Geek

MQTT to Zabbix Gateway

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For a while now I’ve been wanting to try and monitor home automation parameters by using Zabbix. I already use it to monitor, graph and alert on servers and services at work and at home, so it was a logical extension to use it for home automation. I hope to deploy TinyTX sensors around the house, and by using my mqtt-rfm12b gateway I *should* be able monitor and alert on their battery voltages when things start to run a bit low. Firstly though, something is required to push the data from MQTT to Zabbix.

The first thing that you’ll need is a working Zabbix instance. This is somewhat outside the scope of this blog post, and the documentation is fairly good. You’ll need a host configured, so add one and give it a name, or alternatively use localhost that I think Zabbix comes preconfigured with.

Clone my mqtt-zabbix repository, and you’ll find a XML Zabbix template that can be imported into your Zabbix install (import via Configuration -> Templates). It won’t do anything drastic other than 10 or so Zabbix keys.

Once the import is completed, Configuration -> Templates will contain a template called “Template App MQTT”. This has the 10 items, all of which can be edited to suit. The important part is the “Key” – which must match what you put in the keys.csv later on. Simply put, when Zabbix receives data with a specific key, it gets stored against the item with that key defined. It’s not terribly complicated :-)

If you’re happy with Zabbix and the template import, follow the mqtt-zabbix README to get the rest of it installed. It’s really just a glorified script with some init scripts. Put all the files in the right places, edit keys.csv to match between your MQTT topic and your Zabbix key name, and start the application.

mqtt-zabbix subscribes to the root wildcard topic at /# so possibly isn’t very efficient on systems with massive amounts of traffic, but for home use it’s quite sufficient. I may change this method of working at a later date. In the meantime, the moment something arrives at your topic it will be forwarded on to Zabbix. A log of the event will also be found at  /var/log/mqtt-zabbix.log and it will tell you if the key was successfully inserted or not.

To view your data in Zabbix, click on the host, click on Latest Data, and it should be listed under – Other -. You can then choose the graph option on the right, or you can edit your own custom graphs and include the MQTT items.

Updating Optiboot & CC3000 Firmware with an Arduino

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Optiboot flashing in progress

I recently purchased a CC3000 wireless board to play with on Arduinos, with an aim to use it on an Arduino Mini Pro to control some LED lighting I have. Rather than purchasing through Adafruit as I possibly should have done, it was ordered through Ebay. This turned it into a bit of a learning experience!

The Adafruit library does a firmware check to ensure it’s the most recent version that they ship, however the version I purchased from Ebay was of a lower version, and subsequently the Adafruit library would refuse to run tests. Although this could be tweaked in the code, I didn’t fancy making that change and would rather have hardware with at least a firmware version equal to or higher than the one that Adafruit use. Onwards to updating the firmware of the CC3000!

If you were following Texas Instruments guide you’d be using one of their products to do the update. With only Arduinos to hand, I ended up trying out CC3000Patch sketch from Chris Magagna.

Firstly, two things should be noted about CC3000Patch

  1. It requires almost all of your flash space
  2. It needs newlines on the serial input

The flash space isn’t really an issue until you consider that both older versions of the Arduino bootloader and older versions of Optiboot will take up too much space. I was unable to flash CC3000Patch onto an Atmega328 with Optiboot from around January 2012, so I subsequently had to look at updating Optiboot before going any further.

I was using two Mini Pros to do the programming, and although the guides don’t really cover programming these the process is broadly similar. Hook up MOSI, MISO, SCK, IRQ, Reset, Power and some status LEDs, and then flash ArduinoISP to the host Arduino *before* connecting the target Arduino. I’d also highly recommend hooking up heartbeat, error and programming status LEDs to pins 7, 8 and 9 so that you can see what’s going on. Once you’re happy with that it’s flashed ArduinoISP correctly, and the heartbeat LED is pulsing quietly, *disconnect* the DTR line between your serial adaptor and the programming Arduino. This will prevent it from autoresetting just before the upload is triggered.

Next stage, plug in the target Arduino, and run “Burn Bootloader” from the Arduino IDE (I used 1.0.5). The *target* Arduino will reset, and programming LED on the programming Arduino will light up for a minute or so. Once it goes out, all should be good.

CC3000 being flashed

Optiboot on the Mini Pro, and time to try CC3000Patch again.

First off, make sure you wire up the connections correctly. It’s wise to use the Adafruit buildtest sketch at this point to make sure you have communication with the CC3000. If the firmware version is correct, it will tell you that… if it’s incorrect, it will also tell you that :-) The good thing is that you have communication with the CC3000 at this point, and you can move on to updating the firmware.

The documentation for CC3000Patch is fairly good, and all you need to do is compile and upload the sketch to the Arduino, and then follow the documentation. However, if like me you use screen to communicate over serial, you’ll need to use control characters to send newlines to the Arduino before it will start listening to your commands. ^V^J (that’s Control+v, Control+j) are your friends, and you’ll be driving the text menus in no time. I believe the Arduino IDE has a similar setting somewhere in the serial monitor window, although I’ve never used that feature.

