Computing stuff tied to the physical world

It’s all about dialogue

In Musings on Sep 25, 2011 at 00:01

Don’t know about you, but I’m having a great time with this weblog!

I’d like to go on a small excursion of what it’s all about, why it matters, and unpredictable stuff, such as the future.

This weblog started roughly three years ago. I love tinkering with technology, I love learning more about it, I love making new things (even if it’s only new for myself). Especially when it’s about mixing software, hardware, and mechanical stuff. I describe myself as an architect, a hacker, and a maker, and I’m proud of it. And I decided to write about it. One day I didn’t, the next day I did – it’s really that easy. You could start doing it too, any day.

A weblog is a publishing medium. Push. From me to you – whoever you are and wherever you are. As long as I enjoy writing it, and as long as you enjoy reading it, we both win.

One crucial aspect of this process is that we need to share the same interests. If I tried to write about culture, nature, politics, or music, chances are that we’d no longer be in sync (and I might have very little interesting to report!). We all differ, we all embody our own unique mix of interests, opinions, and experiences, and there’s no reason whatsoever to assume that a shared interest in technology means we share anything else. The great thing is: it doesn’t matter. We are linked by our humanity, and our diversity is our greatest asset. Vive la diffĂ©rence!

So how does this weblog thing work? Well, from what I’m writing about and have written in the past, you can tell where my passion lies. And you have the simple choice of reading and following the posts on this weblog – or not. From your comments and emails, I think I get an idea who (some of) you are. We’re in sync.

This process excites me. Because it transcends culture, age, background, and all those other aspects in which we differ (and don’t even know about each other). We can share our interests, learn from each other, exchange tips and ideas, and all it takes is an internet connection and the ability to read and write in English, even if that’s not everyone’s native language.

But weblogs publishing is an asymmetric process – there’s no real dialogue going on at all. I don’t really know who reads this. There might be thousands of readers coming back every day, or there might be just those who post comments – I wouldn’t know. I used to care about that, but I no longer do. I don’t collect stats and I don’t “track” visitors. It’s just another distraction and life’s too short. But more important to me, is motivation: my goal is not to have an “important” blog, a big readership, or lots of fans. Nor a big shop or many customers, for that matter. My goal is to have fun with technology, learn as much as I can, invent new stuff, and share to inspire others to do the same. It took me a long summer break to figure this out.

Of course I have my preferences, and of course there are areas where I know more and less about. The field is way too large to dive into every topic, let alone build up expertise in each – although I do consider myself reasonably open minded and knowledgeable about a decent range of technical domains. And those gaps? Well, that’s the challenge, of course: filling one little gap each day – day in, day out!

So what does this mean for the future?

I see no reason why any of this should stop. It’s proven to be sustainable for me, and there’s plenty of material to go into and talk about to last a lifetime. As you may have noticed, I’m moving away from a pure hardware focus in this weblog. The central theme will definitely remain “Physical Computing in and around the house”, but there’s more to it than the ATmega + RFM12B that form a JeeNode, and I’d like to explore a wider range of topics, including software and data processing, and probably also mechanical aspects (construction, CNC, 3DP, bots):


I do have a little request I’d like to make: whenever you read a post on this weblog and have a suggestion or insight which is relevant, please consider adding a comment. I tend to go with the flow (of ideas), and I tend to pick the easy low-hanging fruit first. Suggestions made in recent days on all this scary 220V power measurement stuff have helped me greatly to better understand what’s going on and to come up with more experiments to set up to try and figure it all out. I encourage you to point me in the right direction and to point out mistakes.

Who knows, it might lead to a post which is more useful to you. We’ll all benefit!

  1. Could you please write a bit more about prototyping, creating PCB’s, using PCB manufactorers and stuff like that. My guess is that most of “occasional” electronis lovers (such as i do) really do have a bigegest problem of creating their own PCB’s and prototypes. Would be great to have more posts and thoughts on that subject, as i believe you have a lot of experience in that area.

    All in all you have a great blog, please keep going. I love your ideas, thoughts and general view on common subjects.

    • Yeah I do quite agree on that! After all, JCW has quite a lot of experience in this. I’ve looked at all kinds of tutorials on how to do things, but the biggest problem seems to be: “Where can I find the materials needed?” For example, I don’t like a lot of the etching solvents used etc. What kind of alternatives exist? It would be great if you could dive into this sometime!

