Consumer Electronics, Electrical Engineering, Engineering, Home Automation, Raspberry Pi, Toys

Raspberry Pi + Z-Wave

A cool thing i saw at CES was the “RaZberry”. The Razberry is a $59 Pi shield that turns your Raspberry Pi into a Z-Wave enabled Home Automation gateway. It comes pre-compiled with Z-Wave wireless network management software which you can drop your own web interface onto. As long as you know basic HTML and JSON you can have an app up with no problems. Here is info on the API. If you want to try home automation and have z-wave hardware this is a great project. I know i am looking forward to playing with it.



Some Details:

  • Sigma 3102 Z-Wave Tranciever Chip
  • 32 Kbyte EEPROM
  • PCBA Antenna 868/908 MHz
  • Connects to PI’s GPIO
  • C or JSON baed API
  • Data subscription model for low network traffic

How do I get started?

  1. Order to board and a Raspberry PI.
  2. Follow the guidelines on the Raspberry blog how to load a operating system of your choice to the board.
  3. Plug in the RaZberry board, log in and type in the following command line: wget -qO – | sh -c
  4. Go to http://IP_OF_YOUR_RASPBERRY:8083 to get access to the demo UI.

Get One:

  • Website Purchases (link)

Z-Wave.Me c/o Alsanet S.A.
10 ch. Champ-Claude
1214 Vernier

Business, Cable, Consumer Electronics, Engineering

CES 2013

I was at CES 2013 to support a demo we had running at the Intel Booth
(see story). I got to walk a lot of the floor and saw some interesting things. The overall theme of the show was BIG Tvs and anything for iPad and iPhone. The amount of accessory vendors was overwhelming. The main Electronics Manufacturers like Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, Sharp and LG made huge showings this year. Most of them focused on the 4K (4 X HD) technology as well as pushing the limits of OLED. Everyone had the largest OLED screen (How is that possible?). Here are a few things i found interesting.



4K and OLED

The screens have become so crisp that you believe that you are looking through a window into someones house not looking at a TV. There is a lot of hype around this but no one has talked about the amount of effort or cost associated with all of the production houses updating their cameras to film in this format. I think it will be awhile before we see 4K channels on our cable account.


They are soooooo big we will all have to upgrade our homes to fit them. Lets say the 110″ Samsung eventually comes down to the 3k-4k price range, where do you put it? Can your meager walls support the weight? Will to pure light output give you a tan?

Tablet Phone Accessories

Everyone is making accessories for your phone and tablet and the Shenzen province of China made a huge showing. I am sure none of us even knew how to pronounce Shenzen before Apple started producing devices there. They have everything for your tablet or phone. Cases, Stands, Speakers, Earphones, Toilets….. Toilets? Yes they have a potty training toilet with a integrated ipad dock to keep your child on the potty longer. I said they had everything.

Life Systems

Also being shown was a gamut of lifestyle devices. You may know FitBit as a leader but there were a lot of followers. Many devices track everything you do each day in a effort to show you problem areas in your life. I need a device that tracks my Cheetos consumption. I’m sure that would show a problem area.


As a “Work from Home” guy who travels to Philly every month i have to admit this intrigues me. There we at least 4 companies showing this technology. One of the companies Beam offered the highest level solution which allows a company to have multiple devices per location and a webservice that allows any user to take a device and use it at the location. Starting price for this technology? 16k. Is it really that beneficial?

Cool People

I got to meet some of my favorite Web TV personalities from the Revision 3 show Cali Lewis and John Pozadzides. They were both very cool and down to earth we talked for a little while about technology and had a great time, i hope to get to hang with them again some time.







Completed Pandora Pi
Engineering, General, Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi: Project 1 – Pandora Streamer

Overview – What is it

Using a Raspberry Pi you can create a pretty cool stand alone Pandora Streamer. Its a pretty easy project to put together and will only take an evening. Even though this project is basic from a Electrical Engineering standpoint you will learn the basics of GPIO, Python, BASH and basic Circuts. The best part is you can totally use this project on a daily basis. This version also will allow you to use the device as a Airplay reciever when you are not using Pandora.

