Arduino Adventure Series – The Adventure Begins!

Arduinos, Arduinos, Arduinos... where to start?!

Arduinos, Arduinos, Arduinos… where to start?!

A few weeks ago I started fiddling with an Arduino in earnest.1 I’ve built things using Arduinos before, but each time all I did was slavishly follow a tutorial as it took me step by step through a process.

Just as a child memorizes the Pledge of Allegiance, committing to memory the right sounds in the right order, I had a grasp of the assembly – but not the underlying meaning.  Sure, I built a MakerBot Cupcake CNC (“Bender”), a MakerBot Thing-O-Matic (“Flexo”), an Egg-Bot, a Polargraph/PlotterBot, and an IoT Printer.  ((FYI, my MakerBot Replicator 1 is named “HedonismBot“))  However, I have only the dimmest understanding of how the things I did actually created the things I ended up building.

However, I want more – there are several ideas I would like to create using electronics.  One is a sonic screwdriver flashlight.  Another is device for … shall we say…2  interfering with television infrared codes.3

My goal for this series of posts4 is to document my triumphs and failures playing with an Arduino.  I think it’s time to get started on that next post now…

  1. Photo courtesy of Arkadiusz Sikorski []
  2. Mu-ah-ha-ha!!! []
  3. Nope, not a TV-B-Gone []
  4. I know it’s ambitious to call a post the “first” post – but dammit, a man’s got to dream []
October 7, 2013 | Comments Closed

Simple Series WordPress Plugin

I’ve written a new WordPress plugin specifically designed to let you simply and easily create a series of related posts.  You can download Simple Series here.

1. What does “Simple Series” do?

Simple Series uses a WordPress shortcode to associate your posts together.  All you have to do is use the same shortcode in all of the posts you want to associate together and the plugin does the rest.  It will automatically find all of the posts with the same shortcode, organize them by publication date, and put them together in a professional and easy to read format.  If you wish to change the format, you can just add your own custom CSS to your theme.

2. How does “Simple Series” work?

Easy!  Just add the shortcode to each of the posts you want to put in the series.  Inside the shortcode you will need to specify the title for the series.  Like so:

This Is My Series Title
  1. Simple Series WordPress Plugin

No problem!  The “Simple Series” plugin will always update the series lists in each of your posts whenever you publish a new post.  The newest post will always be added to the series in chronological order, by publication date.  You can see an example of what it looks like here in my own DrawBot series.

4. I have more questions!

Cool!  Please leave a comment to this post or send me an e-mail!

A nifty little WordPress plugin…

The idea for this little plugin has been rattling around in my head for a little while now.  It clocks in at less than 60 lines of code, including comments, and makes it easy to create a “series” for posts.

As I’ve been blogging about my (mis)adventures in building a DrawBot, I’ve been updating each post to contain a link back to all of the prior posts in the series.  However, if someone were to find one of the first posts – they wouldn’t see a link to a later post.  That is, unless I update all the posts.  That’s not really much of an option, since I’ve racked up 23 posts in less than 19 days. 12

This plugin is actually super simple.  Here’s what it does:

  1. Add a “post meta” tag for the current post with the same key as whatever you want to name the post series
  2. Query the database for all posts with the same post meta key as the one for the current post
  3. Output an ordered chronological list of all posts in with the same post meta key as the one for the current post

The simplicity of this plugin are actually some of it’s strongest features.  Unlike a lot of other series plugins out there, it doesn’t create any unnecessary tables in your WordPress database.  There are no settings to mess with, no CSS to fiddle with, no ugly standard formatting to overcome.

The only downside I can perceive is that if you delete the shortcode from a plugin, it will still leave the post-meta attached to the post and the post will still appear in the series.  If you leave the shortcode in and don’t specify a series title, it will delete the post-meta.  I suppose I could include a little button in the interface to delete the post from the series, but really, it’s just not going to be used that often.

Anyhow, this is something that I’ve wanted to have for a long time – I just hadn’t gotten around to building it yet.

  1. I’ve got a lot to say. []
  2. And, actually, that’s just 23 posts on this one topic.  I’ve probably blogged an equal amount over on the MakerBot blog, with a few totally random additional posts here. []
January 25, 2012 | Comments Closed

PayPal payments and micropayments

So, PayPal has a micropayment system as well as a regular payment system.  The micropayment fee is 5% + $0.05 while the normal fee is 2.9% + $0.30.  For payments below $12.00, it makes sense to use the micropayments system and the normal system above that level.

Here’s the rub – you can only set up your PayPal account for one or the other.  I’m working on a WordPress PayPal plugin, but I’d like to have that plugin work with micropayments without forcing all of my other PayPal transactions to go through that fee structure.  Oh well.

August 8, 2011 | Comments Closed

WordPress Plugin Writing Resources

WordPress is easily my favorite open source software project.  I love it for it’s functionality, flexibility, and extensibility.  When it comes to writing a plugin, these are my favorite resources.  Don’t write a plugin without them!

