Aug 252018
 

So, after some argument, and a bit of sitting on a concrete floor with the netbook, I managed to get Gentoo loaded onto the TS-7670.  Right now it’s running off the MicroSD card, I’ll get things right, then shift it across to eMMC.

ts7670 ~ # emerge --info
Portage 2.3.40 (python 3.5.5-final-0, default/linux/musl/arm/armv7a, gcc-6.4.0, musl-1.1.19, 4.14.15-vrt-ts7670-00031-g1a006273f907-dirty armv5tejl)
=================================================================
System uname: Linux-4.14.15-vrt-ts7670-00031-g1a006273f907-dirty-armv5tejl-ARM926EJ-S_rev_5_-v5l-with-gentoo-2.4.1
KiB Mem:      111532 total,     13136 free
KiB Swap:    4194300 total,   4191228 free
Timestamp of repository gentoo: Fri, 17 Aug 2018 16:45:01 +0000
Head commit of repository gentoo: 563622899f514c21f5b7808cb50f6e88dbd7d7de
sh bash 4.4_p12
ld GNU ld (Gentoo 2.30 p2) 2.30.0
app-shells/bash:          4.4_p12::gentoo
dev-lang/perl:            5.24.3-r1::gentoo
dev-lang/python:          2.7.14-r1::gentoo, 3.5.5::gentoo
dev-util/pkgconfig:       0.29.2::gentoo
sys-apps/baselayout:      2.4.1-r2::gentoo
sys-apps/openrc:          0.34.11::gentoo
sys-apps/sandbox:         2.13::musl
sys-devel/autoconf:       2.69-r4::gentoo
sys-devel/automake:       1.15.1-r2::gentoo
sys-devel/binutils:       2.30-r2::gentoo
sys-devel/gcc:            6.4.0-r1::musl
sys-devel/gcc-config:     1.8-r1::gentoo
sys-devel/libtool:        2.4.6-r3::gentoo
sys-devel/make:           4.2.1::gentoo
sys-kernel/linux-headers: 4.13::musl (virtual/os-headers)
sys-libs/musl:            1.1.19::gentoo
Repositories:

gentoo
    location: /usr/portage
    sync-type: rsync
    sync-uri: rsync://virtatomos.longlandclan.id.au/gentoo-portage
    priority: -1000
    sync-rsync-verify-jobs: 1
    sync-rsync-extra-opts: 
    sync-rsync-verify-metamanifest: yes
    sync-rsync-verify-max-age: 24

