Sep 232017

So… there came a weekend where two of us were free, and we had the bits organised, we could install the panels themselves.

We mounted two rails to the metal roof, then one by one, I’d terminate a cable with the solar connectors, I’d pass the panel up where my father would mount it to the rails, then the cable would be passed up, connected to the panel, then the unterminated end tossed over the gutter.

Once we were certain of cable length, I’d cut it to length (a fun job cutting a live cable), then the process would repeat.

We started about 8AM and we’re now pretty much finished the actual panel installation. We need to get some conduit to better protect the cable, and once the sun is down, I might look at terminating the other ends of the cables via 10A fuses.

This is the installation on the roof as it is now.

There’s space for one more panel, which would give me 480W. There’s also the option of buying more rails and mounting those… plenty of space up there.

DIY DC “power wall” is an option, certainly a 12V feed in the kitchen would be nice for powering the slow cooker and in major weather events, the 12V fridge/freezer.

The cables just run over the edge of the roof, and will terminate under the roof on the back deck.

I’m thinking the fuse box will be about head height, and there’ll be an isolation switch for the 12V feed going (via 8GA cable) downstairs to where the cluster lives.

As it happens, we did a pretty good job estimating the length of cable needed.

The plan is, we’ll get some conduit to run that cable in, as having it run bare across a hot tin roof is not good for its longevity. One evening, I’ll terminate those cables and wire up the fuse box.

I’ve got to think about how I’ll mount the isolation switch, I’m thinking a separate smaller box might be the go there. After that, then I need to work on the automatic switching.

Sep 172017

So we’ve got a free weekend where there’ll be two of us to do a solar installation… thus the parts have now been ordered for that installation.

First priority will be to get the panels onto the roof and bring the feed back to where the cluster lives.  The power will come from 3 12V 120W solar panels that will be mounted on the roof over the back deck.  Theoretically these can push about 7A of current with a voltage of 17.6V.

We’ve got similar panels to these on the roof of a caravan, those ones give us about 6A of current when there’s bright sunlight.  The cluster when going flat-chat needs about 10A to run, so with three panels in broad daylight, we should be able to run the cluster and provide about 8A to top batteries up with.

We’ll be running individual feeds of 8-gauge DC cable from each panel down to a fused junction box under the roof on the back deck.  From there, it’ll be 6-gauge DC cable down to the cluster’s charge controller.

Now, we have a relay that switches between mains-sourced DC and the solar, and right now it’s hard-wired to be on when the mains supply is switched on.

I’m thinking that the simplest solution for now will be to use a comparator with some hysteresis.  That is, an analogue circuit.  When the solar voltage is greater than the switchmode DC power supply, we use solar.  We’ll need the hysteresis to ensure the relay doesn’t chatter when the solar voltage gets near the threshold.

The other factor here is that the solar voltage may get as high as 22V or so, thus resistor dividers will be needed both sides to ensure the inputs to the comparator are within safe limits.

The current consumption of this will be minimal, so a LM7809 will probably do the trick for DC power regulation to power the LM311.  If I divide all inputs by 3, 22V becomes ~7.3V, giving us plenty of head room.

I can then use the built-in NPN to drive a P-channel MOSFET that controls the relay.  The relay would connect between MOSFET drain and 0V, with the MOSFET source connecting to the switchmode PSU (this is where the relay connects now).

The solar controller also connects its control line to the MOSFET drain.  To it, the MOSFET represents the ignition switch on a vehicle, starting the engine would connect 12V to the relay and the solar controller control input, connecting the controller’s DC input to the vehicle battery and telling the controller to boost this voltage up for battery charging purposes.

By hooking it up in this manner, and tuning the hysteresis on the comparator, we should be able to handle automatic switch-over between mains power and solar with the minimum of components.

Sep 132017

So it seems that the Same Sex Marriage postal votes are finally being sent around.  This is good news in a way: we get to have a say in the matter and hopefully put the matter to bed one way or the other.

No more umming and arring, which I’m frankly sick and tired of, as I feel there are more pressing needs.  Yes, it’s important, but we have two nuclear armed crazy-haired nutters at opposite sides of the Pacific ready to light the planet up like a neon light!

