3D Printing, at last.

For years I’ve been trying to find a 3d printer that works reliably and has good support. Started off with a Makerbot kit, which worked well, for awhile. Then Makerbot went crazy with the pricing and went private, so I lost heart in the company.

From there we switched to Solidoodle 3, Supported Solidoodle Press though a kickstarter, took almost two years to receive and NEVER got a good print out of the unit. The unit looked great though. Back and forth with tech support to the point that they wanted me to send back unit for repair. Which I never did, thank goodness. They were out of business weeks later.

A few weeks ago I received notice from Robo, that they were discounting remaining R1+ units, I jumped at it. So far the unit has printed everything I’ve requested, even prints that took 8 hours. A total first.

The units LEDs stopped working, so I contacted Robo, after a few trouble shooting emails, I have new Lights and a have received answers to all my issues quickly and without a lot of template replies. Fantastic printer at low cost.

FlightAware – PiAware

FlightAware was easy to setup and great fun to use. Can track flights flying over your head leaving contrails spoiling your beautiful blue sky. Get the story about a plane and its current flight. Sharing your data with FlightAware gives you free access to their Enterprise plan, well worth it.

Basically you setup a Raspberry Pi, with a ADS receiver which monitors the airwaves for ADS data from flights within range. The area I live in is rather hilly, so at first I wasn’t happy with the units range so I added an external antenna which dramatically increased my systems range. All and all the system cost about $150. You leave it running, then can remotely monitor you PiAware unit over your network through a browser. Plus you can access your data directly from FlightAware’s site, well your data anyway.

Was able to monitor flights in real time.

You can overlay current weather. You can also spend more for better antennas and higher antenna mounting, which would improve you stations reception.

All and all, great fun, nice use of a Raspberry Pi.

 

IP Power 9258

Have a need, fill a need.

After losing contact with one of our remote servers, we decided we needed a way to do a hard reboot. We call it ‘cycle the power’. Turn the power off, wait 30 seconds and then power the unit back on. We have had great luck with servers running months even years without issue. Unless they are overloaded or overheated.

Checking eBay for over the counter power controllers, we found the IP Power 9258. Got our first one for less than $70, but most cost between $80 to $120. After looking at programming options and being a MAC Shop we figured it was doable. In less the a week we completed IPPOWER.app. Very small, very simple controller for the IP Power.

First you’ll need the IP Power’s IP number. Using an old PC we first configured ours DHCP, using the included IPEdit. (Read their instructions, which aren’t very well translated to english). We then used LanScan to find the device by its Mac Address.

After you have the IP Power’s IP number, just startup IPPower app, it will ask for the IP Number, administration name and password. The defaults are admin, 12345678.

You can now control the IP Power using keys 1 – 4, clicking on button 1 – 4 or sending “/Applications/IPPower.app/Contents/MacOS/IPPower 4” (4 being the outlet to cycle the power on).

We have also setup iChat to support cycling the power. See the attached AppleScript. Configure iChat to execute the script on message received. The script will look for “outlet1” – “outlet4” as a message. And cycle the power with prompting.

For Apple Mac: ippowerminicontroller

Keyboard Tester

Nice perk of my current job is that we are allowed to spend time creating time saving programs. Within reason!

After getting an unusual number of reports of broken keyboards we decided we needed a quick easy way to test keyboards. Using mostly Apple iMacs, that is what we wrote the program for. BUT it works pretty good on windows as well (numerical keypad has issues though, but useable).

Spent less than a day creating the DIY Keyboard Tester using LiveCode.

Keyboard Tester Mac: diykeyboardtestermac

Keyboard Tester Windows: diykeyboardtesterwin-exe

 

WeMos D1 Mini

Being that they were ordered from China, I ordered a few items from WeMos. OLED Display Shield, Temperature Sensor, Relay and Button shields. All were cheap and using Arduino fairly easy to program just took awhile to get to USA (say a month to the day) [Not complaining, just stating, pay a little more get from USA seller MUCH faster].

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We were able to create a web server, that reads and displays Temperature (T), control a relay over the web (R) and have it display its IP number (within our subnet). HOWEVER, you can’t read temperature and control relay, in the same ‘stack’. So more parts are on order to deal with that minor complication.

IMG_8736The biggest issue was getting the OLED display to work. Seems there was an issue with one of the libraries;

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/36768562/wemos-oled-sparkfun-print-text-does-not-display

Just a matter of deleting two lines of code, and it worked. Course that took two days to find.

