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Home Automation Part 3 – We Have a Temp Reading

I’m still debating my options for what to use for a “central brain” for my home… but I decided to start proceeding down the other route while I wait. Two steps of progress have been made today…

First: My 1-wire tempature sensors arrived (DS18B20). I took them, and jury rigged one of them into a RJ-45 (CAT5) jack. I then took that and ran it into my LinkUSBi and plugged it into my home computer.

Much to my surprise, it worked on my first try. Using the OneWireViewer java app (available online), I was able to see the temperature of my office (a tad warm at the moment, 83.5F to be exact). I was also able to watch the temp drop rather quickly when applied to the outside of my ice-water glass:

I’m hoping that tomorrow maybe I can find some time to take a quick trip to home depot and get everything I need to wire it up into some RJ-11 connectors so that I can test all 3 temp sensors in 3 different rooms.

In other news, I ordered a thermostat today. I decided on a Homewerks CT-80 from Amazon. This thermostat is insanely computer controllable with a very well documented and solid and API. Can’t wait til it arrives so hopefully we can start logging some basic temp data from it as well.

My new goal: 4 temperature read outs by Sunday…. Guess I better decide on a computer to use.


Home Automation Part 2 – Brain Freeze

The first part for my 1-wire tempature rig arrived on Saturday, and I began the process of getting it setup with the CherryPal I planned on using. Sadly, this particular install of Ubuntu doesn’t seem to have USB-Serial support compiled in… which basically translates to me not being able to make this work using the Cherrypal as I can’t find a *safe* way to upgrade/rebuild the OS on this device (no boot menu/media).

That said, I’m now considering my options for what to replace it with…

Option A) A ~$35.00 ARM processor based Raspberry Pi – I’ve been looking at these for a long time to play around with. They run a version of Debian that should do just fine. The biggest selling point for this little guy is that it comes in at a whopping 3W’s of power consumption. Lower power consumption is a good thing for an always-on project like this. The biggest downside is that it doesn’t have wifi built in.

Option B) A CompuLab fit-PC2 – These little devices pull a little bit more power (6 to 8W)… but they are full fledged Intel machines. They do have wifi built in, and because it’s a x86 chipset, I can run pretty much anything I want on it (Windows, Ubuntu, etc.).  The biggest downside is cost… coming in at $400. It also has infrared, which I find interesting. I don’t believe this little guy includes an HDD though (I probably have a spare laying around).

There’s a chance I’l find an old laptop to use… They generally are pretty good about power consumption, plus they would have a screen for when I need it.

I’m going to wait a bit before I decide which one to order… But open to suggestions… For some reason I have a feeling I’m going to want the power.


Home Automation – Part 1 – The Brain

So let us begin this crazy series of projects that I laid out in my previous post… Today’s topic, the Home Automation brain.

I started by listing out my requirements for this particular project… They were:

  • Ideally very low power, but at a minimum able to run 24/7 for extended periods of time.
  • Running Linux, or something I can talk to directly (SSH). I wanted it to be able to run Apache, Php, and at least connect to a MySQL database (if not run one).
  • Network support – Ideally both wired and wifi.

My first glances online for something that fit the bill lead me in the direction of the Raspberry Pi. I still may head that way, after all it’s a $25/$35 dollar devices to run my network from, not to mention it could possibly serve as a home theatre front end for me as well.

However, I ended up going another direction. Back in 2008 I made the mistake of buying a CherryPal. It did eventually arrive, but it was a pretty poorly built device. That said, it was running Ubuntu, and it was relatively low power (2W to 6W). I had put it in storage shortly after getting it, as I had no real use for it as it was originally intended (not to mention that the video card seemed to crap out after about an hour of use).

I decided last weekended to pull the thing out of storage and see if I couldn’t get my favorite tools set up and running on it to meet my requirements above. The machine is a ~200mghz freescale PPC processor… Translated: it’s basically the power of last years mobile phones, with a language set that isn’t *that* widely supported anymore.  Add to it that this particular processor seems to have some issues with certain types of threading (from what I’ve read and experienced), and you’ve got yourself a bit of a compiling challenge.