I do not just want to show you what i did but show you where i went wrong and how i got the correct answers so you will feel confident trying this stuff yourself. This project cost me about $50 – $75 USD and was a blast.

I originally found this project on Instructables ( I started with this but re-wrote most of the code. I also changed the circuts to remove components that were unnessicary.

What you will need
  1. Raspberry Pi (sparkfun, Element14, adafruit)
  2. Breadboard
  3. PI Cobbler
  4. LCD Screen
  5. Buttons
  6. Resistors (10k and 1k)


Lets get started

Step 1 – Get the Raspberry Pi Prepped

A. Flash the Raspberry Pi’s SD Card with the latest version of Raspbian Weezy. First, download the latest OS. Second, put it on the SD Card.

B. Next, Stop the OS from writing to the UART, which we will need to drive the LCD:

In LXTerminal:

sudo nano /boot/cmdline.txt

And change:

dwc_otg.lpm_enable=0 console=ttyAMA0,115200 kgdboc=ttyAMA0,115200 console=tty1 $


dwc_otg.lpm_enable=0 console=tty1 $


sudo nano /etc/inittab

And change:

#Spawn a getty on Raspberry Pi serial line
T0:23:respawn:/sbin/getty -L ttyAMA0 115200 vt100


#Spawn a getty on Raspberry Pi serial line
#T0:23:respawn:/sbin/getty -L ttyAMA0 115200 vt100

Reboot the Pi

C. Adding Serial Communication to Python, This lets us talk to the LCD:

In LXTerminal:

sudo apt-get install python-serial

D. Enhancing BASH’s GPIO Capabilities, This lets BASH talk to GPIO. This is because we only launch the Python files if we detect HIGH on GPIO pin 22 or we know buttons are connected:

In LXTerminal:

sudo apt-get install git-core
git clone git://
cd wiringPi
git pull origin

Go Wireless (optional)

If you choose to go wireless (much cleaner) plug the WIFI adapter into one of the USB ports. Log into the Pi using a keyboard/mouse and HDMI connection. You want to be using the actual Linux GUI not SSH. On the desktop use the “WiFi Config” tool to set up the connection to your wireless network. I was not successful setting it up on my network using just ssh.

Step 2 – Install Pianobar

Pianobar is a command line interface for Pandora. It is super lightweight and will work well with Python.

A. Download and Install

sudo apt-get install pianobar

Accept all of the prompts to install. Type “Pianobar” at the prompt after installation to see it run. It will ask for your email and password but we will automate that in a minute. After starting it will ask which station to play. Select your favorite. After selecting it you will see a 18 digit code in parenthesis next to the station name, copy this we will need it for the config file. Type “?” after it starts to see a list of commands.

B. Set up a config file for Pianobar

If you have been logged into the Pi as the user “Pi” then Pianobar has installed into “/home/pi/.config/pianobar”. Under the Pianobar folder is a config folder, we will put a config file in there that will allow the app to auto-signin. Download the config file below.

Pianobar Config File

In the User section replace user = [Your Email], password = [Your Password] with your credentials. Also, replace autostart_station = [Favorite Station ID] with the ID of the station you want the device to tune to first. Enter the 18 digit code you copied from the last step.

Step 3 – Set Up FIFO

What i learned: In this section i tried creating the FIFO file as a standard one, not using the mkfifo command. I spent a long time trying to figure out where i went wrong.

FIFO is a file that allows communication between Pianobar and our Python scripts. Basically Pianobar is always looking at this file for changes and will treat the text in the file as user input. The config file we added points Pianobar to the folder for FIFO.

fifo = /home/pi/.config/pianobar/ctl

This folder does not exist yet so create it with:

mkfifo /home/pi/.config/pianobar/ctl

To test that everything is working correctly, restart Pianobar. In another terminal window, enter:

echo ‘n’ >> /home/pi/.config/pianobar/ctl

You should be able to fully control Pianobar this way. Once you full understand this concept then the Python scripts will make more sense.

Step 4 – Connect the LCD

What I learned: The original circuit called for a 3.3v voltage regulator connected to the 5v bar.  I realized this was not needed since the LCD i used could use direct 3.3v from the Raspberry PI. That circuit got simple at that point with only a 1k resistor between Tx and Rx.

