A good while back Flo and I went for a date night at Telus Spark, during which I built the Useless Box.

Unfortunately it didn’t stay working for very long as a result of my shoddy soldering skills during the workshop, but I’m now the proud owner of my very own soldering iron, so this afternoon I fixed it!

As an aside, this thing runs at 3v: more or less the same voltage as the home-brew home automation devices I alluded to planning on my blog. Do I replace the simple circuit that runs this thing with a WiFi enabled micro-controller?


Smart Home Dashboard


Recently, I have been all about turning our home into a smart home. That’s mostly because I’ve discovered Home Assistant: a little piece of software that runs (in my case) on a Raspberry Pi and pulls together data from all the sensors and smart devices you own.

Apart from a new WiFi thermostat that I was going to buy anyway I haven’t yet spent any money at all in my quest for this – I’ve merely connected together the devices we already owned (Chromecasts; family room lights; our burglar alarm), added in some data available through various APIs (weather; internet speed; server status) and pulled location information from our phones using an app that publishes the information to my own server.

Anyway, now that I have all this information in one place I wanted an attractive way to display it in my office. Happily I’d already bought a monitor with a built-in powered USB hub from a surplus equipment sale a while back, with this kind of project in mind.

So, my Friday afternoon project today became hooking up another Raspberry Pi to this monitor and crafting a HTML dashboard for it to display. Not everything works yet, but I think it’s pretty good for an afternoon’s work.

(Since I didn’t remove the clock from the frame when I shot the video, I can’t pretend this thing is quick to boot. I may have manipulated the video speed at a couple of points. But anyway).

Oh, and watch this space for some home-brew smart home devices, coming soon!