Ok … Here is my first blog post for our COMP2013 Home Automation project. I’ll be covering the first 3 weeks since they’ve been very busy and I’ve not had a change to post as I go along.

Weeks 1 & 2

Our team of 6 was put together as a group who had all shown interest in the Home Automation project brief. We met and had a talk about general ideas for the project. In the end we came up with about 2 pages of ideas and then had to cross out some of the more “unique” ones but there’s still room for a Party Button later on in the design.

Next, we made a start on using the Gadgeteer software. We had a lot of problems with this and it took us much longer than it should have. First of all we were unlucky enough to find out that it’s not supported by Visual Studio 2012 yet. After falling back to VS Express 2010 we had further troubles with getting the Gadgeteer to work with it. Apparently it’s very picky about the order you install the software in and you have to choose which versions carefully. After that we needed to update the firmware on the FEZ Spider and we had even more troubles. I ended up taking the hardware home to do it and found a forum post mentioning that you had to point to the drivers manually during the firmware update. It would seem there could be better support given. It’s all done now though and we were pleased to get a small “Hello World” program working involving and LED and a button.


Week 2 started with everyone coming back with their research for the ideas that made it through week 1. I researched home entertainment and controlling the TV / Music player with the Gadgeteer hardware. Rather than just turning the TV on and off I wanted to think about controlling what’s on the screen. I had a look into GoogleTV and it seems good but after a short while I got distracted by XMBC which I’m a big fan of. I also looked into voice recognition and text to speech libraries.

Next there was much debate about how we were going to communicate with the Gadgeteer hardware from around the house and even remotely. I was in favour of using a Raspberry Pi since they’re so small / cheap and I’ve wanted to play around with one for ages. We’re still discussing which OS to use. Apparently there’s a version of Windows that we could get working but Arch Linux / Raspbian seem like they’ll be able to offer us more to write about in our report. We’ll be making a decision in later weeks.

Week 3

Over the last week I made a small demo of the Gadgeteer’s motion detection for our project. It’s very small and not worth putting up on GitHub but it showed we’d made some progress with getting things to work. We also managed to grab some extra hardware in the lab sessions which included a remote control, some extra LED’s and a motor driver board.

Over this weekend I tried to get the Gadgeteer working as a simple web server over my home network. This didn’t go well … It looks like it thinks it has a different MAC address and when I try to change it I get errors. There’s more information at

I’ll have to get some help with this quickly so that we can carry on with things smoothly.