Automated Aquarium is Kitchen-Sinky

fishtankAutomation

People have been converting their old Power Macs and Mac G5s into fish tanks for a few years now, but [Hayden's] Internet-enabled tank is probably the most awesome ever crammed into an aquarium along with the water and the fish—and we’ve seen some fascinating builds this summer. After gutting the G5 and covering the basic acrylic work, [Hayden] started piling on the electronics: a webcam, timed LED lighting, an LCD for status readouts, filter and bubble control via a servo, an ultrasonic sensor to measure water levels, thermometer, scrolling matrix display, an automatic feeding mechanism, and more. He even snuck in the G5′s old mainboard solely for a cool backdrop.

The build uses both a Raspberry Pi and an Arduino Mega, which sit underneath the tank at the base. The Pi provides a web interface written in PHP and jQuery, which presents you with the tank’s status and allows changes to some settings. Nearly every component received some form of modification. [Hayden] stripped the webcam of its case and replaced the enclosure with a piece of acrylic and a mountain of silicone, making it both waterproof and slim enough to fit in the appropriate spot. Though he decided to stick with an Amazon-bought Eheim fish feeder, he disabled the unit’s autofeed timer and tapped in to the manual “feed” button to integrate it into his own system.

It’d take half of the front page to explain the rest of this thing. We’ve decided to let the aquarium tell you the rest of its features in the video below. Yeah…it can talk.

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Web based automation courtesy of Raspberry Pi

web-based-automation-via-rpi

This project is a great example of the Raspberry Pi’s ability to eclipse Arduino when it comes to interaction. [Fall Deaf] mentions that he used to use an Arduino board with an Ethernet shield to add extensible interactivity to his project. But this one, which is a home automation lamp project, uses a Raspberry Pi instead. The concepts end up being very similar. But the cost of the hardware is less and the coding work is arguably orders of magnitude easier.

Don’t get us wrong, the hardware is fundamentally different. When you move from Arduino to RPi you lose some I/O pins and the low level control of them isn’t quite as straight-forward. But you also don’t have to program the thing in C. The Linux kernel handles the low level control which means you can write your scripts using Python. Because Python is an interpreted language the testing and debugging is much faster — no need to flash new code, just run the script again.

This project used the RPi GPIO to drive a strip of LEDs which use the WS2801 protocol. The board includes a NIC which makes it a snap to use as a web server. The smart phone controls seen above are served up from the Pi using jQuery. Right now there’s a cord running out of the lamp. But there should be plenty of room to use a screw-in outlet adapter and to hide the RPi and its PSU inside.

The board still has enough juice to drive other automation features too, like acting as a web radio server.

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What you can do when a Raspberry Pi teams up with an Arduino

We thought that connecting an Arduino to a Raspberry Pi was overkill, but one thing caught our attention. [Jan Stevens] mentions that the RPi is less expensive than the Ethernet Shield. Interesting. As we looked into his writeup a bit more we began to think he’s onto something. [Jan] uses the PHP serial class to communicate between the RPi and Arduino. This ends up being a very inexpensive way to bring some of the more powerful web programming options to your hardware devices.

Sure, he’s just driving three RGB LEDs. But the demo video after the break gives us a glimpse as some of the interface options that become available when an embedded Linux machine is in play. He’s using jQuery, AJAX, PHP, and JSON to name a few. If you want to give this a try yourself you can grab the code from his Github repo. Of course we’re going to want to hear about any projects you develop from this starting point!

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