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General => General Chat => Topic started by: illusive on November 03, 2016, 08:14:22 pm

Title: I need a new technology-oriented hobby
Post by: illusive on November 03, 2016, 08:14:22 pm
Hello everybody!
I want to try learning some new technology area and i need some guidance. My goal has always been and it is to eventually make my hobby a profession. I'm 22 now and since an early age i've been tinkering with electronics and making all kinds of projects - power supplies, audio amplifiers, portable speakers, color organs and so on. I've even been learning that as a high school student and now i'm studying automation, information and control systems as my university degree.
But recently i've been noticing that the classic electronics as a hobby is changing and i am getting a bit depressed that i need to catch the wave so to speak. Everything is becoming more and more embedded and i need something to keep me interested.
My problem is that i am confused on what should i focus my interest on. I've always been interested in computers (mainly hardware), linux, electronics (obviously), a bit of programming and recently i'm getting into microcontrollers (atmel avr's). So i'm trying to combine all of those things and the most obvious thing that pops up in my mind is IoT. The IoT is of course a very broad subject, with many different areas of specializations and the most logical thing is to get myself in the more hardware site of it. So far so good but here comes the next problem - where do i start? Strictly learning microcontrollers (but which ones, avr, pic, texas instruments?), FPGA's, ARM, getting into Raspberry Pi (linux, programming, pc, microcontroller-like stuff, seems to be all the jazz) or something else ?
I'm not going to abandon classic electronics, i just feel like i now enough of the basic stuff so i can use them to branch out and try something new and useful in the future.
Title: Re: I need a new technology-oriented hobby
Post by: Ampera on November 03, 2016, 08:30:11 pm
Hello everybody!
I want to try learning some new technology area and i need some guidance. My goal has always been and it is to eventually make my hobby a profession. I'm 22 now and since an early age i've been tinkering with electronics and making all kinds of projects - power supplies, audio amplifiers, portable speakers, color organs and so on. I've even been learning that as a high school student and now i'm studying automation, information and control systems as my university degree.
But recently i've been noticing that the classic electronics as a hobby is changing and i am getting a bit depressed that i need to catch the wave so to speak. Everything is becoming more and more embedded and i need something to keep me interested.
My problem is that i am confused on what should i focus my interest on. I've always been interested in computers (mainly hardware), linux, electronics (obviously), a bit of programming and recently i'm getting into microcontrollers (atmel avr's). So i'm trying to combine all of those things and the most obvious thing that pops up in my mind is IoT. The IoT is of course a very broad subject, with many different areas of specializations and the most logical thing is to get myself in the more hardware site of it. So far so good but here comes the next problem - where do i start? Strictly learning microcontrollers (but which ones, avr, pic, texas instruments?), FPGA's, ARM, getting into Raspberry Pi (linux, programming, pc, microcontroller-like stuff, seems to be all the jazz) or something else ?
I'm not going to abandon classic electronics, i just feel like i now enough of the basic stuff so i can use them to branch out and try something new and useful in the future.

Personally I dislike the concept of the IoT. I think home automation and gadgetry needs to stay with hobbyists or it loses it's charm. IoT devices tend to pose MAJOR secuirty risks due to them never being patched, or rarely if so. Other things I just think they don't need, like computerized firidges, washers, dryers, cookers, etc. because adding computers into them really doesn't add anything. When was the last time you looked into your fridge and thought "I have a real hankering for an android tablet permanently bolted to my fridge, yea that would be it."

The best I can do is suggest my personal hobbies. I like to collect old tech, and I am quite vanilla in doing so. I dislike things like the Retron systems because if them having no need to exist of any sort, and I spend time building and fixing old computers and consoles. I am currently working on an old 80486 gaming PC build using VLB.

I also program, it's fun to step back after weeks of work and to see something fun and interactive you made, and for it to all flow together. The euphoria of that sensation is amazing.

