SolarRiver, PVOutput and the Raspberry Pi

SamilPowerI originally had my PV solar panels and inverter installed on the 12th August 2012 (15 months ago) and since then I have always wanted to get all the statistics logged.  I was originally planing on logging to a local database which would then require a custom application written to pull the information from the inverter and to then pull that data into usable information.


since then I came across PVOutput which looked fantastic and offered the facility to upload the statistics from your inverter allowing you to access a WEB site that presented the information to you in good looking graphs.  When I stumbled across this site I just had to use it rather than going to the effort of producing my own.

One problem I contended with was I could not justify the cost of leaving a computer on for the six to eight hours a day just to obtain the statistics form the inverter.  My computer seems to use on average 120 watts per hour, meaning it would coast at current electricity prices nearly $300 every year just to accumulate the data.

Raspberry Pi

Some time ago I came across the Raspberry Pi which is a small computer utilising the ARM chipset. This device only uses two watts per hour meaning the yearly cost is well under $10 per year for eight hours a day of operation or under $20 per year to run 24*7.  So this became a real viable option.  I currently use the Raspberry Pi for my home PBX system and for running my own private cloud solution which uses BitTorrent Sync.

Three and a half weeks have passed since I have configured my rPi to gather the logs from my Inverters and the data is starting to produce some useful information.

I have two individual systems.  A 2kW and a 3kW.  The 2kW is facing North East and the 3kW is facing North West.

If you are interested in building your own system I do have a document on how to build and configure your own.  Please go to PVOutput_with_the_Raspberry_Pi_and_SolarRiver_Inverters on my Wiki for details.

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6 Foot Track. Katoomba to Jenolan Caves

3 Days, Over 51 KM hiked, in excess of 4600 calories or 20,000 kilojoules burnt and 1.7 kg  (3.7 pounds) lost. I managed to complete the trek from Katoomba to the Jenolan Caves, camping in overnight temperatures of 2 degrees Celsius (35 degrees Fahrenheit).  The days were nice at about 12 degrees Celsius (53 degrees Fahrenheit).  Early morning and late afternoon I found myself hiking in long pants and a jumper as it got a bit chilly for my liking.

During our walk the first and second days we saw no one on the track and was very quiet.  Upon arrival of the first camping ground there was quite a number of campers.  I believe this was because the camping ground had road access.  There were toilets and rain water available at this camping ground.

On the completion of the second day we met up with another couple who was hiking the track.  They were the only one at the second camping ground.  We did not see them again until the end of the track at the Jenolan Caves where we were waiting for the buss.

Day 1

 6 Foot Track : Day 1

We walked from the Katoomba train station to the start of the 6 Foot Track, which is about a bit shy of 3 kilometres (1.86 miles).

The actual track starts at the top of the Blue Mountains.  The first immediate section is all straight down, which is hard on the knees.  The rest of the day is mostly flat with the usual up and downs of trekking but nothing too harsh.


Day 2

Day 2 is the opposite of day 1.  The second day the first section is all up hill with the last few kilometres reasonably flat.  On this day you spend all of the time on an unsealed road from the first nights camp ground to the next.  You are still in the wildness so there is always something nice to see.

The camping ground has toilets and rain water with a table and chair under shelter.  The grounds are open and clear with a nice coverage of grass.

The journey continues on day two as we progresson the 6 Foot Track.

The journey continues on day two as we progress on the 6 Foot Track.


Day 3

Day 3 was a short day only taking about 4 hours to get to our destination.  This gave us plenty of time to rest and recuperate before we took the buss back to Katoomba.  This would allow anyone enough time to take a tour thought the Jenolan Caves.

The track crosses a main road soon after leaving the camping ground and it then weaves pretty much along side the road for the first half. The track then leave the side of the road in which you then find yourself descending down towards the caves.  This takes you about an hour of descending.  the path at this time during the descent was pretty rocky.

Jenolan Caves

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Fianally ADSL2+. I was lucky just to get ADSL1 when I first moved in.

