At the end of the year I take time to reflect on the last year. It has been a better year than the previous in that my health is better. But at the same time it was a more stressful year at work. On average the time is flying by and I’m having trouble ‘stopping to smell the roses’. Let’s see if I can’t fix that this year.

As the year ends I’m learning more than I could have ever imagined. But I’ve also learned that keeping up with technology is more difficult than ever it’s spreading in every direction and today’s hot new thing is tomorrow’s ‘yesterday’s news’. I think technology has a shelf life of about 1.5 years. I’m hoping my Safari Online subscription will be useful there.

On the HA front things are moving pretty fast but also more slowly. The hot new HA toy is Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa. Many of us long time DIY‘rs are not too thrilled at having the Cloud enter our HA env. But it seems that the voice interface is becoming a standard. I don’t see it being the only interface. I don’t want to wake up and say Computer, lights. I’m pretty sure my wife doesn’t want to be woke up with that either. I do think we’ll see a ‘Minority Report’ type of virtual interface. If only because it seems like it might work (Life imitating Art). I feel that AI and ML are going to be major players in future HA technology.

Back on the hardware (and software or firmware) side of things we have a nice collection of cheap processors to work with. I have my PIC32 processors by Microchip, the Raspberry Pi, there’s the AVR’s used in the Arduinos and the Espressif ESP8266. The ESP8266 is becoming a very popular board to work with. When paired up with a 4MB (32Mb) serial flash chip and RBoot, OTA firmware upgrades are possible. I don’t know about the security issues yet but the ESP8266 is capable of security protocols. Towards that end I’ve been visiting Scargill’s Tech Blog. Pete has been playing with the ESP8266, MQTT, HA, and OTA firmware upgrades. I’m attempting to setup his env right now but not without a lot of effort. I’ve had to comment out code (lots of unused variables) and other code related problems. At the moment I’m fighting with the linker. Not sure of the issue there yet.

And finally, on the retro front, I’m working on an Atari 600xl that I picked up from EBay. The 800xl is working nicely and should have the SIO2Pi running soon. The 600xl is a bit of a wreck in that it was sitting in a shed for decades. I’ve opened it up and the motherboard and components look good. I’ve powered it up and the voltages look good (yea!). I did find the power LED had a snapped leg (???), odd. Now I’m working on figuring out a way to hook it up to one of my monitors (a Commodore 1802 or a video to VGA converter). I forgot the North American 600xl only had NTSC out. The good news is that I have the schematic, did a bunch of searching and I think I can get a simple B&W composite signal out for testing. I know I can add the necessary adjustments to get a good component or S-Video signals out of the 600xl. Once I have the 600xl running I’ll burn a couple of new EPROMs with Atari OS and Omnimon XL in it. The vintage (1987) EPROM burner I have should also be resurrected around the same time. Ah, it felt so good to put my electronic skills to work after all these years.

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