -Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  • JonM wrote: »
    For me, what would be cool would be a carrier board for the FLiP that has the same foot print as the Activity Board and the BOE which breaks out the GPIO pins from the FLiP and offers the XBee header, Servor Headers, sound port and such. Perhaps something like the BOE for Arduino but has a place to plug in the FLiP instead of an Arduino.

    Arduino has done exactly this. Their new "form factor" looks just like a FLiP. In fact, I seem to see it a lot of places now, for example, in Servo there is an ad for a PIC micro that looks just like a FLiP. The new arduino models are the MKR1000 WiFi and MKR WAN 1300.
    Then they give you the option to purchase a MKR2UNO Adapter so that all your old shields can still be used.
    Of course, the user will pay more for this combo. Instead of an UNO, someone is going to buy an MKR1000, and the MKR2UNO Adapter so they can use a shield that is X size. Hmmm...looks like a good marketing move. :lol: (Though actually the new Arduinos in this form factor add some functionality - either WiFi or LoRa - and we have to admit it would be cool to have a FLiP with that built in.)

    I started this thread because I realized for entry level Propeller work, it's now either a FLiP, or an ABWX. The ABWX @ $79 might be a bit steep for beginners, so that means Parallax is targeting Newbies with the FLiP. If that's their "gateway" Propeller item to get people in the door, then it might sell better if it's bundled so it works right out of the box.

    But, then again, maybe anyone who is going to buy a FLiP in the first place already has Micro USB cords out the wazoo, and a breadboard or two laying around, so I shouldn't have even brought it up?!! -_-
  • Yeah, I am familiar with the MKR1000 since I was an earlier adopter and did some beta testing with the board. It's okay but I had a ton of issues with it so it sits in the box.

    I do like the MKR2UNO Adapter though. It would be interesting to see if it is pin compatible with the FLiP.
    Something like that for the FLiP would be nice so it could be easily placed on a Beo-Bot chassis.

    As far as providing something like a USB cable with the FLiP, neither the MKR1000 nor any other Arduino Branded board I have purchased or received has come with a USB cable. However, all of the sub $20.00 boards I purchased from TI ($4.30 for the most recent MS430) come with USB cables or more. But, then again I would imagine TI has the funds to burn on such extras.

    I do believe the ABWX, BoE, and QuickStart boards do come with a USB cable. Perhaps there was a good reason as to why they did not provide one with the FLiP.

    DrPop wrote: »
    But, then again, maybe anyone who is going to buy a FLiP in the first place already has Micro USB cords out the wazoo, and a breadboard or two laying around, so I shouldn't have even brought it up?!! -_-

    Nope. I think it is a subject for a healthy discussion especially considering the other Parallax boards use a USB Mini vs a USB Micro that the FLiP has.

  • JonM wrote: »
    For me, what would be cool would be a carrier board for the FLiP that has the same foot print as the Activity Board and the BOE which breaks out the GPIO pins from the FLiP and offers the XBee header, Servor Headers, sound port and such. Perhaps something like the BOE for Arduino but has a place to plug in the FLiP instead of an Arduino.

    I agree with this kind of product idea, for certain.

    Ken Gracey

  • Ken Gracey wrote: »
    JonM wrote: »
    For me, what would be cool would be a carrier board for the FLiP that has the same foot print as the Activity Board and the BOE which breaks out the GPIO pins from the FLiP and offers the XBee header, Servor Headers, sound port and such. Perhaps something like the BOE for Arduino but has a place to plug in the FLiP instead of an Arduino.

    I agree with this kind of product idea, for certain.

    Ken Gracey

    Definitely take a glance at the MKRUNO Adapter then, because the basic layout is there.

