Cutting panels

Hmm, well a lot of laser cutters are really pen plotters (that take HPGL) with a slightly sharper pen...


Reply to
Theo Markettos
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No, it is a wiring panel with enough space. It even has a large box for the WLAN patch connections in case some electronics have to be added later. Such as PoE. The only downside is that I have to scoot the freezer out of the way when I want to work on the TV amp stuff without too much contortion (because the lower back isn't that great anymore).

The room itself is so spacious that I could even fit a small desk and chair in there. But that would not be legit (only one path of egress).

I don't like such things scattered.

All in the same utility room here. If anything needs fixing everyone knows where the stuff is.

Over here media gets played where the media gear is, from the living room. But you don't have to watch the movie there, it gets transmitted over coax back to the utility closet and then into the main distribution. Of course with an iso amp so things won't pipe out of the antenna.

I want the thermostat or control where the action is. In our case both the swamp cooler and the central HVAC are controlled from the living room.

If there's a decent size fridge with beer in the garage I could :-)

Then the electronics isn't designed right. After all, garage door openers are full of electronics and they have to live in the nastiest area of a garage, under the ceiling. The cars also have to reside in the garage and nowadays they are chockfull of elecrtronic gizmos, most of them highly unnecessary.

Freezer in the garage? That is tough on its compressor. So yeah, it would make sense to change that. But it's probably as high as on the priority list as painting the pool house is here.

Strange. It's usually considered uncool to show so much nerdiness. It turns off potential girlfriends. Unless he is already married :-)

What is a library card catalog?

Oh yeah, that would not go over too well with my wife either.

But one needs a remote, nowadays. Having to get out of a chair to changes stations is so 1950's, and one could pull a muscle :-)


To be honest, I haven't completed the 66 blocks. While installing our trusty old Cincinnatti Microwave phone quit and I went to buy a new one. They stopped making these, so I ended up with a large "system pack" full of cordless phones. Made the POTS network I just completed almost irrelevant, nothing much plugs into it.


Yes, and with quite a history:

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It also keeps one appreciative of folks doing non-engineering jobs.

Or it goes like "Oh dang! I should have put a union in there because now ..."

In this area they all happily mixed galvanized and brass and copper. Disgusting.

Same here.

Ok, there I'd rent a lift. Costs less than the doctor visit for the prescription pills and cortizone shots, followed by several days in bed because you can't move. Happened last time I helped roofing abhouse as a volunteer.

Regards, Joerg
Reply to

But it's still not what you would consider "prime living space". I.e., you don't put it in the living room, surrender a coat closet to it, etc. You put it someplace "out of the way" -- because you don't expect/need to access it often.

E.g., the punchdown blocks for the POTS are located on a wall in the furnace "closet" with a stainless steel cover "hiding" them from view. I surely wouldn't want them anyplace *visible* as they are an eyesore -- even covered with nice shiny stainless!

The irrigation controller sits under an identical stainless cover out in the garage -- a place that is more tolerant of "eyesores" yet still not a blatant "wiring nest".

Even *this* panel's location in the bottom of a closet tries hard not to take up "more useful" space -- nor look like the mess of wires that it is (i.e., all the cables are trimmed to length and bundled into a harness that runs along the wall -- low -- to the router/switch collocated in that closet).

Terminating 24 RG6 drops (plus 6 feeds) in someplace "open" takes up a *lot* of space! Cable doesn't like to bend in tight radii.

OTOH, a pair of 66 blocks for the POTS fit neatly under a 12" square cover with the cabling fed from *behind* (i.e. through the wall). So, much easier to find a small space -- that doesn't even need to have power available -- for it.

Irrigation controller wants to be close to where the wires feeding the valves will be located. Landscape lighting controller wants to be adjacent to the transformers and wiring that feed those. Water controller wants to be near water softener/filtration/metering devices. Etc.

The advantage of distributing all these things is you don't have to run *all* the field wiring to a single point.

So, you terminate all your phone, irrigation, security (cameras/alarms), CATV, networking, multimedia, HVAC, etc. stuff in one location? Your freezer is in one location; why locate the controls for it in another? Why run raw video to *a* central location when you can process it *at* the camera and ship what you need (in whatever format you need it) to wherever it needs to go (displays, recorders, etc.). Likewise, why have a dozen or more "heavy" (relatively speaking) wires running to irrigation valves *through* some portion of the house interior when you know all the valves will be located *outside*?

Just seems like concentrating too much stuff with no real gain. (unless you need to work on the phones *and* the irrigation system at the same time?).

Most of the time (by a wide margin), you're interacting with the user interface for these things. E.g., changing the criteria that determines when the hot water heater is required to have "ample hot water" available. *Not* rewiring the controls *into* the hot water heater! You're comfortable with your hot water heater in one location and television in another... so why the desire to have the "controls" for them in the same place?

The RG6 (and "CAT1" -- even though it's really CAT5) here are for "future owners" who will resort to more conventional media/comms systems. I.e., I only use three of the RG6 feeds (one from the cable company, one from rooftop TV antenna, and one from "FM" antenna hidden up in the ceiling) and *none* of the RG6 "drops". The feeds run into the closet where the signal is peeled off and rebroadcast "over IP" (radio programs, TV shows, etc.).

My goal is to distribute *everything* "over IP". I've done this for audio, already (though I haven't been able to find an affordable AM/FM radio "box"). I expect video to be a bit more taxing (designing a good codec with the same sorts of capabilities as the audio system). I'm currently in the market for a good dual FXS/FXO interface (prefering a standalone ATA-style device instead of something that relies on some obsolescent "board" interface)

But, in both cases, the "media" is sourced from the lower 18" of this "closet". I have a dual OTA DTV receiver (media pump) so I can source two OTA broadcasts simultaneously (route one to a live display and the other to a DVR; or both to live displays; or both to DVRs, etc.). I need to purchase a second one since I think you need to be able to access 4 "programs" concurrently in a house of 4 people (sad! but, easy to see two being watched simultaneously and possibly recording another for later viewing: "Dad, Betsy won't let me record my TV show cuz she's recording some stupid sitcom that she's already seen!").

"Consuming" the media happens wherever you have a suitable "player". E.g., you can listen to a telephone call on a "network speaker" or (eventually) route it through whatever you are using to listen to a television program, etc. Of course, you can record it just as easily. Want to pull weeds while listening to the TV news? Just pop a BT earpiece in your ear...

If you mean "user interface", in that case, it's wherever you want it to be. I.e., I can alter the heat/cooling while I am working on one of the cars out in the garage (even though the garage currently has no HVAC capabilities). Or, while pulling weeds in the back yard. Or, while driving home from the Dentist. I've even got a very long range *cordless* phone so I can wander the neighborhood and still be "in touch" with the house (I don't use cell phones).

That was the whole point of this -- to tie the controls to the

*user* instead of "a spot on a wall" or "a panel in the garage". And, to then let the definition of "user" evolve (e.g., autonomous agents).

You know industrial grade components cost more than commercial grade. Why *pay* for something designed to be able to tolerate the heat (and North Dakota cold!) of the garage when it doesn't

*have* to sit out there? Do you think your PC will fare well in the garage -- while IN USE?

You want to be able to down-spec as many components as possible to keep things affordable (I'm already in the multiple kilobucks ballpark, here -- for just the electronics!). If you have to specify multiterabyte solid state disks (to store media!) rated for industrial temperature extremes instead of off-the-shelf

*commercial* magnetic disks of similar capacity there's a huge cost penalty. And, longer down-times when you can't just walk to your local discount store and buy a replacement! [OK, so maybe *you* will have to DRIVE! :> ]

The bits of kit that I locate "in ceilings", etc. are designed to handle the environments they are in. But, nothing more. If it ever climbs to 100C inside my ceiling, the $15 board I've got tucked up there is going to be the *least* of my worries! ("Don, why is there *steam* coming out of the ceiling?")

Yup. But, we don't have much of an option in that regard. Insulated garage door makes a big difference (and, the fact that the compressor hugs the floor and not the ceiling). House is very "open". Translation: not many places to *hide* things! :<

And, I'd *kill* for a basement!

I think, in his case, he's more interested in the functionality than the appearance. And, he enjoys "tinkering" with it. My goal is more a "set and forget" use. I don't like being a slave to my possessions -- despite all the effort I am expending towards that goal! :-/

Early in my career, I worried almost exclusively about how well things *worked* without regard for what they looked like (I have many prototypes fabricated "on a wooden plank" or "in a wooden enclosure"). I think its only after you get that skill-set perfected that you turn your attention to other "niceties" like appearance, user constraints, etc.

Before electronic "card catalogs" (list of the titles a library has on hand), each book had an index card describing it. These were kept in large, monotonous "drawer units". Typically, one organized "by title" and another "by author". Usually reasonably nice pieces of carpentry (though out-of-place in most residential settings).

Mine stands about 5 ft tall and I've located a workstation atop it that I use while standing (usually for things like starting a backup, etc.)

Times change. Weigh the "features" you lose by giving up the conventional remote (of course, make sure you take into account never being able to *find* the damn things! And, grumbling each time the batteries die!) with the features you gain from the new approach. *Then* decide.

[I can undoubtedly design an Ir interface that would allow the "old" remotes to continue to work. But, what's the point??]

I think a lot of it boils down to a sort of reassurance that something physical and tangible gives. The same sort of issue that leads people to develop and maintain *huge* spreadsheets instead of putting the data into a formal database and issuing queries against that (i.e., they feel "reassured" because they can *see* all of the data when it is in a spreadsheet -- even though seeing it doesn't make it any more robust or correct; whereas the raw data is hidden -- unless explicitly called forth -- when you just issue summary queries on a database!)

Sure. I just don't restrict the "remote" to something as conventional and DEDICATED as "The TV Remote" (or DVD or VCR or STEREO or CATV or...). I.e., where is the HVAC remote? Or, irrigation controller remote? Or, garage door opener (FOR INHOME USE) remote? Why have all these numerous little *specialized* boxes when they are all just

*instances* of the same sort of "user interface"! Why have to keep track of them and maintain them? ("Oh, crap! I left the remote for the irrigation controller in the dining room...")

Here, the phone and CATV wiring are a concession to future homeowners. I see no need for any of them in the years to come. But, I don't care to argue that point with a prospective home buyer. "You want a phone jack in every room? Fine. Oh, you want a CATV drop as well? Sure. Welcome BACK to the 20th century."

I think it also lets you see the sorts of problems others face and prompts creative thinking *on* those problems -- even if you never attempt to actually solve them!

E.g., in the past few years, they have replaced all the service feeds to the homes in the neighborhood from the gas company. It was interesting to see how they do this without trenching the whole yard! (*every* yard!).

This year, they replaced the gas *mains* in the neighborhood. Again, without digging up the streets. (This was actually REALLY amazing!) When you look at the "solutions" they've employed, it gives you a better understanding of where the cost issues are in these problem domains. Things that you might not have considered, otherwise. Or, may have *mis*diagnosed in your ignorance.

Exactly. I replumbed the irrigation tap off the water main recently. Had previously hired a plumber to do this (what a mistake!). Of course, *he* had soldered everything together figuring someone like him would UNsolder things when/if they needed to be replaced.

I, OTOH, replaced everything with threaded fittings/fixtures so it is relatively easy to service. Granted, using brass everywhere adds to cost (though it looks a lot prettier!). And, screw fittings are more expensive than slip joints. But, when you consider the time spent and the potential time *saved* when/if I need to revisit it down the road (e.g., replace diaphram in master valve, clean filter in pressure regulator, etc.)...

I hadn't realized how dreadful galvanized is! And "steel" nipples! I'd only ever used copper prior to this.

Unfortunately, I fabricated all of the (irrigation) valve manifolds out of galvanized. I will have to recreate them in copper when I have some spare time. Thankfully, they are each small projects (four sets of three valves -- the rest are singletons) so I can tackle them without having to shut down the system for a prolonged period of time.

It's also satisfying to be able to say you've done some of these things. And, you get a bit of a "reputation" as folks see you taking them on. E.g., each time I've dug out a tree stump/root system it's a very protracted and *noticeable* task. People tend to stop by and peer into the hole (the last one required 7 tons of soil to refill!) when all they see is your *head* sticking up above ground!

I don't know what it is like to replace this sort of roof. Previous roofs were asphalt shingle. Carrying third "squares" up a ladder is tedious but not the end of the world. I don't yet know what is involved for this roof (though I've had to carry

80# felt to make some repairs; and lugging 50-60 pound containers of paint...)

And, of course, any *lumber* that will be involved. :< The *bulk* may prove to be a problem!

Sheesh! One of these days my body is going to remind me of its actual age!! And, it probably won't be very POLITE when it does so!


Reply to
Don Y

Yeah, well... I don't imagine there are many such rooms, in practice!

I've been told that a grout line should be along the wall. And, that this ends up covered by the base molding/casing.

I think tile cutters only work on ceramic tile. "Score and break". These need to be cut with a wet saw (apparently).

Hmmm... I wouldn't have thought of that! I will have to ask around and see what sorts of experience(s) folks have had with them.



Reply to
Don Y

Cool! I may drop in there for a visit. I think I've got a workable solution for this problem but often have "stuff" looking for a new home; these folks might be a great destination for it! And, C will welcome anyone/thing that helps get stuff *out* of here! ;-)



Reply to
Don Y

No doubt.

I just found the mental imagery of a Logo Turtle wandering around with just such an "attachment" hanging from its belly! :> Especially given it's "line following" capability!

Reply to
Don Y

What does "good" mean? Do it's surface qualities change (e.g., become "tacky" and more likely to adhere to the drum?)

The fuser in a laser printer operates at ~200C. (low temp toners operate at lower temps -- but, I think those are primarily monochrome?)

From what I've found re: the Phasers, they operate at a much lower temperature -- 135C. So, I think I'd feel safest trying mylar on a Phaser instead of color laser (though I would be more distraught it the Phaser was damaged than I would the color laser!)

I'll have to finish my experiments with "card stock" and see if they are good enough to warrant NOT risking the mylar experiment.



Reply to
Don Y

Yes. But in a *Phaser*, the drum is hot (and the *ink* is hot!) Paper is relatively inert even at temperatures approaching its flame point.

Reply to
Don Y

It's not hot when it hits the drum in a laser or LED printer, it's the "fusion roller" that you have to worry about. Typically a halogen light inside a hollow aluminum roller with a silicone sheath. They're service items, so even if it and the roller heat pushes against it got gummed up it might not be a catastrophe. Still, when I suggested it at a copy place, they were rather unenthusiastic even when I said I'd pay for a service call (should have just cut it to size and implied it was a standard overhead sheet). The small color lasers don't deliver much opacity.

Reply to
Spehro Pefhany



The freezer has only internal controls but it is right next to the utility panel, in the same room. After the first one died and much of the food in it spoiled I thought about running a network high-temp alert but so far haven't gotten around to it.

Because re-routing stuff is a breeze when you have home runs. If you don't then it could mean cracking out the hammer drill, making a mess, dust, work, blisters.

Because central control is, to me, essential when it comes to such things. Heavy? A normal solenoid doesn't even take 0.25A. I've used doubled-up CAT5 for that because that only came in 1000ft drums.

Example: Some day you want to control the irrigation from your phone or via your LAN. With a central closet all you have to build is a board. Without that it means the hammer drill, dust, noise, sweat ...

Say you want to conserve energy. If you really want to push it and lower the water heater temps a lot you may have to ramp it up and back down about once a week. To prevent legionaires disease. Ideally this should happen when hot water is likely not used but, say, one person in the household is on revolving-time shifts at work. The peaker time thus has to be changed a lot. If you have no central control this would be a real pain.

That is quite futursitic but it sounds expensive to transfer everything to IP.

You just brought up a perfect argument for a centralized wiring closet :-)

To me the wiring closet is what makes this easy. I have no ambitions to peel off signals and such (well, with minor exceptions) but if I ever needed to then our home-run structure would make this as easy as it gets.

A good one does. Here in the office it was 91F yesterday and the main PC was running heavy duty SPICE simulations.

I rather buy less in toys and not down-spec.

"Don, why is there a fire engine in our driveway?" :-)

Then you need the super-expensive art deco sub-zero fridge freezer combo :-)

Oh, same here. We are on a slope so the one downstairs room is mostly cool. Into the hillside we have said utility closet and also a small wine storage. But it's nothing compared to the basement we had in Germany.

A bachelor, I suppose.

It's usually after you get married when that transformation happens :-)

Wow! You have this many books that you must catalog them in a 5ft card cabinet? We (or rather my wife) have ordered them by topic/genre and then selected a location for each throughout the house.

I stay with the remotes. They are always in the same drawer or on the table and the batteries get changes per checklist once per year. The old ones are not tossed but used up in "less critical" gizmos such as portable radios.

A higher WAF.

That's different. Here, everything is in databases. I use spreadsheets only as "cheat sheets" when working our circuit designs. Afterwards they are mostly retired, sometimes parts of them are re-used later.

We only use remotes where it makes sense. TV, radio, VCR/DVD combo, garage door openers. In the winter also for Christmas lights. That's pretty much it. I suppose one can pool all that into a smart phone app but since we don't have smart phones that won't work.

Well, got to do that. Not everyone wants to live like the Jetsons :-)

I do this kind of thinking all the time, comes with my job. The EE stuff is only to solve a problem from a different world. Aerospace, industrial, medical, whatever. Got to wear many hats as a consultant.


I did mine with PVC pipe. Much faster and much easier to reconfigure if you ever need another tap.

Regards, Joerg
Reply to

Then you have a boatload of cable coming *through* your house that could have been terminated "where used"? E.g., the landscape lighting controller is sited just inside the garage -- and only because she-who-must-be-obeyed doesn't like the transformers visible on the exterior of the house. No need to run 4 #12's from the outside wall of the house to someplace "deep within".

So, you would consider putting "smarts" *at* the freezer and sending *messages* to some "remote" location instead of running thermocouple leads to that remote location? But, putting local smarts at the irrigation controller and sending CONTROL and STATUS messages to that same remote location is out of the question?

I.e., this is how I have done everything, here. Put the smarts where it is most convenient to interface them to the field wiring; then "talk" to them from "wherever". Including from the supermarket!

I don't see how that is the case. You have to run a cable from a camera to your central location. Perhaps RS170 down a long length of coax? How is that any more convenient than processing the video *at* the camera and shipping a data stream over CAT5 to wherever you want it consumed?

But you are assuming central control has to be PHYSICALLY centralized. You don't run the wires from the pump for your swimming pool into that same room, do you? Nor the temperature sensor for it *just* so all of the wires are in one central location!

Rather, you put the pump and power that it requires where it makes sense FOR THE PUMP (you don't want to run pipe all around your property just so you can locate the pump somewhere "central"). You make the control *of* the pump (and pool temperature) available where *that* is convenient. Perhaps out *by* the pool, in a veranda, etc.

Or, in my case, wherever I can send datagrams to my control system (i.e., damn near anywhere).

Thats what I am doing *now*. Because the irrigation system can talk IP to the rest of the automation system I can command it from . My armchair in the living room. While sitting on The Throne. Or, while driving to the store. I don't care that the wires that connect to the solenoid valves are terminated in a small box on the wall just inside the garage door; or in a central utility closet. As long as I can talk to that box over IP, I can command it to do what I want, when/*as* I want.

(E.g., second generation of this will be wireless. Put your controllers wherever you can get at power and forget about them. No need to string cable through the rafters, etc.)

I can do exactly that. But, without "central WIRING"! Send a datagram to the water heater telling it to alter its setpoint temperature to . Then, some time later, tell it to alter it to . But, why should *I* have to tell it? An *algorithm* can tell it these things based on "rules" and observations of the hot water usage patterns of the occupants of the building!

But, this doesn't require the wires and controls all be centrally located. Just that they "come together" in some virtual space at a point where (i.e., me or "an algorithm") can access them.

Think about it: you need some field interface to all these sensors and controls/actuators. I.e., a single chip microprocessor. And, a way of talking with that MCU to exchange status and command messages -- some sort of serial communication protocol (e.g. ethernet).

Instead of putting ALL the I/O's on a single processor and having that processor "do everything", put the I/O's on *several* processors and distribute the responsibilities among them. Then, let them all talk to -- including each other! -- to get directions as to *what* they should be doing.

Now, instead of running all that field wiring to a central location, all you need to do is run it to a "convenient point". Or, a *set* of convenient points!

I.e., terminate the irrigation valves *here*; the landscape lighting

*there*; the garage door opener somewhere *else*; etc. Then, just bring their "communication interfaces" to a "central" point -- even if that point varies over time! ("Now I am in the living room wanting to control something; oops! I've walked into the kitchen and still want to control that thing!")

Given that you can (conceivably) do the communications wirelessly (I see lots of downside risk in that approach which is why I haven't gone that route, initially), you could put little black boxes all over the place and never have to worry about pulling cables "inside".

[Early on, I had considered designing the irrigation controller as a bunch of "one valve" controllers scattered, physically, around the property. So, instead of running cable to their solenoids from a controller, I would run power+data to their *controllers* which were located adjacent to each individual valve! But, the idea of having 16 little PCB's *buried* around the yard just felt "wrong"... OTOH, I think when someone comes up with an economical, rugged "moisture sensor" suitable for below grade use, there will be a market for lots of "smart valves" that sit on the water distribution line and service one or two plants individually with "local" control! "Made in China"]

No. All you need in that closet is the media server and however many pipes it needs to push enough media into your network! Here, I collocated the main processors (which include those that actually serve up the media), network switch/router and UPS in that location. But, the rest of the bits of kit (irrigation, security, etc.) are scattered around wherever it makes most sense for them. E.g., the processors that monitor the video feeds are located up in the eaves, adjacent to their individual cameras.

If the doorbell rings, I can "see" who is at the door without getting up from my office chair. Or, from the living room couch. Or, meal prep in the kitchen. Just as easily as I can watch a movie, etc.

[Note I have't yet designed the video subsystem as there's a fair bit of BFM there!]

If you can afford the space, great! I would *love* to have a closet (or *room*!) to set aside for automation. Stash all the network printers in there, the various servers I use for work, etc. Instead of being relegated to the lower 18" of this silly closet. But, moving *just* to get a "server room" seems a bit presumptuous! :>

90 degrees isn't particularly taxing. It's probably almost that in my office (poor ventilation and several servers running at once). I think google's "cold aisle" is claimed to be 80F.

But, Ma & Pa Consumer probably would be annoyed if they had to replace the "media store" on their multimedia server every year because it couldn't handle the 140 degrees in the garage ("How do we recover all the stuff we had on the drive before it died? We had videos of our 50th wedding anniversary with the grandkids...")

If you want to be able to control "everything", there is a certain "price of admission". :<

Yeah, I am already imagining what things will be like when manufacturers start selling products with these sorts of capabilities. And, users start downloading apps of dubious quality to *run* their automation...

"Why is my hot water heater set at 190F?" "Why is all the meat in the freezer thawed?" "Who left the garage door open?" "Ack! The roses are sitting in 6 inches of standing water!" "How did Bob, next door, manage to see me in the shower?"


No, the fridge/freezer/WIRING CLOSET combo! Complete with the optional shoe storage accessory!! :-/

So, a "walk out 'basement'" (even if it isn't really a basement per se)?

It's just insane that they *don't* build below grade here (AZ). Especially considering the heat in Summer. Cooling load would be absolutely non-existent!

But, I guess you could make the same argument for "up north" with respect to "heating load" in winter.

Bottom line: they don't do it because it's cheaper NOT to!

In New England, Midwest, Colorado, etc. I always had a basement. Something you simply took for granted. NOT having one really changes how you deal with "storage".

E.g., I would store my archives in the basement, previously. Cool, dry, dark... out-of-the-way. Here, they have to hide under a bed, etc.

Actually, he is. Though I suspect he would like to change that. "At least on the weekends..." ;-)

I've heard that when you are young(er), you want possessions; when older, "experiences".

In my case, I just want "less hassles". I.e., I want products to work as advertised (ideally, as *expected*!) and not break down regularly (I suspect I can't go more than two weeks without having to fix *something*... toilet, car, computer, TV, etc.)

Maybe hermits/minimalists have the right idea? :-/

No. The card catalog actually holds audio cassettes. :> The drawers are *almost* the correct size for 25 cassettes per drawer -- with a little slop on the side to make it easy to remove them individually.

I've been "on a campaign" to discard books -- despite my fondness for them. They just take up too much space! E.g., when I moved here, I had 80 "Xerox paper" boxes full of (fiction) paperbacks. And that doesn't count reference books, text books, technical literature, magazines, etc. I.e., almost two *tons* of paperbacks!

I've since given most of those away -- cherrypicking two boxes worth as "must keeps". And, recently turned to the text books and other references. Similarly, looking for electronic copies of the many technical articles that I have squirreled away and scanning those that I can't find on-line.

The idea of an eReader turns my stomach. But, I will concede this if it gives me a way to shed a few tons of paper! :-(

[I have a pair of old tablet PC's that I may turn into "libraries"... load all the documents onto them and just leave them on a shelf *like* eReaders with giant, color screens]

We are always searching for remotes. Two many gizmos that *need* remotes located in too many different rooms (I think my office is the only place that is free of remote controlled devices). The time and frustration spent trying to locate a remote sort of counteracts the value of having the remote (esp since we don't tend to watch much TV, DVD, etc.).

Ditto. We track our finances, budget, warranties, etc. as entries in various databases. Makes it easier to call up the data we need when we need it. (And, cuts down on the dreaded paper!! :> )

I conceded the (wall mounted) control panels to her so she has a place to go to "do things" (interact with the automation: change the temperature in the house, alter the watering criteria for the yard, check the outdoor temperature/humidity/rainfall, etc.)

