Fun with the Roomba

Yesterday as I left for work I hit the clean button on the roomba and went to work.  When I returned my room had been nicely vacuumed.  I love robots.  🙂

Now, i need help naming him though.  I’m terrible with names.

So, post your ideas as comments, and I’ll post the winner here.  This is what he looks like:

Roomba Sage

Technology… Can’t live with it… Can’t live without it…

Palley arrived home from work, rolled into her wheelchair lift, and hit the button, it started up.. made a strange noise.. then POP! and sparks shot out of the motor… The earliest the repair guy can get in is Monday.

On a happier note, to cheer her up I showed off the roomba in her bedroom. She fell in love, especially when she found out it can get under the bed and into other places. “Can we get another one so I can have one down here too???” WOW! I was shocked. Then, to make things even scarier… “How’s it work on the hardwood and linoleum?” So I explained it would do fine for picking up the dust, just not mopping. “Aww to bad it can’t do that too…” 🙂 Wow, just like she was scripted or something. “Well, you know, they actually make one for that.” “What??!?!? Really!!!!” So I explained how it works, and her eye got big and lit up like a kid at christmas. “OH! YOU HAVE TO GET ONE OF THOSE TOO!!!!”

Whoever this strange being is that has replaced my mother… I like her!!!

My life with a robot – Day 1

There is a new member of the Wohlers family. Last week I managed to catch a Roomba on woot for a really good price.  I haven’t told Palley yet, because I was going to be selfish and keep it to myself in my room. She tends to be skeptic of gadgets, and I didn’t want to hear about the “waste of money”.   But, since my room is in a shambles and I really wanted to let it run, I decided today while Palley was gone to play a bit.   I  brought the newly charged Roomba downstairs and first let it go in the living room.

Read on for my adventures with the roomba!

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I was tipped off to the latest woot-off by Gabi.  I hit it a few times, and saw nothing I was interested in really, then they posted a roomba…

I couldn’t resist anymore…

Now, I just need to clean up my room some and i can let the roomba vaccum for it.  I should prolly pick up the rest of the house to for that matter.

I also discovered theres a bluetooth module available for it that woudl allow me to interface it with the phone or computer to control it.  I could actually interface it right into Mr. House so that the Home Automation controller actually has some say on the roomba’s operation too.  hmmm…

I worry that if i get to crazy with it, it could take over the world… 

Taking the plunge

I’m taking the plunge… I’m tired of the CM11 controller being so frigging unreliable.   I ordered the INSTEON PowerLinc Controller V2 USB, and the 2 RF repeaters necessary to start using INSTEON.   I’m hoping the controller it self will help out with the X10 problems I’m having.  Its getting to the point where I have to reset the CM11  every few days now.  I don’t know whats causing it, but its past my threshold of tolerability.  

All better

I’m so pleased to announce that I have, with some help from the guy I goto when things look bleak, completely recovered my home automation / file server.

Everything is back to normal, and actually a couple of things are working better.

Thank you Zack!

How did I fix it?

booted to the SLES 9.1 boot CD, ran the recovery mode. From the console there I was able to mount the partition on the system to a temp location. Then I ran “mkinitrd /mnt/oldroot”. mkinitrd ran through the kernel on the mounted partition, and built a new initrd and dumpted it to the ramdisk /boot. I copied it form there to the boot partition on the HDD and rebooted.

Poof! up came my system. Well sorta… The ethernet interface didn’t load, but that was because I had to change out the MB which changed the mac address. A quick rename of the config file and a network services restart gave me back my ethernet connection. I rebooted once more and everything came up fine. I still ahd to do some fidgiting with the X10 controller but got that going too.

GAAAAH!!! I Hate Computers

Tonight I noticed that the home automation controller computer / fileserver was acting weird. At first the behavior seemed to be just related to the serial communications to the actual powerline controller. This has happened once or twice before and wasn’t ever a real problem. It usually can be solved by power cycling the interface, and restarting the service. I tired that and had no luck. Then I noticed another service was acting odd so I decided that it might be a good idea to reboot.