ACCEPT_KEYWORDS="arm"
ACCEPT_LICENSE="* -@EULA"
CBUILD="arm-unknown-linux-musleabi"
CFLAGS="-Os -pipe -march=armv5te -mtune=arm926ej-s -mfloat-abi=soft"
CHOST="arm-unknown-linux-musleabi"
CONFIG_PROTECT="/etc /usr/share/gnupg/qualified.txt"
CONFIG_PROTECT_MASK="/etc/ca-certificates.conf /etc/env.d /etc/gconf /etc/gentoo-release /etc/sandbox.d /etc/terminfo"
CXXFLAGS="-Os -pipe -march=armv5te -mtune=arm926ej-s -mfloat-abi=soft"
DISTDIR="/home/portage/distfiles"
ENV_UNSET="DBUS_SESSION_BUS_ADDRESS DISPLAY PERL5LIB PERL5OPT PERLPREFIX PERL_CORE PERL_MB_OPT PERL_MM_OPT XAUTHORITY XDG_CACHE_HOME XDG_CONFIG_HOME XDG_DATA_HOME XDG_RUNTIME_DIR"
FCFLAGS="-O2 -pipe -march=armv7-a -mfpu=vfpv3-d16 -mfloat-abi=hard"
FEATURES="assume-digests binpkg-logs config-protect-if-modified distlocks ebuild-locks fixlafiles merge-sync multilib-strict news parallel-fetch preserve-libs protect-owned sandbox sfperms strict unknown-features-warn unmerge-logs unmerge-orphans userfetch userpriv usersandbox usersync xattr"
FFLAGS="-O2 -pipe -march=armv7-a -mfpu=vfpv3-d16 -mfloat-abi=hard"
GENTOO_MIRRORS=" http://virtatomos.longlandclan.id.au/portage http://mirror.internode.on.net/pub/gentoo http://ftp.swin.edu.au/gentoo http://mirror.aarnet.edu.au/pub/gentoo"
INSTALL_MASK="charset.alias"
LANG="en_AU.UTF-8"
LDFLAGS="-Wl,-O1 -Wl,--as-needed"
PKGDIR="/usr/portage/packages"
PORTAGE_CONFIGROOT="/"
PORTAGE_RSYNC_OPTS="--recursive --links --safe-links --perms --times --omit-dir-times --compress --force --whole-file --delete --stats --human-readable --timeout=180 --exclude=/distfiles --exclude=/local --exclude=/packages --exclude=/.git"
PORTAGE_TMPDIR="/var/tmp"
USE="arm bindist cli crypt cxx dri fortran iconv ipv6 modules ncurses nls nptl openmp pam pcre readline seccomp ssl tcpd unicode xattr zlib" APACHE2_MODULES="authn_core authz_core socache_shmcb unixd actions alias auth_basic authn_alias authn_anon authn_dbm authn_default authn_file authz_dbm authz_default authz_groupfile authz_host authz_owner authz_user autoindex cache cgi cgid dav dav_fs dav_lock deflate dir disk_cache env expires ext_filter file_cache filter headers include info log_config logio mem_cache mime mime_magic negotiation rewrite setenvif speling status unique_id userdir usertrack vhost_alias" CALLIGRA_FEATURES="karbon plan sheets stage words" COLLECTD_PLUGINS="df interface irq load memory rrdtool swap syslog" ELIBC="musl" GPSD_PROTOCOLS="ashtech aivdm earthmate evermore fv18 garmin garmintxt gpsclock isync itrax mtk3301 nmea ntrip navcom oceanserver oldstyle oncore rtcm104v2 rtcm104v3 sirf skytraq superstar2 timing tsip tripmate tnt ublox ubx" INPUT_DEVICES="libinput keyboard mouse" KERNEL="linux" LCD_DEVICES="bayrad cfontz cfontz633 glk hd44780 lb216 lcdm001 mtxorb ncurses text" LIBREOFFICE_EXTENSIONS="presenter-console presenter-minimizer" OFFICE_IMPLEMENTATION="libreoffice" PHP_TARGETS="php5-6 php7-0" POSTGRES_TARGETS="postgres9_5 postgres10" PYTHON_SINGLE_TARGET="python3_6" PYTHON_TARGETS="python2_7 python3_6" RUBY_TARGETS="ruby23" USERLAND="GNU" VIDEO_CARDS="dummy fbdev v4l" XTABLES_ADDONS="quota2 psd pknock lscan length2 ipv4options ipset ipp2p iface geoip fuzzy condition tee tarpit sysrq steal rawnat logmark ipmark dhcpmac delude chaos account"
Unset:  CC, CPPFLAGS, CTARGET, CXX, EMERGE_DEFAULT_OPTS, LC_ALL, LINGUAS, MAKEOPTS, PORTAGE_BINHOST, PORTAGE_BUNZIP2_COMMAND, PORTAGE_COMPRESS, PORTAGE_COMPRESS_FLAGS, PORTAGE_RSYNC_EXTRA_OPTS

I still have to update the kernel.  I actually did get kernel 4.18 to boot, but I forgot to add in support for the watchdog, so U-Boot tickled it, then the watchdog got hungry and kicked the reset half way through the boot sequence.

Rolling back to my older 4.14 kernel works.  I’ll try again with 4.18.5 in a moment.  Failing that, I have also brought the 4.14 patches up to 4.14.69 which is the latest LTS release of the kernel.

I’ve started looking at the power supply sysfs device class, with a view to exposing the supply voltage via sysfs.  The thinking here is that collectd supports reading this via the “battery” module (and realistically, it is a battery that is being measured: two 105Ah AGMs).

Worst case is I do something a little proprietary and deal with it in user space.  I’ll have to dig up the Linux kernel tree I did for Jacques Electronics all those years ago, as that had some examples of interfacing sysfs to a Cypress PSOC device that was acting as an I²C slave.  Rather than using an off-the-shelf solution, they programmed up a MCU that did power management, touchscreen sensing, keypad sensing, RGB LED control and others, all in one chip.  (Fun to try and interface that to the Linux kernel.)

