.NET softwired

Dare To Dream Different - Contest videos released on YouTube

Hey! If you have been waiting to see the videos of the projects submitted to the Microsoft Dare To Dream Different Contest, then wait no more.

The .NET Micro Framework Team at Microsoft has now released all the submitted contest videos on YouTube. I have not yet counted the number of videos, so I can't tell you for sure that they are all there, but you can go have a look for yourself. Funny enough, Microsoft has not yet made any announcement about this, so maybe they are not finished uploading...

All videos are named like "Dare To Dream Different Contest - <project name>", so it should be easy to make a search for the videos. You can also use the link shown above, where I have setup a search criteria for you. Click and try!

I now know what I'm going to do tonight - it's video time!


Dare To Dream Different - Competition exit...

My project: HACS - House Access Control System with fun doorbell, didn't make it to the final in the Microsoft Dare To Dream Different competition :-(

But hey - I'm a winner anyway :-). I did get a Device Solutions Tahoo-II development board for free - that is, if I don't count all the hours spent into developing this project. I learned a lot about the Micro Framework for embedded programming in C# directly on hardware,  and this is where the potential is and the real fun lies.

Furthermore, GHI Electronics LLC, who makes a lot of nice Micro Framework products, decided to donate a 100 USD coupon for shopping in their webshop to all round 2 contestants in the competition - this is really generous of them - and I can now claim my coupon and go shopping in the GHI shop. Wow, I'm not sure if I can limit my shopping to these 100 USD. They have so many nice boards that I think I have to spend some more money... Time will tell. Their new ChipworkX development system looks like a killer, but also the USBizi and the Embedded master boards are very attractive. A big thanks to GHI for this donation.

Round 2 Finalists

I must congratulate the authors of the 10 projects which made it to the finals :-).I'm really looking forward to see the videos of these projects. I hope that Microsoft will make all the project videos publicly available, as they have promised earlier. It is always very educational to see what other people create and how they choose to implement it.



Dare To Dream Different - Video List

I have made a list of links to the Dare To Dream Different competition videos people have made public on the net. You can find it in my page list or click here.

If you are a competitor in this competition and have a video of your project, you are welcome to write me where I can find your video. Then I will add it to the list.


HACS - House Access Control System with fun doorbell

This is the video presentation I submitted for round 2 of the Microsoft "Dare To Dream Different" competition.

The main functions of the system are:

  • Guard dog barks when guests arrive at the door. Activated by movement detected by a PIR sensor.
  • Doorbell playing different individual tunes, stored as MP3 files on USB memory stick. Using VMUSIC2 MP3 player module.
  • Door access control with electronic door lock and door open/close sensor.
  • Door access can be controlled remote by sending SMS to the system from a mobile phone. Using a GSM modem.
  • Door alarms are sent as SMS to predefined mobile phone number.
  • Guest can write a SMS message which is sent to a predefined mobile phone number.

Unfortunately some parts of the video is a little dark, but I hope that you can see it anyway.

As the length of the video for the competition could not be more than 10 minutes, I ran out of time to show all features in the system. Maybe I will add more video clips of this later.


Dare To Dream Different video presentation has been submitted

I have just succeeded in uploading my video presentation of my project for the Microsoft competition :-)

I was just about to believe that I had problems as in the initial papers about the videofile formats it was stated that we could only submit files less than 50MB! I could not get my video file this small and still keep a good quality of the video.

Then I just tried to log in to the upload site, and luckily they had changed the max. filesize to 100MB. OK, I had to try the upload two times, as after 15 minutes of upload, I was notified of an error in one of the text fields on the submission form. I corrected the error and as I didn't know if my first upload was successful, I had to try again. Now 15 minutes later again, I was forwarded to the "success" screen (You can see it here: http://dreamdifferentcontest.com/thanks.aspx )

Now it is time to get some sleep...

By the way - my project is titled "House Access Control System" and is as the title states an access control system but it also has a really nice enhanced personal doorbell functionality, playing MP3 tunes.

This was great fun, now I just wait and see if I make it to the final.


Dare To Dream Different - status looking good.

