Once again, Covid, Work Life balance, and my health has caused to take some time away from working on extra projects, as well as writing, but over the last month I slowly got back in to the process and there are a number of things I’m excited about and wanted to share:

  • New camera setup with USB control.
  • Articulated Arm and Fix.
  • 3D Printing with Clear PLA in prototypes
  • Lora finally
  • Fish Tank Water Level Sensor
  • Weather Station Parts Photography

New camera setup with USB Control
We are just past the dog days of summer and it’s getting really hot and humid here in Austin for the end of summer. I won’t be spending any extended time in the garage/workshop due to the heat so I’ve been moving and experimenting with different camera setups on and around the desk. I have my Nikon z7, Nikon D700, a raspberry pi with the HQ camera and 6mm lens, and a GoPro in the mix. Recently I discovered digicamcontrol, which is a Windows software program that can control cameras via USB, Wifi, etc. Unfortunately, it’s Windows only but it does also work with Python on the command line so I’m thinking I might be able to script up some controls and hook these cameras up to a macropad. Maybe not all of them since the GoPro is pretty much closed and wants you to interact with it through voice control or it’s not so great phone apps.

Articulated Arm and Fix
I found this nice design on thingaverse for an articulated arm that could be 3D printed and work for lightweight objects, for heavier objects unfortunately you probably want to buy one and they can get expensive, but its for something you know you can trust to hold your expensive camera steady (and not go crashing to the ground or hard surface). Others have made mounts/adapters for it for little 7″ or 10″ LCDs, VESA mounts, and Pis. I made my own threaded camera mounts and adapted someone else’s C clamp for it attach to as well. My only issue right now is that the mounts and the ends (where my parts attach) go through a simple tube and don’t have the little spoke locking mechanisms that the arm pieces do. I can try and use force to make the nut and bolt tight but since it’s 3D printed I’m worried it may break rather than get the amount of flex I want. I have a couple other ideas to try like roughing up the surface or even gluing some sandpaper in there to get friction to hold it more, we’ll see how those work or if I try and adapt another part to get a tighter more trusted fit for those end mounts.

3D Printing with Clear PLA in prototypes
In my previous update I talked about how I was working on a case insert and had done some trial and error printing to get the sizing right. If you look in the photos, you’ll see that the case bottom has these circular nubs/holes. Once I got the width, length, and curves right this was my next area to tackle then I had the idea to print the part in transparent PLA, place it in the case and use a fine tipped marker to place the center of each hole. This actually worked really well and the next printing I included tiny male ends/piers/supports to go in there and everything fit securely and smoothly. I’m going to change up the design and make some of them actual screw holes to better secure the stand in the case.
I’ll definitely need to remember this tip/strategy for future builds.

Lora finally
I finally went through some tutorials and videos about getting one of the many Lora hats onto a pi and trying it out. I quickly discovered that I’m ending up with a basic single channel gateway and that the multichannel gateways are expensive or you put your packets through these public gateways that are connected to this site called the things network where you get a free account. This was definitely not what I was expecting or what I believe most of these were advertised as. I thought it would be like a Z-wave or other mesh network where it required some setup, maybe some keys, then the devices can talk to each other just using a different part of the spectrum then wireless or something and it was more of a hub and spoke model rather than a mesh network. Maybe I’m not fully understanding it and need to go deeper but that definitely does not seem to be the case, big disappointment.

Fish Tank Water Level Sensor
I talked before about my Koi Fish tank Sensor setup and how its where I can experiment with different sensors or setups for monitoring the fish tank and it’s easy to get to unlike the weather station which is up on the roof and a collection of wires/connectors that started off modular but then didn’t end up being as modular as I hoped. Using a proximity sensor I’m measuring the height of the water in the tank and whether too much has evaporated and it needs to be refilled, as well as how fast that water is evaporating. I designed a 3d printed mount for it, wired it up, collected the data, shipped the data off to a timeseries database via MQTT and finally graphed that data in Grafana. I do a more detailed write-up but it was a lot of fun, I learned a couple of things, and I’m happy with the results out of the setup right now too.

Weather Station Parts Photography
The Mk2 version of my weather station has been on the house collecting data since sometime in 2018, well that famous Texas Freeze in February of this year really did a number on my weather station, the PoE hat died and stopped powering the Pi, I replaced it with a different model and that was short lived too and died as well. A lot of the sensors were malfunctioning not reporting every call, or not giving off any data, or giving off data that was clearly incorrect, so it needs a rebuild and that is slowly happening. I’m going to use the case prototype I mentioned for it, as well as some of these sensors I’ve been playing around with but the list isn’t finalized just yet but I did takeout the studio light and softbox, setup the paper and do close up shots of the sensors before I lose them or start wiring them in to things. I really enjoy how these shots come out but the setup can be a huge time since, lugging out the case with the light, unpacking and assembling, getting everything wired up, getting the flash settings correct as well as the other manual settings on the camera correct, dialing in the focus. It can easily take a couple of hours. Then five quick shots of 2 parts and break it all down!! This is when a studio, where you could leave all these things setup and have a dedicated spot for them where they are not in the way and not going to be knocked over would be ideal. Maybe someday, but for now, for me, the results are still worth all that setup time and I feel you just can’t fake it with some quick and dirty way right now. Taking the time to do it right pays off.

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