Other Boards - Unsupported?

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  • Hi Gordon,
    Each time I read this page:
    I wonder what this statemen means, especially for owners of non genuine espruino boards: "Other Boards - Unsupported".

    Please clarify.

  • I'm not Gordon and I'm not related to Espruino, but I'm using one of these boards (HY-Mini) so let me share my experience too.

    For me it means that although they should work just fine, it's not guaranteed and you should not expect them to work i.e. demand a fix if something goes wrong.

    From what I can see on GitHub, Gordon is really busy working on Espruino (the software) and there is still so many things to be done that bugs related purely to unofficial boards are of low priority.

    And that is the situation we have at the moment with HY-Mini boards. They used to work fine, but then something got broken and current version of Espruino firmware doesn't work. He tried to fix it but it was taking too much time so he is not working on it any more, focusing on the official stuff in the first place (which totally makes sense).

    So my advice - if you don't like unpleasant surprises go and get the official board, then in case of any problems you can bet on him.

  • Frankly speaking I started using espruino software before v1.30 (many months before advent of espruino board).
    The STM32VLDiscovery was perfectly supported at that time.
    I bought a license for using espruino software - nobody remembers that for example 'save' feature required a license to enable it.
    That's why I asked this question. I know that Gordon is very busy supporting 'the only right' board.

  • It means:

    • I provide the binaries but they may/may not work
    • If something is broken it's up to the community to fix it.
    • If you post on the forum with a problem and you're not using the Espruino board, I won't be able to spend much time helping you out.
    • The documentation/tutorials are aimed mainly at the Espruino board - otherwise they'd be pretty confusing for people getting started.

    Sadly the issue is money. I need to keep being able to work on Espruino, and to do that, I need to earn some kind of salary.

    The Espruino board includes a small markup so that hopefully if people keep buying it I'll be able to support myself while I keep working.

    The hope is that having the extra support for the Espruino Board will convince more people that were 'on the edge' to support Espruino and buy the Espruino board rather than buying a slightly cheaper board from elsewhere. However I'm working solid 11-12 hour days on Espruino most days, and I'm still losing money right now.

    Making sure new versions of Espruino work with each of the 8 different boards takes a huge amount of effort - nobody else helps out with this and generally it's a thankless task. I still spend quite a bit of time on it, but of course nobody notices when it works - only when it breaks.

    I just can't afford to spend even more time supporting other boards when at the end of the day they're not helping me keep working on Espruino - in fact in some cases people are buying them instead of Espruino boards, so it's actually making it more difficult for me to continue working on Espruino.

    If I spend all my time supporting these boards, and then have to give up work on Espruino because I can't support myself it really doesn't help anyone.

    BogdanG - thanks for the early support. Do you know how many people registered Espruino over that entire year of me working basically full-time on Espruino though, at £2.95 a time? 25. If more people had actually supported Espruino during that period things might be quite different - there might not even have been an Espruino board!

    Anyway, hopefully that clears it up.

  • Understood!

  • Gordon - Since it sounds like selling Espruino boards is critical to the success of this venture, let me make two recommendations:

    • Update http://www.espruino.com/Get+it with prominent links to distributors. The current version of that page has the link to distributors in body-text size print, and overall gives the impression that you're barely ready to start selling them. Even on http://www.espruino.com/Order the most important material - the links to the vendors - is at the bottom of the page. It comes off as though you don't really want to sell them :-/

    • Get a better US distributor. Can't you get someone to sell it through Amazon Marketplace (their third party seller system)? Or even Ebay? Americans are much more comfortable buying through these big marketplaces than some fly-by-night store with a name that evokes crops and aliens (Seeed might be a familiar name to some microcontroller people, but it certainly isn't known to the js web-developer crowd). Many people I know are just like "fuck this shit" (pardon my american) when they see something only for sale on a smaller online vendor. If we see that a seller is shunning Amazon and Ebay, that immediately makes the vendor look untrustworthy and unreliable - we assume that they're doing it to avoid having reviews and feedback ratings which would reveal their shoddy service or poor products. I know you're legit, but most people seeing this won't have such faith. Besides - almost as importantly - it's super easy to buy through amazon or ebay. No entering cc info, no typing in addresses... just add to cart, checkout, next, place order - bam, done. I'm sure there are logistical difficulties to selling through these vendors (though I'm not sure what it is for ebay - even I've sold crap on there), but I have no doubt that this is hurting your sales into the US. Particularly since all those other unsupported boards that don't fund this project ARE readily available from established vendors who are easy to buy from (via amazon and/or ebay).

