CatGenius replacement firmware coming soon

The CatGenie is the only self-cleaning box on the market. An evolution of the LitterFree design, it connects to your household plumbing.

Re: CatGenius replacement firmware coming soon

Postby gee8mao » Tue Jun 01, 2010 1:57 am

CatGenius wrote:
gee8mao wrote:Any update on your progress thus far?
I'm sorry for this late response: I'm working really hard on the software and even though I read this forum almost on a daily basis before, I now don't log in that often anymore. Most people involved signed up for beta testing, so they know what's going on.
I've been somewhat of an "avid reader" of this CatGenie forum for some time, and I'm REALLY (really, really, really, really, really, really) looking forward to learning when your firmware will go live so that I can even actually order a CatGenie 120 for my two pals.
I'm glad to hear that. I seems that most people are just waiting silently, unfortunately ;-)
My goals are to use a certifiably non-toxic sanitizing solution in a refillable cartridge and to use 0.12g 6mm BBs, so this firmware seems to be the answer to the refillable cartridge dilemma that was born with the 120 (especially following your second video evidencing cartridge bypass - does your programming still query the CG to deploy solution?).
I've been looking at laboratory glass beads, usually used to smoothen the bubbles in a boiling liquid. They sink, are available in 3mm balls and they are smooth, so they won't pick up any dirt. Don't use BBs; They're too big, like the LitterFree pellets. See also: catgenie/topic3371.html
CatGenius does deploy cleaning solution, but for now it does not support the original RFID tag as I do not yet know the meaning of all data fields in it.


Thanks for the response and the tips for 3mm glass beads! I'll try to find an economical price point for those beads since they seem to run about $25/lbs, and would seem to me to be denser than the PVC litter that is peddled for the CG.

How many pounds do you think a CG should take without danger of becoming too heavy and wearing down the internals? Because I think that cats would be more accustomed to "piddling" around in 3-4 lbs of litter.

Regarding the cleaning solution, it seems to be the consensus that no one understands all the fields in the RFID tags, but referencing some of the home-brew CG60 solution setups that we've seen, that seems to be the way that everyone wants to go (which doesn't seem to be all that bad). So if your firmware altogether ignores the RFID tags in the cartridges, then users (like me in the future) will be able to self-monitor and refill the cartridges with cleaners like Simple Green. That's ultimately what I'm hoping for since the majority of the expense in owning a CG seems to arise with the cost of the solution (especially if we want to eventually run it at cleaning after every visit).

Thanks again and please keep up all the hard work - we're rooting for ya!
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Re: CatGenius replacement firmware coming soon

Postby gee8mao » Wed Jun 02, 2010 6:30 pm

CatGenius wrote:I've been looking at laboratory glass beads, usually used to smoothen the bubbles in a boiling liquid. They sink, are available in 3mm balls and they are smooth, so they won't pick up any dirt.


Litter has always seemed to be such a broad subject, and I've read the many threads discussing the usage of millet seeds, pvc cylinders, etc., but the idea of laboratory glass beads sounds like a good idea so I looked into these after you mentioned them - I found that you can search for pricing by Googling "flint glass beads".

In any event, I found a seller on eBay for some Walter Stern "Economical Solid Glass Beads", and ordered 6 lbs worth. Thank goodness they were on sale for 70% off ($6.77 per vs. $21-$26), but shipping was still a humdinger. Price ultimately came out to be under $90, but I'll use these as a replacement for fine crystal litter in their Clever Cat box (by manually scooping, washing, and draining on a daily basis) until you finalize the CatGenius.

I have this box in a shower stall, so perhaps I'll punch some slits in the bottom of it so that the urine can free drain.

Will let everyone know how these 3mm glass beads work out.
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Re: CatGenius replacement firmware coming soon

Postby BamZipPow » Wed Jun 02, 2010 10:37 pm

Another source on eBay...about $127 fer 6lbs shipped...
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?Vi ... 0332314261
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Re: CatGenius replacement firmware coming soon

Postby kittymom » Sat Jun 05, 2010 6:51 pm

I'm not sure if this would serve your purpose, but I am happy with the "sinking pellets", they are quite similar to CG granules IMO. They are discussed in the thread about alternatives for granules.
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Re: CatGenius replacement firmware coming soon

Postby CatGenius » Sun Jun 06, 2010 1:52 pm

kittymom wrote:I don't mind something reminiscent of video games... press AABABBB to access the special mode... :)
Haha, yeah, that's the problem. Adding features isn't much of a problem. But making them accessible to the owner without making the user interface overly complex is.

