SkyWeather2 Installation Guide

In a previous post, I raved about the SwitchDoc Labs SkyWeather2 KickStarter project. When you purchase the kit, there is an option to buy an SD Card with all the required software installed. I passed on it, and cloned the SkyWeather2 software from Github.

To get it all working, I had to sort through all of the dependencies. This took time.

As far as I know, there is no documentation anywhere that describes how to get the SkyWeather2 system up and running from scratch. So – Ol’ Sopwith decided to do something about it.

I created a bash script that installs all of the required application and Python module dependencies. In addition, I wrote a detailed 18 page “How-To” guide.

Hopefully, this makes it easier to get your SkyWeather2 up and running if you choose the DIY route.

Sopwith

Create a Custom PI OS Image

Anyone who has ever messed with a Raspberry Pi knows the drill. You download the latest Pi OS release image and burn it to an SD Card. Then you slide the card into the Pi and power it up. The Pi boots, you login with the default credentials, and you run ‘sudo rasp-config’.

You configure your WiFi access point, locale, keyboard, and timezone. You enable SSH, I2C, Camera, and whatever else you need for IO. Next, you run ‘sudo apt update’, ‘sudo apt upgrade’, and reboot. Finally, you log back in and install all your favorite software that is not installed on the base image (p7zip, pip, i2ctools, midnight commander, etc.)

For casual Pi users, this is a one-time or rare task. For experienced Makers who have gone through this drill dozens, if not hundreds of times – it is a real pain. For Makers who write lots of code and/or software installation scripts, this process is beyond irritating.

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SwitchDoc Labs SkyWeather2

My good comrade John Shovic over at SwitchDoc Labs has been very busy. As you may know, John is a high-energy, fun loving Maker, who specializes in designing electronic components and DIY kits for the Raspberry Pi. He is a very talented electronic engineer and educator. All of his projects are open sourced.

I was one of 151 backers who supported his SkyWeather2 KickStarter project late last year. SkyWeather2 is a major upgrade to the original SkyWeather project. I received the kit a couple of weeks ago, and finally found time to assemble it.

SkyWeather2 WeatherRack Sensor Array

The SkyWeather2 system uses a 433MHz radio signal to transmit sensor data. This is the same radio band used in garage door openers, remote control devices, baby monitors, etc. The kit comes with an SDR USB dongle receiver with an antenna. This captures sensor data from the WeatherRack and the indoor temperature/humidity sensor included in the kit.

Since I purchased the kit version, I had to 3D print the base unit components and purchase some additional hardware (screws, O-rings, standoffs, etc.). I also had to figure out how to install the required software because I did not want to take the ‘easy’ route by purchasing the already configured SD Card.

My SkyWeather2 system is up and running and it works great. I will have more to say about this unique, useful, and fun gadget. Stay tuned.

 

Announcing Release of BTFClock

Greetings smoke-eaters. It has been a while since ol’ Sopwith published a blog post. That is because I have been working hard on another clock project.

For those of you who do not want to read the rest of this post, here is the datasheet.

A while ago, I came across a very cool Thingiverse project by a French Maker comrade named jeje95. He created a replica of the time-circuit in the Delorean filmed in the classic movie Back to the Future.  Certainly one of the best movies ever produced, with a near cult-like following to this day.

jeje95 also produced a pretty funny video of his creation, that I highly recommend you watch.

I produced one of these clocks, and as all Makers are obligated to do, I decided to make it better. I ditched the Arduino for a Raspberry Pi Zero, added a much better real-time hardware clock (RTC), and a whole lot more.

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A Visit with Dr. SwitchDoc Labs – John Shovic

I had the great fortune to spend a long Memorial Day weekend in Coeur d’Alene, ID. Anytime I am on the move, I like to check out whom of my acquaintances live in the area so I can buy them a cup of coffee.

On this trip, I struck pay dirt! Dr. John Shovic, the founder of SwitchDoc Labs lives there. I first “met” John virtually, way back in the early Pi days when he wrote for the brand new PiMag.

He wrote a series of articles about his adventures building a Pi based weather station and mounting it on a Ham radio tower in the remote Caribbean island of Curacao. I was fascinated with his story and followed it closely. Only John would be crazy enough to come with this idea – and then act on it.

For those who are interested in reading his articles, I have included the download links to the magazines below:

John was kind enough to meet me at the beautiful Coeur d’Alene Innovation Den and show me around. John has his robotics lab here and he spends most of his time with his students from the University of Idaho where he teaches. Many of you know John by following his endless projects and innovations at SwitchDoc Labs and his many KickStarter projects.

