View Full Version : Reef Controllers - Should we start a group project?

03/05/2002, 11:12 AM
I've seen numerous posts out there about DIY reef controllers/automation tools.

Since many of us have the necessary skills to design one of these, and several of us have already started, why not pool our efforts?

I'm thinking about leading a project where several of us could design a multipurpose reef controller and make the plans available on reef central.

The project would probably involve several steps:
1. Deciding what features would be incorporated into the controller.
2. Dividing up the work to develop each piece/component.
3. Sharing the development work on a web site.
4. Individually building the finished controller and testing the work.

Is there any interest in this type of project?

If so, please indicate your willingness to participate and the skills you could bring to the group. If enough people want to do this, I'll organize the group and get the process running.

03/05/2002, 11:55 AM
I have no skills in this area but would love to help out with such a noble idea. Perhaps you could use some of my web space to post all progress.

Just a thought. I would love to help any way I could.

03/05/2002, 12:12 PM
While I have no useful skills to be part of the team, I'll definately be your cheerleader. I think it's a great idea, and with all the passion and intelligence of the RC members it should also be a great success. GO TEAM, GO!!

03/05/2002, 12:15 PM
alligator ,

I would love to help. I have 1200 Gallon reef with web inteface to the aquacontroller. My work is in automation and integration with software. I have lots of integration ideas and automations stuff.

let me know how can I help.


03/05/2002, 12:19 PM
would love to help too

like i am gonna pay over 300 for an aquacontroller...kiss my what??

lets do it.

03/05/2002, 04:54 PM
Here are the initial areas where I see a need for expertise:

1. Electronic circuit / schematic design
2. Integrated circuit & processor selection
3. Human interface design
4. Communication between components
5. Programming (specifically integrated circuits)
6. Opinions on feature selection
7. Web design (to share the results from various components).

Are there any more volunteers out there? We don't have very many yet. I had hoped more people would volunteer their efforts if the chunk of the project was small enough.

I see about two people per area of expertise as a good number - this cuts down the work and acts as a reality check.

Are there any other areas of expertise we need? Once we get enough people, we'll start brainstorming what the minimum features should be.

03/05/2002, 05:02 PM
I would like to at least help in the web design and hosting.

I just sort of dabble in it but would love a project.

03/05/2002, 09:20 PM
I'll continue to push this, it's something I really think could be a great project (and blow the $300+ controllers away)!

Still, we need more people to participate and volunteer their time. As soon as I can recruit a few more people, I'll collect e-mail addresses and start the project running.

Come on people - you know you want to join. If not you, then who?

03/05/2002, 10:09 PM
i know a computer programmer. he could help, he has a reef and visits here once in a while

maybe my Elec. Eng roomie would help


03/05/2002, 11:03 PM
would it be cheaper and less expensive to design something that could be hooked to a serial port and controlled by a PC and utilize Visual Basic for programming code?

in other words come up with a box to house the whole thing
and be programmed and set to run on any pc using the pc's strength and not having to design a self contained programming setup????
Since most reefcentral folks have a a pc...well I will say at least 95% PROBABLY do then this might be a good approach to think about in your design.

this is not my area of expertise but the idea popped into my head
I am currently learning VB but I feel I am not proficient enough to be of any assistance.

03/06/2002, 01:33 AM
Id be interested. The timers just reset on my goofy aquacontroller again. That thing's quirky.

03/06/2002, 05:58 AM
Originally posted by CleveYank
would it be cheaper and less expensive to design something that could be hooked to a serial port and controlled by a PC and utilize Visual Basic for programming code?

in other words come up with a box to house the whole thing
and be programmed and set to run on any pc using the pc's strength and not having to design a self contained programming setup????
Since most reefcentral folks have a a pc...well I will say at least 95% PROBABLY do then this might be a good approach to think about in your design.

this is not my area of expertise but the idea popped into my head
I am currently learning VB but I feel I am not proficient enough to be of any assistance.

Isnt that what the X10 things do?

I am game for this project. I currently use a old PLC to run my lights and stuff. Basaicaly it just turns them on and off by activating a series of relays. I got it for free which is why I am using it, :lol:

03/06/2002, 06:04 AM
I am in the Validation line of work but have no clue when it comes to loop shooting and PLC work. By training I am a microbiologist but will lend a hand with whatever needs to be done. Will even send money to help subsadise this project if it is going to come true.