Being a true believer in scattering projects over over the place, wireless would be great. But as always, there is the matter of POWER. If I have to run power, I can run an ethernet cable.

Lightning Detector using an Arduino

Screenshot 2016-05-21 20.14.26Been wanting to get this to working for years. Finally took the time to hookup and try it out.! Worked first time (once I got the wiring correct).

Now have to wait for a spring storm to test (sigh).

Updated layout, and tested. Sensor allows for a 40 miles distance detection of Lightning or related electrical noise for an approaching storm.

UPDATE:  Spent the afternoon tracking storms across South Florida. System reported Kilometers, which I added a conversion to American Standard Miles. Worked very nicely.

 

 

Atlas 3D Scanner – Kickstarter and Kit

Looking though Kickstarter I found a guy building a 3d scanner, that was printable, and had an option that included all the hardware  (motors, laser, etc). You just had to print the parts and assemble.

And of course, you have noticed I haven’t had any luck with my Solidoodle 3d printer, so the kit has just been sitting. UNTIL they started selling laser cut kits. Bought one on the spot.

My stepson and built it over a long weekend, but couldn’t get it to align. So I did some surfing and never got a correct answer, until I found SoliForum. Found some real helpful people and I was able to piece together the problems.

Atlas3dComplete           Settings

Quirky – Wink Home Automation

Wanting to get my feet wet with HomeKit I started looking into newer home automation equipment. Finding Quirky items cheaper on eBay I decided to give them a try.

First, gotta open one. This is a Quirky Plink-Hub1, a second generation less hackable version of their Hub.

IMG_3043

I was able to pry open and stick paper clips in to keep the case open long enough to remove guts.

IMG_3048

IMG_3045 IMG_3050

This is what it looked like inside. Very clean, power supply on one board, wifi and wireless on second.

The big down side is that the Quirky Wink automation system is made to be controlled by a phone, not a computer. At least not in Yosemite.

We were able to create some applescripts which react to emails sent from the Wink Robots. From there I was able to update a web page. So all and all not all that bad. Yes far from what I wanted, but for the cost I can’t complain.

We also installed a few GE LED lights, which are very limited in usage. Limited by the software. So hopefully HomeKit allows more features at a later date. (also get these really cheap off eBay).

There is a Pivot Power Genius, power strip (with two controllable outlets [not very functional/features]) , Spotter (multi-sensor unit [VERY FUN and useful]), Porkfolio (Piggy Bank, [which we never got to work after many hours of work]) and of course the GE LED bulbs.

There is also Nimbus, a desktop digital display. Very easy to setup, but very limited on what can be displayed. If you can find it cheap it is fun, but not worth the $50 asking price (think we paid less than $20). Would like more control over what can be display, say something we send it.

The system also works very well with DropCams. We normally use Network cameras, but wanted to give it a try. We purchased a few DropCam HD units, which we are very happy with. On doing more research the PRO costs almost $100 more, and requires a yearly subscription. We will stick with the HD.

We are awaiting a Insteon Hub and automation kit to try as well.

UPDATE (07/18/2015 #1):

After using Wink and its assorted hardware for over a month, I can not recommend this system.

Wrote tech support for help hooking up Porkfolilo, problems with getting second Nimbus working and issues with second Spotter. All I got back was a canned reply, that wasn’t helpful at all. – Will a second hub help, does Wink support Second hub, does it increase coverage area? (they didn’t bother to address any of that).

The hub has ‘disconnect’ and I can no longer communicate with lights, nimbus or anything else that was working. And I am unable to add new devices. Wink must have built in limit… Or it could be interference or wifi noise, whatever, the system isn’t working.

I’ll continue to play with the system as time allows and see if I can get something working.

Update (07/18/2015 #2):

Played with Quarky, Wink a little today. Notice my hub was off-line.. Reinstall/configured, yeah. Then! WHAT? None of my devices are listed, no lights, Numbis, Spotters or Pivots, all gone. Meaning they all have to be reconfigured. So if you were thinking of using this system in a vacation home, DO NOT DO IT!

 

Teensy

Since the clerks at work do me a lot of favors I wanted to something nice for them. Build a desktop flower, controlled either by the computer or sensors in the flower or flower pot. For this I looked into the Teensy 2.0, costing less than $15, it is with our companies restriction on gift prices ($25).

Basically  the Teensy, is a tiny Arduino. Easy to program and wire into projects. Allowing for smart projects.

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