Saturday, July 25, 2009

LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT-G 2.0 - Sound Editor

Another new addition to NXT-G 2.0 (the software that comes packed with LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0) is the Sound Editor Here is a quick guide to its functionality;

Preliminary Actions

Open NXT-G 2.0

Installed a computer Microphone correctly, and can confirm it works by using the Sound Recorder found in Start/Programs/Accessories/Sound Recorder (Example of the Windows 7 Sound Recorder below - you will be able to tell if you are recording if the green bar next to the time is moving).

The Sound Editor

The Sound Editor can be located under the 'Tools/Sound Editor...' menu in the software package.

Click on this menu option to run the Sound Editor. You will know it is loading if the image on the left appears in the middle of your screen.

This window will appear - welcome to the Sound Editor!

Below is an annotated screenshot of the Sound Editor window:

Yellow Box; The Waveform table. When you are recording waves will appear that show the peaks and and lows of noise level against the time taken for your recording.

Red Box: This is where the 'Open' and 'Save' options can be accessed. You can open and save in the following formats:


Blue Box: This is where we can change the playback volume of our recording (Only effects the volume level when played back on your PC, and not the overall volume when played back on your NXT brick), zoom in and out of the waveform table (For precise cropping of your recording), and where we can start, stop and play our recording

Green Box: This is where we can close the Sound Editor. Make sure you save before closing.

Recording and Cropping

The Sound Editor will allow you to record for up to ten seconds, of which you will have to crop your wanted sound to under five seconds. while you are recording, the sound Editor will look something like this:

The red and white striped bar below the waveform table shows you how long you have been recording for, and how long you have left (approximately). Also, the recording icon will now have a red circle with a line through it, and its' function will change to 'stop recording'.

Crop your recording by dragging the two dividers found just below the waveform table to the beginning and end of your wanted selection. The same applies when you have imported a sound. An easy way to tell if you need to crop your recording is if the waves in the wavelength table are red. If your recording is of an acceptable length, the waves will be green, (See pictures below) and the 'Save' function will become active.

Zooming in and Out

Zooming in and out of the waveform table is a great way to help crop a file more precisely. Use the zoom keys (the magnifying glasses) to achieve this. At the standard zoom setting (when you open the Sound Editor) you can move the cropping dividers roughly along every two seconds of recording. When you zoom in, you can move the divider along every one second, achieveing a more accurate selection.

When you zoom in, the waveform table will keep the recording between the dividers in view.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT-G 2.0 - Image Editor

Now I will have a look at the Image Editor included in NXT-G 2.0 (The software that is included in the LEGO MINSTORMS NXT 2.0 kit.)

Preliminary Actions

Run NXT-G 2.0

The Image Editor

The Image Editor can be located under the 'Tools/Image Editor...' menu in the software package.

Click on this menu option to run the Image Editor. You will know it is loading if the image on the left appears in the middle of your screen

This window will appear - welcome to the Image Editor!

The Image Editor window can be divided into seven areas(Clipboard not shown):

Green Area: This is where we can import an image we would like to have on the NXT brick. The images will be converted into a grayscale format viewable on the NXT brick.
Red Area: This is similar to a MS Paint interface - each button is a different tool for creating/editing images. Notice that unlike Paint, there is no colour pallet - all images on the NXT will be shown in a 'Black and White' style. The tools available are

* Pencil: Allows you to draw freestyle
* Line: Allows you to draw a straight line
* Rectangle: Will help construct a rectangle/square in your image
* Fill: Will fill the desired area with black (Make sure there are no gaps in the edges - otherwise the fill will 'leak' into the rest of the image.
* Elipse: Will help you create a circle/oval shape in your image.
* Erase: Removes unwanted parts of your image.
* Clipboard: This tool will allow you to select an area in your image, by dragging a visible, dashed orange box over the area you would like to select (This can also be used just to select and move areas of your image that you have misplaced). Once selected, an extra area will appear in the Image Editor window, and you will be able to cut, copy, and paste your selection into other parts of your image.
* Text: This allows you to type letters and words you would like to appear in your image. If you begin typing in the middle of the image and your typing reaches the side of the editing area, the previous words will start moving towards the left of the editing area so you can fit more in. When your typing reaches both sides, you will be unable to type further on that line.
* Brush Size: This lets you choose the size of the editing brush (small/medium/large)

Blue Area: This is where the Undo and Redo opertaions can be controlled.
Yellow Area: The area where you can edit your image.
Black Area: This is where you image will be previewed as it will appear on your NXT's screen
Brown Area: This is where the 'Save', 'Help', and 'Close' operations are located.

The clipboard window appears between the Black and Brown areas from the previous image (above)

When you are drawing in the editing area, what you are currently drawing before letting go of the left mouse button will be displayed in orange. This is also true when selecting areas of your image for the clipboard, and what you 'paste' into your image.