At first, I simply tried to install Apache and PHP the classic way… simply using “apt-get install”… After much coaxing I did get apt to install the two apps, but they kept seg-faulting before even a page request was made. I tried to tweak the settings and install, but to no avail.

So I went a little old school and compiled Apache and Php manually… Which of course first getting all the proper dev tools installed (and in some cases, compiled as well). After what was about 10, 2 hour build attempts, I finally got a setup that was fully functional Apache2, Php5.4, and a Mysql client to boot (I decided to skip the server for now in favor of using a remote Mysql server).

That said, this little 6W device will hopefully be the home server that eventually monitors everything, and keeps them all moving in the right direction… We shall see.

Parts have been ordered for the first monitoring project (3 temperature sensors), but more on that once they arrive and I get them behaving…

So in summary: Lower power LAMP server in place and ready for home automation monitoring and automation.


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Home Automation – The Beginning

I haven’t been using my blog as a personal site for some time now… In fact, I haven’t been using it at all for much of anything.

That said, now that I’m in a new home, I’m hoping to start working on regular home improvements. Most of which will most likely fall into the category of “Home Automation.”

I’ve already got a list going of things I would like to do, such as:

  • Add monitoring to everything, such as:
    • Temp in every room, outside as well
    • Light Switch status (on/off)
    • Furnace/AC status (on/off)
    • Motion Sensors (last seen)
    • Outlet status (on/off)
    • Maybe at some point, some other cool sensors such as light sensors, or CO2 sensors (more O2 anyone?)
  • Add more detailed controls to the programmable thermostat
  • Add automated light on/light off systems to power on and off lights
  • Add Solar panels with micro inverters to the roof
  • Add motorized blinds.
  • Add a HRV/ERV to my home.
  • Add a Roomba
  • Add a Automatic Lawn Mower…

And realize this is just the start of my list…

My first goal is to get the monitoring in place. I’m focusing on tempature as the first goal, as I hope to balance out the temp in my house better than it is now. This project is already turning into something cool, and I hope to document where things go as time goes on. We’ll see if it happens (if I can actually remember to blog as I go).

For the moment though, we’re still unpacking and working on setting up renters and the like for the old place. So it may be a few weeks yet before I get to ordering the first parts to this new system of mine :-).


A New Hope (Typo: Home) Day 1

A short while ago, in a city not to far from Woodbury, Amber and Justin signed a lot of papers to buy their second home.

Unlike their last home, this home isn’t a town home. It’s a single family home. 5 Bed, 4 Bath in wonderful Woodbury, MN.

On day one, the priority for me was to get my office wired and running. Without Comcast fully installed at the new place, and with Comcast fully disconnected at the old, I had no good source of internet other than to head to the local coffee shop, and they never seem to like it when I bring my full office there. [click to continue…]

The CHILD1.0 Project Seen Pictured Above

2/14/2013 WOODBURY, MN – For the last few months Justin Gehring, President of JR Computer Associates, along with his wife Amber, have been working on a major project behind the scenes. This complex project is likely to bring enjoyment to people all around.

The project, known as CHILD2.0, has already been seen featuring hands and feet, a technological miracle by most standards. And while most people are skeptical of the exact release date being announced, JR has stated it expects a timely completion date sometime around August 28th.

Many people are wondering if CHILD2.0 can really live up to the hype and attention that CHILD1.0, aka project “Lincoln Xavier” brought to the marketplace, but JR Computer Associates says it’s up to the challenge.

President Justin Gehring stated “We believe CHILD2.0 will complement, rather than replace, CHILD1.0 perfectly. The two when combined should form a complex system, able to achieve things neither CHILD project could accomplish alone.”

The world looks forward in anticipation of this big release date.