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This is a question DIY Techno-hacks

Old hard drive platters make wonderfully good drinks coasters - they look dead smart and expensive and you've stopped people reading your old data into the bargain.

Have you taped all your remotes together, peep-show-style? Have you wired your doorbell to the toilet? What enterprising DIY have you done with technology?

Extra points for using sellotape rather than solder.

(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 12:30)
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My God!
This question was made for me!

To start with I made a quadrafilar double-helicoidal anttenna from a load of old coax and some drainpipe so that I could pick up the polar-orbit sats to predict my own weather as I couldn't rely on the TV - not that I had any special reason to predict the weather at all.

...but that wasn't enough.

I was always pissed off that I had a remote control to unlock my car doors all at once but not for my house....so.....when some pikeys smashed our remote-control barrier down at work to get to some scrap metal (to be honest, they could have just asked and they could have had it, it was a pain in the arse to get rid of most of the time!) I took the remote keys - they look exactly like car remotes.
I took out the slightly smashed electrics and bought a couple of magnetic door slots and little plastic box to host the electronics, a quick wiring in and voila! Home Central Locking. Comes in bloody handy when you're struggling with shopping etc...

However, the "Techno-DIY" bug had set in by then and this simply wasn't enough.

I'd been running a MythTV server for some time, so after buying a cheap network camera on ebay and mounting it in the ceiling in the porch, editing the menu xml files on the MythTV frontend, I could flip the TV picture to the porch when the doorbell rang and after shorting one of the remote controls and wiring it into a USB relay/switch I could open (or at least unlock) the front door by pressing a button on the TV remote.

Still, it seems my geekyness was not sated. I wired the lights into the USB relay (I'm making this sound more simple than it actually was and not being an electrician had to learn the hard way - many a bolt was had!) and the amplifier. Of course, there were lights on all three floors. Luckily, I have PCs everywhere and they are all networked. So a couple more relays and a quick TCP server written in Python and viola again! I could then control the lights, amps and TV's in all the rooms.

Shortly after that was completed, a couple of touch-screens had gone at work - they're used in a factory that gets quite dusty and as such they don't last all that long. They were in the skip. One would power up but had a milky white screen the other wouldn't start at all. One swapping of the internal psu, and wooohooo, one free touch screen.

I had an old 800mhz mini-itx board laying around so made a quick case for that, but for some reason my OS of choise would simply not install - funny chipset or some-such thing. So, Windows XP went on the bugger. I then wrote a nice looking front-end for it in C#, and so now I could simply touch buttons on the screen to turn everything on and off.

So, to cut a long story slightly shorter I then had a machine sitting idle for most of the time.....and a couple of omni-directional mics that had been aquired years ago from a relative that used to work for the BBC. Wired those buggers in, wrote some voice recognition stuff (using the MS Speech SDK, I'm not THAT geeky!) and then I could say "front room, lights, on" and on they would come, etc... Had to train the voice a fair bit to get it accurate, but it all bedded down properly in the end!

Still, the windows...I actually had to get off my arse and open them manually...and te curtains.

A quick trip to Homebase and 2x12v Handheld drills for 7 quid each and I now have 12v variable speed motors! Drilled the bay windows through, extracted the motors from the drills, and about 2 weeks later (lots of problems with getting that to work) I could open the top windows of the house via, either my mobile phone, my TV remote, by speaking - "Top window, left, close" or by touching the touch screen button. Still...that required human input...not geeky enough, STILL!

I seemed to remember I had an Arduino board laying around after some mis-guided project from a while back. Sure enough, a quick search turned it up...along with light sensors and humidity sensors. A quick C program in 'Wiring' and when it got dark, the windows would shut. Starting to rain, the windows are open and I'm at work? No problem, first hint of rain and the windows close, and then notify me that they've done so.

One night a few months after this, I discovered that despite all this crap, I'd forgotten my keys and couldn't get into the house. I finally managed to enter the place, but not until a lot of trouble had passed. So, the next day I installed "[email protected] (trixbox)" on one of my machines that were running 24/7. I set up a free SIP (in) phone number and an extension number that only I knew. I set up the automated voice response that we've all become so familiar with, "press one for this, two for that, three to unlock all doors, etc...". So now, this can never happen again. If I forget my keys, I simply phone the house up, dial the extension number, then press the appropriate button that kicks of the script that talks to the pythin TCP server and the relay that is wired into the old remote control clicks and the door becomes unlocked!

To the chagrin of my misses, this 'DIY-project' still isn't finished...I don't think it ever will be.

I think she wants her dining room table back - currently, and for the last few months anything with electricity for blood has been taken to pieces and remains in the electric graveyard she used to call a dining room.

Still, the curtains are next.

PS. I think she's quite pleased with the air-con unit made from an old coolbox and old Dell server fans.
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 14:34, 35 replies)
geekness in excelsis!
how can you not win?!
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 14:40, closed)
Just in case
anyone is interested, here's a screen shot of the touchsreen:

free image host
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 14:42, closed)
This sounds

Do you have any pics/videos of it's brilliance?
EDIT: Too late.
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 14:43, closed)
I'll take
some in a second and post them up. Not sure how to show the voice touch stuff, but I'll see what I can come up with.
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 14:44, closed)
a pic
of the result of the QFH antenna mentioned at the beginning that I've just found:

(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 14:48, closed)
How have you
not taken over the world yet?

*clicks hard in awe*
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 14:51, closed)
If she leaves you I'll marry you
seriously :|
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 14:52, closed)
I think she quite likes it secretly. It is, at least, useful to some degree!

