Building an Automated Cat Feeder with Amazon Alexa

In my second IoT project, I tackle feeding my cats by voice commands.

cat-feeder_title-pageMy family owns three cats; for the most part, they are well behaved – unless they are hungry. When it’s time for them to eat, they get a little crazy – constantly meowing and running under/between our legs, or waking us up at night.

We used to keep extra food in their dishes, but they would just overeat – resulting in cat throw-up (which, without fail, I seemed to step in every morning on my way to the kitchen).

We’ve been living in this “claw-ful” situation for a few years, and never really considered resolving the problem. My oldest daughter suggested that we (and by we, she really meant me) build an automated cat feeder. I told her that I didn’t have the time to build one… but then, I figured, why not give it a try.

Full instructions are on the write up at Hackster – https://www.hackster.io/darian-johnson/alexa-powered-automated-cat-feeder-9416d4

Getting the Most out of my Amazon Echo: Using TuneIn Radio

Telling Alexa to “Play The Big DM on TuneIn” has been the highlight of my Alexa experience to date

before1Before I talk about technology, a quick segue: I grew up in the age of radio and cassettes. The hiss of a cassette tape is a callback to simpler times – when most albums were constricted as complete pieces (and not as a string of singles); when the order of an album was important (no easy skipping)… when building a mixtape was more art than science.

I feel the same way about radio. There’s nothing like the excitement of not knowing what great song is coming next, or the magic of slowing flowing from one song to another. Before there was music video1, there was radio – where I discovered Incognito, and Angela Bofill, and Teena Marie…. Continue reading “Getting the Most out of my Amazon Echo: Using TuneIn Radio”

Moving my blog to AWS Lightsail

In a span of a few hours, I successfully migrated my Wordpress blog from an EC2 instance to Amazon Lightsail.

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-8-34-34-am-930x5811Of all the new releases announced at AWS re:Invent, I was most excited about Amazon Lightsail. I love AWS, but sometimes it’s too complicated. If someone wants to run a blog, then they shouldn’t have to learn about VPCs, subnets, etc…. they should, in a few clicks, be up and running.

So, I spent a few hour this weekend migrating this blog from the t2.small EC2 instance I’ve been running (with RDS and Memcache) to a new, smaller Lightsail instance.

The migration was straight forward (instructions here: https://docs.bitnami.com/aws/how-to/migrate-wordpress)- the biggest challenge was re-installing my WordPress plugins (they did not migrate over).

Will this be better than running my own VPC and EC2 instance? I’m not sure. I still have my old instances available if I need to switch back. I’m hoping that it does; I was spending about $20 a month running my t2.small (I know, I know.. I should have been running on an RI to reduce cost). The small instance of Lightsail is on $5/month.