January 5th, 2014
I have had a desire to be alerted when the salt level in my water softener gets low. I have put this off and put this off. My original plan was some convoluted mechanism of springs and weighing the barrel. The main reason for that was the concern that the salt would corrode any electronics that were inside the barrel. Later I thought of a sealed magnet with a reed switch or hall affect sensor on the outside. Then I read a post somewhere that basically said that the salt shouldn’t be an issue. I like that! I went with the Parallax Ping))) sensor since I had a couple around. Originally, I had planned for this to be an Arduino project. But I become very pro-Raspberry Pi since then. It has less I/O than an Arduino, but most (all) of my projects require very few I/O pins. The other day I decided that this needed to be completed. I found an article that very simply and easily got the distance value from the Parallax Ping))). That forum post is here. User feiry absolutely nailed it! As feiry did, I used pin 11 on the Pi for SIG, pin 2 on the Pi for 5v and pin 6 on the Pi for GND.
You will have to forgive that image. I’m new to Fritzing.
The next important bit is the code that will get the distance for you. As I said this is the code that was posted by feiry back in October.
import RPi.GPIO as GPIO
I wrote a shell script (I need to learn more python) that calls that python code, then takes the value distance, populates a variable with it and inserts it into a mysql database. Then I have a script on my database server that will check various values from the database and do things based on those values. Mostly it will email me when a value requires attention.
There you have it. A Raspberry Pi based water softener salt level notification tool.
Special thanks to feiry and richlish…@gmail.com
Forum thread: http://www.raspberrypi.org/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=37&t=7688
Fritzing part for Parallax Ping)): http://code.google.com/p/fritzing/issues/detail?id=875#c508
November 8th, 2011
I just wanted to post a quick note that we’re still here and now available on Google+. https://plus.google.com/u/0/b/110280939564300760231/
See you there!
July 3rd, 2011
Recently Google announced that they are retiring Google PowerMeter. PowerMeter was a service that gave homeowners the ability to see how much electricity they were using. It was hoped that this information would help homeowners save energy by knowing when they were using the most energy. I personally was researching the hardware to build a device to track my energy use and upload that data to Google PowerMeter. Now I and many others will have to find a new way to do this. It seems that there weren’t enough users to justify maintaining the service. It’s my opinion that the utilities killed it. There were very few utilities that actually participated with the service to provide energy usage information to their customers.
Within a week of the Google announcement, Microsoft also announced the end of their competing service, Microsoft Hohm. Hohm intended to provide similar information to that of PowerMeter. Hohm did have a few other features, but they were not that impressive in my opinion. However, the ability to monitor your energy usage is huge regardless of which solutions you went with. Unfortunately, you can’t choose either of the them now.
What are we going to do? How can we get this information? Honestly the utilities that use smart meters should be providing this to their customers automatically. My utility doesn’t. They have installed a smart meter on my house…. then nothing. I’m pretty disappointed in the whole thing. Apparently some utilities do offer this information and I think that is fantastic. They all should.
December 27th, 2008
All those that said it was vaporware have been proven wrong. Sure it was late. When was the last time that you saw any technology product delivered on time? They all slip. Most of the time they slip their schedules so early that the customers don’t even know. Regardless, they have shipped and many people have them in their hands. I am one of those people. I haven’t had much time to use it, but I’ll give my first impression now, with more detail later.
I opened the box and was impressed with the construction and the size. There was a card in the box that told me not to change the username just yet. I’m not a fan of that security model. I plugged it in and it came right up. The mouse did freeze up on me fairly quickly. It turns out the wireless mouse I was using was causing problems. As I undestand it, the CherryPal using so little power that it has some trouble with USB devices that need power. I connected an old wired USB mouse that I had and all systems were go. I did poke around a bit, but ran out of time. The main thing I noticed was that the speed was very usable. I had heard that there were some speed issues. Personnaly, I thought it did pretty well. I understand that this computer is not a horsepower machine. More to come…
Note: Just to be clear I did receive a CherryPal PC for free. Although it appears that was wasn’t vaporware, has become vaporware, or at least vapor-company….