    Here's an interesting idea. How about one up Arduino, and make an adapter board for the FLiP that has the proper pin-out for Arduino shields, (like their MKRUNO Adapter and your Propeller ASC+); only the inside fits the Parallax FLiP instead of the Arduino MKR1000. You've already done a lot of the work with mapping the pins from your Parallax Propeller ASC+ board. Just make it on a PCB the size of the Activity board WX, so you stay with one size for Parallax products. Then, you have the best of both worlds, marketable worldwide to millions of Arduino shield owners as well as increasing numbers of FLiP owners. This way a newbie could instantly use their new Propeller FLiP with any of their Arduino Shields. You can do this and keep the standard Parallax mounting hole position on the edges, because the Propeller ASC+ would easily fit inside the Activity board footprint.
  • DrPopDrPop Posts: 149
    edited November 13 Vote Up0Vote Down
    Merging all the different boards at their proper sizes comes up with something like this. Obviously it's not that simple and clearly I know nothing about laying out a PCB at this point. But for kicks, here's what an Activity Board WX base would look like with the shorter FLiP adapter pins in the middle so the FLiP sits low under a shield, and the longer Arduino shield adapter pins outside those, so the shield would sit high over the FLiP. Everything seems to fit except the Xbee socket. I can't seem to figure out how to make the XBee socket work in this form factor with the breadboard. I left it in on the breadboard to show relative size. Not sure which would be used more, could just take out the breadboard.

    Edit: If you just wanted to use the FLiP as the brains of the ABWX, then it would all fit with some rearranging. Just imagine the pic without the Arduino shield sockets.
    If you did that, would be cool to make an adapter board for the FLiP with WiFi built in or something, too.

    FLiP_Arduino_Shield_Adapter.jpg
    800 x 610 - 138K
  • Not owning a single Arduino shield myself, I have to wonder if they're going the way of the dodo with the new form factor of the Arduinos, though? So not sure if it would be worth investing even a second into that crazy idea above.

    A more sound option might be making the Activity Board FliPFi - an adapter board the size of the Activity Board with an ESP8266 WiFi chip included. That would make a compelling upgrade / second purchase for any new Propeller FLiP owner, and get them into all the Parallax sized bots and other accessories.
    I'll have to Photoshop one of those up tonight and see where everything would fit. :smile:
  • Hmm - we need to think of the future.

    For people like me, the P2 will just be able to be used with a Module containing the basics. and Parallax said to produce one.

    The FLiP form factor is obviously to small for that, But some shield to use the P2-Module in a FliP socket, other pins usable from above could make a nice way to PlugAndPlay with it.

    The Flip is, according to Ken build in unusual high numbers for Parallax, so intended to be a long living form factor.

    So having a Activity board Flip-Shield, a PPDB shield, a BOE shield or others using the Flip as a Processor Module could end up being useful even with a P2 module and a p2-flip-Adapter?

    Mike
    I am just another Code Monkey.

    A determined coder can write COBOL programs in any language. -- Author unknown.

    The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT", "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this post are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119.
  • DrPopDrPop Posts: 149
    edited November 13 Vote Up0Vote Down
    I wonder if the "basics" of the P2 could be made in a FliP - like pinout? How many more pins would the P2 have than the FLiP module, and would you have those extras coming out the top? Then we'd only need to come up with one ABWX sized adapter board, and Parallax could use it for both Prop chips. That would lower the R&D costs a bit over time. :smile:
  • Well p2 has 64 pins not 32 so halve of them would not fit the Flip pin out and had to be brought out on headers on the top. But you get my idea of reusability.

    Mike
    I am just another Code Monkey.

    A determined coder can write COBOL programs in any language. -- Author unknown.