Technologic Systems appear to have done something similar.  The device ID 0x78 implies a 10-bit device, but I think they’re just squatting on that 7-bit address.  They hail 0x78 then read out 4 bytes, which the last two bytes are the supply voltage ADC readings.  They do their own byte swapping before scaling the value to get mV.

Aug 192018
 

So, I was just updating the project details for this project, and I happened to see this blog post about reading the DC voltage input on the TS-7670v2.

I haven’t yet gotten around to finishing the power meters that I was building which would otherwise be reading these values directly, but they were basically going to connect via Modbus to the TS-7670v2 anyway.  One of its roles, aside from routing between the physical management network (IPMI and switch console access), was to monitor the battery.

I will have to explore this.  Collectd doesn’t have a general-purpose I²C module, but it does have one for barometer modules, so with a bit of work, I could make one to measure the voltage input which would tell me what the battery is doing.

Apr 282018
 

So, a few weeks ago I installed a new battery charger, and tweaked it so that the solar did most of the leg work during the day, and the charger kept the batteries topped up at night.

I also discussed the addition of a new industrial PC to perform routing and system monitoring functions… which was to run Gentoo Linux/musl. For now, that little PC is still running Debian Stretch, but for 45 days, it was rock solid. The addition of this box, and taking on the role of router to the management network meant I could finally achieve one of my long-term goals for the project: decommissioning the old server.

The old server is still set up with all my data and software… but now the back-up cron job calls /sbin/poweroff when it’s done, and the BIOS is set to wake the machine up in the evening ready to receive a back-up late at night.

In its place, a virtual machine clone of the box, handles my email and all the old functions of that server. This was all done just prior to my father and I leaving for a 3 week holiday in the Snowy Mountains.

I did have a couple of hiccups with Ceph OSDs crashing … but basically re-starting the daemons (done remotely whilst travelling through Cowra) got everything back up. A bit of placement group cleaning, and everything was back online again. I had another similar hiccup coming out of Maitland, but once again, re-starting the daemons fixed it. No idea why it crashed, that’s something I’ll have to investigate.

Other than that, the cluster itself has run well.

One thing that did momentarily kill the industrial PC though: I wandered down to the rack with a small bus-powered 2.5″ HDD with the intent of re-starting my Gentoo builds. This HDD had the same content as the 3.5″ HDD I had plugged in before. I figured being bus powered, I would not be dependent on mains, and it could just chug away to its heart’s content.

No such luck, the moment I plugged that drive in, the little machine took great umbrage to the spinning rust now vacuuming the electrons away from its core functions, and shut down abruptly. I’ve now brought my 3.5″ drive and dock down, plugged that into the wall, and have my builds resuming. If power goes off, hopefully the machine either handles the loss of swap gracefully. If it does crash, the watchdog will take care of it.

Thus, I have the little TS-7670 first attempting a build of gcc, to see how we go. Finger’s crossed our power should remain up. There was at least one outage in the time we were away, but hopefully we should get though this next build!

The next step I think should be to add some control of the mains charger to allow the batteries to be boosted to full charge overnight. The thinking is a simple diode-OR arrangement. Many comparators such as the LM393 have an open-collector output, which gives us this for free.

The theory is this.

The battery bank powers a simple circuit which runs of a 5V regulator. That regulator powers a dual comparator IC and provides a reference voltage. The comparator draws bugger all power, so I’m happy to use a linear PSU here. It’s mainly there as a voltage reference.

Precision isn’t really the aim here, so adjustable pots will make life easier.

The voltages from the battery bank and the solar panel are fed through voltage dividers to bring the voltages down to below 5V, then those voltages are individually fed into separate pots that control the hysteresis. I can adjust all points of the system.

The idea is that should the batteries get too low, or the sun go down, one or the other (or both) comparators will go low and pull down on R2. If the batteries are high and the sun is up, nothing pulls on R2 so the REMOTE+ pin on the HEP-600C-12 is allowed to float to +5V, turning off the mains charger.

