Arduino IDE 1.8.11 - The State Of The Arduinosphere
Written by Harry Fairhead   
Wednesday, 29 January 2020

The standalone Arduino IDE has just been released in a new version. You don't hear so much about it these days and it is a good time to examine the state of the Arduinosphere in general.

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Once there was only the Arduino, but now there are Arduinos and Raspberry Pis. We have so much choice it is confusing. Even at the software level we can choose to use either the traditional Arduino IDE or the web-based editor.

In the early days you really didn't have much choice. You used an Arduino Uno, and a while later the Due, Leonardo, Duemilanove and so on. These were initially confusing, but generally you could work out what advantage a particular flavor of Arduino had over another. What is more, as the majority of boards didn't run an operating system, you also were fairly happy that networking, or other things that needed an OS, were not available. Indeed this was generally the way you picked Arduino or Raspberry Pi - the Pi had networking and eventually WiFi.

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Today if you go to the Arduino store things are very different and fairly confusing. You can still buy a Uno, but there are now many variations on the MKR and the Nano to confuse the beginner and discovering what does and does not have WiFi, LoRa, GSM and so on is not easy. How a beginner makes sense of it all I have no idea and choosing a board for a specific project is difficult.

But surely choice is a good thing?

Not in the world of IoT where you need some kind of promise of continuity. Something you spend time designing has to have a promise of being buildable for a long time. While the basic Arduino is a good bet for longevity, there are already a lot of "retired" models. Which of the current models will survive the next five years?

This brings us to the issue of the development software. When the Arduino was young one of its big attractions was its very easy-to-use IDE. You programmed in C/C++ and the code just ran on the Arduino - compared to other development systems that required downloading and flashing this was, and is, simple. However, as with all companies, Arduino wants a revenue stream and so the Web Editor was born. This is an online editor hosted by the company on AWS. There is a free tier, but many will find it too restricting  with only 200 seconds of compilation per day. The Maker plan is $6.99 per month and if you want to use it to develop professional systems then you have to talk to them for terms. It isn't the money that is the problem, it is the insecurity of a cloud-based system that is off-putting - it isn't open source. If the terms are changed or it the offering is "retired" then you could be left in the lurch.

Although Arduino has "de-emphasized" the open source IDE in favor of the cloud service, there is still the original open-source IDE that you can download and run on your own machine. If you go to the IDE's download page you will be urged to sign up for the online service and there is a strong impression that the download is perhaps not the best way to go.The option does exist, however, and the news that 1.8.11 has just been released is reassuring.

The new version has only modest improvements - better support for Mac OSX, improved serial plotter support, faster build time and updated core and WiFi firmware. The open source project on GitHub also looks to be in good shape with 242 contributors, but when you look more closely there are only two actively contributing much to the code and both are engineers at Arduino.

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More Information

Arduino 1.8.11 has been released

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 29 January 2020 )