Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Orion's First Mission

Dropping a reminder that tomorrow is the planned launch day of a Delta 4-Heavy rocket carrying NASA’s Orion space capsule on its first test flight in Earth orbit.
Delta 4-Heavy Rocket
People this is a really big deal.  This is the first human-rated spacecraft that's gone beyond (low-Earth orbit) in 42 years. 

If you aren't familiar with the Orion program here's a quote from Mark Geyer, the program manager of Orion Program:

"Orion is built to go beyond low-Earth orbit. It's an exploration spacecraft ... In concert with the Space Launch System, which gets us to those destinations, we're gong to be able to explore the regions around the Moon and then out into the solar system, including Mars. Thursday is the beginning of that journey, testing key systems, the riskiest systems before we have any people on it."
I'm going to try really hard to get up early to watch this live (4:05am Pacific!)  Liftoff is planned for Thursday at 7:05 a.m. EST, sunrise on the Florida's Space Coast. The available window extends to 9:44 a.m. EST.

You can watch this launch on NASA TV, SpaceFlightNow or DirectTV NASA channel 346.

The rocket being used for this test is a Delta 4-Heavy.   Should be awesome to watch it launch.  In relation to choosing the Delta 4-Heavy:

"... It gets us to the high altitude and the velocity we need to test the heat shield, which is the primary objective of the test. It's a beautiful rocket and it'll be a lot of fun on Thursday to see it go,".
I'm really excited about this.  I know these days its hard for a lot of non-geek/NASA nerd types to get excited about anything space related, and I wont' even go into all the stupidness arguments around why we spend money on space exploration, but I will say, even if you aren't a NASA fan at least watch the replay of this launch if you can't get up early enough to watch it live.   

This is first step in a whole new evolution of Space and it might just be one of those things where 10 years from now people will say "what were you doing on Dec 4th, 2014 when they Orion launched and began it all" 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Homegrown Home Automation (HHA)

Ya that's right, starting my own acronym.  

You saw it here first HHA.  As was the plan for this blog when I restarted it I planned on using it to just document the many hobbies/projects (and cars) I work on, most of which I take lots of photos of but never really share.   This winter Ethan and I will be building a go-Kart from scratch!  I'll be sure to post those exploits as well.

My primary work bench w/ all the toys
For a couple years now though I've been doing various electronics projects that take advantage of the now vary usable and powerful Raspberry Pi computers.

My good friend James (see him over at Short Attention Span Theater) and I spent a lot of 2013 developing the hardware, software and web site around a small device that takes advantage of the HAM Radio APRS network.  The device was designed to be used by HAM operators (and eventually non-HAMs as well) to put GPS tracking and mapping in any type of vehicle for really cheap.  ( Was a great idea that spawned out of playing around.   We got it mostly complete (minus some features we wanted to add) and it works amazingly well, then came to the place all new projects come to, large amounts of cash to mass produce it.  So its been on the back burner ever since because, large amounts of cash available.  We had a great time working together building that thing.  I still have one in my truck running and using the whole system.

After that James and I have both been working on similar projects separately, he's made some really cool automation from automatic cat laser pointers controlled by the cats to servo driven arms that can be remote controlled.   I have been working on two large projects, one of which is the point of this article...get to the point! Alright I'm trying.  The project I won't talk about yet (maybe later) is a fully wireless remote monitoring system for RV's and remote locations using XBee, Raspberry Pi and custom built sensors.  Its very ambitious and I need more time to work on it.  But I got side tracked with HHH.

Now that you are asleep

...what am I really trying to say.   I've spent the last 10+ years being well ahead of most markets/technology with trying to remote monitor, control and tap into my house.  I'm a data nerdlinger, I can't help it?  I love knowing whats going on with all systems and why.

Sure I can run out and drop a fat wad of cash on a home automation system, but here's why I don't.

  1. I guarantee all of them will do things in some way that I hate
  2. None of them will give me the control I really want
  3. None of them will give me the data I really want
  4. They cost buckets and buckets of money

Am I trying to create a new product here?  Not really, I never am.  Maybe someday something will shine forth as a kickstarter but that's never really the goal.
E-Monitor system monitoing 20+ circuits
in my primary house.

Now by saying "being well ahead" I mean, I have a lot of tech running in my house that when I implemented it, it was A) the only thing out there because it was so new and B) if i put it in, it was probably pretty good at its time.   First one I know to put tankless water heater in (even though I was a decade behind Europe on this!).  Why do I not have solar in yet, no time.

So the project really is about writing the software that will run on a small Raspberry Pi, talk to all these random systems I have running, push that data to my server at AWS where I can build a web interface into all of the data, and potentially for some systems make modifications and adjustments.

Here are things that are in my house that each have their own apps, web interface, controllers, etc...none of which or course talk to each other.  That's what HHA will do.
  • Thermostat Control & Automation from Prolifix
  • Garage Door & Gate control and status from MyQ Liftmaster
  • Full house power monitoring from Powerhouse Dynamics
  • Camera Security System from AXIS and QNAP
  • Sprinkler Control & Status from Open Sprinkler (this system is planned for a spring 2015 installation, I've ordered all the parts.  I'll post some articles on that as well)
  • Lighting Control - I haven't put one in yet, waiting to see how these new LED light controllers pan out
  • Remote Door Lock control & status - Still un-decided here.  I love the August lock system but its spendy (I have 3 doors).  I'm REALLY tempted to build mine own device for this but then I'd be side tracked again.  My issue with almost all of theses systems (currently) is their lack of providing useable data, the August lock is the only one I know for sure that can.
  • Tankless Waterheater by Rinnai - they are just now building internet connection units, I'm oddly excited for this kind of thing to take place.
  • Internet Connected Device Traffic Monitoring via OpenNMS - Let's me look at devices on my network and understand what is consuming bandwidth and why.
Now all of these systems have some sort of ability to share their data with me.  Web page, API, SMS, Email, etc.  The trick is buildling a software package that can scrape those web pages, hit those API's or except those SMS or email messages, parse that data into useable coolness and push it out to the AWS Web Server API.

In Summary

I did this write-up mostly to set the foundation for coming posts over the next couple months as I work on this project.   Sort of a frame of reference for future posts that may make no sense by themselves as to what I'm doing.

If you have any of these automation techs installed I'd love to hear from you about what works and what doesn't and why.  I could talk about this stuff all day.

Watch for future posts, photos and details on all of these winter projects, HHA, Remote Monitoring system and go-Karts!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

I'm back...

I'm back.  Years of shitty social media sites attempting to allow one to express stories, reviews, and tech write-ups have proven as I originally suspected to be big failures.

Unfortunately all my previous articles are stranded in my legacy Wordpress system.  Maybe I'll find a way to crowbar them out and put them up here.  In the interim I will post occasionally as I used to about things I feel like writing about.  You can RSS feed this or just watch your normal social media stream as I will let you know when I post in case you are interested.