I'm thinking about making all the geek-features accessible over the serial port.
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Re: CatGenius replacement firmware coming soon

Postby CatGenius » Sun Jun 06, 2010 2:06 pm

gee8mao wrote:Thanks for the response and the tips for 3mm glass beads! I'll try to find an economical price point for those beads since they seem to run about $25/lbs, and would seem to me to be denser than the PVC litter that is peddled for the CG.
Stay away from the borosilicate beads: They're incredibly expensive and don't bring you anything extra. Regular glass will do fine.
gee8mao wrote:How many pounds do you think a CG should take without danger of becoming too heavy and wearing down the internals? Because I think that cats would be more accustomed to "piddling" around in 3-4 lbs of litter.
I don't know about the difference in wear. Glass is tougher but the beads have no sharp edges so there won't be much grinding. The beads are heavier for sure, but I also expect them to stick less to the cat's waste, so fewer of them will end up in the hopper.
gee8mao wrote:Regarding the cleaning solution, it seems to be the consensus that no one understands all the fields in the RFID tags, but referencing some of the home-brew CG60 solution setups that we've seen, that seems to be the way that everyone wants to go (which doesn't seem to be all that bad). So if your firmware altogether ignores the RFID tags in the cartridges, then users (like me in the future) will be able to self-monitor and refill the cartridges with cleaners like Simple Green. That's ultimately what I'm hoping for since the majority of the expense in owning a CG seems to arise with the cost of the solution (especially if we want to eventually run it at cleaning after every visit).
CatGenius does not support original cartridges: I don't have information on how to validate an original cartridge and what the function is of the various data fields inside. But also because CatGenius requires an RFID tag itself, containing the software license. Don't worry about CatGenius requiring an RFID tag too: As long as the tag is in your box, CatGenius will do it's job forever. I just need this mechanism to prevent 'dealers' to upgrade 10 boxes, get paid by 10 customers, but not notifying me.
gee8mao wrote:Thanks again and please keep up all the hard work - we're rooting for ya!
Thanks; I can use a little encouragement every now and then. ;)
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Re: CatGenius replacement firmware coming soon

Postby CatGenius » Sun Jun 06, 2010 2:29 pm

gee8mao wrote:Litter has always seemed to be such a broad subject, and I've read the many threads discussing the usage of millet seeds, pvc cylinders, etc., but the idea of laboratory glass beads sounds like a good idea so I looked into these after you mentioned them - I found that you can search for pricing by Googling "flint glass beads".
Oh yeah; It's always a hot topic and it seems to be a science on it's own.
gee8mao wrote:In any event, I found a seller on eBay for some Walter Stern "Economical Solid Glass Beads", and ordered 6 lbs worth. Thank goodness they were on sale for 70% off ($6.77 per vs. $21-$26), but shipping was still a humdinger. Price ultimately came out to be under $90, but I'll use these as a replacement for fine crystal litter in their Clever Cat box (by manually scooping, washing, and draining on a daily basis) until you finalize the CatGenius.
A CatGenius box needs about 2.4 liter of granules (see also http://www.litterbox-central.com/litter-box/catgenie/topic3370.html), that's about 1.6 kg of the original granules. If your cats tolerate long levels of granules, less is better, but keep in mind that some amount is required to scrape the inside of the bowl.
My local hero laboratory supplier sells them in different sizes, al the way up to 10 mm, but 5 mm is already too big. I think 4 mm won't scrape the bowl very well, so I'll stick with 3 mm. Those cost €1.71 for a bag of 100 gram. Since they're heavier, I expect to need 2 kg for that volume, possibly more. So it will cost me at least €35 to fill up the box, but I expect them to last longer because of less tracking and less flushing. The box will be cleaner because nothing sticks to the balls' smooth surface and they will be in supply forever. It's a bit more expensive that the original granules, but it's a much more valuable product to use. I bet the production price of the original granules doesn't exceed 3% of the selling price. For glass beads that's probably over 50%.
gee8mao wrote:I have this box in a shower stall, so perhaps I'll punch some slits in the bottom of it so that the urine can free drain.
I have read about a guy converting an old dishwasher into a semi-automatic cat box. He put a cat-flap door in the dishwasher's door, made a 3 inch barrier on the front to prevent granules from falling out (when opening the regular door) and put washable granules in it. He only needs to scoop manually, but the rest is done with hot water an a very good cleaning agent ;)
gee8mao wrote:Will let everyone know how these 3mm glass beads work out.
Please do! My order is still being processed :(. I really don't understand why they don't sell them in bulk: 100 gram bags is close to ridiculous.
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Re: CatGenius replacement firmware coming soon

Postby CatGenius » Sun Jun 06, 2010 2:37 pm

BamZipPow wrote:Another source on eBay...about $127 fer 6lbs shipped...
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?Vi ... 0332314261
The seller even included some semi-useful information: A density of 2.49g/cm3, which is probably for the glass only, without the air between the balls, or it'd be a bit much...
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Re: CatGenius replacement firmware coming soon

Postby CatGenius » Sun Jun 06, 2010 2:41 pm

kittymom wrote:I'm not sure if this would serve your purpose, but I am happy with the "sinking pellets", they are quite similar to CG granules IMO. They are discussed in the thread about alternatives for granules.
I've seen those too. They're advertised as koi pond filter material. My problem is in the shipping: 3kg from the US to Europe costs more than the granules themselves. So they may be cheap, they're difficult to obtain from other sources, while glass beads are universally available as laboratory equipment.
But I'm sure the "sinking pellets" will do fine too. Whatever floats your boat ;). If they were available here, I'd surely give them a try.
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Re: CatGenius replacement firmware coming soon

Postby nagxavu » Sun Jun 06, 2010 2:55 pm

CatGenius , how do you update the firmware of the CatGenie? Is there a flash inside which can be reflashed? Is there a way to modifiy the firmware frrom users?