What the hell was I thinking.

After about 5 minutes I still had no connectivity to the server. So I went to the basement to check on it. Turned on the monitor for the console and heard a high pitched whine, not quite high enough to hurt my ears but close. I turned it off and grumbled. So I went up and got a replacement monitor. Nothing on the display…. I looked at the power switch and noticed no light on it. I thought to myself “Ha! I did a shutdown not a reboot! DUH!”

I clicked the power switch… and heard the system power off. Thats not right…

Clicked it again, and instead of the happy glow of a green led I was greeted with the harsh and nerve wracking glow of yellow. Normally this means bad power supply. So I went and grabbed a spare power supply and put it in only to discover that, oh yeah… thats the one that blew a few months ago and its dead. So I tore apart another computer to scavanged the supply. Put it in the system plugged it all in powered it up and… was again greeted by an every so annoying yellow led… SON OF A!!!

So I went back up and got my spare computer I had been keeping just in case this exact event happened. (same model, make etc) I swapped out the power supply and hard drive from the apparently dead system and put them into the replacement system. (Yes this was the system I scavanged the power supply from)

I turned it on and was greeted with… a happy green LED. Huzzah my troubles are over.


Not in John world…

The system got to the grub boot screen, timed out and started the boot process only to tell me ERROR 15, unable to locate file /boot/initrd on (hda0)


I tried failsafe… same thing….

At that point I turned things off and said to hell with it.

I came up reconfigured the wrt54G, and am sitting here trying to relax a few more minutes before I try to go to bed.

I’m hoping that tomorrow things will be better, and I’ll be able to discover that its something silly like a broken link to initrd on the boot partition.

That would be nice….

I have a recover CD…

I should be able to mount that partition and fix the link then….

I hope…

If it is the drive going bad… NOT AGAIN!!! I’m going to be purchasing a copy of spinrite and a new hard drive to see if I can recover the data.

There are days when I hate my life…

Yup again…

So, today around 3 pm I recieved an email from my mail server.  It seems the automated hourly backup failed.   I SSHed in, and looked and it was having trouble writing to the backup drive on the file server.  I paused to pick my heart up out of my shoe again…  I then SSHed into the fiel server, and did a drive list of the volume on the backup drive.  Everything was scrambled and unusable except the directory the mail backup had transferred to.  I checked the partition type with fdisk,and it now read FAT32.   HUH!?!?!?!?

I tried switching the type back to linux, but it was a lost cause…  I have NO idea what could have triggered it to revert to a fat32 partition type.   I swear I live on some sort of odd convergence of magnetic fields or something.   I have NEVER known anyone else to have so many bizzare HDD related issues.   I think my next “toy” is going to have to be a gauss meter.
Oh, guess how much data I lost this time…

Nothing really…  All the music files were on there, but they are ALL on my ipod and I think I can retrieve them from it w/o much effort.

