You Got Mailbot – A Slack App

You Got Mailbot – A Slack App

Current favorite* intern, Braedan Kennedy, has whipped up one of our favorite Slack apps yet.  You Got Mailbot is a Slack app which posts a photo from the inside of our mailbox when we receive snail mail. As a bonus, You Got Mailbot posts a snapshot of the first face it detects when the mailbox is opened. You Got Mailbot posts a snapshot of the first face it detects when the mailbox is opened. You Got Mailbot is written in Python and runs on a Raspberry Pi Zero computer which, along with it’s tiny camera, is about as big as a pack of gum. The Raspberry Pi Zero connects to the network over wifi and starts recording video as soon as there is a spike in brightness when the mailbox is opened from the outside.  The Pi Zero isn’t super powerful so it generally takes 3 – 4 minutes for it to process the video and run the face detection algorithms. Facial recognition is performed by the Raspberry Pi using Haar-cascade Detection in OpenCV. If a good face match is not found then the middle frame of the video clip is posted instead. In addition to writing the code, Braedan designed and 3D printed a case and mount for a Raspberry Pi and camera which is mounted inside the mailbox facing the door.  We ran a USB cable down into the mailbox to power the Pi. You can find the source code to create your own You Got Mailbot in the Outside Open GitHub repo. Facial recognition is performed by the Raspberry Pi using Haar-cascade Detection in OpenCV As with any project, there have been some...
Rotary phone and Asterisk

Rotary phone and Asterisk

In keeping with our obsession with old technology, we recently acquired a beautiful 1947 model 7H6 North Electric rotary dial telephone and got it working on our phone system in the OO office.  In the early 1940’s the 7H6 body was made of metal but during the war, the units were made from a dense early plastic called Bakelite which gives the phone a nice solid feel. The classic shape is modeled after the Western Electric 302 phone designed by Henry Dreyfuss who also designed many other American industrial classics for John Deere, Hoover and the NYC Hudson locomotive. We successfully connected the old phone to our Asterisk VoIP phone system and can make and receive calls just like any other regular extension – the ringer sounds amazing!  See instructions below if you are also looking to connect your rotary phone to a VoIP phone system!   Configuration and setup of Asterisk (FreePBX) and the IAXy. Our challenge was to connect this phone to our Asterisk VoIP office phone system to be able to make and receive phone calls.  Because this is a rotary phone, we needed to convert the pulse dialing (the clicks made by the rotary dial) to tones that Asterisk can understand.  Digium used to make the perfect device – the Digium IAXy s101i which can be found on eBay for around $15. Digium IAXy setup: Add an IP reservation for the IAXy MAC address. NOTE: The IAXy uses BOOTP so be sure to enable that on your DHCP server.  BOOTP is enabled by default on pfSense so our IAXy got an IP right away after adding the reservation. If you...
pfSense Multisite Backup Tool

pfSense Multisite Backup Tool

pfSense is a secure and proven open source firewall.  As we grow, we find ourselves managing more and more pfSense firewalls across our client base. pfMb is a utility that we have created to automatically backup multiple pfSense firewalls easily and securely.  pfMb can be configured to run on any interval and will keep as many previous backup as you would like.  In case of hardware failure or a bad config, simply restore a previous version from backup and you’ll be up and running in short order. The script is secure and will only connect via SSH using SSH key authentication instead of passwords.  We use pfMb on Mac and Linux but it should work on any *nix under bash. We have release pfMb as open source software under the GPL 2.0 license.  You can download the latest version of pfMb over at GitHub…  enjoy!...
Kids Pi balloon launch!

Kids Pi balloon launch!

The 2014 KidTech class project #1 was a great success! Each team of 3 kids built and programmed their Raspberry Pis, taped them inside a small box with a battery for power and today, we launched each tied to a large weather balloon on a 300′ tether. We got some great aerial photos of the Santa Barbara coastline and Shoreline Park....
Raspberry Pi class for kids

Raspberry Pi class for kids

One of our goals at Outside Open is to pass on the love of technology to others.  This summer we are offering a class on computers to Kids age 9 and over in Santa Barbara. The class is based on the Raspberry Pi single-board computer and the goal is to introduce kids to programming and creative problem solving using technology. Participants will each build and program a Raspberry Pi and camera module to complete two photo based projects. Project #1 – Tethered aerial photography Attach a Raspberry Pi to a large helium weather balloon on a very long string and program the Pi to take photos from above. Project #2 – What does the box see? Install a Raspberry Pi in a cardboard box with a hole for the camera and mail the box via FedEx while taking photos every 30 seconds. Kids will learn how to build and set up a Raspberry Pi computer, and will write an intervalometer program to take a photo every x seconds.  In addition to the technical challenges, the class will also need to solve real-world problems related to mounting and packaging the equipment in a box and on the balloon, processing and compiling video from the resulting images and dealing withe the shipping vendor on pricing and logistics. There are still a couple of openings, please contact us if your kid is interested and available Tuesdays & Thursday for the next 3 weeks.   Kid Tech 2014 Schedule This class is based on the amazing Raspberry Pi single board computer.  The goal is to introduce kids to programming and creative problem solving using technology. The class is free...
Manage multiple servers like a boss with csshX!

Manage multiple servers like a boss with csshX!

  Servers (and other SSH enabled devices like switches, routers and Raspberry Pis) multiply like rabbits in today’s cloud-ready world and sys admins often need to perform the same task on many remote server instances via SSH.  If this sounds familiar, then csshX (Cluster SSH for OS X) is your friend! For example, restarting Apache on 4 machines takes just two steps. 1) Log in: csshX server1 server2 server3 server4 and 2) restart apache: service apache2 restart – so cool! csshX will make an SSH connection to any number of servers, opening each in a separate terminal window. The tool neatly tiles all the connections and a red control terminal opens across the bottom of the screen. What you type into the red control terminal is sent to all the client terminals. Very nifty. You can also select an individual client connection and work on that independently and then switch back to the control terminal for en masse control. csshX utilizes the built in  OS X Terminal application but can be invoked from iTerm2 or whatever alternative terminal you might use. (iTerm2 is the way to go!) Notes: Easily install csshX with Homebrew, a great package manager for OS X. Utilize SSH keys to facilitate secure logins. apt-get install clusterssh to get cssh for your Linux Debian / Ubuntu desktop. Toggle between master control and individual sessions by clicking on the respective Terminal window. Edit /etc/clusters to make short tags to connect to many servers under one name – the list is space separated with the first word used as the tag and the following items as URLs. For example the following...