Okay, Google. Start the Jeep!

So this happened:

Now let me tell you how I got all that to work.

Raspberry Pi 2 w/Case
16GB Micro SD Card
TP-LINK TL-WN722N Wireless N150 High Gain USB Adapter
5db Antenna
SainSMart 4 Channel Relay Module
Wire Jumpers
2A Car Charger
Avital 5103L Remote Start Car Alarm

AutoVoice and the unlock code

The high-level workflow goes like this:

  • Activate Google Now on my Note 4 by saying, “Okay, Google”
  • Send Google Now the command “Start the Jeep”
  • AutoVoice intercepts the command and kicks off a Tasker task
  • Tasker launches Chrome with the URL that corresponds to a PHP page on the Pi
  • That PHP page calls the WiringPi library and sets a GPIO pin to out mode, then activates that pin for 2 seconds and deactivates it
  • The relay card accepts the GPIO signal and energizes one of the relays for that 2 second interval
  • The relay is connected to the Remote Start Activation wire on the Normally Open side of the relay and the Jeep’s Ground on the common terminal, so when the relay is energized, the Remote Start Activation wire is grounded
  • The alarm recognizes that the Remote Start Activation wire is grounded, and kicks off the black-box-to-me remote start process.

Unfortunately, I don’t have it working with my Samsung Gear Live Android Wear watch yet, but I’m confident I’ll get that figured out.

It’s important to note here that I wrote exactly 6 lines of code here, and two of those lines were the PHP opening and closing tags. This is not a project that requires a lot of that kind of expertise. Familiarity, yes, but not expertise.

The Remote Start

When I bought my Jeep, the previous owner had installed an Avital 3100L car alarm. I’ve had a few cars with remote start, so when the alarm started flaking out on me, I replaced it with an Avital 5103L Remote Start Car Alarm. The reason why I went with that remote start is, frankly, because it shares a harness with the 3100L. I didn’t want to have to re-wire the door locks, starter kill, dome light, etc. if I didn’t have to. Plus it was only like $80. Now that I’ve had it for a while, I know I should have spent the extra $30 and gotten the two-way pager model.

Avital is a DEI brand–like Viper, Clifford, and Python. DEI sells an internet-connected alarm add-on module for like $170 plus $70 a year. As of mid-August 2015, their “new version 4.0–coming early 2015″ is still not ready yet. My point is that my Avital alarm has a wire that, when grounded, activates the remote start capabilities of the unit.

This is good, because now we can use this dedicated, purpose built hardware to accomplish the most difficult part of all this: Actually starting the Jeep!

Now, my Jeep is a 98. It’s old. It doesn’t have factory security or any fancy RFID keyfob. DEI has modules that can bypass those things, but they cost extra. Installing a remote start is not for the faint of heart, especially in a newer vehicle with 37 different kinds of security. Remote Starts essentially hotwire the car, and automakers have spent the last decade or so trying to make it very, very difficult to do that.

The Raspberry Pi 2

I finally broke down and bought one after Barron plugged it on GBVC EP27. And yes, it was my plan all along to use it for this purpose since I knew about that remote start activation wire.

In addition to my home wifi network, my employer provides a guest wifi network that I can have the Pi connect to. I haven’t gotten this part fully worked out yet, but the plan is to have the Pi connect to my OpenVPN instance at home and route the commands through that. I don’t want other people on the guest network to be able to randomly start my Jeep during the day :)

In order to make sure the Pi can actually reach the guest network, I bought a TP-LINK TL-WN722N Wireless N150 High Gain USB Adapter specifically because it has an external antenna connector. I also bought a 5db Antenna, but I’m not sure that’s actually getting me anything. Fifteen years ago I had a little magnet-mount 2.4ghz antenna specifically designed for WarDriving with an Orinoco card and I hope to find something like that. It was a great little antenna.

The Relay Card

The GPIO pins on the Pi can only handle a very tiny amount of current. It may be possible to set up the Pi in such a way that the relay card is necessary, but the card was only a few dollars and I can use the other relays for other things, like rolling down my windows or turning on my rear defrost.

In order to avoid the possibility of frying either the Pi or the Alarm brain, I got the relay card to isolate the two.

The card can be powered by the 5v line on the Pi 2. I’m not sure if I’d want to power all 4 relays simultaneously for an extended period of time, but for my purposes this is fine. One thing to note is that my card activates a relay if it is receiving a 0 on the GPIO line, not a 1. I had to compensate for that.

The Pi Software

I’m not going to lie: I totally followed this fabulous Instructable to get me to a point where I could hit a single page and activate a relay for 2 seconds. I didn’t do steps 5 or 6 because it wasn’t necessary for me.