October 25th, 2008
Natures Promise makes a frozen pepperoni pizza with uncured pepperoni! So there are no nitrates or nitrites. Reviews are mixed about how bad those things really are, but if you can avoid them, why not?
October 5th, 2008
Like many people I bought a bunch of compact flourescent light bulbs to save energy. Like many people I took the label for what it said. I bought 60 watt “replacement” bulbs that were 13 watts. WooHoo!!! That is 47 fewer watts of power! That’s awesome! So I get them home and remove several perfectly good incandescent bulbs, flip the switch and Viola…. Wait, these aren’t as bright. Then I did a little reading. Here’s the jist. A 60 watt incandescent bulb puts out ~900 lumens, some say 870. The 13 watt CFL that I bought says right on the package that it puts out 830 lumens. That is less useful light. That is not what I would consider a “replacement”. Basically I think that marketing these bulb that produce less light as “replacements” will hurt the use of CFLs. Go with a 15 Watt CFL it is much closer to 900 lumens. That way you have an actual comparable bulb. You will have almost the same amount of light that you are used to. That sounds like a much better plan to me.
September 26th, 2008
Now it seems that Chrysler is going electric. The company that brought use the Hemi is going to release an all electric vehicle (3 in fact) in 2010. At least that’s the plan right now. Have a look at this: Link This is the same company that makes Jeeps. Granted there are vehicles that get worse fuel economy than Jeeps. But they are not known for their great MPG ratings.
I’m very interested in this “all electric vehicle” stuff. Chevrolet is releasing the Volt in 2010. That one is supposed to have a 40 mile range on electric only. Then the gas engine kicks at about 45 mpg. Not too shappy if you ask me. Then of course, there is the Tesla. Those cars are sweet! not terribly practical in passenger space or price. Although, they have been talking about a passenger car in the under $30K range. Very interesting.
At least the new hybrids look like normal cars. I’m sure some of you remember the original hybrid, the Honda ugly Insight.
August 18th, 2008
T. Boone Pickens isn’t the only one putting some cash into wind power. It appears that there is a plan to build a wind farm off the coast of Delaware. Like the title says, this isn’t really new. It’s been in the news for a few months. I just wanted to bring it up as another example of how people are taking this kind of thing seriously.
July 30th, 2008
How many pre-approved credit card offers do you get in a month? Don’t know. I’m not surprised. I get several every week. I learned today that these companies submit requests to the credit bureaus for, let’s just say people with a credit score higher than 600. You want to what the credit bureaus do with that request? They fulfill it! That’s right. Your information, my information, your moms information is available for the asking. Then they send you all this crap mail.
It appears that there is a way to Opt-Out of receiving these pre-screened or preapproved credit card, and insurance offers. The web site is: https://www.optoutprescreen.com/ They ask for your name, address, Social Security number and birth date. You are only required to provide your name and address. You do not have to provide your SSN or birth date. They say that they would be used to make sure they opt-out the right person.
Of course I didn’t trust it when I first saw it. So I did a little checking. The main reassuring piece of information that I found was a reference to this web site on the FTC.gov web site. I also found an article written about the service that talked about some of the same concerns that I had. Let me just say that I don’t have in-depth knowledge of this organization and therefore cannot endorse it. I find enough information to make me comfortable enough to submit our information to opt-out. Now the real measure is the see how much less crap mail we get. Maybe we can save a tree or two.
Edit: I forgot to mention the fact that fewer of these preapproved applications could reduce your chance of identity theft. What happens to that application when you throw it in the trash? Anyone could get it and submit it. I’m sure there a place to change the address on there. (hint: shred everything!)
July 25th, 2008
Why is organic zucchini packaged on a styrofoam tray?
Why do prenatal vitamins have red40 in them?
Why is there color added to my deodorant?