  1. WordPress.org Codex for Writing a Plugin
    1. If you’re just getting started, this is the place to begin
  2. WordPress.org Codex Plugin API
    1. a great overview of the WordPress plugin API
  3. WordPress Action Reference
    • When WordPress displays a post, page, or the administrative pages it has to run through a number of functions and actions.  Your plugin will need to be activated at one of these points, and it is very helpful to know the order in which things happen.
  4. WordPress Filter Reference
    • The WordPress filter reference is a list of WordPress filters.  Each one will be able to deliver a little piece of the website for your to manipulate in your plugins.
  5. WordPress PHP Cross-Reference
    • The WordPress codex is pretty good – but it is not comprehensive.  If you want to know how some of the more obscure functions, variables, or constants work, you’ll just need to dive into the source code itself.  PHPXRef is, hands down, the best way to do this.  It let’s you search and read the the source code from their website.
  6. Top 10 Most Common Coding Mistakes in WordPress Plugins
    • This is quite possibly the best blog post about writing WordPress plugins.  Applying these guidelines will make you a better WordPress developer and your plugins faster, more efficient, and more awesome. :)
  7. How to Design and Style Your WordPress Plugin Admin Panel
    • In a lot of ways, a program is only as good as its user interface.  Build a good friendly and powerful interface and people will use your program.  Build a bad one and no one will use it, no matter how awesome it is.  This one blog post gives numerous little ways to make your WordPress plugin administrative interface look better.
August 7, 2011 | Comments Closed

Microcontrollers?

Recently more than one person has suggested I try my hand at an Arduino.  I’ve got a spare Extruder Controller which happens to include an Arduino.

I rarely bother learning something new if I can help it. 1  And, I’ll actively avoid trying to learn something new if there’s not a need to learn it.

I have no doubt that once I figure out how to use an Arduino I’d enjoy it.  However, I just don’t have any ideas of what I’d want to use a microcontroller for at this time.  And, really, none of the projects I’ve seen is particularly compelling.  And, without an end goal I’m shooting for, this would just be learning something for learning’s sake.

So, here’s the question I pose to you, gentle reader:

What would you design/build if you had access to an Arduino, a Thing-O-Matic, a Cupcake, an Egg-Bot, and lots of plastic?

  1. I remember in high school that it was so much easier for me to derive Tan, Sin, Cos, rather than to actually remember the values around the unit circle.  And really, if you can derive that information quickly, why bother committing it to memory? []

I will never ever use MS Office again, unless forced to at gunpoint

MS just released this video bashing open source tech. There are some really amusing points about it. The testimonials describe how wonderful MS Office 2007 is – but MS wants you to buy the 2010 version. Guys, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This is a word processor – for most people they just need a version of Notepad with grammar and spellcheck.1 This isn’t rocket science. I can’t imagine a business model that requires you to sell your software to your customers every 2-3 years – when the original package TEN YEARS AGO was good enough. Let alone a business model founded on a product that peaked ten years ago with XP. Seriously, the best thing about WinXP was that I never really noticed it. If I notice my OS, it’s because something is horribly horribly wrong.

The testimonials also include people who say their IT support costs soared with questions from users – and that people were used to their old MS interface. Increased support costs? Yeah, that can happen. People resistant to IT changes? Yeah, that happens too. But, the software is free, remember? Each and every license is several hundred dollars. And it needs to be effectively renewed every few years. How’s this for a new MS slogan: “Drink the kool-aid”

Several years ago I bought a pair of brand new Dell laptops with XP. Just before the warranty expired they started to go nutty, shipped them to Dell, Dell lost them, and Dell eventually replaced them – with new models that had Vista. My copies of MS Office 2000 I had bought with my original Dells refused to work with Vista. There was some “bug” that caused any MS Office component to take 10 minutes to load, operate super slowly, and crash. The fix? Oh, just buy 2003. No thank you.

I have used OpenOffice for the last several years and convinced many friends to do the same. I just cannot see spending several hundred dollars for a product the company looks at with an eye towards planned obsolescence.

No, MS, I’m not coming back. And, as soon as I can get Ubuntu to work on my computers and network, you can have my copies of XP as well.

OSS/OSH FTW!

  1. Some more than others. []
October 14, 2010 | Comments Closed

Trying to go Open Source

Don’t throw anything at me, but I’m not a fan of Mac products.  I don’t own an iPad, iPod, or iPhone and have never used iTunes.  Windows XP has it’s flaws, don’t get me wrong, but it basically just works and I can use most products with it as I choose.  Other than my operating system, I only use free/open source software.

I booted my laptop with an Ubuntu flash drive the other day, determined to give it a shot.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t get it to recognize any WiFi networks and gave up.  I can’t do a whole lot with a computer if I can’t connect it to the ‘net wirelessly.

Thus endeth my attempts with Ubuntu for now.  :)

On Open Data

I saw this video the other day (I think as a result of someone’s Tweet?) and just around to watching it now.  The things people built using data that had been opened up from the government was pretty incredible.

Interestingly, I have a totally different website that operates by only using data that is already freely available from the government.  If I had more data from the government, my site would be even more useful to my demographic.1

All of this, the video, my own website, got me thinking – if the data from the government can be released as “open data” – in what ways is our government already open source?  We know the laws that supposedly govern us and our administrators…  I suppose, open source is the ideal upon which our government was founded in the first place.

Video from Streetfilms covered by PlanetGreen/Discovery.com Tweeted by PlanetGreen RT’d by clothbot.

  1. There’s a MUCH longer story in there that’s not very interesting. []
August 5, 2010 | Comments Closed

100% Chance of AWESOME

I rather enjoy writing WordPress plugins.  It started writing them out of necessity, but I’ve ended up writing several for frivolous reasons and fun.  One of my favorites is based upon the hard work of Rasmus.  Basically, it turns

[wordpress_shortcode data=’Totally awesome=99|Merely awesome=1‘]

into

Which translates, as the title would suggest, into a 100% chance of awesome.

I dusted off this plugin (probably written about a year ago) because of the numbers associated with the MakerBot poll I recently ran.  I find it very helpful to view such data graphically.  Hopefully you will too.