You might also like to mess about with devkits like the RapberryPi, Beaglebone, Intel Galileo (if they are still doing that), Arduino, etc. etc. They all have GPIO that can be used for these neat home automation rigs (to note I don't hate home automation, I hate companies trying to make it easy if that makes any sense at all)

Best of luck, I am and was in your position before.

Title: Re: I need a new technology-oriented hobby
Post by: MasterTech on November 03, 2016, 08:33:24 pm
My advice, avoid heading where everyone is going to, and focus or try to find areas/topics/applications less known/talked about.

Long time ago I used to search random patent numbers and see what topic it would come up
Title: Re: I need a new technology-oriented hobby
Post by: illusive on November 03, 2016, 08:41:30 pm
My opinion of the IoT is exactly the same, i just like the idea of combining low level hardware with my smartphone for instance.
Title: Re: I need a new technology-oriented hobby
Post by: bitseeker on November 03, 2016, 10:35:22 pm
illusive, those are all good questions. Rather than getting swept away by all the hype and buzzwords, just work on what's interesting to you. If microcontrollers are interesting or provide functionality to build something that is interesting to you, then pick whichever one fits the requirements (functionality, budget, availability, access to local expertise for help, curiosity, etc.) that you choose or best fit that thing you want to build.

As you gain experience with various tech, the market will continue to change. So, you'll never stop learning.
Title: Re: I need a new technology-oriented hobby
Post by: tronde on November 03, 2016, 11:50:48 pm
What about welfare technology / assistive technology?
Title: Re: I need a new technology-oriented hobby
Post by: aargee on November 04, 2016, 01:09:17 am
Multi-rotor / Drone / Quadcopter?

There is a bit of technology in these things and it is eminently adaptable to your skill set.
Micro-controllers in flight controllers, OSD (on screen displays). RF in the RC side and FPV (First Person Visual). GPS modules, Battery charging, soldering, motor control....

There's no one so popular at a drone meet than someone who knows and practices electronics well.

It also gets you outdoors - something that's mostly missing from our hobby.
Title: Re: I need a new technology-oriented hobby
Post by: illusive on November 05, 2016, 04:03:08 pm
The drone-thing is on my mind for quite some time, i should get in to it soon.
The past few days my attention is turning towards ARM. It seems to have many capabilities and potential.
Title: Re: I need a new technology-oriented hobby
Post by: Assafl on November 05, 2016, 05:18:48 pm
Drones need applications (other than filming). Some are trying to use them for other stuff (such as using the color of plants to gauge rainfall). But while interesting it is happening like 3D printing - very interesting but really needs a killer app.

At 22 one is expected to be a wiz in technology with rather low ability to do systems analysis and MRD/PRD. So master the topics as horizontally as possible.

Many embedded systems are about the algorithms. So math would be nice. As an example - Being able to stabilize a control loop mathematically will get you to be a very sexy embedded engineer. Signal processing? Even sexier.

BTW - Saying IOT lacks ample security, as an example from a previous poster, can be seen as an opportunity to learn something from a rather different persoective - and approach employers with a rather unique set of skills.
Title: Re: I need a new technology-oriented hobby
Post by: rstofer on November 05, 2016, 05:39:56 pm
The hobby is changing from wires and resistors to lines of code.  Sure, there will still be bits and pieces but they will be controlled by code.

IoT is just a small segment of wireless communications.  Yes, it can be used on toasters but communications is a much bigger field.
Make a WiFi <anything> and see how it goes.

Last week I was playing with the link between MatLab and Raspberry PI.  The idea is to have the PI do some kind of IO and present the results to MatLab.  In my case, I want physical knobs and dials to interact with SimuLink simulations.

