Getting to some hardware hacking

I’m definitely more of a software person than I am a hardware hacker. Even though I’m getting an electrical engineering degree and like working with low level programmer, I’m still more comfortable writing code than I am soldering a circuit board.  That being said there is a certain amount of magic involved in being able to wire up something that does cool things from spare parts and tiny electronic components. Especially after looking at the stories on Hack a Day for a while I’ve been really intersted in doing something that doesn’t involve just punching away at a keyboard.

The question is, what? My suitemate has a projector and we have 3 couches in our lounge (don’t ask) so yesterday evening we had an impromptu movie party, watching Hangover and eating homemade popcorn. Said suitemate also has a bunch of lights hooked up to a dimmer switch and 5.1 surround sound. So while we were waiting for the projector to warm up a friend of ours decided to play the DJ and plugged his Macbook into the sound system. And while the music was playing yet another tried running switch to the tune of the music. Of course he was much too slow to keep pace but it gave me the idea of trying to set up some electronics so that the dimmer switch (and hence the lights in the room) would modulate along with the music.

The next question is: how? And that’s not something that I’ve quite figured out yet. I’d like to use the Arduino, since I’ve heard good things about it and I know people on campus who have some experience with it. And since I want to some audio sampling and processing I’d like something with a decent amount of processsing power. I have no experience with the Arduino at all but one of the people that I’m working with over summer does (he’s the one who started playing wiht the dimmer in the first place). I’m starting my trawling around the Arduino website and looking over the specs and getting used to the programming environment for it. I technically have all summer to play around with it, but I would like to have a working prototype ready in two weeks (in time for my birthday). I’m open to suggestions, tips and tricks so if there any Arduino wizards reading this, feel free to drop me a line.

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Shrutarshi Basu

Programmer, writer and engineer, currently working out of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

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