The other things will be controlled by speech and/or a *worn* (lapel) "gesture panel". I figure it is something that "you'll get used to" over time. Just like it took time to get used to NOT having to get up to change TV channels; not having to press the clutch to shift; etc.

[And, a good part of this is to see what is *wrong* with various user interfaces for this sort of use!]

Yup. And I have no desire to leave the automation in place for a future homeowner (not because of its value but, rather, because of its potential liability!).

E.g., there is no thermostat in the hallway. *But*, there is a wire

*for* one buried in the wall that terminates at the furnace so that I can install a conventional heating/cooling thermostat when that time comes! [DIY stuff]

Yup. And, if you are like me, you seek out *new* application domains instead of sitting in a single "comfort spot" year after year. I.e., "always learning", experiencing new things, etc.

I don't like PVC because you have to cut it and patch it to make changes. I (mistakenly) thought the 3/4" galvanized would be a lot more "future safe". (It also allowed me to "float" the valves

*above* the concrete slabs I poured *under* each manifold as the pipe has a fair bit of weight to it and structural rigidity) I just didn't realize how piss-poor the galvanized held up with age! :<

No problem. Some 3/4" 'L' grade pipe and a few hours with a torch and they'll be replaced. Just annoying not to have foreknowledge of this information :( I really *hate* having to do things over! Especially when *I* was teh one who decided how to (wrongly!) do it in the first place! Too little time to get the things done that NEED to be done to be wasting time doing things over!

Ah, well... "perfection" is a goal, not a state! :>


Reply to
Don Y

In networked systems I've generally found it preferable to put as much of the "smarts" as possible into one place, in order to keep the protocols simple. This is especially useful if the different nodes are programmed by separate people or teams, since complex protocols can drastically increase the amount of confusion, meetings, integration problems, etc that you end up dealing with. This would suggest making the thing at the freezer be a dumb computer peripheral controlled by a more complex host at the other end.

Running analog signals over long distances has its own problems but if you're ok with the wiring hassles etc., maybe that can simplify things even further.

Reply to
Paul Rubin

On a sunny day (Fri, 26 Jul 2013 12:06:00 -0700) it happened Paul Rubin wrote in :

Would that work? I'd rather have a fridge that when contacted sends me temperature in degrees C, than one that would send me thermocouple voltages. Sometimes a simple webserver will give you all the control you want, example my security cams... And that standardizes the cables to ethernet... or no cables at all (WiFi). World is changing, for 35 $ you have a Raspberry Pi. IF you can program (many languages run on it), and it has great I/O too, then you are done. Run a server, USB peripherals, video, audio, IO ports.

It is also less sensitive to disaster if the peripherals are 'intelligent', even if your main PC is 'out' you can just contact the peripheral from anywhere else. And with anywhere I mean anywhere on earth.

In the past I designed and wrote a whole lot of little gadgets that use RS232, some 'dumb' some with micros in it, now I can just plug those in a Raspberry and access the wildest things from anywhere. Yes I have a thermocouple interface with RS232 too that works on it. Yes I had it in the fridge here to do some thermal testing.

Disagree, Keep It Simple, for the other end! Sir, you can read temperature from IP PORT. Apache? netcat! TCP, UDP, stream, stream video, record data locally on a Raspberry Pi SDcard, even if your whole network breaks the data is still safe locally.

Na, cables are expensive, unless there is _no_other_way_ avoid non standard stuff.

Reply to
Jan Panteltje

When I first created the irrigation controller, I took exactly the *opposite* approach: smarts in the controller (SBC) and a "dumb terminal" as the "remote computer".

I.e., the user interface (software) and application ran in the SBC and just used the "remote terminal" for the visual aspect of the user interface. This allowed the remote computer to be powered down (since you rarely interact with the irrigation controller!) nearly 100% of the time while still having the functionality of the irrigation controller operational. ("OK, there's no display. So what? I already know what I have to do...") This was trivial and inexpensive: serial ports are cheap and a character based interface easy to implement -- even on a SLOW serial port! (think: curses).

The economics of today suggest using ethernet for connectivity (or wireless, but that's another can of fish). Especially if you want to do more than push a few characters down the link (e.g., distributing multimedia; having nodes interact with each other via RPC; RPC-over-SLIP?? ick! etc.)

But, the price of admission for ethernet usually comes with a 32bit controller attached. (Are there any SoC's with ethernet MACs that are smaller than 32b?) Protocol stacks consume more resources than "serial port drivers" so these devices tend to be well endowed (FLASH+RAM). So, even small devices nowadays have more power and resources than, e.g., a PC/AT!

Therefore, why not *use* that power for more than just "remote valve activation"? Why not dispatch some portion of the application

*to* this node in addition to the physical interface to the field wiring interface? And, since each "remote device" needs ethernet connectivity, you now have a bunch of devices that can be slightly oversized for little/no cost and the extra capacity applied to the application -- instead of just the "remote wiring".

If you have a framework that lets these resources be used AS IF general purpose resources (i.e., MIPS and BYTES), then you can run portions of the application wherever you have some surplus capacity. Instead of running thousands of threads on *a* processor, run dozens of threads on each of scores of processors!

