Monday, 29 July 2013

Farnell Wi-Fi WiFly modules

Well, Farnell have done it again. We can't help but be impressed, at Nerd Towers, about their fantastic customer service. We've just spent a week of evenings working on a high-speed audio-to-data device (ok, a cheapskate's modem) to get data into iPhones and Android phones/tablets. While the proof-of-concept worked (on a laptop and a Galaxy tablet) it wasn't consistent enough when used on different devices: presumably different devices have different microphones, and different noise-cancelling circuitry (if any) and behave differently, when you're working on an individual sound sample level.

So we gave up on trying to come up with a one-solution-fits-all device, although learned a massive amount about audio sampling, data rates and Manchester encoding along the way.

What has this got to do with Farnell? Well, after chatting online about the failure-that-was-almost-a-success, someone suggested using wi-fi. All phones and tablets these days seem to come with wifi: in fact, even with a working audio-to-data routine, the host device would still need to access the internet to share data around - so why not just make a board game controller device that uses native wi-fi?

It was almost 8pm when I found these little things:

Just the ticket!
Except on further inspection of my confirmation email, I realised I'd just bought a couple of  FTDI chips on breakout boards, with some buttons - not actual wi-fi modules (as was shown in the picture). £13 for a wi-fi development platform did seem a bit cheap......

So then, some time after 8pm, I ordered a couple of these:

It's the wi-fi drop-in module for the development/test board I'd just bought. At £18 a module it was still a reasonable price (although with the dev board on top, a rather hefty £31+VAT each - though still cheaper than the older, out-dated Arduino wifi shield)

At about 10pm I got an email from Farnell to say that stock had been allocated to my order.
Nothing to get excited about - after all, it's not like they were going to turn up the next day....

.... at 4pm a courier knocked on the door and handed over a parcel, with the familiar blue and orange squiggly logo on it.

About 18 hours between ordering and receiving the wi-fi boards - and from an order placed after 8pm at night. I couldn't believe the effort these guys go to, all day, every day. Farnell, you rock!

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