      And indeed, the mechanical part is probably not the biggest challenge we all face, because most mechanical stuff we face around the home is not to complicated. But stuff like CNC still remains interesting!

    • I’ve been looking at mini CNC milling machines. There are a few cheap ones (about US$ 700 for a asmall one) from China but I’m still looking for informations about the quality of those.

  2. I shall be the third voice from the darkness echoing the previous two!

    BTW Vliegendehuiskat, you can use CNC to make circuit boards, you just need a small router bit, and you have to do the through-hole plating yourself.

  3. My goal is to have fun with technology, learn as much as I can, invent new stuff, and share to inspire others to do the same.

    That’s why I’m here. The internet used to be aa good place, for sharing and learning, before commerce, scams and pr0n took over. Thanks to sites like this one the internet still can be a good place.

    • Actually, I hadn’t thought of it like that, but you know what, you’re right! Being here is like the “good old days”.

      We’ll ignore the fact that we used to access that via a 300/300 modem and the blink HTML tag was still permitted!

      I’m going to have to dither some pictures into 16 colour GIF and reminisce now!

  4. I really enjoy this weblog, there are so many things that just match my interests…In particular, I like the Tcl and the software parts that make a connection with the real world. If possible, I would like to get recommendations on how to learn the basics behind some of the subjects (like the mix of Tcl, javascript and other libraries you recently mentioned). Thanks for sharing.

  5. Thanks for all the comments. I like the idea of doing a series on PCB design and production, and will think about how to best present such a topic. Stay tuned… I can probably get something going next month.

    As for more about the software side and JeeMon – good idea. I’ve been doing a lot in that area lately, but so far it’s been more about reaching a complete system (and showing some early results) than the process itself. I’ll think about that too, it makes a lot of sense to also describe what I’m doing. Let me add that my design process and implementation choices are fairly atypical, but hey what fun is there is doing the same as what the other 100 million programmers are doing, eh?

  6. Not usually having much to say, I fear. I sorta enjoy the t(h)inkering from a distance.

    But reader signing in :)

  7. Another voice from the shadows, am following closely and daily… from the other side of the globe. Am new to a lot of this, well, almost all of this…. am learning a great deal just following along… posting/bloging your thoughts and efforts is much appreciated!

  8. You have brough back to me the world of computer interfacing that I had to let go after the 68020 broke the MHz barrier and wire length became critical. Guess it’s sort of giving away my age ;-) Soldering, pins, processors and LEDs, all connected to the blazing world of GHz comfy macs through your wonderful creation of JeeNode. And you filling in the gaps left by the no-brained X10 and KAKU wireless stuff, making home automation interfacing safe and solid: great and priceless. Great philosophic almost poetic entry today by the way. Chalk up one more enthusiastic reader.

    • Re age: there are many ways to measure age… years since birth isn’t necessarily the most important metric :)

    • Seconds since January 1st 1970 UTC?

      Yes, I know, some of us are going to need a 2s complement ;-)

  9. Hi!

    I’ve been reading this blog of yours for maybe a month or two. I’ve subscribed to the feed. I’m most interested in the microcontroller stuff, working on my first Nanode controlled garden light project myself.

    It’s really fun to realize that electronics aren’t dangerous and that you can do stuff with it yourself, and sometimes it even works :)

    Wish i had this kinda stuff when i was in University. To think that i have a degree from EE and always dreaded electronics!

  10. I have also been reading this blog daily for a couple of month already, as you touch upon the topics I enjoy working on as well. I think “My goal is to have fun with technology, learn as much as I can, invent new stuff, and share to inspire others to do the sam” says it all for me. I like the experiments on the 220V stuff for instance, but would also enjoy any of the topics you are already thinking about, as they are in ‘sync’ with my interest as well ;-)

  11. Like you say “this fields to large to go into every topic” and “life is too short”. I agree. So why not open your blog up to other bloggers with a different but related focus (like CNC or 3D printing)?

    • I’m not sure there’s much value in that. Everyone can have their blog, more than one even. IMO, it could confuse if you don’t know who’s behind the posts – I’d much rather keep a clear JeeLabs branding on everything I do. And there are lots of ways to follow everything you’re interested in…

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