03/06/2002, 06:27 AM
ahhh ltspd

I have no idea if that is what the X10 does...what is an X10???

is the X10 cheap?

03/06/2002, 07:46 AM
Hi Alligator and everybody,

I would like to help with the project. I have been involved with several other attempts to design a controller over the web. Unfortunately the never came to completion, maybe we can pull it off this time.

It sounds like a wonderful project and would like to give you my support. This has been a pet project of mine for sometime. I have involves several projects in the past and I currently supply hardware applications to ReefCon2000.

Now to play devils advocate, there are several things that can destroy this project before it starts. I don't know how many of you are familiar with the RAMAR project from a few years back that attempted the same thing and then went bust, with a lot of people with hurt feelings. To make a project like this work we need to have a few things in place before we start.

1. The project needs to have some written guidelines on what we are going work on. Only these goals will be worked on at the beginning. Other things can be added from the wish list after the basic model is functioning. RAMAR changed courses too many times before anything was ever accomplished.
2. We need to have a project lead, which will make the ultimate decision for the project. The project needs open debate and disagreement to consider all alternatives. Someone has to make the final decisions.

3. Project lead has to appoint department heads to run various task groups. Programming, hardware and testing are the first to come to mind and others added as the need arises.

4. It would be nice to have an FTP site somewhere where all data is available to project members. A message board is another nice to have thing for all project members. A website would be fantastic.

5. Periodic Chat schedules should also be planned so everyone knows where we are and what we are doing.

Now a little about me. I'm a DIY'er. I started the book on automating aquariums systems, which is now being published on The ReefCon2000 web site. I use X-10 modules for most of my control. I have found a way to incorporate ladder logic into X-10 to make the system smarter. This requires modification of the X-10 module so it can react to the sensors [makes them smarter]. I have developed a few DIY sensors for use in aquariums. I have found a commercial inexpensive 4-channel datalogger. They run about $15.00 in single unit quantities and the software costs an additional $15.00. These prices are U.S.

Now some nice to have things in the software would the ability to look-up values daily from a table and insert into the X-10 command program. This is the biggest problem I have currently with my experimental tidal surge project. I have 16 different tidal events occurring daily based on the lunar position for a specific lat./long.
If you all decide to move forward with this project, I would like to be a part of it. I will do what ever I can to help you become successful.
Please keep me informed. My e-mail address is [email protected]
Sorry this post is so long.

03/06/2002, 08:34 AM
I would love to join in on this project but I am afraid I don't really have any expertise to contribute. I am extremely interested in learning about this though. One thing I can contribute is webhosting for $7 a month. :)
[email protected]

03/06/2002, 09:06 AM
Alright! It now looks like we are getting a small group of people together.

bstreib - In response to your comments, I completely agree. I had actually planned to distribute written guidelines so everyone knows how this will proceed and what will be expected of them.

I also agree about the project lead. Since I proposed establishing this group, I'll take the lead until I can put together a small "board" to make the ultimate/final decisions. I fully intend this project to carry on should any one of it's participants be unable to participate (including myself). I want this project to succeed for the sake of the reef keeping community.

We have several people who have volunteered web space and/or site design skills - so we will probably start there to establish a permanent place to post results and notices.

I'll start collecting information about people today. Please watch Reef Central for a personal message.

Together we can accomplish anything we desire! Our success will depend on everyone's help!

03/06/2002, 09:34 AM

I have no skills to offer, I'm computer illiterate. But, perhaps John would be willing to set up a temporary forum for this project. That would help keep info together and allow people working on this project to more easily communicate. Second choice would be to move it to the advanced topics forum so it stays visible longer.


03/06/2002, 10:08 AM
I can program PIC microchips, as well as high level computer code (VB, C, C++, HTML, etc). Electronic circuit design is possible but strictly limited to specific areas...

03/06/2002, 10:17 AM
Hi All,
I'm sorry some of you feel you have nothing to offer a group or project like this. I DISAGREE!! If your interested and enthusiastic about the project I'm sure we have a productive job for you. After the project really starts we need proof readers, writers, people to do graphics, people to take pictures of completed modules, etc. So there will plenty of things to do for anyone who wants to be a part of the project.
Sorry Alligator for stealing your thunder but I hate to lose enthusiastic volunteers because they don't feel techie enough.

03/06/2002, 10:33 AM
Computer systems integrator here. May be outside my skill set but I'd like to at least put my name in the pot.

I also currently own a controller.

