Archive for October, 2007

Control your energy consumption with the Owl

The Owl

The Owl is a small but useful device which allows to measure energy consumption in your home easily. It contains three parts: sensor, sender box and remote monitor. To setup the Owl just clip the sensor around the live outgoing cable. Plug the sensor cable to the sender box and activate it. After that you will see some data on the LCD display of the remote monitor. Actually it show how much electricity is being used, how the cost of electricity per hour changes and how much harmful CO2 emissions the home is producing. Using the Owl you may save up to 25% of your electricity usage – a saving that translates directly to reducing your monthly bill and households’ harmful carbon emissions.

The Owl shows a full picture for your home. But sometimes it might be useful to use something like Kill-a-Watt to know how much energy is used by specified home appliance – fridge, microwave or home theater in stand-by mode.

You can buy the portable energy monitor Own here for £49.95. If you have a multiple phase (i. e. 3-phase) installations you have to buy additional sensor (£8.95).

[via eHomeUpgrade]

Linux Toys: I and II

Linux Toys Linux Toys II

There is a set of two books: Linux Toys and Linux Toys II which offers a geek way to computerize your home. Both books describe a few open source projects which can be used by home users for some purposes: automation, entertainment, hosting for data, movies, pictures etc.

From the first part of the Linux Toys I’d like to emphasize (in respect to smarthome) Music Jukebox, Temperature Monitor and Home Video Archive projects. But note that there are many newer and better open source applications to do the same things (the boos was published at 2003).

Since Linux Toys II is newer then Linux Toys (November 2005) it contains a few interesting modern projects such MythTV and Icecast. It might be useful to read a chapter 7 – “Automating Home Lights and Gadgets with X10” for automation fans. The rest projects are related with smarthome but not so strongly as I’d like.

Anyway, for me those books were useful to give some ideas and hardware supported by Linux. You can get all information directly from the open source projects used there. And those information will be fresh. For example, I found DigiTemp software and a bunch of 1-wire and iButton hardware to build weather station based on Linux in the Linux Toys. There is a simple example which can be extended into profession solution.

Reduce price of N800


After announcing next version of Nokia’s Internet Tablet N810 the price of N800 was reduced at $235 on and at $228 on Both on-line shops offer free ground deliver by UPS within US. Moreover, N800 is just $236.48 on but with the same delivery policy – only USA.

Anyway, it’s a good opportunity to get a powerful control panel for Plutohome/LinuxMCE for reasonable price. Waiting for the same offers in Europe.

UPDATED: Now it’s possible to buy N800 in UK for very attractive price – £149.99 (€215.15)! Most probably I’ll get it later from there because ships its stuff to Cyprus.

Drivers needed!

Linux Drivers Logo

Here is a list of devices which don’t have open source drivers for Linux. Devices provided proprietary drivers are also included there. That list is used by Linux Driver Project group to develop and add to the kernel drivers for those devices. Feel free to add your device if it isn’t supported by Linux and you isn’t listed in that list.

It’ll be useful to check that list at stage when you’re planning to build media center of other type PC which will be based on Linux. Hope that list won’t be increased 🙂

BabelTV is a new word in the home entertainment


UK TV integrator DaweVision Ltd has announced its new product – BabelTV. Basically, BabelTV is full featured PC but pre-configured to be used in the home entertainment area. It’s based on Xubuntu Linux and provides:

  • full set of PVR functionality – Freeview TV,
  • share and store photos,
  • play and manage iPod or other MP3 player music,
  • make free or cheap Internet phone calls.

As you may see from the BabelTV specification below it can replace not only DVD player and satellite receiver but your home PC also. Because it includes everything you need (except games probably).

The demo video of BabelTV is available here.

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