If you open a many "consumer" devices, you;ll see that this is how they have tended to partition the many "tasks" that the product is responsible for performing during operation. E.g., a VCR might have four or five MCUs in it. An automobile might have dozens (one *just* to control the power windows!). It's easier than having a giant wiring harness come to a single point for one, BIG computer! And, can enhance reliability as the functions of each device are more definitely partitioned. No way the power window controller is going to interfere with the ignition timing! Even if it *isn't* running on a processor with support for virtual memory! :>

Reply to
Don Y

That works too, since it counts as putting the smarts in one place.

The idea is there might be 10 units of complexity that you have to code. To the extent that you can control where it goes, I've found it preferable to put (say) 9 units at one end and 1 unit at the other, instead of 5 units at each end, for the reasons I described. Obviously the specific application will dictate some choices so you can't always follow this pattern.

Someone else on this newsgroup suggested using CAN bus for some non-automotive stuff. I don't know anything about it but it sounded interesting.

That is a niche area with specialized constraints, in my opinion. I'm more concerned with the typical situation (these days) that hardware is plentiful and the constraining resource is development effort.

Reply to
Paul Rubin

Yes that is fine. When I talk about complexity and smarts, I just mean code that you have to implement yourself, that consumes your development and testing time. If you want to use TCP or TLS or whatever and it's a drop-in module that's simple to use, that doesn't count as complexity in the way I'm referring to.

Reply to
Paul Rubin

There are innumerable ways of implementing a system like mine. Some day (?), vendors will endow their devices with general purpose "interface ports". So, for example, you can talk to your refrigerator; or washing machine; or thermostat; etc. (this seems inevitable given how easy it is to have a "user interface" available to every user in a home -- whether it is PC's, tablets, smartphones, etc.)

In that case, the smarts in each device will be undoubtedly be pared down to whatever the minimum requirements are to satisfy the functionality of the device -- plus some nominal "interface". I.e., this would be akin to me selecting the tiniest MCU that was capable of communicating "remotely" and interfacing it to the *existing* "controller" in each appliance (ad hoc).

I chose, instead, to add capabilities to each such "node" with the express purpose of distributing parts of the automation application into them. To avoid having a "big computer" somewhere that had to "do everything" (relegating the satellite nodes to simple "field wiring extensions").

This allows me to downgrade the complexities of that (central) "big computer". To save cost, reduce the need for cooling (noisey fans!), space, etc.

It also makes it easier for me to keep subsystems "up" in the event of a power outage and.or a bug/crash in that "big computer". E.g., the big computer can be powered off and the HVAC controller will still maintain the desired internal temperature for the building! Likewise, an intruder breaking a window will still result in the alarm being sounded even if the big computer has crashed. Etc.

CAN is essentially a party line "RS232" implementation. I.e., OK if you want to pass infrequent commands and data (like to my original irrigation controller) but pretty inferior if you are trying to push multimedia, or exchange arbitrary data (big data!) between processes operating on individual nodes.

E.g., if I query the database for a list of the hundreds of emitters feeding the various plants in the yard, a CAN bus implementation would be "busy" for many seconds. Ethernet for a tiny fraction of a second!

Hardware isn't *that* plentiful. Consumer devices (which probably represent *90%* of the CPU's sold) are very cost sensitive. If you can do something with 100 bytes of RAM instead of 10KB, you'll find only 100 bytes in that product!

(of course, there is also the tendency of engineers to consume all available resources in a product design... :> )

I.e., you are unlikely to find a "thermostat" with a megabyte of FLASH in it and several tens of KB of RAM (which is what *I* have). OTOH, those COTS thermostats won't be capable of talking with a weather station on the roof to determine current conditions. Nor of querying a RDBMS that has *logged* weather conditions (at the behest of said weather station) over the past few days to be able to estimate what those conditions are likely to be "later today". And, all *without* requiring the intervention of some generic PC!


Reply to
Don Y

About 8-10 per category to different locations. All terminated in the utility room.

We took out much of the landscape lighting. Deer trampling it, et cetera.

A freezer is so big that some people may not be able to locate it in the utility room. Or may want it closer to the kitchen.

Irrigation needs to have a home run as well IMHO.

It is easier to have all the controllers in one place. Sure, you can have a NTSC-to-IP converter box somewhere but SWMBO won't like it much. And I like to keep it simple. Cable is simpler and cheaper than local electronic conversion.

No, but I like the control of it centralized. So there is a control wire going from the pool house to the utility room. Runs only a valve right now, the rest is "future project when I get around to it".

That works, of course. But I like the system simpler, without having to translate everyhting to IP.

Algorithms won't know about shift changes and things like that.

You can make in happen in virtual space but it requires boxes here and there and cost a lot more.

But what do all those little black boxes cost in terms of money and install effort? We try to keep it simple in our house. Also, I do not want to rely on one system for all. If your LAN goes down you are screwed. It could cause plants to die.

We are far, far away from that kind of automation. Most of the industry is plain dumb when it comes to that. Except for a select few companies but those serve higher-end markets.

Until the network goes down one day, that is.

Our dogs will tell me :-)

How many square-feet is your house? Our utility room is maybe 6ft by 8ft or something like that.

If the garage is 140F on a regular basis you have a problem. Your cars won't like that for very long. I'd fix that (ventilation etc.).

Or use the home-run structuce, then admission costs only four drums of cables and some connectors and such.

