Thursday, December 25, 2008

Standalone Weather Station, Part 1

Nearly The Same
Originally uploaded by hithisishal
Click image for more photos of this project
First, I have to put out a big thank you and acknowledgment to Jeff from mightyOhm. I saw a link to his wireless radio project posted somewhere, and thought it was interesting. I had not even heard of OpenWrt before reading the project on his blog. I began my work by reproducing his, then moving on. Similarly, if you are interested in building this, I recommend you begin by reading his tutorial, at least up to part 5.

Aside from radio functionality, one of the things that I would like to be able to do without a computer is check the weather in the morning. I use Weather Underground to check my weather - a neat, community based weather website with many features (including an API - more on that later). One of my favorite parts of this site is the simple statement under the 5-day forecast, along the lines of "Tomorrow is forecast to be Much Warmer than today." It would be useful to be able to view this statement without turning on my computer. Since it is such a small amount of information (only 5 different possibilities), it would be silly to dedicate complicated hardware to this. Instead, I will be displaying the result on an RGB LED (for now 2 LEDs) that fades between blue and red, based on the forecasted temperature relative to the past day.

I am developing this system using an ATMEGA168P, programmed in C. Excuse the appearance of my development hardware - it is not nearly as complicated as it looks. I'm simply using what I had available, which was originally constructed for a different purpose.

Software on the Router

First, I wrote a script for the router to check the forecast, and output the result as a number from 1 to 5. This would then be easy for the AVR to interpret. Since the router is considerably more powerful, it is logical to do as much processing on the router as possible. All of these scripts were written using vi, with a telnet connection to the router. To use this script, put this file in a location that the $PATH variable points to, such as /usr/bin/, and use chmod 577 to make it executable. Unfortunately, the statement that I want is not contained in the API output, so the script uses wget to extract the contents of the Weather Underground search result website. The rest of the script is beyond the scope of this post, but there is a lot of information about shell scripting available on the internet.

#! /bin/ash

FORECAST=`wget -q -O - "$ZIPCODE" | grep 'is forecast to' | sed 's/<[^>]*>//g;s/^ [ ]*//g' `


case $FORECAST in
"Tomorrow is forecast to be Much Warmer than today."|"Today is forecast to be Much Warmer than yesterday.")
echo 5
"Tomorrow is forecast to be Warmer than today."|"Today is forecast to be Warmer than yesterday.")
echo 4
"Tomorrow is forecast to be nearly the same temperature as today."|"Today is forecast to be nearly the same temperature as yesterday.")
echo 3
"Tomorrow is forecast to be Cooler than today."|"Today is forecast to be Cooler than yesterday.")
echo 2
"Tomorrow is forecast to be Much Cooler than today."|"Today is forecast to be Much Cooler than yesterday.")
echo 1
echo 0

Now, we have to set up our location in the environment variable ZIPCODE. Simply add the following line to the /etc/profile file, obviously with your own zip code.

export ZIPCODE=19104

With this complete, simply type, and in a couple of seconds, a number between 1 and 5 should appear on the terminal, indicating the forecasted temperature of tomorrow relative to today, or today relative to yesterday, based on the time of day.

External Interface

Now, the AVR must talk to the router in order to display the information. Although not pictured, the hardware is relatively simple. The AVR must be connected to power (provided by the router), a 20 MHz crystal oscillator, and the serial Rx and Tx on the router. Additionally, connect the LEDs as shown in the schematic below. This is connected to the PWM output of the AVR, so that a high signal will turn the red LED on, and a low signal will turn the blue LED on. Therefore, changing the duty cycle of a wave applied between the LEDs allows them to fade between blue and red. Change resistor values as needed to balance the shades, based on the brightness of the LEDs.

Originally uploaded by hithisishal

Please note, although we developed similar solutions in parallel, what I did is slightly different from what Jeff does in his parts 6 and 7. I used the default router baud rate of 115.2k, but communication was only stable if I ran the AVR with a baud rate of 110k. You might have to tweak this value for your router, or clock it down as shown at mightyOhm.


Copyright: Hal Emmer 2008
License: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0

For atmega168, at 20 MHz.


#include <stdio.h>
#include <avr/io.h>
#include <avr/eeprom.h>
#include <ctype.h>
#include <avr/interrupt.h>

#define FOSC 20000000
#define BAUD 110000 //router is nominally 115.2k bps, communication is most stable at 110k bps.
#define MYUBRR FOSC/8/BAUD-1 //double speed
//#define MYUBRR

#define sbi(var, mask) ((var) |= (uint8_t)(1 << mask))
#define cbi(var, mask) ((var) &= (uint8_t)~(1 << mask))

#define STATUS_LED 0

#define BUFFERSIZE 80

volatile unsigned int global_time1;

