Saturday, December 6, 2008

Controlling your lights with an ioBridge Module

Controlling my house lights with the ioBridge module is something that really excites me. It's so simple I didn't want to write about it first since it doesn't give the module justice for how powerful it really is. The ioBridge module is able to control my lights or anything else that plugs into an electrical outlet via x10 modules.

x10 and home automation has been around since the 1970's, so controlling your house's lights isn't new. There is software out there to run on your computer to control your x10 setup. That being said, ioBridge's x10 interface is one of the best looking and easiest to use I've ever seen. Plus, with no setup I can control my lights over the internet. What I really like is how controllable it is. Since the iobridge widgets spits out javascript I can embed in a webpage, I can make my controller look and act just like I want it to.

Step by step instructions for controlling a lamp

I set up x10 controllers in my living room, bedroom, and for my christmas lights. I wanted to be able to turn on my lights when I was away from home or once I was already in bed. I can leave my room a bit messy sometimes so it's key for me to leave a light on as I get into bed. I don't want to kick a random shoe or something and break a toe.

The setup is almost as easy as just plugging everything in, so I wanted to talk a little more this time about the ioBridge web interface and how to embedd their javascript into your webpage.

The setup:
ioBridge module
ioBridge x10 smart board
x10 controllers

ioBridge x10 smart board

There are many types of controllers out there. I used a old school version I had around the house. I've ordered light switch style versions so I can control my overhead lights.

After plugging everything in. I was able to connect everything and make a widget in under minute.

The below screen shot is what you get after completing a widget. Clicking on anything underlined in green lets you update it. To the right of the options is what your widget will look like with your current options. Below the live view is the code needed to embed your widget into a website.

Widget Creator

The dashboard is the simplest way to interact with you projects. After you make a widget you can choose if you would like it displayed on your dashboard.

ioBridge Dashboard

I also created my own webpage to control my lights with the look I wanted. As you can see below I also made a widget that will dim my bedroom lights. While I optimized this page to my liking, all that is required to have your own control page is to save the script in a text file and save it with an html extension.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Iphone as a Universe Controller: Part 1

Why have a universal remote control when you can have a universe controller? I was fortunate enough to get to beta test some of ioBridge's forthcoming hardware. Their hardware lets you connect just about anything to the internet. The possibilites with these things are just about limitless. I am convinced I can control just about anything in my house with this little board and my iPhone. The company has a number of premade "smart boards." The modules also have input/output pins so you can get any of your microcontroller projects online. I wanted to put together a few simple progects based on their smart boards. I got a x10, light sensor, and a servo smart board. I made a little gizmo with each one. In this write up I'm going to talk about the gizmo I made with their servo smart board.  In my next post I'm going to demonstrate how to control you home lights. Then I will post about how the ioBridge module can be used to lock your computer and update your twitter feed automatically when you leave the office. 

I have a dog that stays home alone while I am at school. I thought it would be nice to be able to check up on my dog Cooper during the day, and even better if I could give him a delicious doggie treat. With the ioBridge module, a servo smart board, and some random parts around the house I was able to put together a dog watching, treat giver that is all controlled with my iPhone over the internet. The whole project took about an hour and because of iobridge's simple internet interface no programing was required. 

Here is a video (youtube link) of the finished project. Below the video are my detailed instruction about the project.

Finished project in action

Here's what I used:
ioBridge I/O module
ioBridge servo smart board
old CD spindle case
cardboard scrap
large syringe plunger
scrap wood
webcam (just used for visual confirmation that treat was delievered)

ioBridge servo smart board

I started by cutting a hole in the top of the old CD case for the axel of the servo to fit through. With some scrap wood I mounted the servo above the case.

Old CD spindle case with servo attached to top. The windows in the side are for loading the dispenser with treats

I cut the plunger to a length about a quarter of an inch shorter then the interior of the old cd case. After super gluing the servo's detachable wheel to the top of the plunger I glued square cardboard scrap to half of the plunger at 45 degree angles. I made some triagnles out of wood and used them to keep each of the fins seperated by 45 degrees. While the glue dried I cut a pie shaped wedge in the board that was the same size as the wedges created by gluing the cardboard at 45 degree angles around the plunger. 

Syringe plunger with cardboard fins attached at 45 degree angles

Bottom platform with hole cut for treat to drop through

Once the glue dried I attached the plunger to the servo and connected the servo to the ioBridge I/O modeule via the servo smart board.

View of bottom of housing with plunger assembly attached to servo

Assembled device

I followed the simple ioBridge instructions for getting their board online for the first time. Using the ioBridge web interface it was simple to create a widget that controlled the servo. At the end of the widget wizard it automatically saved the buttons that controlled the position of the servo in my ioBridge dashboard (the dashboard is your home page once you log into the ioBridge website). The wizard also outputs javascript incase you want to embed the controls in your own page as I did. 

Screen shot of widget builder 

With all the javascript their site gave me it was no time before I had a webpage that I could access from my iPhone. I could have just pasted the javascript they gave me into notepad and saved it as an html and had controls that would control my device, but I wanted a little something more. I optimized it to be viewed on my iPhone and embedded a feed from a streaming webcam I placed over Cooper's kennel. Now I could see what my dog is up to when I'm away. I saved the website to my iPhone's home screen, and in less than an hour and a half from starting the project I had a web app on my phone from which I could view my dog and give him delicious, steak flavored treats. 

Icon on iPhone home screen and then view of the web app I created using the ioBridge generated javascript. The picture of my dog is from a streaming webcam.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Is this really upside down?

I love this type of Colgate toothpaste. The smaller size is great for
having to carry down the hall to brush my teeth after lunch at work
and was perfect for when I lived in the dorms.

I am a little curious, however, the designers of the bottle didn't
take gravity into effect. Seems to me the bottle should have been
designed to have the opening on the bottom. I always leave mine upside
down and in fact every time I see one of these in some one's bathroom
they got theirs turned on its head too.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The same ol same ol

While eating lunch, I noticed something. People really don't like change. They pretty much always do whatever they've always done no matter if the circumstances change. As I ate lunch the above rope, rat maze to funnel people to where they order was empty. I was surprised to notice as almost everyone came in they went out of their way to go through the maze instead of just walking up to the man waiting to take their order.