Archive for the ‘Hacking’ Category

HomeAutomationHub now in use

Sunday, September 18th, 2011

This week saw the introduction of the Home Automation Hub which I put together last weekend. The primary function so far is to act as a bridge for the Current Cost monitor system and Pachube. This has replaced my old solution which collected data into a local MySQL database and then sent averaged results to Pachube. This was somewhat inefficient and not easy to extend. the HAH means that I have now been able to integrate the Individual Applicance Modules that work with the CC unit – so Pachube presently has five streams of data.

One of these streams will allow me, for the first time, to reliably monitor the power consumption of the Christmas Lights. I previously tried to do this with a Maplin plug-in monitor which melted a few years ago making an odd smell and posed something of an unexpected danger!

Construction was fairly straightforward, however this is not a project to the novice constructor and a reasonable level of skill in working without highly detailed instructions was necessary. Nothing particularly difficult, though, and it worked first time. It took longer to get to grips with configuration of the data streams as this requires some careful reading and interpretation of the notes. I have yet to work out the best way to try and integrate things with the X10 house control system – and if it won’t work directly the xAP system which is deeply embedded looks promising.

The HAH will allow for additional functions in due course, perhaps one day to include a garden watering system – pending getting A Round Tuit.
Graph of electricity consumption via Pachube

Be a blacksmith for a day

Monday, July 11th, 2011

Hand Forged candlestick

Well, on Friday, last week, I travelled to the village of Much Hadham in Hertfordshire to meet Richard Maynard, the village blacksmith to spend a day experiencing the business of forging steel.

Well, what a fabulous day it was. After a few practice pieces and a cup of welcome tea I set about making a candlestick which we had sketched out. It’s a most satisfiyng experience, forging the steel, and the results for even a novice are really excellent. Lunch at the local pub followed by making the twist in the stem of the stick. Richard did the welding for me (H&S regs!) and it was done. Time also allowed me to convert one of the practice pieces into a poker. The forge is a museum as well, and well worth a visit of you’re in that neck of the woods.

Hand forged poker

Regen Radio Kit

Saturday, June 19th, 2010

I have just completed a kit for a valve radio – a regenerative detector type. I bought the kit a few months ago from and with Serena and Grace both at the hairdresser’s this morning I had a few hours P&Q to fill so out came the kit, soldering iron and tools.

It’s quite novel in that it only uses a 12v power source – possible to run from dry cells if you’re feeling extravagant – but that’s the highest voltage in the circuit – so it’s very safe; no need for caution when touching contacts tracing faults with my soldering. Yep – there was a dry joint somewhere – I suspect on the variable tuning cap, but once sorted much sound came from the speaker, notably the sound of the vuvuzela horn.

Some confusion when troubleshooting – the engraved legend on the front panel has somehow got the “Vol” and “Regen” transposed!

Edit: After mentioning the issue to the kit’s creator he’s pointed out that I didn’t follow the instructions and that I should have connected the pots with wires instead of directly to the PCB. It’s still a great little kit, though.