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61  Using Arduino / Networking, Protocols, and Devices / Re: [Solved] Gonna bother you folks about RS485 on: August 03, 2013, 12:12:03 am
Yes I did get it to work.  If you check on the other page, I posted a link to my blog where I describe it in detail and posted the code for the device.  I had to move it to a mega2560 though because the constant load of softwareserial bit banging at 19K was causing eratic operation.  When I put the code on the 2560 it settled right down and has been working fine for quite a while.  The entire code was too big to post here.
62  General Category / General Discussion / Re: Home automation capabilities on: July 17, 2013, 10:39:18 am
I've been automating parts of my house for a few years.  I'm building most of the stuff myself instead of buying it because I wanted it to actually work (unlike X10) and I wanted to be able to repair it when it broke instead of tossing it and buying new.  I've had moderate success, but as you pointed out, I only automate the stuff that I actually need to make it nicer around the house.

I kept forgetting to close the garage door when I left; some switches, arduino, XBee, and programming and I can see if the doors are open and close them from anywhere.  I wanted better control of my swimming pool; some protocol conversion work, arduino, XBee, and now I can turn on the pool filter from anywhere.  I wanted a really, really smart set of controllers for my heat pumps (Arizona USA); arduinos, relays, ethernet boards, and I can control my house temperature from anywhere.  This one also monitors the time and controls things based on power company demand billing; they save me hundreds of dollars a year.  I automatically add acid to my pool with an arduino, relay, XBee combination; this minimized the time I have to spend checking chemical balance.  All this stuff needed a time standard that didn't depend on the internet; GPS chip, arduino, XBee and I have a clock that is really accurate and provides time for the other devices.  The thermostats use it as well as the pool devices.  Then I noticed how much power the water heater was using; hooked up an SSR to the same device that works the garage doors and turn the water heater off when it isn't needed.  I monitor my septic tank level so I can clean its filter before problems happen (yuck); hooked a float switch into the same device that controls the chemicals to the pool.  I mentioned power usage; an arduino, two circuit transformers, XBee and I monitor my home power usage in real time.  The data is uploaded to several cloud servers and I can get graphs and other comparisons from them anywhere.  I wanted to know what the temperature was at home when I'm away; an XBee and a temperature sensor went into a louvered box on the fence.  I can look at the actual temperature at my house from anywhere.  Heck, I wanted to be able to monitor my tractor battery from the house without going to the barn to check it; XBee, float charging circuit and I can see the battery's state of charge from my kitchen table.

I needed something to monitor and report all this stuff to me as I needed and to turn on a little light when something went wrong; arduino, XBee, ethernet card, and I had a device that centralizes all the other devices and allows me control and monitoring from anywhere over the internet.

So, I haven't done trivial automation, instead I automated the things that made a lot of sense in my environment specifically made to serve my purposes.  I'm not done yet.  I want to move the controller function to a bigger device so I can have more stuff presented over the internet.  I want to build in special controllers to make sure visitors don't start the clothes dryer during high power price periods.  I want a lot, but I never even thought about the dishwasher.
63  Topics / Home Automation and Networked Objects / Re: Controlling Lights on: June 29, 2013, 12:05:49 pm
Frankly, it's a pain in the butt to tell if the light is on.  If you just want to know if there is power there, you can sample the voltage at the wire going to the light, if you want to actually know it's on, you have to sample current at the same point, because the bulb could have quit.  The problem there is the range of current.  A CFL draws a tiny amount and an incandescent draws a lot, so you have to allow for this.

One method is to give up on the three way switching and just wire the light on all the time through the switch boxes, then put a controller at the light itself that is controlled by the switches which you have hooked to little radio transmitters.  I hate this idea because you have to take everything apart and change it to something else.

There are commercial solutions to this out there in the Zwave realm, but they'll cost you a bunch of money and they seem to have problems being set up. 

But, you can use a hall sensor to sense current through a wire by just setting it on top of the wire; this will sense current.  A lot of experimenting will be needed to find the right device and then code for it.  There are also current sensors out there, but they need a special circuit board set up to hook into the circuitry.  Voltage is a pain in that you have to use an opto-isolator to keep from blowing things up and it can get tricky running one off mains power.

Then there's powering the little devices you come up with.  You need DC for the processor and other devices and wall warts won't work because you don't have outlets next to light switches.  It would look silly anyway to do it like that. 

This is the kind of problems I keep running into trying to come up with something to do what you describe.
64  Using Arduino / Networking, Protocols, and Devices / Re: Xbee Found Bootloader active reprogramming firmware on: March 25, 2013, 10:26:25 am
OK, at this point go to the digi web site and look under support.  There is also a forum there where the real experts on these little devices support various people.  I've gotten several answers to problems here and you could too.  It's also possible to call them and actually talk to a human, but time zones are always a problem doing that.