When is your Firmware available? I can't wait ;-)
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Re: CatGenius replacement firmware coming soon

Postby CatGenius » Tue Jun 08, 2010 5:40 pm

nagxavu wrote:CatGenius , how do you update the firmware of the CatGenie? Is there a flash inside which can be reflashed? Is there a way to modifiy the firmware frrom users?

When is your Firmware available? I can't wait ;-)
Firmware is currently updated using a special, commercially available in-circuit-programmer. We are considering to use a bootloader that allows people to update to later CatGenius versions themselves, but even this will still be a geeky solution.

Upgrading your box to a CatGenius means overwriting the stock firmware in internal flash with CatGenius. This is a non-reversible process.

You can always write your own firmware, but the amount of work is easily underestimated. There's also a possibility for custom washing programs from RFID tags, but that won't be available in version 1.0.

We are now in Beta phase. A CatGenius upgraded box can wash a box in all modes a stock box can. The additional scoop-only modes work, just as a dedicated cleanup program that tries to recover your box in case something goes wrong. A select group of enthusiastic people is testing what we currently have. What is not implemented yet are the error modes. Errors are detected, but currently no action is taken upon them. Instead the box just waits for the error to go away, which won't happen without user intervention, so the washing program appears to be stuck. Obviously we have chosen for this deliberately for now.
In the final version, the washing program will be stopped upon an error, and a cleanup program will be started. Only when a cleanup program fails, it will be shown as an error to the user.
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Re: CatGenius replacement firmware coming soon

Postby nagxavu » Tue Jun 08, 2010 6:05 pm

I like the "scoop only" function in cat activation. The CatGenie support has told me that they thinking about such feature.
Is it possible to read out the original flash to only disable the countdown of a cartdrige?

Can you re-engineer how the original CG handles the RFID?
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Re: CatGenius replacement firmware coming soon

Postby CatGenius » Wed Jun 09, 2010 12:06 pm

nagxavu wrote:I like the "scoop only" function in cat activation. The CatGenie support has told me that they thinking about such feature.
I'd be surprised if they did: Using less cleaning fluid isn't in their interest. But from the other hand I still think it's a good idea. People copying it confirms that. I cannot think of a bigger compliment than this idea being adopted by the original manufacturer, especially if they loose revenue on selling cartridges on doing so.
nagxavu wrote:Is it possible to read out the original flash to only disable the countdown of a cartdrige?
Upgrading to CatGenius is a one way trip to voiding your warranty. The original firmware cannot be read from the chip due to a copy protection mechanism provided by the chip itself. So It cannot be put back in either original or modified form. If it was, we would have thought about that :wink:.
nagxavu wrote:Can you re-engineer how the original CG handles the RFID?
I could, if I knew what all data fields in the cartridge are used for. I've got a pretty good idea, but I've still got some questions too. And I would need the algorithm to validate a cartridge to be original, which is almost impossible to reverse-engineer. If I had that algo, I wouldn't be programming CatGenius: I would be selling compatible cartridges :wink:.
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Re: CatGenius replacement firmware coming soon

Postby gee8mao » Sat Jun 12, 2010 1:39 pm

Just to give you a first impression of the 6 lbs worth 3mm glass beads that I had gotten for $80+, they feel great (at least to my touch), but don't seem to drain very well because they are quite small and the spaces between each ball are quite close (factor in the adhesive forces of liquids in tight spaces).

6 lbs came in 6 300 cc bottles, which converts to 1.8 L - a bit shy of the 2.4 L requirement that you had mentioned.

In any event, to achieve 2.4 L, you would need at least 8 lbs of glass beads.

I went to Lowes and bought a wire mesh drain screen, then drilled a 1.5" hole in the center of the Clever Cat box. I then epoxied the screen with its nub pointing upward to the outer bottom of the hole.

I post again later to give you some thoughts on how it handles liquid and solid waste.


Cheers,
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Re: CatGenius replacement firmware coming soon

Postby gee8mao » Sun Jun 13, 2010 1:58 pm

Well, one cat took to the glass beads right away, but my second opted to use my bath mat. So I put in a bit of the silica crystal litter for acclimation (which should eventually dissolve and wash out). Cat #2 did eventually go in to for a #1 after I did that. Now in terms of solid waste performance, some glass beads embedded themselves onto the waste, which would shake off since they are quite light individually (and I wasn't about to pick them out with my fingers), so expect some consumption that you'll need to replenish.

At the rate that I saw, I would say to expect maybe a pound every 2 months - maybe every quarter at best - for two cats.

Cheers,
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