That being said, I'd like to be involved if possible. I can see some things that I like, dislike, etc. Maybe I can be of some help.

Thanks - later.

03/06/2002, 10:35 AM
I'm a computer programmer. I don't have the expertise in this area, but I would love to learn. My reef is my current passion and add me to the list.

03/06/2002, 11:21 AM
I don't know you would want to do this or not...but get the stuff patterned....just in case some company came across the idea and want to benefit from everyone's hard work......
I know the concept of this project is to share and improve....

Kyle McClain
03/06/2002, 11:50 AM
I have currently been kicking around a moon light simulater that uses a rom chip and led's. I would love to help in anyway I can.

Kyle McClain

03/06/2002, 12:31 PM
Would be more than willing to help in any way. I am primarly a computer guy with some programming experience, and a healthy desire to see better products available.

Count me in.


03/06/2002, 12:46 PM
Great idea. I'd like to help any way that I can.

03/06/2002, 01:11 PM
I may be bale to help witht he hardware side of it. Circuit design, fabrication etc.

I am running some tests on other reef equipment and stuff but have been looking into some form of controller in conjunction with a couple of other reefers up here.

I do have some ideas regarding a controller. One is using a pelltier device to perform cooling and heating of a tank. I haven't had a chance to test it just yet but am curious. Random power head operation is another. Not using things such as a 555 timer, want complete random cycles of on and off duration. Another idea is an interface board to a PC that does the actual controlling of vairous functions and mesurements. Then it will be a matter of setting up a board to measure certain probes and i/o for lighting control and such. As long as a probe or sensor outputs it's signal in mV it will be easy to write translation code for a software interface. Even working with PICs and PLC's could be another avenue.

As well I can write some code(highlevel) c, c++. plus do HTML work etc.

let me know.

03/06/2002, 01:16 PM
We have 19 possible volunteers already. Now the trick is getting everyone's e-mail address and a forum set up to start this project off.

I'm working on both tasks, so please be patient. The creation of a forum for discussion is one of the most important tasks right now.

03/06/2002, 01:37 PM
Originally posted by bstreib
If your interested and enthusiastic about the project I'm sure we have a productive job for you. After the project really starts we need proof readers, writers, people to do graphics, people to take pictures of completed modules, etc. So there will plenty of things to do for anyone who wants to be a part of the project.

Count me in then. I have been using X10 for a year.

03/06/2002, 03:12 PM
As well as a cheerleader I will do whatever else I can, let me know. [email protected]

Also check this thread in advanced topics, it is generating interest:


03/06/2002, 03:42 PM
I would be willing to help out on the web page side if needed .

03/06/2002, 04:20 PM
My husband is an electrical engineer and has been toying with the idea of designing a controller for our reef. I know he's capable of doing it, he just doesn't have much spare time :) Since this is a group project I am sure he would have enough time to participate with the help of others :) I'll get him to post later with what he could help with specifically :)

03/06/2002, 04:43 PM
I DIY with a passion -- and, since I'm also interested in playing around with electronics, I would love to see something like this come about. I actually have a friend who's assembling something like this right now; I'll let you all know how it comes out.

Some people say I can write pretty good (hehe ;)), and I'm certainly willing to lend a hand in any way I can. I'm sure a lot of us will chime in again once you folks have specific forums set up for that purpose!


03/06/2002, 08:44 PM
Here you go. www.reefcentral.com/vbulletin/forumdisplay.php?forumid=145

03/06/2002, 09:57 PM
I am game. I don't always have a lot of time due to my new 120 and the kids, but I will help out where I can. I am comfortable doing web programming although a little rusty since I am in management now...

03/06/2002, 10:09 PM
Wow! I thought I was the only one who wanted to build one of these!!!

I am a very good programmer with some breadboard stuff type experience too. I can handle all the interface design and higher level programming, however I think finding people to help there won't be hard. I can do some circuitry and most of the assembler, low level stuff, if you need me for it.

Rather than starting with anything too complicated, I think we should start playing around with various materials to build the probes. Once we have a probe, we can figure out how to hook it to a PC and get accurate readings.

We also need a device that can turn a standard voltage outlet on or off with a low voltage signal. Similarly we need something that can turn on and off a plumbing valve electronically.

The key point is not just building a controller, the key is building a controller that is reliable, cheap and relatively simple in design.

Lets make this project "open source" meaning anyone can read how we built our work, contribute ideas, and add components.

e-mail: [email protected] if you want me to work on something that will help you, or if you built a probe.

