Update for September, year of the new hope 2021

I’ve not written one of those at all this year. Not surprisingly, the most productive year for this website was 2020… thanks global pandemic…?

I’ve posted the RFID Explained blog post. I’m trying to gather everything I’ve learned, while working on my RFID project, in one place. This is an assumption but in the maker’s space a lot of technologies are just an Arduino libraries. What I mean by that is that very few people actually learn how a specific technology works. They build a device using Arduino, using the most popular library. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. It was probably one of the goals of the Arduino creator: remove the technical obstacles to make technology more approachable for people without deep technical knowledge. What if you want to learn more? You need to read, often times badly written, documentation spread over multiple websites and documents. Sometimes, if you really want to understand something, you should read the documentation of the standard, which is a document you have to pay for… My RFID blog post is supposed to be a quickstart for those that want to understand the common RFID solutions.

I’ve finally tackled putting S in HTTPS of this website. Yes, this website has been running for a few years without SSL… Embarrassing, I know. I thought that I can send some money to my domain broker and that will solve the problem. I’ve payed for the SSL certificate but in order to activate it I had to have an email server running on the ciesie.com domain… I’ve also payed for an email service to my broker, but I couldn’t put it on the ciesie.com domain. It all came down to the fact that I was hosting this website via Gitlab pages - no server side control. After spending the money on the SSL certificate and the email services I’ve decided to start my own NGINX server on my own VPS instance. This proved to be pretty simple. I’ve used Certbot with NGINX plugin to add a free SSL certificate. This setup was easier than dealing with the broker’s rules. Hosting your own website is a great learning experience.

This website has also received some HTML and CSS fixes. Bugs and inconsistencies are still present but this website is fully maintained by an embedded engineer. Keep you expectations in check! If there is something to be recommended here, that would be an article about Lobotomized Owl selector and the Every Layout website (part of it is behind a pay wall but it seems to be worth it).

I’ve finished the four part article about Cortex M4 boot up process. Feel free to go through the final part. Personally, I find the topics covered in this series very interesting. It’s difficult to freely move around in any domain without fully understanding the fundamentals. I wonder how many people, working in the software industry, understand what a binary even is.

Mid June I’ve joined Voi, a micromobility company founded in Stockholm. I feel like it’s worth mentioning because of Voi’s enthusiasm towards open source software. I’m working on the platform which controls the scooters. It runs the Zephyr OS - open source, real time operating system. It’s a project inspired by Linux - uses Kconfig, Device Tree to describe supported hardware and, unfortunately, its own dependency manager + build tool (west - at least the name is good), on top of CMake and ninja (can we stop adding things on top of things?).

Time Tracker is a project that took and will take quite a bit of time this year on. There is a lot to learn from setting up a full backend and frontend infrastructure when you’re an embedded engineer. I recommend reading the log entries of that project. I’m currently using it to track time spent on certain projects. It’s exciting and rewarding to build something that has an actual utility in your life.

This year I’ve spent a lot of time drawing, 3D sculpting and rendering. I plan on doing more of that before the year ends and for the foreseeable future. Drawing, which I haven’t done in a while, was particularly fun and the results were surprisingly good.

I’m constantly trying to improve my graphics work infrastructure using my technical knowledge. I’ve started using Storadera for graphic projects storage. Storadera doesn’t have a web GUI, meaning one has to have a different way to write and read from the storage. That’s where rclone comes in. It’s a command line tool which works with many cloud storage providers. It works on Mac, Linux and Windows. My technical background makes using this setup pretty easy but it’s difficult to recommend for someone who isn’t technically savvy (…most artists).

One thing that bothers me while working on computer graphics pieces is passing the data between the different programs. It breaks the flow and introduces problems like model’s scale inconsistencies. Using iPad with Procreate introduced another problem. Procreate is the greatest experience when it comes to 2D work. Soon it’ll add feature of painting on 3D models. The problem comes from passing the data between iPad and the PC. Solution? Since I already have a Raspberry Pi running 24/7 I installed a Samba server on it. It’s trivial to mount a Samba drive on Mac OS/iOS, Windows and Linux. That reduced the problem of transferring data between devices to a problem of transferring data in the same filesystem (from the users perspective).

One of the highlights of this year was the ESPotify project in which I save Spotify’s songs’ IDs in a very small RFID chips, enclosed in a M&Ms like shell, made out of modelling clay. I can use those to enqueue songs by dropping the chips in a cylinder with an RFID reader and a ESP32 board, via the Spotify’s API. This project is incredibly fun. Currently I’m not working on it but I certainly plan on finishing it.

There is probably way more to say about those past 10 months but I need to wrap this up. Here are several fun links for you before we part our ways: cute SPIDriver from Pimoroni, cute I2CDriver also from Pimoroni, cute magnetic connector from Aliexpress, gf - possibly the best GDB frontend and finally Purelymail - great service if you want no bullshit email account.

Please vaccinate and stay safe!