Here is the entirety of the code that I wrote for this project:

system ( "gpio -g mode 4 out && gpio -g write 4 1");
system ( "gpio -g write 4 0");
sleep ( 1 );
system ( "gpio -g write 4 1");

That’s saved as RemoteStart.PHP. Hit http://your.pi.ip/RemoteStart.PHP and BOOM! Relay fires for 2 seconds:

Hard, eh?

The Android Software

I bought Tasker about a year ago because everyone says it’s awesome and I had $10 of Play credit to use. As part of this project, I also installed the AutoVoice plugin for Tasker, and then bought the unlock code because it was $1.34 and in order to use the 7 day trial version, the developer wanted me to sign up with an account on some gaming site. Eff that. Take my money.

Now, I thought that AutoVoice was to make this work with my Android Wear, but I was wrong. This is to make this work with regular Google Now.

The AutoVoice page on Play has a pretty good video tutorial so I’ll refer you to that for how to set up the AutoVoice portion.

For Tasker, you want to set up a Task and call it “Start the Jeep” or whatever. Add a “Net” action for “Browse URL” and put your URL in there. Hit the play button to test it: Your default browser should open and go to that page. If not, something’s not right.

On the Profiles tab, create a new Event Profile. Select Plugin->AutoVoice->Recognized. Do the Speak Filter thing they demonstrate in the video tutorial and say “Start the Jeep.”
The Enter Task dialog will pop up. Select the task you created.

NOW THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT! You have to actually activate Tasker! I didn’t at first and was angry–AutoVoice was showing a popup (sprite) saying that it recognized my “Start the Jeep” command, but then it wasn’t doing anything! If you don’t have a lightning bolt icon in your system bar up top, Tasker is not active.

Test it out!

Putting it all together

So now that all the pieces and parts are working, we put it all together in Proof-of-Concept form:
Pi Remote Start

And everything should work…as long as you’re connected to your network.

Gotta love it.

Don’t you love how you have to spend the first part of the argument with a left winger arguing that yes, Obama and the Democratic party as a whole wish to ban guns.

I had a rather lengthy Facebook thread where that was the argument.

Active Shooter Near Me

Looks like someone decided that shooting folks at the movie theater is cool thing to do, and did so down the road from me.

This is still a “developing story.”  At this time, we’ve got cops surrounding the place, and there’s reports that the SWAT team is responding.

Here’s what we do know:

The shot(s) happened around 1:15.

The mall and ice rink next to it have also been lock down.

I can confirm that the theater has no nifty little “no guns” stickers on the doors that protect us all.

This happened in a neighborhood called Hickory Hollow… which is well known for gang activity and many stores have left because of the crime rate (the mall died once because of it, and reopened with a completely different name in hopes of avoiding the stigma of being in Hickory Hollow).

I do, indeed, live damned close (it’s the next freeway exit) to this shopping area, and actually used to live in easy walking distance to this theater.  There’s a very damned good reason why I will go out of my way to go somewhere else.

Based on what little we know, I’m thinking that this guy wasn’t looking to rack up the body count.  Middle of the day at a theater isn’t usually a “target rich” environment.  Given the nature of the area, I’m going to guess that this will turn out to be thug on thug violence.  Obviously I’ll be watching this one closely.

*update* Local news is reporting that the shooter is dead (probably shot by the cops).  The only other injuries that are being reported are 3 people that got pepper spray in the face and one person that had a cut on his arm (sounds like it was minor) from a hatchet that the shooter was also using.

*update 2 [wizardpc]*…Aaaaand the locals are now reporting he had an airsoft pistol and no real firearms.

Oh, this stupidity again.

A while back, I wrote about the stupidity of Metro Nashville’s opinion that they can still ban guns at concerts in parks because… uh… going to a concert isn’t recreation.

Well, the state Attorney General has put out and opinion that states that no, they can’t do that.

Nashville Metro’s Legal Director’s response?  “We’re going to continue to ban guns anyways.”

He even says that someone’s going to have to sue before the city considers changing it’s mind.

It’s only, you know, state law.  Nothing much.

…and the horse you rode in on

I know, I’m a couple days late on this one, but I’ve got to rant about it.  If you haven’t already heard, a couple who lost their daughter in the theater shooting in Aurora, Co decided to sue 4 websites that sold the killer ammo.  They lost… badly.  Not only did they lose, but they now owe over $200k in legal fees.  Oh, by the way, just to twist the knife, Lucky Gunner has decided to donate their portion of the money to a pro-gun org, to be chosen by vote here.

Now… would these grieving parents scuttle awaay and lick their wounds?  Of course not!   They’ve gone onto national TV to declare that the evil, horrible judge has probably forced them into bankruptcy!

To save you from watching the video in the link above (and if you’re like me, the shouting at the screen and possible blood spewing out your ears), let me address a few of the points.

