Mixing Hobbies and Code, Part 1

June 09, 2019

Trying not to Ruin my Hobbies

Some days when I come home from a rough day of struggling through a problem, As much as I want to code, I'm tired of it. This terrifies me because I like writing code. I enjoy coming up with solutions to problems. I enjoy seeing how different languages can be applied. I enjoy the learning! The worry is that I'll burn out. So why not mix my hobbies wih more coding? Well, then the worry is that I'll end up hating my hobbies when I get stuck in a problem with the development. Nothing worse than depression weasling it's way into things that are meant to recharge me.

On the other hand, I also worry that by not folding little (and sometimes silly) coding projects into my hobbes I won't learn anything new! For example: I've made a couple little projects that let me learn Vue.js and React. Things I would never have had time to just do at work. Alternatively, essentially redoing projects and apps I've already done once at work held no interest and just fueled burn out. Forget that then.

So far my hobbies havee lent themselves to side programming projects pretty well. My main hobby is model trains, which already has a history of people making diy electronics and apps. Usually for situations and needs that are particular to each model or layout. It means -like a lot of the hobbie for me- is that the most enjoyable parts are the ones I build. This includes the little hobby apps that augment the operations of my model trains.

In this particular case instead of creating a little one-off web app, I actually need to write code, assemble hardware, and build the model.

The Project

At some point I talked myself into building a small garden railroad. Radio control seems like a great option, but can be expensive. Of course there's a little voice that then says: I'm sure I can build an alternative rc solution. I know I've tried pick up radio control for my smaller trains (which is a much longer story). Most of the things I've found seem to have little to no documentation or feel crytically stuck in the past. What else could I do then but start looking at prototyping boards like arduino, feather, or micro:bit.

Oh and what did I find? The micro:bit has the ability out of the box to send and receive radio packets! A little more research lead me to confirm I could run a motor from it (with some help from a IC with H-bridges). Sold. I got a pair, one as a controller, and one as a reciever. I had a side project and I was actually excited to write the code and cobble hardware to create my own rc.

For now, that is enough of an overview. Next time/post I'll go over putting the hardware together.