Monthly Archives: August 2011

Irrigation Caddy Review

Our last sprinkler timer was not working properly.  As it turned out the timer was only part of the problem. The wiring at the valves was rotted from being in the sun and there were places the previous owners had taken shortcuts and wired multiple valves together to get all the zones to fit on a cheaper timer. Even when the last timer was working, the zones that had more than one valve wired together had too many heads running at once. This made for lower water pressure and inefficient watering.

So I repaired the wiring.  But to  break out the 9 valves to separate zones again was going to require a different timer.  Most timers have 6 or 8 zones.  Anything above 8 zones starts getting pricey anyway.  So after digging around in the local hardware stores and online I decided to check out some web based timers.  Some are crazy expensive.  Some will even check the weather for you and alter your watering schedule based on the weather.  I didn’t need that, or especially the cost of that.  I kind of accidentally stumbled on the Irrigation Caddy.  At $150, it may seem expensive, but is really a bargain as a web controllable sprinkler timer.  Since Irrigation Caddy can run up to 10 zones. So, we were able to break the valves out to individual zones again.

It took longer to set up the programs in the web interface than it did to connect the wires. Since there are no buttons, knobs, or dials on the irrigation caddy itself, I never have to stick my hand in that black widow infested corner of the garage again! The tricky part is that you have to have an Ethernet cable that can reach to the Internet Caddy. My garage does have network since that is where the services to the house come in. But definitely something to be aware of. Some users have successfully used a wireless bridge to connect their Caddy to their home network. You do not need internet or network access for the Caddy to run. You only need it to program it. So in theory, you could just bring the Irrigation Caddy in the house, plug it into your home network, program it, and then put it back wherever your sprinkler wires are (the wires have a quick disconnect thing). But then you don’t really get the full benefit of the web interface. You will definitely want the web interface when you are first setting up and testing your schedules.

Scheduling with the web interface is easy. I did have some confusion about the days, odd/even, every other, thing. But when you read the manual a little you realize how powerful and flexible the scheduling can be. It is too long a topic to get into here probably, but you can get pretty granular with the watering control.

It is also easy to manually run zones if you are just sitting in the back yard and you wanted to turn the sprinklers on for the kids to run through on a hot day. Just bring up the web interface on your laptop, tablet, or smartphone and turn on the zone! The web interface is not really optimized for the iPad or iPhone yet. But I bet there will be an interface in the future. And yes, there are regular firmware updates, or at least there have been lately.

I don’t know what else to say. If you imagined in your head what you would want a web controllable sprinkler timer to be, Irrigation Caddy would probably nail it, or be really close. It just works. And for the ultimate endorsement, it even got the “what electronic thing did you buy this time” seal of approval!

Moving On…

Now that I had the joystick fiasco behind me it was time to get down to some build time!  In the previous posts I have gone through the modifications to the gimble mount, the skull mounting tabs, and some of the electrical connections that will be needed.  For those that did jump on the VSA offer you are ahead of the game.  If you also purchased TrackSkull from MonkeyBasic.com then you could be way ahead of the game.

Here is a little clip to show that yes, it can be done.  Yes, there is still more to do.  I have not constructed my servo extension yet.  The audio does not sync yet.  The top of the skull does not fit properly.  And the software is not easy to deal with.  But it will only get better from here on out.

More Build Notes…

Here are some additional build pictures.  The gimble is pretty solid now.  There is still one issue where if you turn to fast to the left the weight of the skull will cause the servo to over rotate and then the skull will try to spin around backward.  I just have to get the left/right tab and servo arm in the right combination of position to remedy the problem.  As you can see in the photos there is also a little work to do inside the skull itself.  There is a chunk of plastic that will interfere with the left/right gimble tab.  It will hit if you have the skull tilted forward, as if looking down, and then try to turn the prop left or right.  A dremel took made quick work of the plastic.

Dead As A Door Nail…

Well…   The TrackSkull application was working great – right up until my 8 year old Microsoft Sidewinder joystick up and died.  I have no idea why.  But it just stopped working.  Poof.

Have you tried to buy a joystick lately?

 

 

  • Target  – Stab in the dark.  They used to have more computer stuff.  Clearly that has changed.
  • Staples – Another shot that might have panned out in the past.  I knew they carried some peripherals.  But the selection has dwindled.
  • Radio Shack – Huge disappointment, again.  Do they ever have what you want or need anymore?  How are they still in business?  The only people I ever see in there are “old people” arguing with the clerk (Who is typically clueless) about why they can’t get a replacement battery for their 12 year old cordless phone.
  • Game Stop – Semi disappointed.  The accessories are obviously not their bread and butter.  The displays are kind of haphazard.  So I am going to give them a pass on this one.
  • Best Buy – Home of the $99 HDMI cable that you can get other places for $10.  Came through in the end, but at an almost $10 premium.  If time wasn’t the crunch,  I could have purchased on-line with free shipping and had it in time for next weekend.

No wonder I hate shopping.

Servo Extensions Part IIIa

My extensions have arrived.  They shipped pretty quck.  I have just not had a lot of time to spend on this the last few days.  I did change the servo horn for the left/right motion of the skull.  It is smoother, and does not over extend anymore.  And the joystick input on TrackSkull from MoneyBasic.com is working great.  They are having a sale, btw, through Aug 31 (2011).