Right of the bat, the judge didn’t put you into this situation.  They did.  This is the equivalent of suing the gas station that sold the gas in the car of a drunk driver that plowed into a school bus.  It was a stupid lawsuit, they, and the lawyers that represented them, should be ashamed of themselves.

They claim that the NRA paid for the lawyers for the defendants.  Really?  I haven’t done much research into it, but Lucky Gunner claims that they paid for their own damned lawyers, and I haven’t seen the NRA using that cost as a reason for me to give them more money.  Even if they did, so what?

The host mentions that the Brady Campaign “filed the suit on their behalf.”  Oh, so I guess it’s ok if the largest lobbying group in their field pays for the lawyers if it’s on their side?  Oh, also not mentioned is that both the wife and husband work for the Brady Bunch.  Of course, if the Brady folks were so righteous, they should be the ones picking up the bill, but that would rob them of another “victim of the evil gun lobby.”

They claim that this wasn’t about money, but an attempt to change the laws.  They… sued… private companies… to make new/change laws… what?!  I’m not a lawyer, but that’s not how this works!  That’s not how any of this works!

They claim that they would have more rights if a kid shot theirs in the eye with a bb gun.  Really?  Little Ralphie could sue Daisy for shooting his eye out?

I’m thinking that this was planned from the beginning.  If, by some insane chance, they won the case, hurrah! some evil ammo dealers hurt/out of business.  If they lost, well, claim it was the evil gun lobby that destroyed this couple’s finances.

To the couple, I must say “I’m sorry for the loss of your daughter, but… F you and the horse you rode in on.”

Well… I guess there is interest

Well, that’s at least the second person to ask me if there’s going to be a Bidet Shoot 3 this year, so… I guess I should try to figure something out.

Of course, it won’t be this month, since next weekend is the only weekend in June I’m not already doing something, and I’m not going to have time to plan anything anyways due to being a director of Hypericon (in… uh… two weeks?!).  Anyways, the folks that attended last year talked about wanting to maybe move it to the fall to try to avoid heatstroke.

Maybe September?

Also, the location for the first two shoots is great, but I would like something a bit closer to me.  Anyone know of a range that wouldn’t mind us taking over one Saturday in the Nashville area?

What do we have here…


Random thought of the day.

I have the solution to all those cops leaving their guns in bathrooms or accidentally firing them while preparing to use/leaving the facilities.

Replace the pants portion of the police uniform with kilts.

No need to remove the kilt when going to the bathroom, therefor there’s absolutely no need to remove the firearm (if there truly was in the first place).  As we’ve talked about before, there are many companies that already make kilts with many pockets!

This is probably why they don’t put me in charge.

Shameless self promotion!

If you’re the kind of person interested in scifi conventions, I’m the gaming director of a convention called Hypericon on the weekend of June 19-21 in Nashville.  It’s currently only $30 for weekend, which includes access to a con suite with great food for the weekend.

If you’re interested, and wish to get a hotel room, I’d hurry though.  The room block closes on the 28th (next week), and the room rates will go up.

As an added bonus, you’ll get a chance to heckle me as I pretend to be a gun expert!  I’m going to do a panel covering some of the real guns that have shown up in scifi shows (think the broom handled Mauser that Lucas used for Han’s blaster, or the Beretta Cx4 that was used as the marine battle riffle in the Battlestar Galactica reboot).  By the way, does anyone remember the name of the show that used Nerf guns as props?

Should be a good time, and if enough gun folks show up, I might be persuaded to run off to the range at some point.

You have got to be $^*@ing kidding me!

I’m having a hard time seeing straight over this one.  Apparently, Memphis and Nashville are planning on still banning guns in certain parks, even after the state passed the law saying that they can’t.

Just to catch people up, the final language of the law stated that a carry permit holder can carry in a city park, with the exception that you can’t carry in “the immediate vicinity” of a school event (baseball games, etc).  If you wander up on one by accident, you can legally turn around and leave upon learning of the event.

This is apparently confusing for some people.  The city of Nashville is in the middle of building an amphitheater in of our river front parks, and the folks that are contracted to run the concert venue have a policy that they ban weapons at all of their venues.  What’s Nashville’s Metro Director of Law’s response to the question of banning firearms in a facility on park grounds? “We’re in the view that we can probably prohibit weapons in the new amphitheater.”

Oh… he has logic!  You’ll love his logic!  See, the law also refers to “areas owned, used or operated by a local government ‘for recreational purposes,*'” and, in his view, going to see a concert isn’t recreation!



Direct quote from Metro’s DoL Solomon: “When we think of ‘recreating,’ it’s somebody going out and doing something, not somebody sitting around,”

The article also states that it’s “still unclear” if the city will ban guns in the park around the concert venue, or if they will ban guns in the amphitheater when there’s not a concert going on.  Here’s a thought…. the state law says that they can’t!