  • I think it's difficult to compete with Discovery F4. For about 15$ you get nice board:

    Of course some effort is required to use ARM tools but it's feasible and pretty flexible.
    Some STM32 boards are supported by arduino (libmaple project and its derivatives).
    I use it for STM32VLDiscovery when I run into memory shortage using javascipt.

  • Just to say - my last post sounded a big depressing. It's not like Espruino is going anywhere - the nice thing about the KickStarter is it's given me a year or two to find ways to create an income from Espruino, and I'm sure that will happen.

    @BogdanG ... ST sell that board basically at-cost (if not at a loss). IIRC in the licence it says that you can't use it as a component in a product that you sell - because ST know that they wouldn't make any money if you did :)

    Obviously I can't compete with a massive multi-national selling a product at cost... In a way it's pretty dumb of me even to make the images available - so I've got to rely on the fact that people will want to support Espruino - and specifically that people will want something that just plugs in and goes, with documentation that shows all the correct pin names.

    I guess some people will always be more worried about saving £10 than about actually supporting Espruino - but I guess they never would have bought it anyway and I've just got to hope that they produce good publicity which causes others to buy the real board.

    As an interesting side-note, http://www.mbed.org support a wide range of boards but only if the board manufacturer pays them! Obviously that would be ideal for Espruino, but sadly I'm not big enough to be able to come to that kind of arrangement.

    @DrAzzy - thanks for the advice, it's really helpful. I've been meaning to update the website and add purchase links to the front page for a while - I'll try and do that today. I have been after US distributors for a while - and there was interest from a very big US one (but being a big one they're extremely slow moving).

    It's difficult - being more of an engineer than a salesperson there's always the thought that if I make it awesome enough and fix every bug, people will magically buy it. It's not the case at all, and I really need to focus more on marketing now.

  • I know how the ST business model looks like - they want to popularise thei board to earn money later.

    Assuming that the espruino is targetted at hobbists market the ST, TI, freescale are great choice (cheap, feature-rich), etc.

    Maybe releasing espruino for as many boards as possible is a nice choice.
    Speciall features could be licenced to get some money from it (it's clear for me that you need money).

    Since Kickstart success the popularity of the espruino rised somewhat, I guess.
    But I think the main barrier is the espruino board itself.
    I personally have about 20 different boards from many vendors (most of the subsidized) and I am looking for for common development environment.

    I would look for opportunity how to popularize the espruino-javascipt among hobbits but I would not limit it to a single board (the mentioned "Unsupported board" headline might be discouraging).

    I am sorry for these words - you know I have been a fun of the espruino since the beginning.

  • Also speaking about doing the good deeds, supporting the project and so on, it is easy to forget that Espruino board is really a nice piece of hardware and, when compared with these fancy boards, it has pros too.

  • People have different needs. For some people the espruino is great choice. The others might want for example a bunch of sensors embedded on the board and ST boards might be very tempting.

  • A common dev platform is a great idea - that was my initial plan for Espruino...

    The problem is that people won't pay for it. I did try it - for a year - and it failed miserably. Even you, who have 20 boards and are trying to convince me to do this, only registered Espruino on a single board during that time.

    However people will pay for a board that comes pre-installed with Espruino, so that's what I'm doing...

    If the common dev platform had worked out, I'd be doing that :)

  • I had ONLY one STM32VL where I use the licenced espruino - tt is licenced per SN, isn't it?.
    So I have NOT violated the license agreement at least for SN licensing approach.

    BTW. Two other STM32 boards are programmed using the arduino (libmaple).
    I have 10+ boards coming from Texas Instruments and many from arduino makers.

    I did many projects where I was not able to use espruino for many reasons (performance, memory constrains, complexity of javascript event oriented model when using challange/response communications required complex FSMs, etc).

    At the beginning the espruino was promissing and I spent many hours trying to use it in every project
    (maybe you remember the Nokia FBUS issues we used to troubleshoot together).
    I quickly noticed that STM32VL isn't so powerful to run espruino and gave up the idea for some time.
    That's another reason why I did NOT bought another license.

    Espruino has its place in the hobbyst market. And as usual it is not a 'silver bullet'.

  • @BogdanG - I'm not saying you broke any licence at all!

    I'm just saying that selling the software on other boards isn't really viable... You're trying to convince me that supporting more boards is worthwhile, but what you've just said kind of implies that it isn't?

    Believe me, I've spent a very long time trying to find ways to make selling just the software work - and I couldn't. I sold more copies of Espruino (with the board) in the first 30 minutes of the KickStarter than I'd sold all of the previous year - and it's been much less trouble supporting my users than if they'd all had different boards.

    I think it shows that it's the right direction - even if it's frustrating for people who'd like to use different boards.