03/06/2002, 10:20 PM
Well, I am really a jack of all trades, master of some. I would probably be most helpful in the testing, actual building of proposed controllers. Make sure it is really DIY. I have a basic understanding of electronic components, but might get lost when it comes to digital circuits. I would be more than happy to build a circuit if someone designs it. I'm thinking Radio Shack breadboards and off the shelf components. We should probably be thinking Radio Shack here. I could also try to design an enclosure for the final connections to individual devices - relays for line voltage devices. Not much free time, but willing to help where I can. What are we trying to control specifically? I am not familiar with the Aquacontroller. Just water flow, or a scalable system that could run the entire tank: Make up water, ph control, heat/cooling, etc?

[email protected]

03/06/2002, 10:28 PM
[email protected]

That's an underscore between Reef and ayuh.


03/06/2002, 10:34 PM
Well as my wife (Mia1974) mentioned I am an electrical engineer who's been toying with this idea for several years and have investigated several methods of implementing such a design. I have worked on several large multi disciplined projects from start to finish and I can help specify the design flow and what is actually required to get this project rolling smoothly.

While I can't offer any web space or cheerleading (which it seems you have enough of) my areas of experience are the following:

- ARM, PIC, AVR, MSP430 and various other microcontroller programing in both assembly and C.
- analog, digital, RF, power and interface circuit design.
- EDA design entry and PCB layout/fabrication.

In other words; low level system design, integration and debug.

The first step has begun, identifying skill sets and resources. I'm sure that with the pool of resources that lurk at RC that this project will be a success.


03/06/2002, 10:42 PM
that we start a new thread and a poll dedicated to the features that people would like to see in the controller to help organize things.


03/06/2002, 11:05 PM
EE with 20 years hardware design experience. I can handle the circuit design, schematic capture, possibly lay out a pcb but I don't own a tool for that. 10 years programmable logic design, CPLDs, FPGAs, ASICs, etc. I have embedded processor and DSP design experience, Motorola, Intel, etc. I can handle power supply design,... Hey, beginning to sound like my resume here! :smokin: I'm very interested and would like to be considered to head up the hardware design end. I have plenty of SW in my background as well :D . Let me know if I can help.

03/07/2002, 08:05 AM
I'd like to throw my hat into this ring if I may. I really don't have computer skills to add to the project, but I'm a DIY kinda guy and I would love to have an oportunity to be a part of this.

Red Leader
03/07/2002, 11:52 PM
Ok, I don't have an impressive resume as some other people but I'll have a BS Electronics Engineering degree by June 2002. So anything along the lines of my major (PIC programming, assembly language, digital circuit design, etc.) I'll be willing to do. So count me in.

03/08/2002, 11:58 AM
I, too, would love to help out. I have an EE from Texas A & M, but it has been many years since I have made a circuit board. I still remember how though. I know the hardware end as well. I build computers for friends and family. Mostly, I work on cars ( the sensors and computer systems) now. I am so much into DIY that I built my own tank. And I am greatly interested in Aquarium Controlers.


03/08/2002, 05:06 PM
I would also love to contribute to this project. I am a software engineer... so I would be very comfortable helping out on that end. Possibly, I could help design the GUI interface for this project.

03/11/2002, 06:12 PM
has anyone seen this guys site?


Looks like some awsum software

Dave Polzin

03/11/2002, 06:29 PM
I'm an X-10 but this does cause problems in some other locations. Creative individuals that think outside the box are always wonders to me and a lot of others. Good show richwill, you have a standard to match or beat.

Gary S
03/11/2002, 09:37 PM
So many EE's and SE's and not even one ME? I would like to help out from the mechanical side. I have been involved in a multitude of automation projects over the years and have a CAD system I can use to design mechanical components and housings, etc. Let me know how I can help.

03/18/2002, 07:57 AM
Please count me in. My background is Electromechanical mostly. I have worked in design, manufacturing and Testing of all sorts of equipment from Apache helicopters to Particle Accelerators. I prefer mostly to work at a systems level, I am also a DIY kinda guy for my reef stuff, I just finished plumbing up all of the equipment for my new reef this weekend. I think that Reef ayuh and I would make a good team in testing and packaging the system. See if it really is something that can be built and used effectively and safely by other Reef people out there. Let me know what and when, I'm in.


