DIY software development and/or electronics?

What skills to learn, what tools to get
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FrugalPatat
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DIY software development and/or electronics?

Post by FrugalPatat » Sun Dec 02, 2018 9:28 am

At first sight, being able to code seems like a useful thing (outside of work), since one can make pretty much any kind of application imaginable within technological and one's intellectual / time limits. However almost never in my life have I found anything useful to do with this skill.

1. The only useful thing I remember actually doing was to make an app for my wife to help with the week menu & corresponding groceries. Since I did not find an existing app for free that did what we wanted I made it myself.

2. I wrote some code to scrape 2nd hand websites to help me find arbitrage opportunities

3. The other thing I thought about is that it’s really annoying having all these different bank accounts, investing accounts and not have an integrated view of the whole. Since it doesn't seem possible to access these accounts through an API I thought about making some device to push the buttons on the different security tokens and read with and IP camera and OCR; then some code to navigate the banking websites and extract the information I need. It seems doable for cheap although I don’t know anything about the hardware part so this might take me some time.

Anyone actually ever done anything useful with their coding (maybe in combination with electronics)? Or have any unrealized ideas?

2Birds1Stone
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Re: DIY software development and/or electronics?

Post by 2Birds1Stone » Sun Dec 02, 2018 9:32 am

Use case three sounds like vanilla RPA, a very fun technology =)

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7Wannabe5
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Re: DIY software development and/or electronics?

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Sun Dec 02, 2018 10:36 am

There are a lot of projects people could theoretically do even at the Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang* level of technology, but don't. Most people don't even program their programmable thermostat or remote control devices. So, it's like there is all this data streaming in which could be processed into information by application of intention, but either it remains unfiltered or it is filtered through somebody else's default intention.

*Hammer level even.

SavingWithBabies
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Re: DIY software development and/or electronics?

Post by SavingWithBabies » Sun Dec 02, 2018 11:49 am

For #3, you can look at Plaid.com to build on top of however I don't know how much you can do for free.

Maybe the most useful thing I made so far was a dual garage door opener. I have one hall sensor per door and the idea was to put a magnet on the garage door (although you can read some of the electric pulses of the garage door as I think that conveys state information too). I made it with an ESP8266 so it can be hooked up to wifi and work over MQTT which is useful if you want to keep the device simple and push and pull state from another device (ie in this case, I'd probably use a raspberry pi or try to get it to run on my router -- mosquito.org is a lightweight MQTT server/broker). Next I was going to make some phone apps to have it prompt to open by proximity and allow opening from the phone (and seeing state of the doors).

But then I found a replacement garage door opener remote for $2 at a rummage sale that I guessed would work with our door that didn't have one. And I was a bit nervous about hooking all this up in a rental. So I put it on hold but I'm tempted to put it back up as it would be convenient in some cases (we keep our stroller in the garage that we use at least once a day going for walks).

The other thing I made was a Sous Vide controller. Again and ESP8266 with some other electronic bits and pieces. I hooked this up to a crock pot and it worked well although I never bothered to put it in a case so it was fragile (easy to accidentally break a soldered wire while in storage). Then I found a $6 Sous Vide unit at the resale store. It is handy to have multiple though and it was fun to do.

With some of these building blocks, you can do a lot of things however it definitely feels like you get into situations where it's nice to have but not really needed. But then you gain experience with the devices and practices and can leverage that for future projects (that might only come to mind after seeing/experiencing the possibilities). For example, you could use MQTT and ESP8266/ESP32/Raspberry Pis/? as a backbone of a home automation project. I've also mulled over putting a bunch of sensors into one of our vehicles although it already has a bunch of sensors I could hook into via the ODB II port (purchased Torque app to make the easer).

The other reason I hesitated to deploy my garage door opener was I like simple things and it seemed like I was making my life more complicated for little benefit. Making it was the fun part. But supporting it in use can be not so fun. But I think I'll install it and see how it goes as it would be non-critical so no big deal if it fails.

There is a ton of information on Youtube and the web on getting started with the above kind of things. I've enjoyed Andreas Spiess Youtube channel quite a bit and would recommend it.