  • For some application using javascript is not suitable, but for simple ones it might be useful. It's nothing new in the software industry - you do not use object oriented programming when you want to do simple automation tasks... You choose the programming language to get the results quickly - at least in business settings we do use this approach.

    They are some application where espruino is the best - for example prototyping.
    I meant espruiono popularisation, nothing more.

    I'm closing the topic. Thanks you for sharing your thoughts.

  • @Gordon have you considered accepting donations?

  • Originally I did - I think I had a donations button up for around 6 months and I don't think I ever got anything, so I took it off :)

    Having said that, the amount of traffic to the site has increased massively now so it might well be worth re-adding... Especially if it was next to the Download link :)

  • @Gordon how much traffic does this website consume every month?

  • It's around 400 users, 2000 pageviews a day - so not massive...

  • Hey, Gordon. I was a Kickstarter backer and I've enjoyed playing with my boards. Just thought I'd share some of my experiences.

    I see your Espruino boards as prototyping boards, for two reasons:

    • it has extra components/size that I wouldn't always need if embedding (same applies to the ST discovery boards)
    • cost

    However, it's not really the ideal prototyping board:

    • I may be assuming too much from myself, but I doubt the audience that gets excited about Javascript on a micro also is great at SMT soldering (I sure am not and it's one of the main reasons I haven't played with the boards more)
    • no headers for easy connection to shields or breadboards

    All that said, cost is really the biggy. I appreciate your concerns and don't expect you to give things away for free, but when I can easily include even something like an Arduino Micro for half the cost (and not have to deal with SMT), I'm almost always going to go that route. But really, I'm usually just creating a standalone Arduino on perfboard.

    Still, I think there are some gaps you could fill here that would help a lot and make me more likely to use Espruino:

    • provide a more complete prototyping board (instead of SD card reader and SMT areas for components, include some sort of header/headers)
    • provide a simpler, smaller board for lazy embedding (similar to the Arduino micro)

    Just my opinions ;)

  • I think Gordon is planning a smaller, cheaper espruino, to wick I am greatly liking forward to. There are some posts about it.

    Personally, I love the smd area, and just wish there was a second smd area (connected to same holes for headers) instead of the spot for Bluetooth, with the pads on the finer pitch for tssop / msop. With that cheap "no clean gel flux", I can solder on smds in half the time as an equivalent through hole part. I may not be typical - but I would think there would be people who know electronics but are scared of the programming, whom JavaScript and smd both great for. Plus, you can't get a lot of the best parts in through hole... Like, show me a mosfet that has performance specced at and decent at 3 volt gate drive through hole for example... I haven't been able to, while there are rice grain sized sot-23 parts handle multiple amps continuously, at 2.5v on gate (they fit real good the smd area)

    Re lack headers do you mean you'd the pin strip be included? I agree on that, but I'm glad it wasn't pre installed because I've been using several styles of pin strip.

    I do kinda feel like there's room for two versions of the espruino - the expensive one with more pins and smd area, and the cheaper, smaller one that Gordon has talked about.

    Just my two cents - I'm not normal, so I'm not trying speak for the world.

  • Thanks for the perspective. I think I'm just as atypical, but on the other side of the fence. While Javascript is appealing, I'm a software engineer, so different languages aren't scary to me, whereas I'm still learning the hardware side (I hardly know what you're talking about with the mosfet) and I'm horrible at soldering. I get by fine with through hole, but my attempts at SMT were disastrous. I guess I just need to learn with some cheaper components instead of my pricey Espruino boards that I don't want to bork.

  • I've heard from a few people who wanted pins preinstalled. I think I'm going to have to have two specific products - one with and one without.

    I am working on a new board - I got the first prototype mostly working just last night! It sounds a lot like what you want, and it should be a bit cheaper too.

    About price... You say half the price for a micro, but I just looked online and they are £20 whereas Espruino is £25 - not a huge difference, especially as the Espruino software is so much more complex than the Arduino bootloader. It looks a bit different in the US, but I can't do too much about that at the moment as it's just the way the tax/exchange rate is - I sell at basically the same price to everyone.

    It probably doesn't help that while the headline figure in each currency is about equal, the UK price includes tax and the US one doesn't. I'm not sure what I can do about that now it's on shelves in the US, but I might be able to negotiate something better with the new board.

  • Yeah, I'm in the US. For example, adafruit sells the Arduino Micro for $22.95 and the Espruino for $39.95.

    The new board sounds exciting. Can't wait to see what you come up with.

  • In my opinion, the pins should be delivered with the board, but not soldered. He who cannot manage the task of inserting and soldering a couple of pin headers should stay away from electronics.

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Other Boards - Unsupported?

Posted by Avatar for BogdanG @BogdanG