In the first entry in this series (HERE), we covered the installation of the IDE and a driver for the Nano board, as well as testing the board to make sure it works. In this entry, we’re navigating he Arduino IDE – specifically, on the code editor, the Console window, the serial monitor, and an introduction to the language reference. Please note, this series is still in the “introductory” phase, to help get beginners up to speed, though there may be a bit or a byte that you’re not familiar with yet.
The Smarter Home Club is dedicated to learning, teaching, and sharing, so our next blog series is dedicated to micro-controllers. You don’t need to know how to build circuits with micro-controllers or to program them in order to enjoy the benefits of home automation. There are easy to install products that cover the majority of things you will want to do – but not everything. Learning how to use various dev kits and micro-controller prototyping boards will give you a means to build tools for the projects that commercial products don’t address, as well as helping you understand what goes on behind the scenes with the automation products that you buy and install.
A key point here is that you read with your eyes but you learn with your hands.
Kerry Clendinning of the Smarter Home Club has taken some time to help us learn to control IR and RF devices with our home automation systems!
In my last post (HERE), I showed how to grab data from RFLink but also determined that because of issues I had with arrays (and with some exceptions that shouldn’t have happened), I wouldn’t include RFLink in the final version of Project Mercury.
In last week’s Part I of Project Mercury, I covered reading MQTT messages in VB.Net using the MQTTnet Nuget package. There aren’t any VB examples for an MQTT client floating around, so I put together a quick and dirty illustration. I completed the next section on the following day, but was promptly sidetracked with a trip into the wonderful world of SQL – one of the future parts of the program will be saving data to a database, which significantly enhances the value of the data! In any case, here’s an example of how to publish MQTT messages from your VB.Net app!
MQTT is a wonderful tool for the smart home enthusiast. Many different products and applications support it, allowing you to tie a lot of different technologies together in one cohesive home automation system. It is even more useful when you’ve got devices that do not support MQTT directly but do allow programmatic access through an SDK or API, which allows you to put together a custom app that combines MQTT with that other product. An interesting challenge I’ve come across, though, is that while most of the examples for SDKs that I use are written in VB.Net and there are NO examples of using MQTT in VB.Net….
X10 is the OG of the Smart Home universe. The protocol was developed in 1975 in Scotland and modules started showing up in Sears, Radio Shack, and mail order magazines a couple of years later. Its amazing the range of X10 devices you can still find in use in both residential and industrial environments.
Lately, I’ve had problems with smart switch installs. I had a run of 4 defective Z-Wave switches. Amazon has great customer service and getting an exchange or refund is never a problem, BUT there’s still the problem of investing my time in installing a defective product. It doesn’t take many failed installs to make me think of a better way of doing things.
One of my friends was talking with me about home automation and asked me what tools he needs to get started.
Before I suggested any specific tools, I told him:
1) The best tool you’ll ever use is your mind. Learn, research, think – make informed decisions.
2) You don’t ever have to crack open a wall plate to have a great home automation setup. You can use smart bulbs, smart plugs, and smart power strips to perform tasks that you might otherwise install a smart switch or smart outlet for. If that’s all you need, then don’t worry about the rest until you’re ready for something more advanced.
3) The right hand tool is whichever tool will best perform the task at hand.
Having explained all of that, he still wanted to know what to stuff in his tool box, so I put together a basic list for him.