Rod’s Weblog

going boldy where others have gone before

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Gotta love the train for clearing down the inbox and seeing some great countryside.

Posted by mardi on May 12, 2009

Gotta love the train for clearing down the inbox and seeing some great countryside.
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Current Cost Update

Posted by mardi on January 23, 2009

It does not feel like getting on for two months since I blogged about my experiences with the Current Cost energy meter but here is a catch up on what has been happening.
I settled on Dale Lane’s Python code as the PC application to graph and monitor the house energy use. Running this for several weeks to get an idea of the base use.
As I blogged before I wanted a months worth of data, and then planned to see where I could make savings. The temptation was too great though, and I ‘may’ have turned a few things off to see the results.
But then a friend started to develop an application for the current cost.
I like the idea that there is a small agent tray application that runs on the PC connected to the current cost. It’s polling the device every 3 seconds to get data and storing it in a database. The previous software I tried, as far as I could tell, you had to manually hit a button to extract data from the current cost. Even if you had the later current cost device, it only held a days worth of history, so if you missed a day, you didn’t have complete graphs.
There is also a client application that you can run anywhere, and it connects to the agent via IP, so you can run the client on the same PC, or any other PC. Handy when away from home to still be able to see and graph your energy usage.
Development is still in the early stages, but has been rapid with new builds daily, fixing bugs, but already adding new features based feedback from a small group of beta testers.
I’m most impressed at the functionality already done, which includes the ability for now not only the client code to connect to the agent, but also Web Browser requests of the agent.

Almost forgot, I also installed XP on my Viglen tiny PC so its a very neat, low power, and small setup.

There is lots more beta testing to be getting on with as new code builds are released, and I will move the Viglen and Current Cost down to the garage and stick them on the UPS.

Current Cost Agent Image

Current Cost Agent Image

Current Cost Client Image

Current Cost Client Image

Viglen and Current Cost ( credit card for scale )

Viglen and Current Cost ( credit card for scale )

Viglen and Current Cost Connections

Viglen and Current Cost Connections

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Take some Xbox’s, add Screens and copies of Forza2

Posted by mardi on January 10, 2009

Just add screens

Just add screens

Now that you can pick up Xbox 360’s so cheap thought it rude not to grab a couple to have for spare parts, media extenders and having as “development” boxes. Before gutting them I spotted you can hook up 3 together for the Forza2 driving game I like so much. In fact rare I play anything other that Forza2, and Call Of Duty 2/5 now.  The idea is that you need 3 Xbox 360’s all networked, 3 copies of Forza2 (I happened to have two, a third used copy cost me £5), plus screens, cables and controllers.

After much arranging of cables, and trying to get the three screens the same height, I thought the final stage of just starting up the game would be so easy. How wrong I was. Some faffage with network cables and my Linksys WET54GS5 wireless 5 port bridge was required first. But then still one of the three Xbox’s refused to play with the others. After swapping of cables/games/memory cards, I remembered that the offending box was just back from Bill, and was a Virgin box. Hence it did not have the latest updates for Forza2 installed. You have to be “online” when you start up the game for it to check and give you the option to download the latest updates. Internet connectivity was already done, issue was that you need Xbox Live Gold (maybe silver works?) Membership. So this required me getting my Xbox gamertag from the living room Xbox (for those counting at the back, yes I now have 4 boxes) onto a memory card, to the offending Virgin box. Login with my gamertag, start up Forza2 and as I expected, was prompted that an update was available. Once the update had installed, all three boxes did indeed hug each other, and fire up a three screen view for me.

Was more impressed than I though I would be at the improvement in gameplay, really rather good. I grabbed a quick video using my phone, so sorry about the quality, will try and get some decent footage another time. You can view the video by following this link

The General

The General

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Sailing Cam

Posted by mardi on December 6, 2008

The ebay auctions for my two dinghies complete this weekend,  so then will start the search for a new dinghy to race in 2009.  It will be the same format single hander, and the Solo class is looking most likely.  I like the idea of the Solo as it should promote some close racing at my local sailing club. With this in mind its perhaps time to go back to my old sailing cam project.

I was starting to get results that I was pretty pleased with,  such as this race in the Phantom

I remember a few issues though

  • Max record time on the ATC3K camera was 60 mins
  • Mount position needs to be higher and behind the boat
  • I always hoped to stream wireless

Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by mardi on December 6, 2008

As someone asked already about the location map on the right,  its time I give credit where it is due.

