It’s been years… YEARS! since my last post; that’s just way too long. It’s crazy to think that around the time of my last post I was dual booting Windows 7 and CrunchBang Linux (RIP CrunchBang). Since then… dual booting 8.1 and Linux Mint, to current times; dual booting Linux Elementary OS (was using in 2014, whoa full circle) and Windows 10.
I was just getting into Raspberry Pi and home automation. Since then, I have been working with a local non-profit developing Raspberry Pi curriculum for elementary & middle school aged kids; engaging them in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields. Along with the Raspberry Pi, I have been really into being active in the maker community online, branching out to the Arduino and other micro controllers.
I believe pursuing your passion as a hobby can be really rewarding, so I’m making an effort to do just that while documenting it along the way. So what have I been up to? Well below is just a little bit of what I have been up to. Check out my Instagram and Twitter to see more!
The end of support of Windows XP has given me the opportunity to introduce a few friends and family to using Linux on their older XP machines. Recently, I’ve been working with a friend on switching them from XP to Elementary OS; a Ubuntu based distro. Since the PC had limited resources (single core processor and 1GB of RAM) I knew I had to pick something nimble and light, but didn’t lack in performance or appearance. After learning about Elementary during a presentation in my Linux sys admin class and discovering it is user friendly enough to be used by Linux newcomers, I decided to use it as the XP replacement.
Trial and Error
With little to no guidance, my friend was able to pick up and use Elementary from the beginning. Some of most difficult things to adjust for my friend are: Linux applications, UI navigation, and the Linux file system. I had the chance to learn a lot about Elementary when I was teaching my friend the ropes, in a sense we were both learning.
Features and Design
The UI has been designed well and closely resembles Mac OS X Mavericks.
Elementary comes with some default applications:
I briefly toured Midori and have to say that it is a great browser and looks well designed, but my friend preferred the familiarity of Google Chrome. I helped my friend set up and configure Geary Mail which was surprisingly simple to set up. Geary already imported my friend’s Gmail account from Chrome which caught me off guard. As for Empathy, Shotwell and the Music application; I didn’t have a chance to give those a test drive. Elementary also uses dock called “Plank”, which works well and is similar to other dock applications. There are a few themes to choose from for Plank, and adding additional themes requires a 3rd party app or using the terminal and tweaking config files. Two alternatives to Plank are Cario Dock and Docky, I have used both and my vote goes to Docky.
Elementary is a suitable replacement for XP and Linux beginners; I had other contenders for the XP replacement such as: Linux Mint, Ubuntu, and Fedora. I’m happy with my decision to introduce my friend to Linux using Elementary OS.
Well it turns out that the wiring in my home is up to code but insufficient to support the Z-Wave switches I purchased… The 3-way switches in the 4-Gang box would work if the traditional 2-way switches had a neutral wire running to them; this was not the case, upon further investigation there were only neutral wires running to the 3-way switches meaning that to complete the circuit I would have to use my ground wires on the 2-way switches as neutral lines which would be very dangerous. The only way to safely complete the project would be to replace the wiring running form my electrical box to my switches, which would cost far too much money for me to do. Looks like this project has met its end…
The Z-Wave enabled light switches I ordered arrived about a week ago and I soon realized I am a not an electrician for a reason. The project has been temporarily placed on hold until I can have a friend of mine come over and help me install the switches (hopefully soon).
( four Z-Wave enabled light switches and a 4-Gang plate cover.)
Now that I have the infrastructure set up for my Z-Wave environment, I just have to add devices. I need to order a 4 gang light switch set that will run about $180, so I’m holding off on those until I have money that I’m willing to use for the project. Hopefully I’ll have the switches ordered by the end of the month.
Here is the switch I need x4: http://tinyurl.com/p7pgdgz
And the 4 gang faceplate: http://tinyurl.com/pfjvz93
After I complete my Z-Wave project I plan on making a led ticker that displays messages and other info like temperature using a smartphone and arduino, seen here: http://tinyurl.com/nl8vsw9
My inline switch and dimmer arrived from Amazon Saturday afternoon, and I was able to get it installed and integrated with my Raspberry Pi Z-Wave system in about 15 minutes time. I was surprised by how easy it was; the instructions for the Nexia bridge setup seemed more elaborate than what I had to do for my GPIO add-on. Once I plugged in the inline switch and pressed the button on the front, using the web interface installed on the Pi, I was able to add the device visible to the Z-Wave GPIO adapter. After the device was added, the control for the device appeared as seen in the image below:
The slider next to the off button is to control the brightness and the other buttons are self-explanatory. I placed the switch roughly 15 feet away from my Pi and the yellow percentage is the signal strength. The Z-Wave indoor range is 90 feet, so the 96% sounds about right at that distance.
Eventually I will add a couple light switches for the kitchen (such as image below) and on Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/oup2zlx
The light switch is about $42 and I would like to replace three of the six dummy switches with the Z-Wave enabled switches, which are the light switches for the garage, overhead kitchen, and the porch light. The problem is that the current switches are the traditional/classic toggle switches and I will have to purchase dummy slap style switches to match the Z-Wave switches. $126 for the three Z-wave switches sounds a whole lot better than $252 to replace all the kitchen light switches.
Soon I will be uploading a video of the project in action.
HERE IT IS!
Z-Wave inline switch
Well my keyboard & touch-pad combo arrived finally and I dove into getting the Razzberry software installed on my Pi. I was consumed by a side project of enabling ssh and running tightvnc to access the gui; after an hour or two of pulling my hair out, I realized the firewall settings I had configured on my Linux desktop were preventing me from using ssh. After getting both ssh and tight vnc configured properly, Razzberry has been installed.. I just have to make my first Z-wave product purchase and I’ll be ready to configure and test (Phase 2) which will have to wait for pay day.
This is the keyboard I chose to use with my Raspberry Pi when I’m not connected via SSH or VNC.
My first Z-Wave device has been ordered! Check it out in my Twitter feed on the right of the page! ——>