I’m in support of the legislation changing by the way.  I think same-sex couples are entitled to the same rights, and it wasn’t that long ago that marriage was restricted to those not just of the opposite sex, but also had to be of the same “race” and religion.

To quote a song by John Williamson: “They’d chain you up to a boab tree, for kissing an Aborigine!”

So to my way of thinking, society changes.  What was taboo yesterday, we don’t think twice about today.  An Anglican family sending their children to a Catholic school would be heresy years ago… but for my sister and I, that is exactly what happened.  The world doesn’t seem to have imploded as a result.

The status quo regarding marriage is a hang-over from when the Church was the only place where you could get married, and ruled with far greater weight than today.  This is no longer the case, thus it no longer makes sense to hang onto this concept.

Anyway… my opinions on this are beside the point.  In spite of the good intentions, it looks as if the postal vote envelopes overlook one serious flaw: with sufficient light they are see through!

So my proposal: Put a thin piece of card in with the postal vote to block the light.  Not thick enough that it might cause the envelope to jam or interfere with sorting equipment, just opaque enough to prevent the contents being visible.  A small piece of black paper would likely do the job nicely.

Sure the ABS will have a little bit more paper to dispose of, but then at least, our votes are secure and people can’t “manipulate” the vote by snooping on sealed envelopes and discard the ones that disagree with their opinions.  At least then we won’t be wasting $122M.

Sep 132017

I have a virtual machine that I set up as a secondary DNS server which runs OpenBSD 6.1.  Today logging into it, I noticed system messages were piling up in /var/mail because I hadn’t configured the mail server to deliver those messages.  Setting up OpenSMTPD was no trouble, but then I had the old mail (thankfully not much) that was still to be delivered.

There are a couple of solutions out there, written in Perl, Python and PHP (urgh!).  I don’t have Python on this box, and the Perl one didn’t seem to work with the mailbox.  So I cooked up my own:


for file in "$@"; do
        grep -n '^From ' ${file} | {
                while read line; do
                        cur=$( echo "${line}" | cut -f 1 -d: )
                        if [ "${prev}" != "${cur}" ]; then
                                sed -ne "${prev},$(( ${cur} - 1 )) p" ${file} > ${prev}.eml

If there’s a line in your email body starting with “From “, it may get confused, but it was good enough for the messages that OpenBSD’s daemons send me. I was then able to pipe these individually into sendmail -t to send them on their way.

Sep 102017

… Come now, Microsoft… are you telling me your operating system just makes up its own error codes?  How can the error code be “unknown”?  The computer is doing what you told it to do!

Moreover, why can’t you fix your broken links?  Clearly the error I’m getting is not any of the ones you’ve listed, so why even offer them as suggestions?

Sep 072017

This is a quick brain-dump, as doing a quick Google search did not help, taking me to a mailing list thread I had posted about 2.5 years ago.  I swear there’s a song in that… something about the dreaded Google Echo.

Anyway, unlike that last occasion where the modem wasn’t even seen at all (and no, I didn’t solve it, we stuffed a 3G dongle in the case in the end), this time around, ModemManager sees it.  It just so happens that nmtui doesn’t do wireless broadband. These were the magic commands.

root@wsg-74fe481fe117:~# nmcli connection edit type gsm con-name telstra-nextg

===| nmcli interactive connection editor |===

Adding a new 'gsm' connection

Type 'help' or '?' for available commands.
Type 'describe [.]' for detailed property description.

You may edit the following settings: connection, gsm, serial, ipv4

From here, we need to set the APN, telstra.internet.

nmcli> set gsm.apn telstra.internet

Having done that, we give the configuration a last check before saving it:

nmcli> print all
… lots of settings …
nmcli> save persistent
Saving the connection with 'autoconnect=yes'. That might result in an immediate activation of the connection.
Do you still want to save? (yes/no) [yes] (enter)
Connection 'telstra-nextg' (57c78d91-4a66-475b-8843-2cba590fbcfd) successfully saved.
nmcli> quit