Monday, September 21, 2015

Putting TV and Electronics in Their Place

Photo By Eckhard Etzold (Self-photographed) [CC BY-SA 2.0 de (], via Wikimedia Commons

We know families who don't have a TV in their home. When we were married and got our home, we decided to put the TV in the basement room, not in the living room.  This allows us to have a place of relaxing in the living room. And, the living room is a place for conversation. 

I mentioned this to someone recently and they thought it was great, so I thought I'd mention it in a blog post.

We've also seen the rise of electronics in our lives. Smart phones are ubiquitous. People are checking them all the time. I do that too. And, sometimes I don't check it when I should, so I missing important things.

I've been trying to live in the present and not use my smart phone while with people.

What have you done to "put TV and electronics in their place"?

Monday, September 14, 2015

Cabin Fever Part 5: MQTT and IBM Internet of Things Foundation

Note: There is more in a newer post on this topic: Part 6

In our last installment (Part 4) of this long "saga," we ran into some roadblocks with Temboo (namely that it doesn't allow enough free "calls" to it's "choreos" to support checking for email commands at a reasonable rate).  So, I "switched gears" to a new solution:  MQTT, IBM's Internet of Things Foundation, and Bluemix (Programming on the cloud).

I found this tutorial and started working though it

Build a cloud-ready temperature sensor with the Arduino Uno and the IBM IoT Foundation, Part 1: Build the circuit and set up the environment

This is a good tutorial because it takes you step by step through lots of things to learn about the hardware and the software.

Different Temperature Sensor
I have a different temperature sensor, so I had to make some changes..  I just changed the "sketch" (program) to not call the code to get temperature and humidity and I just added a little bit to the temperature every loop so it went up by 0.1 degree.

Lesson Learned: How to Add Arduino Libraries
I ran into an issue with the MQTT library. When I followed the links to download it from Github, I tried to add the library from the Arduino IDE by importing the .zip file I had downloaded. I kept getting errors that the header file was not found (pubsubclient.h). After hours of being stuck on this (in my spare time over two days), I realized that I needed to unzip the .zip file and only move the one pubsub folder into the library folder for the Arduino IDE to find it and use it.

Needed to fix a line of the Arduino Code
I also needed to fix a line in the arduino code. This line:
needed to be changed to
(you'll find this change in the comments)

I see data!
On the 2nd part of the tutorial, I was able to use the quickstart (although the screens shown in the tutorial changed a bit) and I could see the data being displayed!  Now, that was exciting!

Asking Questions about how to get it working with Node-RED

With all of this excitement of seeing my data, I then started right away on part 3 of the tutorial!  It  has several steps. The screen pictures in the tutorial were different than the current screens. I guess the screens changed a bit. Finally, when I tried to "register" the device (the Arduino), there was no such dropdown that allowed me to register the Arduino as was shown in the tutorial.  I asked by posting comments on part 2 of the tutorial and was told just to create my own device and skip putting in all the information that it asked for.

How Does MQTT Publish and Subscribe work?
I wanted to understand more about MQTT. I got some help from the forums and they pointed me to this for an understanding of The Internet of Things Foundation (publishing events and commands). I found out from reading it that my Arduino with the Ethernet Shield and Temperature Sensor (called a "Device") will be publishing "events." I also found out that the Bluemix app (which I will program in Node-RED) will be publishing "Commands" to the Arduino "device".See the graphic above.

Learning how to use Node-RED and Bluemix:
I learned about Node-RED on Bluemix using this YouTube tutorial (be sure to read the comments for changes). I created an app following the directions there. It uses a temperature sensor simulator at:
This was fun to play with!  I could change the temperature and watch how the Node-RED code worked.

What's Next?
 Now that I understand Node-RED a little and MQTT a little, I want to next build a simple application on the Arduino and in Node-RED that will allow me to talk in two directions.  Stay turned for part 6 of my "Cabin Fever" journey.

Monday, September 07, 2015

When You Can't Stop the Weeds, at Least Stop Them From Going to Seed

This week, I take a week off from the "Cabin Fever" project to tackle something else: Weeds.

I've been tackling an area of our yard that has a real lot of weeds. Over the past few years, I've tried mulch and stone to stop them. They are significantly diminished from the "jungle" that used to be there, but they are very persistent. I don't want to use roundup due to the health hazards and because this is near an area that drains into the storm drains and then to the river down the street. I hired a college student recently to help pull the weeds and after 4 hours, he had 6 full size trash cans filled to capacity. That worked for a while, but now, they're back!

I'm reminded of a joke I heard:
A daughter was starting out in her new marriage and was working on a flower garden. She called her mom and asked "When I'm weeding, how can I tell which are weeds and which are the flowers?" Her mom answered "pull everything up, the ones that come back are the weeds."

My new goal
So, over the past few months, I've come up with a goal:  I will prioritize pulling out any weeds that are about to go to seed. If I see the seed pods starting to form, they are the ones I pull out first. I can't keep up with pulling them all at once, but at least I can stop them from spreading.

There has to be a lesson here for life
I got to thinking; there has to be a lesson here in life. Maybe we can't tackle all of our challenges at once, but we can at least stop them from spreading.  Is there something that you've been putting off and it's only festering as a result?  Is it getting worse because you're avoiding it?  Is it spreading out into other areas, spilling over into other parts of your life or relationships?  Is it time to "pull those weeds?"

Proverbs 24:30-34 Is a also a good lesson for us. It's a different thought about weeds, take a look!