When I just moved into my place at Springfield Lakes in January 2012 I rang Telstra to get Internet connected and they said it was unavailable, not enough ports available within my local DA (Distribution Area).  I’m on DA96 connected to the Goodna exchange.

Anyhow, I was told to ring back in a month and check.  That was not acceptable.  I could not believe in this day and age that basic Internet access was not available to everyone, so I started to research my options.  I have a radio tower about 800 metres from me, direct line of sight so worst case scenario I could use 3G.  Another option I found was a private company called Puddlenet Communications that has filled the void of DSL with a 5 GHz wireless mesh network.

Once I found out about Puddlenet I looked further into it and then started looking at the homes in my area and I noticed that a lot of homes had 5 GHz directional antennas, so it was obvious that there were a lot of people in the same situation as me.  The only problem with Puddlenet was their plans, like 3G is expensive with limited data allowances.

So I got back onto Telstra and rang them up every second day.  It took me two weeks before they said I could get connected.  Someone in my area must have so I was lucky enough to get a connection.  To the right here is a picture of one of the antennas that people around here have.  I took this picture of my neighbours house.

You could image how slow ADSL1 is when you are use to at a minimum ADSL2+.  I’m happy to have ADSL2+ but I can’t wait until the NBN is rolled out in this area.  The only reason I was able to get ADSL2 was because the NBN is not planned in my area for at least another 3 years so Telstra decided to upgrade this area as part of their Top Hat project.

Here are the results of my before and after speed tests along my with my modems synchronisation speeds.

One thing I will say about Telstra is that as soon as I saw the Top Hat spreadsheet from Telstra Wholesale say that my DA was upgraded I rang them that morning and within 1 hour my speed had changed.  Telstra did tell me that it would take 3-4 days for the change to take effect.  They were wrong there, but I’m happy about it.

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CyanogenMod 10 (CM10) and the Samsung Galaxy S GT-I9000

I have previously written about CM9 and how well I have enjoyed using this custom ROM on my phone.  I’m compelled to write once more about CM10.  If it wasn’t for the CyanogenMod team I would not be able to experience the wonderful flavours of JellyBean (Android 4.1.2).

With Android 4.2.0 in the wind I’m really keen to see how compatible this will be with my phone.  I’ve recently learnt that CM for the I9000 is the most downloaded ROM from CyangoenMod.

I’m really enjoying Google Now that android 4.1 brings and I can’t wait for 4.2 to hit the CM team.  I’m sure they will be releasing Android 4.2 within days of Android releasing it to the public, which I believe should happen any day now.

I’ve had my Samsung Galaxy S now for over 2 years and I am very pleased with it.  It seems that manufactures are encouraging users to upgrade their phones every 12 months with the release of the phones having better CPU, GPU and RAM.

I’ve always thought that I’d like to have my phone for 3 years but I’m finding it difficult as the newer devices out there look so good.  I am finding with the newer Android operating system that the hardware seems to be a bit slower on the older phones due to the newer features and functions that require more CPU and RAM.  Having said that it is still a very usable device. Due to wanting the latest and greatest I’ve decided to purchase the Samsung Galaxy S IV when it comes out in March 2013 (if you listen to rumors).  If the phone is up to specifications then I believe I will purchase around May/June.  I won’t purchase when it is first released.  I will wait for supply to pickup and be hopeful the price will drop with competing retailers.

If anyone has an older Android device I can recommend that you do try our CM10 for your device.

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Solar Panels. Are they worth it?

I purchased my solar panels on the 6th June 2012 and had them installed on the 12th August 2012.  The 12th of August was the completion of the installation.  It was when Energex finally came to install the meter into the power box.  Yes, your calculations are correct, it was a Sunday when they did the install.  The reason for the Sunday install was because my installation just happen to coincide with the Queensland government notification that the feed in tariff would be going from 44 cents per kilowatt hour to 8 cents per kilowatt hour so the rush was on for everyone to install before the changeover and I happen to be caught in the middle of it all.

