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Old 26-07-2019, 00:17   #1
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DIY boat electronics, starting from scratch, what would you use?

Hi all,

Thanks to Australia Post I have just lost my ENTIRE electronics tool kit and components. Long story short, I took it all with me on a recent interstate visit because I figured I'd have some spare time to kill, forgot to pack it in the car for the trip back, got a family member to post it to me... and it was never seen again.

No more multi-meter, soldering iron (at least I have few), prototyping boards, resistors, capacitors... you name it. All gone.

I also lost my ENTIRE set of Picaxe chips, the various I2C modules (memory, real time clocks), the GPS chips, half a dozen LCD displays, temperature probes and serial drivers.

So... I am starting again. From scratch. All I own for electronics work at this moment are selection of soldering irons. And one roll of solder. Oh yeah, and a soldering stand. Great.

Now, I was about to go out and order all I needed to build my projects in Picaxe again, because at least I have the code for all of those projects, but I thought I should stand back and ask if this is not the time to rethink my hardware platform.

The three main projects I have to build are:

1. Regulator for my Aerogen wind generator. This was working nicely, with LCD display, power logging, dump load switching and programmable voltage cutouts. Sadly, I removed it from the boat because I wanted to improve the functionality of the power logging and reporting, (hence the memory chip) and yeah, it was in the tool box.

2. Heater control system. This was functional but untested, basically a collection of three temperature probes, an LCD display and some circuits to turn on/off the diesel furnace and various pumps.

3. Autopilot circuit. This was just at the proof of concept stage, being a rework of a previous system that drove a home made tiller pilot using a compass chip, I was trying to integrate a GPS chip and add an anchor alarm function while I was at it. It had a simple LCD display and and a compass chip on the I2C bus.


So... with those three projects, which hardware platform would YOU choose to build your systems?

Open to ideas, no real restrictions that I can think of, aside from the fact that it is going on a boat so 12 volt DC compatible would be logical. (Not that I can think of anything that would be depended on 240 volts)

Oh, I should add, I really don't want to run any of this from a laptop or PC. Lots of reasons for this, but mainly I like simple independent devices that don't need big operating systems or reboots or internet connections etc.

Matt
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Old 26-07-2019, 01:10   #2
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Re: DIY boat electronics, starting from scratch, what would you use?

No question imho.
Raspbery pi running openplotter / signalk with esp32/8266 running locally. Send all the data as signalk to the Pi which can then log it in a database (influxdb works great) , display on any device. There's a built ln autopilot plugin project for opencpn already- https://pypilot.org/
Control could either be in the Pi or locally on an Esp, they can serve web pages and create access points so no need for displays unless you want them. Esps have capacitive sense pins which makes it easier to control locally and keep waterproof. Sleep mode can keep power use down to next to nothing.
Loads of code available to cut and paste .
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Old 26-07-2019, 03:58   #3
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Re: DIY boat electronics, starting from scratch, what would you use?

Hmmm. Good point. Hadnít considered what I might do if my plotter died. Itís pretty old too.

How easy is it to control hardware using the Raspberry Pi?
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Old 26-07-2019, 04:32   #4
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Re: DIY boat electronics, starting from scratch, what would you use?

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How easy is it to control hardware using the Raspberry Pi?
The Pi can control 3.3v pins so with a logic level relay or FET it's not that hard. Node-Red is built in to Openplotter so it makes it easy to all sorts of clever stuff quite easily, and signalk has apps to talk to some kit like victron with more getting written all the time.
You could just order a coupke of esp32's of 8266's and have a play, they're really powerful little devices. I have temperature senors on the engine, current sensor piggy backed on the battery monitor shunt and voltage, plus an accurate barometer.
What hardware did you have in mind?
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Old 26-07-2019, 04:59   #5
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Re: DIY boat electronics, starting from scratch, what would you use?

Also, just now got Adafruit IO working, didn't know it existed til now, so with a Pi or ESP8266/32 you can send data to the web to graph or view in a dashboard, just add web access like a cheap smartphone and data sim. Could be V handy for remote viewing of battery voltage etc, even turn the fridge on the day before going back to the boat

https://io.adafruit.com/
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Old 26-07-2019, 11:45   #6
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Re: DIY boat electronics, starting from scratch, what would you use?

Just to stir things up a bit.


I chose to use Arduino and other processors over Pi as its faster and lower power consumption. I don't know about the new one. I use processor to control, engine sensors and gauges with dual displays. Engine pressure, engine temp, hours (elapsed & total), 2 x bilge alarms, temp & pressure alarm, cooling water flow, fuel consumption, exhaust temperature alarm, volatile gas alarm, CO2 alarm, Battery Voltage. Logs all this plus time, SOG, position, temp and pressure.


I use arduino's over winter for standby alarms (bilge 1 & 2, hours run and how many times, fire, gas, intruder low battery and texts me "OK" once a week and texting me on alarm. I am working on another one to control a satellite dish and another to replace my autohelm. That's four separate systems to do different things.
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Old 26-07-2019, 13:08   #7
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Re: DIY boat electronics, starting from scratch, what would you use?