A. Connect Power

Connect the 5V on the LCD to the 3.3V rail (5V label on this exact model of LCD is a misprint, it is actually 3.3V)

Connect GND to the Ground Rail.

B. Connect Tx

Connect Rx from the LCD to Tx on the Pi using a 1K resistor (Brown, Black, Red, Silver/Gold) in between.

Connection Diagram

Edit: In this Diagram GND should be connected to the GND rail not SDA, sorry.


Step 5 – Connect your Buttons

What I learned: The original circuit had the switch wired to where the 1k and 10k resistors meet. I found that this would not always work as desired but the diagram below works well.

You will be using the following 6 GPIO pins (SDA, SLC, 4, 17, 27, 22) for input. You need to build a circuit for each

A. Build the button Circuit

Power > 10k > 1K. The 1K splits to the GPIO pin (its the D1 – LED in the diagram) and the Switch witch goes to ground.

B. Repeat for all buttons.

Repeat for (SDA, SLC, 4, 17, 27, 22)

Step 6 – Add the Scripts to connect everything

A. Download the scripts

cd /home/pi/.config/pianobar
git clone git://
cd Pandora-Pi
git pull origin
cd ..
cp -r /home/pi/.config/pianobar/Pandora-Pi/scripts/ .
sudo chmod -R 777 /home/pi/.config/pianobar/Pandora-Pi/scripts/

View the for an explanation of the files.

B. Have the scripts autostart with Pianobar

sudo nano /etc/xdg/lxsession/LXDE/autostart

Now add two lines to the end:

bash /home/pi/.config/scripts/

Step 7 – Add Airplay support (optional)

Credit To:

This is cool because the Pi will become another audio Airplay device on your network and will show as available for all your IOS devices.

A. Become ROOT

pi@raspberrypi:~$ sudo su
root@raspberrypi:cd /home/pi

B. Update Aptitude (Apt-Get)

root@raspberrypi:~# aptitude update
root@raspberrypi:~# aptitude upgrade

C. Install Depedencies

root@raspberrypi:~# aptitude install git libao-dev libssl-dev libcrypt-openssl-rsa-perl libio-socket-inet6-perl libwww-perl avahi-utils

D. Download & Compile

root@raspberrypi:~# git clone shairport root@raspberrypi:~# cd shairport
root@raspberrypi:~/shairport# make

Test that it worked by running:

Replace [AirPi] with what you want it to be called.

root@raspberrypi:~/shairport# ./ -a [AirPi]

You should see it on your network and be able to play audio over it from a IOS device.

E. Make a Daemon that will Autostart

root@raspberrypi:~/shairport# make install
root@raspberrypi:~/shairport# cp shairport.init.sample /etc/init.d/shairport root@raspberrypi:~/shairport# cd /etc/init.d
root@raspberrypi:/etc/init.d# chmod a+x shairport
root@raspberrypi:/etc/init.d# update-rc.d shairport defaults

Edit the Shairport file with the Name you want it to use.

root@raspberrypi:/etc/init.d# nano shairport

Modify the DAEMON_ARGS line to look like, (change AirPi to what you want to name it):


D. Start Service

root@raspberrypi:/etc/init.d# ./shairport start

Step 8 – Make a case!!!

Personally i used a old blank CD spindle case that i had lying around. If you have access to a hackerspace i am working on a acrylic case but the design files are not complete.

Engineering, Raspberry Pi

I’m Back

Hey All,

Sorry, we just completed a stressful move from the Philly area to beautiful Mooresville, NC. It is a pretty cool area even though its not super tech savvy. I still work for Comcast but i am currently focused more on my extended family and helping where i can (ahm, house maintenance). I have some new content coming out for instance i am working on a post about my first Raspberry Pi project which is a stand alone Pandora radio. Stay tuned (ha) for the full build details as well as the files that make it run.


