Shedding COVID Boredom Through Tech

When I say “shedding”, I mean, as in using an actual shed. And getting techno-freaky with it in the name of staying sane. It’s just a 12×20 nothing-special storage shed. But to me, it has become an operational platform, I tellya. When I need more to do than self-train or read up on new stuff, I gotta have some hands-on challenges.

Opportunity Recognized

One day I was pouring through some high-res aerial shots my tight homie Elon sent me from his satellites, and I came across one that sparked my interest. Ignore the numbers for now, but we’ll need them in a minute.

In the lower left, under the swimming pool is where you’ll find what has become one of my COVID-inspired manias… It happens to be strategically placed for all kinds of geek fun.

Foundational Stuff

Given where the shed sits in relation to the pool, I was able to leverage the extra electrical circuit I ran like 20 years ago when I did the pool back in the day. A little bit of poor-man’s direct burial, and we got juice. Now, take your eyes to the top end of the house, where you’ll find the blue number 1.

The house had an old-style TV antenna mounting pole that was well-attached when we bought it. Being a ham radio operator, I was able to lengthen it a bit, and it has been the middle-point for countless wire dipole antennas through the years. It also happens to be the root side of a decent Ubiquiti 5 GHz mesh connection that uses the red line to connect to number 2, which is how we feed network to the shed- using an old flagpole that happens to be wonderfully placed for it’s current tower duties. The far end Ubiquiti AP connects to a small PoE switch, and the whole link is managed as part of my bigger Ubiquiti environment.

The shed now has power, it’s got network. IT’S TIME FOR THIS SHED TO UNDERGO IT’S DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION.

It’s no Shed, Its a Freakin Technology Nexus!

Now let’s consider numbers 3 and 7… IP CCTV cameras (Ethernet). I live in one of the safest crime-free areas on the planet. But remember, this is about DOING as much as it is using. Here’s #7 on the picture- El Gato cam.

Occasionally, a neighbor’s cat transits our yard behind the pool in a daring feat of trespass. These movements are strictly unauthorized, and if I take that cat to court someday I will have mountains of video evidence. Sometimes we see deer, too. The cameras are recorded in the house on a Ubiquiti Cloud Key acting as a DVR. (I’ve thought about adding webcam capabilities, but we have an anemic upstream ISP connection.)

OK, so cameras are no big deal. Everyone’s doing cameras… but is everyone putting a Raspberry Pi transformed into an aircraft monitoring sensor out in their shed? I think not. Here’s what I’m getting RIGHT NOW (kinda quiet at the moment) out of number 4:

This is actually pretty cool. I live along the flight path for a couple of airports and military air routes, so I see some different entries to ooh and ah about. My sensor feeds its received data out to multiple aggregation sites for increased accuracy of the whole system. Yeah, buddy.

By now, I know you can’t wait to find out what number 5 is… and it’s gonna blow your mind. This one doesn’t use the network. We got a little legal FCC Part 15 low-power FM radio station filling the yard and house with music. My music.- and I’ve got great taste. Here we’re using an old Android phone with VLC player, and this little gem from C. Crane. If you go down this path, know that you can get in trouble real fast if you don’t abide by some pretty strict rules. Read the FCC’s rules, and don’t be stupid about blasting out pirate radio.

Let’s round out the current set of shed capabilities with number 6. my personal weather station that feeds it’s data to several weather networks. Have a look at one of my feeds.

So What Comes Next As I “Shed” My Boredom?

It looks like we may be in for a long, stay-at-home winter. The ingredients in this geek soup will keep me going for a while. Now that it’s all out there, optimizing comes next. ANYTHING with an antenna can be made more effective by better placement, antenna tuning, adding a ground plane, removing obstacles, etc. The network itself in the shed is horribly cobbed together at the physical layer, I need a shelf and some serious wire management. A UPS is absolutely in order. I’ll be iterating…

Also- with all the data being monitored, I got a lot of graphs, statistics, and such to digest and ponder in the days to come. Brain food.

I’m also looking for other value adds for my humble shed- probably get some sort of ham radio beacon going as well, minimally.

Frequencies in Use So Far

-5 GHz, the wireless mesh from house to shed, and WLAN at the shed itself
-2.4 GHz, WLAN at shed and weather station console (in house) to Wi-Fi for outbound data feeds
-1090 MHz, used by aircraft positioning transmitters (ADS-B)
-900 MHz, used between weather station and in-house console
-FM Broadcast Band

What about you? What are you doing to shed your boredom and stay sane?

2 thoughts on “Shedding COVID Boredom Through Tech

  1. Dermot Allen

    Lee….. I am sorry to say I have not kept up with your blogs. I do enjoy reading them (even the Non technical ones like …the one about your Dad’s WWII service). I am gonna try to catch up on my reading. As far as Sheds I have one small old metal shed (that needs to be torn down and rebuilt) I have plans to build a bigger Gambrel style Shed over the Fall/Winter/Spring and when I do I will run electric and a few Cat 6/6e cables to it. When this is done I will join you in adding some cool Tech to the shed ( this will not be a She-Shed).


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