Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Year Already?!

Well that went by fast! It is time again for Halloween. In the true spirit (see what I did there?) of the holiday, we have waited far too long to get started and are dreadfully behind.

One of the main purposes of our over the top decorations each year is to learn something new. This year is no different and we found some really cool technologies to use. Now we love our Netduino and C# is an important language for us to learn, but we made a decision this year to switch to a Python framework working on a Linux controller called a Raspberry Pi.

The biggest benefit to using this controller is it doesn't just run a linear script of code. It is an entire operating system. You can log in and run multiple programs at one time. This importantly includes for us the ability to run to control system, a web server, and a database simultaneously.

Last year we had a computer babysitting the Netduino server and a computer to play sounds for the props. This year it will just be the Pi as a single server to handle everything. And here goes the flow:

The Pi has a database that holds all the sequences. Each sequence is a series of Python commands that sends a signal or plays a sound. There is a web server that shows all the commands and a server that listens on the web for them.

This new setup is very easy to scale up. We can add peripheral devices very easily using a serial protocol called I2C. We just add new props or devices to the command sequence a we're done.

Unfortunately, our attempt to etch our own board this year was a complete failure. However, next year we plan to do a custom series of boards that plug and play like USB.

We love this time of year. Sometimes we get dragged away by other obligations, but I promise to write a lot more about next years progress. Be ready for that to start showing up around May this time, though.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Halloween