Puggle Vision

Check out a day in the life of our dog, Newman. He’s a one-year-old puggle, and he doesn’t sit still for very long. I think this footage proves that. I’ve often wondered what it’s like to be Newman. Judging by this video, if I were my dog I’d be motion sick like 90 percent of the time.

The footage is from a GoPro-esque camera I bought for our trip to Machu Picchu and Galapagos this summer. However, I thought it needed to experience some more challenging assignments. I strapped it to the back of Newman’s walking harness. He seemed comfortable enough, and it seemed stable enough (barely) so we took it for a spin around the block:

Sadly I don’t believe Newman’s career aspirations as a cameradog will pan out. Maybe for a Jason Bourne movie or something, though.

You can follow Newman’s adventures on Instagram. He has a larger social media following than I do (unsurprisingly). But at least most of my audience is human…

Introducing the JG PiPlanter


Well, it’s been about seven months in the making, but it’s finally alive: my PiPlanter.

Taylor gave me a box of tubing, resistors and electrical components for Christmas last year, along with a web address for instructions to build us a Raspberry Pi-powered automated plant growing robot (or “growbot,” as I like to say now that I just thought of it just right now). Challenge accepted!

The project was created, designed, coded, everything-ed, by Devon Bray at Esologic (@eso_logic), so I simply set out to replicate his basic PiPlanter 2 Lite model.

The PiPlanter monitors light, air temperature and soil moisture levels, and then – my primary albeit minor modification – waters the plants when it detects that the soil has become too dry. It also tweets an hourly photo and update on the readings, as well as periodic charts and videos documenting the planter’s status and growth.

As it turned out, everything from Devon worked great. I would have been done a lot sooner, but I am not skilled nor wise with either Raspberry Pi or Python, so I managed to completely brick my Pi twice before I even got the basic software packages downloaded. Then, a third time, after the Pi had been running for a few weeks, I tried to delete a folder of photos and ended up wiping every file and program off my computer. Whoops. I am not a skilled programmer. I can barely make a robot arm dance.

But, hey, even I figured out how to eventually make the code and circuits work. I got pretty skilled at starting from scratch with the Pi, and the final reinstall took me less than 90 minutes. I learned quite a bit about Raspbian, Python, etc. This was a fun, challenging, next-level project for me, and, to boot, I might even have some decent basil and thyme out of all of this soon.

My goal now is to not touch the PiPlanter for a few weeks and see if the plant survive without my human interference. In the meantime, I’ll be trying to figure out what else around the house I can automate…

Check out my PiPlanter page here: JG PiPlanter. I’ve got some photos, Tweet samples and videos there. I’ve also put up my final code (I made a few tweaks and updates to the Esologic code, but again I take no credit for creating this project). Feel free to borrow, replicate, improve and try your own PiPlanter!


Finally up and running

It’s taken a couple months – mostly due to my own distracted behavior – but the site is up and running. I had hoped to get it finished before the end of August. I think I’m there. From here it’s only cosmetic edits and maintenance. Hooray! Now to start spamming it across the Internet.

So now comes phase two – teaching myself some more advanced languages and building interesting features. I am particularly interested in data visualization, but I’m new to this so I have to start small. Does anyone have any recommendations as to what projects I should tackle next? Data projects? Multimedia? Build a game? Make interactive pages somehow?