Home Automation Hacking Part-II

In Part-1 of this hacking series, I set the stage for an adventure in home automation hacking. My goal is to start small, grow a system over time, and share the experience.

To follow along on my openHAB adventure, instead of creating an enormous blog entry, I decided to document it in a PDF ‘How-To’ document. I have found these types of documents are highly valuable to those folks that are new to the Raspberry Pi and Linux, and/or those who have little programming experience. Download the PDF and configuration files below:


Here in Part-II, we explore my adventures with openHAB.

To learn more about openHAB, read Part-I of this series or head over to their web site. I started knowing nothing about openHAB, so I spent a lot if time in the documentation. Next, I burned an image of openHABian and fired it up on a Raspberry Pi 3.

In a couple of weeks of study and hacking, I have a working home automation system that is quite cool. Below is a view of my openHAB system as seen in a browser.

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Home Automation Hacking Part-I

Hello smoke-breathing brethren. Ole’ Sopwith is about to embark on another hacking adventure. This time it is all about home automation. Yes, it seems I am a little late to the party – but hey – at least I showed up!

There are two goals to this project. 1) To learn something new, and 2) To have fun. Wait a minute! Those are the goals of every Sopwith project!  Yes – but this project should be really interesting. In this multi-part blog series, I am going to compare the two leading open-source home automation platforms:  OpenHab and Home Assistant.

OpenHab is a Germany based open source project founded in 2010. It is written in Java and is based on the Eclipse SmartHome platform. It has a very active community with a very large pool of developers. It provides the ability to integrate hundreds of home automation devices, regardless of manufacturer or whether is it open or closed hardware. The cool thing about OpenHab is that it provides a mechanism to build a complete home automation environment and keep it private.

Home Assistant is another very active open-source home automation platform written in Python3. It also has a vibrant and active community. Founded in 2013 by Paulus Schoutsen, it began as a simple Python script to turn on some lights when the sun set.

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NatureBytes Camera Kit Part-IV

In my previous posts in this series (I-III), I added night vision capabilities to the very cool NatureBytes wildlife camera kit. As in all maker projects – improvements had to be made.

Once I placed the night-vision capable camera in the field for testing, I discovered the LISIPAROI IR light board cannot be used in the wild. The device is just not powerful enough. If is fine for close-up work, but outside? Forget it.

It was time to turn disappointment into action. Plus, if it worked out of the box – what fun is that? Time to get serious. As I searched the web, I discovered weatherproof 12V IR lamps are cheap. These are designed to be used with CCTV cameras, most of which are 12 or 24 VDC powered. I purchased a pair for around $16 USD. The one I chose is made by a company called Phenas.

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NatureBytes Camera Kit Part-III

In Part-I and Part-II of this blog series, I assembled the terrific NatureBytes Camera Kit and mounted it on a tripod.  I had to wait for parts to arrive before I could add night-vision to the kit. This blog post shows how I modified the camera kit so it can see in the dark.

The goal was to somehow mount and power the LISIPAROI IR light board while still maintaining the weather-proof integrity of the NatureBytes camera kit. The night-vision hack turned out to be pretty simple.

I found a small plastic box with a latching lid in the office supply aisle at a local Wal-Mart. It was designed to store paper clips on a desk, but Ol’ Sopwith had other ideas. The box was the perfect size to install a battery pack, trigger wire and IR light board. Continue reading

NatureBytes Camera Kit Part-II

In Part-I of this series, I introduced the NatureBytes KickStarter project and finally got around to building the kit I ordered in 2015. I want to hack it so I can capture photos/ videos at night. I need to identify what nocturnal animals are exploring my yard overnight.

The Camera Kit is simply – Fantastic! Details of the kit and the build instructions can be found here. The first thing that struck me was the quality of the bright green case. This thing is an engineering marvel.

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NatureBytes Camera Kit Part-I

On June 24, 2015, a NGO named NatureBytes began a KickStarter campaign to raise money for a wildlife camera kit based on the Raspberry PI. Based in Berkshire UK, west of London, this conservation group set out to encourage kids to get off the couch and explore nature.

Within a month, the campaign raised £34,164 from 303 backers.  This was 108% over the goal of £28,995.  At that time, Ol’ Sopwith was living in London and was one of 50 backers who pledged £85.

It was expected the kits would ship in December of 2015, but there were delays caused by the complicated molding process used in creating the cases. I followed the updates closely because I felt their pain. Anybody who has ever been involved in the injection molding process of plastics knows how difficult this can be.

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The AM2315 “How-To” – Updated

As promised, I have updated the AM2315 temperature sensor “How-To” document for modern times. The changes include:

  • The removal of the obsolete quickwire library that caused so much pain.
  • Removing quickwire also removed the dependency on Python3.
  • Added the very capable i2c library tentacle-pi written by lexruee.
  • Use of the Raspian Switch OS means these instructions work on any Pi.
  • Streamlined 6-Step process.

I have tested the new procedures on every Pi that I have in the drawer. This includes a Pi v1, v2, vA+, v3, and the Pi Zero. Yup – they all work using the same software and the same pinout. Sweet!

You can download the new document and test script here.

For all of you that have contacted me in the last couple of months trying to get your sensor working, I apologize for the delay in getting this document updated.


The AM2315 Sensor – Revisited

Hello fellow smoke-breathers. Sorry about the very long absence from my blogging duties.  I intend to be more active now that I no longer travel so much.

Over the last several months I have received some Emails telling me the AM2315 temperature sensor code I wrote long ago no longer works. There are a lot of reasons for this. First, the Google code repository has been taken down and folks are having trouble finding the quick2wire code libraries. They are now posted here.

Second, there were some hardware changes made to the Pi-3 and Pi Zero that broke the sensor detection code in my AM2315.py script. Finally, the use of the quickwire code is difficult due to its size and complexity. There are better i2c code libraries available now.

Since the AM2315 is still a popular hacking sensor, I will plug in an alternative i2c library, test the code on the latest Pi’s, and update the ‘How-To’ document.

Standby for the update – ‘ol Sopwith is working on it.


Dell XPS-13 Laptop (Part-1)

O’l Sopwith finally decided it was time to purchase a new laptop. My personal laptops usually last 4-5 years before I part with them. In the past, I have owned Dell’s, Toshiba’s, and even an Azus. Most of my corporate provided units came from Dell, HP, or Lenovo. Sorry Apple freaks, Sopwith is not a fan – so a Mac is not in my future.

For a long time, I have had my eyes on the Dell XPS-13. In my humble view this is the finest laptop on the planet. You can read about it here:


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