So I am a geek, a frustrated developer and .. did I say a geek?

Apple Development

     For the record, I am not an Apple zealot. I have owned my share of their products - iPhones, iPads and an iMac as well as a host of AirPlay devices - but I also have a number of Windows and Android devices too. So what prompted me to develop a couple of apps on the iOS platform? Simply, I wanted to see how hard it was and be ready for when my great app idea came along.
My background is in development and I have lots of experience developing web and forms based applications in languages such as Visual Basic, Java and C# so I though developing in Objective C would be easy. Wrong. I had forgotten how archaic C and its variants really is. Thankfully, the latest version of Objective C has a feature known as Automatic Reference Counting that does (.. wait for it ..) automatic garbage collection! Welcome to the 21st century.

But I knew all of that before I started, I had done C and C++ programming before and remembered the fun of finding mallocs without corresponding frees. What I really found hard was getting my head around the framework for stringing the various forms of an application together. Once mastered, it is really quite straight forward but it is soooo different to the absolute control you have in other languages. Passing variables between forms is not obvious nor is returning values..

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Arduino Development

What is an Arduino .. well straight from their website "Arduino is an open-source electronics prototping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. It's intended for artists, designers, hobbyists and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments".

I am not sure about the artists and designers but there are a lot of electronic hobbyists using these little boards to create all sorts of devices from simple electronic locks through to 3D printers. The number of available boards that are available to expand the basic platform is nothing short of amazing!

Like many, I bought an Arduino and some electronic components and had a tinker building a number of little projects on a breakout board. I bought a 16x2 LCD screen, a Bluetooth module, an RFID reader and had some fun building simple projects. I couldn't see myself building an electronic keypad for my back door or an RFID enabled alarm so what next? My interest was the programming side of the device rather than the design and construction of digital circuits - I wanted to see what could be done with the simple Arduino architecture and minimal, available memory.

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ESP8266 Development


Anyone who has been developing in the Arduino environment would have heard about the ESP8266 chip - a low-cost Wi-Fi chip with full TCP/IP stack and microcontroller capability. The ESP8266 is capable of either hosting an application or offloading all Wi-Fi networking functions from another application processor, such as an Arduino.

What this means is you can get the chip mounted on extension board that you interface with and control from an Arduino or you can by a self contained board that you program directly. I bought a couple of these devices - one from Amica V2 and one from LoLin V3 - and went about experimenting. The LoLin device simply froze after a few minutes of operation whereas the Amica did not. I have since found out that the LoLin which purports to use a version 3 of the ESP8266 chip but this is sales hype and there is no such thing. I have also read that the supporting chips on these boards are not very good quality and may contribute to the instability. Simply, ignore the LoLin boards and use the Amica V2 ones.

What do you do with these boards? Good question - its easy to find projects people have made from controlling an appliance to capturing data and feeding this to an external web server for analysis. That's the beauty of these boards, they can do anything however I bought mine with no idea what I would use ot for.

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Ok .. so not really programming as such but I have decided to make myself a tabletop Galaga game like I used to play in the early '80s. My son and I have rediscovered this game along with some of its contemporaries - Galaxian, Space Invaders, Pacman and Donkey Kong - and are enjoying them for their simple but timeless gameplay.

Galaga TableTop

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