Using A Laptop As A TV – Old School Stuff

So sometimes a really good technology just never really takes off.  A USB TV Tuner is just one such technology.

It should have taken off.  Just about everyone who has a laptop should have one of these.  I have three.

So what would you use it for?  In my case I live in a Hurricane zone and in fact got blasted by Hurricane Florence last year and had no power for several days.  (Actually I had power because I have a full house generator). Anyway, due to a concern for the amount of fuel I had on hand I shut down at times and THIS is how I got my news during those times.

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AirSpyHF+ Spyserver on Raspberry Pi

AirSpyHF+ on Spyserver on Raspberry Pi

What is a Spyserver and why do you NEED one?  A spyserver takes an RTL-SDR software radio and allows it to be used over the network or controlled from the internet if you allow.

For this project I’m using the AirSpyHF+ ($199 USD).  The AirSpyHF+ is probably the BEST HF SDR radio you can get.  This project will let us operate from about 9kHz to about 31 MHz where AM radio, and Short Wave Radio reside.

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Reading Other People’s Pager Traffic And Shit

Did you know a lot of people still used pagers? I had no clue. Did you know that all that pager traffic and all those messages are sent unencrypted and can be easily decoded? All you need for hardware is a $10 USB SDR radio stick with a cheap indoor whip antenna.

NOTE: Reading pager traffic is NOT against the law, however retransmitting it or acting on any information you learn from it is. Decode for good. Not evil.

And much like any other Linux techie project I’ve ever done following the directions somewhere else DIDN’T WORK. Oh, it mostly worked but something is always missing. This page is for the first timer trying to figure this out. And for me to recreate this once I screw it up or my computer dies.

Doing this on Windows is easiest and the directions I found here DID WORK. This will be a tutorial on Ubuntu (Or LinuxMint) Again most everything worked but the actual decoding process didn’t until I changed a thing or two. Also one major step was left out that almost caused this to epic fail for me. YMMV. Depends on the Decoder your system is using.

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How To Keep RTL_433 Alive For Your Home Automation Using Supervisor

I run RTL_433 to push data from several sensors and a motion detector to an MQTT server for home automation.  For some reason as of late it is just not that stable. Could even be a hardware failure with the dongle….I dunno.  I generally just run the program command inside a terminal on the raspberry pi it is installed on and just walk away.  When it crashes I have to log back in the Pi and re-run the command.   Un-cool.

The command I use specifically is this:

rtl_433 -F json -M utc | mosquitto_pub -t home/rtl_433 -l

Again, that pushes data found on 433.920 MHz devices to publish a topic on my MQTT server called “home/rtl_433”.

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Flash Outlets with LED Ring With Tasmota

Found these cool little outlets on Amazon and verified they can be flashed with Tasmota Over The Air (OTA).  They are technically called “Home Awesome Breathing Light Smart Light.

They are also sold under the name TMRLife Plug

They are another made in China device that is controlled via phone app and I generally don’t trust such things.  Flashing the device with Open Source firmware is MUCH better for securities sake.

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How To Fix Your Refrigerator or Freezer Quickly and Cheaply

So you bought a cheap fridge or freezer at WalMart, did ya?  Or maybe your old fridge or freezer  conked out.  The first thing that comes to mind is “THE COMPRESSOR IS OUT”!  A scary thought indeed.  And you think that because you don’t hear the compressor noise and nothing is cooling anymore.

Compressors are pretty robust devices.  They do fail, they sure do, but many times one of the components that connect to the compressor fail causing the compressor not to start.   There are three components hooked up to a common refrigerator or freezer compressor.

  • Motor Starting Relay
  • Starting Capacitor (and possibly a run capacitor)
  • Overload Protector

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Power Monitoring To Find What’s Costing You Money!

In the interest of being good stewards of the planet AND saving money it’s a good idea to keep an eye on energy consumption.  But how?  You’ve probably seen commercials for Sense Energy Monitors but that seems kind of extreme to me. Also it has a learning algorithm that takes MONTHS to work and some items never get properly identified.

I’m taking the ONE AT A TIME approach by using simple outlets that can be used for single applications.   Introducing the Sonoff S31

Very cool and also reasonably inexpensive. These work right out of the box and link to an app called EWELink.

Just for the record I think EWELink is CRAP.

Also this is Cloud based and the Cloud lands in China somewhere which really doesn’t appeal to me at all.  So we’re going to flash this device with Tasmota firmware and no more talky talky to China.

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Appliances Rant !

Appliances.  We all need ’em. I’m all about high tech but there are some things that just don’t need to be high tech.  Things like refrigerators, freezers, washers, dryers, and hot water heaters should last for DECADES, not a few years.

Seems like there has been a rash of throw away appliances the last few years.  I have several friends who bought fancy washers and dryers with computers onboard that dropped dead after a few years with expensive repairs needed to get going again.

Meanwhile my washer and dryer that I bought in 2003 is still going strong with minimal repairs WHICH I DID MYSELF.  If a washer has a tub, bearing, motor and timer switch it’s pretty easy to fix.  If it is computer controlled with several boards under the hood……..you need specific training to fix it.

AND YOU NEED THE MANUALS!  I can’t stress enough how important it is to have access to the repair manuals. There are many parts web sites online that have complete Parts Breakdown and Service manuals.  Also from those same pages you can order the parts you need.  Old reliable appliances had SPARE PARTS made in droves.

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Hacking Unknown 2 Channel Relay With Tasmota

In my quest for the perfect low voltage or dry contact garage door relay I stumbled across this one that I found on Amazon

Seems like it might have been made by ITead because it came programmed with EWELink software.  Having said that I cannot find it on their website and I also thought it might be a Sonoff brand name.   I still think it is ITead but I just can’t prove it.

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Sonoff SV for Garage Door Opener

I was using a Sonoff 4 Channel Pro relay in my “Smart Garage Door” project however it was big time overkill.  I only need one relay to pull this off.   In addition to this I was using a NodeMCU ESP8266 to act separately as the garage door sensor.   So in essence I had:

  • Spare Remote Control (for Security 2.0 garage door opener)
  • Sonoff 4 Channel Pro Relay
  • NodeMCU ESP8266 Chip for Door sensor

Now I have

  • Spare Remote Control
  • Sonoff SV

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