Hacking MyEskom

[written by Chris Swart]

Eskom recently introduced their new grid power status tracker; where Eskom keeps us up to date with their Green/ Yellow / Red power status, where Green indicates the grid is stable, orange shows an increase in grid congestion and red indicates the grid is saturated. At the orange level, it is recommended you switch off unneeded electrical appliances, while at the red level Eskom request you switch off any appliances that is not critical.

This new status tracking website does make it easier to stay up to date, but a stand alone display will make it much more visible, and maybe help reduce electrical consumption when a bright red display confronts you. To get the data from Eskom’s website, a BinarySpace challenge was launched on a Friday morning, with a midnight deadline. The goal was simple: Create a Python script that will return the current status, without using too many libraries. Normally this involve scraping html pages for the appropriate tags and posting back the results. But Eskom threw an oddball in using a dynamic page that does not contain any real data in the html code.

Chris managed to get the values using webkit.WebView but more as a workaround as a true solution. Lee found a way in bash, but still had to parse the JSON with an external tool, and had to rewrite the code to work in Python. Between Sebastian and Lee the script was perfected.

A red herring appeared in the form of City level status. The MyEskom website allows you to view the status of your specific area instead of the national status. This can become handy for a visual indicator, or for building hardware that automatically switches off heaters, geysers and pool pumps. Passing the city to the website is a possibility, but makes the script slightly less user friendly since area ID’s are used instead of names.

The solution: sign up on the Eskom site, set your area, and pass the username and password into the Python script.

And the resulting Crowd Sourced Code writing script is available here: http://pastebin.com/t9hGGigU

Now to implement some hardware. Tom added the script to his homeserver, sending the data to an Arduino to display the status on some Neopixels. He laser cut a perspex square and stuck the Neopixels in.

Now a display lives at Binaryspace to indicate the power saturation status.

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BinarySpace T-Shirts

Hey Guys and Galls,

We now have shirts :)

On the front is the text: “Will Hack for Beer”

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And on the back is the BinarySpace logo and url

IMG-20140724-WA0001These are the shirt sizes available.

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We will take orders until Tuesday the 29th and then place a big bulk order.  You can use the button below to place your order. Remember to send us an email with the size(s) you want to tshirt@binaryspace.co.za

* Quantity

BinarySpace Monthly Project Premiers on 31 July 2014

We have seen lots of people come and go at BinarySpace. Unfortunately they sometimes get bored because they don’t have a project of their own to work on and we don’t always see them again (although they do stay in touch).

Bringing a project to work on is definitely not a requirement to come and visit and even have a beer, but let’s face it, It’s more fun working on something cool. We’ve done a few group projects in the past (Valentines Day Flower and xMas Beer Xylophone just to name a few) and they have been very popular and loads of fun.

To solve this problem we are now going to try and do a monthly project at BinarySpace. We will have a new project every month with one or two project build nights (depending on complexity of the project). The idea is that you can show up for the meetup and build something cool to take home. We will try to keep costs as low as possible, but also keep in mind that we do not want to build a blinky light every month.

For the premier of our Monthly Project night we will be building a pocket sized robot arm!


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This project will be done over two evenings. It’s possible to build it in one evening, but this way you don’t need to rush it. Also if you can’t make the first evening then you can still start on the 2nd evening.

The monthly project concept is still highly experimental and this is a test to see how well this would work. If you have any project ideas for the monthly project then feel free to mail us on projectnight [at] binaryspace.co.za

Details

More details on the pocket sized robot arm: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:360108

Project Nights are 31 July 2014 and 7 August 2014

Even if you don’t participate in the monthly project nights you can still come and visit

The pocket arm consists of a few servo motors, some lasercut parts, nuts and bolts and a “brain”.

You need to provide your own “brain”, for example an arduino. There is currently code available for using either an arduino or a raspberry pi. You can ofcourse use something else but would probably need to do your own kit.

The kit for the robot arms comes in two flavours:

Mechanical Hardware Only (Lasercut pieces and nuts/bolts) - R150

This Kit provides you with all the required lasercut pieces and all the nuts and bolts needed to assemble it, but you will need to bring your own servo motors and “brain” (arduino)

You would need 4 9g Micro Servo’s:

Please note that you can’t assemble without the motors, since the motors are part of the structure.

