Archive for December, 2012


A new year, a new project

*EDIT*: Update on this project https://tickett.wordpress.com/2013/01/10/an-update-on-my-latest-project/

So I realise I have been a little quiet on here lately, and so will make it my new year’s resolution to get back in the habit of blogging regularly.

I would like to share some details of a project I’m assessing for feasibility. It is yet to be named but in essence I’m looking at building an Automated Mains Plug / Socket, let’s call it aPlug.

What do you mean by automated?

  • Remotely switchable / “programmable”
  • Monitor / log power / energy consumption

Don’t these already exist?

  • A lot of rf controllable plugs exist but there are a number of limitations- # cannot integrate with other equipment, # cannot operate from outside of the home, # cannot operate without the supplied remote, # cannot determine current state
  • Some power / energy consumption monitoring plugs exist but again, bare limitations- # cannot integrate with other equipment, # require a gateway device to post data to the internet
  • A few devices even exist which address both requirements but- # cannot integrate with other equipment, # cannot operate from outside the home, # require a gateway device (possibly even an entire pc to post data to the internet), # are expensive, # are closed source

There is however, one possible hope! The hexabus plug: http://signup.hexabus.net/ – I am trying to make contact with the guys behind the hexabus plug to determine where the project is currently, where it’s headed etc. Regardless, the great thing about the project, it is open source- which means the schematic / parts list (BOM) have been published: https://github.com/mysmartgrid/hexabus – unfortunately the PCB layout doesn’t appear to’ve been, but again, I’m hoping it will be shortly.

This project has also sparked the interest of the guys over at flukso, and became the center of a talk at one of their meetings: https://www.flukso.net/files/presentations/flukso.20121026.hack_hexaplug.pdf – where they have suggested a minor tweak to enable interconnectivity with jee labs devices (they include a PCB layout, which suggests they likely have them- I am trying to make contact with them too!)

Even if I manage to make contact and get details of the existing device I still have a lot to tackle…

Network connectivity
I’m currently looking at options, but it makes sense to try and learn from the lessons the guys behind LIFX: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/limemouse/lifx-the-light-bulb-reinvented
They have essentially gone down the route of creating a mesh network with “slave” devices, then using a “master” device to bridge to the local area network (LAN) and essentially the internet. This ultimate is a gateway device but “in disguise”- and unless I can miraculously find a way of driving down the cost I can’t see any other approach being feasible?

Prototyping
I am making contact with a number of companies who design, produce and assemble printed circuit boards (PCBs) as a number of the components involved in the device cannot be soldered by hand nor can the circuit(s) likely be built using a simple breadboard. I imagine this is going to be a real challenge as the cost for “one-off” or very limited production runs is likely to be extremely high.

Software / Firmware
I have coded some simple arduino / atmega programs in the past, and worked with some of the jeelabs devices but I will certainly be needing assistance to build something as complex as this if it’s going to be robust enough to put “out in the field”. My hope is that developers will show a keen enough interest and we can build something as a community. The devices will be reprogrammable so new firmware can be flashed with relative ease. The problems will come when a hardware change is required…

Certification
Regardless of whether a device is faced with mains voltages or whether a device is aimed at developers I anticipate some form of certification being required- this could be tricky (especially on an evolving device).

Funding
To gauge interest, boost funding, promote the project and hopefully attract some developers, testers and contributors I would like to run a kickstarter project- unfortunately it’s a little chicken & egg as I need at least some form of prototype before I can reach out to the community. I have however drafted a project so I am prepared if I do get that far: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/tickett/736265394?token=98a4e52f (so far just some notes, and the reward levels are pure guesswork).

I just knocked the artwork up from a few google images:

I have asked someone to design some artwork for a t-shirt, so I will see if they can come up with a cool concept :)

Where Next?
Yes, it’s far too early to be thinking about that, but I can’t help it!

  • Multi socket extension lead type device with individual socket switching and consumption monitoring
  • aSocket, essentially a mains socket with the device inside so no “plug” is required
  • Other plug types (I am based in the UK so this is where I intend to initially focus)

At this stage I’d appreciate any feedback, or expressions of interest etc

Happy new year to all

Lee

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Crystal Report Data Source Updater

To address a long standing bug/issue with the Crystal Reports application forcing you to update every table/view/sproc one by one I built a quick/dirty application in c#.

You will need .NET installed and the Crystal runtime v13 to run it: http://snk.to/f-cztp0jk7

Here’s the code… no error trapping etc… I may improve it in the future:

            InitializeComponent();
            ReportDocument rpt = new ReportDocument();
            OpenFileDialog ofd = new OpenFileDialog();
            ofd.Filter = "Crystal Reports (*.rpt)|*.rpt";
            ofd.ShowDialog();
            rpt.Load(ofd.FileName);
            ConnectionInfo ci = new ConnectionInfo();
            ci.ServerName = Microsoft.VisualBasic.Interaction.InputBox("Server");
            ci.DatabaseName = Microsoft.VisualBasic.Interaction.InputBox("Database");
            ci.UserID = Microsoft.VisualBasic.Interaction.InputBox("User");
            ci.Password = Microsoft.VisualBasic.Interaction.InputBox("Password");
            ci.IntegratedSecurity = (Microsoft.VisualBasic.Interaction.InputBox("SSPI (Y/N)") == "Y");
            TableLogOnInfo tli = new TableLogOnInfo();
            tli.ConnectionInfo = ci;
            for (int i = 0; i < rpt.Database.Tables.Count; i++)
            {
                rpt.Database.Tables[i].ApplyLogOnInfo(tli);
            }
            SaveFileDialog sfd = new SaveFileDialog();
            sfd.DefaultExt = ".rpt";
            sfd.ShowDialog();
            rpt.SaveAs(sfd.FileName);
            Environment.Exit(0);
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