"... and why does the virus scanner say found Stux-sumpthin'?"


Builders are either not smart or plain don't care about energy.

Well, it's also a nice trigger not to store so much. People have too much these days.

Then he should start getting rid of things like "a small rack in his bedroom" :-)

And often just pain relief. Like I right now, horrible toothache. Of course, per Murphy that set in on a Friday night.

Same here.

In some aspects they do.

Same here, but I don't want to pay twice for the books I already own. So I don't have any e-readers (yet). And I certainly won't buy one with vendor lock.


I still have to press a clutch. Sometimes the old things are simply better.


Those are the out-of-the-blue proposals I sometimes write.

Regards, Joerg
Reply to

Yeah, its advantage is supposed to be low cost and good robustness against noise and signal degradation. The way it gets that appears to be relatively low speed. It apparently goes up to 1 megabit (for cable runs up to 40 meters) but the base speed is 10-20 kbit (good for km runs).

I don't see why you'd have to send the result of such a big query over the CAN bus. The idea is to wire the outdoor network with CAN, where sensors would respond to occasional queries or post updates. Indoors (for queries etc.) you'd use wifi or ethernet.

I don't think that's meaningful to what most programmers spend their time doing. McDonalds might sell 90% of the world's hamburgers, all cooked with the same recipe written by one guy, but most of the world's working cooks have done a hamburger recipe at one time or another, using methods much different than McDonalds. Similarly, those tiny embedded cpus (while they ship a lot of them) are programmed by comparatively few people. The total amount of code running on them is relatively small.

There are also folks here saying that those 100 byte cpus are being displaced by 32-bitters with at least a few kilobytes. I see that Cortex M0 parts start at 50 cents or so. Not much room left for packaged 8-bit processors below that. The 100 byte cpu may go the way of the 7400 quad nand gate: it will disappear from circuit boards, possibly living on in the guts of ASICs. Programming them becomes the province of hardware designers. Again, a specialized niche.

Actually the most common processors may well be GSM SIM cards which have multiple kilobytes (there are billions of them and they are mostly programmed in Java for security).

Reply to
Paul Rubin

On a sunny day (Fri, 26 Jul 2013 22:21:18 -0700) it happened Paul Rubin wrote in :

If you say: 'code you write yourself' then it really does not matter if it runs on the remote board, or on a central PC, IN THESE DAYS.

In the long ago past (say 5 to 10 years back) small embedded boards did not have the resources to run a full Linux, web server, highly complex programs written in C, signal processing, what not. Now you have all this for 35 $ and on top of that a box, a HDMI interface (if you need a display say screen locally, also old PAL output), and it runs all my C code, or whatever language you like. Ethernet, and WiFi by plugging in a 15 $ adaptor.

Basically for _me_ that means I can just put all the code I did write for the computah on the small Raspi board, and then make whatever seems fun as communication method to it: say the fridge can have a webserver that shows temperature, allows you to set that temperature, and maybe has a webcam that shows you in a window what is in there (now you have to switch on that bulb, but wait GPIO can dive some white LEDs). Not much code I do not already have, have not already written for some PC project.

I can give some examples, of 'migration' of code to the Raspberry: Thermocouples:

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This sends the thermocouple values via RS232 to a PC (eeepc in this case), where the math is done by the the PC. Now you plug it in a Raspberry that runs thpc, and run a webserver on it. Or send an UDP stream, or run netcat as server... Few lines of code, everything compiles without change on that Raspberry.

Frequency meter:

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Plug this, via a 5$ USB-RS232 adapter into a Raspberry, and measure frequency (ssh -Y) from anywhere in the world. Was using it that way this week...


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Plug this, via a 5$ USB-RS232 adapter .. blah blah the same


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Plug this, ..blah blah the same

Radio station:

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Plug this... blah remote controlled radio transmitter, Raspberry will play from SDcard... anywhere in ...

Program you FPGA from anywhere:

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Program your PIC from anywhere, I used this a lot, but need for PICs will fade with Raspbery Pi so cheap:

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Control and make your own digital TV transmissions, or communicate with Voyager spacecraft if you have to, do not send it back LOL:

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All of that is via ssh -Y from a 'dumb' PC. All the code was original for PC x86 and now runs on Raspberry ARM. No modifications, except the last case where I had to go deeper into the Pi I/O. I realize the list is much longer, and many projects are not on the site, some never will be. Last one I published code for was in s.e.d Pi signal generator for 130 kHz to 250 MHz, NO extra parts needed.

Hey I did 3 projects just in 2 weeks, as coding is so fast on that thing in C.

I want to point out that last night I was thinking that for those in EE who CANNOT code, they are like an an-alphabetic, and cannot do anything. Because then you cannot know what should be hardware and what not, even the simplest chip uses I2c bus, so...

As to the fridge: I had this fun idea: Get a 35 $ WiFi webcam (I have one from ebay), and a 5 $ inside /outside temp meter (from ebay), hang the sensor in the fridge, the webcam has a webserver and free DNS server connection... Look... And if you want some REAL fun. put those things IN the fridge, no no problem with that bulb that secretly goes out when you close the fridge door, the webcam will switch on its IR LEDS... Power adaptor outside, just a thin wire into the fridge between the door, AND you see you need to go shopping, and who steals that cake... :-)

Reply to
Jan Panteltje

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