The advantage of this is there’s no programming of a microcontroller, it’s just analogue electronics. The LM393s are pretty hardy things, the datasheet says they’ll run at 36V and can accept a maximum voltage of VCC-1.5V; so if I run at 5V, 3.5V is my recommended maximum. The adjustment pots should let me set a threshold voltage that avoids going above this.

I mainly need 5V for the HEP-600C-12, and for providing that stable known voltage reference. The LM78C05 should be fine for this.

Once I’ve done that, I should be able to wind that charger back up to its factory setting of 14.4V, which will mean that overnight the batteries will be charged back to full charge.

Apr 012018
 

So yesterday I wound back the mains charger so that the solar would take on the load during the day.  Seems I wound it back a bit far, and the mains charger did almost no work overnight, leaving the battery somewhere around 11.8V.

That’s a wee bit low for my comfort.  Yes, they are deep cycle AGMs, but I’d rather not get that low.

Thus, I wound it up a bit, float at 12.8V, so Vboost at 13.6V.  That looks to be the sweet spot.  Now that the sun is up, I’m getting nice healthy amps of current down the wire from the roof:

The cluster is drawing about 8A, so that’s the cluster powered, and about 6A going to the batteries. It intermittently peaks about 15A or so.

I also found myself fine tuning the Ethernet settings on the border router. For some reason, its Realtek RTL8139 was happy to talk to the Cisco SG-200-08 it was connected to before, but didn’t quite get along with the Linksys LGS326-AU. I’ve told the switch to force 100Mbps full-duplex MDIX (evidently, it’s a cross-over cable), and so far, that seems to have settled things down.

Mar 312018
 

So last post, I mentioned about the installation of the new battery charger, which is fed from 240V mains. Over the last few days this charger has held the batteries at a rock-solid 14.4V. Not once did the batteries drop below that voltage setpoint.

So good in fact, the solar charger does no work at all.

By the way, this is what the install looks like. I promised pictures last post.

That’s the DC end … and the nasty AC end is all sealed up…

I will eventually move this to a spot on the back of the rack, but it can sit here for now.

Ultimately, the proper fix to this will be to have the mains-powered charger power off when the sun is up. On the DC output connector, the two rightmost screw terminals go to an opto-isolator that, when powered, shuts off the charger, putting it into stand-by mode. This was one of the reasons I bought this particular unit. The other was the wide range of voltage adjustment.

The question is when to turn on, and when to go to stand-by. Basically if the following expression is true, then turn off the mains:

(V_{batt} > 12.8) \\wedge (V_{solar} > 15)

We do not want solar if the battery is very low, as there’s a possibility that the solar output will not be sufficient.  Likewise, if the sun’s out, we need the mains to keep the battery topped up.

The solar output is nearly always above 15V when the sun is up, so there’s our first clue.  We can safely get to 12.8V before things start going pear shaped on the cluster, so we can use that as our low-voltage safety net.  If both of these conditions are met, then it’s safe to turn off the mains power and rely on solar only.

We need a +5V signal when both these conditions are met.  This very much sounds like the job of a dual-comparator with diode-OR outputs pulling on a 5V pull-up.  Maybe a wee bit of hysteresis on those to prevent flapping, and we should be good.

Unfortunately, to do that, I need to unscrew terminals to feed some wires in.  I don’t feel like doing that just now… we’re packing up to go away for a while, and I think this sort of job can wait until we return.

In the meantime, I’ve done something of a hack.  I mentioned the PSU is adjustable.  I wound Vfloat back to 12V… thus Vboost has gone to 12.8V.  Right now, the mains PSU is showing a green LED, meaning it is in floating mode.

We have good sun right now, and the solar controller is currently boosting the battery.  When the battery gets low, the charging circuitry of the mains PSU should kick in, and bring the battery voltage up, holding it at 12.8V until the sun comes up.  I’ll leave it for now and see how this hack goes.

