Ramblin' Dan's Workshop

The Sanctum of Fine Art and Invention

Up Front, A Terminal Idea

Yesterday I got to thinking about what I need to do for the user computer interface on the shore side of the data link. A common terminal program and the debugger terminal (for the Parallax software) are all that is needed right now for the link communication testing.

For actual operation something more user friendly will be required for the “front end”. I am in the buildings controls business so this is not a great revelation. A control system is only as good as it looks and can be understood by the user.

I built serial terminal programs many years ago for the first MAC computer. I designed a text interface between the computer and the amateur radio teletype I was operating in my ham station (W5EHS). It was a two way text communications system. The software worked so well I had a fellow ham selling the programs for me. I had a lot of fun constantly adding features so I couldn’t freeze the design long enough to sell the program myself. Later on I made a few more changes and it worked very well as a packet radio front end.

So I am fairly certain I can do it again. Yesterday I loaded MS Visual Basic 2010 Express (a part of Visual Studio) and after a couple of hours punched out a fully operational (and professional looking) photo fetch and display program. Yes, it was a tutorial but it helped me realize my plan wasn’t out of reach. It looks like if I wanted to, doing the same in Visual C  language would be no harder with the Visual Studio tools available. The Express versions of this software are free, so a no brainer to try.

I have considered a Linux based front end but most people don’t run around with Linux on their laptops. I have to work within something I can share with the most people. I think someday a cell phone could be the front end.

The shore side front end software may therefore be easier to build than the boat software. Total control reaction will have to be calculated in the boat software if there is any chance of autonomous operation. Some feedback into the shore display could be raw data and let the shore computer crunch it to display format. The shore side computer only has to talk and listen to the boat computer. A lazy job.

All these variable scenarios are a part of the decisions to be made. I am actually looking forward to the challenge. Having eight processors available in the boat computer has my mind spinning. I only have four in my home PC…

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