03/19/2002, 02:44 AM
I truly have no appreciable skills in this area, but would like to take part. Please let me know what I may be able to contribute to this venture (if you need doors or windows built, or a race car prepped, then I can be a valuable asset!).

[email protected]

06/09/2002, 10:37 PM
I too would love to get involved in this project. I'm a Sr level Database Engineer with VB, ASP, SQL Server, Oracle, HTML experience. I have been looking at the stuff on this type of thing and have been toying with writing something like this for the past 6 months or so.

Let me know how I can help!

01/09/2003, 10:56 PM
I would be interested in helping out with this project. I am a "DIY'er. Wouldn't have it any other way. I have some breadboarding, Autocad, manual milling and limited Cnc milling skills. Let me know what I can do to help. I would do most anything to help out the team.

[email protected]

golf nut
01/09/2003, 11:18 PM
This sounds like a wonderful project. if I can help I will.

I am an outside the box sort of guy, if you look at my other posts you will see what I mean, I design and build, I wouldn't know a resistor from my sister , or a motherboard from an ironing board.
But if you need some mechanical stuff then please do not be afraid to ask



01/12/2003, 10:59 AM
What we really need is for someone to organize the project!

I tried leading it, but it basically fell apart. The other members who also agreed to lead it also appear to be silent.

Is anyone willing to reorganize the group and keep it alive?

01/14/2003, 09:07 PM
I think this project "fizzeled" out because of the "coorporate" attitude that seemed to exist. Many people were willing to help that were left out of the project. I am sure there are alot of people that still want to get into this project so if those issues could be resolved you may see the project take off a little more.


01/15/2003, 03:18 PM
What's that? Do I hear you volunteering to lead it?

Go for it!

01/15/2003, 08:59 PM
Relax 'gator... ;) Not an attack on you personally... No, I am not volunteering to lead, it is not a position I wanted then, or now. I believe that should be left up to someone with more experience in these areas than myself. Just makeing some observations that others had as well.

The project isn't for making money, nor is it for fame. The idea of the project (at least from my perspective) was to make something that all of our fellow reefers could enjoy (and that includes the project itself). I believe that this could be done, even with the same people.


01/16/2003, 09:22 AM
I never took it as an attack, I'm just trying to convince someone to step in and pick up the project to keep it going.

I'm serious that I want this to keep going, but I can't find anyone with the time to make it happen.

02/08/2003, 01:41 AM
Hey I aint a programmer but I do dable in design

I can offer you webspace about 150Mbs and about 10Gig worth of transfer

I can set up a forum and possible a few other things for everyone who works on the project to talk together.

I can even give you a sub-domain name.

Email me if you want ([email protected])

02/10/2004, 10:59 AM
this sounds like a great idea.... anyone wanna fire this back up???

i have the skills... see occupation:D

i am new to saltwater aquariums, but can get the electronics done... any interest, I will lead!

02/17/2004, 07:45 PM
I would love to see something like this happen. It seems the problem with this plan was time and organization.
I do not have the tech skills needed for this project, but I would be willing to attempt to coordinate the traffic flow, making sure the right people were working within their specific skillset, be it mech. or elec. engineering, software, idea generation and refinment, whatever.
We are looking at an old old thread here, but I think it can be done.
This is not a time thing, we can take as long as needed. I think once started it will pick up steam.
What do you say folks. Want to bring this back to life?

02/20/2004, 11:11 PM

anyone else:D :D

02/21/2004, 03:55 AM
my offer is still open if you need it

02/21/2004, 08:07 AM
Check out this guy's site: http://www.compudoc97.com/SaltwaterNewbie.shtml

He is building a Aquarium Controller and now has the PCB done.


02/21/2004, 09:11 AM
Originally posted by ri
Check out this guy's site: http://www.compudoc97.com/SaltwaterNewbie.shtml

He is building a Aquarium Controller and now has the PCB done.


its lookin good... i will read up a little more on what he has done

02/21/2004, 01:27 PM
i briefly looked this over, and it looks real good.... he is also offering kits... no reason to re-invent the wheel

03/03/2004, 08:34 PM
I haven't been following the thread (will subscribe ;). While pricey, this PC on a board caught my attention!

http://www.advantech.com/estore/products/[email protected]

03/18/2004, 05:54 AM
I dabble with computers and programming , I am new to reefs 6months aprox. I have been having a blast with diy. I will help where I can.


03/20/2004, 10:26 AM
I dont have any expertise but can help greatly! Just call me up and Ill do what needs to be done!

A Reef Scene
06/28/2004, 05:26 PM
Is there a way to use rc crystals (sp?) in place of the x 10? They are stronger and can't mess up a wireless network.

07/15/2004, 04:30 PM
I represent a manufacturer of controllers and software to the Foodservice Industry. I'm not sure how easy this would be, but I know they have the hardware, and software to pull data from the hardware for alerts and logging. Most probes used in the FS industry are for temp, humidity. But they have been able to come up with some inventive answers for me on other parameters our customers have been asking for. i.e., amp draw, refrigerant pressures,

Their software is written in Java, though the server portion runs on Winblows.

Just throwing my hat in the ring if anyone is interested.

07/18/2004, 12:34 PM
Labview by national instruments (www.ni.com) might provide a better software interface than any tcp/ip programming, since its whole software is web enabled.

Thus you can still use rs232 interface to the controller and then, the software runs a server which you just www. into using your pc's IP and you can control your reef from anywhere in the world.

It can also email you, text message you etc...

I work with labview daily, hell labview make an appropriate interface card for the pc directly, eliminating the rs232 and controller entirely, just digital and anlogue inputs directly, the only shame is the cost, talking $400 for a card and interface box.


07/18/2004, 03:23 PM



10/10/2005, 06:14 PM
Well off to a good start but what happened guys sorry to resurrect a thread but did it stop where are the plans and how do I sign up :D

10/17/2005, 05:20 PM
Not to step on toes but I have almost all the hardware finished and 99 percent of the code done. I am looking for people interested in working on this.

Here is the link


Scuba Dan
05/29/2006, 08:24 PM
How are things going on this DIY project? I don't know anything about automation and such, but do work for a Electrical Supply Co. here in Florida and we also have a Data Communication branch. If I were to get a list of what items are needed, I can get a price and get parts at near cost. LMK if I can help...

06/03/2006, 04:54 AM
It would be good to get some fire burning under this one again. Unfortunately, building this is just a wee bit beyond my capabilities.

Avast Marine
06/13/2006, 12:59 AM
This (http://makezine.com/controller/) might make the hardware alot easier. Then we just need one of the many programmers here on RC to script away, and we can start working on external devices and plug ins.

06/15/2006, 06:13 PM
Hi Everyone,

I am new to this forum and am very interested in Advanced Tank Automation Systems. I just posted on this topic. What I would like to do is create a set of interfaces to several hardware platforms (3rd party or custom) that would expose control to these hardware devices though a COM or .NET interface. With this exposure we could create an absolutely amazing web UI with .NET 2 and Atlas.

06/15/2006, 06:26 PM
Would there be a better way for us to collaberate on this project? Does anyone have sharepoint hosting?

10/17/2007, 09:17 PM
Hey Im kind of new here and just stumbled onto this thread. I have a rich background in prototyping, debugging, and troubleshooting. I also have done some electronic design, and some automation. I used to work with amateur robotics as a hobby as well. I have some programming experience, and have pretty decent fabrication skills. Can I help or be of any assistance?

07/17/2008, 03:13 AM
to revitalize the thread, I've been working on a Pic based controller that will take into account multiple sensors/probes and will controll various outputs (120V via relays). The basic theory of operation is written, the controller is block diagrammed and I'm working with the EE portion as time allows.
Current "bells and whistles" will include a 128X64 backlit display, PC interface, integrated webserver with plans for wireless via 802.11 or Bluetooth. The design is still at least a year out of prototype.

07/19/2008, 12:06 PM
The problem is that each of us has different ideas about how the ideal controller would function and be built. These "group" projects never really take off. They take too long to develop and too much effort to keep on track. There is very little interest and even less overall skill.

Look at sourceforge or some of the other SOFTWARE prototype sites. There is magnitudes more interest and exponentially more skilled poeple that are able to contribute and MOST of them end up with little or no development past the initial "hey cool idea" phase.

In the end, most of us do our own thing and post our progress from time to time. Folks start asking questions that are time consuming to answer, so the natural thing to do is to NOT post the details anymore.

Good luck with the project! My atmega128 based touchscreen project is collecting dust in the corner... one day I will take it up again.

07/20/2008, 10:25 AM
I think most people think hey lets do a group project and it will be cheaper. You will spend double building your own then buying a top of the line controller. If you are looking at this to save money dont bother.

