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.


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


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!



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.


Solidoodle 3D Printers

I had high hopes for printing in 3D, maybe too high.

A few years back I purchased a MakerBot Kit, from MakerBot. Which took almost a week to build, align and get working. But it did a fair job at printing 3d objects. But we wanted better.

So I order a Solidoodle 2nd Generation printing. Much sturdier I thought, will work much better. First day the extruder broke, mostly due to a different method of loading filament than the MakerBot. My fault. I purchase parts to repair the head, and even a replacement head. IT NEVER printed a 3D model as good as the MakerBot, which is sad.

Then last year Solidoodle introduced the Press, a self leveling, unibody 3D printer. Ordered, and waiting 5 months. At first look the printer is impressive. large 8x8x8 print area, filament holder inside the case. I was excited.

Went through the calibration  test run, hopes quickly died.

Filament doesn’t adhere to the print surface at all, but it holds on to the extruder very well.. Prints one big blob of plastic.

On top of that the print bed rises to meet the extruder, when printing completed or it stopped, I fully expected the bed to lower. The print bed didn’t lower. So for big handed users like myself getting in the printer to clean the blob is difficult.

So, in no way can I recommend this printer. I’ll detract this if Solidoodle support gets back to me with fixes.


After getting the standard, set temp higher for both extruder and build plate, and spraying the build plate with hair spray. I finally got what has to be my best print ever.

IMG_0648 IMG_0646 IMG_0647


When I attempted to print a second box today, in greater detail, the extruder was clogged. I attempted to increase the temperature to the extruder, extruding 100mm of filament and retracting the filament. However all I got was a  thumping noise out of extruder head. Emailed tech support, AGAIN. And of course they are closed on weekends.


iPhone and Infrared (IR)


I’m not an engineer or anything but WTF!

A few years ago I purchased a IRTrans from IRTrans ( Back when I was using an Apple Cube (tells you how long ago that was). Well I got out the IRTrans module the other day to start working on a new project, that I hadn’t started on yet. Every time I put my phone on my desk, the LED would blink. Didn’t think anything about it.

Then I noticed it only blinked when one of the cameras were facing the IRTrans. Odd. Of course I had to purchase and upgrade to the software, iRed2. Once I got it started I monitored IR activity and Dang it starting getting signals, repeatable signals from the iPhone.

Received one type of signal when the screen was locked, another unlocked, then another when I opened a app.. OMG!!!

Please someone else say they see that! Can Apple make their iPhone (iOS devices) into full fledge IR controllers!..

Note, You heard it here first!


PyConnect – Power Failures

Wow, been a busy month, almost non-stop.

However I am now able to catch up with projects I wanna do. One was fix an issue with PyConnect.

PyConnect is a great system to connect Plex Server to the families three AppleTV boxes. Long and short it changes the Trailers channel into your Plex Server Channel. And it is easy enough for everyone to use.

However when the power goes out (normal here during rainy season), the kids would have to wait till I get home and re-run the script. The script would asked for admin password. Not something I am willing to hand over to the kids yet.

So after some googling this is what I came up with:

set sshPasswd to “supergeek1”


tell application “Terminal”


end tell

on error

end try

tell application “Terminal”


my execCmd(“cd /Applications/PlexConnect-Master”, 1)

my execCmd(“set timeout 30”, 1)

my execCmd(“expect -c ‘spawn sudo ./; expect \”*?assword:*\”; send \”&sshPassword&\”; interact’;”, 1)

end tell

on execCmd(cmd, pause)

tell application “System Events”

tell application process “Terminal”

set frontmost totrue

keystroke cmd

keystroke return

end tell

end tell

delay pause

           end execCmd

This was written in Applescript, saved as an Application bundle, and added to the startup items. Noticed if I didn’t quit terminal first, all the system would do is make a few clicking noises and pyconnect wouldn’t start.

It also has the added bonus of not displaying the password, and you still get the terminal activity window to monitor usage.

Not bad for an afternoon’s playing.



Raspberry Pi and Cron

After two days of attempting to get Cron to execute tasks (in this case shell scripts) on a Raspberry PI, I finally got it working.

I must have read at least three dozen sites and all my Raspberry Pi books in my attempts, nothing work..

Here are some of the suggestions I found.

This one states it will edit the users cron file:

pi@raspberry ~ $ crontab -e

This one states it will display all the users schedule cron tasks:

pi@raspberry ~ $ crontab -l

I did find these useful:

pi@raspberry ~ $ /etc/init.d/cron stop

pi@raspberry ~ $ /etc/init.d/cron start

pi@raspberry ~ $  /etc/init.d/cron restart

But none triggered my script to run, then in my notes, from a past project I found:

pi@raspberry ~ $  sudo nano /etc/crontab 

This allowed me to edit the system cron task list..


# /etc/crontab: system-wide crontab

# Unlike any other crontab you don’t have to run the `crontab’

# command to install the new version when you edit this file

# and files in /etc/cron.d. These files also have username fields,

# that none of the other crontabs do.



# m h dom mon dow user  command

17 *    * * *   root    cd / && run-parts –report /etc/cron.hourly

25 6    * * *   root    test -x /usr/sbin/anacron || ( cd / && run-parts –repo$

47 6    * * 7   root    test -x /usr/sbin/anacron || ( cd / && run-parts –repo$

52 6    1 * *   root    test -x /usr/sbin/anacron || ( cd / && run-parts –repo$

10 * * * * pi cd /home/pi && ./



The last task, which runs at 10 minutes after the hour, for user pi, fixes my jabber connection.

Honestly, I have no clue what the other tasks are doing. More research! But I am very happy I now know how to add my own tasks to cron.