    The key words "MUST", "MUST NOT", "REQUIRED", "SHALL", "SHALL NOT", "SHOULD", "SHOULD NOT", "RECOMMENDED", "MAY", and "OPTIONAL" in this post are to be interpreted as described in RFC 2119.
  • DrPop wrote: »
    I wonder if the "basics" of the P2 could be made in a FliP - like pinout? How many more pins would the P2 have than the FLiP module, and would you have those extras coming out the top? Then we'd only need to come up with one ABWX sized adapter board, and Parallax could use it for both Prop chips. That would lower the R&D costs a bit over time. :smile:

    I've seen others dual-row for such sub-set inclusions, but the bigger challenge with a P2-> FLiP is actually the much larger P2 package, forces a larger PCB width.
    The classic & highly flexible 0.1" thru holes, then collide with the P2 package :(

    SMD connectors is a possible choice, but they are much more expensive than generic 0.1" headers, and not 'stocked everywhere', and not as M/F choice-flexible.

    A BGA package might allow more compact modules, but I'm not sure Chip has even had that conversation with OnSemi ?

  • DrPop wrote: »
    I wonder if the "basics" of the P2 could be made in a FliP - like pinout? How many more pins would the P2 have than the FLiP module, and would you have those extras coming out the top? Then we'd only need to come up with one ABWX sized adapter board, and Parallax could use it for both Prop chips. That would lower the R&D costs a bit over time. :smile:

    You would need to go with double row of headers as anything less than 0.100" pitch is not well received. Case in point, my PropBSC module. Lots of options/features in a small module, but several people made comments about the 0.050" pitch headers up top (even though the module was not designed for breadboard use, but rather a BS2 replacement in a socket).

    A P2 could easily be put into the FLiP form factor. This would simply require SMT Headers on the bottom of a P2 breakout board to interface with socket headers on a board the size of the FLiP. This would crowd space for breadboard use of course. Another option is to have the P2 sub-board be vertcally mounted like a SIP module. Parallax knows what I mean as they already did it with the BS2 OEM. The P2 SIP module would need two rows and tight pitch, but it is very possible.
    HOWEVER, will there be a need and/or market for a P2 solution in a FLiP format? My opinion is no. The P2 will have it's own market to a degree that will drive its own product solutions rather than merging it with P1 solutions. Essentially how there are BS2 modules and Prop Mini modules (that are different based upon chip design) but that larger form factors (like the activity board) are the same. I would like to see a P2 in a P1 format as I would like the extra horsepower/features, but don't need the additional I/O. (my largest project still had 4 I/O pins to spare)

  • Maybe you could sort out the power supply considerations of a FLiP "carrier". The FLiP has a 5V/3.3V power supply on it, but they're fairly low current in comparison to other Parallax boards like the PAB. Maybe what we've got is enough - I've not got time to look up the FLiP power supply ratings.

    Maybe we only need a 6-9VDC regulator on such a carrier and get the other voltages from the FLiP.

    It could provide for a very simple design.

    Ken Gracey
  • DrPopDrPop Posts: 149
    edited November 14 Vote Up0Vote Down
    Ken Gracey wrote: »
    Maybe you could sort out the power supply considerations of a FLiP "carrier". The FLiP has a 5V/3.3V power supply on it, but they're fairly low current in comparison to other Parallax boards like the PAB. Maybe what we've got is enough...
    Edit:
    The FLip's power regs are close (enough?) to the PAB(WX). [Only Prop BOE is higher: 3A @ 5V, just 460mA @ 3.3V. The original PAB is 1.5A @ 5V, only 500mA @3.3V; the C3 is 1.5A on both; the PDDB is only 400mA shared, but also has L293D, so it's special.]
    FLiP: 1.5A @ 5V; 1.8A @ 3.3V
    PAB(WX) 1.8A on both.

    Using the power regulators on FLiP and removing them from the Carrier Board makes it less expensive. Just run 3.3V and 5V FLiP pins up to breadboard connectors and 5V pin to Servo ports as well for 5V jumper setting. As the FLiP can be connected to USB and the 5-9V input pin at the same time, we can use the FLiP's USB for programming while leaving the A/C barrel connector on the carrier board connected to the socket for the 5-9V input pin on the FLiP and the servo ports for Vin jumper setting. This makes it fully compatible w/ the ActivityBot's 5AA battery holder and the LiPo setups Parallax sells.
    Just for grins, here is the FLiP Carrier Photoshopped onto the Activity Board WX. :smile: PAB's USB deleted in pic already. Deleting the power regs, reset switch and P26 & P27 LEDs would save on cost since these would be redundant on the FLiP.

