I am wanting to start playing with Arduino but am not sure whether to get an Uno or Leonardo board. I have practically no experience with electronics but have alot of software development experience- so I am thinking that the Starter TinkerKit would be best since it has the Sensor Sheild and makes everything easy to connect.
I understand the Leonardo board is the latest and greatest, but I'm not sure if the Sensor Shield is compatible with Leonardo.
I suggest you tell us what kind of projects might interest you. Picking a board is a matter of matching specs to needs. Without knowing your needs, we can't help you pick a board.
It would be a little like telling to get started on our program, and we'll be back next week with the requirements,but we want to see some progress.
LOL. You mean it isn't acceptable to tell someone to get started programming without having the requirements defined first? I've dealt with idiot software project managers enough to understand that...
I really just want to play with it. No set projects that I want to do, just hack around with it and have fun.
As far as specs go, I would of course like to get as much potential functionality as possible. Which leads me to Leonardo. But I am not sure if the Sensor Shield bundled with the Start Tinker Kit is compatible with Leonardo.
No set projects that I want to do, just hack around with it and have fun.
You must have some idea of what projects seem like fun. Music? Flashing lights? GPS?
The Leonardo is supposed to be fully compatible with all shields, from a "will it fit" point of view. Whether there are pin conflicts, or not, depends on the shield and the Leonardo. I don't think that you will find any such issues with your shield, though. Post a link to it to make sure.
I was curious what the differences are, and went over to http://arduino.cc/en/Guide/ArduinoLeonardo.
I find in debugging UNO stuff, it is useful to print debug messages on the USB serial connection, and then bring up the serial monitor in the IDE sometime later to see what's been happening. This is due to the UNO having a secondary processor that maintains the USB connection (so when you bring up the monitor, you see all of the characters that were previously printed). Unfortunately, the Leonardo doesn't have this capability, and every time the board is reset, the USB connection is torn down and brought up. There is a workaround in the documentation.
On the other hand, I imagine you could use the Leonardo to emulate other USB devices more easily than with the UNO.
I did a quick search on ebay, and only found 2 sellers selling real Leonardos, so it might be they are still ramping up production. The prices on the Leonardo was also higher than the Unos.
Right now, you are more likely to find people with Unos than Leonardos, for help. Obviously over time that will change.
The Leonardo uses the newer micro-USB cable, while the Uno uses the older USB-B cable, which is less common these days (it used to be used for USB printers).
I would vote for the UNO as a first board, simply because you can get it with a DIP micro.
As a newbie you don't always know what you are doing (my own experience), and if you damage the chip, you can just plug in a new one.
I have both a Leonardo and an Uno, and I would suggest an Uno. It is nice to have the built in USB support of the Leonardo's AtMega32u4, so you can use the USB for Serial.print's and use the real serial ports for something else like an XBee, but that advantage comes at a cost. Every time you reset the Leonardo, which happens every time you upload code, the USB device disappears and reappears to windows twice. After a few times of that, Windows and the Arduino IDE get confused, and it because very hard to get the IDE to see the Leonardo. I spend more time screwing around with getting things to see the Leonardo than I do actually coding to it. Because the Uno's USB is implemented on another uC, the USB port never disappears when the Arduino is reset, and it is a lot more stable to develop with.