On other news… I might need to re-consider my NTP server arrangements.  I’m not sure if it’s a quirk of OpenBSD, or of the network here, but it seems OpenNTPD struggles to keep good time.  Never tried using the Advantech PC as a NTP server until now, and I’m also experimenting with using my VPS at Vultr as a NTP server.

http://www.pool.ntp.org/user/Redhatter

Both are drifting like crazy.  I have a GPS module lying around that I might consider hooking up to the TS-7670… perhaps make it a Stratum 1 NTP server on the NTP server pool, then the Advantech can sync to that.

This won’t help the VPS though, and I’m at a loss to explain why a Geode LX800 running on an ADSL link in my laundry, outperforms a VPS in a nicely climate-controlled data centre with gigabit Internet.

But at least now that’s one less job for my aging server.  I’ve also moved mail server duties off the old box onto a VM, so I’ll be looking at the BIOS settings there to see if I can get the box to wake up some time in the evening, let cron run the back-up jobs, then power the whole lot back down again, save some juice.

Mar 282018
 

So tonight I finally got my shiny new power supply installed.

Tuesday night I took it with me along with a cable gland to HSBNE with three items on my agenda:

  • Hooking up a mains power lead to the power input.
  • Getting the newly hooked up lead inspected for electrical safety.
  • Putting some sort of cover over the screw terminals to prevent accidental contact.

I did some digging around in the HSBNE bone yard, and managed to come out with a 10A 240V mains lead, the chassis of a Sonoff TH-10, and a bit of off-cut perspex from the laser cutter to cover the gaping hole in the TH-10 casing.

The 240V mains lead came from someone’s long abandoned project.  Not sure what it was, but it basically was housed in take away food containers, so losing its mains lead is probably a good thing!  The rest of it is there if they want it … whatever it is.

I terminated the 240V lead with fork lugs, ready to go into the screw terminals on the power supply.  A small square of perspex was cut out of the off-cut, and that was sliced into three parts to be glued to the TH-10 case.

The back panel of the TH-10 case had an opening cut in it to allow the screw terminal block to pass through the back.  One of the pieces of perspex had a 14mm hole drilled through it and the cable gland was fitted.  All that was left to do was some hot glue to fix the perspex panels into place over the hole, attach the mains lead and get it checked.

Sadly, I couldn’t find anyone about with an electrical ticket to actually install the cable, so I did that bit myself in the end.  There also weren’t any glue sticks for the glue gun around, and I still had to think about how I was going to secure the TH-10 case to the aluminium of the PSU.

I brought it into my workplace this morning and got one of the people there to check it over (there’s two at my work who have a current electrical ticket).  My cabling job was given the tick of approval, and as a bonus, we had some silicon glue which could fix the TH-10 case to the aluminium panel on the PSU.  Perfect, two birds with one stone.

Once home, I set to work on the 12V end of it.  I needed to go from 4 smallish screw terminals to an Anderson SB50 connector which was intended for 8AWG cable.  In the end, the solution was to use two lengths of twin-12AWG.  One end was terminated with fork lugs, the other was twisted together and soldered into a SB50 connector.  I had to solder it because even doubled over, it was too thin to crimp into the pins securely.

I used about 10cm of 12AWG.  To that SB-50 I made a patch lead with two SB-50s out of figure-8 8AWG cable, about 50cm long to reach the charger input on the battery bank.

I’ll put some pictures up later, but already the silence of this new charger is deafening.  It happily boosted the batteries up to 14.3V and is now letting them sit in constant voltage mode.

We shall see what happens when the sun comes up tomorrow.  Hopefully it just backs right off and lets mother nature do all the work.

Jan 242018
 

So, I now have my little battery monitoring computer.  Shipping wound up being a little more than I was expecting… about US$80… but never mind.  It’s here, arrived safely:

HTLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLFLC
>> TS-BOOTROM - built Jan 26 2017 12:29:21
>> Copyright (c) 2013, Technologic Systems
LLCLLLLLLLFLCLLJUncompressing Linux... done, booting the kernel.
/ts/fastboot file present.  Booting to initramfs instead
Booted from eMMC in 3.15s
Initramfs Web Interface: http://ts7670-498476.local
Total RAM: 128MB
# exit
INIT: version 2.88 booting
[info] Using makefile-style concurrent boot in runlevel S.
[ ok ] Starting the hotplug events dispatcher: udevd.
[ ok ] Synthesizing the initial hotplug events...done.
[ ok ] Waiting for /dev to be fully populated...done.
[ ok ] Activating swap...done.
[....] Checking root file system...fsck from util-linux 2.20.1
e2fsck 1.42.5 (29-Jul-2012)
/dev/mmcblk2p2: clean, 48540/117600 files, 282972/469760 blocks
done.
[ ok ] Cleaning up temporary files... /tmp /lib/init/rw.
…
ts7670-498476 login: root
Linux ts7670-498476 2.6.35.3-571-gcca29a0+ #1 PREEMPT Mon Nov 27 11:05:10 PST 2017 armv5tejl
TS Root Image 2017-11-27

