Sunday, October 19, 2014

VOS Research Center Open For Business

We have moved to the new location while our next shelter is being worked on.

I now have access to something I have never previously had while working on Vault-OS. I have a huge dedicated workshop building that my wife has graciously given me custody of if I promise to move my mountain of electronic hoarder garbage out there. I now have a covered greenhouse with full irrigation and an entire alleyway behind it to erect my hydroponics quonset. The workshop has power, a network hub and full access with cabling to both the greenhouse and quonset.

The greenhouse is going to be used for the proof-of-concept for aboveground permaculture to be fully controlled and operated by a VOS box. The quonset will be dedicated to an instance of VOS that demonstrates it can be used to produce food underground without natural sunlight or ventilation. All of my VOS equipment can reside inside the workshop protected from rain and the elements while I work on it including all sensors and automated control systems. If space permits I might even put in a bathtub of fish and freshwater shrimp raised by computers.

I will probably make the main connections over CANBUS but by the time the project is mature it will provide daemons for a whole variety of industrial buses including MODBUS, LanBUS, SIEMENS Industrial, I2C, SPI and simple RS-485/RS-232 serial cable. Unlike previous versions of the software, the daemons will now be loaded and launched by the server at run-time according to user preferences. I will be able to thoroughly test different cross-platform compiled versions of VOS running on Desqview, DR-DOS, Linux, Win 3.1, Win32, FreeBSD, Mac OSX and RTOS and will probably get it running on my Rabbit-2000, Arduino and ARM boards as well.

I have never had this kind of space before for pure research and it comes just as some of my experimental code for VOS w/PHP is finally working. I have been migrating everything that makes the server run to PHP pages which I will eventually be embedding in a zip file that travels with the main executable.

When both testbeds are producing food reliably, I will put the initial version of Vault-OS up on SourceForge or Github and run my fundraiser campaign on Kickstarter for the VOS Lexicon which will enable anybody anywhere in the world to emerge from the apocalypse with their own full automation system for survival using salvage and junk computers for all the components where required. With a copy of this book you will be able to build any number of automation and monitoring systems in record time including for inventory management, water storage, fuel monitoring, power management and permaculture all by yourself without any outside help if desired. It will be one of the coolest things that anybody on the planet has ever seen and the last word in decentralization for the individual survivalist.

I am finishing up my computer game very soon and right after that is released I am going to pour myself wholeheartedly into the development of VOS. It has only been 14 years and I think I am ready to produce something for peer review.


Herman said...

Shit I'll bite

Mex Arcane said...

Cool. Need a hand?

Jake said...

Amazing. I am just becoming re-interested in useful home/workshop automation, now that I have repaired a bit of the fluoride damage that destroyed my ability to think well or concentrate for decades.
You are really inspiring me to learn the basic principles of computer science again, from scratch. Thank you, Tex. You are an inspiration. And your "tough love" advice and just being there is also useful.
You understand how hard it is to live in a world of robopaths and people addicted to consumption, when we thals really want to create and produce, not consume.
Maybe that was part of fluoride's charm for the overlords: it makes you passive and you just kind of robotically work at your lowered IQ and then go home and buy stuff.

Russell said...

Shoot, I'm 12 years behind on my project :)

Before I was a reader of your blog, Tex, I had been tinkering around designs and POCs for a system similar to what you described. I'm down to having a functional base on a 256 meg Raspberry Pi. Sqlite really is an amazing piece of technology.

I focused on household management for the start. You can track people, relationships, birthdays, information you deem important in a key/value store, and track inventory and other lists and few other odds an ends.

Recently I explored trying to do it in Haskell, but the environment support is poor on the Pi, and if it isn't compiled it seemed much too slow.

I'm working on learning how to develop sensor platform on Arduino and MQTT.

But I have quite a distance to go before it's anywhere near how you've described VOS.

I'm excited to see your solution.

podrag said...

Do your thing homie. Youve been right about everything so far

John Cougar Melonhead said...

Some good survival retreats here. Check out the naval base, the fire brigade compound, and the missile silo home in particular:

Arduino-based backyard aquaponics (impressive):

Affirmation that the USA no longer has a functioning economy and the stock market has nothing to do with real economic activity. When the Fed said no more funny money, stocks imploded immediately, and they only recovered after they promised to crank up the printing press again. Either they print money and everything blows up, or they don't print money and everything blows up.

Texas Arcane said...

@Mex Arcane

I have been reading "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" book and really thinking about what the guy is talking about in there.

Basically, every piece of good software that has ever been written came into existence because of a single developer with enthusiasm scratching an itch.

Furthermore, every single GREAT piece of software was built (like Linux) when that initial developer surrendered it to a slew of new eyes who perfected it one feature at a time.

So the biggest goal is to get it from alpha to release V1.0. It would be great if we could do that with a small team of Vault-Co regulars before it goes global and open source. The details of things like in-depth unit testing of CANBUS daemons until they are incredibly useful and seem to "just work" no matter what is best left to many different sites testing it for their own situation and either adding back patches or recommending fixes. That's when it will become truly useful worldwide as a collective effort and I say that hating communists and people who insist only collectives can do anything well.

Texas Arcane said...

I've had a look at OpenWRT, which is the closest thing to competition that VOS would have out there.

If I just got the code and features I have now running all correctly, VOS would blow OpenWRT away and it would also be cross-platform code in a way that OpenWRT has never been.

The biggest thing to get right at the outset is the paradigm you are using. You get that right at the base of the pyramid and people who build on it later are building on solid, extensible architecture.

I noticed that OpenWRT never attempts to decouple the hardware from the web server and in my opinion that was an early mistake in their design they made that botches anything built on top of that. In VOS, everything comes into a mailbox which runs on all the devices so anything that wants to read hardware can send mail to that post office and to the web server it is just text mail in either .INI format or JSON. So people will be able to write daemons for devices I have never seen or heard of, which they cannot do with OpenWRT.

Sam said...

I think you're wasting your time growing stuff underground. Why? Heat and power. The people who grow stuff underground have a lot of experience with this. They're not growing tomatos but you can learn from them. Most use use 1000W and 500W High Pressure Sodium (HPS) sometimes mixed with Metal Halide(MH). Some of the higher pressure HPS have a better, read blue , spectrum but they're still yellow. The MH has a better light spectrum for humans. Staring at a ghastly yellow would be psychologically bad for you so the best would be MH even if it's a little less efficient in lumens. Lets look at the heat issue. For a 500W MH you can only grow efficiently a 4' x 4' area. Most use 3' x3' for the best growth. Not saying you can't go bigger but you're not using the light efficiency best. Now just think what area you would need and multiply by the 500W per every 3 sq. foot and you rapidly come to the conclusion that it's just not worth doing. The heat would be bad the power requirements would be extravagant. You're better off putting all your energy into making money and storing food. Aquaponics above ground is great idea. You just can't beat the sun. The bad part about this is you're then going to have to defend the damn thing and if I'm not mistaken semi-auto assault type rifles aren't allowed. Even if you had one groups could out gun you. Best is to be capable of doing aquaponics that can be integrated into a community of like minded people otherwise you'll lose it to the hoards.

I'm not being critical in an evil way. I think you're just looking at how technically cool underground growing is. I do this myself. Sometimes looking a problem and not stepping back and seeing if it's worth doing at all. Growing underground is cool but it's probably not practical. You're going to have to have air vents for this power and heat output. All this power and massive air vents is bound to cause some major attention. Which you don't want.

My take on Vault OS is what it's needed for is security. What automation is needed for aquaponics? None. A pump runs all the time which moves the water from the fish tank to the grow area and provides aeration when the water drops back into the fish tank. You really want this to run all the time if necessary.

Security though. That's the big one. You want to know who's coming, from where and what they're doing. People are the problem. Even in an all out nuclear war after about 8 weeks radiation is down to levels you can get out some. You got food, they don't. They may be perfectly nice people but if their kids are starving they'll kill you and take your food. They'll feel bad about you but they'll feel worse if their kids starve to death. What's worse the really stupid ones will probably die quick. The super ruthless or just plain smarter ones will be ones you have to deal with. The best defense is to hide if at all possible. Can't attack what's not there.

Texas Arcane said...


Welcome to the party. This super-low energy isolated environment agriculture has been under development using LEDs and very low energy heat sinks for years, long before I even began to read about it.

One of the terrible inefficiencies of modern hydroponics is that they appear to have gotten most of their ideas about their setups from professional drug dealers. They do use these ridiculous sodium arc lamps and industrial heaters when there is a ton of evidence a single line of blue-red LEDs and a 12 volt tank heater can supply the exact same growing needs on a fraction of the electricity.

I didn't invent this stuff and am only recently into studying it. People were growing stuff underground on 12 volt battery power with LED lighting successfully 20 years ago. In many cases they dual purpose the equipment, like using the case heat off the 12 volt transformer to keep the interior of their plant chamber warm.

This is the real frontier of hydroponics and I am hoping VOS can contribute the automation but far greater pioneers than me have already proven this viable. Do a little searching on Google you will be amazed at what is out there. Powered by tiny amounts of current and voltage.

Texas Arcane said...


You are right about security #1. I am going to be using the permaculture automation to draw a much wider audience than I would if it did noting but monitor seismic posts.

I am hoping I can demo some of my experiments with conversion of solar lights to seismic sensors for my kickstarter.

Herman said...

Hidden cameras, seismic monitors, infrared sensors, magnetic seals, and simple microphones. My father was an alarm technician for 18 years, he also was the first to detect the Chinese testing nukes underground in the 70s, using a refrigerator sized seismic monitor he programmed with a reel of punch paper. With the new tech we have nowadays and VOS you shouldn't have any problems detecting threats before they happen, all you need now is your pipboy. Once a threat has entered your perimeter it's all about having enough secret exits to ambush them. Btw a shotgun is not only menacing but it can be extremely accurate in the right hands.

Ryan David G said...

Would it be possible to use a hidden solar collector of some sort to channel some sunlight down into your underground growing area? If feasible this could reduce energy requirements significantly. I'm thinking of a sequence of mirrors down a shaft or a system using large fibre optic cables.

NjordDanuson said...

Cold and dirty water will be a greater threat to security if you havent already go to amazon and buy a sawyer mini filter a surplus tennier industru ecwcs sleep system and polartec fleece ecwcs bibs and jacket they wont be cheap for much longer..Most of you will be dealing with artic conditions plan on it give the people you love a fighting chance it should cost about a 120 dollars per family member ....

Wojciech Majda said...

Hi Tex,

what fertilizer you will be using? Or you will just recycle wastes from the fish tank?

Jake said...

"So the biggest goal is to get it from alpha to release V1.0. It would be great if we could do that with a small team of Vault-Co regulars before it goes global and open source."

I am game. I would like to help. It would be a good motivator for me as I restart my mental life in computer science. It will give me the satisfaction of working on something real and important. How do we coordinate? I have a personal email that I don't wish to publicize.

John Cougar Melonhead said...

It should be workable to set up an underground aquaponic operation with a filtered/heated aquarium and low-power grow lamps like Tex is describing. An aquarium heater is a power drain but there are examples of people using wind/solar/marine batteries, and if you insulate your aquariums well then maintaining their temperature is way less demanding. I'd still want some sort of central monitoring, so if one of your pumps malfunctioned or the pH levels dropped, maybe implying fungus contamination, you'd know before the damage got out of control. A microcontroller board is ideal for this.

As far as open source goes, it's better than closed source, but just posting code on Github isn't the magic bullet. The Linux kernel project has worked so well not because it's anarchic but because Linus himself is actually an excellent project leader who keeps his team at a manageable size and demands accountability from his co-developer and testers. Catastrophic bugs like Heartbleed and Shellshock have slipped through because everyone assumed someone else was reviewing the code, and of course when that happens nobody reviews the code.

Texas Arcane said...


I have this book called HOTHOUSE HYDROPONICS SURVIVALISM that describes a setup where the guy raises worms to feed into the fish tank, then uses the fish wastes to fertilize the square foot gardens and leftover compost from the food to feed back to the worms. He claims in the book to be using minimal amounts of energy to warm the tank, circulate the water and pump it over the plants from little hoses. He was using a paper test kit for PH (critical to monitor) back in the 70's when this book was written but today PH, temperature and waste contamination sensors are cheap and plentiful. He describes where if the water was getting too contaminated he'd put some salts or a few drops of hydrogen peroxide to clear the water, a perfect job for an automation system. Obviously if I got a system like this running on browsers using Raphael graphics for the control panel it would have very wide appeal even to people who are only marginally interested in thinking in survivalist terms as opposed to homesteading.

Hopefully the VOS book would present different setups for both - efficient micro garden in the backyard and deep shelter contained permaculture system.

Sam said...

I know about LED lighting. My understanding was it was too expensive. Maybe not now. Still doesn't completely change power requirements.
LED lighting lumens/W
Theoretical limit (white LED with phosphorescence color mixing) 260–300
metal halide lamp 65–115
high pressure sodium lamp 85–150

Real world numbers Cree First to Break 300 Lumens-Per-Watt Barrier

Cree's numbers are outstanding but it's still 250W per every square meter or so.

Texas Arcane said...


In dope growing setups they have nine foot ceilings with halide floodlamps so bright they are like the surface of the sun and use enough electricity in 30 seconds that they cause brownouts on the block.

In survival permaculture the LEDs are mounted just a few inches above the plants which are surrounded by reflectors, about 99.99999% more energy efficient.

Texas Arcane said...


One time I commented at a hydroponics shop on the Gold Coast I could not afford these gigantic fans they sell, I told them kind of as a joke I was not growing marijuana but fresh produce. The dude got so furious (he looked like he had been smoking some for a while) he threw me out of the shop.

This is why the field of hydroponics is so screwy. It is divided into two camps, one of them a bunch of potheads willing to spend a thousand a day to grow their crops and survivalists who want to spend a few cents a year to grow food. People mean different things when they talk about "hydroponics" for this reason.

L said...

I'm an IT guy with a Permaculture Design Certificate. I'm game.


Sam said...

I don't want to get in a pissing contest but "...In survival permaculture the LEDs are mounted just a few inches above the plants which are surrounded by reflectors, about 99.99999% more energy efficient..."

this is not true. The reason the dope growers put them so high is they are using 1000W lights like they use for baseball fields. Too close and they'll burn. They also are balancing the lumens per square foot. A 1000W metal halide or HPS puts out an enormous amount of lumens.

A light puts out so many lumens. The distance doesn't matter "if the light is focused". Air doesn't absorb many lumens when you're talking about a few feet away. Putting them close will not help unless your lumen amount is low. The lumens per area is what you need to watch. Too much it burns the plant. Too little and the plant thinks it's in shade and elongates to try and reach a better area where it can get better light. If it elongates too much it will be weak, have small foliage (which you eat) and can fall over and die.

You can't get something for nothing. LEDs are twice as efficient putting out light but they can be expensive and you still have a lot of heat.

I'm hardly your enemy for pointing out something that might be too much effort for too little gain. Another plan might be to plant plants outdoors and feed the plants to the fish indoors. The fish solid waste could be filtered through a cyclone filter like on vacuum cleaners and poured on the plants. Another option would be underground piping to pump the waste to a garden. I've never heard of this before but could mushrooms be used to feed the fish? Mushrooms grow fine in the dark. You can live fine off of mostly meat. Maybe a small garden for alfalfa or other greens. Better would be to stock up on alfalfa seeds and sprout them. No light needed and it supplies all the B vitamins I believe.