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Controller likes and dislikes.


Thestral

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So I'm thinking of building and programming my own expandable controller, though as I'm doing this I'm wondering if it's worth it. With my 120g cycling I find more and more reason to look into a controller, however I'm not sure if I should just suck it up and build one or pick up something like the RKL. My background is in software engineering and my hobbies include robotics so I'm not exactly worried about the learning curve.

 

I guess what I'm asking is what do you all like and dislike about the currently available controllers. The big boys in the business seem to be Neptune (Apex) and Digital Aquatics (RKL &RKE). Are there things that you find missing or hard to use? I know neither unit looks very water resistant so that is something I may look into if I build my own, but I don't think I'd end up splashing it very often since it's not an under tank sump.

 

I know Arduino is an option but I may just build something myself using a PIC chip as I'm already familiar with the environment and hardware.

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My background is in software engineering and my hobbies include robotics so I'm not exactly worried about the learning curve.

 

I know Arduino is an option but I may just build something myself using a PIC chip as I'm already familiar with the environment and hardware.

 

I'm a HW engineer and I built one because I don't know what's going on in those other controllers and didn't want to take their word for it. There's been LOTS of success with the ones you mentioned. If you have the time I'd just build one because you can easily tweak it later on or simply add more to it.

 

The PIC option is a good one. I chose to use arduino because the coding was quite a bit easier for me. My background is mainly in C and I had a few odd microcontroller eval kits around but I'm honestly glad I went with the arduino. A ton of code already exists for peripherals and it was really a one day project had I gone about it as such.

 

I'd just determine what you'd like to monitor/control and go from there. The only thing I don't like about my system is that if my controller fails then my reef dies. All my relays are powered by the arduino's little 5V regulator. Not a huge issue because they're pretty reliable but it still will make you wonder :huh:

 

Good luck!

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the Tower system from freescale is very sweet: http://www.freescale.com/webapp/sps/site/h...code=TOWER_HOME

 

free RTOS and compiler/debugger/linker, plus its very expandable.

 

Looks pretty sweet, but I've got plenty of hardware and familiarity with what I currently have. I don't know if I'd want to switch to a new development platform for this project if I decide to build, unless there is a compelling reason to go with a different technology (ex. Arduino). I can always prototype it out on a breadboard+Dev board. Anyone have any likes/dislikes about the current controllers out there? I'm really trying to figure out if there are enough issues with the current offerings for me to put the work into building one from the ground up.

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I'm a HW engineer and I built one because I don't know what's going on in those other controllers and didn't want to take their word for it. There's been LOTS of success with the ones you mentioned. If you have the time I'd just build one because you can easily tweak it later on or simply add more to it.

 

The PIC option is a good one. I chose to use arduino because the coding was quite a bit easier for me. My background is mainly in C and I had a few odd microcontroller eval kits around but I'm honestly glad I went with the arduino. A ton of code already exists for peripherals and it was really a one day project had I gone about it as such.

 

I'd just determine what you'd like to monitor/control and go from there. The only thing I don't like about my system is that if my controller fails then my reef dies. All my relays are powered by the arduino's little 5V regulator. Not a huge issue because they're pretty reliable but it still will make you wonder :huh:

 

Good luck!

 

That is a little nerve racking, but something that I could remedy if I went with the PIC method. Especially if I build a controllable strip similar to what they offer on the market. The other benefit with the PIC method is if people really like it I could pretty easily have the boards printed for my reefer friends.

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If you know PIC's then there is no reason to jump to an Arduino or some other platform.

 

If you intend to design and build this controller in the hopes of selling and profiting from it I would say you're wasting your time. Building your own controller is sometimes a good cost-savings method and it certainly allows you to do whatever you want in terms of interface, display, etc., but it isn't something you will ultimately make money from. I have yet to see a successful DIY controller that was cheaper and better than any of the big-name devices.

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If you know PIC's then there is no reason to jump to an Arduino or some other platform.

 

If you intend to design and build this controller in the hopes of selling and profiting from it I would say you're wasting your time. Building your own controller is sometimes a good cost-savings method and it certainly allows you to do whatever you want in terms of interface, display, etc., but it isn't something you will ultimately make money from. I have yet to see a successful DIY controller that was cheaper and better than any of the big-name devices.

 

The plan at the moment is just to figure out if the build your own method is worth it really, not necessarily for profit, but more for myself.

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The plan at the moment is just to figure out if the build your own method is worth it really, not necessarily for profit, but more for myself.

 

Personally I think so even if it does cost a little bit more money --> provided you have the time. The ability to add on things and tweak things as necessary is a pretty key feature to building your own controller.

 

Plus there's a huge 'wow that's cool' factor when you're showing your tank to friends/visitors. I've honestly had more questions about the controller and what it dose than I have about anything in the tank. People honestly think the controller does all the work, which is silly but pretty entertaining.

 

If you go the arduino route and want my code I'd be more than happy to give it to you. It's basic but it could give you a rough idea of how someone else approached it. Mine has been running since day one and I've never had a single issue with it. It cost me about $150 after all was said and done. I spent about $40 on solid state relays from China and $45 on a nice screen, which is where most of the cost was appropriated.

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Personally I think so even if it does cost a little bit more money --> provided you have the time. The ability to add on things and tweak things as necessary is a pretty key feature to building your own controller.

 

Plus there's a huge 'wow that's cool' factor when you're showing your tank to friends/visitors. I've honestly had more questions about the controller and what it dose than I have about anything in the tank. People honestly think the controller does all the work, which is silly but pretty entertaining.

 

If you go the arduino route and want my code I'd be more than happy to give it to you. It's basic but it could give you a rough idea of how someone else approached it. Mine has been running since day one and I've never had a single issue with it. It cost me about $150 after all was said and done. I spent about $40 on solid state relays from China and $45 on a nice screen, which is where most of the cost was appropriated.

 

Thanks a ton man! I'll look more into the Arduino route and see if it's a viable option for me. What kind of display did you end up going with if you don't mind me asking?

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This screen:

http://www.sparkfun.com/products/710

 

and I decided to buy this overpriced serial adapter because it saved a TON of pins on the board and there's already embedded C on it. Plus there's a library provided so all I had to do was set a baud rate and start firing Serial.print("Hello, World"); commands at it. It was worth the savings in time:

 

http://www.sparkfun.com/products/258

 

It's not real pretty but it sure works:

4948934661_1eedcc6725.jpg

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