Engineering, General

Programming 101

I have had a lot of people ask me about how to get started programming. One guy said it best while waiting for the elevator one day, he looked at me and said: “You know we get paid way too much for what we do, when are they going to learn that”. The rest of the world is catching on and the technology field is hot right now. I would break the Tech scene into four groups:

  1. Programmers/Engineers (people who make applications and services)
  2. Analysts/Network Engineers (people who maintain computers/networks/servers)
  3. Quality (people who test and make sure everything is as designed and bug free)
  4. Business (people who tell everyone else what to do.

We are going to focus on number 1. One benefit we have today is the amount of knowledge out there for free. This stuff was nonexistent when i was starting out. Right now a kid in high school with an interest in programming could have a solid career by 20 years old with no college. Let’s look at some resources to get started.


Popular Languages

Learning Resources



More Updates To Come. This is a LIVING post!

2010 Apple iPad
Business, Engineering, General

The iPad isn’t for you!

If you are reading this post then i am going to go out on a limb and say the iPad isn’t for you! Why not? Because you are probably technically savvy. See, for you the iPad just does not do enough, sure you can get email and browse the web but what if you want to torrent the latest TV show Blu-Ray disc transcode it and output it to 1080i on your TV. If it cant do that it must be worthless. For you, having an iPad is only going to leave you frustrated because you want more out of it.

We have to remember that computer savvy people make up a extremely small percentage of actual computer users 0.02% – 0.05%. The best way i heard it explained was a comparison of video game consoles. Lets compare.

Microsoft Xbox 360

Developed for: Avid Gamers

Total sold to date: 258 million

Sony PS3

Developed for: Avid Gamers

Total sold to date: 138 million

Nintendo Wii

Developed for: Families, Casual Gamers

Total sold to date: 275 million

The Wii is the iPad and the Netbooks/Laptops are the Xbox/PS3. That is why Apple keeps emphasizing that this is a new vertical. Apple is targeting a whole new group of individuals. This goes back to Apples methodology of targeting particular sub-markets first. The iPad is the light computer for the MASS market. Now, because you are tech savvy and you probably to tech support for your entire circle of friends and family let me put this scenario together. Your 75 year old gram wants to dip her toe in the technology pool. She wants to check out the “Internets” that she has heard about and start sending email. Between a iPad, Laptop and a Netbook what is the easiest platform for her to get started on? With a Laptop or Netbook you are going to get 2 calls a week. “Jonny, i clicked something and now my screen is blank”. “Jonny, i moves the mouse and now i don’t see it”. Instead of critiquing the new iPad you should be applauding it. For $499 you family can get a computer that does everything THEY need it to do and you won’t get 10 calls a week to fix things.

So, Apple will probably sell well in this market but they will also do well in the tech savvy early adopter market. Sure it does not do everything i wish it would but it will replace my 8.5 x 11 notepad. So lets not hate on the iPad. I think we will all be surprised on how well it does.

2010 Apple iPad
Business, Engineering

Oh the iPad

If todays iPad event happened six thousand years ago it might have played out like this;

And on the twenty seventh day of the first month of the two thousandth and tenth year the gods of Apple decided to bless the mortals of the earth with a bounty of media, email and photos. And the mortals rejoiced greatly looking upon the work of the Apple and seeing that it was good. And due to the personal nature of this gift, it’s texture and flatness the name iPad was bestowed upon it by the mortals. But, outside the garden were mortals who were jealous of the gods. “Why have the gods not seen fit to give us a camera or allow us to partake in the games of Flash or even output our video at 1080i?”. These mortals thought they knew more than the gods, they became insolent and hoped the righteous mortals choked on their iPads. They  had forgotten about all the wonderful contributions Apple had given them to date including the modern user interface not to mention the 50.2 billion dollar track record the gods had already set.

These rebellious mortals began to bicker, plan and build altars to the gods of Microsoft, Dell and Asus. These mortal became jealous of the power Apple wielded. After many offerings and sacrifices the false gods were unable to extinguish the fire of the iPad.

2010 Apple iPad

All joking aside there are some interesting things to take into consideration. It seems as if most people love or hate the new iPad. Some excellent points were made today at the event. I do believe that the iPad fits a specific second screen market. For instance, if you are watching TV and want to use the internet then your smartphone is probably too small. Your laptop is too large, hot and bulky and your netbook is too small/slow. The iPad does provide a light, thin quick second screen experience. Don’t get me wrong i don’t really believe that it is a perfect device (handed down by Gods).

