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Feel like quitting

Posted 2011.01.29 16.22 in Pointless Blather by Stephanie

The past two months I’ve been obsessing on this electronics stuff. Thermostat. Kits. Soldering. Embedded devices.

It’s been “theraputic” – the point was to keep me busy, to keep my mind off of the depression and keep the dark thoughts away. Lately it’s been working less and less.

And the thing that’s coming up now is, I’m not sure if it’s even been fun. There’s the challenge, it’s satisfying to figure something out or make something work. But down to the nitty gritty of it – I don’t know if it’s been fun. If it’s been worth it.

I started doing a bit of cleaning and tidying today, and ended up gathering up all the electronic bits and pieces and stuff, and just putting it all in a big box. I still have lots of half-formed thoughts on things that I could make, but I don’t have the urge to actually make any of them.

The thermostat is finished, fully working. All I have to do is hook it up. It’s in the big box with the rest of the stuff. I even built a wireless outdoor temperature sensor last night, to radio the outside temp in so it could be displayed on the thermostat. That’s in the big box too.

I look at it all, and there’s no emotions. Was it fun? There sure were a heck of a lot of frustrations. Things not working, things that broke. And I don’t even want to think about how much money I spent on components, kits, parts, et cetera.

Was it supposed to be fun? At times it felt like homework – stuff I was doing because I had to. It was the assignment. Do that, or sit quietly in the dark and let my head fill up with images of death.

I guess I won’t put the big box away just yet — I’ll leave it out, and see if the urge strikes to open it and do more electronics stuff. Maybe install the thermostat. Or not. Whatever.

Progress

Posted 2011.01.22 21.16 in Computers/Internet/Technology, Pointless Blather by Stephanie

It’s slow, and I hope I’m not jinxing myself by saying it, but I think there’s some progress.

The ethernet port seems to be working(*). The temperature variances are annoying but I think I’ve found ways to live with it. Last night I added all the buttons and switches. All that remains now is to build the circuit board that will house the power regulator and the interface to the HVAC lines.

I had been worried about how it will all look – especially with the Chronodot RTC/temp sensor being not only external, but standing off about an inch. I was worried also about mounting buttons and switches. Would I do a good job? Would they look ok? Would it look like a 3rd grade science fair reject?

In a moment of zen, I found a peaceful answer to all these concerns. My thermostat is going to look a little bit like mad science. People are going to be wary when they see it. People are going to be afraid to touch it. And that is the way it is meant to be.

The grey wire coming out the bottom is the ethernet cable. The blue board & black cable on the left side is temporary, it is the USB/serial connection that I’m using for debugging, and temporarily providing power to run the thermostat. Down below to the right of the ethernet port, is where I’ll be building the power & HVAC interface circuitry.

* There is one ongoing sporadic problem with the ethernet port. Sometimes after a power loss, it hangs on initialization. I suspect I know what the problem is, and how to remedy it. For now, it just means occasionally having to hit a reset button after power-up.

I’ll include some pics of the guts in my next update post.

Cheer up! Snap out of it!

Posted 2011.01.20 9.44 in Hobbies, Pointless Blather by Stephanie

You hear stuff like that now and then, when you’re depressed. Seems more likely in the first 6 or 12 months. Once you get into a really long dark groove, eventually people clue in that it’s not something you can just snap out of, and that if you could just cheer up you probably would have done that already.

About the best I’ve been able to manage is to keep myself distracted. Keep forcing myself on this electronics hobby stuff. When I’m actually plugging away at it, I’m not feeling depressed. So from that angle, it’s working.

The problem is that it’s not consistent or fool-proof, and now and then things don’t go well then it just adds to the frustration and negative thoughts, rather than being a distraction from them.

Like this thermostat project. It’s starting to feel like every time I make any progress, there’s another setback to go with it. Two steps forward, three steps back.

It’s been two weeks since I talked about the last big setback. Two weeks of re-thinking, re-organizing, and replacing dead components. I got a new enclosure. I scrapped the first prototype board. Slowly things were coming back together again.

Last night I got back to the point I was at 2 weeks ago, of incorporating the ethernet port. This time, nothing went in backwards and nothing was wired wrong. The magic smoke stayed in. The ethernet port is installed and working. Except…

The ethernet chip generates a lot of heat, even when it’s sitting idle. By a lot, I mean, it feels just slightly warm to the touch. No big deal, right? Except having a little heater in the thermostat completely fucks up the thermostat’s ability to know the temperature of the room. Gawddamnit.

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Scaredy-Cat

Posted 2011.01.17 19.37 in Cats by Stephanie

Sidewalkplow Man is my Hero

Posted 2011.01.16 12.59 in Pointless Blather by Stephanie

I don’t know his secret identity. He comes in the night, after the snow, and renders sidewalks clear. Sidewalkplow Man – super hero.

And Now For Something Blinky

Posted 2011.01.06 9.59 in Computers/Internet/Technology, Hobbies by Stephanie

It’s (pocket-sized) blinkin’ flashin’ heaven.

The LoL Shield (Lots of LEDs) is an add-on board for the Arduino microcontroller prototyping device.

One hundred and twenty-six LEDs, all on a space of about 3″ by 2″, all a-blinkin and a-flashin.

Of course the first thing I wanted to do was run Conway’s Game of Life on there. Turns out there was a GoL program already made, in the associated library / examples. Still, I had to tweak it a bit to get it to work ‘just so’.

Now all I gotta do is replace the Arduino with something smaller, maybe just the Atmega uC, add some batteries and put it in a little portable case.

Real electronics should glow in the dark.

Edited to add: Click here to download my updated / tweaked version.

One Step Forward, n Steps Back

Posted 2011.01.05 12.14 in Computers/Internet/Technology, Pointless Blather by Stephanie

Grumpy grumbles. After all my thermostat progress, I was getting more and more stuff squeezed into the final enclosure when there was a stumble, a trip-up, and then a complete collapse.

First I got a part in backwards.Then I hooked up some wires wrong. Then the magic smoke escaped from a component. Finally the whole thing achieved electronic death, or at least an electronic vegetative comatose state.

So I had to rip it all apart and move everything back to the breadboard & workbench, to start over.

Damnit.

It all went down Sunday night I think. Then I got all frustrated, then that got me feeling down, and I could almost feel like I was teetering on the edge of the depression, like it was just waiting for the opportunity to get me when I let my guard down.

Dealing with frustration is ‘easy’ (well easy to say, sometimes hard to do). You just put it down and walk away. Stop working on it, put it away and leave it for an hour, a day, whatever it takes.

Now I’ve got things mostly re-assembled on the breadboard, except the ethernet module which I don’t know yet if it still works… the magic smoke came out of a supporting component and I haven’t had a chance to replace that.

So, not quite back to the drawing board, but back to the workbench, anyways. Grumbles.