I recently got into an interesting discussion on Twitter with some other engineers regarding the parallels between dancing and engineering. I often get a surprised look from people when I tell them I used to be a professional dancer. Perhaps its because I look like a nerd, or perhaps its because I am one. In any case, its true and its something that I spent many years and countless hours doing. 

The strange thing is really that it's nothing different from engineering. Engineering is also something that I've spent many years and countless hours doing. In both cases, they started out mostly just for fun, and once you get good, you can make money off it. But that's not what I really want to talk about either. 

This is just a node testbed



 I'm happy to announce a new product today and it's kind of an interesting one. The idea for it didn't exactly come from me, and it will be used to do something wonderful. It's called the FredBoard (aka FreakLabs Breadboard) and it started its life as a learning tool inside Tokyo Hackerspace . We needed something that could be used to teach electronics and Arduino programming since the line between the two has gotten blurrier over time. I was discussing it with one of the workshop instructors (Emery Premaux) and he was using separate breadboards and Freakduinos to teach the class. I casually mentioned that we should combine the two, and like chocolate and peanut butter, it turned out quite nice. We've been using the FredBoard in Tokyo Hackerspace for about six months now for the classes and the occasional presents and they've gotten excellent reviews.

  That brings me to the second part of this story. I was visiting my sister (Sho SHo Smith) a few months ago in Oakland and we were having a conversation over some macaroni and cheese. I was talking about all the cool things that go on inside a hackerspace and she was complaining that being a mom means that you don't have any time to do things like that. She then casually mentioned that it'd be cool if there was a hackerspace specifically for moms since they have a lot of constraints they need to deal with. I thought that was a great idea. The next morning, my sister and I were having breakfast with her friends (a bunch of artist-parents) and we started talking about what it'd be like to have a hackerspace for moms. Some of the ideas were hilarious. One of the parents wanted to learn about Arduino to get revenge on drunk people peeing on their fence at night. It involved a temperature sensor and a water gun that returned fire. Another mom wanted to do graffiti on buildings with things that a mother would say like: "Eat your vegetables - your mom".  About two months ago, my sister actually started up the hackerspace and it's called Mothership HackerMoms. Its a bay area hackerspace specifically for moms and they meet every Thursday at one of the members' houses.

I just released chibiArduino v0.54 which fixed the broken release known as v0.52. I had thought I tested v0.52 before releasing it into the wild, however an experimental configuration header file got into the release and was wreaking major havoc with the stack. I recommend anyone that downloaded v0.52 to not use it and switch over to v0.54 immediately. It is tested and working with Arduino v021 and v022 IDEs. If there are any questions, please feel free to email me or post on the forums.

Link to chibiArduino Project

The Safecast bGeigie is an Arduino-based radiation data logger that is being used to generate data for the safecast radiation map . It uses the Freakduino-Chibi board and a customized data logger that interfaces to an International Medcom geiger counter to geotag all the radiation data. Within Safecast, we're currently trying to have one bGeigie travel to hackerspaces around the world and measure the radiation in those areas.


Link to Make Magazine

Ugh. Analog Devices put up a great video tutorial on Thermocouples, but had incoherent links to the 8-part series. They were meant to be watched in series but Youtube doesn't organize the videos properly. Here arelinks to each part in the series in the correct order they should be watched in.

Part 1: Thermocouple 101: What is a Thermocouple?

Part 2: Thermocouple 101: Cold Junction Compensation

Part 3: Thermocouple 101: Measuring the Tiny Signal

Part 4: Thermocouple 101: Setting the Common Mode Voltage

Part 5: Thermocouple 101: Open Thermocouple Detection

Part 6: Thermocouple 101: Filtering a Thermocouple

Part 7: Thermocouple 101: Thermocouple Nonlinearity

Part 8: Thermocouple 101: Compensating for Nonlinearity

It's been a while since I posted anything and that deserves another post just to talk about everything that happened in the last 8 months since the March earthquake and tsunami here in Japan. I'm a little bit tired of heavy topics and serious projects so I thought I'd put together a little something that's kind of fun and also timely. Now that we're moving into the holiday season, we're about to start seeing the hard core Christmas people setting up the elaborate light displays. The equipment to switch all the lighting channels and sequence everything is usually a bit costly but it doesn't have to be. If you're familiar with the Arduino environment and willing to put in a bit of elbow grease, blinging out your lawn is just a couple of mouse clicks away :)

I put this three part video tutorial together on how to use the Arduino platform to decode the DMX protocol. The DMX protocol is a standard protocol for stage lighting displays and it happens to be supported by a nice freeware light sequencer called Vixen. In the first part, I go over the DMX-512 protocol and the Arduino source code to decode it. In the second part, I show how to configure a lighting sequence with Vixen, some hardware implementations, and the whole system working together. And in the final part, I show how some simple changes to the code can enable you to control your lights wirelessly.