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Thread: DIY Automation

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    the baby-eater
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    DIY Automation

    For years I've wanted to dive into building little devices with Arduino, but I've never gotten around to it.

    In the meantime, however, I've done a few IT projects that have automated various things. Moving ones and zeroes around is not nearly as cool when you aren't using them to move a robot arm or make some lights turn on and off, but it's still pretty fun to make computers do things that spare me from doing tedious jobs.

    Most of the automation I've done so far has been for work, to make my and other people's jobs easier. Most boring IT shit happens at work, after all. However, we've had some first world problems at home that needed to be solved: I made a TV series downloader to use on our streaming subscription, and I've got my sights set on automating some of our household bookkeeping chores. I am pretty sure that some of the problems I've sold could have been solved by buying some off-the-shelf gadget or app, but where's the fun in that?

    The actual toolset required to create these tools is pretty basic. I basically just use Python and its various libraries. I just have to design the app's functionality and write a bit of code that expresses that functionality. Most of the heavy lifting is done by the Python libraries and web services that I use.

    However, I don't like the fact that I'm working in a purely virtual environment. I can interact with a PC, server, or other internet-connected device, but that's it. I can't collect raw sensory data from the world or make a physical change to the world. I want to be able to make things that do chores (or cool shit) outside of a computer network. I am sure that there is a ton of things that could be made at home with a fairly small toolset. I just don't think about the problem often enough.

  2. Top | #2
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    Microchip has demo baords with microcontrollers that can be coded n C. The IDE is free and the boards connect to a PC for programming.

    That would b a good start.

    You can get motor control demo kits.

    There are microntrolers that are programmed with a simple OS and a Basic like interpret control language. Code on a PC amd just load it intp the board. Made specifically for easy control apps, like bots.

    From Microship you can get boards with embedded Linux. You can also get low cost single board computers that run embedded Windows, designed for control apps.

    There is a lot of stuff for the home experimenter.

  3. Top | #3
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    BASIC Stamp - Parallax
    https://www.parallax.com/product-category/basic-stamp/
    Paralax has been around for a long time.

  4. Top | #4
    the baby-eater
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    Thanks. The Parallax kits and boards look a lot like the Arduino stuff. I've already done some experimenting on a breadboard with the parts out of an Arduino kit, and I programmed an Arduino to work as a CMRI controller for my dad's a model railroad. The latter was quite an interesting project because the Arduino was just acting as the interface between the track and the desktop software, translating serial commands into simple digital signals.

    The programming can be challenging, but I know programming.

    The various sensors and devices are fascinating. The imagination runs wild. I was playing around with some or the basic ultrasonic and infrared sensors, and it dawned on me that I could make a touchless gesture interface. Haven't gotten any further than that, though.

    As I explore projects, and the various devices they use, I start to realise something: for IT I've had to learn about internet protocols, encodings, databases, libraries, security, and various other technologies. I've come to take it for granted. When you leave the virtual world of IT and make tangible things, you may need to learn about things like materials, motors, mechanics, fire hazards, electrical regulations, circuitry and all sorts of other things.

    It's also pretty expensive, at least compared to hacking. I've spent a long time living on a modest income, so I'm not used to spending money on a hobby.

  5. Top | #5
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    There is a lot of DYI.

    People design and build model airplanes. People were making drones and putting cmaeras on model airplanes back in the early 90s.

    I saw a backyard magnetic rail launch gun online.

    Safety is the National Electric Code.

    Practically speaking it is about fire and shock isolation.

    To prevent fire fuse the power voltages. You can measure the currents with a meter.

    Any commercial power supply you use should pass regulatory shock tests. Wall warts like cell phone chargers should be safe, just fuse it.

    If you wire a power supply to the AC mains make sure the wires are constrained and isolated from the outputs and fuse the high side wire.

    Electrical safety 101.

    If you have any questions you can PM me. Its what I did for a living.

  6. Top | #6
    the baby-eater
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    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank View Post
    There is a lot of DYI.

    People design and build model airplanes. People were making drones and putting cmaeras on model airplanes back in the early 90s.

    I saw a backyard magnetic rail launch gun online.

    Safety is the National Electric Code.

    Practically speaking it is about fire and shock isolation.

    To prevent fire fuse the power voltages. You can measure the currents with a meter.

    Any commercial power supply you use should pass regulatory shock tests. Wall warts like cell phone chargers should be safe, just fuse it.

    If you wire a power supply to the AC mains make sure the wires are constrained and isolated from the outputs and fuse the high side wire.

    Electrical safety 101.

    If you have any questions you can PM me. Its what I did for a living.
    Thanks, I may take you up on that.

    Today I learned that an AC adapter is called a wall wart.

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