My house is growing up

February 7th, 2011

My super-secret project advances pretty well! Ok, so my home automation project is not that super secret anymore, but the progress is definitely there.

The network of nodes is working perfectely, lighting and blinds control is 100% done in terms of logic (I still need to prettify these elements visually), as are the temperature sensors. The sensors still need some low-pass-filtering, because the noise is a bit harsh for the logic I need the nodes to execute in “Emergency Mode”.

Yes. Emergency Mode. When the control machine is offline, the home automation keeps on going. The nodes, when not talked to for a few seconds, take control of their critical systems. Lights, blinds and climate control keep on going in a basic way, so that you still can control your house. You loose special control routines, like turning on lights based on motion sensing, opening blinds to harvest the sun’s heat in winter, blind positioning, earth tubes house air intake, etc, but the basic funcionality is always there.

In the beggining, this emergency mode was the mode the home automation was running in, every day. Now the control “server” is online, the system is accessible remotely, and complex control can easily be achieved.

The climate control system is now coming along nicely, including control of radiant floor valves via temperature sensors, solar hot water tank (with solid fuel boiler support), and earth tubes for the house air intake (with direct exterior air alternative).

The roadmap includes the complete security system (that is presently working but via a very quick and dirty hack, needs reimplementing) with volumetric and periferic sensors, the botanic manager (gardens, vegetable growing, fruit trees, greenhouse, etc), and meteorology center. There are a couple of very advanced (and useful) features planned, but that will be a surprise… 🙂

Stay tuned for more info!

A iluminação Pública sobre outra luz

December 7th, 2010

Não é meu costume, mas aqui vai um link para um video que demonstra como a iluminação pública devia ser:


Espero que neste país comecem a investir mais em coisas que valham a pena, e não apenas a esbanjar dinheiro em coisas estúpidas, que parecem ser “inventadas” só para encher os bolsos a determinados amiguinhos (como os painéis de aviso dos preços dos combustíveis nas auto-estradas, ou ainda pior, os sinais que avisam com 8 km de antecedência que os painéis vão aparecer… ).

See you later, Codebits!

November 13th, 2010

Because I will definitely be there again, next year!

I loved everything about the experience: the spirit, the adrenalin, the retro-area the sharing of knowledge, coding on unknown languages and platforms… against the clock! Yes, even the pizza, hamburgers, Vitamin Water, the fruit, the salads… there was a lot of variety this year, and that can only be a great thing.

I didn’t get a chance to taste the infamous Nuclear Nachos, but from what I saw it was kind of better this way… 😉

Our project (Fun-netix) was great fun, everything worked in the end, the presentation itself was very bad, but I think people got it and even liked it!

Roll on Codebits 2011!

I’m all green today…

November 12th, 2010

… and leapy and croacky!

Codebits is amazing!

Riding the stream… to Codebits!

November 11th, 2010

I’m aboard an Alpha Pendular train, heading for the Pavilhão Atlântico, to attend Codebits!

I’m taking some clothing, some retro gear, my laptop and a lot of will to learn, teach and have fun! All this while listening to “Riding the Stream” from Bjorn Linne. It’s from one of my favourite games of the time: Alien Breed 3D. The atmosphere was amazing, although the FPS were not…

See you at Codebits! 🙂

Server down. Culprit: dust.

October 31st, 2010

My server went down yesterday! 😮

It was when I came to it to program a bit more on my Arduclema guinea pig that I realized it was off. I quickly opened the case (a 1.5-second affair on this dual-processsor PowerMac G4 MDD) to see if something was horribly wrong, and I saw the problem immediately: dust had clogged the air intake.

This PowerMac has been modified by me in the past to keep it’s fan noise down; every fan was replaced, mainly the two Nidecs on the power supply, and the CPUs heatink got a couple of specially placed fans and duct. Many air paths were blocked to force simple, efficient intake and exhaust. So when dust settled in, it quickly wreacked havok on the inside temperatures.

I gave it a good cleanup, and here it is, up and running. Again. But one of the power supply fans has given up the ghost and needs replacing, as does a cheap blower that was on one of the PCI bays (exhausting the Nvidia GeForce Titanium).

This PowerMac needs some love…

Notes and ideas: capturing the æther

October 20th, 2010

I’m in search of a note-taking software. Here are my notes 🙂 on what I’d like the software to do (aka features):

* Keep text-based notes, with a flexible editor (embbed/link images, video, PDFs, spreadsheets, etc).

* Video note-taking (aka Flink’s Help Files 🙂 ), with automatic speech-to-text processing (creates a text document associated to the video with the extracted speech, so that is it easier to search for stuff I talk about in the videos).

* A powerfull search engine, capable of going down to PDFs, text on images, spoken content on videos, spreadsheets, etc.

* An open and easy to store data model; access, backup and recovery of the database should be trivial. Software only lasts so long, data should last forever.

* Having access (at least in read-only form) to my notes everywhere with a simple browser.

* Having the possibility to “upload” a new note in a trivial way (via email or a simple web page).

* Having the possibility to mark notes as public (to share with the World) or private (not everything I do is interesting to everyone, trust me).