ARM is certainly a popular family of chips.  It would be worth the time to get to know them intimately.  Something like the STM32F4 seems like a good place to wind up.  I'm not sure I would START there but at some point, that family of devices has a lot to offer.  Personally, I would start with the more understandable devices like the LPC2106 or LPC2148.  I might take a look at www.jcwren.com/arm (http://www.jcwren.com/arm) as a source of just about everything for the 2148.  The LPC1768 version of the mbed is another nice 'stamp' style ARM.  I REALLY like that device.  mbed might be a more modern way to get started in ARM and there are many libraries available to help you get started.

I'm not using them at the moment but there is something to be said for the PIC uCs.  They are smaller devices and somewhat ugly to program in assembly language and, in some cases, not optimized for C but they are something to know about.  Same story for the AVR family except they are pretty clean to program and C works for almost all of them.  Hence the AVR in the Arduino boards.  Look into Arduino, there's a lot of neat stuff going on.

This electronics hobby is a pretty large sandbox.  There are lots of corners to play in.

Title: Re: I need a new technology-oriented hobby
Post by: ez24 on November 05, 2016, 06:02:07 pm
... I just think they don't need, like computerized firidges, washers, dryers, cookers, etc. because adding computers into them really doesn't add anything.

I felt the same way until recently.  If only the Samsung washer could have sent an email saying it was about to explode.  Seriously a few years ago I had a washer go out and it had error codes so I knew what happened and could not afford to fix it (to this day).  I think if it was smarter maybe it could have told me before the damage happened.   So I vote for IoT, and since it is going to happen, that is where the jobs will be.  Now what MCU to study ?  :-DD   (FYI I believe TI is number 1 MCU by sales)

If your school has an Embedded Control course then that is the best one to take and learn (if they do how about let us know the school name and course)
Title: Re: I need a new technology-oriented hobby
Post by: NiHaoMike on November 05, 2016, 07:32:53 pm
TI is the leader in microcontrollers for motor drives, but Microchip/Atmel lead for general purpose microcontrollers.

Making appliances smart can be very helpful for energy saving. Let's start with what dominates energy use in most homes - HVAC. The obvious and common answers to improving efficiency are to make the equipment more efficient and to insulate the building better. But few realize that heating or cooling the building isn't the main goal - the main goal is to heat or cool the people inside. Many higher end HVAC systems can adjust room by room, but let's go further. Let's put a bunch of sensors in the indoor units to keep track of where the people are and where to direct the heating or cooling. Note that nowhere does the system need to connect to the Internet - in fact, by being able to deliver heating or cooling almost instantly, it removes the need to remote control it ahead of time.
Title: Re: I need a new technology-oriented hobby
Post by: DimitriP on November 05, 2016, 08:24:21 pm
TI is the leader in microcontrollers for motor drives, but Microchip/Atmel lead for general purpose microcontrollers.

Making appliances smart can be very helpful for energy saving. Let's start with what dominates energy use in most homes - HVAC. The obvious and common answers to improving efficiency are to make the equipment more efficient and to insulate the building better. But few realize that heating or cooling the building isn't the main goal - the main goal is to heat or cool the people inside. Many higher end HVAC systems can adjust room by room, but let's go further. Let's put a bunch of sensors in the indoor units to keep track of where the people are and where to direct the heating or cooling. Note that nowhere does the system need to connect to the Internet - in fact, by being able to deliver heating or cooling almost instantly, it removes the need to remote control it ahead of time.

Most houses are poorly insulated. A high tech band-aid would help, but it's the wrong approcach.
Why spend money and tech on cooling something that's allowed to heat up?
Why spend money and tech on heaing something that's allowed to cool off?
Would you use an LM317 to it's limits requiring a very large heatsink and forced air?
But that's a subject for a different thread :)
Title: Re: I need a new technology-oriented hobby
Post by: ez24 on November 05, 2016, 08:32:05 pm
My problem is that i am confused on what should i focus my interest on.

