Category Archives: technology

Light sensor

Written by stephen gale

We now have a light sensor connected to the lighting computer.  This means that we can programme the lights so that they come on after dark and turn off during the day.

It is another relatively cost effective piece of kit from Loxone.  The main issue was climbing on the roof to fix it in position.  We have sited it on the small apex at the rear of the property (away from any street lighting or security floodlights).

It is connected to the Loxone kit using Cat5e cable.  One pair of wires is used to supply it with 24v.  Another pair of wires send back data on the light level (as a 0-10v signal).  This is then connected to one of the Loxone’s analogue inputs.

The sensor is positioned high up on the small gable end in the extension.  This is away from any light from street lighting or from the security light at the front of the building.

The sensor is positioned high up on the small gable end in the extension. This is away from any light from street lighting or from the security light at the front of the building.

Inside the lux sensor.  Orange and orange/white used to supply 24v and green and green/white for data.  It then simply supplies a 0-10v signal to the Loxone kit based on the amount of light outside.  The dip switches can be used to adjust it's sensitivity.

Inside the lux sensor. Orange and orange/white used to supply 24v and green and green/white for data. It then simply supplies a 0-10v signal to the Loxone kit based on the amount of light outside. The dip switches can be used to adjust it’s sensitivity.

 

WiFi throughout the building

Written by stephen gale

tp-link

There are wired Ethernet sockets in all of the rooms throughout the property.  The home network is provided by two Netgear Gigabit switches (one in the old part of the property and one in the plant room in the new extension connected via a CAT6 cable).  These are then connected to the Internet via a BT Home Hub 4.  Longer term, we will probably replace this with something more sophisticated. Since we are in a rural area our broadband is not the fast – 13Mbps download and around 1Mbps upload.  It works fine for us – just as well since there isn’t much we can do about it.

Additionally, the BT Home Hub 4 provides WiFi access (both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz) in the older part of the property.  However, this quickly drops off once you get to the new extension.

The answer is to install a second WiFi access point in the new part of the building and to use a wired connection to connect the access point to the internal network.  If you set up a second access point with the same SSID and password (and security settings), client devices (e.g. iPads, laptops, etc) will connect to the home network using whichever access point is providing the strongest signal.  Furthermore, if you connect via one access point and then move to a part of the building where the signal from another access point is better, the client device should change access points (and without dropping the connection).  To test this out, I stream BBC2 to my iPad in the old part of the property (using the BT Home Hub WiFi) and then walked to the furthest part of the new extension.  The iPad swapped from one access point to the other and didn’t drop a single frame.  There is a good article here that summarises how this works.

So what did we use for the second WiFi access point? I have been looking for attractive looking access points, but haven’t had a lot of success.  So in the interim, I decided to buy a TP-Link TL-WA801ND.  The reviews looked good and at under £30 it doesn’t matter if we replace it with something more attractive later.

The TP-Link access point is a reasonable piece of kit, particularly for the price.  However, the process for setting it up is a bit convoluted.  It defaults to an IP address of 192.168.0.254.  This isn’t really too much of an issue, except that the BT Home Hub defaults to setting up a 192.168.1.* network.  So none of my devices that were connected to the BT Home Hub could connect to the TP-Link device at the same time.

To get it to work:

  • I turned off the BT Home Hub.  You could alternatively turn off the WiFi on the Home Hub;
  • I then connected to the TP-link access point using the 192.168.0.254 IP address;
  • I logged in and set up the device as an access point.  This involves entering the SSID, password, and security settings so that they were the same as the Home Hub (you might want to write these down before starting this process);
  • Do not reboot the device until you have changed it’s IP address to something in the 192.168.1.* range.  This means that it can be seen at the same time as the Home Hub.  In my case, I changed it to 192.168.1.252.  My Home Hub is set up for 192.168.1.254 (the default).
  • I left all the other settings on the network tab the same.  DHCP needs to be turned off on the Access Point, but this is the default anyway.
  • Save and reboot the access point.  You are done.  You should be able to access the TP-Link device using 192.168.1.252 (or whatever IP address you entered).  This will then provide you with the login page. You can access your Home Hub via 192.168.1.254.

If you leave the TP-Link device on the default IP address and set up the access point with the same SSID/password, you will get a DNS error when a device logs into the access point – it will connect to the WiFi network, but will not connect to the Internet.

Why do WiFi access points look awful?

Written by stephen gale

Answer: Because no one in the design process cares what they look like.

Having spent a fortune renovating (including re-wiring) a property, I need to install a couple of WiFi access points to make sure that WiFi is accessible in all parts of the building.

Trouble is they all look awful – most are white/grey plastic boxes with one or more aerials.  They are plenty of examples to choose from, but few, if any, that look half decent.

Their design seems to be a hang-up from corporate offices rather than something than anyone would want on display in their home.  As a result, most of these access points end up getting hidden away in cupboards, under the stairs, or anywhere else that they won’t be seen.  Ironically, these positions don’t really help propagate the signal, they perform better out in the open.

Isn’t it about time that designers had an input into the appearance of the technology that is fast becoming part of our everyday world?

Who would want to stick this on their wall and look at it everyday?  And if that wasn't bad enough, there are some flashing lights on it to make sure that you don't miss it!

Who would want to stick this on their wall and look at it everyday? And if that wasn’t bad enough, there are some flashing lights on it to make sure that you don’t miss it!

OK, so this one looks like a smoke alarm.  It is one method of disguising it, but it isn't exactly attractive.

OK, so this one looks like a smoke alarm. It is one method of disguising it, but it isn’t exactly attractive.

Probably the best we are going to find.  I will strip it apart and spray the outside case so that it matches the wall colour.  It will be a bit like the pottery uplighters that you can paint the same colour as your walls.

Probably the best we are going to find. I will strip it apart and spray the outside case so that it matches the wall colour. It will be a bit like the pottery uplighters that you can paint the same colour as your walls.

Telephone system

Written by stephen gale

We are going to use the same cabling and sockets for the ethernet and telephone points.  This means that any ethernet outlet can be reconfigured as a telephone point and vice versa.  Since there are multiple ethernet connections in each room, this provides us with a lot of flexibility plus we won’t have to worry about those ugly telephone extension cables around the place.

We have a standard BT telephone line and master socket.  I have acquired a unit that will convert the incoming telephone line into 4 RJ-45 connections.  This is the standard connector for ethernet.

 All of the room sockets terminate in a patch panel, so it is a case of connecting the telephone line to the appropriate socket using a patch cable – rather line the old fashioned telephone exchanges you used to see on TV.

Once the telephone line is connected to the socket, it is a case of plugging in a short lead that converts the RJ-45 connection back into a standard BT plug (or an LJU socket to be more precise).  These are just a few pounds each.

In fact, the unit that I have bought is capable of converting two telephone lines into 4 ethernet connections each.  This means that if we ever get a second line (e.g. for business use) that this could be patched to any room in exactly the same way.

You will find the central unit is available from CyberSelect.  I did have a good look around and there aren’t many on the market.  They also supply the converter leads too.