My "DareTo Dream Different" project progresses according to my plan and it looks not bad, if I may say so myself. I have a working prototype, where I have tested most of my ideas to be part of the prototype. I now know that my original idea can be build.

I have taken a few pictures which shows some of the additional hardware I'm using in my project. It is all going to be connected to my Tahoe-II development board. If you don't recognize the parts, then I can tell you that you can see a PIR movement sensor (detects infrared waves), an MP3 player module with a USB memory stick (which holds the MP3 files) and last there is a small construction of some electronics components. I'm not sure you can see that it is a loudspeaker in the background.

These are not all of the parts for my prototype, but now you can start guessing on what it is going to be. You should not be able to guess it only from seeing these pictures. More pictures will follow later. Also I expect to write some articles about how to use each of the components together with the Micro Framework and interfacing it to a MF development board. Consider the blog you are reading now as a teaser for later posts.

As you may know, Microsoft decided to extend the deadline for when we have to be finished with the prototype. Originally it should have been finished at the end of March, but because of some problems delivering the MF development boards to all participants, we have been granted some extra time. Now I have until May 15th to finalize my prototype and a video showing the result. As I work best when I have a tight deadline this extended deadline made me almost come to a complete stop working on my prototype. As I think that I have plenty of time, I have also had time to play around with some other cool stuff. Maybe I will even find time to write some more blog articles.


PS: I still loose the USB connection to my Tahoe-II board from time to time, but now I know that I "just" have to reboot my PC (I hate it). This seems to be related to a not too good USB device driver, which has more then once given me a "Blue screen of death" on my Windows Vista PC. I'd wish we could get a more stable device driver.

Maxstream XBee RF module documentation

I have digged out the specifications for the Maxstream XBee RF modules, which I received as part of the "Dare To Dream Different" competition package.

Please note that there is also a Zigbee variant of these modules. The ones I received are 802.15.4 versions. I'm not currently sure of the differences, so you have to look that up yourself if you need it.

You can find the specs. and other information here:

1. XBee XB24-AWI-001 802.15.4 module product manual.
2. XBee XBIB-U-DEV development board diagram.
3. USB driver for Windows (for the development board)


Dare To Dream Different hardware arrived today

Yihaa, today I received a package with the MF development board and other stuff.

The package contains the Tahoo-II development board from Device Solutions, a USB cable, 2 XBee 802.15.4 radio modules from Maxstream and an XBee development board so that one of the radio modules can be connected to a PC on the USB port. 

There was no USB cable for the XBee development board and there is no documentation on the XBee stuff at all! I will probably also need a USB driver for that board. - Well I guess that I just have to find it on the Internet...

XBee dev. board to the left and Tahoo-II board to the right. Two XBee radio modules on the top.


The backside of the Tahoo-II board - the Meridian MF processor in the lower left corner.


The Meridian processor board is not much bigger than a standard SD memory card! 



Close up on the two XBee modules.  


The XBee development board. 


 This just looks nice and I'm looking forward to get started playing with it.


Dare To Dream Different contest - Round 2


I have been selected to move on to round 2 in the Dare To Dream Different Challenge. I didn't believe my eyes when I saw my name on the wall of selected participants. I'm in the hobbyist category.
This is great and I'm looking very much forward to receive some hardware to test on.

Oh boy - now I actually have to produce a prototype and a presentation video of my submitted design proposal.

Although working with the emulator is not bad, there is nothing as the real stuff - hardware with buttons, display and I/O ports. So I can hardly wait to get my hands on it.

Until the development board arrives I have started collecting other hardware that I am going to use in my design. When I made my submission to the contest I did not really have any idea of what parts I was going to use or where to get it from. New ideas about the design comes up every day so I am still in the discovery phase and I have not landed on a final design yet - only on a building block level. This is almost like making a new jig saw puzzle; Right now I have about 5-6 pieces making up the complete picture and in the coming days and weeks I will cut each of the big pieces into smaller ones. I just hope that I don't end up with a puzzle in 1000 pieces and no time to put it all together!

Anyway, I have managed to collect most of the critical hardware parts I'm going to use, so this is really great. Now I just have to agree with myself on how the software is going to work and let myself dream up some nice innovative features.

Let the fun begin!