A blog about my life, development and projects

Atlantic Challenger – RPM sensor unit

A while back I started to create a sensor unit for my husband's Atlantic Challenger remote control model boat. The objective was to monitor the RPM of the motors, the temperature, battery consumption and current draw on the batteries.

The current project only has RPM and Temperature, but I will soon be adding the rest of the sensors. I kept the scope of the project as little as possible in order to first test and make sure that it all works as expected.

Hardware:

  • 2x Adafruit Feather 32u4 + LoRa 868mhz
  • 2x Line Follower Module - TCRT5000
  • 2x 18B20 Digital Temp Sensor
  • 1x LiPo 1200mAh 3.7V Battery

The RPM and temperature sensor unit is developed in such a way that the sensor values can be read over a long distance. The initial project was done using a WiFi chip that resulted in the device losing connectivity when the boat is out on the water.

This current sensor unit is using a 900mhz "Long Range (LoRa)" packet radio that can send the values from the sensors over a distance of up to 20Km. This enables the user to keep an eye on the boat’s performance from the shore line.

The RPM values are read using a Line Follower Module which consists of an IR transmitter and Receiver that can pick up the presence of a dark object passing before it. On the motor shaft a small arm has been attached that passes by the sensor every rotation. Using this the RPM can be calculated by counting the number of rotations a minute.

The values read from the different sensors are then transmitted using the LoRa radio. On the receiving end another LoRa radio receives the sensor information and then just writes it out to Serial. This enables any device with a USB port to read the values and display it. In this case a C# windows application is used, but this can easily be a mobile application, linux application or even a TV.

All the code have been made available on GitHub should anyone be interested to see how it all comunicates:
https://github.com/TechnoDezi/AtlanticChallengerSensorUnit 

Free SSL certificate on an Azure Website

Over the last last year it has become more and more required for websites to be secured using SSL cerificates. But what if you don't really want to pay for a ssl certificate and isn't worried about a green seal verification?

Well, all you need a a certificate from Let's Encrypt, the free SSL provider.

Last year when I tried adding it to one of my other websites it was quite a mission and there weren't much documentation on it for Azure Websites. Today I thought I would try again to add ssl to my blog, and guess what? Scott Hanselman has posted a very nice blog post on how to add this to an Azure Website. I was able to get it set up in just 5 minutes.

You can view the blog post here: https://www.hanselman.com/blog/SecuringAnAzureAppServiceWebsiteUnderSSLInMinutesWithLetsEncrypt.aspx 

I am from now on adding it to all my sites by default.

Hording data and data retention needs

This blog post will be about a topic that I haven't even thought about in my 13+ years of software development and technology. Hoarding - especially the data kind.

Image result for hoarding data

Tonight while eating my dinner I was watching a show on Netflix about hoarders and people collecting junk, which made me cringe. Over the years I have watched many such shows, without giving them much thought.
My house is always clean, free of clutter, I hate paper to start with and everything must have a place, I periodically throw away or sell unwanted stuff that I don't use.
This is not always possible, as you know "life happens", but I do try and because of this I have never given the hoarding topic much time.

Everyone that knows me will tell you that I have a thing against paper, or the use there of. In this day and age with cloud storage and connected everything the use of paper is quickly becoming a thing of the past.
Tonight I realized with a shock that this can easily lead to a different kind of problem, not just in our personal lives but corporate as well.

Lets first look at what is hoarding:

Compulsive hoarding, also known as hoarding disorder, is a pattern of behavior that is characterized by excessive acquisition and an inability or unwillingness to discard large quantities of objects that cover the living areas of the home and cause significant distress or impairment.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compulsive_hoarding 

So basically hording comes down to collecting junk and not being able to get rid of it. I definitely don't have a problem there, but it triggered a thought about all the different kinds of hoarding, especially in the technology world and I realized that an excessive collection of data can also be considered hoarding.
After a simple search on the net I quickly realized the topic have been debated quite extensively.

Digital hoarding (also known as e-hoarding) is excessive acquisition and reluctance to delete electronic material no longer valuable to the user. The behavior includes the mass storage of digital artifacts and the retainment of unnecessary or irrelevant electronic data. The term is increasingly common in pop culture, used to describe the habitual characteristics of compulsive hoarding, but in cyberspace.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_hoarding

With a horror shock I now know that I have fallen victim to data hoarding, and yes, it happens to all of us. I have a lot of old hard drives with countless backups over the years, even as far back as my school days, data lying on cloud services, data from way back when, and it goes on and on.
I won't classify this as a problem yet, as I haven't yet shown a reluctance to get rid of it, I simple haven't though about my personal data retention policy - we'll get to this in a bit. But the question everyone should ask themselves is "Do you really need that data from back in 2005?".

Hoarding data in business or corporations even now has a name, called Big Data, and people are making a living trying to give meaning to the endless amount of data that everyone, even businesses collect over the years.
It's perfectly understandable to store data because of legislation or local laws, such as storing medical or financial information for a number of years.

As more and more systems, people and businesses becomes connected and start to generate vast amounts of information it becomes more and more pressing to know what data you should keep, what data you need, and the data that is causing clutter.

