Contact and Coil | Nearly In Control

TAG | wireless

Feb/11

4

Finally Getting an Arduino

I cruised through January in a kind of sleep deprived stupor (we just had our second child this December). Things are finally swinging back to normal, and I’m getting my geek back on.

I’ve been looking for a less expensive way to do discrete (or analog) I/O over WiFi for homebrew projects. I want something that can be compatible with SoapBox Snap (the open source ladder logic editor/runtime I’ve been working on), so I’ll need to be able to write a communication driver in C#. I’ve been rather frustrated by the options:

  • National Control Devices WiFi Relay Boards – but they start at $250 and go up from there.
  • Insteon – perfect for home automation and more reliable than X10, but their software license agreement for their development kit is extremely unfriendly to open source.
  • Belkin and other manufacturers have created some wireless USB hubs, but I can’t seem to find anyone who has them in stock, most have been discontinued, and the cost is still prohibitive ($100+) especially when you figure you still have to buy some Phidgets boards on top of that.

Then I finally decided this was my best choice: the YellowJacket WiFi Arduino. Arduino is a family of open-source hardware designs for microcontroller boards. You can buy add-on cards for them (called shields), but you can also purchase custom designs with specific features, like this one with built-in 802.11b WiFi.

The price is right ($55), it’s very open source friendly, and since I get to program the microcontroller end, I should have no problem writing a driver for it in C#. Unfortunately it’s on back order, but I expect to get it in a couple of weeks. I’ll post more after I’ve played with it a bit.

I must admit there’s one other honourable mention, though it was a bit too much of a hack for me. There are these cheap routers you can get called La Fonera (made by FON). It turns out that they have 3 or 4 unused general purpose TTL level I/O on the circuit board, and if you install a copy of the open source DD-WRT firmware on it, it lets you control those I/O using the command line prompt if you telnet or SSH into the router. Perfect, and you can pick these things up really cheap on eBay. Unfortunately I wanted something just a little more off-the-shelf than that. (I do have a copy of DD-WRT running on my old Linksys router and I’m using it as a wireless bridge to extend the range of the wireless in my house, so I did give it some serious consideration.)

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