Networked power outlet

Computers & Mobile Energy & Sustainability
Networked power outlet

Picture from Landon Cox, 360VL, Inc.

Landon has a great site with loads of evidence from his hardware and software explorations.

Looking for a way to fly your Green Geek flag a bit? Check out the network controlled AC outlet:

The impetus for this came when I was at work at a client…their offices are about 70 miles from where I live. I have 3 servers at home which are housed in the crawl space under my office where they are out of the way, don’t pollute my workspace with fan noise, and don’t put out heat I have to live with. One of the servers wasn’t responding even though I had network access to the rest. It was just dead and I needed to bounce it with a hard reboot but I couldn’t given my geographical circumstances.

Using a $69 Linux embedded board (an Atmel NGW100), an AVR microcontroller relay board, open source development tools (WinAVR), and some home-brewed software and electrical elbow grease, I now have a system I can use to hard boot a server remotely.

Check out the rest of the site as well: Landon’s stuff is eye opening. I found his site to be well designed, with lots of information on projects, past and present.

Particularly useful is the approach he takes to posting on his site:

When I’m working on projects, sometimes I build or create things to see if I understand the problems or issues. For that reason, a lot of it is temporary, has no particular purpose, but might be amusing or educational. That’s what this site is all about.

This site’s content includes topics on hardware, sensors, microcontrollers, software, firmware, techniques I’ve used or discovered. It’s really a stash for things I’m learning and want to share or just keep around for reference.

This is kind of like having an open notebook so that the world can see your projects, maybe long after you have moved on to the next shiny thought. By providing ourselves with a place to park our ideas while they are hot, we don’t have to try and remember them later when other people get around to joining our interests.

I asked him for an update on the remote controlled power outlet project:

The project is still in use though because the servers don’t belly up that much, it doesn’t get exercised too much. If it was on a household device, that would be a different story. :-)

If I was going to do it again how would I do it differently? One thing is I would make the control between the NGW100 base station and the relay board a wireless link….not 802.11, but XBee. That way the NGW100 could be located more easily with my hubs and other internal wired network devices, but my servers, which are not in the same area, can still be controlled.

Would be nice to have a small web app running in the NGW100 to serve outlet status.

So, a little bit of hardware change. More software features.

Your work does not have to be complete to show it off. The process and the individual steps are valuable in themselves. Somebody else may be inspired to take your idea in a new direction, or maybe you will want to come back to it months or even years later. If you are willing to show off your documentation process, please share it with us in the comments.

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Making things is the best way to learn about our world.

View more articles by Chris Connors