All being well the CC3000 will be quietly upgraded to v1.24 (or later), and buildtest from Adafruit_CC3000_Library will then tell you what version of firmware you have. Handy hint also… the SSID is case sensitive :-)

Gitlab Setup and Timeouts

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So I wanted a place to store all my private Git repositories, without going down the paid route that is Github. Callum had just set up Gitlab at work, so I thought it might be wise to just use the same toolset.

What with it being installed on a VM at home, it didn’t quite have the same power, but that shouldn’t be too much of an issue. However, after the install and configuration check, I was plagued with Nginx gateway timeouts, blank pages, and no immediately apparent error messages other than the Nginx ones – until I looked at unicorn.stderr.log. The Gitlab process was timing out – yet the configuration check said all was good. Database connectivity was there, as was networking, etc. What gives?

This post however, suggested another problem – Unicorn timeouts. The process isn’t being given long enough to initialise assets, and is timing out. Simply increasing the ‘timeout’ parameter in config/unicorn.rb, restart Gitlab, and give it a moment.

Thinkpad X201S Fan Control

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I noticed the other day (it was kind of hard to not notice, to be honest) that my laptop shut down abruptly when it overheated. This shouldn’t be the case, as the thermal controls on the mainboard should have spun up the fans.

After some poking around, I found that with the default ‘auto’ fan control, the top speed of ‘level 7′ only spins the fans around 4000RPM, even though when the feedback loop is disengaged (echo level disengaged > /proc/acpi/ibm/fan” they can spin up to 7000RPM, and bring the temperature down from the critical 100C mark.

This bug report suggests that something is completely amiss with the kernels thinkpad_acpi module, and nobody really knows why. The end result is that fans spin too slow on the Thinkpad range of laptops. This can, however, be resolved with a couple of edits and an additional package. The following instructions were tested on Ubuntu 12.10, most likely work exactly the same on all Debian versions and derivatives, and can be adapted for use on other Linux distros as well.

Firstly, enabled userland control of the Thinkpad fans with the following command -

echo options thinkpad_acpi fan_control=1 >> /etc/modprobe.d/thinkpad.conf
rmmod thinkpad_acpi
modprobe thinkpad_acpi

This will enable the new settings for your current session, and all future sessions too.

You should now be able to set the fan speed manually with commands such as –

echo level 0 > /proc/acpi/ibm/fan
echo level 7 > /proc/acpi/ibm/fan
echo level disengaged > /proc/acpi/ibm/fan
echo level auto > /proc/acpi/ibm/fan

The key bit here is to remember that ‘disengaged’ equates to ’127′ on the grand scale of speeds.

Next step is to install the thinkfan package, and enable automatic startup -

apt-get -y install thinkfan
sed -i s/START=no/START=yes/ /etc/default/thinkfan

Now, as above, the default fan speeds are too slow. So even if thinkfan commands a level 7 fan speed, it won’t be fast enough to keep your hardware cool. To make it run up to full speed, you have to disengage the feedback loop and let it run in failsafe mode. Don’t worry though, thinkfan will bring it back into ‘auto’ mode once temperatures are back to normal, so you can have normal battery life and normal noise levels once your compute process is complete.

Edit /etc/thinkfan.conf, and at the end adjust the endpoint for level 7, and insert a new line for fan speed 127. My thinkfan.conf is as below –

(0, 0, 55)
(1, 48, 60)
(2, 50, 61)
(3, 52, 63)
(4, 56, 65)
(5, 59, 66)
(7, 63, 66)
(127, 66, 32767)

Save thinkfan.conf, and start thinkfan with this

/etc/init.d/thinkfan start
Once 66C is passed, it will enter disengaged mode, and run at full speed until it reaches 66C or below again.

My aging quad core i7 2.13GHz laptop will happily run BOINC now, at 97C, so I say it’s working :-)

OWFS Server on The Raspberry Pi

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Quick and simple this one is. I have a DS9490R (internally it’s a DS1490F) one-wire bus master attached to my Raspberry Pi. 4 DS18B20 temperature sensors are hanging off the bus, and I’d like to access them from the home automation server.

On the Raspberry Pi, or the server/device that’s hosting the 1-Wire bus:

apt-get install owserver ow-shell
modprobe ds1wm
echo “ds1wm” >> /etc/modules

Edit /etc/owfs.conf such that the following parameters are entered. I’d advise commenting out the rest (at least, the rest of the server: directives)

! server: server = localhost:4304
server: usb = all
server: w1
server: port = 0.0.0.0:4304

Restart the 1-Wire server

/etc/init.d/owserver restart

All being well, the following command should output a listing of all the devices on the bus.

owdir -s localhost:4304 /

On the remote server, simply use the following command to read the data.

owread -s kitchenpi.vpn.glasgownet.com:4304 /28.DDBF1D030000/temperature

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