So, the system has now be operational for 85 days and I must say based on my calculations the system is working well and truly in my favor.  To this day I’m calculating a $342 payment in my favor.  No electricity costs but I nice payment for me from the electricity company.

I’m currently with AGL,  I get 10% off any electricity usage and my feed in tariff is 44 cents per kilowatt hour from the Queensland government plus 8 cents per kilowatt hour from AGL which is a total of 52 cents per kilowatt hour that I feed into the grid.  Now AGL could change their 8 cents to zero but the Queensland government is contracted to supply the 44 cents per kilowatt hour for another 16 years so that makes me happy.

Now the feed in tariff is a fixed amount meaning that it does not go up with inflation, so as the years pass and my cost per kilowatt hour increases the value of my feed in tariff decreases dependent on the increase per year.  I’m guesstimating by the year 2020 electricity prices will be around the 44 cents per kilowatt hour, meaning that my last 6 or so years of the system will not be in my favor, but having said that I should still be able to accomplish at a minimum neutral cost.

Over the last 85 days, I have experienced cloud, rain and clear skies, so my estimated figures should be reasonably accurate but I really won’t know until I’ve had the system running for at least a year, but then I won’t know if that year was a good your or a  bad year so for a more accurate measure 3 years of usage would be required to get a real feel.  Now the problem with this is that we have already seen the government change the rules on solar systems a number of times and you can only go by what the sales person is estimating as your return on investment, which we know will always seem good otherwise they will never be able to sell any products.

I have two systems installed.  I have a 2kW facing north east and a 3kW facing north west.  Based on the direction of the panels my system is loosing about 10% efficiency as they are not facing true north. My solar panels are 250 watts each.

I typically spend about $600 per quater with the  summer quater bill typically around the $700 mark, so that is an average of about $2500 per year on electricity costs.

With a $350 payment (income, tax free) per quarter and a $15,000 bill for the solar system that means a break even point of 4 years.  After the 4 year mark  I should then have a payment (incomce), tax free) of about $800 per year (which would reduce over time due to inflation) which would be decreased over the remaining period of the feed in tariff program.

Based on the figures above, I do believe that a solar system with a feed in tariff of at least 44 cents if viable.  I’m not sure how well it will now stack up as the current feed in tariff is only 8 cents per kilowatt hour and from what I have hear and read the government has the ability to change the feed in tariff rate to zero on new contracts.

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Raspberry Pi and Asterisk. A PBX for Under AU$75.

Raspberry PiWell how about this, a fully functional PBX system for under $75, now that is crazy.  My PBX was running as a virtual machine, I have now installed a Raspberry Pi and I am one happy chappy.  The unit draws no more than 3 watts of power which is about AU$6 per year based on current electricity prices.

So what is a Raspberry Pi I hear you ask.  Well it is a Linux based computer (can run many flavours) with 2 USB ports, a 10/100 NIC, HDMI and RCA video out running an ARM processor.

There is also a XBMC image out there anyone wanting a cheap media centre, but I digress.

I’ve install Arch Linux, with Asterisk, along with some other utilities to make a fully functional enterprise level PBX system.  I haven’t done any upper limit testing but from what I can see you should be able to run 25 extensions with about 10 simultinous SIP calls or PRI if you want to purchase a Digium G100 device.

As the processor is not like a desktop or file server you are not able to transcode between the g729 codec so I have configured my PBX to use only ulaw, which is not a big deal.  It just means it uses slightly more bandwidth on phone calls using your Internet connection.

Anyone wanting to build thier own PBX can accomplish this by:

  1. AU$38. Purchasing the Raspberry Pi from element14
  2. AU$8.72. Purchase a case from element14 (black, white, clear)
  3. AU$12. Purchase a SD Card. (class 10)
  4. AU$1. Purchase a micro USB cable.
  5. AU$15. Purchase a good quality USB adapter that supports a minimum of 1.5A. (1500 ma)Raspberry Pi, PCB.

eBay is the best place to purchase the SD card, USB cable (you may already have a spare) and a power adapter.

