The last few months have been an emotional roller coaster as my wife and I complete the sale of a business that I began in a spare room at my mother’s house more than 20 years ago. This hasn’t left much time (or emotional capacity!) to produce SuperHouse videos.
This is a big change in my personal circumstances, so hopefully I will be able to make more progress on SuperHouse now.
While working on new SuperHouse episodes I’ve upgraded my surface mount reflow oven. Most things I design are assembled in factories, but about 8 years ago I set up a toaster oven with a temperature sensor so I could do quick reflow at home for prototypes and small production runs.
Some years ago I upgraded the toaster oven by fitting an Arduino based automatic temperature controller, and since then I’ve baked several thousand circuit boards in that little oven. However, the time has finally come to replace it with a proper semi-professional reflow oven.
The T-962A is currently the most common cheap desktop reflow oven, but I need something a bit bigger so that I can run a few dozen boards at a time. I decided to go for its big brother, the T-962C.
Yes, I know the camerawork is terrible! Normally I’d re-film anything that looks as bad as some parts of this vlog, but TBH I can’t be bothered for a quick update 🙂
Grass grows at different rates depending on the time of year, so sometimes it’s necessary to change the Automower schedule to suit the growing conditions. Now it’s winter here in Melbourne and my grass is growing very slowly (and even dying off in patches) so I need to reduce the mowing time.
Husqvarna have made it very easy to change the settings directly on the mower, allowing me to change it from 2 hours of mowing per day to 1 hour.
The main sales pitch for robot lawnmowers like the Husqvarna Automower is that you don’t have to mow your grass, ever again. It always looks neat. But there’s a second claim: that trimming the grass just a tiny amount each day also results in healthier grass. Time for a direct comparison of the main lawn area maintained by the Automower, versus a patch of grass that I have been mowing manually.
The magic of the Automower is that you hardly ever need to care about it. You can leave it for weeks or months, and it’ll take care of itself. However, there is one piece of maintenance that you need to perform: blade replacement. It’s quite easy and only takes a few minutes, and all you need is a screwdriver.
I have a lot of fun making SuperHouse videos, but recently I’ve been thinking about ways that I can make them better. I have many ideas for different types of videos and a list of about 50 episodes I want to make in the future. Please have your say in the future of SuperHouse!
Below is the original episode plan from the early concept for SuperHouse as a high-tech home renovation TV show. There were still some holes in it, but it gave us a rough outline for what we thought could be structured as a show something like a high-tech version of “This Old House”.
#1: Welcome to the SuperHouse
Montage of future topics
Demo of RFID door
Demo of mobile phone control of blinds
Field trip: Clipsal training house, Clifton Hill
SMS letterbox notification project
Tour of the website highlighting detailed instructions for letterbox hack
#2: Wiring Your World
Introduction to smart wiring: X10/A10, CeBUS, Dynalite
Internet access options: DSL, cable, 3G, wireless
Setting up a router / firewall
Field trip: Tasmanian house fitted with CeBUS cabling
Building a stud wall
Installing a LAN/WLAN
#3: The Ultimate Garage
Building a steel-frame garage
Driveway detectors: magnetic and infra-red
Painting interior walls and trim
Field trip: Dad’s place to talk about building envelope etc
Recharge station for EV
Extraction fan for exhaust (auto-start car)
Low power / efficient lighting options
#4: Front Door and Access Control
Hanging a front door
Fitting electric striker plates
RFID access control
Keypad access control
Fingerprint scanner access control
Facial recognition access control
Field trip: Brisbane airport access control system?
Doorbell notification / video surveillance
#5: Pets, Sensors, and Storage
Building a built-in cupboard
Installing an intelligent cat/dog door
Field trip: R&D: robotic fish, other robot pets?
Using temperature, humidity, smoke, CO, and gas sensors
Humidity-controlled bathroom and fans
#6: Walls (this ep is very weak, need to find more)
Plasterboard: hanging, finishing, painting
Cornices, corners, architraves, skirting boards
Field trip: South Korea: grass house and Ubiquitous Dream Hall
Introduction to Arduino
#7: The Ultimate Home Office
Door, desk, drawers, storage
Connecting up your computer and printer
Field trip: multi-location, maybe Jason Smith’s home office + another
Sharing peripherals (printer, scanner, etc)
Multi-line phone, VoIP
Online apps: Google docs, etc
Mobile devices: smartphones and synchronization
#8: Roofs, Water, and Solar
Replacing a tile roof with steel
Installing a water tank
Connecting tank depth sensors to the HA system
Connecting hot water system to the HA system
Field trip: R&D: solar cells
Installing solar panels and a reverse-reading meter
Installing solar hot water boosting
Roof insulation options
Floor and wall tiling
Fixing a squeeky floor
Building a picket fence
#3: Saving Water
Installing a water tank and rainwater collection system
Connecting depth sensors and pumps to the computer
Greywater: collection, purification, storage, use (legislation)
#4: Garden irrigation and lighting
Computer controlled sprinkler system
Installing garden lighting
#5: Video from everywhere
Building a deck or verandah
#6: High-tech driveway
Installing electric driveway gates
Fitting a car sensor
CCTV feed to your car
#7: External walls
Rendering a brick wall
#8: Heating and cooling
Installing central evaporative cooling
Installing central heating
Installing a gas fireplace
Connecting a gas fireplace to the computer
Using the house computer as a security system
Installing external security lighting
Connecting motion detectors
Connecting smoke detectors
#3: Home entertainment
Installing a wall-mount flat-screen TV
Building a home media PC with MythTV
CCTV feeds to MythTV
#4: Control from anywhere
Building a house-wide audio system
Setting up a web interface for the house computer
Using a phone / iPod as a house controller
Connecting your house to virtual reality (Second Life?)
Setting up a VoIP phone system with Asterisk
Connecting Asterisk to MythTV
#6: Curtains and blinds
Installing electric curtains and blinds
Linking curtains / blinds to the computer
#7: (Topic to be determined)
Linking an endless hot water system to the computer
Bursts of bad weather keep flooding the bottom of our garden, so I need to “pause” the Automower. I can’t send commands to it directly (yet) so I need another solution. I’ve connected a Belkin WeMo WiFi power controller to the base station, so that I can use my phone to disable the mower without splashing around in the rain.
The Husqvarna Automower relies on a boundary wire to tell the mower when it needs to stop and turn around. This is *really* important if you have a drop-off in your garden, like I do at the moment! If the mower can’t detect the boundary, it could drive itself right over a tiny cliff, or into a pond, or something dangerous like that. So what happens if the power fails while the mower is operating, and the boundary wire stops working? Let’s try it and see what happens!