Andy's Blog

A handful of ramblings...

Light and Circuit Control

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I had mentioned a long time ago that I was working on some solutions for light switches. At that time there were not a lot of out of the box solutions that weren't Z-Wave or Zigbee based. Additionally, my old home mostly relied on lamps rather than ceiling lights leaving a few popular options at that time - Sonoff, commercial WiFi switches, or WiFi light-bulbs.

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Omnibot Custom Controller and Remote V1

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Now that you have your new drive tray and new servo arms in place, you need a controller and remote. You could use a commercial RC hobby controller that has the ability to mix mecanum wheels. However, depending on your goals, you might miss out on some expandable options that can really only be done with a microcontroller such as controlling screens (as in the Omnibot Eyes project - yet to come).

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Make the algorithm work for you, not against you!

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So, by now, we all know that social media creates "echo chambers" or news and social feeds that can reinforce extreme views and beliefs.

How does this happen though? What is the algorithm doing? Are you sure you want to know?

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Omnibot 'Eyes' Modification

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The Omnibot back in the day was a marvel but certainly had some interesting limitations. One item that they seemed to design as an after thought was the little round eyes. They were simple light bulbs that took a note from every other Spensor gift of the era - they flashed to the sounds that it made. Cool enough but hardly cutting edge even at that time.

Fast forward to now and even cheap toys have more impressive effects. I'd like for Omnibot to be able to express emotions with its eyes like you see in Wall-E or with the very cool Cosmo or While we're upgrading the existing functionality, why don't we improve on the expressiveness of our favorite little bot by replacing those light bulbs with LCD screens!

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Omnibot Drive Base Modification

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The factory drive for the Omnibot 5402 and Sr use two sets of wheels that are driven by two motors - one per side. This gives the Omnibot skid steering like a tank. It can turn in its own footprint and move forward and backward but not side to side (called strafing). For this project, I want to change out the original drive and wheels with 4 mecanum wheels each with its own drive motor. This will of course require new motor drivers since the original electronics aren't used.

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Omnibot Shoulder Servo Modification

Omnibot Shoulder Servo Modification

As a kid I dreamed of getting one of the Omnibots from RadioShack! Each Christmas and birthday I would beg and bargain for one but to no avail. They were too expensive for a toy, my parents would say. I dreamed of "programming" it to do all kinds of things little knowing that my parents were right. As cool as they were, Omnibots just weren't as useful as the advertising and my imagination made them. Little did I know that they couldn't even move their arms! Let's fix that!

In this project, we'll walk through installing the mounts and making the necessary modifications to the arms of your Omnibot 5402 or Sr for motor control of the arms. My goal was to create a structure to move the arms by the shoulder with minimal modification to the bot itself. It will still require two parts being permanently modified but it could still be reverted back to a cosmetically but not functionally original state.

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Home Automation - Year 4

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I'm really terrible at this whole blogging thing. 😕

Anyway, a lot and a little has been going on since my last home automation project overview. I have been really busy with odds and ends over the last year and a half although, only a little has been spent in any meaningful additions to my sub projects - save one!

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Please Remember the Cost of Social Isolation

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How has this past year been for you? Stressful? Lonely? Maybe a bit of hopelessness?
Now that the vaccines are being distributed, are you feeling a bit more optimistic?
It has been over a year since our society went home to our bubbles of isolation but for people with disabilities or other limiting factors, the pandemic was just more of the same.

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How a faulty washer may have saved our lives

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Have you ever had one seemingly trivial issue open up a torrent of "opportunity" and possibly may have saved your life? I believe we may have.

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You people are Crazy!

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I went to Walmart yesterday...

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My Home Automation Project - 2 Years In

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So, I have two years of projects and ideas behind me. With all of the fits and starts, labored undertakings and successes and failures, what does the next year hold?

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Planning for your new Smart Home build

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So, you're building a new home and want it to be ready for the Smart Home Revolution. Well, not to burst your bubble but, it won't be - not entirely. Until there are standards in place for that future home, you'll just have to make your home as standardized as is currently possible and probable.

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What is a Life Worth?

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A couple of years ago, I responded to a post on Facebook with a personal story that I have rarely shared. I don't talk about these events in my life often and not because I don't think of them as important or central to my identity but rather, because I do. I have kept it to myself largly because, it is a fundamental piece of me - one that is sensitive and utterly personal.

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Using Facebook as a Forum

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I'm back on Facebook.
Now, before you get that look on your face, let me also note that I'm a FB Ghost. My profile only contains the items that are required to register and I have zero friends. I turned off all of the available settings to find me and it isn't possible to send me a friend request. So, now that look on your face probably looks puzzled. Let me explain.

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Project S1.6 - Home Information Center

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As outlined in UPDATED: My Home Automation Roadmap, I am working on a information center for our kitchen. This device has a 15.6" touch screen that will display information about our home as well as a common calendar, an interface for Home Assistant, local weather, and other programs and databases.

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My Backyard Weather beta 2

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Well another year of testing has come and gone so, it's time for an update! In short, I'm nearly there. This version is the last one with components mounted to a proto board. This is also the last dedicated version of the software.

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Active Project

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Project S1.10 - Bed Headboard Control

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Sometimes buying cheap can be a blessing in disguise. In the case of our new memory foam bed base, if we hadn't decided to skimp, we may not have realized the joy of an intregrated bed in our smart home scheme.

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Project S1.4 - Control panels

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As I mentioned in UPDATED: My Home Automation Roadmap, I found that controlling lamps with remote switches is an easy and efficient method of bringing dumb lamps into the smart home fold. However, it introduces a new issue, I don't want to have to pull out my phone every time I want to turn one on or off. Imagine needing to get up in the middle of the night and having to find the phone in the dark, blinding yourself when you turn the screen on, finding the app and the lamp in the app and flipping it on ... all while trying to stay somewhat asleep. Enter, control panels.

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33 Days post Facebook and all is very well!

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January 1st at 12:01AM I went through the process of deleting my Facebook account. It's pretty straightforward and easy but FB gives you a 30 day cooling off period in case you didn't really mean it and decide to go back. They are hoping that during this withdrawal period, you'll get too fidgety and will come back to get your dopamine hit. I made it though - 33 days and counting!

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UPDATED: Why I'm Done Giving Social Media my Time

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Ok, this one is short and simple. Later Facebook and Twitter! So long and thanks for all the fish!

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