The programs included with the Debian GNU/Linux system are free software;
the exact distribution terms for each program are described in the
individual files in /usr/share/doc/*/copyright.

Debian GNU/Linux comes with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY, to the extent
permitted by applicable law.

root@ts7670-498476:~# 

The on-board 2GB eMMC has a version of Debian Wheezy on it.  That’ll be going very soon.  For now, all I’ve done is pop the cover, shove a 8GB MicroSD card into one of the on-board slots, wired up a 12V power brick temporarily to the unit, hooked a USB cable into the console port (/dev/ttyAMA0 is wired up to an on-board CP2103 USB-serial chip) and verified that it is alive.

Next step will be to bootstrap Gentoo.  I could use standard ARMv5 stages, or I can build my own, which I might do.  I’ve done this before for mips64el n64 using glibc.  Modern glibc is a goliath on a machine with 128MB RAM though, so I’ll be looking at either µClibc/µClibc-ng or musl… most likely the latter.

That said, 20 years ago, we had the same computing power in a desktop. 🙂

I have a few options for interfacing to the power meters…

  • I²C, SPI, a number of GPIOs and a spare UART on a 2.54mm header inside the case.
  • Another spare UART on the footprint for the GPS module (which my unit does not have)
  • Two RS-232 serial ports with RTS/CTS control lines, exposed via RJ-45 jacks
  • Two CANbus ports on a single RJ-45 jack
  • RS-485 on a port marked “Modbus”

In theory, I could just skip the LPC810s and hook this up directly to the INA219Bs.  I’d have to double check what the TTL voltage is… Freescale love their 1.8V logic… but shifting that up to 3.3V or 5V is not hard.  The run is a little longer than I’m comfortable running I²C though.

The LPC810s don’t feature CANbus, so I think my original plan of doing Modbus is going to be the winner.  I can either do a single-ended UART using a resistor/diode in parallel to link RX and TX to the one UART line, or use RS-485.

I’m leaning towards the latter, if I decide to buy a little mains energy meter to monitor power, I can use the same RS-485 link to poll that.  I have some RS-485 transceivers coming for that.

For now though, I’ll at least get Debian Stretch going… this should not be difficult, as I’ll just use the images I’ve built for work to get things going.  I’m downloading a Jessie image now:

root@ts7670-498476:~# curl https://bne.vrt.com.au/technologicsys/ts7670d-jessie-4.4.1-20160226.dd.xz | xzcat | dd of=/dev/mmcblk0 
  % Total    % Received % Xferd  Average Speed   Time    Time     Time  Current
                                 Dload  Upload   Total   Spent    Left  Speed
  0  113M    0  544k    0     0   114k      0  0:16:48  0:00:04  0:16:44  116k

Once that is done, I can reboot, re-format the eMMC and get debootstrap going.  I might even publish an updated image while I’m at it.

Jan 172018
 

I’ve taken the plunge and gotten a TS-7670 ordered in a DIN-rail mount for monitoring the battery.  Not sure what the shipping will be from Arizona to here, but I somehow doubt I’m up for more than AU$300 for this thing.  The unit itself will cost AU$250.

Some will argue that a Raspberry Pi or BeagleBone would be cheaper, and that would be correct, however by the time you’ve added a DIN-rail mount case, an RS-485 control board and a 12V to 5V step-down power converter, you’d be around that figure anyway.  Plus, the Raspberry Pi doesn’t give you schematics.  The BeagleBone does, but is also a more sophisticated beast.

