[slickr-flickr search=sets set=72157629190309855 type=galleria]
I’ve been looking to start another Arduino project for some time, but I have been waiting for a ‘real’ problem to tackle before I began…. and then the outdoor keypad for our garage door opener died. Yippeeeee! This is the ‘real’ problem I was looking for. Unless I have my car keys with me to open up the car and to click the opener in my car, I have no way to get into my garage when I’m out for a bike ride or walking my boys to and from school. Two of my boys are still in a stroller, and since this is the rainy season, the time to act is now. This is a problem that I needed to solve. Arduino to the rescue!
I finished a similar project about a year ago, where I used an Arduino with an Ethernet Shield to create a web enabled failover switch for some of the phone circuits in our datacenter. I used a very similar setup here. This time however, I wrote the interface using JSON so that I could build an iPhone app to control the garage door and several of the lights in and around my garage. The iPhone App is still a work in progress, but the system itself is online; only the UI is still rough around the edges.
Now, I have all my front yard lights controlled by a cron job on one of my Linux servers. And I can open my garage using any web browser, mobile phone, or even my Kindle. All costs considered, I probably paid three times what it would have cost to just replace the dead keypad. But that’s not how I roll. I was able to add new functionality, and enjoy a few cold evenings soldering relays in my garage! I <3 Arduino and the Maker movement!
LED Reader boards, scoreboards, and scrolling marquees have always been an interest for me. So I jumped at the opportunity to make one that’s about the size of a belt buckle. That’s, most likely, what this project will ultimately become. But for now I’ll be using it as a marketing piece for our Hackerspace, Ace Monster Toys. Look for me at the Bay Area Maker Faire in May. I’ll be the one with a pith helmet with a scrolling message on it.
This video shows it scrolling a pre-recorded message. However, I’ve also modified it so that it can handle all alphnumeric characters, upper and lower case, as well as punctuation. It will accept new input from the serial USB cable when connected to a 9600 baud serial terminal. Next step is to create an IRC bot and hook it up the #AceMonsterToys IRC Channel.
In our organization, we have an Asterisk based phone system. Because we are a 24X7 365 operation, and because our business must react quickly to customer demands, we actually have a completely redundant Asterisk system idling in standby mode. When we have to transfer over to the redundant system most of the operation takes only seconds, with one exception. Some of our inbound and outbound call traffic is carried over old school, plain ol’ telephone service (POTS) via physical T1 data circuits. In order to move these T1 circuits to the failover server, one of our engineers had to physically move the patch cables from one server to another.
Our engineers have tried a number of failover options, including converting the T1s into VoIP traffic so we could just change the packet routing when we needed to swing the calls to the failover system. However, the hardware and the software we’ve found, so far, does not meet our quality of service needs.