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.
I wrote up a tutorial about DIY surface mount assembly for Freetronics: you can read it at Surface Mount Soldering With A Toaster Oven.
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.
A major outage at Amazon Web Services this morning left millions of people with broken home automation devices: door locks, heating, lights, ovens, even doorbells.
Don’t let your home automation system be dependent on external services!
I always keep two principles (or rules) in mind when building my own systems.
Rule #1: No external dependencies.
Rule #2: Mechanical overrides.
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!
The Patreon page is at www.patreon.com/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
- SuperHouse introduction
- 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
- Community wireless
#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)
- Hanging plasterboard
- Wall insulation
- 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
- Video conferencing
- Home server
- 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
- Floor polishing
- 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
- CCTV systems
- Building a deck or verandah
- Doorbell notification
#6: High-tech driveway
- Installing electric driveway gates
- Fitting a car sensor
- CCTV feed to your car
#7: External walls
- Replacing weatherboards
- Rendering a brick wall
- Exterior painting
#8: Heating and cooling
- Installing central evaporative cooling
- Installing central heating
- Smart thermostat
- Installing a gas fireplace
- Connecting a gas fireplace to the computer
- Using the house computer as a security system
- Installing external security lighting
- SMS notification
- 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
- Computer controlled water feature
- The ultimate cubby house: VoIP
- Voice control
- Swimming pool management
#8: Grand Finale
- “Live” show from the SuperHouse
- House tour showing everything in place
- Giveaway / prize draw for the crowd
- Auction the house live on TV? Mmm, tempting!
The Husqvarna Automower has several built-in security features, to help reduce the risk of your expensive robot being stolen.
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!