This time, we are talking to somebody from real far away, all the way from Australia.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Well, my name is Brett Pound and I live in Sydney, Australia. Im married, and have a mortgage and two furry kids – Australian Shepherds http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miniature_Australian_Shepherd J
My dad was an electrician and so from an early stage I was around electronics, I saw being built and built by myself, a number of kits from Tricky Dicky (a.k.a. Dick Smith Electronics) and occasionally Electronics Australia / Silicon Chip magazines – so Ive always had an interest in electronics. In fact, one of the best things I ever got for a birthday was one of those 40-in-1 (or some-number-in-1) electronics kit that allowed you to build a number of projects, it had a number of key components like capacitors and resistors, a 9v battery, an LDR, and even a real filament bulb – no fancy LEDs in those days – along with a handful of wire jumpers that could be locked down under springs that gave an endless array of circuit combinations to try. In my teens, computers became common place (not like today though! I mean more that they were no longer just in the datacentres of universities, and became personal) and took my focus. This was especially the case when I was lucky enough (BIG thanks to mum and dad for the sacrifices they made to make that happen!!) to be able to get a Commodore-64 for my own use – and my Uni education was centred in Computer Science as well.
In the past 10 years or so, the surge in availability of microcontrollers and rapidly dropping price points for development boards gave me an opportunity to bring both my computing and electronics interests together – which means Im dabbling a little more in the electronics side, even though Ive not had any real formal exposure or training there.
What are your hobbies?
Coffee. I guess that hobby has evolved into a passion, almost an obsession, to the point where I roast my own coffee beans – and I have a 5kg shop roaster that I snapped up as a bargain on ebay a few years ago, although I dont currently have room for it here so I dont get to use it as often as I roast beans. Living on the south side of Sydney and on the doors of the Royal National Park, Ive been a mountain biker (http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/NationalParks/parkCycling.aspx?id=N0030) although Ive been dormant for a number of years – the number of years correlates pretty closely to home ownership and then the dogs arriving on the scenes. Theres been an even longer hiatus for my gliding hobby (I still part-own one of these http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ICA_IS-29) and have flown a few 300km cross-country soaring flights. Im into organic vegetable gardening but only have a small area that I can grow things at home, but I do enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of my labour! I dabble in photography, although these days I dont tend to take the camera out for photographys sake (when you carry a good camera in your pocket that also contains a phone and a PC, why would you?). Then of course theres the geeky stuff, electronics and computers. Theres probably more but thats enough for now J
What is your profession?
Ive mentioned this before, and its in my profile, but I wanted to make sure I pointed this out… I work at Microsoft, but in a field unrelated to anything NetMF – I have however met Colin and some of the others who work in the NetMF space. My role is as a Technical Account Manager supporting large enterprises.
My work experiences have been mainly in the support side of computing – when I started working, I was informally supporting individual PCs, later becoming part of a PC support group, then progressing through the ranks to supporting email systems and large-scale server infrastructure management (before outsourced management became big). Besides some (now ageing) Microsoft technology certifications, I also have project management and ITIL/operations framework experience and certifications. One thing that always somewhat surprises me in hindsight, is that I have not spent much time, either at work our outside, involved in formal programming situations – thats not what I expected when I was back at school programming Apple IIs ! Anyway, my support background is probably why I tend to be more helpful on the forum rather than having questions of my own or projects to share.
How did you get started with hardware?
I learnt a little about a lot of basic concepts through building kits as a kid – well truthfully, I guess it was more in diagnosing what went wrong when I put things in backwards or had bad solder joints or similar! I did get a little more exposure in Uni when I managed to do a one semester digital electronics subject, but things didnt really take off until I bought my first microcontroller. I decided on an ATMEGA32 based dev board that a work friend know enough about to get me kick started, but I really didnt get into it – something as simple as figuring out how to set registers to get specific baud rates on serial ports was a struggle, so it meant I spent more time than planned on trying to figure out if your wiring was bung or if your code was a dud; This meant that anything more complex than this just seemed a little insurmountable. From there, most of my hardware work has been because I have Scottish heritage – Im cheap! I always think (maybe not always accurately J ) that I can do something on the cheap by using the raw components and mashing something together myself. That has taught me much, usually that Im wrong and I should just buy the off-the-shelf product and be done with it J But in all seriousness, doing things yourself can really show you a lot more under the covers of how things actually work
What was your first GHI product?
I stumbled onto the Fez line of products in late 2009/early 2010, as I was grappling with whether I should move from pure Atmel ATMEGA32 programming in C to the more abstracted arduino that was just starting to get a little bit of a groundswell – and I decided that an even higher step up the food chain was worth trying out. I then organised delivery of my Fez Domino starter kit when I was in the US for a training conference, in March 2010. Since then I could guess youd say I have been hooked… And the menagerie of GHI products has grown to include many (many many) different variants – and I still expect it to grow more for tinkering as the GHI product line expands J
Have you designed hardware yourself?
I guess you could say that – although as I mentioned, most of the projects I consider mine are more a mashing of multiple existing works together to form a specific set of functions for my use. I dont have a strong knowledge base to draw on so I havent really innovated in ways that nobody has gone before, but I tend to build things that are suited to my needs – and probably nobody elses. One of my favourite projects is my Fez Panda daughterboard, that I etched at home – and then drilled the hundreds of thru-hole points! It has an SD card holder, an on-board DS18B20 one-wire temperature sensor, an 24LC256 for storing a small amount of data, a Wiznet Wiz812MJ module for Ethernet capability, an extension board that has a full RS232 DB9 for serial comms, and a number of IO pins broken out for tamper/door open sensors – this will one day replace a PC that is logging data from my grid-tied solar panels/inverter setup. I have a list of projects that are much like this, including a Fez Domino Mega (I have a few USBizi144s I want to make use of) that will probably never see the light of day as they have such limited appeal to anyone but me.
Any words, advice or comments for the community?
Theres such a diverse range of people in the community these days ! It really has become a great place where people of any experience level can get the help they need. For those just starting out, jump on in ! For those with more experience, keep helping others learn, and keep building your own knowledge.
Where can we find you on the web?
Usually I can be found at Tinyclr.com, oh I mean GHIelectronics.com/community… J Besides that, I occasionally blog at brettpound.com, I occasionally tweet as @ brettpound, and I occasionally read and respond to email (see my profile to piece together my address…) But mainly you can find me regularly trying to help out here at the forum!