07/20/2008, 05:36 PM
Check this one out:


It is just getting going, but if it attracts enough attention, could really take off.


07/20/2008, 08:31 PM
Some of us just cant stand linux...



07/20/2008, 08:59 PM
I love the whole open source thing. When I built mine, I opened sourced the firmware and PC code. I got many many requests for the code which I honored, then zero feedback or input for that matter.

07/20/2008, 10:23 PM
Why waste time on a DIY controller? Would it not be best to use off the self componets? Industrial type electronics. And spend the time and effort into a HMI program that could be shared and used buy everyone?

07/20/2008, 10:39 PM
<a href=showthread.php?s=&postid=12988633#post12988633 target=_blank>Originally posted</a> by dixonjk
Why waste time on a DIY controller? Would it not be best to use off the self componets? Industrial type electronics. And spend the time and effort into a HMI program that could be shared and used buy everyone?

Because everyone has a different idea of what a controller should be and everyone has a differnet reason for DIYing something like this.

Some folks like to play with industrial automation stuff like PLCs. Other people like the challenge of working mostly with familiar code platforms, be it assembly, C, .NET, VB or whatever. Yet other people like the challenge of doing actual board level hardware design.

Look at sourceforge, it is built in the idea of "shared and used by everyone". 99% of the projects are DOA for the reasons I listed above, and that is a "hobby" with a HUGE demographic. Programmers are a dime a dozen. Narrow that down to reefers who know programming or electronics and you get a scant few people who all have different ideas and goals.

One person ends up doing most of the work and answering most of the questions. It just gets to be too much for a "free" design. Take it a step further and trying to "sell" your product is almost pointless. How many reef controllers can a guy sell before the market is saturated? It is a very small niche market with a fairly large set of players already.

07/20/2008, 10:56 PM
Good point (as always) Bean. I would think that board level DIY is busy work and reinventing the wheel. But I guess some people like that. I feel that off the shelf componets are way more advanced that most people can build. I have years worth of ebay toys to make work before I learn to construct my own! But I do think that the software is the key to an automated system.

07/20/2008, 11:21 PM
My first attempt at "controller" was using software. I wrote a HUGE application in VB (and later ported it to VB.NET). I/O was via a 128bit PCI card (NUDAQ) and a few DIY ADC boards. I never put the project into a production system. It did everything from sunrise and sunset to DTMF decoding for phone based reporting when I was out of town. It did SMS messaging, email, text to voice and was designed to do PH, ORP, Salinity, assorted temperature and water level reporting for different sub systems... alarms etc. Thousands of lines of code.... too complex to trust and too much work to really finish.

I then started playing around with PHIDGETS usb sensors and devices (well not really I never purchased any, but wrote a ton of code to use them with a similar setup as the NUDAQ based system. I lost interest fairly quickly.

I am now kind of hooked on ATMEGAs. I am building a touchscreen lighting controller that does sunrise/sunset and moon phases based on any location (and time, or realtime) on the planet. I get to play with BASIC code and do hardware design. I will finish the project, even though it will cost me a small fortune when by the time it is done. I have opted NOT to CONTROL anyting but the lighting. Everything else is just data monitoring. I am about 1/2 done with the hardware design and testing (on a breadboard now) and will soon have THE PC boards made.

Why go through the trouble? Simple becuse I enjoy working with DIY electronics. In this case I will end up with something that I can not buy. A PLC could be leveraged to do the work, but at a great cost and without the small features I wish to implement to make it "personal".

I too have a shelf full of eBay toys.... anybody need a huge Ghast vacuum pump (www.joewoodworker.com).... One day I will move forward with the CNC router setup as well... more porjects than there is time in life.

07/21/2008, 02:41 AM
well, let me spell out why I'm doing it. I'm doing it because I'm an EE and electronic's hobbyist and a reefer. It's the perfect marriage of 2 hobbies that when I finish I can say "Yea, I built everything associated with the tank except the pumps and the tanks." The merits and rewards of my efforts will be a system that I can show pictures to people and show off my handywork. If others get inventive seeing what I've done, Awesome, if not it keeps me busy. I dont want to be the know it all expert on SPS', LPS', softies, inverts or even curing live rock. I do however want a simpler more cost effective means of controlling my tanks that the average hobbyist can afford. $500 for a controller doesn't fit that criteria. One you can buy the parts for piece by piece however; is.

07/21/2008, 07:29 PM
Anyone ever used the software they sell on Automatedaquairiums?