Compatable images that the editor can open are: .ric (Images created in NXT-G 2.0), .jpg, .jpeg, .png, and .bmp. To save an image as one of those formats, enter the .xxx ending after the filename. (This also works in NXT-G 2.0 if you would like to save the output as something other than .ric)

Useful Shortcuts:
(All shortcuts do not require you to press the '+' symbol)

Ctrl + O : Opens a window to browse for images you would like to import.
Ctrl + S : Save your image
Ctrl + H : Will open both a web browser window containing the help file for the editor, as well as a 'Context Window" - hovering your mouse above an item you are unsure about will result in information being shown in this window (Usually the name and possibly a description of the item you enquired about)
Ctrl + Z : Undo
Ctrl + X : "Cuts" a selected area
Ctrl + C : Copies a selected area into the clipboard
Ctrl + V : Pastes a selected area copied into the clipboard

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT-G 2.0 - Installing the Software

Over the next few weeks, I will provide a few starting points for using the new features in NXT-G 2.0 (The software package that comes with the NXT 2.0 kit) To begin with, we will install the software onto a computer.

If you are familier with installing software, and/or the NXT in general, skip this guide.

Extra notes and troubleshooting advice can be found at the end of this guide - and will be added to if problems arise.

Preliminary Actions

First things first, NXT-G 2.0 is a software package that, once installed on your computer, will allow you to program your NXT brick. NXT 2.0 is the robotics kit you probably just purchased ;-), and the NXT is the white brick that came in your kit which controls your creations.

We will install the software by following the on-screen installation popups.

To keep things simple, check that your computer has the minimum specifications required by right-clicking the "My Computer" icon on your desktop and selecting "Properties" from the drop down menu. The minimum requirements the software needs to run can be found on the front side of the NXT 2.0 box and on the back of the CD wallet your software came packaged in.

If your computer meets the minimum requirements, insert the MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 CD that came with your NXT-2.0 kit into your computer's CD/DVD/Blu-ray drive.

For this guide I will be using a Windows XP Home Edition operating system.

Installing the Software

To begin the installation, the software should auto-run once the CD has been inserted into the drive. If it does not auto-run, open "My Computer", right-click the "LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0" drive, and select "Autorun" from the menu options.

IF a popup appears asking for a password, you may not have administrator privilages on your account. Ask the administrator to enter the password to continue the installation.

All going well, an installation window will appear asking you to select one of the following languages; German, English, French, or Danish. Select your language and the install window will disappear.

Another installation window will appear. This one will have a loading bar near the bottom 'initializing' the setup of the NXT-G 2.0 software. Then, a "Features" window will appear. In general, install both the software and the NXT device driver. Below this is the area where you can change the install directory.

Click 'next' once you have decided on your settings.

Now the License agreement appears. Change the selection to 'Yes I accept the License agreement(s)' when you are satisfied.

After accepting, the "Start Installation" window will appear. This window will tell you what the installer will do. If you are upgrading from NXT-G 1, you will be told it is upgrading. If you have already installed NXT-G 2.0 and forgot, it will say no actions will be taken!

When you click 'Next', the software will install onto your computer. This may take anything between under 5 minutes to 10 minutes depending on your settings and computer specs. Finally, click the 'Finish' button to complete the installation!

Now open NXT-G 2.0. A shortcut should have been placed in your "Start/Programs/LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0" folder, and on your desktop.

The loading screen will appear and...

You have successfully installed NXT-G 2.0!


Preliminary Actions:

* The software will not prevent you from installing it on a PC that does not meet the minimum specs, however your experience with the software will be effected - it will probably be VERY slow.
* The NXT-G 2.0 software is packaged as a CD
* I have also successfully installed NXT-G 2.0 on Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition and Windows 7 Evaluation Edition (Build 7000) - but LEGO will probably not offer support if your installation messes your computer up if you are using these operating systems.
* NXT-G 2.0 will upgrade over an existing NXT-G installation if you have installed it, if you would like to keep your existing NXT-G install, choose a different install folder by "Browsing" for it in the "Features" installation window.
* You may need to restart your computer once your installation is complete.

Installing the Software
* Registration is not compulsary, and all features of NXT-G 2.0 will be active upon install.
* Registration can also be completed through the NXT-G 2.0 software's 'Help' menu.


* If the 'Browse' option on the "Features" install window is grayed out, you have already installed NXT-G 2.0 on your computer

Monday, July 6, 2009

FLL in New Zealand!

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is quite a well known robotics competition held in the U.S, and many international teams compete every year. However, if you live in New Zealand, an alternative has arrived -Kiwi FIRST!

Kiwi FIRST FLL has started a pilot year for the popular U.S FLL competiton in New Zealand, and registrations will begin to be taken from the 10th July. A 24 team pilot tournament will be taking place on the 12th December at ACG Strathallan.

The challenge, Smart Move, has been introduced with the question "Can FIRST LEGO League teams transform the way we look at transportation?"
For more information, regularly check: