New Member of the IoT Family – Mammotion Luba Robot Lawnmower

Back almost a year ago to the day (13 JUN 2022), I backed a Kickstarter for a revolutionary new design of robotic lawnmower. This was a first-of-a-kind design that doesn’t require a buried wire and instead uses something called RTK navigation in addition to GPS. This new lawnmower is called the Luba, by Mammotion. This blog post is simply my impressions and some quick pictures of the installation, etc.

Kickstarter, Unboxing, & Installation

The Kickstarter campaign was a bit nerve-wracking. This was by far the most I’ve ever spent for a campaign, and I was hoping that I wouldn’t get screwed. I believe that I plopped out somewhere under $1500, but it was close to a 50% discount, so I took a deep breath and pulled the trigger. Then there was a resurgence of COVID here in the US and in China (where most of the development was being constructed). To the Mammotion team’s credit, information from the company was always early, often, and complete. They were amazingly communicative and responsive. There’s also a Facebook Group for owners and backers. Some have claimed that the customer service is unresponsive, but that hasn’t been my experience. I was notified about the shipment, and received the box showed up on 27 FEB 2023, and we were off to the races… Kinda.

Because I live in the northeast, Luba sat in its box until the weather was right to start mowing. It was torture… Especially because it has a battery in it, so I didn’t want to sit too long. Unboxing the Luba was uneventful, something I’ve come to appreciate with new electronics. The packing quality was really something to be impressed with. Everything was clearly marked and packed tightly. I took everything out of the box and had the unit assembled (which only involved installing the bumper) in about 20 minutes. I wanted to take my time and lay everything out correctly.

All in all, it took me about 5 hours to get all the outside equipment installed, BUT, I went overboard. I could have likely used the provided mounts, but I wanted to run everything in my shed, and run it permanently. As you can see in the above gallery, I mounted the RTK antenna to the front of the shed and then mounted the charging station also. In reality, actual setup probably would have taken me an hour using the included mounts.

After setting everything up, I placed the Luba on the charging pad and let it sit all night to get a good initial charge on the battery because I wasn’t sure how accurate the battery gauge was. I let it sit on the charger for just about 18 hours.

Initial Setup & Yard Mapping

The initial setup was… interesting. I had bouts of bad positioning errors, but was eventually able to map my back yard. The gallery below shows some images of the mapping. Initially I had just done the back yard, then I did the front yard a few days later. Essentially, you connect to the Luba with Bluetooth and pilot it around your perimeter like it was a drone or RC Car. It was actually surprisingly easy, albeit a bit frustrating with the constant positioning errors. Luba says it can handle a 1.25 acre property and mine is a .33 acre property with very minimal tree coverage. Walking about the perimeter of the back yard took me about 35-40 minutes. I imagine if the software were more robust, it would have been quicker. The front yard pieces took me about 15-20 min each.

Regular Mowing & Repeatability

I’ve had the Luba installed and running now for about 2 months. When it works, it works amazingly well. This morning (06 JUN 2023), it was mowing my back yard without issue, went back to the charger, and it’s now giving me positioning problems… I’ll likely cancel the rest of the mow, because it’s been frustrating. These are new problems. Since the initial setup I’ve not had any positioning issues, BUT, the tree coverage is getting a bit more dense. I hope that this doesn’t become the norm, because it will be extremely frustrating. So far, for the front yard, it’s been almost flawless. The back yard has given me more trouble, which I prefer, because that’s fenced in, and I don’t have to worry about it sitting dead in the middle of the yard to perhaps get taken by someone. It’s rather heavy and does have anti-theft features, but it won’t stop someone from attempting to take it. And, let’s be honest, nobody is going to return it once they find out they can’t actually use it.

Hardware Construction & Firmware

Now… I’ve been running this thing for almost 2 months, and I have to say I am really impressed with the hardware of the Luba itself. The suspension, mowing disks, motors, sensors and bumpers all seem of exceptional quality. Some folks have mentioned that there have been issues of water ingress and seals going bad in their units. I haven’t seen any of this yet, but I am keeping my eye on it. I’m actually REALLY surprised that the tiny blades do such a good job mowing the grass. They’re essentially double-sided contractor razor knife blades (they’re about 1.5″x1″), and they even tackled the dandelion plantation I was growing…

The firmware for me has also been pretty good. Today is the first day I’m really having significant issues with positioning problems (and there is another firmware update, so I will likely run that shortly). I’ve not had any issues with navigation, returning to charging, going in no-go zones, etc. The mowing has been pretty good. I’m not exactly sure how it decides which wifi to connect to, however, as it seems to prefer the WORST access point available to it.

Software App

This is an area of significant concern and an area that needs significant improvement. It’s obvious that Mammotion spent significant time on the hardware design, RTK navigation, and firmware for the mower itself. Honestly, the app feels like an afterthought. I can understand this given the Kickstarter nature of the product, BUT, they need to start making strides in the app very soon or it will really hurt the adoption of the unit, and for selfish reasons alone, I don’t want a $1500 paperweight when their cloud service dies due to lack of adoption.

Specific things that aggravate me are:

  • Lack of Push Notifications
  • Simplistic Nature of the App
  • Lack of Modifiable Mowing Areas (they’re set once and completely remove and recreate should you like to modify it)
  • Lack of a “total” mow time that takes into account charging times
  • Lack of general stability
  • Lack of an API
  • Lack of a web-based interface so I don’t need to use my phone to track progress
  • Lack of smart-integration (see Lack of an API).

I FULLY believe that each of these things will be taken care of, but they’re certainly taking their time…

Overall Thoughts

Overall, I really am happy with the device. As long as these little aggravations sort themselves out over time, I will be completely satisfied. As they increase stability, and add push notifications, the service will get 1000x better and more usable and I won’t feel like I have to babysit it so much.

EDIT: One thing I forgot to mention was just how quiet this thing is. It’s really impressive. Here are some bonus videos…

Coming Up Next… Automatic Gate!!!

Stay tuned as I will be posting a door project soon where I created an automated gate to allow the Luba to pass from the back yard to the front yard without me needing to manually intervene.

Creation of an e-Ink Guest Wifi QR Code Display

About 2 years ago I wanted to create an easier way for guests to get online via my guest WiFi network. I use Ubiquiti / UniFi for my entire network infrastructure, so the possibilities were there. Initially, the thought was to just create a static graphic, print it out, put it in a frame, and be done. But that’s not fun, nor is it in the spirit of the homelab. Not to mention, it doesn’t automatically update, so your code is only good until you change it in the system, then you need to print another copy, replace the one in the frame, etc., etc. No fun.

So what do we do instead? Well, I had reached out on reddit and asked for some ideas on an e-ink solution, and I hit the jackpot. Original post here. Thanks to /u/eibw3n!!

So I created an e-ink display that can pull the configuration from my server and display it all automatically!

I’ll include links to the scripts / software that I used, but this post isn’t going to be about how to get some of the pieces to work. This post is primarily on the scripts to make the image and the Arduino code that runs on the frame.

While you don’t NEED Unifi, this post assumes that you’re using Unifi Network Manager to run the environment. Really all you need at the end of the day is the text of your SSID, and the SSID Encryption Key.

Hardware / Software / APIs Used:

Continue reading Creation of an e-Ink Guest Wifi QR Code Display

Conversion of Supermicro CSE-846 to a JBOD Shelf

Not too much to write here, but, as the title states, I converted the case for my hyper-converged server setup into a simple JBOD Shelf. You can follow the original “journey” at this reddit post:

From that post you will see that we needed some equipment:

1 x ($28) Dual Mini SAS SFF-8088 to SAS36P SFF-8087 Adapter in PCI Bracket
2 x ($16) CABLEDECONN Mini SAS26P SFF-8088 to SFF-8088 1M External Cable
1 x ($130) SUPERMICRO Computer Power Control Board for JBOD Support IPMI 2.00
1 x ($20) Supermicro CBL-NTWK-0587 1.6FT CAT5e RJ-45 Extension Cable — (Note that I actually got this directly from Supermicro because I couldn’t actually find it for sale, they just don’t have a good link.)

This is the CSE-846 with the old system board removed.
Here are some of the components getting laid out.

So there we have it… A regular hyper-converged server converted over to a JBOD shelf.

New Hair Thanks to COVID-19

So… I’ve been a mostly-teleworker/extreme work traveler for the better part of 6+ years. This whole mandatory telework as part of COVID however, is a completely new journey for me.

So… What do you do when you’re trapped at home for (at the time) 52-days straight and your only human interaction is basically 8 hours of telecons all day every day and casting angry looks of folks in the grocery store because they can’t follow the newly constructed arrows on the floor to direct traffic and enforce 6-feet of separation?

Easy. You reach out to your very good hair stylist friend and hatch a scheme to execute a rather speakeasy-esque haircut… AND MORE!

Back in the saddle again!

I’ve finally switched away from my Blackberry.  That was almost 2 years ago.  I’ve never looked back.  100% Android convert.  Currently running Motorola ATRIX on CyanogenMod 7.3 – Awesome!  What other technology things have happened?  My Raspberry Pi has arrived, pictures and setup information to follow later.  I’m certainly excited to where this will go.  It’s currently running Fedora, although not that well.

For more information, check out Raspberry Pi here:

From Raspberry Pi, posted by Jacob D. Sylvia on 6/26/2012 (4 items)

Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher

I’ve also started another job!  I left the plastics manufacturing company that I spent almost 5 years at.  I took a job with the Department of Defense (NAVY) doing information security.  As you can imagine, there won’t be much discussions about that here on the blog.  What I will say is that the stability and sense of purpose that I have in my new position is amazing.  I love what I do, and plan on definitely making this a career.  I work with some amazing people, and have opportunities to do some pretty great things.

I guess the last update on my life is that I was the Best Man in Andrew’s wedding back last June.  We all had a great time.

As for the future of this blog, I hope it continues and that I have the time to update more regularly.  Hopefully I can bring back “Angry Steph” and her voicemails.  Speaking of that!  She has also ended the dating game and will be married soon!  Anyway, hopefully I’ll be more active.  We’ll see!

Sleep well folks!

Déjà vu… Hello old friend…

икона за подаръкHere I sit…  365 days…  Sitting here, I look around my house…  I’m doing well.  My new career is taking off, and my old one still calls with questions now and again.  It’s nice to know that you’re still needed, even when sometimes it’s a bit of a pain.  I’m not one to talk about myself, which is why this blog has been inactive for almost two years.  Hey, I’ve said it before…  Maybe it’s time to write a little more.

I’ve recently taken to watching Hoarders…  Wow.  It’s mostly a fascination with that lifestyle.  I certainly have my fair share of technology and electronics.  And don’t get me wrong, I very rarely turn down a free gadget.  BUT, you can sit in my house.  You can walk from room to room.  My kitchen is spacious, and ALL of the flat surfaces can be seen.  I don’t understand how something gets that bad for people.  I guess that I’ve been lucky enough to not have an addictive personality.  Sure I will go on kicks of playing StarCraft 2 or have 2 cigars instead of one some weekends, but it’s just that – a kick.

Another interesting Halloween.  Not really.  For me, just another night of the week.  I don’t really see a reason to decorate the place, and buy all the candy.  I do enjoy the holiday, but I just haven’t felt a need to do any of it.  Maybe next year I’ll be able to come up with a costume.  I did have a plan of putting my hot tub to use.  I was going to setup a path to the back yard all decorated and be waiting out back there to pass out candy.  I just couldn’t make the time work by the time I thought of it.

I suppose that’s all for now.

Wreckless Weather, Terrible Traffic, and Douchy Drivers

свети илияиконивик услугипочистванематрациSo, I certainly had an eventful ride home Sunday between the weather, traffic and bad drivers!  Regular readers might confuse this post as an “Angry Steph” post due to all of the foul language to follow.  I assure you, it isn’t, but it is going to be FULL of foul language!

As I blog more, I’m noticing two things.  The first is that it is becoming easier.  The second is that the sooner I post about the events I am thinking about, the better the posts are.  I really wish I had the energy to post about Sunday on Sunday night after I got home from Chelsea’s going away party, but after a total of almost 9 hours on the road, I just didn’t have anything left.

Yesterday I was fired up about writing this post.  I had an eventful Sunday.  I just have to explain something first.  After the drive home from Philly, I stopped off in Seekonk quickly before heading up to Plymouth to wish Chelsea all the best.  There were so many things running through my head, I just HAD to start writing.  How am I to write when I have yet another hour drive ahead of me you ask?  I used the voice recorder of the blackberry and did a quick “talking points” stream of consciousness.  There was so much that happened on the 5 hour ride home, I hope I don’t miss anything!

Let me start off by saying that the drive DOWN to Philly Friday night was relatively uneventful.  We didn’t hit too much traffic, so that was good.  We left late and only hit a little bit of construction traffic in Connecticut, and then some in NYC on the Cross Bronx.  I’ll deal with you later, Connecticut.

I had a great weekend.  It felt natural.  Fan-Fitz-erific.  Enough said on that.  If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to comment, and I’ll answer them.  I just don’t want to stray from the true meaning of the post.

So without further bloviating, this blog post is not so kindly brought to you by horrible weather, the rain, rain dancing Native Americans, bad drivers, “Nervous Breakers”, “Lane Weavers”, Nervous Drivers, Clueless State Police Officers, and last, but CERTAINLY not least…  The not-so-great-state of Connecticut.

My day started early, around 6:30 *wink*.  On the road, and got some much needed and delicious breakfast.  By the time I was actually on the way home it was closer to 10:30a and the skies had just grown ominous.  I pulled out my blackberry, and opened up a weather report, complete with satellite image.  No Problem!  I should be about an hour ahead of any actual rain for the whole ride home.  Mistake number one!

I don’t know if I made a miscalculation or what, but boy was I wrong.  By the time I was on the highway it was miserable out.  Torrential down-pouring, and visibility next to nothing.  What is it about bad weather that brings all the assholes out onto the road?  I drive a manual shift car.  I like my car and I love to drive.  On long trips, I do use the cruise control however, as sometimes I just want to relax a bit.  It is a 5 hour drive after all.  So as I started this trek, I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to suck it up and actually *drive* the whole way.  Visibility was bad and every bad driver in the tri-state area decided to go for a Sunday drive.

Anyone who has been in a car with me knows that I do have a touch of road rage.  They also know that for the most part, I say the things I say about the other drivers mostly to be funny, or strike up a conversation with the passengers in my car.  There are some things however, that really infuriate me, and its because they are common sense things.  I think I’m just going to list them…  Oh, and if you are responsible for more than 1 of the below things…  Horrible things to you and your family…  and your family’s family…

A day in the life…

So, here I am again on this blog.  Hopefully I will get better at this whole frequent posting thing.  I know I’ve been slacking, BUT, I’m already WAYYYYY ahead of where I was with the first time I attempted this.  So today I discuss something that some of my readers may find hard to believe.  I’d like to think that it is a common thread for every career, not only IT work.  I’ll just come out and say it…

When I get home, the last thing I want to do is think about a computer.

I’d like to think this is the same for mechanics, plumbers, carpenters and the like.  I’m not saying that I’m not a geek, or I’m not extremely involved in the technology field, because both of those things would be a lie.  Lets face it, I’ve already admitted that I’m completely addicted to my Blackberry.  The problem lies in the fact that the majority of my day revolves around fixing computer problems.  At work every phone call, and every email, have something to do with a problem someone is having with our system.  I don’t mind that because these issues and problems keep me employed.  As long as there are problems, I have a job.  I guess its a good thing I have to work on aging hardware.

So, now to the real meaning of the post.  A few months ago, my laptop started acting up.  There were many things bothering me, among the biggest problem was that it would shock me when I put it on my lap.  Being relatively familiar with these machines, i deduced that electrical voltage freeing itself through one of the screws on the bottom couldn’t possibly been a feature of this model.  The thing is, at that point, work was a mess, so the last thing I wanted to do when I got home was call Dell and get the stupid thing fixed.  I have a really hard time talking to someone in a call center, knowing that I am more knowledgeable then they are about my issue.  So I dealt with it… For months.

I finally got the stamina to deal with one of these “Customer Service” representatives, and the process was surprisingly easy.  A word to the wise…  USE DELL SUPPORT CHAT!!!  The whole process took about 15 minutes, and I didn’t have to talk to a human.  Everything was sent to me in email as far as tracking and reference numbers.  I hate paper.  I love email.  The next morning an empty box arrived and I shipped my laptop off to the repair depot.  4 days later, my laptop arrived in perfect working order (from what I can tell).

I’ve had my laptop back now for just about a month, and writing this post is now the 3rd time I’ve actually booted it up.  While my laptop was away, I decided to treat myself to a 500GB laptop hard drive since the price dropped pretty substantially.  Now the second part…

Also while my laptop was away for repair, we had a rash of hard drive failures at work.  One in each server (total of 3).  Those weren’t really a problem.  All the drives are redundant, so I just ordered the replacements and put them in.  *sound of hands smacking together*  That’s that for the servers.  I also had 3 employee workstations lose their hard drives.  So I spent that whole week rebuilding systems – I HATE rebuilding systems.  Its so tedious and Microsoft releases so many updates, that they take hours to run.  I finally get everything done, which literally takes me all week.  I arrive home to find my laptop has arrived, and I am psyched.  Then it hits me…  I have to rebuild ANOTHER system, my own.

I really need to find a way to have all this stuff automated for me!

Dear God I’ve been babbling now through 3 episodes of COPS on G4.  I think it’s time to put this away for tonight.  Sorry for being boring!

it’s friday night… oh yes its…

… Friday night and I don’t feel like doing much!

Work has been crazy lately.  I’ll be able to blog more openly about it very shortly, and there is TONS to tell, so stay tuned.  As for tonight – I’m tired and mildly stressed tonight, so when I got home I ordered pizza from Papa John’s and turned on G4 TV because…  Well…  They play COPS all the time, and I like me some COPS.  I’ve always said that if you want to feel better about yourself and about your life, watch ONE episode of COPS.

Tonight for example has a suspect completely naked dancing on the hood of a car, propositioning the driver for sex, all while high on meth…  The interesting part…  The officer called her BY NAME!!!  Here is a hint…  If you are high on meth, dancing naked on the hood of a car at 3am and the police officer references you by FIRST NAME before he gets out of the car, you have royally fucked up your life.

Also as I’m sitting here I am having the weirdest headaches.  They only last for 3-5 seconds and happen about every 5 minutes…  I think its a sinus headache, so I just took some decongestants, but its the weirdest feeling.  Its also extremely annoying while trying to blog.

Work has kept me around my desk during most of the day, which doesn’t afford me much time to move around.  In the past I spent most of my day running around the factory working on systems, and got a decent amount of exercise which allowed my back to stretch out a bit.  Lately my back has been extremely tight, which i contribute to my lack of movement and the stress level.  It does, however, give me yet another thing to blog about – Elizabeth!!!

Elizabeth is the proprietor of “Joyful Living Massage” and might just have the most skilled hands on the planet.  I damaged my back when I was younger from a combination of Martial Arts and, don’t laugh, shoveling snow.  I have gone to a few massage therapists over the years, but I can honestly say that I have never felt as good as I do when I see Elizabeth for a tune-up!  I spoke to her and mentioned that I was going to write about her in my blog.  I’m not going to post her info for the inter-world to see, but if you would like me to put you in touch with her, just email or leave a comment here!

That’s all for tonight my subjects!