Publisher: Make (O'Reilly)
Audience: Enthusiasts and education
Reviewer: Harry Fairhead
.NET Gadgeteer isn't as well known as the Arduino system, but in many ways it is easier to use and more powerful.
Can a 90-page book make you an expert?
The obvious answer is no but it can get you further than you might expect. The reason for this isn't the excellence of the book, although it quite good, but more to do with the ready-made aspect of the system. Basically you have to do less to get more done.
The first thing to say is that while the system has .NET in its name, it isn't really under the control of Microsoft. The hardware and the software are open source. There also aren't as many manufacturers making modules for the system and this restricts your choice and possibly put the price up, but it might be worth it for the extra sophistication.
The book is based mainly on the FEZ Starter Kit, which costs $249.95, but does contain more than just the basic microprocessor mainboard. In fact you get enough to build a lot of interesting projects, including a camera, USB module, Joystick, SD card module, network module and a touch display.
The book starts off with an overview of the system and a little about its history. There are some descriptions of how to get started leading up to a "Hello World" program.
The first project proper is a spy camera which is just a simple use of the video module and the SD card module to record the data.
The second project is a small game using the touch screen and the joystick module. All of the code is explained and introduced in small chunks.
The third is a web server using the Ethernet interface and the final project is a camera backup gadget.
As you can tell, you don't get very many projects to 90 pages. You also won't find any electronics construction within any of the projects. This is a "wire the modules together" sort of approach to hardware. The software is a little more creative in that you do get to write object-oriented code in C#.
The final chapter is an overview of some of the extra modules you can get to create different types of project.
This book isn't going to help you much if you haven't a clue what you are doing. The good news is that the demands of the hardware are small and you should be able to put the system together to make the projects. You do need to be able to program because the book simply guides your existing programming knowledge to using hardware via supplied class libraries.
As a result this is not a beginner's book, but it does serve to provide an overview of the .NET Gadgeteer system in sufficient details for you to decide if you want to buy the FEZ kit. It is most important to realize that the system is more about programming than it is about hardware which is just about using the right modules.