Not Quite Normal

Bald Brewery January 8

I've finally started building my computerised, automated pico brewery, 4 years after building the Brewtroller. I've set up a new site for it over at to document the build, list recipes and in future, enable people to follow brews real time.

Open source catflap firmware June 7

While CATaLOG was a success most of the time, the most unreliable bit of the system was detecting the RFID tag as the cat went through the door. The system has been offline since June 2010 and we also changed our priorities from tracking the cats in and out to making sure they were safe at night. We purchased a PetPorte RFID catflap which not only reads the cat's embedded microchip reliably, but also imposes access control and has a light sensor so when it gets dark it will only let the cats in, not out.

PetPorte was a UK company and were planning to release a 'computer connection kit' until they were bought by Staywell, when all progress on that front ceased. Upon inspecting the PCB there are headers for additional antenna, programming and serial, so I hooked up a Bus Pirate to see if anything was happening. Nothing was but it seemed I was not alone in my quest. Through emails sent by forum members it transpired PetPorte had signed a 3 year NDA with Staywell and couldn't give us any info on how to make the catflap talk to anything. Yet. So we resigned to waiting until the NDA expired and going from there.

It appears someone couldn't wait this long however and released his own complete rewrite of the firmware. Not able to read the code out of the PIC he just reimplemented the whole firmware from scratch, including decoding the RFID signals from the OP amp into the PIC(!) He also added functionality to determine which way the door is opening via a potentiometer attached to the flap.

Open source firmware for my catflap and my PCB revision matched - Amazing!

I purchased a PICkit 2 programmer, made a lead up and set about reprogramming the catflap. Here it is in action:

This went well and after reassembling the catflap and programming in a test tag I hooked up my TTL-USB converter to the serial header, scanned the tag a few times, entered some control characters and saw this:

Hurrah! All I need to do now is hook the catflap up to a bifferboard, use the same python script controlling the chicken coop to get it on the internet and CATaLOG should be back online soon!

Advent Calendar Beers: Dogfish Head - Raison d'etre December 15

Beer 15: Dogfish Head - Raison d'etre

8% ABV

Poured into an oversize snifter

Appearance - 3.5/5
Chestnut brown with a thin quickly disappearing head.

Smell - 2.5/5
Chocolate, malt, some alcohol.

Taste - 3/5
Sweet, malty, warming alcohol with some liquorice on the finish.

Mouthfeel - 3/5
Nice carbonation - if a little high. Coats the mouth.

Drinkability - 2/5
Just too sweet for me and too high an ABV..

Advent Calendar Beers: Odell Brewing Co - IPA December 14

Beer 14: Odell Brewing Co - IPA

7% ABV

Poured into an oversize wine glass

Appearance - 3.5/5
Pours a hazy amber - lacing throughout.

Smell - 3/5
Citrus hops - orange - some alcohol - had a cold at this point which didn't help :|

Taste - 4/5
Malty up front with some honey, then some citrus and a gentle long bitterness. Very nice.

Mouthfeel - 4/5
Nice carbonation. Feels smooth and light for a 7% beer.

Drinkability - 4/5
Very nice - possibly as I've had a bastard of a day...

Advent Calendar Beers: Saltaire - Cascade Pale Ale December 13

Beer 13: Saltaire - Cascade Pale Ale

4.8% ABV

Poured into an imperial pint glass

Appearance - 3/5
Yellow / gold with a loose white head which quickly diminishes - light lacing.

Smell - 3/5
Honey, some slight citrus notes, not much else going on.

Taste - 2.5/5
Burnt sugar? Some honey. Bit rough - bitter - some toffee.

Mouthfeel - 3/5
Bit too much carbonation - feels quite thin.

Drinkability - 3/5
Not a nice balanced pint this one. Honey sweet to rough bitter with nothing in the middle.

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