Friday, December 27, 2013

Mkay. So I've had a change of plans. I'm just going to use this space to keep track of my own stuff. If  you stumbled upon this page, sorry, it's not actually intended to be inteligible by anyone else. Feel free to snoop anyway.

Monday, April 15, 2013


I see potential:
When I first started looking into microcontrollers (an MCU) it was like trying to sneak into an exclusive club where everyone speaks a secret language. I was excited to learn of all of the great stuff people were doing with Arduino, but a little discouraged at the price. If you'll only ever need one for experiments, then the price is fantastic. If you plan on building them into a lot of different projects it could get pricey. Soon I deduced that the chips that are on the Arduinos can work as a standalone device and can have a much smaller form factor and price. These days there are books and tutorials everywhere explaining how to roll your own Arduino clone. Arduino is awesome, read up on it!

The super basic undetailed outline:

Write some code: gotta do that part in C.
The Arduino IDE (programming software) makes this all so much easier. You could make a text document, compile it into hexadecimal format, and then upload it to your MCU directly through AVRDude, OR just type it up in the IDE and hit the upload button. The other cool thing the IDE does is plug libraries of code into the code you've written just by typing #include <Library name>. There are certain things you might want the MCU to do that would require monstrous amounts of code. If there is a library for it though, you might only have to write one line (vs. 50 lines).

Program it:
There are some pins on the MCU that you connect to a programmer that's plugged into your computer. The program on your computer turns the code into a bunch of 1's and 0's and sends it down the cable into the MCU to make it do your bidding. Mwa ha ha ha! The Arduinos have some code on them already (a bootloader) that allows them to be programmed through just two pins, RX and TX. Other programmers need to be connected to six pins, but they don't need the bootloader.

Once you have done all that and failed several times, eventually you will be successful, and you will have a little electronic brain to do your bidding. Make stuff automatic. Make stuff smarter. Make stuff be amazing. Make stuff sparkle and blink. Build your own minion.

A quick list of the things you might want the MCU to do:
Turn stuff on/off
Drive DC motors, steppermotors, or servos
Connect to WIFI
Monitor sensors like:
  • Temp
  • Moisture
  • Light
  • Movement
  • Position
  • Orientation
  • Distance
  • Sound
  • Weight
  • Angle
  • Pressure
Connect things to your computer....

Hmm, lemme think about it a minute, there's more

So the moral of the story is that micro controllers do amazing things and the interwebs are now full info to help n00bs get started. Check the links box over there --->
for resources that I have used to git goin'.
If you end up using and loving the Arduino IDE and think they're an awesome company, buy some kind of Arduino product to support the development of more awesomeness.

Friday, April 12, 2013


Never get tired of starting new things. That's not so difficult to do. Maintaining momentum in the middle of a project is difficult. When you first come up with a new idea motivation is fueled by the excitement of possibility.
 I get stuck. An idea, method, materials, execution, product. The execution is most often the hanging point for most of my projects. Often the original plan for execution sometimes is not possible due to unforeseen details. It becomes difficult to enthusiastically rethink a method after the initial excitement has worn off. Here are a couple tips to get over the hump:
Create an idea bank.
It's a place to dump all the crazy ideas. If you're like me the ideas come much faster than is physically possible to execute. I often get an idea and realize it's not the first time it's bubbled to the surface of my conscious. I wish I had noted it down the first time, maybe I would have already acted on it.

 Sidenote: A cool fact about your brain is that the stuff you do, say and think about is just a fraction of what is actually going on in there. What else could be lurking in the depths of your intellect? It would be cool to know what processes are running to allow certain things to surface and others not. Maybe they're not in a format your conscious can handle. Maybe that's what dreams are, your brain making abstract thought comprehensible to the higher (or are they?) functions.........

Anyway, back to the idea of an Idea Bank. I have mine on Google Drive so that I can pull it up from anywhere as the ideas occur. I really like the Mindmeister mind mapping software. There are a lot of great options out there though. This is just where I started and havn't taken the time to try the others, so you might find on that works better for you. Other people have written up thorough reviews of all of the options out there, I'll let you google that out for yourself.
Create a Project Log.
Sometimes it's good to let a project sit for a little while and work on other things for awhile. On the other hand, you can end up repeating a lot of research.
Make a document to contain all the little notes, links, resources, and discoveries you make in the process of fleshing out an idea. You'll save yourself a lot of backtracking.
Comment below to tell us how you maintain momentum through a long project. Stay tuned! Up next: How to make an Arduino Clone!