I am dan.
I am, among other things, an Engineer.
Undergraduate degrees in Computer and Electrical Engineering (2009) and a Masters in Systems Engineering (2012) can help support that outrageous claim. My day job has that word in the title, so there’s that too. This all well and good, but what does it mean?
I like solving problems. I like figuring things out. I love learning, and then using what I learn to perform the first two functions. I live for those moments where, after solid work and and a bit of trial and error, suddenly it all makes sense and you see the metaphorical code. And if that metaphorical code compiles without errors and will fit within the flash memory constraints of the chosen microchip platform, well that’s just gravy.
I also like making stuff. Specifically, stuff that requires and puts to use the skills I have acquired during my academic and professional careers. I have a great appreciation for software and those who write it and can wield the struct and pointer as would an artist with paint and brush. For me, I prefer being more hands-on, and I prefer working with the hardware. Of course, in this day and age, the two collide more often than not. And I love that aspect of this hobby, where you figure out the hardware and the software and are left with something tangible. So a lot of what you’ll find here are mashed-up bits of electronics running equally mashed-up bits of code and, with luck, something interesting appears.
Now that I’ve waxed enough philosophical to open a candle factory, here’s what I know.
I got my start with micro-controllers during an Embedded Systems class in my later semesters. It was the first time where I had a structured, concrete introduction to the melding of hardware and code on a “low” level (e.g. using C code to manipulate registers on a chip and, hey presto, a blinking light). Soon after that, I was introduced to the Arduino and this playing with micro-controllers thing turned into a legitimate hobby.
I’ve worked with other AT-series Atmel chips, and have met with some success using the ATTiny family. I especially like these because of the flexibility you get in small, cheap packages. I got caught up in the Raspberry Pi craze, so you’ll probably find some projects featuring it as well.
As far as programming goes, I’ve had some formal training in a handful of object-oriented languages, as well as C and VHDL. I certainly do not profess to be any kind of software designer. But as mentioned before, I love learning, and this hobby is a great opportunity to do so and turn right around and apply that knowledge. Most of the “recreational” code I’ve generated has either been written to a chip or used in some way to interact with such a project.
About half the time, my projects start as a result of learning a new thing and mentally holding it up against the things I already know and asking “how could I mix these to make something awesome?” Or, if “awesome” is too ambitious, I’ll settle for “kinda nifty.” The other half of the time, I’ll think of something cool and try to figure out how to make it happen. These are great because it usually ends up in me learning something new and, well, see the first half.
I’m particularly fond of clocks. I have a few projects that keep time, both practically and…less practically. To this end, I also am a fan of LEDs and the manipulation thereof. Inside my bag of tricks there’s also various sensors, one or two things that make noise, RF components, solenoids, and traces of robotics.
Aside from the electronics projects, you might occasionally see things relating to virtual computing. A past job allowed me to get VMware certified, and were I not working a hardware-related job at present, I’d definitely be doing something along those lines. Once I get some measure of a VM lab set up, there’ll probably be some related mumbling.
Aside from that, if I find anything tech-related on which I would like to share an opinion, I will do so. Usually this will be if it has some tie-in to this kind of electronics hobby. But if they invent warp drive or teleporters or something, I’ll be like “Dudes, check this out.”
And for a little bit of ‘caveat emptor,’ I do not claim to be an expert at any of this stuff. Nor do I always claim that I even know what I’m doing. If I can provide some insight and/or inspiration, that’s fantastic. If you feel you can do the same for me, that’s also fantastic, and I encourage constructive feedback. As I said, I love learning, and that, for me, is what this hobby is all about.