Archive for October, 2011

Current Cost OptiSmart

My OptiSmart arrived this afternoon from Current Cost and I immediately dismantled it :)

Fairly amusing to see how tiny the circuitry was, and that the batteries are taking up 80% of the space inside the device!

The board itself looks pretty straight forward (although my knowledge is pretty limited in this area). I can see the RF module and a PIC chip with what appears to be a header available for reflashing?

My gas meter has an RJ11 connector with 2 wires staying open about 80% of the dial on the meter then closing for the remaining 20%. I hoped to replace the standard sensor with a straight forward RJ11 cable.

I spliced into the cable which comes with the OptiSmart (to read the blinking LED from newer meters) but couldn’t determine what each of the 4 wires in the sensor cable was doing. *EDIT* Upon further investigation, it appears the green wire is GND and red is +3V. Shorting any combination of them didn’t seem to count a pulse on the EnviR display so it doesn’t look like I can connect it to my gas meter as simply as I was hoping. *EDIT* Cracked it :) Join the green and brown wires then place the reed switch between the red and black wires- voila!

I need to adjust it to convert from cubic feet of gas consumed to the equivalent watts but then i’m all set!

I will likely try more experimenting tomorrow- worst case scenario I guess I could fashion a circuit which blinks an led on the opening or closing of the RJ11 connection but it seems a bit mad to need to go that route!


NetSmart Pro 24

Got home from work and the NetSmart Pro 24 (aka Current Cost Bridge) was waiting for me (along with 3 more Individual Appliance Monitors). Hooked it all up and seems to be ticking along nicely:

I could use another 3 monitors but am hoping to use the last few channels to monitor gas and potentially water.

That’s all for toady!


Systems Integration / Interfacing

I am currently researching a project for a client to improve and centralise the interfacing of various systems.

Some of the systems will be known in certain industry’s: Microsoft Dynamics CRM, SunSystems, adDEPOT and EBMS / Ungerboeck for example, and others are bespoke systems developed internally or solely for the use of the client.

Interfaces include:

  • Financials (Invoices, Payments, Debtor Accounts)
  • Marketing Data (Prospects, Order History)
  • Orders
  • Other

Currently the systems interface in a variety of ways including but not limited to:

  • SSIS Packages
  • Bespoke .NET Applications
  • SQL Jobs
  • Custom ASP Scripts

I will go into a little more detail about the aims of the project at a later date, but the single biggest reason would most likely be sharing reusable code (for example where multiple systems are all interfacing invoices to Sun). My initial searches led me toward BizTalk and Jitterbit:

Microsoft BizTalk

  • Likely that the Enterprise edition would be required which is pretty expensive
  • Seems to provide a good solution to some common obstacles such as scalability and


  • Open Source option- although it appears to be limited so the commercial edition would probably be required
  • Essentially appears a great tool for simple interfaces but not really cut out for the complexity of most of the integrations I’m looking at

A few links that may be worth checking out if you’re considering the above:

The research and discussion with the IT team (along with a very brief trial of both applications) has led us to the conclusion that neither suit our requirements that well and a "home-grown" solution is the way to go. I tried to sketch what the end product may look like:

The red lines represent links which may not exist: Should all communication go through our custom web service? Or should we connect directly to the central database for certain functions/queries? Or possibly even directly to the underlying system? Hopefully I will be able to firm this up at a later date.

The first step will most likely be to focus on a single interface: Building the necessary web service methods, invoking application and supporting logging tables in an underlying database. Sun is most probably the biggest player in all these interfaces so we’ll start with one of the interfaces to/from Sun.

SunSystems Connect (SSC): A web service already exists to communicate with Sun however we still want to wrap this within our own web service. I started by browsing to SSC and executing a query using the web interface:

But I kept hitting errors:

The following error(s) occurrent while executing the method:

An error occurred while exporting data
Unknown column specified in filter definition. Unknown column name was 'Column id = ERROR: invalid element name '/Accounts/AccountCode ''.
Column requested does not exist in the column dictionary. Column id is 'Column id = ERROR: invalid element name '/Accounts/AccountCode ''

I guess there must be a bug as the payload.xml appears malformed:

When I fix it:

And execute using my fixed payload.xml:

Everything works as intended:

Now it’s time to try communicating with SSC from .NET. Finding documentation was a bit of a nightmare but I managed to get my hands on some old paperwork: SunSystems Connect 521 SP1.pdf which includes code snippets including C#, Visual Basic.NET and Java- so far, so good…

Watch this space!


So I’ve neglected the whole energy monitoring interest for a few months but spotted the new CurrentCost Individual Appliance Monitors (IAMs) are finally available ( so ordered a few and started playing again.

In addition to monitoring overall household consumption I now have the fridge, servers and living room a/v equipment each giving their own power readings BUT these are not currently posted to the internet using my original CurrentCost bridge. After doing a little reading it appears a new bridge has been released now branded as the CurrentCost "NetSmart". You can send off your existing device to be upgraded (presumably a firmware flash): or buy new.

