Raspberry Pi keeps tabs on your solar power setup

raspberrypi-solarlogger

[Brian Dorey] has been adding green power solutions to his home for some time now, and as things have progressed, he has experimented with several different iterations of data loggers. The latest system watching over his solar power setup is a Raspberry Pi armed with a custom-built I2C analog/digital converter.

The Rasp Pi is responsible for monitoring several different temperature sensors related to his solar water heating and storage system, but that’s just the beginning. It also keeps watch over his roof-mounted solar electric panels, his battery bank, and its charge controller. For good measure, he also monitors his home’s temperature and his water tank’s recirculation pump because, why the heck not?

All of the collected data is relayed to his web server where it is handsomely displayed for his perusal and analysis. [Brian] has made his code available here, so you can monitor your home in the same fashion with little fuss.

Start thinking 4th dimensionally with a time circuit tutorial

When [Phil Burgess] showed off a few I2C – controlled seven-segment displays on adafruit’s weekly vlog, the comments immediately turned to the time circuits featured in everyone’s second-favorite time machine, the Back to the Future DeLorean. The time circuits are now active, so now you can easily add a temporal display to your car well before a hover conversion.

[Phil] used these LED displays, conveniently controlled by a four-wire I2C bus. Although the displays are addressable independently, it’s only possible to assign each display to one of 8 I2C addresses. [Phil] figured out a neat way to control the 9 displays of the time circuit with the help of a 74HC138 3-to-8 line decoder.

The case was constructed out of clear acrylic lasercut in adafruit’s shop and spray painted with faux-metal paint. After installing the seven-segment displays, a Teensy, ChronoDot, and a few AA batteries finished up the build.

With any luck, the design files for the laser cut case should be available shortly, so get those I2C displays while they’re still in stock.

Using your bench tools to test a new display

It usually takes a bit of work to gain confidence when it comes to using new parts. [Glitch] got his hands on this OLED display which is manufactured by Sabernetics and wanted to give it a whirl before building a project around it. He grabbed his Bus Pirate to help learn the ins and outs of the new part.

The 96×16 Dot-Matrix display uses the i2c protocol, keeping the pin count really low (six pins for: ground, reset, clock, data, chip select, and voltage). Since the Bus Pirate gives you command-line-like access to i2c it’s a natural choice for a first test. In fact, the tool has been our go-to device for that protocol for most projects.

The first commands sent are configuration values for the SSD1306 that drives the display. These configure contrast, voltage conversion, and other important values necessary to power on the display. It sprung to life, showing random pixels since the RAM had not yet been initialized. With that success [Glitch] moved on to the Bus Pirate’s scripting capabilities and ended up with a Python script that drives the demo seen above. Now that he knows the commands he needs, it’ll be a lot easier to write code for a microcontroller driver.

Controlling Raspberry Pi expansion pins with a web interface

For the lucky few who have a Raspberry Pi board in their hands, you can now use the GPIO pins as a web interface (German, google translation). [Chris] is turning this magical board is turning a small device that can play 1080p video into something that can blink LEDs via the web.

The build started with an example of driving GPIO pins under Linux. [Chris] cobbled together a bit of PHP and Javascript on the Raspberry pi. Whenever he goes to the website hosted on the Pi, he’s greeted with the status and direction of a couple of expansion IO pins.

On a semi-related note, [Tony] is building a GPIO MIDI interface for his Pi. Yes, he could just get a USB to MIDI adapter and call it a day, but this is a far more professional looking solution to all the MIDI goodness the RasPi will deliver. If you’ve got any info on other RasPi breakout boards you’ve seen, send them in on the tip line.

Motor controller also does nyan cat

As a freshman at UC Berkeley, [Keegan] has been helping out with his school’s Pioneers in Engineering program that gives high school students some hands on experience with engineering principles, usually by building robots. This year, [Keegan]‘s project is a motor controller that just so happens to play the nyan cat song over the motor PWM output.

The motor controller is meant to replace the Pololu simple motor controller the PiE team is currently using. Onboard is an H-bridge chip and an ATmega328 that takes commands from an I2C bus. The ’328 is loaded up with the Arduino bootloader making the firmware very accessible – a good thing for the high school students that will be building and programming these robots.

[Keegan] put up the Eagle files for the board up on the PiE Wiki. For now, just enjoy the dulcet tones of the pop tart cat theme song after the break.

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Resetting the page count on a laser printer

[Brian] really liked his Samsung color laser printer right up until it was time to replace the toner cartridges. A full set of toner cartridges sell for about the same price as the printer itself, so [Brian] figured he could simply refill the toner in the cartridges he already has. The printer sends out the ‘low toner’ warning  based on page count and won’t print if the page count is too high, negating the economy of a toner refill kit. Luckily, [Brian] figured out a dead simple way to reset the page count so he can use those third-party refill kits.

All the configuration settings and page counts for the printer are stored on an I2C EEPROM. After dumping the data held on this EEPROM with an Arduino and sniffing everything going into the EEPROM with a Bus Pirate, [Brian] was nearly at his wit’s end. Thankfully, serendipity intervened. When [Brian] restarted the printer with the Bus Pirate attached, he noticed it took much longer to initialize. Printing a configuration report, he was trilled to see that all page counts have been zeroed.

The final hack that allows [Brian] to reset the page count and used refilled toner cartridges is a simple wire that ties the SDA line of the EEPROM to ground on boot. [Brian] used a momentary switch, but given this is a once-every-few-months operation, a simple wire would suffice. Check out [Brian]‘s page reset demo after the break.

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Wii Nunchuck on an 80s computer

For a computer that debuted in the early 80s the MSX was a very respectable machine. Of course  these were the days that superimposing graphics over a video was an amazing feat, but  [Danjovic] and [Igor] are still having fun with their boxen. They designed a software interface for the Wii Nunchuck (translation) on their trusty MSX computer.

The plug coming out the back of a standard Wiimote is just a simple I2C bus. Many things can be done with this port from plugging in ancient controllers to controlling robots. [Danjovic] and [Igor] managed to write a routine in Basic that converts the I2C data coming out of the Nunchuck to data the MSX can understand without any modification of the hardware whatsoever.

All the guys needed to plug the Nunchuck into the MSX was a voltage divider and a few pull-up resistors between the computer and controller. They got data from both buttons, the joystick and the accelerometer in the Nunchuck and made a small program to display some sprites on the screen to demonstrate this. Check that out after the break.

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