Book review
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Some thoughts about "The Unofficial Guide to LEGO MINDSTORMS Robots"


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0. Introduction

The "Unoficial guide..." is a book about the lego mindstorm set, written by Jonathan B. Knudsen. Published by O'Reilly.

You probably wonder why I am doing this "review". That's because I've been asked for, and got the book free from O'reilly. This is the way to go in my opinion to ask others what they think about your work. Having said this, I  feel totally free to tell you what I think about this book, and I'm sure to do an 'unbiaised' review.

The cover says : "Going Beyond What Comes in the Box". I do totally agree with this : the book explain you every aspect of lego robotics, at least at time of writing, and should launch anyone interested to some higher developments. Well, basically, "what comes in the box" is the rcx, the lego parts, and a 'poor' manual, which is only a startup for your own work. This poor manual is in fact great for all the guys who have ideas AND skills about what to do next, what to make with the great set, and obviously how to do it. So for the guys who already have full ideas, the book may not be very usefull (but they don't need a book anyway). For all others, including myself, who don't know what is a directional transmission, forth, subsumption architecture... the book is definitively a good choice. 

Wether you are very experienced in robotic or not, you will surely find something you don't know, or something which will give you ideas. Because robotic is a very large domain, including hardware and software problems. And because we probably don't have all the skills the author has.

So, consider this book as an approach to all domain of lego robotics, which goes quite deeply into the matter.

What can I tell now? I would like to introduce all the chapters in the book, so you have an idea of what is in.

1. Welcome to mindstorms

A good introduction about what is a robot, a mobile bot, and the links with your mindstorms set. Obvious, probably.


2. Hank, the bumper tank

Hank is simple, and looks like the one you'll create by yourself. Not very interesting, because of the use of standard mindstorms programming tool. This chapter is the only one which goes not very farther than "what come in the book". But don't be fooled, there are some interesting info's about navigation.


3. Trusty, a line follower.

Some interesting info's about mindstorm original tools, and how to make a good line folower with 1 sensor. This one also explain what to do with 2 sensors.


4. Not quite C

You know what I mean : this is the tool used by lego hackers. This chapter introduces all the aspect of not quite c, with a very good intro to c. Most functions are explained. Well, now, you'll understand why therewas a chapter with trusty, the line follower. Because now, you'll add a new brain to trusty, with not quite C. Good.


5. Minerva, a robot with an Arm.

This is a very interesting chapter about mech design, drivetrains, transmissions, nqc programming, naigation...


6. pbFORTH

Another language, which seems very powerfull. This chapter will introduce anyone interested to use something else than nqc (probably more powerfull than the later). This is exactly what should be said about pbFORTH. I'm sure lot of people will try with this book. Also a new brain for minerva


7. A remote control for minerva

This one is about comunication between two robots, and incidently, between two RCX


8. Spirit.ocx and visual basic

What the title says...



There is no chapter 8A.


9. Robottag

Two robot, two brains, another way to use your rcx, others ideas may come to you. Sure.


10. Legos

Another firmware replacement. Too hard for me, i think. Will give me ideas. Latter.


11. Make your own sensors

Guess what it is? Your own cheap and easy to build sensors. Some others have made pages about that, probably more complete than this chapter, but here you'll have all the info needed to start. And well, the book was written at the begining of those sites, so... Anyway, all the info and links are provided here to get you up and running in a few hours...




This is definitely a very good book to start. After buying your mindstorms set, if you don't have any ideas, you'll find plenty in the book.

This book will make you go farther, than you would have probably on your own. If you're perfectly confident with mechanics, C, NQC, pbforth, navigation, transmissions, visual basic, communication,  in a word : robotics ...just skip this, but if you are (like me) not that knowledgeable, go for it.


You'll have full ideas
You'll have new knowledges
It's a good start for serious robotic
Explain a lot of differents technics
Goes far beyond what comes in the box...


If you already have ideas...
If you already know everything... :-)
If you don't need some start up's...
May be outdated when new ideas will come.
May not go far enough for some

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