Upgrade pricing:

£5.99- NetSmart 12 (12 month subscription with up to 3 additional energy data channels)
£7.99- NetSmart 24 (24 month subscription with up to 3 additional energy data channels)
£11.99- NetSmart Pro 12 (12 month subscription with up to 9 additional energy data channels)
£14.99- NetSmart Pro 24 (24 month subscription with up to 9 additional energy data channels)

New pricing:

£34.49- NetSmart 12
£37.49- NetSmart 24
£39.94- NetSmart Pro 12
£45.94- NetSmart Pro 24

I opted for the NetSmart Pro 24. I’ve yet to receive the device but I’ve seen a sneak peak of what to expect on the forum:

The other addition to my existing system I’ve been wanting to see is the ability to monitor gas and hopefully even water consumption. Neither have officially been delivered BUT a new device is available which may help achieve one or both of the aforementioned: Introducting the CurrentCost OptiSmart-

The OptiSmart can be used as an alternative to the clamp/transmitter that originally shipped with the energy monitor(s) if (and only if) your electricity meter is compatible. The same device can in theory be used to read gas and water meters should they contain a pulsing LED to indicate consumption. Unfortunately, mine do not! However, whilst examine my gas meter (Slumberger R5) I found an RJ11 socket which after some research appears to provide direct connectivity to the pulses! With a bit of luck the lead on the OptiSmart can be modified to plug in to this RJ11 socket. I’ve sent an e-mail to CurrentCost to see if they can confirm this before I order one. If that fails I may try with the CurrentCost development board.

I mentioned in a post a while back that Google were retiring their Powermeter service so I’m still on the lookout for a replacement service (or building something myself).

After a bit of research I discovered CurrentCost are already feeding the energy consumption and temperature to pachube. There is a nice little pachube app which utilizes google’s charting ability:

You can find your feed_id in the dashboard (on the right side in the devices section):

Unfortunately only a month’s data is currently retained (this may be a limitation with the free pachube account being used to post the monitor data?) and I really want years of data so I can compare same time last year figures etc. The search continues…

I also stumbled across the Home Automation Hub: which is an open source project which involves ref lashing a Livebox to interact with various devices (including the CurrentCost energy monitor). I really like the idea of this as there’s so much more potential for two-way communication and other applications (linking in nicely with some of my other long term goals) but at the moment I’m going to shy away from it on account of the language being new to me and the apparent lack of current community support.

Expect another update once the NetSmart device comes through and potentially after a start logging gas consumption!


Got the new router this morning: DrayTek Vigor 2830Vn. Seems like a nice, well built unit. Had it up and running with my Sky ADSL in no time and also test AOK with my T-Mobile 3G dongle. Unfortunately, it’s syncing at a slower speed because the Netgear DG834G I was using before had the DGTeam firmware which I’d tweaked to run with a 3dB SNR margin. I may have to have a rethink (continue to use the Netgear but in “modem” mode).

I also took delivery of 2 additional Cisco 7940 IP phones:

Once I receive the new comms cabinet and patch panel I’ll be getting a new trixbox install up and running to start playing with them.


Shopping List :)

A comms cabinet, patch panel and some patch leads:

Some cable management and wall sockets:

More cable management, UPS, new router, fibre, and cisco ip phones:

You may’ve also noticed the currentcost IAMs so I will be able to break down my energy consumption at a lower level (currently I can only see overall consumption).


After running power out to the garage it was time to move the servers out and re-rack them. It all went pretty well…

Here’s the mess at the back of the rack before I stripped it out:

Once all the cabling was stripped out:

Testing the 2U cable dump panel for the power cables:

And covered up:

Seems to work nicely but I only have one at the moment and I need that for the network cables:

Power cables re-run using standard 1U cable management bar:

Network leads patched in (2 for each ESXi server, 1 for the WHS 2011 server, 2 for IPMI and 1 running back to the house- hopefully to be replaced shortly by 2 fibre LAG):

And covered up:

Front of the rack (bit of a rubbish photo, but you can see none of the equipment has any front connections, also quite a lot of redundant gear):


I’ve been out every weekend snapping but haven’t posted anything for a while:

A few from a shoot for Natalie @ ACT Hair & Beauty:


A few from a night I’m now covering at Element:


I finally got around to buying a Canon Speedlite ST-E2 (remote flash transmitter) to use with my Canon Speedlite 580EX II and I’m loving it! Creates some much nicer lighting:

And finally a few from the Kool Kids Klub @ the Sunrooms:



One of the many things keeping me busy at the moment… I decided I’d start the redecorating with the landing.

Stripping the wallpaper was a tedious enough task but one thing led to another and I ended up getting it all plastered, ripping out the doors &frames, stripping the staircase and who knows where it will end (that nasty light fixture definitely has to go :)

Walls stripped- doors & frames pulled:

And again:

One more:

The mess:

Staircase stripped and first wall plastered:

Second wall:

High bit:


Frames going into place:

First door in place:

And again:

Second (from inside):

Still a long way to go, but making good progress!

Promise the next blog post is a lot more colourful :)


Running power and network (conduit) to the garage- house side (hidden neatly behind the side gate):

Inside (currently running as a spur due to the location but will eventually run a direct line into the fusebox):

Garage side (armoured mains cable goes in the side and conduit submerged almost flash with the path):


Bare fusebox mounted with isolator, 6A (lighting) and 16A (mains) circuit breakers:

Armoured cable run into the fuse box and conduit coming out the top of the box (can barely see in the photo):

First socket kept high so as not to obstruct the rack which will sit directly below:

Light fixture in place but not yet cabled:

Second socket with conduit:

In process of feeding the cables through the conduit:

Socket wired:

Fusebox wired and secured:


The other wall:

Light cabled and bulb in place:

Wide angle (excuse the mess :)

Next up- migrating the servers out and rerunning the network around the house (I will probably use fiber to/from the garage but need to work out where to put which switches, poe etc)


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