Not knowing much about the OP but since it sounds like they are young and in school,  my answer is whatever gets them a job.  Therefore search the job market or talk to companies and see what they want. 
Title: Re: I need a new technology-oriented hobby
Post by: NiHaoMike on November 05, 2016, 08:43:19 pm
Most houses are poorly insulated. A high tech band-aid would help, but it's the wrong approcach.
Why spend money and tech on cooling something that's allowed to heat up?
Why spend money and tech on heaing something that's allowed to cool off?
Would you use an LM317 to it's limits requiring a very large heatsink and forced air?
But that's a subject for a different thread :)
Much cheaper to add a quad core CPU (think Raspberry Pi) than it is to upgrade all the insulation. It is also noted that if you avoid heating or cooling the walls, the energy losses are much reduced. Of course it works best in combination with good insulation and good system design.

And then there's the savings in equipment. Rather than designing it to be able to heat or cool to 75F year round in the whole building, you could design it to heat to 60F or cool to 85F except for a few dynamic "micro zones" that can be heated or cooled more.
Title: Re: I need a new technology-oriented hobby
Post by: setq on November 05, 2016, 09:58:21 pm
Amateur radio / RF. It's a different and interesting world.
Title: Re: I need a new technology-oriented hobby
Post by: AntiProtonBoy on November 05, 2016, 11:50:34 pm
build kits?
Title: Re: I need a new technology-oriented hobby
Post by: larrybl on November 06, 2016, 01:42:26 am
Hope this gives some perspective. I have worked in hi-tech most of my life. Military as a F4J Phantom Seat Technician, then moved to Tactical Satellite Communication. Was re assigned as a IT support for a Military Battalion. Retired from the Military and started civilian life installing DX-3 Fiber racks and 100 pair cables for Telephone Central Offices. Got tired of all the travel and settled in on a job of taking care of a City's Public Safety Communication system. Been here for almost 20 years now, the system has migrated to digital and I am more an IT person again. I preferred manual tuning of radios, now all are software based, and the Core of the system operates on Red Hat Linux, Windows 8 Server, and Win 7. My hobby  is restoring vintage Garden Mower / Tractors. I am trying to figure how to profit from my hobby when I retire from the City. One curse is.. Once you turn something you do as relaxation and enjoyment into something that you need to sustain your life, it becomes a JOB and a lot of the enjoyment is lost.         
Title: Re: I need a new technology-oriented hobby
Post by: ez24 on November 06, 2016, 02:18:49 am
My hobby  is restoring vintage Garden Mower / Tractors.
Just curious - what is the max wheel width of the smallest tractor  ie what is the min wheel width of your tractors ?  Are there any with 48" or less ?
Title: Re: I need a new technology-oriented hobby
Post by: larrybl on November 06, 2016, 02:39:53 am
The John Deere is 34", The Craftsman's  and Roper is 36" I assume you mean width from one side to the other. Most measure cutting decks, The 1988 John Deere is 38", 1988 Craftsman's are 44" and the 1978 Roper is 50". All of these were saved from going to the Landfill or Scrap yard. I use the Red Craftsman to mow 3.5 acres, and have taken the others to various shows and events. I have won recognition and awards for these.
Title: Re: I need a new technology-oriented hobby
Post by: larrybl on November 06, 2016, 02:44:49 am
Oops, here is the 88 John Deere, Given to me for free. I am still restoring the mower deck. The Previous Owner hooked the battery up backwards, which requires a complete re-wire of this machine.
Title: Re: I need a new technology-oriented hobby
Post by: Bud on November 06, 2016, 03:52:43 am
According to a report from Gartner, technology research  company, next big thing expected to be are artifical intelligence, virtual/augmented reality and quantum cryptography. May be not easy to choose from, but at least has chances to become casheable.
Title: Re: I need a new technology-oriented hobby
Post by: daybyter on November 06, 2016, 04:47:43 am
My first idea were retro computers, but my next idea was cryptocoin soft and hardware.
Title: Re: I need a new technology-oriented hobby
Post by: NiHaoMike on November 06, 2016, 05:24:51 am
my next idea was cryptocoin soft and hardware.
Having been into altcoin mining for over a year, I'll tell you that it is fun and possibly a lot of work keeping up with trends! But it can be a good way to invest and the coins that can be mined with cheap smartphones are virtually guaranteed to return in a relatively short time. (I remember buying two $5 smartphones on Black Friday last year and having them pay back in about a week mining Perk...) Do note that altcoins increase in mining difficulty over time so pay close attention to post dates when researching a coin.
Title: Re: I need a new technology-oriented hobby
Post by: daybyter on November 06, 2016, 09:25:40 am
Smartphones? I thought about fpga's. But your idea sounds cool.
Title: Re: I need a new technology-oriented hobby
Post by: vk3yedotcom on November 06, 2016, 10:13:05 am
Amateur radio / RF. It's a different and interesting world.

