Roomba Troubleshooting

I picked up a Roomba I7 last year with the automatic emptying Clean Base, and have very much enjoyed having it take care of some light vacuuming regularly to take care of the house. In general it has worked very well, and I’ve appreciated the automation, but recently there have more frequently been errors where the Roomba will go back to the base after cleaning, but it won’t automatically empty.

iRobot’s support article about this issue recommend cleaning the base, cleaning the front of the Roomba, taking the Roomba away from the base and manually sending it home, and finally rebooting the base and the Roomba. Unfortunately none of the above reliably fixed the issue for me.

I found the article from iRobot about re-attaching the front bumper if it gets dislodged, and thought it would give me a good idea on detaching the front bumper. From there I could get a better look at the sensors and see if I could find what the problem was.

I’ll note that this may void the warranty. I’m not entirely sure where the line is, as a fair portion of this is following the instructions iRobot provides, but here’s your fair warning.

First is removing the edge brush, and then the 5 screws holding on the bottom cover.

Then the bottom cover pops right off without any trouble. Now that the cover is off, we can unfasten the 10 screws holding on the bottom lip of the front bumper. You can also remove the battery if you prefer. I did. Just note that if you remove the battery, the Roomba will not wake up on it’s own, you’ll need to put it on the charging base for it to start up again.

At this point with the bottom lip of the front bumper removed, the front bumper should be loose, but be careful not to just yank it off. There is a wire connecting the little circular IR sensor on the top.

Remove the two screws, and the sensor, clear plastic top bit, and the bumper will all separate from eachother. Don’t worry about the orientation of the clear plastic bit. It is keyed so it will only fit properly one way.

Now with the front bumper separated, we can get a look at the IR sensors on the front of the Roomba, give them a quick wipe with a cloth to get the dust off.

We can also see the inside of the front bumper is super dusty, and is certainly impacting the ability to communicate with the Clean Base. You could try cleaning this as-is, and I’m sure it would be fine.

I chose to remove the window plastic from the front of the bumper, by very carefully loosening the tabs marked. If you’re confident or experienced, this is fine. If you’re not confident, I’d hold off on separating the window from the bumper. Breaking one of the tabs is a possibility, so this is the riskiest part of the whole operation.

You can see it was quite dusty, and for me it was easier to clean as a separate piece.

Reassemble the robot in the reverse order we took it apart, stick it on the base so it boots up, and then give the automatic emptying another try. It worked great for me.

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Quick Oil Lamp Note

A family member recently passed an old oil lamp we’ve had in the family for quite a while, it had been left with old fuel in it, which had gone bad, and left some brown residue inside, which was entirely resistant to cleaning with soap and water, and also didn’t want to dissolve into fresh fuel.

After some work, I found that isopropyl alcohol is quite effective. I put a little bit in the reservoir and between letting it sit a bit, and swirling it to get everything, the lamp cleaned up nice and easy.

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Cellular Webcam Revision 3

I have made another revision to my ongoing cellular webcam project to include some improvements and lessons learned from revisions 1 and 2. In addition to attempting to reduce costs a bit.

Cost reductions mostly came from finding equivalent parts from other manufacturers that were priced lower. There were also a small bit of savings from some omissions of things I tested in version 2, but found to not add a lot of value.

The most visible and significant change being the addition of an IR illuminator, and IR capable camera, so illuminated images at night are possible, which will be interesting as I’ve seen weather changing significantly or large snow accumulations occur overnight when previous revisions could not see.

Now a finished revision 3 system has been placed, and I look forward to seeing the results and how well it performs over this winter.

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Rockets 2020

Well, the global pandemic precluded the usual trip down south for rocketry in the spring, but as the year went on and classes at the university started figuring out their plans for getting things done safely. Finally here in the fall a smaller group made a quick day trip to eastern Washington.

I finally decided after all these years helping out, that I would finally get my NAR L1 certification, so I picked up a kit and assembled it for a basic cert flight.

I also took it as an opportunity to put together a new custom flight board, this revision mostly for testing and gathering data, not actually controlling any chutes.

The first flight for my L1 cert was successful, and was recovered.

At that point, I had the telemetry data from the flight board from the first flight, and had achieved a good cert flight, so I put a bit peppier motor in for a second flight.

Unfortunately, a larger chute and a breeze carried it far enough that I was unable to recover it. I left a note with the local club, and maybe one of the local farmers will find it and turn it in. Otherwise it served the purpose, and I don’t feel too bad about losing it.

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Homebrew Datacenter OOB & Stratum 1

I have a rack of gear down at a datacenter down in California, where I’ve got a single internet connection. It’s quite reliable and performs well, but I wanted a backup means to reach my equipment in the case of an outage, or in the potential case of a router misconfig that breaks external connectivity.

I had an extra 1U rackmount case from the PoE PDU project, and with the LTE modems I’ve been using for the Cellular Webcams, it seemed very reasonable to put something together and have an inexpensive Out of Band connection to my remote installation.

At the same time, I had plenty of room in the case for another Raspberry Pi, and another person who has gear in the same facility noted that *some* GPS signal was available inside, though perhaps not great, so I searched for a reasonably high gain GPS antenna, and decided to add a NTP Stratum 1 time server as well.

I designed a couple of very basic custom PCBs, one to combine the two power supplies to provide redundancy, and the GPS board for the Stratum 1 Pi. Added a basic character LCD I had laying around in the junk pile to provide visible status.

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