I built this about a year ago. I prototyped a circuit that used an ATTiny85 microcontroller to drive a p-channel (high side) mosfet. The idea was to use the microcontroller to strobe the Clearwater Darla LED accessory lights.
The circuit worked as expected, but that click-click-click-click noise is bad. I thought the functionality of the led “instant-on” was via a 12v signal to the dc-dc circuit in the led light, but it is actually a mechanical relay. Strobing anything mechanical is no bueno.
I completely changed my strategy after this test. A little experimenting and I discovered that the accessory lights are controlled by a PWM signal which controls the light intensity (low to full power).
IoT might be an over-hyped trend, but for ~$8 retail I can buy a EPS8266 NodeMCU board that has built-in WIFI. Moore’s Law and accessibility will continue to drive costs down, which means eventually all manufacturers will experiment with IoT products. Why? Because the data that can be captured is extremely valuable and can be monetized. One downside is these SoCs do not have any hardware protections where you can stash secrets, such as a code signing key.
For example, when I created the garage-o-matic to monitor and open/close my garage doors, I started looking at how to secure the firmware beyond a simple password. Ultimately, I would have had to build some additional custom hardware if I wanted to stay in the hobbyist IoT space.
I like the general idea of including some sort of hardware security system, which the Azure Sphere chip is calling “Pluton.” But what is really telling is Microsoft supporting this ecosystem with a Linux distribution. I’ve mentioned this before that Microsoft is becoming a cloud-first company, and this really drives that home. Build whatever you want, using the tooling you want, get even faster time-to-market if you use Visual Studio/Azure boilerplate, and run it on Microsoft’s Azure cloud.
This is a picture of my workbench and some gizmo I was making last year. I originally wanted to be an electronics engineer. However, back in the dark ages of the 80’s, hardware geeking was much harder than today. The cost of the test equipment was prohibitively expensive and way outside of my reach. Access to parts was usually limited to what you could find at Radio Shack. If you wanted broader access to parts, such as CPUs, memory, or other integrated circuitry your best bet was to ask for engineering samples. I was a young starving student and I did not have the money nor patience required to get into hardware, so I shifted to software. Continue reading “Messy Workbench”
We’ve prototyped the circuit, built the software, and flashed the microcontroller. Everything should be working correctly, but it just looks like a pile-of-parts and wires. Now we need to make this more permanent and finished.
Ever since I outfitted my truck for the Zombie Apocalypse, parking it in my garage is something of a pain. The front and rear bumpers have lengthened the wheelbase so I only have a few inches of margin – if I drive in too far I’ll hit the front wall, and if I don’t drive in far enough the garage door will hit the spare tire and refuse to close.
For years I put up with this until the hassle overcame my laziness factor. I could have hung a tennis ball from the ceiling, but I’ve got a pretty cool garage “man cave” and a dangling tennis ball isn’t cool. Plus, I’ve got some geek cred I need to maintain, I can build it myself, and more importantly maybe this can teach/inspire someone else along the way.
I’ve organized this into a two part series. Part one will give you some background info, instructions on bread-boarding (prototyping) the circuit, and getting the software flashed to the circuit. Additionally, I’ll point out some of the more important details in the software and give reasons why this was done.
While you might see some of the electronic equipment on my bench, don’t let that stop you. All you need is a multimeter, and you don’t really need that unless stuff goes whacko. Start with a simple breadboard and hookup wire. If you decide to make this more permanent, I’ve included links to “perma-proto” boards. These look just like the breadboard you are using, but you can solder stuff to them. Continue reading “Garage Parking Assist – Part One”