Security note: I chose not to expose any of the above to the outside internet. It's definitely possible and there is the whole IoT or Internet of Things but I'd avoid exposing it unless you had a good reason to do so and are prepared for the security issues.

TheProcess
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Re: DIY software development and/or electronics?

Post by TheProcess » Sun Dec 02, 2018 2:51 pm

I recently hacked up a web app(*) to help myself find people to follow on Twitter. Basically you input two twitter users that you like, and I show you the friends they have in common so you can see if there are others you'd like to add. This isn't novel or difficult, but it's implemented in a way that I like, and it's surprising how you find some interesting accounts by putting in two users who post in non-overlapping domains, like basketball + crypto, or machine learning + finance.

It was a project to see if I could do anything useful with my marginal Python skills. Turns out that even with poor skills, I created a little value for myself, and I learned a lot that I think I can use to add to the app in the future when I have time, which might make it useful to others. As a project, it also helps my career a little bit, since I analyze a lot of data, and getting quicker at writing python scripts is a huge help (web of goals).

I have a bunch of ideas about more stuff to build. None of them are that great, but I think at least one of them will stick if I stay focused and open to where things take me. Here is how I came up with the ideas:
1. Set aside 30 mins to just brainstorm. Focus on thinking laterally, use a pen and a blank sheet of paper, doodle some charts and tables. Drink a cup of coffee (or beer). Sleep on it and repeat.
2. Think of things you would use yourself. Some inconvenience you had that could be solved with a text editor and some elbow grease
3. Think of things that serve tiny niches. One truism of the internet is that the potential audience is so huge (billions) that you can always find enough people in to serve with a tiny niche of an app. It should be a niche that you care about. The broader of an appeal that you try to have, the less chance you have of standing out. Dull knives don't cut.
4. Keep a notepad file open on your computer or phone and add ideas to it over time. Stuff pops into my head while I'm on the couch, doing random web browsing, staring out the window, whatever. I just write them down, then revisit periodically to delete the stuff that seems really dumb after a second look.
5. Set arbitrary constraints on your ideas. What can I prototype in a single hour? Could my parents/grandparents use this?

(*) I have a serviceable dev version online with some free hosting, feel free to PM me for the URL

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Sclass
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Re: DIY software development and/or electronics?

Post by Sclass » Mon Dec 03, 2018 12:12 am

I’ve done a little bit. I posted this up years ago.

viewtopic.php?f=6&t=8555&hilit=Bread+machine

Kind of an old post. I haven’t done much hardware or coding since then.

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Chris
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Re: DIY software development and/or electronics?

Post by Chris » Mon Dec 03, 2018 2:41 pm

  1. For a research paper (and personal profit) I wrote some software to scrape ticket scalping sites and plot the daily price changes.
  2. For a gift, used a cheap Android phone to make a mini digital picture frame. No mobile SW work, just start a web browser on power-on. The backend takes care of ingesting new photos and JavaScript cycles through the JPEGs in the output directory. Upshot for me is that I control the photos that are displayed in someone else's house; oh the possibilities (-:
  3. Created a headless MP3 player. Selection and navigation was done via single-character input. Prompts were giving using TTS.

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BRUTE
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Re: DIY software development and/or electronics?

Post by BRUTE » Wed Dec 05, 2018 12:43 am

all the time.
brute is unsure how humans survive without writing their own software - how do they DO anything?

tonyedgecombe
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Re: DIY software development and/or electronics?

Post by tonyedgecombe » Wed Dec 05, 2018 8:43 am

Writing software for a living has driven all the pleasure out of it for me. I'd hoped that would change as I moved into retirement but it doesn't seem so so far.

sky
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Re: DIY software development and/or electronics?

Post by sky » Wed Dec 05, 2018 8:14 pm

I have built timers that control seedling heaters and flood and drain pumps for my microgreen farm. They are quite simple arduino sketches which actuate relays and 120V extension cords.

If it works as expected, I will only have to "work" three days for every nine day crop, where before I had to tend to the garden every day. Now I can go on overnight trips and still harvest continuously.

