Scott Hanselman

Brainstorming Hardware Projects

March 31, 2005 Comment on this post [14] Posted in Web Services
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I'm looking to do some hardware/gadget related projects and articles in .NET.

Brainstorm with me...

  • An X10 clickable floorplan of your home for use as a 10ft interface in Windows Media Center
  • A USB video monitor window for watching the front door or babies. Pop it up when movement is detected? Perhaps use Windows Image Acquisition.
  • An interface and charting/graphing application for my Blood Sugar meter. Perhaps set it up for any medical device with values over time.
  • Live GPS tracking that reports my position to a blog as I move.
  • Lego Mindstorm Robot with .NET?
  • Hook up to the monitor port of a car (the one the auto techs use) and dump the collected internal logs.
  • An Outlook Calendar Provider that shows a new Calendar with blood sugar (or blood pressure, etc) data pulled from a device and stored in another file.
  • A UPnP client in .NET
  • Something with a .NET CPU - Ideas?
  • Report Continuous Integration build status to a SPOT Watch
  • Something with the Windows Fingerprint Reader?
  • Get a CueCat or BarCode Scanner to catalog all my books using Web Services.

More ideas?


About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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March 31, 2005 12:44
One idea I've been tossing around is a serial port virtualizer for XP. What I'd like to do is plug in one GPS and have it's output muxed out to n virtual serial ports. Each program would hook to a virtual serial port and would think it had control of the device. I think it would be pretty trivial, but it never gets high enough on the list to implement.
March 31, 2005 13:05
So you're saying you want to have n programs running getting NMEA data from a single GPS?
March 31, 2005 15:43
I've been wanting to create a "Bluetooth enabled home" where every device is bluetooth enabled & can be controlled by a .Net CPU module. I want to be able to open the door to my house, immediately, the bluetooth headset I have should be connected into my home environment allowing me to issue voice commands for different tasks such as :-
- Turn on the Tv
- Change channels
- Record programs
- Listen to music
- Start a coffee pot brewing & have the system inform me when its done
- Turn on/off the lights in different parts of the house
- Accept incoming calls to the house
- Allow me to have a Speech to Text converstation with my MSN contacts (ie. see who's online, who has just IM'ed me etc)
- Allow me to order food over the net
- Program a little service robot & have it perform tasks (ie. Fetch me a bottle of water or some juice from the fridge)
- Call for cleanup (yes call the roombah to cleanup)
- Alert me to temperature conditions & other MSN like alerts

There are tons of other things that can be done but this is just a small set I want to develop. Only probelm - too poor to afford any equipment.... :-)
March 31, 2005 18:04
CueCat, there's a blast from the past. I think I might still have the .NET 1.0 web control that includes the JavaScript for decrypting the CueCat text.

I like the car diagnostics idea. The baby monitor/front door is brilliant. I've been thinking that the biggest challenge there is going to be getting a second video to overlay on top of the currently playing media. I'd hate to steal the video away by changing to the video source on the detection of motion, but it might be a good start just to prove it out.
March 31, 2005 18:48
"Get a CueCat or BarCode Scanner to catalog all my books using Web Services" -

Oddly enough I was just putting a catalog app together the other night and realised I needed a bar code scanner (I was bored of typing in ISBN Numbers). I was also using A-WS to grab book images and descriptions.
I found a couple of webcam-as-scanner apps via google but all failed miserably.

My original aim for the catalog was to find a way to swap books with others who travel. I'd be content for now just to be able to catalog all of mine though.
I might have to make a quick Frys run when I get back home and grab a cheap scanner pen.
March 31, 2005 22:01
I like the Lego mindstorms idea. There's an article floating around the web on how a guy exposed his Lego robot as a JINI device over the internet. You could do the same thing with web services.
March 31, 2005 22:09
yes, n programs getting data from one gps. For instance, when I was making maps of snowmobile trails, it would have been nice to use the logger program, mappoint, and topoUSA all running with live data at once.
April 01, 2005 1:01
"Get a CueCat or BarCode Scanner to catalog all my books using Web Services" -

Check out Delicious Library for the Mac. I wish we had something like this for Windows...\
April 01, 2005 2:16
I once wrote a simple Delphi component for decrypting the CueCat. I think I still have it somewhere. If I can find it I will convert it into c# and post it for anyone who wants it.

CueCats are still available on Ebay for a dime a dozen (actually about $3 apiece) and many of them have had the modification done so that they don't encrypt the data, so the little decyption software isn't strictly necessary. Besides, their encryption was a joke as I recall.

There are instructions on how to hack the CueCat to remove the encryption here...

and here...

The second one has mad detailed information (apparently for some weird underground CueCat movement).

April 01, 2005 8:18
This cuecat thing is really cool. That's my vote. I'm going to buy one on eBay right now!
April 01, 2005 23:07
I like the CueCat idea for cataloging DVDs and Videos. I've actually already made an app that uses an Access Database (yikes) if you want something to start with.
April 05, 2005 23:24
I like the GPS idea. I can see traveling (wardriving) and anytime you find an open access point for long enough jump on it and blog your position. This would be ideal with a handheld, GPS, Wifi combo. Of course you are stealing wifi and all that and it wouldnt be hard to prove you did so if your hosting company is willing to give up the logs...

Traveling across the US you stop at the Petrified Forest, pay at the ranger station, get the warning about stealing rocks and then without even realizing it your laptop/pda/gps whatever blogs a location.

As far as the multiple serial problem it has been overcome by writing your own NMEA logger and pointing the needed application at the GPX file possibly with a file watcher. When it logs, your multiple apps pick it up. This would still cause a problem with applications that you dont have control over and thus access the serial port themselves.
April 10, 2005 20:09
If you haven't looked at Homeseer already, take a peek. They've (and by they I mean the community and the company) taken the x10 computer interface pretty far and do have an MCE plug in. Good extensibility.
May 01, 2005 4:05

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.