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Confessions of a Attention Deficit Developer

December 30, 2012

Chris Schmitt

PulseSensor HeartbeatThis holiday has been typical for me: big goals, big dreams, little time and lack of focus, but having a great time along the way.

It started with a heat beat sensor project I wanted to work on. Equipped with a pulse sensor for Arduino and a Beaglebone I’ve set out to create my very own heart rate monitor. I know what you’re thinking: a Beaglebone is not the same as an Arduino. But how hard can it be to convert a simple project designed for the Arduino to work on a Beaglebone? Very hard, it seems.

Before I explain, your probably wondering why I bought a Beaglebone instead of an Arduino, and why I like to make my life so hard. Well, a Beaglebone is cooler. It has all the analog/digital inputs that an Arduino has, but hey, it’s a full blown Linux server to boot. It think there’s something really awesome about having a self contained server that can be accessed through the Internet from anywhere. Plus on the Beaglebone you can code in Ruby, Node, C, Python – you name it. However, none of the code written for the Arduino works out-of-the-box on a Beaglebone. But for me it’s a great way (i.e. the “hard way”) to learn something.

With my “simple” project in mind I set out to learn everything I need to know to build it:

  • Learn about the Beaglebone – the platform and hardware is different than the Arduino
  • Learn Node.js (and Javascript too since I’m a little rusty) – Node.js makes for a fast and efficient server great for embedded platforms 
  • Learn Processing – Processing is used to graphically display your heart beat
  • Learn about (to communicate between the Beaglebone server and Processing) – this is to communicate in realtime between the Beaglebone server and a web browser
  • Throw in a little electronics, and I’m on my way

So here I am jumping from one learning activity from another: Reading the Beaglebone manual, then I’m downloading processing, next thing I know I’ve bought Processing for Beginners, and then over to Codecademy to work on my Javascript, plus a little Node.js coding on the Cloud9 IDE, now I’m writing a blog post. And that’s what I mean by “attention deficit developer”.

What am I going to do with a heart rate monitor anyway? I’m not quite sure. I could be the start of a massive opensource medical instrumentation company. Or perhaps just a hacker project.

It doesn’t matter really because I’m having a riot.

By the way, if you have any questions, suggestions or ideas please let me know.

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