PDA Controlled Water Sprinkler
Wednesday, April 01, 2009, by Sebastian Dwornik

Spring is finally here.

This means that the outdoor garden and lawn will soon be vying for my attention.  This time though, with the help of some DIY home automation, I intend to give it the best care I can.

Bluebox internals

You might remember this past winter how I managed to get my PDA controlled Christmas tree lights working.  That same design will now be applied to my water sprinkler.
PDA controlled water sprinkler using PocketCRON and PocketDAQ Pro

There is a difference though.

Christmas tree lights are mainly for decorative reasons.  Watering my lawn and garden carries a more important responsibility, for they are living things and I greatly enjoy the green scenery of a lush outdoor forest, versus a dry desert.  It is, therefore imperative that the watering schedule be more adaptive to the season.

This is where PocketCRON comes in again.  A new feature recently added supports sunrise and sunset timing.  The plan is to have my yard automatically watered every morning at ten (10) minutes before sunrise.


PocketCRON screenshots



The sunrise/sunset feature depends on where you are located on the planet.  Selecting the nearest city to your location informs PocketCRON of this.  After which the task time settings can accurately display the sunrise and sunset times.  It also takes into consideration Daylight Savings Time.

Time will tell, but I expect my lawn and garden to be nothing short of brilliant green and healthy during this summer season.  Which is great for nature, but not so for my push lawn mower.


Here are the sample scripts I use with PocketDAQ Pro, in automation mode, that PocketCRON calls in its tasks.


 

What sparks new ideas and innovation within people?
Tuesday, February 10, 2009, by Sebastian Dwornik

Simple: the environment of course.

Humans are extremely sensitive to their environment.  Every work place we encounter for any significant time affects our lifestyle and attitude through the experiences we have in that environment.  We adapt and gradually change along with it, either for the better, or worse.

"Inspire" by ~firetongue8 Creativity, in the form of invention and innovation, requires a space where people are challenged, yet not entirely distracted, and are not afraid to be wrong.

While a complacent and stagnant work place drowns ideas and suffocates any wild thoughts that would otherwise bring colour and life to the people that crave to be heard.


Everyone is an Inventor

My first real job after graduating from college was developing boot ROM's for various network cards using x86 Assembly language.  It was the summer of 1997 and being a hacker all my adolescent life, the job was well suited and very exciting.  I even had a window cubicle.

Most importantly though were the people I worked with, and an easy-going boss that was a mentor as well.

Once a month, the entire engineering department would get together in the morning for a wild brainstorming session.  The focus was ways to improve existing products and features as well as think of new product ideas.

It was a fantastic time.  Not only did we get breakfast served, but everyone felt more important and useful in helping to grow the company with their input.   The greatest satisfaction though was when your own idea is chosen to be further developed.  A geek on such a mission is then rarely swayed and couldn't be happier.

The lesson: A work place environment should nurture and support its people to spark new ideas and be open to feedback.  Because everyone has ideas and every person in a company should not only be selling, but inventing too.


 

Future Mobile Devices are Connected, full of Sensors, and Intelligent
Sunday, February 01, 2009, by Sebastian Dwornik

HAL9000_HTC_Diamond The days of desktops and bulky hardware are diminishing.  Laptops, netbooks, and especially the mobile phone are fast becoming the predominant computing devices of choice.  This is thanks to faster and cheaper processing hardware and the growing wireless networks.

The beloved desktop PC, and others who still live inside a tower case, will not go away completely though.  Their form factor and computing power will simply be refined to more isolated spaces with a focused purpose.  Specifically for server computing, such as file serving, graphics rendering, home media control, and other high end data or calculation intensive tasks.

Mobile devices like the phone, I predict will absorb most every other technology to essentially rule all other consumer, business, and eventually general living purposes.

From communication, gaming, and presentations to image and data acquisition and control, your one-stop shop handheld mobile device will probably have things like holographic displays, projected keyboards, environmental sensing, and personal health monitoring.
 
It will also most likely replace your credit card as it will be connected to your financial system and allow you to pay for things with it.

Most interestingly though, it will contain a form of general A.I. (artificial intelligence) to aid in basic day to day decision making.  Think of it as your personal automated assistant, but with access to an entire planet’s knowledge base and with real-time information.

We definitely live in very exciting times, and with your support, I hope to be part of these great innovations to help make these future mobile devices a reality for all of us.

I welcome the mobile future.


 

Simplicity and LocateMe
Tuesday, January 13, 2009, by Sebastian Dwornik

So there I was, stuck in endless traffic, on my way to a friend’s house.  The plan was to get there for 5:00pm, eat some pizza, and then engage in some serious destruction on his Xbox.

Pizza in the oven I watched my clock turn to 4:45pm and it was obvious that the schedule was going to slip.

Worse yet, I hate eating cold pizza.

So I did what any other tech savvy driver would do.  I emailed my friend using my phone with my exact GPS location and a Google maps link to let him know how far away I still was.

Within seconds he was able to see exactly where I was located and replied with my ETA, and held off on the pizza order until I was closer.

The traffic didn’t improve, but at least now the food would be warm when I got there.  All thanks to my new mobile application, LocateMe.

The idea isn’t new and nor is the application.  But it does differentiate itself with the fact that it’s quick, easy, and intuitive.

Every day we are surrounded by a multitude of electronic devices that more often hinder our expression rather than enhance it.  I believe the design of things should be as simple as possible, but no simpler.

I hope to have achieved this with LocateMe.  Its goal was to make it very easy to communicate one’s GPS location, using their Windows Mobile phone.

