Motion Sensor added to Colossus

Being a couple of home-office based geeks means that we work strange hours.  It’s not uncommon for one or both of us to be working in the early morning hours.  Those hours are peaceful and you don’t always want to turn on a bright light.  You know how geeks avoid the light.  lol.

We added a passive infrared sensor (PIR) to Colossus for night time lighting operations.  In addition to the other lighting modes we have planned, this feature will run from midnight to 6 am.  During these hours, if Colossus detects motion in the office, it will turn on it’s floor lighting for 15 minutes at a time.

The final floor lighting will most likely be LED strip lighting, but for the current time we are using Christmas lights.

Colossus now speaks

We added the espeak python module to the Colossus Control Software.  This gives Colossus the ability to verbally communicate status messages as well as emergency aquarium alerts like overheating and etc.

Relay Testing and Party Ball Mode

It was time to actually hook up Colossus to actual aquarium devices for a test run.   While we were testing, I took a little time to write the Party Ball Mode script.

Let me explain about Party Ball Mode.  We work in a nice finished basement office.  We have two windows and other than the overhead fluorescent lighting, it’s kinda dark.  When you stare at computer screens in a dark office, it’s really easy to get lost in your work.  We have a habit of working right past 5 o’clock without realizing it.  So that’s where we got the idea of Party Ball Mode.

Every day at 5, Colossus will start playing Jimmy Buffett, and the party ball light will come on for an hour.   It will be a nice reminder that it’s time to get up and leave the computers alone.

Here is a quick video of the Party Ball Mode test.

DS18B20 Wiring

Wiring up and testing of the two RJ45 for the two DS18B20 Temperature probes has been completed.

Relays are now wired

I spent a couple hours with the wire cutters and the crimping tool.  All 16 outlets have been connected to their corresponding relays and are ready for mains power.

Filling the Tank

We used a Raspberry Pi camera running our RelOpticCamera software to create timelapse movies of filling the aquarium with water.  The second video is the initial planting of the dwarf hairgrass.

Canopy Frame Built

We have the support frame built that goes around the tank, and the framing finished for the canopy hardware.  The canopy will split the it’s weight between the frame and the tank.

The story behind the Geek Aquarium

Original Raspberry Pi Aquarium Controller

I was never really happy with the original Raspberry Pi aquarium controller I built.  For two years, it has served me faithfully and performed without fail.  I just wasn’t happy with the way it looked and how much space it took up in the aquarium stand.  Heavy and clunky to say the least.   It’s amazing how many outlets an aquarium can use, and I rapidly outgrew the initial 8 relays.

DIY LED Aquarium Hood

During this time, I tried my hand at building a hood with 10 watt leds.  It was a good attempt, but it had a couple of issues, and I honestly never felt safe using it.  My lighting design was crap, and it was obvious that I was in a rush when I built it.   Redoing the lighting quickly made my to do list.  I selected the Odyssea T5 Quad Timer 6500K Aquarium Light from Amazon as my new light.  The Odyssea light seemed like the best option to interface with a Raspberry Pi.

After much debate and discussion, the decision was made to move the aquarium into the office.  This was a good time to redesign the hood and control panel.   I have never really been a fan of the big aquarium canopies, but due to lighting requirements, we couldn’t go with slim hood design.  As the old saying goes, “Go Big or Go Home”, we went big.  Really big.

Twenty five inches tall to be exact.  Making it this large allowed us to completely move all the electronics from under the tank to the canopy.  No more worrying about drip loops for devices.  All power is mounted above the tank.    The aquarium has become even more of a massive piece of furniture.  The total height is now 80 inches tall from the floor.  Something that big is hard to miss, and I really did not want it to look like the typical bookcase or kitchen cabinet style of aquarium canopies.

It has to be unique, after all, it’s the RBA Marketing Aquarium.  Our geeky personalities have to incorporated into the design.  We made a list of requirements:

  1. Runs DietPi OS for the Raspberry Pi
  2. Unattended operation of the Aquarium
  3. Media Server for the Network
  4. Jukebox using Subsonic
  5. Has to be geeky
  6. Has to be cool
  7. Pays tribute to popular movie computers.
Colossus: The Forbin Project.

The list sparked a few ideas and Colossus was born.  Colossus is a good name for this massive project.  The name was taken from the 1970 movie Colossus: The Forbin Project.  The film is about   a massive American defense computer, named Colossus,  becoming  sentient. After being activated, Colossus expands on its original nuclear defense directives to assume total control of the world and end all warfare for the good of mankind despite its creators’ orders to stop. (1).

At this point the idea just really started growing, and that how the GeekAquarium came into being.