I would like to see;

  • Wireless Syncing
  • Flash Support (,
  • Silverlight support (
  • IR port (Use as universal remote)
  • Larger SSD (150 Gig)
  • Camera (Skype)

For a Rev 1 device in a totally new vertical you have to admit this is a good start. Remember it is not a netbook, Apple once again has sat back and watched the netbook craze compiled user feedback and positioned themselves within this new vertical.

Now for untapped goodness. Let’s just say that people outside of the Apple fanboys hate the iPad and it gains no traction with the mainstream user base. Apple has already positioned themselves with businesses. Get a iPad download the app and you have a technical advantage of other salesman in your field. Even if Apple fails they win, i like those odds.

Many including myself will critique Apple at times, second guess and ask for more. No matter what we say or do we have to admit, Dang, they know how to make $$$.

Business, Engineering, General, Product Managment

Apple iPhone, SDK released

First the information you really want to know;

  • iPhone update 2.0  and public SDK will be released in June.
  • iPhone Beta SDK released today for $99.
  • iFund by KPCB VC worth $100,000,000 to be invested into the iPhone dev community.

Now on to the more nitty gritty details.

  • Exchange Support; Email, Cal, Directory
  • Cisco IPsec VPN
  • Cocoa Touch is how to build iPhone applications
  • With the SDK you can debug your plugged in iPhone
  • iPhone simulator also in the SDK
  • Ability to program against OpenGL, 3D
  • EA built a version of Will Wrights SPORE
  • Sega creating real 3D console games for iPhone
  • Aol IM client for the phone (ability to use bonjour for connections, imagine meeting people on the train around you)
  • Access to the iPhones Database SQLite
  • Applications delivered and updated over WiFi or Edge using the AppStore provided by Apple.

I will have more details later… See you soon.

Message to Steve Jobs:

Dear Steve,

Did you wake up one morning and while having your morning Starbucks mocha choca lata yaya decide that it was the perfect day to crumble the once powerful enterprise mobile communication solution known as Rim/Blackberry. If this was how your decision was made then my hat is off to you. Well played Jobs, well played.


Shaun Gehring

Business, Engineering, General, Product Managment

Apple iTv, is it for me?

When you look at an Apple product you realize that Apple has though, thought again an then maybe over though the product. With the iTv they have taken something that most of us already have in our home and improved upon it. On Demand content.


We all love having On Demand content in a world of “I want this and i want it now”. Our cable and satellite providers have given us and continue to give us the largest amount of content at one time but for a price. In the world today with our busy schedules sure having 700+ channels is great but how much of that and our dollars are wasted. To combat that is the infamous “A la cart” cable, great idea, not for the cable companies though. A la cart would allow you to only purchase the channels you really want to watch, that means less money for the cable providers.

What has apple done? Now we have this iTv that without a PC you can buy/rent tv shows and movies (we don’t even need to get into youtube and flickr). So now you have basically a set top “cable” style box. Right now we can rent movies for about the same price as VOD/EOD and buy tv shows for $0.99. But, you know that Apple has something up their sleeve. Think about what apple could do with a mere software update! Let’s play “What If”!

What if Apple finds a way to get as many content rights as Hulu and they start to add some commercials to the content and charge $0.00 for Tv Shows!!! What effect could this have on the Cable industry? Instead of paying $40 – $100 a month for Tv you pay $0.00. Unless you are a Tv-holic don’t you only care about the major shows, so you might miss a Mtv reality nightmare or two but maybe this will force more production houses to supply their content via digital means.

Consumer: Wants Tv/Movies when they want them for the lowest cost.

Show Producers: Wants the most amount of advertising dollars for the show.

So, What could iTv Be?

  • Free Tv Shows (saved indefinitely – ads updated)
  • Movies bought and rented
  • Flickr, Youtube, Trailers, Video Phone???

If Apples wants to they are gaining the ability to rock the cable world as we know it. They have gained the trust of the mass consumer electronic market and are gaining market share at a record pace. Will they do it? Are they already working on it? Call me a Apple prophet if you will but only time will tell.

