First Look: The Microsoft .NET Micro Framework

Well actually it’s not a first look.  You might recall the .netcpu development kits that shipped over a year ago that I wrote a little bit on.  Well the TinyCLR went back into the Microsoft oven to bake a while more and samples were pulled out at MEDC 2006 for attendees to try.

What is the Micro Framework (.NET MF)?
It’s a very scaled down CLR and BCL that is capable of running on 32-bit architecture processors without any underlying OS.  Basically the MF has its own bootloader and OAL.  Developers write managed code (C# is the only thing supported in the community preview) that runs directly against the MF.  The MF code can directly catch interrupt vectors and set hardware pin states (how cool is that?).  The working size of the MF is ~250k. Yes 250k.

Where can I get the MF?
The MF is still in very early stages and isn’t quite ready for a broad release.  MEDC provided a somewhat controllable release area where immediate feedback could be gotten from users and the hardware was a specific known set.

What exactly did MEDC attendees get?
They got a SumoRobot kit that was based on the Parallax SumoBOT.  It was not just a Parallax bot.  It had a custom PCB running a non-commercial ARM processor.  That means that even if you get the SDK, you cannot just go get a Parallax bot and use it (I’ve been asked a few times about this now – sorry for not being clear on it at the conference).  The attendees also got a early SDK that allowed for development against the bot.  The lucky 40 or so who actually got hardware got to take it home.

On Tuesday I held a lab where I walked through development and how to test the hardware, plus provided a little sample code.  On Wednesday night those with SumoRobots got to test them in a competitioon against one another.

I’m jealous.  Where can I get MF hardware?
There isn’t anything available today, but the beta MF will be out in a few months and there are some hardware vendors working hard to have development kits ready to ship when that happens.  To keep up to date sign up at the MF web site.

Will OpenNETCF be doing stuff with the Micro Framework?
Silly question.  We already are.  We wrote the documentation for the SumoRobot and the lab and are working hard to make sure we can provide the value and platform extension work that you’ve come to expect from us.