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Week In Review

It has been a long time since I've posted an update to the site so, rather than wait until I have a fully documented project to post, I thought I'd push up a quick review of what has been happening at the Lab over the past few weeks.

EEWeb Site of the Day

The nice people over at EEWeb have made The Garage Lab their site of the day for February 22nd.

I highly recommend checking out the EEWeb site on a regular basis, as well as pointing you towards excellent sites like mine (he says modestly) it's a great way to keep up to date with news, new components and great technical articles. Well worth reading on a regular basis.

The SwimLynx Starter Pistol

A friend of mine has developed a full timing and competition management system for swimming clubs and school swimming carnivals called SwimLynx. As I mentioned in a previous post he approached me to assist the development of some custom hardware to complement the software he has developed and, as I've documented previously that project hasn't exactly gone swimmingly.

Over the past few weeks I've been working on a modification to one of the existing starter pistols that allows it to communicate on a WiFi network with his software. I'm pleased to say that it worked well (despite it's own set of issues) and I was used in a competition last night without any failures or odd moments. I love it when a plan comes together.

The development of that device (based around an Arduino Yun, more about that later in the post) has given me a lot of content to write about in the future such as interacting with high current devices from an MCU and efficient power regulation for battery power. I went through several iterations of the PCB for that device until I had a circuit that worked reliably and was robust enough to deploy in the field - as my friend pointed out, it was a good learning experience (although it was an extremely frustrating one at times).

The Arduino Yun

The Arduino Yun is a very interesting and useful member of the Arduino family. Essentially it combines a standard Arduino (based on the ATmega32u4) with a small ARM based system (based on the Atheros AR9331) running the OpenWRT Linux distribution. The Linux half of the device has full network connectivity (both WiFi and Ethernet) as well as a micro SD card slot for external storage.

At around $AU 120 per device it's not exactly on the cheap side but it has a lot features that can justify the expense. The 'bridge' libraries which allow communication between the two processors are excellently implemented and very easy to use. You still have access to the wide range of Arduino libraries, shields and sample code as well as adding a reasonably powerful Linux system for higher level code. The solution I developed for the Starter Pistol uses an Arduino sketch to talk to the hardware and passes the information on to a Python script on the Linux side to communicate on the network.

There are many more features to the device I haven't mentioned here - I'll do a future post covering it in more detail (including sample code).

Future Projects

Now that I have a bit more available time I can get back to working on some of other projects (I have more than a few in the queue now) such as the Microboard system and some more Clixx.IO related things. This weekend is going to be a busy one for me - reviewing schematics and design notes and etching PCBs for work later in the week. I'll do my best to keep the updates coming and try to avoid such long delays between posts in the future.