What a privilege it was for me to be able to spend time with this brilliant, fun, and laid-back man. As I was flying back home thinking about my great holiday, I kept trying to figure out how I was going to keep up with John and all of his cool Maker projects.

I will have more to say about John in future blog posts.

Sopwith

Airplane Fun Revisited


A very long time ago I wrote a blog about tracking airplanes. I was living in London at the time very near London City airport. That project was a lot of fun, so I hacked together another Pi setup to track airplanes here in the Los Angeles area.

I decided to install PiAware and provide my tracker feed to FlightAware. Why? Because if you do, you are given an Enterprise level account (value – $89 USD/month). I fly a lot and use the FlightAware app on my Android phone all the time. It is so easy to track my inbound airplane when I am waiting for a flight.

FlightAware has detailed instructions on how to build a PiAware setup.

The below image from FlightAware’s web site  shows how many other Makers have blazed this trail before me. That is a lot of Raspberry Pi’s folks.

For my setup I used the below components:

  1. Raspberry Pi3 B+
  2. Pi case with cooling fan
  3. RTL-SDR UBS dongle (This is what receives the radio signals from the antenna)
  4. An extended range WiFi adapter (USB)
  5. A FlightAware optimized antenna

Putting it all together was a snap. To install the software, follow the detailed instructions on the FlightAware web site.

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Zabbix Agent User-Parameters

This is part three of the ‘How-To‘ series on leveraging the Zabbix IT monitoring platform using a Raspberry Pi. Part-1 showed how to install the Zabbix server on a Pi. Part-2 showed how to get the Zabbix agent running on a Pi. In this post, I show how to graph the CPU and GPU temperature of a Pi and the temperature/humidity readings from a precision AM2315 temperature sensor.

The Zabbix platform is incredibly flexible. It allows nearly endless possibilities of tracking and graphing data using custom User-Parameters. This is very useful to Makers since it allows the monitoring of sensor data on custom dashboards.

You can download the ‘How-To’ document here. I have also provided a zip file containing the custom scripts and agent configuration user parameter section on the downloads page.

Let me know how you use the Zabbix platform with your Pi fleet to monitor and track sensor data.

Zabbix Agent on a Raspberry Pi

In my last post I showed how to install the Zabbix IT monitoring platform on a Raspberry Pi. This highly capable and flexible open-source platform provides the ability to track the status and performance of your Pi fleet.

In this post, I provide the second part of a Zabbix implementation on a Pi: How-to install and configure the Zabbix agent and create dashboards on the server.

You can download the detailed ‘How-To’ document in PDF format here.

Zabbix Server on a Raspberry Pi

I received an interesting Email last week from someone who wanted to know if I knew how to monitor an AM2315 temperature sensor attached to a Raspberry Pi using a Zabbix server.

My response? Ummm… What is Zabbix? After some brief research, I was introduced to another stellar open-source project with terrific documentation.

Zabbix is a platform used by IT professionals all over the world to monitor their infrastructure. The platform consists of a server component and a deployable agent that runs on nearly anything. The agent is used to report back to the server performance metrics such as memory, disk, CPU utilization, and a boatload of other metrics. All in a beautiful and configurable dashboard.

The Zabbix system is very flexible and allows the creation of custom agent commands that allow you to configure and monitor any platform.

I was so intrigued by this newly discovered gem, I downloaded and installed it on a Raspberry Pi3. I have written a ‘How-To’ document that walks through the process.

In upcoming posts I will show how cool this platform really is. In fact, I will even show how to report temperature sensor and other data to a Zabbix server.

Pi Real-Time Clock ‘How-To’

For Makers that need an accurate clock for their projects, the Raspberry Pi does not have one. In order to save costs and board space, a hardware clock is missing in all versions of the Pi. Fear not. There are many options available if you need an on-board clock for a project.

DS3221 RTC

I have written a ‘How-To‘ document that walks through the details of getting a real-time clock (RTC) up and running on a Raspberry PI. I know there are plenty of resources on the Web that show how to do this, but I like to take the extra time to write a complete document, not just a list of bullet points.

Makers that are new to the Raspberry Pi and its SBC brethren appreciate having the screen-shots that make it easier to follow along. As long as my ‘How-To’s’ help beginner or intermediate Makers create cool things, I will continue to write documentation.

You can download the ‘How-To here.