Lounge Lizard

Yesterday I took a plunge and made a purchase. Very fiscally unresponsable of me I suppose. Although in my defence I have been contemplating this purchase for well over a year, and my desire had not deminished at all. What did I purchase? I purchased a “D-Link DSM320“. For those of you who do not know immediatly what that is… It is a media player device for your home entertainment center. Years ago I built my own device that had nowhere near the features this does, and quite frankly has gotten way to clunky. I toyed with the idea of building another unit, but this prebuilt won out.
The first thing I had to do was to find and install a linux uPNP media server. The device itself comes with windows software which doesn’t do me much good. After a little research I decided to actually buy a licence for “TwonkyMedia” server from TwonkyVision. (They offer a trial version which I did download and test before actually setting up the DSM) The install went very well, and was one of the most simple installs I have ever perfomed on a linux box. After the install completed I pointed my web browser to the configuration page and ran through the options. I sepcified the location of all my various media files in doing so I also included the album directory for my photo gallery. This proved to be a very bad idea.
The problem that arose stems from Gallery making 3 copies of an image for each image loaded. At some point over 9,000 pictures TwonkyMedia server croaked. I then hit upon the idea of of creating symlinks for just the full size original images figuring that this would greatly reduce the number of images shown. This remedy also gave me the added opportunity to do a little reorganizing of my photos. After a few minutes of testing I discovered that twonkey was quite happy to read symlinks to the original images. So I proceded to create a directory structure and symlinks. The tough of manually creating a symlink for each of my thousands of photos made me ill. “Why do it manually when I know it can be done faster and easier some other method?” That some other method came in the form of the “find” command. To make sim links for each new category, I only had to enter the following command in each new directory to automatically symlink to each and every image.
find /path_to_gallery/album_dir/some_album/ -name "DSC?????.jpg" -exec ln -s {} ;
The find command went and located every images named DSC that had 5 characters and ended with .jpg. Find then ran the ‘ln’ program to create a symlink in the current directory using the existing file name. Once I did that for all the images I wanted to have visible on the media center I had Twonky rescan the directories when it finished it listed 6885 pictures served. A quick check by typing ls -lR |grep .jpg | wc -l in the root of the symlink photo gallery directory confirmed this to be the correct number.
The next step was to actually setup the D-Link itself. I initally was going to use it in wired mode, but I didn’t feel like making the trip to the basement to the patch panel to make the network jack behind the TV active. (Yes, I’m that lazy) Besides, I figured the D-Link has wireless so I might as well try it out. After plugging the D-Link into the Video2 inputs on my stereo reciever I pressed the D-Link power button and watched it go through its boot routiene. After booting it presented me with a straight forward series of wizards to setup the unit. The controls were at times a little less than intuitve, but I managed without much difficulty to add in my SSID and WEP Key. The system defaulted to DHCP which was nice, and prevented me from having to manually enter the IP configuration. I hit the “next” button and waited for the D-Link to connect. It failed. A few puzzled seconds later it occured to me that I had not added the D-Link’s wireless card’s MAC address to my MAC filter on my access point. 10 minutes later, after muttering under my breath as to why I would have chose such an irritating and equally hard to remember password for my access point, I had the D-Link added. I then let it try network connections again, and this time it recieved an address and was pingable from the other machies on the network. It then presented me with a “Searching for Media Servers” screen and there it sat. After about a minute the D-Link presented me with an “Unable to find any Media Servers” message. I remebered reading in the Twonky FAQs that if this happened I would probably need to add a multicast route to the server hosting the TwonkyMedia server.
Dreading the fun of playing with routing information I dove into yast and suprizingly a few minutes later had managed to add the route. (You have to use for gateway or it won’t add a multicast) So I tried the search for servers option again, and after a minute or so it once again failed. This time however the client did show up in TwonkyMedia as a client however so there was some communication going on. I then went to the clients page on TwonkyMedia servers configuration screen and added the IP addres fo my D-Link to the list provided for just such an ocassion. I restarted the search on the D-Link and again it failed. This time I decided to reboot the D-Link under the assumption that perhaps something wasn’t qute right in the networking setup. When the D-Link rebooted it phoned home, and then asked me if I would like to update its firmware. I figured it couldn’t hurt and I clicked yes. About three minutes, and two progress bars later the D-Link asked to reboot. I let it. After the reboot finished I returned to the configure screen and again told it to search for servers. It immediatly found “WohlersHome” and a couple clicks later I was presented with a menu of all of my available media.

So far I have had no problems with audio, and only one video refused to play. The video was encoded at a VERY high bitrate thoguh, so I assume that is becasue of the use of the wireless connection and switching to wired should solve that. (That or I could just re-encode the video to a little lower bitrate) Photo slides shows have been fantastic, and I have no complaints there. Overall I am delighted with my purchase and the ease of install in my complicated network.