Hacklet adds Linux control for the Modlet smart outlet

modlet-for-linux-hacklet

Linux users now have a simple option for controlling the Modlet smart outlet. Hacklet is a Ruby script that can switch and read status information from Modlet.

This is the first we remember hearing about Modlet. It’s another take on controlling your appliances remotely. Unlike WeMo, which puts control of one outlet on WiFi, the Modlet uses a USB dongle to control two outlets wirelessly. It has the additional benefit of reading how much current is being used by each plug. This does mean that you need a running computer with the USB dongle to control it. But cheap embedded systems like the Raspberry Pi make this less of an issue both in up-front cost, and the price to keep it running all the time.

[Matt Colyer's] demo video includes an unboxing of the $60 starter kit. The screen seen above shows his script pairing with the outlet. It goes on to demonstrate commands to switch it, and to pull the data from the device. He even provides an example of how to use IFTTT with the script.

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Proximity switch for your mains devices

[Ivan's] friend built a proximity sensor to switch his LED bench lighting off every time he walked away. The idea is pretty neat, so [Ivan] decided to implement it for mains devices by making this proximity switched outlet box.

A Sharp GP2D12 infrared distance sensor is the key to the system. It has an emitter and receiver that combine to give distance feedback base on how much of the light is reflected back to the detector. This is presented as a voltage curve which is monitored by an ATtiny85 (running the Arduino bootloader). It is small enough to fit inside the outlet box along with a tiny transformer and linear regulator to power to logic circuitry. The mains are switched with a relay using an NPN transistor to protect the chip’s I/O pins.

Check out the video after the break to see this in action. It should be a snap to add a count-down timer that gives you a bit more freedom to move around the workshop. With that in place this is a fantastic alternative to some other auto-shutoff techniques for your bench outlets.

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Under-bench timed outlets won’t let you leave the iron on

When we used to use firesticks (the pen style plug-in soldering irons) it was always a worry that we might leave them on. But now we use a base unit which has an indicator light to serve as a reminder. Still, [FoxxTexx] isn’t taking any chances and instead built this timer-based outlet which kills the power automatically.

The parts are all pretty common. The timer itself is the same form factor as a light switch and is commonly used for heat lamps or hot tub jets. It feeds the outlet next to it by way of the indicator switches to the right. We like the use of the switches but since mains voltage is still running through them we would suggest using a three-gang box and mounting them on the cover plate so that all the wiring is contained. If done this way you could just have the electrical box siting on your bench, but it is a nice touch to have it mounted this way.

We’ve long been proponents of a timer system. Back when we put together our Hacker’s Soldering Station we just used a plug-in timer unit.

Home automation with RC wall plugs and Raspberry Pi

[Jake] took some cheap hardware and figured out a way to use it as a huge home automation network. He’s chose a Raspberry Pi board to connect the radio controlled power outlets to his network. He wrote about his project in two parts, the first is hacking the RC outlet controller and the second is using the Raspberry Pi to manipulate it.

These RC outlets are a pass-through for appliances that connect to mains (lamps, consumer electronics, christmas trees, etc). Often the protocol used by the cheap-as-dirt remote is difficult to work with, but [Jake] really hit it out of the part on this one. In addition to simulating button presses for up to fifteen devices on the remote, he replaced the DIP switch package. This lets him change the encoding, essentially allowing the one device to control up to 32 sets of outlets. Theoretically this lets him command 480 devices from the Raspberry Pi. Since that board is a web server it’s just a matter of coding an interface.

Some of the inspiration for this hack came from the whistle-controlled appliance hack.

Whistle controls for you home electronics

You know how to whistle don’t you? You just put your lips together and blow. But do you know how to make the electronics around you react to your whistled commands? Well [Befi] figured out a system that allows him to assign a whistled command to various home electronics.

He’s using a set of RF remote control outlets to switch power to various devices like a desk lap, or a turn table. The board you see in the image above is the remote control that came with the system, but that chip is an ATmega8 which he added to give round-about USB connectivity using a serial-to-USB converter. The technique is simple enough that we’d bet you can get this to work with an ATtiny2313 and the V-USB project but that’s another story.

The additional piece is the use of embedded Linux to detect and process whistled commands. In the video after the break [Befi] explains that he’s using a Dockstar along with a microphone to capture audio input. It uses a Fast Fourier transform algorithm to process the clip and pushes commands to the remote control after processing is complete. [Read more...]

Sous Vide crock pot controller

Tempted by what sous vide cooking has to offer, but balking at the price for a unitasker, [Lee's] father in law set out to see if he could rig up his own precision temperature controlled cooking system on the cheap. He immediately hit eBay and shelled out about around $75 to get his hands on a solid state relay, PID controller, and temperature probe.

As you can see above, a crock pot serves as the cooking vessel. We’ve seen this method before, either splicing into the power cord, or providing a single outlet on the controller. This version provides a PID controlled outlet to which the appliance can be plugged in. The other outlet in the socket is always on and powers an aquarium pump that circulates the heated water during the cooking process.

The result works quite well, even though it wasn’t a huge cost savings. There are a few issues with positioning of the temperature probe, but that may be where experience comes into play.

Adding Ethernet control for a 5.1 speaker set

[HuB's] set of 5.1 surround sound speakers was gobbling up a bunch of electricity when in standby as evidenced by the 50 Hz hum coming from the sub-woofer and the burning hot heat sink on the power supply. He wanted to add a way to automatically control the systems and offer the new feature of disconnecting the power from the mains.

The first part was not too hard, although he used a roundabout method of prototyping. He planned to use the IR receiver on the speakers to control them. At the time, [HuB] didn’t have an oscilloscope on hand that he could use to capture the IR protocol so he ended up using Audacity (the open source audio editing suite) to capture signals connected to the input of a sound card. He used this to establish the timing and encoding that he needed for all eight buttons on the original remote control.

Next, he grabbed a board that he built using an ATmega168 and an ENC28J60 Ethernet chip. This allows you to send commands via the Internet which are then translated into the appropriate IR signals to control the speakers and a few other devices in the room. The last piece of the puzzle was to wrap an RF controlled outlet into the project with lets him cut mains power to the speakers when not in use. You can see the video demonstration embedded after the break.

[Read more...]

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