The fastest standard Arduino I know of is the Due (please post if there is a faster one) which I use because for simple and non speed critical development by non programing friends and kids is easy to use. My actual reason for selecting it is the Matlab support. My first choice for non IoT is the Beagle Black with its reasonable speed processor and most importantly the included dual fast controllers. The Raspberry Pi loses to both due to the items stated. I would also suggest getting a vacuum pump and a passiable oscilloscope with an analog mode (Rigol are cheep and passiable). Non contact scope probes are great but a little pricey.
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Old 26-07-2019, 13:27   #8
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Re: DIY boat electronics, starting from scratch, what would you use?

If you are interested to discuss pypilot free autopilot:

OpenMarine - Pypilot

A few have built their own from components and discussion continues.
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Old 26-07-2019, 14:15   #9
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Re: DIY boat electronics, starting from scratch, what would you use?

You might be interested in this web page with comparison and selection help:

https://www.dfrobot.com/blog-447.htm...0aAs8vEALw_wcB
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Old 26-07-2019, 15:46   #10
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Re: DIY boat electronics, starting from scratch, what would you use?

Wow, great responses, thank you all.

DeepFrz, your post was particularly timely, as I had looked at both the Arduino and Pi on the advice given above and was trying to get my head around each.

In summary, the Arduino seems to be most similar to what I have been using so far, it's basically the Picaxe but delivered in a nice user-friendly hardware platform that comes with a lot of the fiddly stuff already installed, like the power supply and programming interface.

The Raspberry Pi does seem a lot more powerful, but as noted, less suited to simple IO projects, which most of these are.

I think if I were aiming for a fully integrated setup with all the electronics on the boat I would go the path of the Raspberry Pi, but, despite appearances to the contrary, I am actually a bit of a KISS kind of guy (30 years in IT will do that to fella) and the simple stand alone nature of the Arduino fits that philosophy a bit better.

I will now crunch the numbers and see how the Arduino stacks up against the Picaxe. At first glance it seems more expensive, but there as some savings, such as not needing the $60 Picaxe USE programming cable and not needing to buy minor items like the power regulator chip. But the reals savings look like they might come from cheaper options on the other stuff, like the GPS and Compass chips, and LCD screens. There seem to be many more of these at better prices for Arduino.

Thanks again for the responses.

Matt
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Old 26-07-2019, 16:26   #11
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Re: DIY boat electronics, starting from scratch, what would you use?

I'm pleased the post helped. I almost didn't post it because I thought it might have been to basic. Glad I did.
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Old 26-07-2019, 16:36   #12
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Re: DIY boat electronics, starting from scratch, what would you use?

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I'm pleased the post helped. I almost didn't post it because I thought it might have been to basic. Glad I did.


Sometimes basic is good. It really was perfect timing. Some good suggestions by CF members immediately followed by a way of easily comparing the options.
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Old 26-07-2019, 16:53   #13
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Re: DIY boat electronics, starting from scratch, what would you use?

I think conachair has given great advice (rPi + ESPs), but I also share Fiona's love for Arduinos. When you can score a nano clone with USB interface for $3, it's pretty hard to justify pulling out all the stuff required to work with bare microcontrollers (though I still like small PICs and SourceBoost C).

I also like working with ESP8266 and ESP32 using the Arduino environment. (or more specifically the VisualMicro plugin for Visual Studio, which lets you do Arduino programming in a more professional IDE)

Have fun re-stocking up!
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Old 26-07-2019, 18:22   #14
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Re: DIY boat electronics, starting from scratch, what would you use?

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I think conachair has given great advice (rPi + ESPs), but I also share Fiona's love for Arduinos. When you can score a nano clone with USB interface for $3, it's pretty hard to justify pulling out all the stuff required to work with bare microcontrollers (though I still like small PICs and SourceBoost C).

I also like working with ESP8266 and ESP32 using the Arduino environment. (or more specifically the VisualMicro plugin for Visual Studio, which lets you do Arduino programming in a more professional IDE)

Have fun re-stocking up!


Yes, some good options. But whatís the deal with the nano clones? Are they doing anything shifty with intellectual property?

I ask because the ďfunĒ of stocking up amounts to a horrible unplanned expense and Iíd like to keep cost low, but not by supporting IP thieves.
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Old 27-07-2019, 00:50   #15
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Re: DIY boat electronics, starting from scratch, what would you use?

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In summary, the Arduino seems to be most similar to what I have been using so far, it's basically the Picaxe but delivered in a nice user-friendly hardware platform that comes with a lot of the fiddly stuff already installed, like the power supply and programming interface.

The Raspberry Pi does seem a lot more powerful, but as noted, less suited to simple IO projects, which most of these are.
Both!
But not arduino imho much as i love them, don't see the point, an Esp32 is basically an arduino but 16 times faster with Bluetooth and WiFi. A Pi3 is plenty fast enough and cheap to fit if you don't bother with a monitor. Then the local esp can send data to the Pi if it's turned on for logging or whatever you want to do. The Openplotter/signalk/node red combination is extremely powerful, don't think there's anything else comes close to openplotter for an all in 1 system for boats. Order a Pi3 and an esp8266 or 32 and have a play
My fridge has an arduino as a thermostat after the mechanical one broke but that will be an Esp soon, think having your fridge data online and adjusting the temperature from the bar free WiFi might be going too far....
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