Nathan's Various Electronics Projects

Nathan's Various Electronics Projects
Home Automation Projects

An X-10 Sprinkler Controller (link)

Last Updated: 30-Apr-2006
My sprinklers are one of those things I've wanted to tie into my home automation system for some time, but I'm too cheap to pick up one of the commercially-available solutions. I was too sore today to move from putting down sod and digging trenches yesterday, so I sat down at my workbench and pounded out a design. As far as I know, the design is finished - I seem to have all the bugs worked out.

Model Railroad-Related Projects

Using RC Servos as Turnout Motors (link)

Last Updated: 22-Jun-2011
With the Wind River RR getting a new yard, I started exploring the idea of using $3 submicro servos as turnout motors in place of our usual Circuitron Tortoises. (At $14+ each in quantity, I couldn't afford to put in 30+ right now.) Since servos take a pulse width input, I made a couple adapter circuits to couple them with the typical +/-12V slow motion switch inputs found on model railroads.

DCC Current / Voltage Meter (link)

Last Updated: 12-Jun-2011
I've been wanting an inexpensive DCC current and voltage meter for some time, and prodding by a friend with another large layout to meter finally got me to build it.

DCC To Serial Converter (link)

Last Updated: 23-Sep-2008
If you've ever wanted a device that decodes the DCC bitstream, translates it to something human-readable, and then sends it out a serial port, this is your device. I created it initially to see what my command station was putting on the track when I issued certain commands, but eventually it will make a handy bridge between DCC and other projects.

Overly Complicated Frog/Point Controller (link)

Last Updated: 12-May-2008
If you have Shinohara or similar turnouts, you've almost certainly had power problems on the points and frog. Most people either just clean the contacts and live with it, or wire via the turnout motor contacts. Then there's me, always seeking the pinnacle of overkill solutions...

Model Talking Defect Detector (link)?

Last Updated: 29-Mar-2006
I've long wanted to build a working (well, at least speed, temp, and axle count) defect detector for a model railroad. I finally got started last night - progress updates as I, well, make progress.

Analog / Knob Throttle for Lenz XPA (link)

Last Updated: 28-Mar-2005
Want wireless for your Lenz DCC system but don't want to go the CVP route and find using a telephone keypad cumbersome? Yeah, me too. So, I developed a knob / analog adapter that plugs into the phone headset jack, giving you a wireless connection and yet the comfortable feel of a good old knob throttle. It's not been well tested during an operating session yet, but initial tests running locomotives around my staging yard seems reliable and responsive. Schematics, source, and prototype pics here.

MRBus (link)

Last Updated: 15-Dec-2002
MRBus (short for Model Railroad Bus) is my proposed open solution to simply and easily implementing flexible, low wire-count model railroad peripheral control networks for items such as signalling, remote turnout control, occupancy indications, and a whole host of other imaginative uses that haven't even been thought up yet. It was originally designed to bring CTC signaling to the Wind River Railroad up in Denver, but since then I've realized that it could be a flexible framework for all sorts of simple control projects. For that matter, it's also not limited to model railroad applications. I plan to expand it to home automation use before the end of 2003. Either way, see what it is and how it works here.

Networkable Fast Clocks (link)

Last Updated: 20-Dec-2005
Many operations-oriented layouts and clubs base their schedule around fast clocks, which tick off a 24-hour day in the course of only a few real hours. These are handy for keeping those fast freights running on scale time, and for making sure the local's out of the way before the flagship passenger train shows up. These clocks feature adjustable starting times, programmable time scaling (1:1 - 60:1), a pause function, and, best of all, networkability, so you can have as many clocks as you need without having to deal with each one individually. They were designed to be simple to construct and low-cost, based on a single PIC16F877A, two dual seven-segment displays, and a handful of other small parts. Schematics, source code, object code, and operational notes are available here.

Solar Car Electronics

(Coming Soon)

Other Miscellaneous Projects

Fun with Cheap Chinese Digital Thermometers (link)

Last Updated: 29-Dec-2009
Anybody else bought cheap Chinese panel meter-style digital thermometers off eBay, only to wish that they could switch them to display in Fahrenheit rather than Celsius? Fear not, for I have the answer...

Winbond IP/Network Camera Hacking (link)

Last Updated: 13-Sep-2004
Anybody interested in hacking away at Linux/ARM-based IP/Network cameras? Well, just so happens many of the cheaper designs out there appear to be based on some sort of Winbond reference implementation, including the ORite IC-300 IP-Cam, the VCenter NC1000 / NC1000W, etc. See what I know, and contribute here.

Licensing, Intellectual Property, etc...

Documentation and Hardware Designs: Unless otherwise noted, any documentation you find in this section is covered by the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License. This basically means that you're free to copy it, use it, do whatever you like with it, but you have to give me some credit, you cannot use it for commercial gain (without contacting me and obtaining additional approval), and you have to in turn share anything you create based on it with others as I've shared with you. Sounds fair, eh?

Source Code: Unless otherwise noted, source code is covered by the GNU General Public License (GPL), version 2. Yes, I'm a huge advocate of free software. Note that the GPL allows you to use code in commercial projects, but you too have to release the source and any modifications you've made to it. If this doesn't work for you, contact me and we'll work something out (in cases where I own the full copyright).

Summary: Anything found here I basically consider open hardware - meaning that if you want to build it, go for it. (Obviously - otherwise I wouldn't have posted it.) If you want to build them for your friends, you're welcome to do that. If you want to improve it - please submit your changes back so that we all can benefit. I'd be happy to give you credit for your improvements. If it works well for you, or you just want to show off what you built, please send pictures and descriptions of your implementation - eventually I'm going to try to put up a gallery of people using the designs if I get enough feedback. Basically, feel free to do whatever you want with it, as long as you're not trying to make money off of it. If you are, please talk to me first, I'd be happy to license my designs for a small fee. I figure if you're profiting from it, I want my cut. If you're just having fun and helping others, you're free to do as you please.

  Questions? Email Nathan Holmes
© NDHolmes, but freely usable under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License.
Last modified on June 22, 2011, at 09:42 AM
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