Andy's Blog

A handful of ramblings...

Seems I am always working on something - home improvement, home automation, personal growth, etc. This area is a listing of active and completed projects that I am blogging about. 

My goal for this is share my experiences so that if someone else is interesting in doing something similar, they may be able to benefit from what I've learned. Most...

Seems I am always working on something - home improvement, home automation, personal growth, etc. This area is a listing of active and completed projects that I am blogging about. 

My goal for this is share my experiences so that if someone else is interesting in doing something similar, they may be able to benefit from what I've learned. Most of these articles will be just that, something I learned through trial and error or a tidbit that may make someone else's search a little easier.

I hope this is useful to you as a visitor. If you have any questions about any of the projects I am working on or finished, please Contact Me.

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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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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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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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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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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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UPDATED: My Home Automation Roadmap

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It's a funny thing - what you find when you start a project you think you know something about. If you're doing it right then you'll likely discover that you're not as slick as you thought you were. I suppose that is why I love these projects and goals so much. They make me stretch. On the flip-side, scope creep is real thing and not every project can be a voyage of discovery. So, this is my self-imposed roadmap for the first two phases of my overall home automation goals.

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The Language of IoT

IoT and other Alphabet Soup

Internet of Things, Zigbee, Z-Wave, X10, MQTT, nodes, pairing! What is all of this? In this article, I'm going to go over the common language of home automation and try to help you make sense of all of these terms and concepts. *NOTE* this article is alive and will change as time goes by.

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Choosing a Home Automation Hub - How Hard Could it Be?

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As I mentioned in the introduction article of this series, there isn't a standard yet for smart home devices to talk to each other. However, the advertising and hype sure makes smart homes look like an easy care free way of life. Well, it isn't. If someone is telling you it is, beware! Snake oil will soon follow!

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8 Months of Home Automation Lessons

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Since February of this year, I've been working on a lengthy project - I am slowly adding digital control and automation to the everyday things in our home. This project, unlike most of the others I've started grew out of a need rather than a want. Sure, the want is there and I'd be lying if I said that this wasn't one of the most fun projects I've committed to but, in this case, this project started with attempting to fill a need. Now that this project has matured a bit, I want to start chronicling my journey so that others with a similar need may find these experiments useful.

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Robotic Arm Arduino Dev Platform

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As I started brainstorming for version 2 of the arm, it became clear that I would need to make some changes so, I upgraded the electronics of my original robotic arm. This will allow me to create more modes of operation and create an I2C secondary interface.

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My Backyard Weather beta1

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It has been over a year and I feel like I have a decently tested version to post. It has been a learning experience to be sure and I am already working on some changes for the official version 1 of this monstrosity. In the meantime, here is My Backyard Weather, beta 1.

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A Beginner's Guide to Weather Stations

A Beginner's Guide to Weather Stations

Let me make this clear, the 'Beginner' mentioned in this post isn't you, it's me! This weather beginner has built a prototype weather station and in the 2 months it has been up, I've learned a lot. I have learned that some of my ideas weren't so crazy and I learned that some of the things I took for granted were way off base. 

So, call this a beta, a prototype version or whatever you like, just don't call it finished. Here I present to you my lessons learned on the way to stable state.

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Weather Station Project

Weather Station Project

Overview

I've always wanted to build a weather station. I have an interest in weather science but, for me a weather station is all of the stuff I like about electronics - real world use of remote sensing that can be used for practical stuff. From home automation to gardening to knowing what's in the air, local weather and environmental sensing can be used to make subtle cumulative changes that add up to better health and lower bills.

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