The plan is I’ll spin a version of Gentoo Linux on it… possibly using the musl C library to keep memory usage down as I’ve gone the base model with 128MB RAM.  I’ll re-spin the kernel and U-Boot patches I have for the latest release.

There will be two functions looked after:

  • Access to the IPMI/L2 management network
  • Polling of the two DC power meters (still to be fully designed) via Modbus

It can report to a VM running on one of the hosts.  I believe collectd has the necessary bits and pieces to do this.  Failing that, I’ve written code before that polls Modbus… I write such code for a day job.

Nov 192017
 

So, this weekend I did plan to run from solar full time to see how it’d go.

Mother nature did not co-operate.  I think there was about 2 hours of sunlight!  This is what the 24 hour rain map looks like from the local weather radar (image credit: Bureau of Meteorology):

In the end, I opted to crimp SB50 connectors onto the old Redarc BCDC1225 and hook it up between the battery harness and the 40A power supply. It’s happily keeping the batteries sitting at about 13.2V, which is fine. The cluster ran for months off this very same power supply without issue: it’s when I introduced the solar panels that the problems started. With a separate controller doing the solar that has over-discharge protection to boot, we should be fine.

I also have mostly built-up some monitoring boards based on the TI INA219Bs hooked up to NXP LPC810s. I have not powered these up yet, plan is to try them out with a 1ohm resistor as the stand-in for the shunt and a 3V rail… develop the firmware for reporting voltage/current… then try 9V and check nothing smokes.

If all is well, then I’ll package them up and move them to the cluster. Not sure of protocols just yet. Modbus/RTU is tempting and is a protocol I’m familiar with at work and would work well for this application, given I just need to represent voltage and current… both of which can be scaled to fit 16-bit registers easy (voltage in mV, current in mA would be fine).

I just need some connectors to interface the boards to the outside world and testing will begin. I’ve ordered these and they’ll probably turn up some time this week.

Nov 122017
 

So, yesterday I had this idea of building an IC storage unit to solve a problem I was facing with the storage of IC tubes, and to solve an identical problem faced at HSBNE.

It turned out to be a longish project, and by 11:30PM, I had gotten far, but still had a bit of work to do.  Rather than slog it out overnight, I thought I’d head home and resume it the next day.  Instead of carting the lot home, and back again, I decided to leave my bicycle trailer with all the project gear and my laptop, stashed at HSBNE’s wood shop.

By the time I had closed up the shop and gotten going, it was after midnight.  That said, the hour of day was a blessing: there was practically no traffic, so I road on the road most of the way, including the notorious Kingsford-Smith Drive.  I made it home in record time: 1 hour, 20 minutes.  A record that stood until later this morning coming the other way, doing the run in 1:10.

I was exhausted, and was thinking about bed, but wheeling the bicycle up the drive way and opening the garage door, I caught a whiff.  What’s that smell?  Sulphur??

Remember last post I had battery trouble, so isolated the crook battery and left the “good” one connected?

The charger was going flat chat, and the battery case was hot!  I took no chances, I switched the charger off at the wall and yanked the connection to the battery wiring harness.  I grabbed some chemical handling gloves and heaved the battery case out.  Yep, that battery was steaming!  Literally!

This was the last thing I wanted to deal with at nearly 2AM on a Sunday morning.  I did have two new batteries, but hadn’t yet installed them.  I swapped the one I had pulled out last fortnight, and put in one of the new ones.  I wanted to give them a maintenance charge before letting them loose on the cluster.

The other dud battery posed a risk though, with the battery so hot and under high pressure, there was a good chance that it could rupture if it hadn’t already.  A shower of sulphuric acid was not something I wanted.

I decided there was nothing running on the cluster that I needed until I got up later today, so left the whole kit off, figuring I’d wait for that battery to cool down.

5AM, I woke up, checked the battery, still warm.  Playing it safe, I dusted off the 40A switchmode PSU I had originally used to power the Redarc controller, and plugged it directly into the cluster, bypassing the batteries and controller.  That would at least get the system up.

This evening, I get home (getting a lift), and sure enough, the battery has cooled down, so I swap it out with another of the new batteries.  One of the new batteries is charging from the mains now, and I’ll do the second tomorrow.

See if you can pick out which one is which…