Monday, January 18, 2010

Never give up, never surrender

I had intended to post more often, but as the deadline nears, it is hard to take the time to craft a cogent post.

I discovered on Friday that the deadline for the round 2 submission to Atmel's Smart Design contest was delayed until Friday, the 22nd.  Four extra days that I really need.  I would not have made the deadline tomorrow. 

On Monday and Tuesday, I basically wasted the both days trying to decide which sub-optimal radio I would be forced to use.  I had gone so far as to start writing code for a USART-based interface to 2.4GHz Zigbee modules.  I was talking myself into believing the logic that they could not ding me for using their favorite technology with 3 Atmel parts in every radio, despite the total overkill and expense.

On Wednesday, I discovered that "Akiba" at had designed a radio board using the AT86RF212 RF transceiver chip. Even better, he's written a basic driver for it that does exactly what I need done.  3 application level functions: init, send, receive.  Under the covers, of course, it is much more complex than that, but that's what my code sees.

Akiba's "simple open source wireless software stack" is dubbed "chibi".  He is also working on an open source Zigbee project.  AFAIK, he has made the only open source radio boards with open source software drivers in existence.  That's quite an accomplishment by one guy.

Friday and Saturday I was out of town.  So today I integrated the chibi driver with my software.  Then I struggled for literally hours with my makefile.  I hate make.  We just never have gotten along.  I think it knows I'm a hardware guy, so it rebels.  I finally called my software buddy and he debugged it over the phone.

So I've now got the entire embedded software package for my main controller compiling without errors!  I may not have much time for simulation, but compile-clean is all I've really hoped to achieve before the deadline.

Now I need to write the sensor code.  I'm hoping I can have it done by Tuesday night so I have some time to do cost and power analysis, do a writeup, and email the whole lot on Friday.  Even with that amazing stroke of luck on the radio and the schedule extension, it's going to be tight.

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