Mechanical Hardware + Servo Motors - R350

This Kit provides you with all the required lasercut pieces and all the nuts and bolts needed to assemble it including the required motors, but you would need to bring your own”brain” (arduino)

To reserve your kit(s) please send an email to projectnight [at] binaryspace.co.za. The cutoff for kit reservation is the 28th of July

 

This week at BinarySpace – 17 July 2014

We had another great meetup last night, even though we were only a few. The keg system got a few bugfixes and seems to be running smoothly. The NeoPixel behind the tap now spins while pouring beer. We are currently investigating adding an RFID reader, but we’ll see how it goes. The actual top still needs attention as well and the electronics needs a cleanup. But it works great!

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Beer consumption is now being logged reliably and you can view it at “The Keg @ BinarySpace” site.

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We recently got our hands a a numeric led display which didn’t work (or atleast we weren’t sure how it worked). We opened her up, tossed the old electronics and spent a good time reverse engineering the display (Sebastian did a good job of tracing all the signals). Once we knew how it worked it was a matter of putting a small test program on an arduino and giving it a go.

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We were rewarded with an animation of all the segments being turned on one-by-one. Gys and Lionel have plans to make a wall mount bracket for it. As soon as it’s attached to the wall we just need to decided what to show on it, time? beer consumption? naughty words? Only time will tell :)

Lastly I powered up the pocket robot arm for a quick spin. This will be the first project in our planned monthly project evening. More info coming soon!

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Till next week!

This week at BinarySpace – 12 June 2014

It’s been a while since we did another update. So here is what happened last night at our regular meetup :)

Last week we decided it’s time for a new fun space project where everybody can get involved. We decided to start fixing up our beer dispensing. We have been enjoying beer on tap since the beginning of BinarySpace but our setup looked like this:

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It works, but usually takes a while for new members to learn to use a beer tap like that and we lose some precious beer in the process. We decided that our new space project would be to mount the tap and throw some tech in the mix.

We decided on adding some sensors for measuring flow and temperature. Also for some bling, convert to the top into a led matrix. The final idea is still a work in progress so we’ll see how much we end up adding to the system.

Last night we started looking at mounting options and got the rgb led’s for the matrix up and running.

Gys organised a killer mount for the tap:

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20140612_201548Also the led’s for the top are up and running:

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We still need a few fittings and hack everything together but with a bit of luck, beer will be flowing from the new tap at next week’s meetup…

Louis also joined us last night with his Morgan 3d printer. He is making some great progress and will be printing soon :)

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See everybody next time! :)

This week at BinarySpace – 15 May 2014

We had another great meetup this week. This has been the second week that we’ve been playing the with stm32 discovery kits. Everybody is up and running and we’re learning new things every time. This week everybody got some ttl-usb converters and got the uart working on the devkits.DSC_7076.resized DSC_7078.resized

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Marnus played around with a RaspberryPI and relay board. He is working on a home automation project.

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Sebastian continued working on the power monitor project (PowerHome), he is currently busy setting up the spi comms to the power monitor devkit.

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We also spent a good portion of the time stripping this Sunix server from about 10 years ago, it was not working before we started. It was pretty cool pulling out the 16mb ram modules. It’s a stunning case though and this will be converted into a server case of some sorts. There is space for more than 20 hard drives in the front!

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Our stm32 learning efforts are all being commited to our github repository which you can find at https://github.com/BinarySpace-Hackerspace/stm32tuts, this includes the nokia lcd 5510 example seen below with Bender!

DSC_7097.resizedTill next week and Happy Hacking!!

This week at BinarySpace – 03/27

 

If you missed the meetup this week then you missed out! Felt like Christmas with all the different toys that ended up on the table.

Sebastian and Chris started working on the PowerHome project (our STM32 IOT Contest Entry). They made some good progress with the power monitoring devkit and at the end of the night they were monitoring the power usage of a heated 3d printer bed.

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Lee rocked up with a bunch of new toys he received, including the new CubieTruck, an awesome usb LCD display and much more. I think we were all a little jealous, but Lee likes to share his toys so it was all good ;) DSC_6552 (Medium)

 

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I also did a little demo of the new uMotio prototype and it turned it a little competition between Lee and Gys on who could do the shortest laps with SuperTuxKart. It was never officially declared but it looked like Gys was the winner ;)

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We also have a new keg with Raspberry Delight beer so no one was thirsty.

Until next week!

Last night at BinarySpace – Valentine Build Night

Our Valentine Build at last night’s meetup was a big success. Everybody built their flower boards and left with it programmed and working great! Thanks to everybody who joined last night. The general consensus was that they really enjoyed doing small projects like that so we will do more of this in the future (easter is around the corner ….)

Some photos from last night:

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See everybody next week :)