I had a play with trackme earlier in the year on our road/hiking trip up from Salt Lake to Yellowstone,  but found the application a little “interesting” to get installed and working.  My HTC X7500 Advantage at the time struggled with battery life, especially when running the GPS all day.  Also after ~12 days the data produced would struggle to display in google maps.  It was however great that it was all automatic and allowed friends and family to track our progress if they wished. Viewing our holiday photos, and following where we were.

On Friday a friend mentioned something he had been playing with, and pointed me to his new blog to see it in action.   What I saw looked exactly what I was after,  just a quick check there was a client available for my Windows mobile 6.1 HTC Diamond Pro and I was ready to go.

So now I have the ipoki client running on my phone, getting its position from the inbuilt GPS, and sending that information to my  ipoki account via GPRS/HSPDA. This is linked to my Fire Eagle account and updates it. Finally Fire Eagle updates my Blogloc account and that is what you see in the side bar.

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Energy Monitoring

Posted by mardi on December 5, 2008

A friend spotted an energy meter in the latest email from Maplin and it prompted me to do something about a project that has been in the back of my mind for a while. I really need to review the various kit we leave plugged in all the while,  and maybe replace some of the older kit with more efficient items.  Having tried the simple plug in devices that measure a single socket,  I know this is not the solution I need. However the various energy meters I have seen in the past were, like the Maplin unit, a standalone afair.  Whilst some do keep historical data,  I wanted something I could extract from and built my own graphs.

Pretty much all you need to know is covered over at Dale Lanes’ blog in this post.  Worth mentioning is that I picked up the current cost device from the eco gadget shop, which arrived next day. Various blogs report some places selling older stock that you can only communicate with at 2400bps and that don’t save historical data.  Certainly the one I received looks to have the later firmware, and I’m connecting at 9600bps and retrieving historical data from it.  My cable to connect to the PC, I choose to go with the USB one from the companies ebay shop, which also arrived next day in a jiffy bag small enough to make it through the letterbox.  The cables pretty long at over 9ft, so should be fine where ever I want to arrange the meter and PC.

I had to grab the USB driver for the cable from Prolific web site, as I was testing with X30 Laptop running XP.  Also updating to .Net framework 3.5 to get Dales’ Windows GUI application to run.   This ran just fine, and the ease with which I had everything up and running was a little worrying.  So I quickly moved on to have a try with the latest Current Cost Python code which again was up and running in a matter of minutes.

So I know have a pretty neat solution to track the house electricity usage,  what I’m currently lacking is much data,  having only unpacked and plugged the current cost meter in last night,  so for now I will just leave it plugged in and the PC attached to grab and graph me a weeks worth of data.

When I return to the project,  we can start trying to change how we use appliances around the house and see what difference we can make.  I also want to look at what I connect the current cost meter to,  as the X30 is my test/travel laptop.  I have a mini-itx box sat under my desk spare if I stick with the Windows software I’m using now, but would rather like to dust off a spare NSLU2 (Slug) I have,  or the Viglen MPC that I never really found a use for.

I’m interested in comments and suggestions if I should go with the Slug or MPC,  I’m thinking I would use the device as the home web server too,  so other projects would publish data to it,  and combine with the energy graphs and information.

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Faith in ebay restored!

Posted by mardi on December 4, 2008

Phantom Sailing DInghy

For no good reason other than anecdotes from friends and family I had built up an irrational hatred of ebay. The close alliance with paypal, and fear that if you had a dispute the chances of you speaking to a real customer service person would be slim.  That as a seller you get asked loads of pointless questions by people that were never going to bid anyway.  The various rubber cheque and nigerian scams. Plus the gradual increase in fees, and more recent changes to the feedback system.

Over the years I have used it to sell and buy the odd thing, and when I think back,  every transaction as a buyer has gone just fine.  As a seller, apart from the various silly questions, again when I really analyse it, I have done just fine. For nieche things like my modified Subaru it was “free” advertising to capture a bigger audience.

Last weekend I finally got around to cleaning up my Laser dinghy and my Phantom Dinghy,  and popping them on ebay.  I have been pleased and amazed at the bidding frenzy and the 200 watchers. However what has really impressed is the questions and contact I have had with the bidders.  Should I really be that surprised they are just “normal” people like (dare I say it) me. Just reasonable questions, and praise for me being helpful and honest. For example a chap coming to view the boats this Saturday morning,  who really appreciates me making the time to let him pop round.

Lets hope once the bidding closes the rest of the transaction going just as easy

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