I LOVE sensors. Which is probably why I got into analog electronics. The idea of taking something that is in the real world and making it interact with a computer is amazing. As computing continues to become more powerful and ubiquitous, the possibilities for sensors gets more and more fun.
With that in mind, I signed up for BLUR conference on a whim thanks to a suggestion from the Boulder is for Robots group. I was certainly not disappointed. The way people are thinking about Human Computer Interaction (HCI) is getting more people focused, and less technology focused. It’s an exciting time for the industry, as my latest Element14 article describes:
After the conference I came back to my favorite keyboard, mouse, and dual 23” monitors for the first time with a sense of archaic workflow. It is clear that these technologies are gearing up to reach mainstream adoption in the next decade when we will all look back at the keyboard/mouse combo, and laugh.
For those who know me, beer isn’t just about the drinking. It’s also about the brewing. I’ve casually brewed beer for years, only getting serious with my own setup a year ago. However brewing in front of a stove can be annoying especially when trying to brew 2 different batches at once. To make the experience better, I created a system that meets the following goals:
A pair of electric kettles based on the system that The Electric Brewery creates, running off a dryer outlet.
Variable power set with a knob, similar to a stovetop interface
The ability to shut one side off for only brewing one batch
Kettles that unplug from the system as to not disturb the other batch
Running off a microcontroller that allows for future design improvements
A quick and easy design, enabling fast development and implementation
I’ve got the entire system up and running, and it works great! I’ve already brewed one batch and I have plans for friends to come over this weekend to continue the fun. I’ve posted all of the design files at Element14, including a BOM (Bill of Materials) so anyone else can build, enjoy, and improve upon the system. Here’s a video of me showing it in operation:
Last week I went to the Open Hardware Summit with a skeptical eye to the ability for someone to generate a realistic business model when giving away everything they design. How can one pay the engineers to design a product when the competition get the same design files without having to pay them? And I’m not alone in the fear that an open design will result in a ‘fast follower’ will dominate the market and leave a pittance to the innovator.
But I’ve found that it’s more nuanced that simple protection of an idea. First, people will copy designs no matter what license is used. Second, there are additional methods of offering value to a customer beyond the physical product and the price point. I talk about it in my latest Element14 Article…
…The reason I was so excited to attend OHWS was the license’s requirement disallowing the use of a non-commercial clause. This clause means that the designer cannot limit others’ use of the design files for commercial purposes. Many people worry that a design can be copied as-is and produced at a lower price than the designer offers thanks to reduced R&D costs. I am not yet sure how valid the concern is, however the outcome is currently being defined which makes for a very exciting time…
I love the experience of cracking open a new design platform and seeing what it can do, and how it can be used. However there are so many out there! What about the individual options are the best for attacking a project? How can one ensure that the experience will be the best possible, preventing an immediate hate of the platform? I write about all of this on Element14′s news section…
Thanks to the NYC Maker Faire this weekend, there has been a lot of discussion of new project ideas becoming a reality. With the wide array of different development platforms that are coming out for FPGAs, Microcontrollers, and even complete computing solutions, there is always a system out there to be explored. It can be intimidating to approach such a wide array of possibilities, so what is it that makes for the best first projects?…
I’m just coming off of BlueStamp Engineering’s 2012 season, and I thought I’d write about some of the things I’ve observed while teaching students new to coding with microcontrollers. It can be tough getting a project started when one doesn’t know what is going on, so this article should help someone understand at least a few of the options and why people might chose one microcontroller family over another.
…As with any engineering solution or teaching method, there is no single best approach, and I’ve had varying levels of success with a few different systems. My canned response has always been:
“The best way to learn a new system is by recreating another person’s project. So if you don’t care about the microcontroller, I suggest finding a fun project and using whatever system the original designer used.”
However I’ve noticed several differences between the microcontroller platforms that students have worked with, each with its own strengths and weaknesses…