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Coronavirus and electronics production

I’m sure you’ve heard of the crazy coronavirus epidemic that’s rapidly spreading around the world, and has now been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization.

One of the areas that has been hardest hit by the virus is the city of Wuhan, on the Yangtze River in east-central China. Wuhan went into a state of lockdown on January 23rd, with businesses closed and everyone told to stay home and avoid contact with other people.

China is taking this threat extremely seriously, responding on a scale that I don’t think would be possible in any other country. I don’t know of anywhere else in the world that could build entire 1000-bed hospitals from the ground up in 6 days, just to respond to a sudden medical need. If anyone can face a challenge like this, it’s the Chinese.

The primary focus has to be on the health of those in the affected areas, of course. So far I haven’t heard of any of my Chinese colleagues being infected, and I hope it stays that way.

Bare PCBs for both Freetronics and SuperHouse products are mostly produced by Gold Phoenix, which is located in Wuhan, right in the bullseye of the epidemic. Like almost all businesses in Wuhan, Gold Phoenix has told workers to stay home and stay safe.

Some of our prototype PCBs are produced in factories around the city of Shenzhen, in southern China just over the border from Hong Kong. Those factories are currently closed too.

Our PCBA (PCB Assembly, which includes pick-and-place installation of parts on the boards) and final testing and packaging is done in Beijing, which has now also gone into lockdown. Not only are factories closed, but roads out of the cities have been closed to prevent the spread of infection so any boards that have aleady been produced are stuck in warehouses.

There are currently batches of EtherMega and EtherTen boards that were scheduled to ship a few days ago, but they are now caught up in the lockdown and can’t leave Beijing.

So over the next little while there will probably be stock problems for both Freetronics and SuperHouse. Please be patient while I do my best to assemble what I can using local stock of bare PCBs and parts, and keep in mind the millions of people who are now stuck at home with dwindling food supplies. It may be frustrating that products are out of stock, but that’s really not important when the health of so many people is at stake.

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Open Source wheelchair controller first full test

Still plenty of work to do, and the controls are too twitchy, but it works!

This is a combination of the Chair Breakout Mini (to read the joystick position and transmitting it on CAN bus) and the Wheelchair Motor Controller, which receives the messages and drives the motors and brakes.

We’re making rapid progress on a number of Assistive Technology projects, so if you want to join in the discussion please join the SuperHouse Discord server and use the #assistive-tech channel.

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iLife Robot Hoover Automation in Home Assistant with Wemos & IR Shield

Colin Hickey has an interesting YouTube channel that features some of his cool home automation projects. What I like about his videos is that he doesn’t just show the end result: he goes through his setup step by step so that you can do the same thing yourself.

If you go back through his videos you’ll find plenty of fascinating information about his home-made PowerWall and battery management system.

His latest video should be interesting to anyone who has an iLife robot vacuum cleaner, so check it out and make sure you subscribe to his channel:

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High security package vault

Defeat package thieves with a combination of technology and steel!

Having packages stolen from your doorstep can be a big problem in a normal suburban neighbourhood, but when your front gate is at the end of a very long driveway in a remote area it’s even worse. Your packages could sit exposed by the side of the road for hours when you don’t even know they’ve been delivered.

SuperHouse forum member Guru_Of_Nothing was sick of package thieves taking his deliveries, so he’s started building a super-strong, high tech package vault:

The design is very clever because it covers various contingencies, including being able to open the box mechanically if there is a power failure, and handling multiple deliveries in a single day.

This is just the start of the project, so follow Guru’s progress on the forum at https://discourse.superhouse.tv/t/a-new-item-to-automate-the-mailbox/245/9

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Video of my conference talk “Open Source Superhumans”

I spent last week in Christchurch, New Zealand, for the always amazing linux.conf.au conference. It’s my annual pilgrimage: I’ve attended every single LCA since 2002, and this year I presented a talk about my work using DIY home automation projects to help a couple of old friends who have Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and rely on electric wheelchairs for mobility.

This was a very difficult talk to give because it tells a story that is both tragic and uplifting. The projects I’ve worked on with Nick and Chris Fryer have been some of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done, but along with that came the terrible grief of Nick’s death last year.

Many people have the preconception that home automation is “expensive toys for rich lazy people”, but this talk shows that it’s far more than that.

If you personally benefit from the use of home automation, or have friends or family members who do, I’d love to hear about it. Please comment here or post in the forum, but of course please be respectful of privacy and don’t reveal personal information about anyone else unless they are OK with it.

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Shipping closed during December 2018

During December I’ll be taking a break from shipping orders from the SuperHouse and Freetronics online stores.

Any orders placed after December 4th, 2018 will be shipped right after Christmas, hopefully around December 28th and 29th. If you want to get something in time for Christmas, make sure you place your order now!

I’ll be back with more videos and a bunch of new products after Christmas.

See you then!

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Join me for another livestream tour through more Eagle projects

Join me for a SuperHouse livestream tomorrow morning at 9am Sunday Melbourne time (GMT+1000)

This will be part 2 of my tour through my Eagle projects, going through them alphabetically and showing how they work.

Last time it took me 2.5 hours and I didn’t even get through the projects starting with “A”, so there’s a long way to go!

Picking some representative locations that time works out to be:

  • Melbourne: 9am Sunday
  • London: 12am Sunday (midnight)
  • Los Angeles: 4pm Saturday
  • New York: 7pm Saturday

If you don’t want to miss out, make sure you’re subscribed to my YouTube channel and click the little “bell” icon so you get a notification when the live stream starts:

www.youtube.com/user/superhousetv

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The factory tours of Shenzhen: Jiafuh Metal & Plastics

Karl has been busy! The next episode of his video series “State of Electronics” is up already, and it covers a fascinating topic: how plastic parts are made for electronic products. For electronics hobbyists, most of the focus is on circuit boards and parts and all the bits that go inside a device. The idea of going to the next level and designing a custom-fabricated case or other part seems totally out of reach unless you use a low-volume, low-accuracy method like 3D printing.

In this episode Karl shows how the Jiafuh factory turns out millions of plastic parts for all sorts of products, including mobile phone chargers, product cases, and even car parts.

Maybe some time soon I’ll be able to do a custom injection-moulded case for a SuperHouse project 🙂

Don’t forget to subscribe to Karl’s YouTube channel for more cool technical videos.

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The electronics markets of Shenzhen, China

If you can’t get enough of the Huaqiangbei electronics markets in Shenzhen, China, then check out this new video! My friend Karl has been very busy editing the footage he recorded on our recent trip to China, and he’s just released his latest video.

Please subscribe to his channel (State of Electronics) on YouTube if you want to see more of these types of videos.

Near the end of the video there’s discussion of some custom switches that I had manufactured while we were over there. They’ll be a major feature of an upcoming SuperHouse video about more advanced home automation light switches.

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Intermittent shipping next week: January 22 to 26

Next week I’ll be in Sydney for linux.conf.au, the big annual Linux and Open Source conference run by Linux Australia. While I’m away some orders may ship out, but it’s best to assume that any orders placed after today won’t ship until Monday, January 29.

If you’re coming along to linux.conf.au, ask around for Jonathan Oxer and come and say hi! I’ll be running the Open Hardware Miniconf on the first day of the conference so I should be easy to find. At the OHMC we’ll have a bunch of people building this little soccer-playing robot: