Misterhouse and Passive FTP

I finally figured out what was causing misterhouse to fail on updating the earthquake data. It was using a script called “get_url”. The “get_url” script is a perl script and it relies on LWP::Useragent. In the case of my network all FTP connections have to be made in passive mode. There are a couple of ways to do this. The 1st way is by environment variable. SUSE uses the file profile.local for local environment settings. So to use the environment method you place the following into /etc/profile.local

The other method, and probably the better method, is to use the “libnetcfg” utility to create or modify the config file for perl Net Lib.


Open the Door – Part 1

Since I have yet to be able to recover my lost data from old blog entries I decided to try to re-create this article.

A little over a year ago I received a phone call at work form my mother. She had locked herself out of the house. I had to leave work, and drive the forty minutes home to let her in. Then drive back to work. At the time we were beginning the process of adding an addition onto the house to make entry easier for my wheel chair bound mother. I realized this would be the perfect time to add an electric keyless entry system so that she would never be locked out of the house again.
After deciding that I was going to do this, I began to decide what it was I wanted in the system. I looked though a few catalogs and came up with the following features I felt would be the most beneficial to us.

  • Ability to answer the door from anywhere in the house
  • Ability to enter the house by using a code
  • Ability to assign multiple codes and change them quickly
  • Ability to handle both the front and rear doors
  • Ability to still enter and exit using keys if the system fails
  • System shouldn’t cost a small fortune

After doing more research, I could not find any one system that met with all of my requirements. I did however find two systems that I was certain could be interconnected to do what I needed. I settled on the Doorbell Fon and a keyless entry system from SmartHome. I actually found the Doorbell Fon on EBay new from an electrical contractor for half price. In addition to the the keypad kit, and the Doorbell Fon itself I had to purchase the optional Electric Lock Controller, an Electric Lock, and a 12V DC power transformer. (Had I have really been thinking I could have probably managed just fine with an old AT computer power supply)

Parts List: (Smarthome)

  • 3062 – 12VDC 1.5A POWER SUPPLY

Also needed:

  • hook up wire (I used 5 wire thermostat wire from Menards)
  • short lengths of Cat5 wire for telephone connections
  • wire nuts, various sizes
  • Terminal Block for connecting wires and keeping things clean.
  • Siding “J-Box” to give a professionally mounted look for the intercom, and the keypad

Part two will include wiring diagrams and more details on the install.

Photo Channel

The photo channel came to me when I saw a picture frame in a catalog that used an LCD panel to display digital pictures. Unfortunately this solution required hooking to a phone line to dial out and download pictures from a service. This annoyed me greatly. So After thinking about it a while, I decide I really didn’t have spare wall space anyway. Why not take an old scan converter and a modulator and insert a channel on my cable system in the house. So after purchasing a bandpass filter to make sure I wasn’t re-transmitting out on the city cable system, I set in. The photo channel consists of numerous pieces, some of with really aren’t necessary, they were just added to see if I could incorporate some of the old hardware laying around the house. The systems consists of the following hardware:

  • Bandpass filter (to keep my signal from going back out on the cable system for the town, as well as to give me a clean range of channels to insert into)
  • Modulator (to convert the signal form the scan converter to a channel the TV’s in the house can pick up)
  • Scan Converter (to convert the VGA output to a signal usable by the modulator)
  • IBM Netstation (the machine used for actually displaying the pictures)

The pictures reside on the file server’s hard drive. This also gave me the ability to display the same pictures on the web site in the photo gallery. The picture directory is accessed by a daemon running on the file server that periodically sends a new picture to the netstation. This eats a little processor power on the file server but not enough to really worry about. By doing it that way, I discovered I could control the picture selection from an RF X10 remote. Now I can switch from slide show to slide showat the touch of a button anywhere in the house. After watching the pictures for a while I became aware that I was missing another great feature available by using the TV. I made a couple quick changes to the wiring on the MP3 server, and now the audio form the MP3 server plays over the photo channel. Having done this I decided that it would be nice to have the artist and song title display on the channel too. This was easily accomplished by writing a daemon in perl that monitors the log file of IRMP3 When the song title changes, the daemon displays the artist and song title on screen. There is an API available to add this directly into IRMP3 but I didn’t feel like learning it at the time of creation. At some point in the future I will rewrite the daemon to make it a plugin to IRMP3. This project was a great success at Christmas. I snapped pictures throughout the day and copied them (via Samba) to a directory for the photo channel Then family who came later could see pictures from earlier. As you may have guessed I setup a Christmas music playlist on the mp3 server and had that playing for an added effect.

MP3 Server

I have created an MP3 server and added it to my home sterio. Before you e-mail me and ask for access to it, forget it. I don’t share mp3 files. This project is to allow me to be able to listen to any of the music I like whenever I like. The server is IR controlled allowing me to pick from numerous play lists at any time. This is accomplished by using numerous linux software packages. Right now it runs quite nicely on a pentium 200 box with 64 meg of ram. The box is running as you might have already guessed… redhat linux. It is using LIRC, mpeg123, IRMP3, Samba, abcde, and for various features. Samba allows me to add songs easily from any of the windows boxes on the network. In addition to this it also allows songs to be played on other PCs at any time via winamp. LIRC is used in conjunction with IRmp3 to allow for the control of mpg123 via infrared. Abcde is used to add new CD’s I purchase to the share. All I have to do is insert the disc in the drive and type “abcde” on the console. In the future I will be configuring a button on the remote to handle this, as its really annoying to still have the keyboard and monitor in the room.

Control of IR devices

I have also added infrared control to my home automation server. The server is running on redhat Linux. This was accomplished using the plans and software from the LIRC project. Currently this is being used to start and stop recording on a VCR that is attached to a camera. The recording cycle is triggered by a X10 motion sensor. This allows me to record comings and goings throughout the day on the porch. Unfortunately our cat is a camera hog and no matter where I place the sensor she manages to find a way to trip it. So occasionally I have a nice video of the cat doing various catlike things. In the future when I expand this project I will be adding an interface to my web page to allow me to set the VCR remotely to catch shows I want to see.

Home Automation Controller

I am using redhat linux with my CM11a interface to control the X10 controllable lights and appliances in my house. This allows me to setup intelligent macros, and schedules that closely reflect my work schedule. In addition to scheduled macros I have installed motion sensors in various locations. At night when I climb the stairs the light automatically comes on for me and after 2 minutes without movement the light shuts back off. I have managed to interface the CM11a to a web page allowing for graphical control of lights from any computer in the house. This could lead to attaching a computer to TV to allow graphical control from any TV in the house as well.