I have also created instructions on how to build your own.  You can do it manually by following the instructions on my Wiki at the Asterisk for Raspberry Pi page or you can download an image, copy it to a SD card, boot and away you go withing minutes.  You can view the instructions and image download from my Wiki page Asterisk for Raspberry Pi Image.

Posted in Asterisk, Raspberry Pi | 1 Comment

CyanogenMod 9

Some time ago I wrote about CyanogenMod 7 or CM7 as it is know as.  I was not all that happy with it at the time.  My phone was not performing at its best so I decided to give CM9 a go as it has been available for some time so it should be quite a mature product.

Well to my surprise I was quite impressed.  For those that know I have the Samsung Galaxy S : GT-I900 which is now a couple of revisions old, with the S II and the S III as superior models.  When the S III hit the market I was really keen to get a replacement but now that I have install CM9 I see no point in doing so.

Using CM9 I have Android Ice Cream Sandwich which is version 4.0.4 of the operating system.  Using the stock ROM from Samsung I’m only able to get to version 2.3.6 of Android with no further development planed. I actually installed CM10 which uses Android 4.1 Jelly Bean but I did something I should not have done and I had to roll back to CM9 and I have not progressed back to CM10.  CM10 did look fantastic but it still has a couple of bugs as it is still an immature release.

Using CM9 I find that email for Exchange and Google Currents the two main applications that I use are now lightning fast compared to running the stock ROM, so I am a happy chappy and I can see me sticking with the I9000 until the S IV is released, as I want a dual quad core CPU. 🙂

So my recommendation to anyone with a Samsung Galaxy S is to upgrade your operating system from the stock ROM to CyanogenMod 9 and possibly within a month from now CM10.


Posted in Android, CyanogenMod, Information | 1 Comment

Kia Rio; Known Problem

Well, on the 31st of December 2010 I bought a brand new car from Ipswich Central Motors.  From the time I drive off I noticed that the air bag light on the dash would not turn off.  So I called them up and explained.  They told me that I needed to bring the car back so they can look it over, which I did.

An hour goes by and they said that their equipment is malfunctioning and they can not find the cause of the problem.  They give me a loan car (which was nice) and they have the car for the day.  They finally find the cause and I was informed that the reason the light was on was because a pin that an electronic cable was connected to was not push into its connector correctly, but I digress from the real problem.

After a couple of days I notice a noise coming from the back left of the car and over the next few weeks it gradually gets louder.  As I got attuned to the noise it became very irritating and I was able to hear the noise over the radio.  The problem I have now is that the Brisbane floods have hit and Ipswich Central Motors is underwater.

A couple of months pass and I call Ipswich Central Motors back up to hear that their service division is not operational and that they will call me when they are.  A month passes (now in March) and I have to do something about it.  I call Motorama Moorooka and organise a time to book in the car so they can look at it.  They give me the usually spiel that noises are not covered under warranty.

So they look at the car and tell me that the noise was caused from the “Striker”.  I was told it was realigned.  I drive off and all is good.  About 3 days pass and then the noise comes back quiet at first and then louder and louder over the next few days until it was like it was before. A week goes by and I take it back.  They reckon nothing was wrong and ask me to take someone for a drive to hear the noise.   So I do and to my surprise there was no noise.  So two weeks goes by and I am happily driving my car and the noise slow comes back.

I’m now (still in March) starting to think I should drive the car into a wall and get insurance to replace the car for me.  I’m thinking I bought a lemon and it is pissing me off.

November rolls around and the car is ready for it first service, 15K. I book it in and ask for someone to come for a ride me with.  I don’t say anything and when we are driving I say there is this noise coming from the back.  When you lower the back left seat the noise goes away.  I said to him that you have had this car twice to fix this problem.  I asked him does he know what it is.

He says to me something along the lines of, well to be honest it is a known problem with this car.