SavingWithBabies
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Re: DIY software development and/or electronics?

Post by SavingWithBabies » Wed Dec 05, 2018 8:33 pm

@tonyedgecombe I'm feeling quite a bit like that these days about software but the electronics projects are more fun because I don't do that at all professionally. There is still some coding but plenty of soldering and learning about chips and making circuits. I don't know if that interests you but if it does, it kind of feels like a golden age for hobbyists with the cheap parts from China (on the slow boat though) and the amount of information online.

I really want one of those alarm clocks that brightens up the room with lights starting 30 minutes before the alarm. I think I'll build one of those as the prices are pretty high for a commercial version. Although I need a couple of years until our kids are off sleeping in their own rooms. Projects like that are partly coding but enough non-coding to make it fun for me.

@sky That is neat! Nice job and a good idea.

prognastat
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Re: DIY software development and/or electronics?

Post by prognastat » Wed Dec 05, 2018 8:46 pm

@SWB

Another option besides lights could be motorized black out blinds, though those wouldn't work unless you wake up at a time the sun is already up at. Have them slowly roll up over 30 minutes before the alarm rings.

SavingWithBabies
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Re: DIY software development and/or electronics?

Post by SavingWithBabies » Wed Dec 05, 2018 8:49 pm

@prognastat That is a great idea and would indeed work. I'll have to think some more about which I would prefer. Thanks

sky
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Re: DIY software development and/or electronics?

Post by sky » Wed Dec 05, 2018 9:48 pm

I would like a device that pings (a ping sound) at sunrise. I know there is an android app that does this but if I turn up the volume of my device it gives me odd noises through the night.

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Sclass
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Re: DIY software development and/or electronics?

Post by Sclass » Wed Dec 05, 2018 10:57 pm

sky wrote:
Wed Dec 05, 2018 9:48 pm
I would like a device that pings (a ping sound) at sunrise. I know there is an android app that does this but if I turn up the volume of my device it gives me odd noises through the night.
This is a really easy circuit to build for a beginner. I think you can get an LM393 based comparator board on eBay for $1. Combine that with a photocell and and some resistors to set a threshold and you have a light sensitive switch that will turn on at some level of light intensity. Hack a musical birthday card to the output of the LM393.

I’ve kind of described a cheap led nightlight. I bet you can hack one to do exactly what you want with a couple of resistors and the musical card. You’ll get a free power supply in the mix.

Or you can just code something up...Python and PIL would do it with overkill.

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BRUTE
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Re: DIY software development and/or electronics?

Post by BRUTE » Thu Dec 06, 2018 2:41 am

prognastat wrote:
Wed Dec 05, 2018 8:46 pm
@SWB

Another option besides lights could be motorized black out blinds, though those wouldn't work unless you wake up at a time the sun is already up at. Have them slowly roll up over 30 minutes before the alarm rings.
http://tynan.com/curtains

DutchGirl
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Re: DIY software development and/or electronics?

Post by DutchGirl » Fri Dec 07, 2018 3:10 pm

A guy I know scraped the local housing website (funda) and put in his own criteria and would have a ping from the app he made whenever a new house came up that completely fit their own specialized criteria. Also, when walking around it would show them houses in the area that were suitable.

I guess if the website itself was fully functional you wouldn't have to do that. But that specific website's search options aren't the best. So that's why this guy made his own app for it.

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Sclass
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Re: DIY software development and/or electronics?

Post by Sclass » Sat Dec 08, 2018 10:41 am

DutchGirl wrote:
Fri Dec 07, 2018 3:10 pm

I guess if the website itself was fully functional you wouldn't have to do that. But that specific website's search options aren't the best. So that's why this guy made his own app for it.
Funny how the need for a hack often goes away. Especially if it works too well.

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Viktor K
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Re: DIY software development and/or electronics?

Post by Viktor K » Sat Dec 08, 2018 10:46 am

My last couple practice projects have been making a web app to help me in some area of life. Two were for making my tabletop game run more smoothly (1 as a player, and the other as a DM) and the third was for exercise.

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