Business, Engineering, General, Product Managment

The great Chumby debate!

For those of you that havn’t seen it you can find a chumby here Chumby

The lowdown

  • Wi-fi connectivity • access to the free Chumby Network • 3.5″ LCD color touchscreen • two external USB 2.0 full-speed ports • 350 MHz ARM processor • 64 MB SDRAM • 64 MB NAND flash ROM • stereo 2W speakers • headphone output • squeeze sensor • accelerometer (motion sensor) • leather casing • AC adapter included
  • The dimensions are: 5 1/2″ wide, 4 1/4″ tall, 3 1/4″ deep at the base, and 2 1/4″ deep at the top. Here’s the chumby next to a regular size coffee cup.
  • Plug it in, connect to your wireless network, and use your computer to choose a playlist of “widgets” (the bite-sized applications that run on a chumby)
  • Because it’s always on, the chumby must be plugged in to an AC outlet.
  • The chumby costs $179.95.

The Functionality

Widgets, Screens and Power cables, Ohhhh my! So they are marketing a Widget panel. That’s cool so you can take your widgets with you right? Wrong! it has to be plugged in at all times because it NEVER goes into sleep mode. Not like the pesky iPhone or Nintendo DS. So as long as you are near WiFi and an outlet you will always have weather and email, unlike your laptop. On there website one of the selling points is that it can hook op to your iPod and be a boombox, ony one problem, the songs shuffle and you cannot choose what to play.

The Look

It’s beautiful…. I mean i look at it and see a Lexus Headrest with a LCD mounted in it, don’t you.chumby with mug
It looks so soft you probably want to hold it while you watching Tv on the couch (i hope there is an AC outlet close). The screen is slightly smaller than the iPhones.

Saving the best for last

More amazing than the device itself is the company that produces it. They will defend the product to the ends of the earth, here are some quotes the Chumby senior team;

the chumby is always in a state of continuous improvement — that’s the real innovation here — and it challenges the point-in-time judgment model (”Am I glad I bought this product or not?” “Was it worth the money?” “Here’s what’s good and what’s bad about this product!”) With Chumby, you’re buying into an “open development vector.” Huh? How in Hell does someone review or pass judgment on that? There’s the rub.

Anyone who got one of our early alpha prototypes, and complains that it was very limited, ummmm, didn’t we mention at the time that it was *alpha* hardware? — should be judged on what works, not on what doesn’t work, i.e., it was an early “proof of concept,” not a finished product. And, by that standard, people who understood what this stage means *loved” it.

Carping about the limitations of a free prototype seems ungrateful at best. But…whatever…wait until all the teenagers in your neighborhood have one, check it out, and then let us all know what you think.

Don’t want to belabor this, and sorry if I’m grumpy and “un-PR” about the topic, but the prototypes were expensive for a start-up and were offered with the very specific and stated quid pro quo that people who took them o requested them needed to be willing to do something of value for us in return — hack it, write widgets for it, play with it and blog about it, provide *informed* feedback after some reasonable expereice with it, whatever.

My Thoughts

Chumby is trying to compete in a niche market, they are a very small San Diego startup. Microsoft has tried the same thing with there SideShow devices at a $80 price and still hasn’t been able to make it work. I love the line that said “wait until all the teenagers on your street have one”, well, on my street everyone has iPhones, the funny thing is they have a battery, there always connected to the internet, they play video, they have widgets and ooh yea, i almost forgot, IT’S A PHONE!!!


Business, Engineering, General, Product Managment

Industry Software Shift

I started out programming with VB and ASP. Over the years i need to expand my skills to Java, PHP, Etc… The marketplace for a long time seemed to be embracing Open Source with “Open” arms. Over the last few weeks though i have heard of multiple large companies shifting to or even back to Microsoft for their solutions. Some that i know of have even gone as far as getting rid of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of Sun servers. What is sparking this? Microsoft had not announced or released a new “Messiah” of business suites.

Well, my humble opinion is that my “VB/ASP” generation of developers is now moving into those once coveted VP and CTO positions and they want to got back to what they are comfortable with. If this truly is the case, what will happen when generation AJAX takes the helm?