Question for arduino posibilities

Hello all, I am an experienced developer with C++ and other languages. Moreover, while I was in the university I had done small HW projects with VHDL.. Now I would like to start making a small project just for my house, and for fun. To be more specific, I would like to make a controll system, that will use a remote control, 3-4 sensors, and 3-4 switches that will enable and disable some motors. I need the control system of this device to stand up indepedenly (without the need to be connected to a pc). Could you please provide advice on which arduino chip to use? And whatelse I need to buy? I just need some hints about this from someone experienced.. Just the hints for the procedure (for example: "you need to buy arduino uno, then download the arduino code, buy the sensors you need, the switches and the remote control, write the code for the algorithm, etc). If there is anyone who is experienced and would like to help (even with per hour payment) dont hesitate to ask me...

Kerville7: for example: "you need to buy arduino uno, then download the arduino code, buy the sensors you need, the switches and the remote control, write the code for the algorithm, etc

Spot on. You could use the Leonardo instead of the Uno if you like it costs less and has a few more I/O pins. You only need a Mega if you need more pins than the Uno or Leonardo has, and it sounds to me that your project doesn't need that many pins (and in any case, there are ways of multiplexing and expanding i/o pins). When you've bought your Arduino, try out the blink-without-delay sketch and then generalise it to blink two LEDs at different rates, e.g. three and five times a second. Then you will have the basics of writing code to do several things at once.

Kerville7: If there is anyone who is experienced and would like to help (even with per hour payment) dont hesitate to ask me...

Send me a PM if you are interested in the per-hour route. However, I suspect that with your existing knowledge of C++, you can get the advice you need for nothing on this forum.

btw programming an embedded processor such as Arduino with limited RAM is very different from writing C++ programs for a PC. The main difference is that you should avoid using dynamic memory allocation. See Escher Technologies Articles on Formal Verification> for why. So no use of ‘new’ , ‘delete’, ‘malloc’, ‘free’ etc. (you can use ‘new’ and ‘malloc’ in the startup phase only if you like), and most of the STL is not available or out of bounds. And no strings (ignore the String class in the Arduino library), use arrays of char instead.

There is a whole sub-forum here on home automation, that likely has people already doing things you want to do. http://arduino.cc/forum/index.php/board,16.0.html

If you are wanting to do 3-4 sensors and 3-4 switches, and remote communication, an Uno would probably suffice (14 digital pins of which 6 can be PWM, 6 analog input pins), though if you wanted to get more sensors, I would suggest going to the Mega 2560 instead, since it has more pins (54 digital pins of which 15 can be PWM, 16 analog input pins).

Another school of thought is rather than one big board, having multiple smaller boards, each with a more limited set of tasks. It depends of what you want to do, which is better in the long run.

You might want think about what remote control system you want (infrared like a TV remote, bluetooth, ethernet, wifi) as that can influence what you buy.

I would suggest scanning either http://www.adafruit.com and/or http://www.sparkfun.com to see what kinds of sensors are available,

I would imagine most of us start out with a processor and one of the bags of kit pieces that provide things like a set of LEDs, some basic sensors, a breadboard, some wires, resistors, etc. I got one from a vendor that just put every thing into a single bag with no labels, but there are places that provide better labeling for the parts. In terms of learning, I bought the book from Make.com that Radio Shack sells, and after the first day or two, never looked at it again. Instead I use the learning section of this site. Arduino has a starter kit that seems to be in short supply, but gets good press, because they have a book that covers each of the parts in the kit. However, it is a little pricey IMHO.

You might not need it immediately, but one thing you will eventually need is a soldering iron to attach (and remove) components from your setup. Also, many of the sensors/shields you get don't come fully assembled, and it is expected you would solder the pins into the boards.

One thing that I've migrated to is using prototype shields on my Uno, particularly for smaller projects. I can do the setup on the shield, and then take it off to move the processor to something else, and all of the components are still in place. Particularly as you grow a project, it is useful to have a working version, and then the setup for the next iteration, so that you can fall back to the working version if you need to. Then when the next sensor/switch is incorporated, I switch shields, and what used to be the experimenter shield becomes the working version, and the other shield becomes the experimenter shield. Otherwise you will be continually rearranging things. Here are the protoshield that I'm currently using, and the one I just bought but I haven't gotten yet, in case you don't know what I'm talking about:

One of the key things is to think of it as an iterative process. While you have an ultimate goal in mind, take it one step at a time, adding a sensor here, setting a switch there, rather than trying to do a big bang system. In terms of development, think Agile instead of Waterfall (though I find a pure Agile system has its own negatives as well).

Look for makerspaces in your area that have other people also interested in micro-electronics.

MichaelMeissner: One thing that I've migrated to is using prototype shields on my Uno, particularly for smaller projects. I can do the setup on the shield, and then take it off to move the processor to something else, and all of the components are still in place. Particularly as you grow a project, it is useful to have a working version, and then the setup for the next iteration, so that you can fall back to the working version if you need to. Then when the next sensor/switch is incorporated, I switch shields, and what used to be the experimenter shield becomes the working version, and the other shield becomes the experimenter shield. Otherwise you will be continually rearranging things.

This is very sound advice, especially for us newbies. I much prefer to do my soldering and experimentation on a $4 proto shield or other cheap PCB than the $20 Uno or (for example) the $45+ ethernet shield. Of course I do everything on a breadboard first, but sometimes you have to make changes after you've already started soldering things on... better to have it on a cheap board, if possible :)

You can get an arduino mega and ethernet shield from ebay for ~$30 shipped, so that might be a good starting point.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/1-Funduino-Mega-2560-ATmega2560-16AU-Board-Arduino-compatible-Free-USB-Cable-/251143019741?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3a794a5cdd

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Ethernet-Shield-W5100-For-Arduino-2009-UNO-Mega-1280-2560-/270955738702?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3f1638764e

http://www.ebay.com/itm/ATmega2560-16AU-Board-Ethernet-Shield-W5100-Arduino-2560-A067-hot-sale-/251162536643?pt=US_Radio_Comm_Antennas&hash=item3a7a742ac3

Thanks a lot for the advices! I will review all of them and start reading. I'll be in touch..

Just to point out that those boards are clones and so do not make any contribution to the official arduino project.
I am a believer in supporting the arduino project but I know others just want to pay the minimum price.

Grumpy_Mike: Just to point out that those boards are clones and so do not make any contribution to the official arduino project. I am a believer in supporting the arduino project but I know others just want to pay the minimum price.

Lower prices can mean more arduino owners and more popularity with the arduino. Sometimes the pump has to be primed. Apple got its big start by getting its computers into schools instead of targeting business useage.