+1

Amateur radio/RF has a huge variety of subinterests so it's worth poking around to see if one of those takes your fancy. 

Eg it's not just talking around the world.  Many adherents don't even talk at all, preferring digital or Morse modes. Others are more builders than operators and rarely get on air.

Those with allied interests (eg space or astronomy) may like satellite communication or radio astronomy. 

Neither is it all indoors - there are certain aspects of radio (eg VHF or HF communication) which work a lot better from a peak or beach.

While an exam is required for entry to most on-air aspects, there are parts (including some transmitter experiments) that don't require it.

Eg experimenting with 'short range devices' or UHF modules.

My videos (vk3ye on YouTube) include just a few aspects. 

As for a hobby allied to work, opinion is divided on whether this is a good thing - an intense job could put you off the hobby if they're too similar. 

Maybe it's this reason why some are high-tech in their day job but their hobby is a low-tech or historical aspect (eg restoring and using heritage equipment). 
Title: Re: I need a new technology-oriented hobby
Post by: blueskull on November 06, 2016, 10:24:42 am
Since you are still in college, my advice will be learn everything you mentioned before. You will use all of them later in your work.
Let's say, you're majored in automation, then that means you need to be able to build a thing that automatically controls a piece of equipment based on order from an operator.

That implies the piece of work must have:
1. A user interface that talks with human.
2. A computer interface that logs its movement into a database.
3. A control state machine that dispatches orders.
4. A set of control algorithms and compensator transfer functions that controls motors to execute orders.
5. A networking system that allows this thing to talk with central PC.
6. Etc.

When you go deeper, you will find that at many points, EE, IE, CE and CS will intersect and you will be able to build and use your web of knowledge.
Learning and mastering all of these can easily cost you 4 years in college.
Title: Re: I need a new technology-oriented hobby
Post by: setq on November 06, 2016, 10:24:52 am
Good points there. My day job is high tech. Hobby is distinctly low tech. Keeps a good mental balance. Btw vk3ye, subscriber here - thanks for your work. Regular inspiration found in your videos.
Title: Re: I need a new technology-oriented hobby
Post by: R005T3r on November 06, 2016, 01:34:20 pm
Smartphones? I thought about fpga's. But your idea sounds cool.

Repairing smartphones is annoying as hell, especially because it's only order a replacement, wait... Change the replacement. You are good to go.

Not to mention, that screen repairs are boring as hell. You will never touch the soldering iron again.
Title: Re: I need a new technology-oriented hobby
Post by: rstofer on November 06, 2016, 03:09:24 pm
Smartphones? I thought about fpga's. But your idea sounds cool.

FPGAs are very cool!  You can build just about any digital system you want.  Maybe you still have warm fuzzy feelings for a computer you used in college.  Build one!  It helps if you can find the software first but even simple machines can be interesting.  Given a reasonably large memory size (64kB), it would be pretty easy to recreate something like CP/M for an OS, regardless of the underlying architecture.  Read the User Manual and implement the functions.  The method of passing arguments might be different.  Don't want to write the OS in ASM?  Look into the feasibility of porting LCC.  In fact, design the architecture from the beginning to support the needs of LCC.