Introduction & Background

I have been interested in connecting things up in my house for a while now but have had limited time due to a Self Build project. That is now complete, so I am now able to spend more time on this hobby. I am a Software Engineer to trade as it were, but for the last 20 years or so I have had little opportunity in my working life to do that, bar a few VBA macros here and there. It is however, one of the things I do really enjoy and get immense satisfaction from a well crafted piece of code.

Although the languages themselves have changed (I mainly used ADA and Perl in the past), the principles remain. All I need to understand is the syntax and the data structures. Eventually I’d like to get a grip of exception handling as well.

I have also fiddled with Ubuntu for many years, so have a reasonably good knowledge of UNIX and I have dabbled in the art of email delivery and ran my own mail server (Mailtraq) for many years. When I built the house I flood wired the house with CAT6 and so have a wired home network with managed switches which has given me more than a passing understanding of networking. All in all, a jack of all trades.

When the RaspberryPi was first announced, it grabbed my imagination, so I put my pre-order in for one of the first batch and the little gem dropped though my door a few months later. That Pi has been running ever since mainly bringing in the data from my weather station. It has been running off an old 2.5in HDD that I stuck in an enclosure – I had suffered several SD card failures before moving to this setup. I think the base operating system was a dual image that was available for EmonCMS for a while from OpenEnergyMonitor (OEM) folk. It has been super reliable but I have not kept the OS up to date (I think it is still wheezy) so it really needs refreshing.

Sometime ago, I expanded my Pi estate with a B+. Again I set it up on an HDD but this time using a great little script I found called raspbian-ua-netinst. This downloads a minimal set of packages and can load the OS directly onto the HDD. Very clever and simple, but I am not convinced this project is being fully maintained so for my latest setup I have not used it. This device has been running EmonCMS for quite some time, collecting energy use data but again this has got out of date so needs refreshing.

For Christmas I treated myself to some new hardware;

  • Pi B+
  • WD Labs PiDrive, case and Power Supply
  • Couple of OrangePi Zeros

I like the B+. It has enough processing power for the jobs I have, 4 USB Ports and the price is 2/3 of a Pi3. It disappeared from the suppliers for a while but a new batch (and revision) has been produced and they seem in plentiful supply. The revision is causing some issues as it is not officially listed so even Dataplicity was not recognising it and any SW that checks the model generally has a hissy fit.

My plan is this; combine all my routine stuff onto this new device and PiDrive so freeing up at least one Pi for playing with. Put that Pi onto the UPS I have so it is a little more robust. Gradually develop and integrate in more IOT into this platform. I intend to document that journey here so come along for a ride!

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