My Radioshack Experience

I recently went to my local RS for a couple bits and pieces for a project. While there I noticed they started carrying Arduino products and accessories. I ended up buying an Uno, a RS branded JPEG camera "shield", a Seeed TFT LCD, and a Seeed SD shield, intending to gift them this Christmas. The employee at the register said everything was compatible.

The intended result was a JPEG camera that took pictures, stored them on a SD card, and displayed them on the screen. Not wanting to give someone a broken gift, I started putting things together. Here's what I found:

The camera's documentation, hosted on radioshack.com, is sealed in a Windows self-extracting executable. It wasn't an issue for me to install WINE and open it, but the gift's intended recipient would have found this to be an insurmountable task.

The documentation and included example are of pretty low quality. So much so that I never got the camera to communicate with the Uno, or my Mega. I suspect the camera was damaged, but don't have a way to confirm that.

The Seeed LCD being sold at RS is Version 1, which is out of date. Seeed's documentation is much more thorough, and I was able to run almost of the demos. There is a demo for reading a png from a SD card and drawing it on the screen. However, due to pin layout, that's impossible when using Seeed's SD shield. I was recommended to buy a Version 2 shield to have such functionality.

The Seeed SD reader had decent documentation and examples, and I was able to read and write to a SD card.

Conclusion: Had I not tested the shields my relative would have received a very disappointing gift. I've returned everything, and don't plan on buying Arduino accessories at Radioshack again.

The whole arduino shield concept suffers from that aspect. Unless one has detailed information such as schematic drawings and source code for any library code required, one can't be sure there is not some conflict over pin usage or other hardware resource requirement the shield(s) might require.

There is also the 'I must be the top shield problem' if one tries to mount more then one shield to an arduino 'stack' as in say a LCD shield and another shield that uses built in user push buttons. Basically it's very problematic for a raw beginner to just pick up shields from a store's shelf or on-line listing and know they will be able to work together, the arduino 'system' in not really plug-and-play and that can be frustrating for people first entering the arduino world.

It's only through learning and experience working with the arduino platform where one can be in a better position to select shields and other components to go with their arduino projects. No simple answers to this 'problem', but seeking help and asking questions here can be helpful for beginners.

I also wouldn't expect the Radio Shack salesman to actually know much details about the arduino product line they carry, they are more simple retail sales then technical support for much of the stuff they carry.

Lefty

I recently ran into the same thing with the Radio Shack Camera Sheild. So I called my friend (manager at the shack) and for now they have it posted on the "Product Summary", After the first paragraph look for "Click here to download the support PDE files in ZIP format."

They plan on putting it in the "Product Support" section, but at least it's there. I have not had a chance to try the code out yet, may be in the next few days.

Hope this helps. BTW there is also some code for an SD card it it.

Sorry, here is the link.

Hi,
The shield concept is good for some well thought out combinations. But it seems that when combining functions the incompatibilities multiply fast, both pinouts and physical stacking.

Personally I prefer the combination of a sensor shield with all pins available as 3-pin Ground-Voltage-Signal connectors. Then smaller functions on “electronic Bricks” or other small modules can be combined in many ways to make more complex systems.

Some example Bricks / Modules: http://goo.gl/G2xlb

There are Higher-function modules like Ethernet etc. : http://goo.gl/a3qXA

It’s still all just wires and pins and electronics function and the right libraries. Non-trivial for something combining many functions. But you can use any pins you want.

DISCLAIMER: Mentioned stuff from my own shop…