In the past, I’ve setup and used a wiki on my server (Flink’s realm). It was a good experience, I stopped using it because of lack of time and server re-arrengement, but still is one of my possibilities. The other one is using a note-taking software (like Evernote or Notebook), but I can’t find anything that seems to support video (even without the speech-recognition-for-searching part).

If I can’t be satisfied, writing my own is a possibility (not just now, I’ve got a lot on my hands right now). Any suggestions?

I’ve always been a Rebol, anyway

September 30th, 2010

Some years ago, when I went to University, I preached to anyone that would listen about Java’s greatest virtues. I was a true Java evangelist, but people mocked me and said I was nuts. I can still hear myself back then:

“But it’s an object oriented language, WORA! The platform is one of it’s strenghs, too! Threads and stuff! Imagine the possibilities!”

“You can develop and test in any operating system! Development is free, you don’t have to splash on an SDK/IDE/whatever!”

“It’s the knees bees, I’m telling you! Look!”

And people would laugh. Out loud.

A few years later I’ve finished my degree, and Java is all the rage, the Electronics and Telecommunications department improves my degree with Java as a discipline, everyone is on it. By then, I was happily developing my multithreaded, client-server, MVC, near-real-time, graphics-intensive, dedicated industrial applications in Java. Now that “Java is everywhere”, I’m looking for alternatives.

Why? I can’t really tell. On one hand, Java has been very kind to me, giving me a powerfull common platform on the Mac, Windows and Linux. And yes, I’ve had to deploy on all of them. Java gives me the simplicity I crave for in application deployment. There are lots and lots of good libraries around for you to leverage. And I must confess that the object orientation and the garbage collection really spoiled me.

But on the other hand, I’ve got a couple of issues I still can’t identify. Nothing even remotely serious, but the JVM has failed on me in native code twice, and there are some problems drawing graphics (glitches) on certain machines. Graphical performance is also a bit unpredictable from machine to machine (I’m talking Windows here, on the Mac it’s quite good and predictable and on Linux it’s, well, always slow-ish). Also, some really simple tasks take waaaaay too much code, care and study in Java, because it really is a general-purpose platform.

While not letting go of Java (I still love the platform nonetheless), I’m in the process of learning new stuff. Objective-C is way cool, I like it a lot, but as a platform it’s confined to the Mac/iPhone. So I’m getting to grips with what I think is the next big thing: Rebol. I took a quick 15min look, and it seems great!

The other platform, although not as revolutionary, is great for graphics stuff: BlitzMax.

I always was a fan of Mr. Carl Sassenrath and Mr. Mark Sibly ever since I was a kid in my Amiga times. Their evolution and art is an inspiration!

Treading new ground here, and it’s FUN!

Andromeda Ascendant

September 28th, 2010

Tenho mixed feelings por esta série de ficção científica; adoro a ideia, a nave, a história de background (ou não tivesse sido o Gene Roddenberry a imaginá-las), e a primeira season foi boa na globalidade, mas depois os episódios começam a parecer um pouco “forçados”, sem ligação, pouco credíveis e até vazios… principalmente a partir do momento em que o Robert Hewitt Wolfe deixou de os escrever.

Muitas vezes a Andromeda parece a nave mais poderosa do Universo, capaz de quase tudo, mas outras vezes parece muito fraquinha, e aquilo que fez no episódio anterior, incompreensivelmente já não o faz neste.

Com o passar dos episódios, também se nota o budget pequeno; sempre as mesmas (poucas) zonas da nave, o mesmo corredor, até as cenas no espaço são poucas, efémeras e parecem ter sido feitas depressa, com pouca atenção ao detalhe.

É certo que não tenho tido tempo para ver muito e ainda só vou na terceira season, mas mesmo assim… Agora quero ver se ponho as garras em alguns DVDs da Babylon 5. Vi alguns episódios quando era mais moço e pareceu-me mais envolvente, mais credível, e mais espectacular.

Nestes últimos anos tenho descurado a minha dose semanal de ficção científica. Playing catchup! Alguma recomendação a um trekkie?

Muito movimento

September 28th, 2010

Há pouco tempo comecei a procurar sensores de movimento para o meu projecto ultra-secreto; mas nas lojas aqui da zona (electrónica, electricidade, chinesas…), só encontro sensores com alimentação de 230V, alguns até preparados apenas para ligar uma carga de 230V (o neutro da carga é comum com a alimentação). Ora eu preciso de sensores com alimentação a baixa tensão para não ter problemas de “certificação” (12V era óptimo) e com relés independentes, que não precisam de ser grande espiga em termos de capacidade de carga, porque apenas vão dar sinal a uma entrada digital de um microcontrolador.

Finalmente descobri que aparentemente, todos os sensores de centrais de alarme são assim, ou muito parecidos. Como não conseguia encontrar nada cá, encontrei uma loja na Internet que me parecia boa e encomendei alguns sensores: uns caros e uns mais baratinhos para experimentar. Duas semanas depois chegou a embalagem com os 5 sensores. Estou a pô-los à prova enquanto defino a estrutura do quadro eléctrico, e depois dou novidades!

Depois vou ver se encontro uma loja aqui neste jardim à beira-mar plantado que me venda este equipamento…