Now if only ordering pizza was this simple.


 

Everyone Has Ideas
Sunday, December 21, 2008, by Sebastian Dwornik

Just not everyone acts on them.  And even fewer follow-through with them.

2009 For example, as the 2009 New Year approaches, many people traditionally make a New Year resolution.  Which will most probably be abandoned within a months’ time.

This is sad.  For I believe that everyone wants to change something about themselves to grow and become a better person.

Better people inspire and develop environments that are more conducive to better living.  Businesses work the exact same way; after all, they are made up of people.

The greatest challenge then isn’t about choosing a New Year resolution: it is instead that you follow-through with it to completion.

The secret being: focus.

F-ollow
O-ne
C-ourse
U-ntil
S-uccessful

At journey’s end you will then have gained an attitude that will be worth a lot more than any New Year resolution.

So lets make 2009 a great year!  Start something… and finish it.

All the best and warm wishes to you all this holiday season.

Cheers,

Sebastian Dwornik
Appliedpda.com


 

New Software Gives Purpose to Old Hardware
Wednesday, November 26, 2008, by Sebastian Dwornik

With the focus on the environment and a suffering economy these days, the best way to adapt is by becoming more resourceful.  Old PDA hardware, for example that would normally be viewed as obsolete, can gain a resurgence with the right new software.  This is how PocketCRON was born.


PDA Controlled Christmas Tree Lights

I enjoy the glitter and sparkle of holiday lighting that decorates houses, banisters, and trees.  What I do not particularly enjoy is the added maintenance of turning ON and OFF those lights when the house goes to sleep.

So in comes home automation.

A few years ago I purchased an Insteon PowerLinc serial controller with a single LampLinc plug-in module to control my Christmas tree lights.  I also happen to have a spare Dell Axim X50 PDA that wasn't doing anything; until now.

PDA_controlled_Christmas_lights


By using PocketDAQ Pro to communicate over a serial connection with the PowerLinc controller, I was able to transmit the commands to turn the lights ON and OFF.  The development of PocketCRON then enabled me to set the schedule of controlling those lights.


Taskconfig_walkthrough


This is done by configuring tasks with the time and days that will automatically execute PocketDAQ Pro with a script parameter that transmits the appropriate commands to the PowerLinc controller.  It also provides an intuitive GUI for manual control of the lighting as well.

I have always believed that such mobile devices are an excellent form factor for the purpose of being stand-alone controllers.  They are essentially a full computer with a touch screen and built-in UPS.  Their size and power efficiency compared to a full PC - or even a laptop doing the same thing - is unmatched and the price is far less than any industrial version.

The end result adds convenience to controlling my holiday lights and puts to good use an old PDA that was otherwise ignored.  Saving me money for new hardware and opening more possibilities for other home automation projects.

With the lights done I think I'll move on to the sprinkler system .  But that won't be until the summer season comes around.


 

You talk + I listen = Better Software
Monday, November 17, 2008, by Sebastian Dwornik

dogfooding

I have said it before, and I’ll keep saying it, “user feedback is the single most important driver behind new features and improvements in my products”.  It doesn’t get simpler than that.

Most of the software I develop for Applied PDA is primarily for my own initial use.  Why build something that I won’t directly benefit from?

As the software gets used internally more each day though, various designs and features change.  It quickly becomes apparent that it is not enough to create something that only I can use, but that others can intuitively utilize as well.

So before anything gets released, it has to pass what I call I.B.U.T, “inside the building usability test”.   This is a hack title for a process which simply means that until everyone in the building can intuitively understand the software and are not afraid (or annoyed) to use it, it does not leave the building.

This enforces an active role to get local user feedback and in a way, requires an approval from everyone who might potentially be supporting the software.  A common software term for this is called “dogfooding”.

Such a process can delay the release of software for a short while.  But it also ingrains an attitude that the product is open to suggestions from its users, and that real people stand behind its virtual skin to provide a service in supporting its growth and maturity.

The formula is simple:  You talk + I listen = Better Software.


 

The New PDA
Sunday, November 02, 2008, by Sebastian Dwornik


HTC Diamond phone Many years ago there existed a gap between mobile PDA's and cellular phones.  The phone was essentially a mobile radio, and the PDA was a little computer that held all of your data, calendars, contacts, etc.

Then as time went on, the mobile phone absorbed most of these PDA functions.  The evolution of the phone turned it into a PDA with a cellular radio.  The PDA became a phone, and the phone became a PDA.  They are both the same thing now, branded as the new PDA.

No matter what you call it though, the point is that it is a versatile handheld instrument, used for communication with other people and machines (e.g. The internet).  This is the platform which will open access to computing in every corner of the world, and with it also, bring a piece of our software to empower people and their imaginations.


 

I am in the Mobile Exploration Business
Thursday, October 30, 2008, by Sebastian Dwornik

Antarctica ice

My vision is to have handheld instruments that are ubiquitous, intelligent, and indispensable to your exploration adventures around the world.  And the most important component of it I believe, is the software.

I enjoy hearing stories of people who give feedback of where they took my software.  From Antarctica, through the many ocean studies, to military equipment and robotics, it brings me much fulfillment to know that my software running on handheld devices has aided people in their exploration of our planet.

If you have a good story then please share it with us.  It just might inspire new development for more great applications.

Happy adventuring!

 

Welcome to my App World

My name is Sebastian Dwornik and I am an entrepreneur located near Toronto, Canada.

Here you will find my thoughts on all matters regarding software, design, business, and sometimes life in general.

Have feedback? Don’t be shy and post your comments within the forum.


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