Boring, well-trod preamble
A new year is always a time for reflection and for planning new things. The start of 2018 is no exception. 2017 was a pretty rotten year in a lot of ways, though in a lot of others it was a major improvement over 2016.
2017 has, in comparison, been a hectic slog. Leaving politics aside (not that they can be discounted, because they're certainly significant), I've found myself accidentally stumbling into management over my (rather loud) protests. I can feel myself drifting out of touch with current trends, especially with FPGAs and embedded development. And because I've had so much work on my plate (alongside two energetic kids), I haven't had nearly enough time for personal projects. Life as an engineer isn't much fun if you aren't building things.
So, what to do? The obvious answer is "build some things". To that end, I'm aiming to make 2018 the year that I actually buckle down and try to finish a bunch of projects that have been piling up in my queue. I have a terrible, terrible habit of planning things out in my head (sometimes on paper) and then utterly failing to execute anything in meatspace. So this is the year to finally put soldering iron to PCB and get things done.
Documenting the process
I struggled for a long time to figure out the best way to document the process, since I can only get so much enjoyment out of building things for myself; I wanted to share. Beyond that, it's hard to keep myself accountable if I'm only keeping these things in my head and on notebooks. I want people to bug me to get stuff done.
Searching for a platform
I had a hard time finding a blogging platform, though. There are some public platforms out there that look pretty, but ownership of your content is questionable and I wasn't that confident in my eventual ability to be able to transition away if I should want to.
I have no aversion to running my own, since I have a lot of servers on which to run them, but most of them seem based on PHP (to which I am severely allergic) or don't support PostgreSQL (and I have an entirely irrational aversion to MySQL). Ghost looked very promising (based on node.js, supported PostgreSQL), but they dropped Postgres compatibility when they moved to 1.0, so... back to square one.
In principle, I'd be happy to roll my own in Rails or a Python web framework; I used to have a blog I rolled myself before there were semi-decent standard offerings (in PHP + MySQL, because I was young and foolish once too). But the time investment required to roll my own just to get these projects off the ground seemed like a poor choice, so I tossed that idea.
That's when I remembered that Hackaday had a pretty decent sharing platform here. It's entirely compatible with the spirit of my project (sharing fun hobbyist hardware projects), it's pretty decent in terms of features, it's free, and it's run by decent folks. So here I am. We'll see how it goes.
What's in the queue?
I've had a few projects at the front of my mental queue, and those are the ones I'll be focusing on getting out first. There are plenty of others toward the back of my mind, and maybe they'll get a little space to breathe as I move forward, but for the moment, these three things will be my main focus:
- Windy: A temperature-controlled, speed-syncing 8-way standalone fan controller with connectivity via at least WiFi and Bluetooth (currently targeting the ESP32)
- A Peltier device-based fermenter temperature control system using PC watercooling techniques to make a cheap glycol jacket
- A ballscrew and BLDC-based 3D printer as an upgrade to my current 3D printer
- Subsequent to initial design, attaching this to a microVAX, a PDP-11/44 and some custom hardware to make a fully-functional printer using '80s technology
So that's my plan. If you're interested in keeping up, please do: I'll be updating this post with links to the actual project pages once I start making them.