Jez Higgins

Freelance software generalist
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Thursday 10 April 2008 accu2008: Robot Wars

Who's stronger - Microsoft or Open Source? It's the programmer version of Chelsea vs Arsenal, or Thor vs The Hulk. At the conference this year, Jan-Klaas Kollhof and Ed Sykes decided to settle it, once and for all. Sort of. Jan and Ed have, over the past couple of years, established themselves firmly in my must-see category (my chum Allan would have them as C to B transitioners) because they are funny and they do fun things. They decided to settle the who's stronger question through the medium of Lego Mindstorms robots.

Ed kicked off talking about the Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio. He'd obviously drawn the short straw because it seems to follow the standard Microsoft model for developer tools. It's clearly very capable, the simulator proved that, but by heck is it long winded. Everything seems to take an inordinate amount of code and a great deal of fiddling and faffing and pipes and connecting and event handling and what not. I suspect very strongly if you dug out your old "how build a COM container that works with almost anything" manuals, the robotics studio code would look very similar. It worked, but Ed appear thoroughly sapped of fun.

Jan-Klaas's straw, on the other hand, was extremely long indeed. Using free tools, he had his robot racing round the place in no time. The code was short, to the point, and extremely readable. I'm sure I could give Jan's code to Daniel and he'd be able to work with it. (Which may be the excuse I need!). Ed sat with a face like death while this was going on, and when Jan said "so I hooked up my Wiimote" he looked like he wanted the Earth to swallow him up.

So who's stronger? Robotics Studio is probably stronger on capability and generality, but Open Source is hugely stronger on fun. Me, I like fun.


Tagged accu-conference, and microsoft


Jez Higgins

Freelance software generalist
software created
extended or repaired

Older posts are available in the archive or through tags.

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