I am getting a lot of requests for the older Arduino version of BrewPi. I assume most people want the Arduino version because it was cheaper, because I cannot think of another good reason. However, if you bought it from our store with a case and display, the total would have been about 80 euros. Not as much as the BrewPi Spark, but not a huge difference.
Yes, if you buy knockoffs from China, omit the display and breadboard it together, you can build it a lot cheaper. But I want to sell something reliable and plug and play.
Here is why I stopped selling it:
The standard Arduino (Uno) is 8 bit, 16 Mhz, with 32kb memory. These are ancient specs. Since 2008, the hardware barely changed. There are many alternatives now that are 32 bits, over 100Mhz and with a lot more memory that cost about the same. Arduino’s recent hardware releases with (Yun, Due) are not so good and overpriced compared to competitors.
We ran out of program space on the Arduino and spent a lot of time optimizing for space, instead of coding for functionality. The Arduino Leonardo was 100% full with our code.
The connectors used on the shield (pluggable screw terminals) required users to wire their sensors themselves. This lead to a lot of problems with OneWire. I helped users troubleshoot, but in 99.9% of the cases, the cause was bad wiring. This is why I switched to RJ11 plugs on the BrewPi Spark and the OneWire issues just went away.
The laser cut case had to be assembled by the end user. This too resulted in a lot of support questions and was simply not maintainable.
Arduino as a software platform is not very good, in my opinion. It is a bunch of libraries, without any central management for code quality control. It is fine if you just have a simple project of up to 500 lines of code. but our Arduino code was 5000 lines of code. This is why we used Atmel Studio instead of the glorified notepad that is the Arduino IDE.
Compare this with the Particle Photon:
- Modern, fast hardware.
- A very active development community, with a lot of paid developers continuously improving the software framework.
- A hardware abstraction layer, that made the switch to newer hardware (Core to Photon) almost effortless.
- Room to grow and expand the software functionality.
Why is the BrewPi Spark more expensive?
- Much better connectors (from Wurth Electronics). The Arduino version used cheaper Chinese knock-offs.
- Better display
- Much nicer enclosure
- A OneWire bus master, for more reliability
- DC-DC converter on board, so it can power expansion boards.
- RS-485 on board (not used yet, but for future expansion boards)
- CE tested
- A bit more margin to support development
I could have developed a cheap version, without the DC-DC converter, the display or RS-485, a bare-bones BrewPi. I might still do that some day, but right now I do not have the time to develop and support 2 platforms. So I created a controller that is future proof and can be easily expanded.
So to summarize:
The move from Arduino to Spark/Particle gave us room to grow, while also making BrewPi much more plug and play.
There are much better alternatives to Arduino now and we made the switch.
We will soon stop supporting Arduino, because the software will simply not fit.
And I don’t want to sell a product that I cannot support in the near future.