While on Christmas break, I purchased a few things to get started on the stock clock project. First was the Explorer 16 development board, which is the same one that I used while an a co-op (internship). I bought this particular one since I was already familiar with its features and the processors that came with it (a PIC24 and a dsPIC33). To save on costs, I bought the In Circuit Debugger from ebay (a Microchip one, not a clone) for about half the cost of a new one. After playing with it for several hours, I could not get it to work. Reading through the Microchip fourms brought something to my attention. The old ICD2 modules do not work in Vista x64 but the newer ones do. This left me with a problem, as I no longer have a 32-bit install of Windows. I’m not willing to change my Vista install on my desktop, so this left me with a few options. I could install Windows 2000 on an old computer, but I would rather not have to boot another computer every time I want to work on this project. It then hit me that maybe Virtualbox could forward the USB connected ICD2. So my current setup is running Windows 2000 with the Microchip software as a Virtualbox guest with a Gentoo host. This also has the added bonus of not making me reboot into Windows Vista on my desktop (dual boot Gentoo and Vista. Vista is used for games.). I’ve only done some minor testing, but I have gotten MPLAB to talk to the board without any additional issues. Depending on how much free time I have, I should actually make some progress on the stock clock in the coming months.
A project that a friend of mine wants to complete is to build a small clock type device that can connect to the internet and show something like +/- 10% for the stock market (or a specific stock). The preliminary concept involves 2 physical devices and a program on the computer. The program on the computer will obatin the information on the stock performance from the internet, and format it into a percentage to be sent to the actual clock. The program will send the data to the first device, which will take the data from the program and send it wirelessly to the stock clock via a ZigBee controller. The second device, which is the clock itself, will then recieve the data and adjust the clock accordingly. The plan for the clock is to use a PIC microcontrollor to take the data from the ZigBee reciever and use the information to determine how to move the clock. The look we are going for is an analog needle type clock, so a stepper motor will be used to control the position of the needle.
Since we have just started working on this, not all the details have been worked out. My friend will be writing the computer software and the ZigBee transmitter; I will be building and programming the clock itself.
The choice of using ZigBee is to evetually allow multiple stock clocks to recieve data from the computer without needing to dramatically increase the complexity of the network. Plus, its a good excuse to use the ZigBee controllors that we already have.
I just purchased one of the PIC development kits that I have used before at a previous job, so once that comes in next week, I will be able to get started programming the microcontroller. I will eventually design a PCB and have one built for the final device. Updates will be posted once work actually starts.