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My intention is to replace the Noisebridge light switches with a computer controlled, triac, dimmable, and easily hackable system.


General system requirements

  • Damage the existing light switch panel as little as possible
  • 4 10 amp outputs, expandable to 8
  • Touch screen UI at the front door
  • Easy-to-access override switches for each circuit (force on and force off)
  • A programmatic CGI/XML interface
  • A HTML interface
  • Fully insulated, fused, and generally not-going-to-fall-apart-and-hurt-someone construction.

I want to split parts of the system that handles the AC switching from the computer and network interface stuff. We'll call the two parts the Computer Control System (CCS) and the Alternating Current Dimming System ACDS.

--- TODO: System diagram

AC Dimming System

The ACDS will have four dimmable AC outlets and an analog input (using an RCA connector) for each one. The input voltage can vary from zero to five volts. Less than 0.8 volts turns a light completely off and more than 3.4 volts turns a light switch completely on. A voltage in between 0.8 and 3.4 volts runs the light at partial power. The inputs are filtered such that a digital device can use PWM from a TTL chip instead of a true analog output.

The ADCS unit will be inside a 10"x8"x4" NEMA enclosure. It will have a master switch and circuit breaker as well as a circuit breaker for each output. Each output will also have an externally accessible override switch that can force it on or off. The power input and outputs will be standard NEMA-15 sockets and plugs to enable easy bench testing and burn in.

I'll connect the ACDS to the light switch panel by replacing that panel with a single power outlet and four IEC power inlets. (Think the plug on the back of a computer.) For computer power cables will connect the ACDS to the lights. In the event of a catastrophic failure of the system, the power cable for a light can be manually connected to the power outlet.

--- TODO: schematic and theory of operation

Status: I've prototyped and successfully operator a single channel version of the ADCS.

Computer Control System

The CCS is basically a computer with a DAC (digital to analog converter) circuit attached. The computer has a digital I/O board based around an 82c55 that will connect to a TLC7226IN four channel DAC. The outputs of the DAC are buffered and connect to the inputs of the ADCS unit. My intention is to use a Transmetta-based PC-104 board with a solid state disk and a 82c55 daughter card.

The CCS has three interfaces: A web page, a touch screen LCD panel, and a CGI/xml interface.

Status: I have the computer and have successfully interface with the 82c55 card. I don't yet have the DACs but I've implemented projects like this before and I don't expect much trouble. I've not sourced or really thought about the touch screen yet.

IDEA: Maybe I can find a multichannel USB or RS232 DAC and save myself a lot of work.

Software Interface

Very little of the software I want to use for Noisebridge has been written. I can copy some code from my home project but most of that code is poorly written and poorly designed.

I imagine a three tired software system. A the lowest level, there's a simple program written in C that communicates with the DAC and keeps track of the state of each light. Built on top of that is a simple CGI/XML interface that can query and set the state of the lights. Something like:


Fetches an XML document describing logical names and permissible values for the lights


 Returns an XML document with the current value for light XXXX


 Sets light XXXX to value YYYY
  Returns an XML document with the current value for light XXXX

On top of that, we want a pretty web UI.

User Interface

The user interface needs to be a simple one-click web page. The CCS can run X on its touch screen with a web browser that is pointed to the web page that it exports.

--- TODO --- Include screenshot of my system.

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