The Sunroom Project
Component Assembly Versus All Custom Code
Issue: 14.3 (May/June 2016)
Author: Mark Strickland
Author Bio: Mark Strickland has been a fan of many dialects of BASIC since it was on the Radio Shack TRS-80 and Digital Equipment PDP-11 mini computers. More recently, he has worked in a University Medical School setting using his MacGyver-like Information Technology and Ethical Hacker skills to solve problems, almost always with Xojo. In his small software company (SimplyBASICsoftware.com), he has been using Xojo to build things like a Web-based home health care package that keeps caregivers on task with text messaging. Usually his MacGyver skills don't make things blow up, but occasionally users might disagree.
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Article Number: 14303
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Excerpt of article text...
Sometimes solutions don't have to be complex to solve complex problems. Having a creative approach can lead to putting together multiple puzzle pieces for a solution rather than custom code from scratch that takes lots of research and testing. One of my recent projects is a simple Web App that SHELLs to a command line program to drive a servomotor that turns the mechanical dial on a HVAC (Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning) system in my sunroom. A true MacGyver-like solution (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MacGyver).
This article, although about my home control system, actually details an approach of taking "off the shelf building block parts" and integrating them into a system. The "glue" is a bit of simple software (a Xojo Web App) that is used as the human interface. This is not a super-technical article, but it is intended to outline a problem-solving approach. Sometimes just assembling a simpler set of components can yield a quick, low-cost solution. From there you can decide if investing more time in custom code makes sense.
I have experimented with a home control systems (HomeSeer.com) for many years. My system controls lights, central furnace and air conditioning systems, motion detectors, front door lock, garage door, and now the knobs on my sunroom heating and cooling system. The system alerts me if the garage door is open past 10pm. It turns on the porch lights if it detects motion on the porch or the garage door is raised after sunset. It even tells me if the refrigerator door is not completely closed after being open more than 4 minutes.
Most of this is done with standard components that are simply configured into the system. Since the servomotors were not a standard component, they did not have an easy or built-in way to control them. I needed a simple interface and that is how the Xojo solution was conceived. The HomeSeer system had a customizable mobile app, but the Xojo approach just seemed like a better idea. The standalone Web server version of a Xojo Web App was just right and runs nicely along side of the system on a dedicated Windows PC. Over time I think this little Xojo Web app will evolve into a fully functional iPhone interface that will give very simple intuitive access to lots of home control system functions.
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