Monthly Archives: September 2014

GeeXpo – ‘Show and Tell’

We were invited to do a little bit of show and tell at the GeeXpo this weekend at the North-West University (Vaal Triangle Campus). We weren’t sure exactly what to take along so we decided to take as much as possible!

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We ended up with two tables filled with 3d printers, various robots and lots of 3d printed items.

It was deliciously geeky and colorful…

We met with a lot of great people and discussed various fun activities/projects for the future.

It was a great experience showing people how all the robots worked and explaining the whole concept of 3d printing. I guess we sometimes get immune to the wonders of 3d printing and robotics and it was a great experience to see how people react to printers printing objects and little robots running across the floor.

Young and old asked all kinds of questions and we had loads of fun explaining it to everybody

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We hope to do more show and tell’s in the future so if anybody wants us to come do a show and tell at your school, club or event then please do let us know ūüôā

Thanks to Lee, Sebastian and Chris who came out on Saturday to help with the Show and Tell. Thanks to Sune from the NWU who invited us.

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:

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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