In our personal lives we are generating so much data on social networks, chatting, texting, emails, digital photography and videos that losing track of it all is a real concern.
I for one definitely did and will start to put measures in place to not only delete data but to organize the data that I need to keep.

Data retention defines the policies of persistent data and records management for meeting legal and business data archival requirements; although sometimes interchangeable.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data_retention

Now that we know what data retention means, we will need to define what we will store, why and then lastly a plan on how we would clean up our data.

My steps for a data rention policy looks like this:

  • Is the data a temporary record?
  • Does the data primarily consist of intellectual property?
  • Is the data a permanent record?
  • Have I needed or used the data in the last 3 years?
  • Is there a legal or contractual requirement to store the data?

My plan of action to deal with my data problems will be as follows:

  • Sort photos and videos accross cloud services, social media, delete duplicates, organize into albums and consolodate into one service.
  • Look at all hard drives lying around and delete data that I have not used in 3 years, or no need to keep then consolodate the data that I do need or use.
  • Consolodate all IP and code written to VSTS under the respective projects, including the code written for micro controllers and hobby electronics.
  • Sort and store business related data and properly backup or archive a single copy in accordance to contracts.
  • Securely erase data from redundant or old hard drives and physically throw away the drives.
  • Ensure that I have a backup strategy in place that works, for example using the 3-2-1 strategy. This means having 3 total copies of your data, 2 of which are local but on different mediums (read: devices), and at least 1 copy offsite.

Now that I have a plan I can start getting rid of my digital clutter, clean up my life, and get away from this data hoarding thing.

If anyone have interesting stories regarding data hoarding, please do leave me a comment, or send me a message?

New blog platform with more control

Dear readers

I am glad to announce that TechnoDezi have moved to a new blog platform. Same great site, more control.

You might ask why I would move to a new blog platform if the site still looks basically the same. Well the short answer is that the new platform has more control over the posts, the theme is easier to manipulate and I have the ability to extend it with more great features that is yet to come and hopefully bring additional coolness to this blog.

Some of the features are that my posts will be backed up. It allows files to be stored in the Azure cloud as it's fully integrated. The new blog will also at a later date support invoicing where my clients will be able to pay directly via TechnoDezi. This is in a drive to optimize how I do business and create a greater sense of trust.

Then in the months to come I will be starting my YouTube/Video channel, which I promised in April. The new blog platform will enable me to live stream directly on the blog via Azure media services. To those of you that doesn't speak geek, it just means that I will not be going via a 3rd party service, but keep the media and videos directly on my blog.

The Video channel have been delayed until I can find a suitable workshop with enough space to do recordings, but this is still very much on the top of my list.

Life update and response on digital propaganda

Part 1

Once again I find myself writing to you after many months have passed. Time goes by so quickly.
Many of you might have wondered where I went and what I am up to lately and this post is to give all my readers a quick update as well as to what is coming.

The last few months have been extremely busy and I found myself working a lot a overtime at a particular client trying to get everything done before the deadline - Such is the nature of IT. It is so easy to get caught up in the rat race, but if you are one of the sought after developers it’s easy for clients to want more, and the more you deliver the more is asked. It’s a wonderful feeling but you need to keep a balance and not get lost in the work you do, which I’m unfortunately very good at – getting lost in my work.

I have in the bit of spare time I had worked on a few exciting projects, one of them being a connected vending machine. This project is still on-going, but if I can I will share some of the things I learned especially with the communication between c# and Arduino. I have also started working on a facial recognition smart lock which I will post on YouTube in the coming months.

One of the biggest things coming for me is a personal brand revamp as well as launching my YouTube channel. That’s right, I am launching my YouTube channel officially next months, and I hope that it will be exciting and that I can bring a lot of the cool work I do to YouTube land.
I will focus on training, making gadgets as well as interviews with industry leaders in SA. If anyone want’s to nominate themselves, please drop me a mail or a Tweet.

I have thought a lot about what interests me, and by heart I am a maker. I love building things and solving problems and my YouTube channel will be a way for me to showcase and hopefully inspire young makers to do the same in SA.

Part 2

Now on to the second part of this post which is in response to an article on linked in written by my friend and collogue Rory titled ”Caught up in digital propaganda

“I had almost forgotten how important it is to not neglect the non-digital experiences as well.

I realized that, even in this digital age, we are still humans. And as human beings, we still perceive the world through our "analog" senses. We are still biologically wired up to see, hear, taste, smell and touch to understand the world and process experiences. With so many companies scrambling to "go digital", is becoming somewhat of a luxury.” ~ Rory

I found this article most interesting. We as humans are currently so focused on technology, automation and robotics that I think we are forgetting to be human. As Rory stated in the article we need to design our digital transformations around human experiences and not just automating everything but rather using it to enrich the human experience.

This article made me think of the movie WALL-E, especially the scene where all the humans are blobbing in front of the screens chatting, but no one is actually interacting with one another while the robots are going about doing everything including making a mess of things.

I am definitely inspired to change the way I approach my making especially my home automation to try and center it around human experience instead of trying to do everything automatically. Robots are a good things, but humans need to be happy too.

If we all can focus on this and not lose sight of the human experience I think technology in a few years will look much different that what we are currently seeing in sci-fi movies.