Ramblin' Dan's Workshop

The Sanctum of Fine Art and Invention

Remote Conning System

This is a remote control (R/C) system I am developing for a computer based control systems of a model boat. Rather than conventional old school methods, this uses a high speed TWO WAY data link between the model boat and the operator. This opens a whole new way monitoring the remote controlled object and an unlimited number of special features. Read On.

BS2 Before

bs2-1This is the Basic Stamp (BS2) micro computer that I have. Lets just say I have had it for a long time. (over ten years) The components you see in this picture have now been removed except for the vertical board in the back which is the BS2. It is simply plugged into the Jameco prototype board.

That is a USB to serial port converter sticking out of the db7 serial port to the left side of the main board.

With this layout I wrote a program that would flash the LEDs is a sequence with little beeps, then when that stopped the computer would play a few bars of one of about five tunes that were held in memory. Each time the button was pressed the sequence would start then play a new tune.

Just an exercise in writing the program but it made a good demo. I am about to give it a new task with communicating using one of the XBee transceivers.

I tested this computer today and it is working like brand new.

Holy Micro Andy!

bs2-2That's what I was saying when I first examined the soldering work ahead of me. In the picture is the USB adapter board where I will have to mount one of the XBee modules. This is the one that will be the Base or shore terminal. All I have to do is solder those teeny tiny pins into those equally teeny tiny holes in the board.

Solder flowing across between any of those holes is not allowed. My normal soldering irons look like 10 penny nails up close to those little babies.

Time to break down and order one of those Weller WM -120 12 watt micro irons to do the job. There are some really fancy commercial micro soldering stations units available but they can cost more than these boards. The Weller is in the $40.00 range. Find one cheaper, get it!

It has a grounded cord unlike cheaper (Weller) models I have and the lower wattage is perfect for this size project. The super fine rosin core solder I already have. I figure there will be hundreds of these connections I'll have to solder on this project. This is some of the smaller components these old eyes have had to work with. I love my magnifying headband.

The Xbee Radio Communication Modules

xbee-3Working with the network system for the Roboboat (RB) project is also a part of my amateur radio interest. It is actually microwave radio and it is one of the areas I have always wanted to explore. The frequency is located within one of the amateur microwave radio bands. It is shared with other services so it doesn't need to be a ham radio project. Interestingly the frequency of operation (2.4 GHz) is very close the frequency (2.45 GHz) of most microwave ovens. I definitely don't need to use my radio call sign to identify my cooking. The amateur radio band involved is 2390-2450 MHz. (2.390-2.450 GHz)

Note, at these power levels there is no danger of anything getting cooked.

I have never seen a requirement that amateurs must use ham radio frequencies. We just have to properly operate our radio under the FCC regulations. I am good with that and with a power of 1 Milli-watt (0.01 Watts) and a range of a hundred feet, I can't bother (or cook) too many folks. The “high power” version is 63 Milli-watts (0.63 Watts).

Technically, as a ham I can do anything (sensible) I want with these radios on these frequencies. Of course I am going to do nothing but operate them. The only thing I might like to do (someday but not for the RB project) is experiment with feed horns and other antenna options to extend the range. That IS messing with the radio part.

The bottom line is I can claim to be operating an amateur radio station but in fact, these units do not need a license so anyone can operate them. There is no radio “tuning” involved.

The Xbee is far more than just a radio, it is a communication link. The radio communication is totally fixed. The interface the user must establish is talking to the module and reading the information from the module. How the data is handled (by microwave radio) between the modules is totally automated and beyond user control.

That means the method of talking to the module does NOT have to be the same at both ends. This simplifies the application of the product. Half the work is ready to go, no changes needed or are possible to the actual radio part. There are channels that can be selected and they need to be the same but that is setup and not radio tuning. Ain't technology great!

Get to the Point

solder-1 solder-2

I said in a previous post my good old standard 15-30 watt soldering iron wasn't up to the task at hand. The pictures here show the comparison between the old iron and the brand new small point 12 watt iron. I haven't used it yet but will very soon.

XBees Are Buzzing

They're alive! I tell you they are alive!

xbee c-1xbee c-2xbee c-3xbee c-4xbee c-5

I got two of the XBee's talking to each other tonight. The usual things like "Hello World" and counting from 1 to 20. Not much you're thinking but it is another milestone for me.

One of the XBee's is directly attached to the USB port on my computer using that tiny little board on which I had to solder the two connectors. The other XBee is on the BS2 Basic Stamp development board.  The BS2 computer is actually programed (by me) to talk through the XBee link to my main computer.

They were a few more feet apart but it is a beginning. I moved them closer together for the pictures.

You kiddo's out there born with a blue tooth stuck in you ear are probably yawning about now, but I have to start somewhere. It will get a lot better and more detailed.

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