Simple environment monitoring with spare parts.

Jul 04 2020

It's going on summer in the Bay Area, which means that it's warming up a bit both outside and inside (because air conditioning is Not A Thing out here).  That, coupled with the not inconsiderable research infrastructure I have at home has left me wondering and worrying about just how hot my office gets during the day while I'm working.  Now, I could just put a simple little thermometer on my shelf (and I did) but my concerns are a bit bigger than that.  What happens if my office temperature reaches a critical point and servers start melting down on me?  I've dealt with heat damage in the past and don't particularly care to shell out a grand or so to replace parts that flatlined because I was away from the house and couldn't respond in time.  That, and the fact that I need to keep my mind busy while I'm stuck in quarantine if I'm going to be honest, are the reason why I built yet another weird-assed exocortex project: A relatively simple hardware monitor connected to a Raspberry Pi, and a bot that listens for commands and responds with what it can detect of the local temperature or humidity when I send it a message.

Rigging up Raspbian Buster to run on a Pi-Top

Jan 06 2020

It doesn't seem that long ago that I put together a Pi-Top and started tricking it out to use as a backup system.  It was problematic in some important ways (the keyboard's a bit wonky), but most of all the supported respin of Raspbian for use with the Pi-Top was really, really slow and a bit fragile.  While Windbringer was busy doing a full backup last week I took my Pi-Top for a spin while out and about, and to be blunt it was too bloody slow to use.  At first I figured that the microSD card I was using for the boot device was one of the lower-quality ones that bogs down once in a while, but that turned out not to be the case.  Out of desperation I started looking into possibly upgrading the RasPi in that particular shell to the latest and greatest version, which I happen to have received as a Yule gift last year.  Lo and behold, I was not the only person to think along these lines. (local mirror)  While the article in question talked at some length about the hardware challenges involved (mostly due to the different arrangement of connectors) the software part was the most valuable to me because it answered, concretely and concisely, how to get unmodified Raspbian working with a Pi-Top's unusual control hardware.  So that this information doesn't get lost in the ether I'm going to write up what I did.

War walking with a Raspberry Pi 0 W.

Apr 28 2019

You've probably noticed from the datestamps of my last couple of weeks worth of posts that they were autoposted by an agent.  This is because work has taken a turn for the extremely busy and I haven't had the time or the energy to write anything in particular; certainly nothing really useful.  Rather than wasting everybody's time I decided to relax a bit by picking up an older project, namely a new war-walking rig, and making it work.  Since I wrote that original post a few more security updates have come out for my phone and broke not only the Wigle wardriving app but a couple of other things that I really like, but that's neither here nor there.  I'm still using the equipment outlined in the previous post and the latest Git commit of Kismet right out of the developers' repo.  I made a couple of design decisions that I'll discuss later which are specific to my use case, which you are free to ignore or discard as you deem necessary.

It's a bit of a surprise when I don't have enough processing power.

Oct 13 2018

Earlier this year I got back into urban hiking by taking up war walking again around home.  Not too long after that, I started picking up buzz that upcoming versions of Android are specifically not going to make it easy (or probably possible) to wardrive or war walk by changing how the wifi drivers work.  By this, I mean they're making it possible to trigger a wireless scan once every two minutes instead of whenver you ask it to.  Unsurprisingly, if you read through that ticket's comments this is going to break a lot of other applications out there, but when you're the 500 pound gorilla you can pretty much dictate terms, and to hell with what your users actually ask for.

Yeah, I'm still bitter about that.  Moving on.

Spending quality time with the Pi-Top.

Apr 30 2017

A couple of months ago for my Lesser Feast I decided to treat myself to a toy that I've had my eye on for a couple of months: A Pi-Top laptop kit.  My fascination with the Raspberry Pi aside (which includes, to be honest, being able to run a rack full of servers in my office without needing to install a 40U rack and a new 220 power feed), it strikes me as being a very useful thing to have under one's desk as a backup deck or possibly a general purpose software development computer.  Most laptops have one unique motherboard per model and if you want to upgrade (or need to replace it) you're pretty much limited to buying a brand-new laptop.  To upgrade a Pi-Top you just need to buy a new RaspberryPi, slide a panel aside, and swap a few cables, a system design that I think could be useful indeed.  It also has remarkably few components; the screws and fasteners aside, the PiTop is composed of only a few modules: A base with a battery, a keyboard and touchpad panel, a lid with display, a black lexan access panel, a hub circuit board that ties everything together, and a RasPi.  You can get a couple of modules to go with it, such as a prototype board for electrical engineering experiments and modular speakers, all of which attach to a sliding rail and plug into a unique pinset on the hub.  I'm not an electrical engineer by any means but I have built many a kit over the years, and from eyeballing it it looked like a fairly simple build.  I didn't document the build with photographs or anything because I didn't think to do so at the time.  Sorry.