Small Computer As Garden Control Center

NSLU2

I’m going to build a system for my food production using an NSLU2 computer from the company Linksys. This is a small computer with USB and network connection but no keyboard or mouse connected. This a is a bit challenging because you have to do all communication through the network, but when it’s up and running it’s very convenient. It consumes only 5 watts so it can be left on 24/7. This means that you’ll be able to produce a constant flow of information or use it for control tasks like for instance automatic watering.

The price is about $100 and I think it’s available all over the world. I’m going to use it with a system consisting of a simple communication protocol called 1-wire, where you connect different electronic devices to the same pair of wires. So I’ll have this pair of wires running from the house and out to the raised beds, where I’ll connect an electronic rain collector, moisture sensors, temperature sensor and an actuator for automatic watering. Or maybe I’ll use a pump for the roof rain collector instead.

I think it will be useful with local area temperature graphs. The more information the better. Maybe it’s even possible to get certified so that the collected data can be used other projects as well. In these times with global warming it’s good to have even more measurements in order to really find out what’s going on with the weather.

It’s possible to install Linux on this small NSLU2 computer, so I’ll install Debian and have a whole community as backup if I need to make special things happen in the software. Linux is also available for your desktop computer if you want to use it for that.

There are really endless possibilities when you have a 1-wire system running. You can turn on and off mains appliances like lights and different machines and do all sorts of measurements, like temperature, light, wind, moisture etc. Connect it to the Internet and you can do some really neat things like surveillance of your property when you are away or on vacation. You can control it all with your mobile if you have one that’s newer than about 3 years. I’m also playing with the idea of using all of this in a green house to create the optimal conditions for growing food. But that must be a future project. Right now I’ll focus on the raised beds. Suggestions are welcome if you have some ideas that you would like to see implemented.

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