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2018 Halloween IOT Clown Brought to you by Particle, DNN, and Open Source!
2018 Halloween IOT Clown Brought to you by Particle, DNN, and Open Source!

I need to start out by saying that I’ve been inspired to do all this by some great guys in the Charlotte area and they are Dan Thyer, Mike Linnen, and Jay Ziobrowski… thanks for the motivation guys! I am either copying something creative I’ve seen them do or trying to imitate their passion, talent, and drive for Halloween and/or IOT projects. One day I hope to be as sharp and creative as they are.

Halloween & IOT
In 2016 I made a flame throwing pumpkin (copy-catting one of Dan’s inventions) and let’s just say some of the parents weren’t too keen on fire being near their kids and I also didn’t make any fans on the community’s HOA! Though, we all must start somewhere. In 2017 I went the safer route and made the AirGhost which is very similar to this year’s project.

The IOT Clown
This year I have created an IOT Clown. I did some testing and iterating on various ideas and concepts and there’s just no way to get around it… the thrust of compressed air brings a startling surprise and the best part is that it’s safe. We have tons of young kids in our neighborhood and moving a skeleton bone (which I debated in this early prototype) could likely hit someone, cause a toddler to fall, or trip someone up which could potentially lead to a spill on the concrete sidewalk. I don’t want to injure anyone or have some local parents mad at me, so I reverted to the compressed air, but then added a few more movements and changed the medium from a ghost to a clown.

Here’s a quick video of the end-product prototype just to show you where we’re heading… I’m going to dress it up a little more by Halloween, but you’ll get the gist.

Parts Used
Here are the main components I’m using for this project:

Here’s a video “talk-through” of the mechanical parts and power supplies being used.

Let’s Talk About Particle
Particle's Photon The Particle platform is awesome! Check out this video of the Particle platform to learn more. I am admittedly a little bit behind all of Particle’s new innovations. I still need to learn about their Mesh and Argon solutions. Even though I’m not 100% up to speed I know you can do tons of creative stuff with the particle platform, their multiple IOT devices, and their integrated IDE. Since I’m using the Particle photon, we’ll start with it.

The Particle photon is a small IOT (internet of things) device that makes it easy to bring real world objects online. Particle makes it easy to setup the device and to connect to Wifi via a mobile app. If you want to know more about initially connecting and getting up and running with Particle they have some of the best documentation I’ve seen check out the doc, tutorials, and guides.

For this project all I really want to do is to move 3 servos… one for the head to spin, one for the head to roll, and one to push the handle on the air compressor. To do that we need to use the components I listed above + Particle’s platform + some code. I’ve listed out the components and just introduced the photon… now let’s look at some code.

Let’s Look at Some Code!
Particle’s platform is awesome, but we need some code to make things happen! I could easily copy and paste code here, but that wouldn’t help you understand the “why” and “how” behind some of the concepts. I hope to help you connect some dots here and as such I’ve cut a video walking through how I’m doing some of this stuff. The video shows code and includes videos of the device in action.

To all you senior devs… yes, the code shown in the video could be much better. I have not refactored anything yet, so the code is not nearly as efficient as it could be. And yes, I showed my handy Particle access token in the video… no worries though, by the time you read this I’ve already recycled it and created a new one.

Here are some relevant links:

So, with some disclaimers down and links shared let’s talk through the code some…

If you take the sum of all the info presented here that is how I’m making this happen!

And We Wait on Halloween!
Halloween is just about a week away at this point. If you have any questions or issues filling the gaps in this high-level tutorial, please reach out and ask your question. I plan on trying to video some of the fun at Halloween and posting any interesting reactions here just below this section… so stay tuned!

The Halloween Video
Check out some of the reactions we got from kids and a few adults!


Microsoft, Open Source, & Why It's a Great Time to Be a .NET Developer
Microsoft, Open Source, & Why It's a Great Time to Be a .NET Developer

Microsoft Loves Open SourceAs an open source enthusiast and a .NET developer I’ve been watching the transformation of Microsoft happen and it has been great to watch. You see I’m an avid user of DotNetNuke and if you know anything about DNN’s history you know that DNN was one of the earliest, if not the earliest, open source project in the .NET Ecosystem. From 2003 on DNN has been a pioneer in the .NET open source world.