Well finally I have some acknowledgment that there is a problem and that something will be done about it.  Later that day I pickup the car from the service and they tell me that they have ordered a part.  For about 3 days there was no noise but in predictable fashion the noise comes back.  I’m not too concerned as I know there is a part on order to fix this problem.

A week later the part arrives and I take the car in for them to install, fix whatever needs to be done.  They ended up changing the “Lock Assy-RR Seat Back”.  I drive the car away and all seems good, but I can’t be too sure until a couple of weeks or a month goes by, and this is where I am now.

So if you are going to buy as Kia Rio, be aware that you may have a problem with the Striker and or the Lock Assy-RR Seat Back.

I’ll keep you posted if this problem comes back.

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CyanogenMod 7 on the Galaxy S I9000

Over the last month I have been going back and forth between the CyanogenMod 7 custom ROM and the stock Samsung ROM.  I get full of enthusiasm towards a ROM that promises fast speeds and wonderful customisations only to be bitterly disappointed.

The first time installing CM7 onto my phone I was completely confused as everything looked and felt different.  So I rolled back to the stock ROM.  Sometime later I had another attempt at installing CM7.  I was able to understand more about CM7 and what things were called.  I was reasonably impressed, until I went to take a photo.  The Camera application in CM7 is very basic and has none of the features that the Samsung camera does.  So I rolled back once again.

So I used the Samsung stock ROM for some time until I decided I had to install CM7 once again. So I did.  Everything was great.  Things worked really fast, I understood the camera was not going to function as the Samsung version but I wanted speed and full customisation of the user interface.

I was happy for about 12 hours until I tried to play some videos.  The videos froze and force closure windows appeared.  I tried downloading different players but nothing succeeded. I’m heading to New Zealand soon and I need some entertainment during the flight and not been able to watch some movies or TV shows that I have downloaded was just not going to sit very well with me.

So I rolled back to the stock ROM and here I am going to stay, no matter what; having said that I may try it again once the product has matured.  CM7 has released RC1 so I think I’ll wait until it has release the final product to market.

The major problems I see with CM7 are:

  • Limited camera functionality
  • No video calls
  • Unable to play common video formats.
  • SMS conversation views are not very nice and I found hard to view

The last version of CM7 that I tried was build 76, 2011-08-03

What I don’t understand is how custom ROM’s like CM7 and others can make the phone operate very responsively but the companies that release their phones can’t or won’t.

Posted in Android, Information, Product, Rant, Review | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Gingerbread 2.3.3 is now on my Samsung Galaxy S I9000

After totally screwing my phone a couple of weeks ago by trying to rollback from CyanogenMod 7 to a stock install, I actually bricked my phone. I managed to take it in for repairs and they re-flashed the OS for me. I think I was lucky. I was only out of action for half a day and I managed to get it repaired under warranty.

Well I’ve had another attempt. I just can’t help myself. I’ve upgraded from Android 2.2 to version 2.3.3. I must say I’m quite impressed. I just couldn’t wait for the official release. Everything is running well and I’m quite please with the look and feel. One thing I am a bit disappointed in is that the Daily briefing application seems to be missing. I’m not sure if Samsung have totally removed the application for good or if it was just an oversight in this release. In its place seems to be a download application, that shows you a list of all files that have been downloaded from the internet and other sources.

When I installed Gingerbread I lost all my root capabilities so I installed CF-Root 3.7. This package came with Tweaks which optimises the performance of the phone so I’m not sure if the phone is operating smoothly because of Gingerbread or because of Tweaks. Another good tool which is part of CF-Root is ClockWorkMod Manager. I backed up my stock ROM before everything fell to pieces so I’m going to have a go at restoring my original ROM when my UNBrick download mode micro USB device arrives. This should allow me to recover if I should brick my phone again.

I think I bricked my phone because I didn’t really fully understand what I was doing. I now understand the PIT, PDA, Phone and CSC files so I should not have too many problems, or problems that I can not sort out next time round.

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