Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Python Bootcamp - Day 1

Boot camp accommodations are nice, class size is small (four total) and the instructor is well informed and can answer questions outside of the study material. So far I would say I made the correct decision, at least when it comes to learning. My hotel selection was a crash-n-burn but more on that subject later.

The only downside to the class is that it is taught on Windows' computers but the instructor is familiar with Linux and shares differences (installation, path set up, etc.) when they come up. He uses a Mac so personally he has seen the light.

No one has had to drop and give the instructor 20 so we must be keeping up with expectations.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Python Bootcamp

Next week I will be attending the Open Technology Group Python Bootcamp. Training will consist of 5 days and is tailored for programmers with experience in other languages and want to learn the fundamentals of Python. I have been playing with Python for several months but had no real project in mind so I would read a Python article or book after work, try out some of the examples and then lose track due to responsibilities at work. I wanted the opportunity to immerse myself into the fundamentals without interruptions and have it my main focus for the week. Also I have found in the past when I have attended developer training sessions, the real learning came from the tips and tricks from the instructor or the discussions that started from students' questions.

If I have time I will post some thoughts next week on how the classes progress but otherwise I will give a full account when I return on 1 August.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Adding to the Brain Trust

I recently joined the Tampa Bay Microcontrollers and Robotics group to share ideas in using the Arduino (and other) microcontrollers. The group was only started recently but already we have had a lively discussion on high brightness LED circuits and members have volunteered to combine orders to some of the stores that sell microcontroller accessories, sensors and components. We didn't even have to email our order in, a google doc spreadsheet was created for either vendor and we filled in the part number description, quantity, price. When the order was placed and it wa time to pay, we did it using PayPal.

During our next meeting we will all share our current projects, talking up the high points and asking for help on any problem areas. There are lots of local groups out there when it comes to microcontrollers and especially robotitics. I recommend getting involved and sharing ideas. We even have an additional group to explore the idea of creating a new programming language and compiler for the Arduino.

While I wouldn't trade my electronic access to discussions, information and searching for anything it is nice to sit down and engage in face-to-face discussion while having a nice breakfast (we meet at a local restaurant that has a group room with wireless access).

It's easy to do. Here is a link for Meetup, a way to find groups you might be interested in or to start a group that doesn't currently exist and ask for interested people to join.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Arduino Duemilanove

I'm in the stage of planning on how many sensors and what types I will use throughout the house. While Digi provides some basic sensors like temperature, humidity, brightness and some others there will always be a need for something specific. In addition to sensors there is also the ability to send out commands to control things like lights, fans, entertainment equipment, etc. To build my own sensors and control devices I picked up an Arduino Duemilanove, which is the latest revision of the basic Arduino USB board. It has 14 digital input/output pins, 6 analog pins, 16 MHz clock speed and 32K of Flash memory for holding programs. I've been playing with the IDE for writing programs, which are referred to as 'sketches.' So far I have been able to turn LEDs on and off, read values from input sensors like photocells and send data back to the computer via the USB connection.

There is a google code project called python-on-a-chip with a goal to allow a subset of the Python language to run on microcontrollers without an OS. I hope to be able to take my Arduino and install the PyMite virtual machine and be able to run some Python routines on it. How cool would that be???

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Digi Wireless Design Contest

Digi is sponsoring a Wireless Design Contest. The way it works is you purchase one of three of their Wireless Starter Kits, design a solution and submit. There are quarterly winners and the top prize is $7,500.00. I bought one of the kits before I knew about the contest and enjoyed the 50% off on the price of the starter kits. So even if you have no interest in the contest, it is a chance to get some cool stuff for half the price. Check out the starter kits and the rules for the contest here.

ZigBee Wireless & Python

I recently became interested in ZigBee Wireless Radios as part of Home Automation and tracking home energy usage. ZigBee is a wireless mesh networking standard intended to be simpler and less expensive than other WPANs, such as Bluetooth. They are very useful in in wireless control and monitoring applications due to the low power-usage which allows longer life with smaller batteries, and the mesh networking provides high reliability and larger range. My first exposure to their usage was a hack to the popular Kill-A-Watt power monitor which adds wireless reporting and is called the Tweet-a-Watt.

After implementing the hack and doing some measurements throughout the house I decided I wanteds to expand the monitoring of my energy usage and started looking for a reasonably priced kit I could have some fun with and learn about my energy usage. After one false start I came upon Digi, which manufactures a line of wireless radios and some cool evaluation kits. I researched three of the kits and decided on the iDigi™ Wi-9P Starter Kit ZB.

My main reason for going with Digi and this kit is the ability to use Python in controlling the reporting of the data. There is plenty of documentation in getting the network up and running, monitoring and modifying the presentation (reporting) and adding sensors to the mix. Python scripts are written and then uploaded to the network using the Embedded Gateway Configuration and Management web page.

My network is up and I have two sensors sending data, one sending temperature and light and the other sending in just temperature. As I make additons to my network, either by adding additional sensors or enhancing the reporting I will include steps and screenshots. Stay tuned as I am just getting started.

Note: I am not affliated with any of the companies mentioned in this blog and all products written about were purchased by me.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

First Post

This is the first post of my personal blog. I will be writing about my development interests, F/OSS and occasionally politics, but usually in how it relates to technology. I am currently participating in a contest using XBee wireless sensors to demonstrate ways to save energy and will write about that also.

I welcome feedback but expect it to be polite and spam-free.