A lot has happened and several trends have come and gone in the Microsoft world since 2003. As an open source project built on Microsoft technology the notion of being open source wasn’t always a popular conversation topic. Being open source wasn’t “cool” and sometimes negative perceptions about open source solutions were visible.

Boy have times changed!

Microsoft is Serious About Open Source… and It’s Not Just Lip Service
One of my college football coaches always said “Your words don’t mean anything, but your actions mean everything.” Actions are a really good sign of what someone really believes. Microsoft’s strategic shift to embracing and focusing on open source over the past few years has been such a refreshing transition to see, feel, and experience for me and my fellow DNN’ers because of the actions we are seeing.

If we look at the recent and strategic moves Microsoft has made it’s easy to see that Microsoft is indeed serious about open source. If you aren’t convinced that Microsoft is serious about open source or if you are not keeping up, let’s look at some of the actions Microsoft has taken related to open source. And these are just the ones I have observed… I’m sure there is even more evidence out there.

  • Open Sourcing of .NET Core - One of the recent Microsoft technologies in the web world is .NET Core. .NET Core is a cross-platform, open source, re-implementation of the .NET Framework and it offers some great features. Releasing .NET Core as open source was a major sign that Microsoft is serious about open source.
  • .NET Foundation Providing Resources For OSS Projects - The .NET Foundation is not technically owned by Microsoft, but it is led by very well recognized names in the Microsoft ecosystem. The .NET Foundation fosters and facilitates open source by providing resources to projects within the foundation. You can find a full list of the resources on the .NET Foundation website and you can see how we in the DNN Community benefit from these resources in my recent blog “5 Reasons We’re Glad to Be Part of the .NET Foundation”.
  • Buying GitHub - In buying GitHub not only did Microsoft make a strategic purchase, but it reiterated the commitment to open source as GitHub is the world’s most popular place for open source.
  • Strategic Position of .NET Open/Source Booth at Build & MS Ignite - I helped out with the .NET Open Source booth in the Expo area at Microsoft’s Build conference and at the recent MS Ignite conference. With all the amazing new technologies and top notch vendors one may think the open source booth would be somewhere stuck in a back corner. Quite the contrary, the .NET Open Source booth was dead in the middle of the action at both events. At MS Ignite, if you came to the expo there’s a high percentage chance you saw the open source booth. This strategic positioning and messaging from Microsoft to developers and IT Pros was simple - Open Source is important to us.
  • Open Sourcing Patent / Joining ION - In another bold move Microsoft open-sourced it’s patent portfolio. OIN (Open Invention Network) is an open source patent consortium and Microsoft just brought 60,000 patents to it. This move is a big one and protects open source projects from patent lawsuits. Here again the messaging is clear, we are serious about open source.

Why It’s a Great Time to Be a .NET Developer
There has never been a better time to be a .NET Developer. Literally everything you need to get started building is online and free to use and even better it’s likely open source. Anybody, anywhere can download code, look at it, enhance it, modify it, and submit it back to the projects if desired. If you can dream it, you can build it and you may build an online team of users and contributors to assist you in the process. Microsoft is literally making it easy to build open source projects via the technologies and resources they are providing. They are removing roadblocks for developers and being 100% transparent.

Consider the following capabilities anybody, anywhere has...

  • Want to collaborate on a project - Create a GitHub account and get going
  • Find a bug - Make a pull request
  • Need help - Connect with the developers working on the project or in the open source community
  • Got a Popular OSS project - Join the .NET Foundation
  • Worried about transparency - Everything is developed in the open

In Conclusion
I referenced one of my college football coaches earlier, but he wasn’t the only one to to impart wisdom during my athletic days. My high school coaches had more one-liners than anyone could remember. One line that stuck with me was “If you do the little things, the big things will take care of themselves.” Microsoft is not only doing the big things, but they are also doing the little things that continue to reinforce their seriousness about open source.

We are watching a culture and paradigm shift occur in real-time and it’s awesome. By going “all in” on open source Microsoft is not only winning the hearts of developers, but they are making it easy for developers to get started with their technologies! I think the strategic decision to embrace open source will have a big impact for Microsoft in the long term.


Clint Patterson

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