It sounds like the little module died, but there may be some help at digi.
65  Using Arduino / Networking, Protocols, and Devices / Re: Xbee Found Bootloader active reprogramming firmware on: March 24, 2013, 10:33:58 pm
Try reading the XBee, then program it with what you just read.  If that doesn't work, you may have a bad XBee.
66  Using Arduino / Networking, Protocols, and Devices / Re: Xbee Found Bootloader active reprogramming firmware on: March 24, 2013, 09:30:51 pm
What I've seen a lot of is that you have XCTU set up for something, reprogram the XBee, then get an error because XCTU is not set up properly after the programming.

For example, you have an XBee set at 9600 baud and you want to change it to 57600.  So, you set the baud rate in XCTU to 9600, and you can talk to the XBee just fine.  Then you change the settings on the page you show to 57600 and program the XBee for that.  Suddenly, you can't talk to the XBee anymore.  So, you have to reset XCTU to 57600 before you can move on.  This also happens when you go from API mode to AT mode or vice versa.  See, you're changing the XBee and not XCTU; they have to match.
67  Topics / Home Automation and Networked Objects / Re: Home Power Monitor System, are their plans for one out there? on: March 14, 2013, 09:44:55 am
go to, the code is open source and supports pulses or CTs.
68  Community / Bar Sport / Re: Your latest purchase on: March 13, 2013, 07:56:05 pm
Another mix I have yet to try is glass strands in concrete.
I did this a couple of months ago.  A contractor I had working on my house years back didn't put enough foundation under one part and the room started to drop.  I had a crew (shovel...that much...not me) dig it out under the existing foundation and then out three feet to form a walkway.   I filled it with fiberglass reinforced 3000 lb concrete and rebar.  Really can't speak to the survivability, but the stuff has totally stopped movement on that part of the house.

But I have got to experiment with that building idea.  I'll start small, maybe a flower pot, planter, dog house, something on that scale.  It's just too cool
69  Community / Bar Sport / Re: Your latest purchase on: March 13, 2013, 01:53:38 pm
I had to give up on hot glue.  Darn stuff gives way in the AZ heat.  Now, that epoxy putty that come in a clear cylinder; that stuff is the bomb.

And, you keep looking, I've jumped in on some of your finds and look forward to doing it again.
70  Topics / Home Automation and Networked Objects / Re: Sending signals to the xBee Transmiter on: March 10, 2013, 12:26:08 am
Check in the forum on networking.  There are a lot of internet related posts there that you can get information from.
71  Topics / Home Automation and Networked Objects / Re: Sending signals to the xBee Transmiter on: March 10, 2013, 12:05:09 am
Then the code you have is a reasonable place to start, hook it up and give it a try.  However, change the delays in the code from 10 to a 1000 or more.  The unit for delay is millisecond and 10 isn't enough for the transmitter and 10 on the receiver won't be enough to sound a bell or alarm or whatever.  Use a second on the transmitter and around 500 on the bell to start off with.
72  Topics / Home Automation and Networked Objects / Re: Sending signals to the xBee Transmiter on: March 09, 2013, 11:25:15 pm
Which series of XBees are you using 1 or 2?  To do what you want to do using strictly transparent mode, they have to be set up as coordinator and router (or end device).  There's a number of things you need to do to get this to work.  What have you set up so far?

But basically, the code you have should get you started if the XBees are already set up and ready to go.  One of the folk on this forum has a blog post for getting started the first time with a series 2 XBee it's here <link> Take a look and then give it a try.
73  Using Arduino / Networking, Protocols, and Devices / Re: Cosm library broken? on: March 08, 2013, 05:51:25 pm
Terry King (one of the folks on this forum) has a nice example of posting multiple values.  Take a look and see if it helps.
74  Using Arduino / Networking, Protocols, and Devices / Re: xbee is not transmitting on: March 08, 2013, 12:49:15 am
What you're seeing is the entire API packet.  Check out the XBee user's guide and you'll see all the stuff like the start sentinel, length, frame type, etc.  The extraneous stuff is actually necessary to get the packet to where it's actually going.  There a lot of things you need to know that would probably bore the other readers of this thread, and I think I summed them up on my blog.  So, go there, prowl around a bit, and then ask any left over questions you have.  Sound fair?  Start here <link>

You'll be most interested in the stuff I have on using the XBee library.
75  Using Arduino / Networking, Protocols, and Devices / Re: xbee is not transmitting on: March 07, 2013, 11:41:19 am
This looks like you're using the wrong XBee library.  You have to get the latest that has been updated to use software serial.  I can't remember where I picked it up, but I think it was here:  on the downloads page.  They also recommend using altsoftserial, but I don't for my stuff because it limits which pins can be used and 9600 is plenty fast for my stuff.
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