Getting into Arduino
So… what does this “microcontroller” do? Basically it controls simple input and output on a low level. You want to make something turn on and off a light? A microcontroller can do. Sure, you can do that with your computer too, but an Arduino Uno only costs $30 and takes very little power to run.
So why am I suddenly getting into this microcontroller thing? Well I’ve known about it for a while but never really thought about it. Recently, I’ve been tasked with a few projects at work that would be perfect for something like a microcontroller. One of the first projects I’m going to attempt is the ability to trigger (electronic) door unlocks via a network connection. When I stumbled across Arduino I also discovered that they had Ethernet “shields” (their term for expansion modules). I’m Sold! Better yet, I found out that there are several 802.3af/at Power-Over-Ethernet options coming out in the near future. That means I’ll be able to power the microcontroller off the single network connection that it will already have (rather than needing a separate power). That combined with a temperature/humidity shield led me to realize I could also build environmental monitors for the server room too. For like $150 I can probably build an Arduino based environmental monitor that has more features than most $500 mass produced units.
The first batch of parts has just been ordered. I won’t have everything I need to complete my projects, but I will have everything necessary to learn the ropes. I ordered an Arduino Uno starter kit along with two books: Getting Started with Arduino and Practical Arduino: Cool Projects for Open Source Hardware. I’m excited, which is why there is now a category just for this.