In fact, long before Sky+ etc... existed, I'd rigged up a Mythbox in which we could pause live TV, record, rewind etc... She got so used to it that when she was round a friends house, she honestly couldn't understand why they couldn't/wouldn't pause the TV to go for a pee.

My kids have become so used to touching the screen to turn lights on and off that they find it odd when other people's houses don't have the same!
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 15:02, closed)
more pics
free image host
free image host
free image host

I did take some of the door units but they were too blurry to see properly.
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 15:00, closed)
This sounds super impressive, fair play to you!
Out of interest, do you have a monster, house gauge, UPS in your basement? What happens in event of a power outage?
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 15:14, closed)
I do
have a UPS, but it's not very good - at best it will last for 10-15 minutes, but that's long enough for all the machines to bring themselves down properly.

I can still open the doors manually, but of course, everything else does shut off.
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 15:22, closed)
This is awesome
I would love to do these kind of things one day.
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 15:18, closed)
vast majority of it took very little money. USB Relays on ebay at around 30 quid, old PCs, bits and bobs of electronics, Arduino + assocs are around 30-60 quid for all-in packs.
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 15:23, closed)
So basicaly you've got your entire house about 50 years ahead of everyone elses? That's impressive! I kind of hope you don't start thinking in terms of "home security" though.... For some reason I'm picturing a newly sentiant house with death lasers.
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 15:35, closed)
Your house is, in fact
Jurassic Park. You need to wire the music into the doorbell so when people press it, you let them in and the theme music plays.
Be careful not to let any rogue programmer (or child) sabotage the system though ;-)
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 15:41, closed)
Bloody marvellous!
Deserves a round of applause and a click - and I know imagine you as some kind of Bond supervillan in the making. (If you're going to build a raygun and take out a country, could I suggest everybodys favorite, France???)
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 15:45, closed)
the home security - forgot about that - and the barcoding of the shopping in and out (see other post).

I do have security setup, but it's quite simple.

If I press the 'motion detection' on the touch screen, it counts down 60 seconds, then after that any motion in any of the three main rooms and I get emailed to my phone and/or work account with a snapshot.

I also have a 'holiday' mode that I can put it into that randomises the lights between a given hour, say 7-8 so that no pattern emerges if anyone is 'casing the joint'.
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 15:54, closed)
Have you ever considered going into buisness with some of these?
I mean, seriously, there's some pretty fantastic ideas there.
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 16:00, closed)
That James Caan would be desperately crossing his legs to hide the growing pool of precum if he heard some of these ideas on "the Den"
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 16:02, closed)
do mention it when they come round and see it all working, but to make it viable for sale, the equipment would be very expensive. Touchscreens (at least decent ones) are around 500 quid, all the motors etc... couldn't really be cut out of cheap hand-held drills from Homebase etc... Likewise the PCs, the machines (for the most part the 'satelite' ones at least) are old machines that people were throwing out that I've scrubbed and put Xubuntu on to breath new life into them.

I think just to get the touchscreen and lights/amps etc... working for sale would mean it would have to cost around 2-3000 quid.
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 16:28, closed)
Yeah, that's it
With home projects you can cut corners and get things working 80-90% and it's ok. If something breaks you can fix it. You try doing this for someone with low tech ability, they will be haranguing you every other day.

And the more expensive it is, the greater the expectation that it will work 100% all the time and nothing will go wrong.
(, Sun 23 Aug 2009, 2:44, closed)
Spot on. For instance, I know the door opener from the touchscreen works 80-90% of the time. I know that the TV works around 95% of the time, and I know how to fix it when it goes wrong.

I probably could make all this work 99.9% of the time, but not all the time I'm tinkering with it - it's to be expected. Sometimes when I have an idea, it means changing some of the stuff that works...and that means that the stuff that works, will invariably end up NOT working until I bodge it through.

It would take a hell of a lot of work and dosh to make something like this commercially viable, but then I suppose that's what that Dragon's Den is all about.
(, Sun 23 Aug 2009, 14:33, closed)
Quite frankly mindblowing
Home central locking - I want
A well-earned *click* for you, sir
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 15:56, closed)
was the catalist that set it all off really. I've always tinkered, and years back my misses said "i wish we could open the doors the same way we do with the car" when we were walking in and struggling to get keys out of pockets etc...

It took me about 5 years to get around to it, and moving house was the right time to do it.
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 15:58, closed)
And I assume
You're never moving house ever, having constructed this amazing setup?

(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 17:20, closed)
Bloody hell!
Do you have a white cat? Is your holiday home inside a hollowed out volcano? Why haven't you taken over the world yet?

You, sir, are a marvel.

*clickety click click click*
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 16:10, closed)
What if an important piece of technology is about to fail
and the system doesn't think you'll replace it. You will be at it's mercy and have to put up with it singing shit nursery rhymes while you unplug all the stuff.
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 17:51, closed)
Bloody hell!
I'm pretty sure there's a voice command to make me click, but I'll do it manually anyway. *click*
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 17:52, closed)
this was a triumph
I'm making a note here, huge success!
(, Thu 20 Aug 2009, 22:09, closed)
You are made of plasticine
and have a dog called 'Gromit' AICMFP

"COMPUTER: send *click* to dchurch"
(, Fri 21 Aug 2009, 11:03, closed)

This is a fact
(, Fri 21 Aug 2009, 13:51, closed)
(, Sat 22 Aug 2009, 12:47, closed)
If you use
"main screen turn on" to turn on your TV....You are my God.
(, Mon 24 Aug 2009, 12:50, closed)
...it's "Frontroom, TV, Main Menu"
(, Wed 26 Aug 2009, 11:40, closed)
Mmmmm unexplained bacon
(, Tue 25 Aug 2009, 14:07, closed)

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