Category Archives: Arduino

The Internet Gong

The Idea

A while back I wanted something that made a noise to notify me of an event. The original plan was to replicate Andy Rubin’s gong doorbell. The large gong and mallet was a little bit out of my price range but a good idea is a good idea. I ordered one from Amazon and combined with a servo and a Arduino Nano clone I set about the same idea.





With a little bit of tape it was finished. The design is basic but functional. The beater is attached to a 9g servo which acts as the human arm. An Arduino Nano clone is used to to move the servo.


In action:


Triggering the Gong

Communication to the gong is done over serial. Sending “gong\n” over serial, triggers the beater/mallet to strike the gong and then move out the way to avoid a second gong strike. The code for the Arduino is below:


For a mini project this is perfect for getting servos and Arduinos to work together. Mine is currently connected to my Google calendar to alert me five minutes before a meeting.


The door bell will have to wait.

Improving the Server Density Service Map

In my first attempt at Physical Website Monitoring I used some 8 bit shift registers and tri-colour LEDs. This while fun, was hard work. Each green, red and blue along with the earth legs of the LED had to be soldered and wired up. That’s OK for a small project but I wanted to expand to 10+ monitoring locations.

So plan B was to use Neopixels, as usual Adafruit has a great guide for them. I had some no brand ones lying around from a while back. You can buy the “branded” ones from any of the major online retailers or you can go cheap from eBay.

Neopixel close up

Close up of Neopixel

Wiring them up is nice and simple. Just solder them together in serial following the arrows on their backs. They only have 3 pins: 5v, earth and data.

I roughly measured the distance between locations I am monitoring from  to measure the length of cable, and then solder the Neopixels together. I ran out of black wire pretty quick, which is why there is more red, sorry for any confusion. Below shows them attached to the back of the map.

Rear view of the Neopixels

The code for controlling the lights is listed below:

I borrowed most of it from the example in Adafruit’s library for the Neopixel. I can’t stress enough how excellent Adafruit is a resource of how to do stuff!

You can test everything is working from the serial port of the Arduino. Send “sydney down\n” and Sydney will change to red, “slow” will change it to orange instead. “up” resets it to green.

The script below is some basic Python to fetch the last response time from Server Density and decided what if at all the colour of a location should be changed to. It’s all a bit rough around the edges but you get the idea.

Below is it in action from the serial port:

Physical Website Monitor based on Server Density’s Monitoring

I wanted to make something to make monitoring more tangible. So I made a board to display the current status of this website as monitored from a number of remote “actors” provided by Server Density. Below is a snapshot of the monitoring setup from Server Density’s service page.

website monitoring setup

Remote monitoring actors.

The build was pretty basic and luckily I had the parts lying around from previous projects. Rather than explain the setup I’ll give you the link I used as it covers everything better than I could explain. Adafruit Shift Register is an excellent guide on wiring and programming 8 bit shift registers. The only difference is I used tri colour LEDs. The LEDs I used were almost identical to these Tri Colour LEDs from eBay. They do red, green and blue light. I just removed the blue leg as I didn’t need it.

The LEDs are mounted in a 6mm thick panel of MDF. The map was just a simple one printed off Wikipedia.

I used an Arduino Uno but any basic Arduino is up to the job. The code to control the board is listed below. It’s based on the Adafruit example from their excellent guide.

View from behind.

Wired up LEDs

Wiring for Arduino

Here it is in action.

Next I needed to talk to Server Density’s API which luckily is pretty simple. I get the last time from each actor, and test to see if it’s below 0.4 seconds. 0.4 ensures at least 1 server usually Sydney will be down, so it makes for a better display. The Arduino code flips the colour of the LED to make updates a binary change with a message over serial.

One interesting thing about the code is the number of sleeps.


Bear that in mind. You need to allow time for the Arduino to setup the connection over the serial connection is initiated. This also applies to sending data backwards and forwards as well. Adding the sleeps ensures everything runs smoothly and nothing gets lost.

This was a basic prototype, I am hoping to expand it to an A3 sized map with more locations.

Monitoring My House

My standard setup is an Arduino connected to PC either a Raspberry Pi or a nearby PC that can serve as a host.

I decided to relocate my server outside into the garage and I was concerned about how it would cope in the cold and sometimes dusty new environment. My first step was to step up monitoring internally for the server. Disk drive and main board temperatures along with fan speeds would need to be logged. This is covered in detail in my next post.

Once the internal stuff was done I looked at external factors, humidity and temperature being the most important. This is familiar ground for me and setting up a report Arduino was simple as I had a few left from my greenhouses.

With the basics taken care of, I added a sensor to the door to alert if it remained open too long. I also added a check based on the time. The door should be closed between 23:00 and 07:00 most of the time. If it opens between these times I get an alert to my phone to investigate.

I’ll break down each stage in future blog posts.