//Define functions

static int uart_putchar(char c2, FILE *stream);
uint8_t uart_getchar(void);
static FILE mystdout = FDEV_SETUP_STREAM(uart_putchar, NULL, _FDEV_SETUP_WRITE);
void init(void);
void get_output(char *str);
void get_rel_temp(void);

int main (void)

init(); //Setup IO pins and defaults

if (global_time1 >= 4578){ //4578 = 1 minute
global_time1 = 0;


void init (void)
//1 = output, 0 = input
DDRB = 0b11101111; //PB4 = MISO
DDRC = 0b11111110; //
DDRD = 0b11111110; //PORTD (RX on PD0)

//USART Baud rate: 115200
UBRR0H = ((MYUBRR >> 8));
UCSR0B |= (1<<RXEN0)|(1<<TXEN0);
UCSR0A |= (1<<U2X0); //double rate

stdout = &mystdout; //Required for printf init

/* Set up PWM (for fading LED)*/
DDRB |= (1 << 3); // OC1A (PB3),outputs
ICR1 = 20000; // TOP, set for 125Hz
OCR1A = 10000; // neutral/purple
TCCR1A = (1<<COM1A1)|(1<<WGM11); // Clear on compare, set at TOP
TCCR1B = (1<<WGM13)|(1<<WGM12)|(1<<CS11); // Timer 1 fast PWM mode 14 , /8 prescaler

/* Set up TOI on timer2 for task timing */
TCCR2B |= (1<<CS22)|(1<<CS21)|(1<<CS20); //Start Timer2 with 1/1024 prescaler.
TIMSK2 |= (1<<TOIE2); //enable timer2 overflow interrupt
TIFR2 |= (1<<TOV2); //clear the mask

static int uart_putchar(char c2, FILE *stream)
//if (c2 == '\n') uart_putchar('\r', stream);

loop_until_bit_is_set(UCSR0A, UDRE0);
UDR0 = c2;

return c2;

uint8_t uart_getchar(void)
while( !(UCSR0A & (1<<RXC0)) );

/* not used right now */
void get_output(char *str) {
unsigned char count;
for (count = 0; count < BUFFERSIZE; count++) {
str[count] = uart_getchar();
if (str[count] == '@' && str[count - 1] == 't')
str[count - 5] = '\0';

void get_rel_temp(void){
char c = 0;

printf("\\n"); //as the router for the relative temperature
while(!isdigit(c)) //get a character until you get a digit
c = uart_getchar();
case '0':
OCR1A = 10000; // error / purple
case '1':
OCR1A = 0; // much cooler / blue
case '2':
OCR1A = 2500; // cooler / blue-purple
case '3':
OCR1A = 10000; // same temp as / purple
case '4':
OCR1A = 17500; // warmer / red-purple
case '5':
OCR1A = 20000; // much warmer / red
OCR1A = 10000; // error / purple

//uart_putchar('0'+global_time1, stdout);
TIFR2 |= (1<<TOV2);


That should do it. Next time I will explore how to display the next important piece of information - if it will be sunny, cloudy, rainy, etc. After that I will wrap up the project in a more presentable package.

Monday, December 15, 2008

How to use the LG CE110 as a practical alarm clock

I'm not sure about all of you, but when I go to sleep, I don't like to wake up to a cell phone call - be it a 3am "ARE YOU AWAKE!? COME HANG OUT!" or a 8am wrong number. But I like to use my cell phone as an alarm clock - it keeps good time, is battery powered, easy to place by my bed, and face it - I have one anyway, why buy an alarm clock?

Anyway, when my beloved Sony Ericsson Z520a died, and I was forced to use an LG CE110. I don’t demand much from a cell phone, but I was disappointed when I realized that the ringer volume was tied to the alarm clock volume. If I put the phone on vibrate, the alarm would be a vibration. That made the phone useless as an alarm clock.

So my fairly simple solution:
1. Make a silent mp3 file. I used Audacity.
2. Use Bluetooth to transfer it to the phone.
3. Set this as your ringtone. Turn up your volume.
4. Enjoy a good night’s sleep, with the knowledge that you will wake up on time, and not earlier.

It’s a bit annoying to change it back and forth if you use a ringer, but I leave my phone on vibrate or silent most of the time anyway. And I think my solution is the only workaround for this large oversight in the firmware.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

My cell phone died this morning.

Headless Sony
Originally uploaded by hithisishal
It was pretty tragic. I opened it up when the alarm went off, and the display was white. I closed it, and the outside display worked. Opened and closed it again, and they were both dead. Apparently it's a pretty common problem, and most likely the flex connector. Could be worse - the phone is almost 3 years old, and we have another one floating around my house, so I can replace it.

Anyway, I opened it up to see if playing with the connector could fix it, but it did not. Then, just for fun I put it back together without the display. I obviously can't hear anything, because the speaker is on the top part, but it can still make calls, and the mic works just fine. Might be possible to use in some embedded system at some point. Did someone say Port-O-Rotary?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Hi, This is Hal

So this blog is about me, the stuff that I am doing and have done, and ideas that I want to share. I wanted to blog for some time, mostly as a way of giving back to an awesome hobbyist/hacker/maker community which has taught me so much. So right now the idea is to start off with updates about my current project, which should be posted soon, and then when I have time, I will fill in some stuff about other projects that I have completed over the years.