    What would be the desired functionality of such a carrier board? Somehow we'd need to strike the right balance of price vs "extras" over the FLiP to make it a worthwhile 2nd purchase for Prop Newbies. You could delete any of: XBee socket, SD card socket, A/V section and A/D. Then it just becomes a basic servo/breadboard for the FLiP. Depending on cost, that may or may not be what people might want. This whole idea might prove to be too cost prohibitive, I don't really know. It's been a fun thought though, thanks for humoring me. :coffee:

    FLiP_Carrier.jpg
    800 x 613 - 130K
  • DrPop wrote: »
    What would be the desired functionality of such a carrier board? Somehow we'd need to strike the right balance of price vs "extras" over the FLiP to make it a worthwhile 2nd purchase for Prop Newbies. You could delete any of: XBee socket, SD card socket, A/V section and A/D. Then it just becomes a basic servo/breadboard for the FLiP. Depending on cost, that may or may not be what people might want. This whole idea might prove to be too cost prohibitive, I don't really know. It's been a fun thought though, thanks for humoring me. :coffee:

    I think if you pull off the XBee socket, SD card socket and such, then it might be a good idea to add something like Arduino Headers so it is easily expandable. But it might be an opportunity to create some sort of line of Propeller expansion boards that fit the BoE and Activity Board headers as well that are stackable; something like "Prop-Tops" or would that be "FLiP-Tops". However, the other direction would be to add Bluetooth LE on the board and perhaps temp and 3-axis accelerometer or even an RGB LED.
  • I think you need to have some basic functions to show off the Flip module. Must haves are the SD card socket, A/D & D/A ic chips, RTC ic, buffered Output Driver ic - and Arduino / XBee socket /Activity Board headers. At least have the circuit board traces, maybe the headers/socket, maybe the ic chips. So it looks like a mini version of the Prop Development Board-lite. Parallax already has tons of educational products & courses & manuals. They just need to be tied together in one place so you can actually do something with the FLiP module - and show off the capabilities of the Prop chip - and do it better than the competition. But like others have said, it's a balance of features to hit the correct market
  • This has been an interesting discussion, thanks. I can see where the success of a FLiP carrier board - and even perhaps the long term success of the FLiP itself once the novelty wears off, will depend on the road map of Parallax's ecosystem.
    @PropGuy2 - you are correct in that there needs to be some way of showing off what something like the FLiP can do vs the competition. I'll have to step back and think about how that could happen. I'm sure they are already dreaming up something...but even after all this, I still think the FLiP is more useful to a newbie with a breadboard. :smile:
  • DrPop wrote: »
    @PropGuy2 - you are correct in that there needs to be some way of showing off what something like the FLiP can do vs the competition.

    I believe it goes beyond just the form factor of a board in that your have to compare the functionality and features of the chip that is on the board. Also, the support structure behind the device is a bit important as well. Where else can you have a direct forum conversation with the designer of the products as well as those who have direct influence on the products that are released?

    Perhaps a holiday offer that includes a FLiP, Breadboard and USB cable and such could be offered. Top mounted Female headers would be a nice option though.

  • JonM wrote: »

    Perhaps a holiday offer that includes a FLiP, Breadboard and USB cable and such could be offered. Top mounted Female headers would be a nice option though.

    Yes, I saw the top female headers on the new Arduino boards in the same form factor. A nice touch. ;) Obviously Parallax is thinking long term with the FLiP if they produced them in great quantity as was mentioned by someone above. So maybe they've got a bigger overall plan for them.
    At the very basic level, a FLiP and a breadboard is less expensive and more capable (with a handful or resistors, LEDs, etc) than one of the old RadioShack electronic learning kits, so it can fill in educational duties well!
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