Monitoring a sick bird using the Raspberry Pi

sick-bird-monitoring-with-rpi

[Jorge Rancé] was nursing a sick bird back to health. He found it on the street with a broken leg, which required a mini plaster cast for it to heal correctly. But felt bad when leaving the house for long periods. He grabbed some simple hardware and put his mind at easy by building an Internet connected bird monitoring system. It’s really just an excuse to play around with his Raspberry Pi, but who can blame him?

A webcam adds video monitoring using the Linux software called “motion” to stream the video. This is the same package we use with our cats when we travel; it provides a continuous live stream but can also save recordings whenever motion is detected. He added a USB temperature sensor and attached a water level sensor to the GPIO header. These are automatically harvested — along with a still image from the webcam — and tweeted once per hour using a bash script. He just needs to work out automatic food and water dispensing and he never needs to return home! Bird seed shouldn’t be any harder to dish out than fish food, right?

Hacking BodyBugg fitness sensors to get around subscription fee

This arm cuff is a sensor package which logs data whenever you’re wearing it. It records accelerometer data, skin temperature, and galvanic skin response. That data can then be analyzed to arrive at figures like calories burned. But… The company behind the device seems to have included a way to keep the cash flowing. Once you buy it you can read the data off of the device using a Java program they supply. But you can’t erase the data from the device unless you subscribe to their online service. Once it fills up, it’s useless. [Doug] wasn’t happy with this gotcha, so he reverse engineered the technique used to clear the BodyBugg’s memory.

There had been a few previous attempts at reverse engineering the device but that groundwork didn’t really help [Doug] on his quest. He ended up disassembling the Java classes from the original program. This helped him figure out how to initialize communications. Once there he was happy to find that the device will tell you how to use it. If you issue an invalid command it will respond with a list of all valid commands. Everything you need to get up and running can be found in his github repo.

Adding heat sinks to a Raspberry Pi

[Michael Dornisch] was surprised to find that the main processor of the Raspberry Pi reaches about 56 degrees Celsius (about 133 degrees F) while streaming video over the network. He thought it might help the longevity of the device if he was able to cool things off a bit. But why stop with just the processor? He added heat sinks to the SoC, Ethernet/USB chip, and voltage regulator.

From his parts bin he grabbed a small heat sink that was probably used on a graphics card. After measuring the three chips with his digital calipers he cut out the footprint he needed, resulting in three smaller heat sinks. We didn’t realize that thermal compound has enough gripping power to hold the sinks in place without any mechanical fastener, but apparently it does. [Michael] mentions that it’s possible to use other adhesives, like JB Weld. What’s important is that you use something (ie: thermal compound or a liquid adhesive) to prevent any air gap from coming between the chip surface and the aluminum.

He measured the result as a 17.3 degree C (31 degree F) drop in temperature. We looked around and it seems there’s no internal temperature sensor on the Broadcom chip so these surface readings will have to suffice. Do you think this will prolong the life of the board if it is used regularly to play back high quality video? We already know that these temperatures are within the specifications for the hardware.

[Thanks Simon]

Checking out the temperature of a Raspberry Pi

[Remy] has access to a very nice Fluke thermal camera, so when his Raspberry pi came in he pointed the thermal camera at the Raspi (Spanish, Google translation) to see how far this neat computer could be pushed before it overheated.

There are three main sources of heat on the Raspberry Pi: the voltage regulator, the USB/Ethernet controller and the Broadcom SoC. At idle, these parts read 49.9° C, 48.7° C and 53° C, respectively; a little hot to the touch, but still well within the temperature ranges given in the datasheets for these components.

The real test came via a stress test where the ARM CPU was at 100% utilization. The Broadcom SoC reached almost 65° C while the Ethernet controller and regulator managed to reach the mid-50s. Keeping in mind this test was performed at room temperature, we’d probably throw a heat sink on a Raspberry Pi if it’s going to be installed in an extreme environment such as a greenhouse or serving as a Floridian or Texan carputer.

Thanks [Alberto] for sending this in.

Standalone USB temperature logger

[Jean] wrote in eager to share his latest project, a standalone temperature logger with USB connectivity. Back in November, [Jean] found himself wanting a temperature logger that was roughly the size of a USB memory stick. What he found on the market was not quite adequate in terms of price or size, so he decided to design his own. His would be the size he wanted and wouldn’t require any software or drivers to run. You simply plug it in, edit the configuration text file to set your intervals, and off you go!

You can follow along through the entire design and fabrication on his site. He’s really great about discussing why he made each decision and how he resolved any errors he ran into. You can download the schematics and source code on his site.

[Read more...]

Garden sensors measure soil moisture and greenhouse temperature

[Andy] is getting his garden up and running. This year it’s been pretty cold so he decided to get small plastic domed tunnel which acts as a mini greenhouse. To help monitor that environment he built this sensor array which displays temperature and soil moisture readings.

Temperature is quite simple. He’s using a TMP36 sensor which is held a few inches above the soil. The moisture sensor is of his own design. It uses two building screws embedded in foam. These are pushed into the soil and a resistance reading indicates moisture level. By driving voltage on one screw, and measuring voltage on the other he gets some useful data. It’s not a standardized value, but observation over time will let him know how the scale relates to dry or wet soil.

During the build process he found that he needed a pull-down resistor on the probe used to take the moisture measurement. He also uses an I/O pin to drive the other screw. This gives him a way to shut off the juice when not taking a reading. We just hope he’s either got a current limiting resistor, or is using a transistor to drive it high.

Upgrading a digital multimeter to tell the temperature

[Rajendra] tipped us off to this really slick hack he’s done to allow his multimeter to tell the ambient temperature. He’s basically measuring the output of an LM35 temp sensor that he has mounted in the case. The circuit is extremely simple and only requires the sensor, a couple resistors, and a switch so that you can return to normal function. When finished, you’ll have a multimeter that will display the ambient temperature when set to to the correct range (0-200 mV in his case). The switch is there so that you can return your multimeter to normal function afterwards.  While [Rajendra] chose to display ambient temperature, you could just as easily create an external probe for measuring other things.

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