The Stoker in Detail

The Stoker is a really well engineered device. Any BBQ’ing hacker type will appreciate the implementation.

My setup is as follows:

– Egg with one Grid Probe to monitor cooking temperature (probe wire wrapped in aluminum to prevent heat damage in case of flare up)

– One or two meat probes (or three, if needed) to monitor internal temperature(s) of food item

– One 5 CFM fan controlled by the Stoker

– Ethernet cable between an AirPort Express and the Stoker. While the Stoker has a fairly easy to use menuing system, it has a built in web server that offers up a much better GUI for monitoring and adjusting the cook.

Now, that sounds like a lot of potential “get the right wire in the right hole” problems. It isn’t. The Stoker uses a single wire serial network to connect to each external device. As such, it has 5 1/4″ stereo plugs on the unit and you can plug any device into any plug. Each device has a unique identifier and the Stoker will recognize any device no matter where it is plugged in.

This has a number of advantages:

(1) Obviously, you don’t have to worry about connecting things incorrectly.

(2) The “network” is stupid simple. To build an extender or to connect more devices is just a matter of adding more 1/4″ stereo plugs in parallel. Soon, my Stoker will be hidden away in a utility closet with a few feet of cheap cable leading to a breakout box of 1/4″ jacks.

(3) Expansion is trivial; just add more plugs. I think the Stoker can handle up to 32 devices. In other words, I can control more than one grilling device with a single stoker.

(4) The Stoker pushes data from analog to digital very quickly. Data tends to be more accurate because there is less analog stuff to get out of whack. Likewise, this increases flexibility.

The serial bus, the ethernet port, the menuing system, and the web GUI implies that the Stoker is not just a simple analog controller. And it isn’t.

When I first received the unit, I powered up the unit, dropped it on my home LAN and port scanned it. Actually, the first thing I did was use the front panel to tell the unit to set the date/time via NTP!

The port scan revealed that there were several more ports open beyond port 80.

Port Scanning host: 10.0.1.6

	 Open TCP Port: 	21     (ftp)
	 Open TCP Port: 	23     (telnet)
	 Open TCP Port: 	80     (http)
	 Open TCP Port: 	12346  (????)

Interesting; the box has both ftp and telnet ports open. And mystery port 12346?

Obviously, the first thing to do is telnet to the Stoker:

% telnet 10.0.1.6
Trying 10.0.1.6...
Connected to 10.0.1.6.
Escape character is '^]'.

Welcome to slush.  (Version 1.16)


tini04952a login: 

A login prompt! Neat! I have not a clue as to what accounts might be on the Stoker. That isn’t true, actually. I know that it is running something called “slush” and the login is identified as a “tini04952a”.

Plugging the two into Google doesn’t reveal anything, but dropping the “04952a” from the search terms hits a treasure trove of information.

In particular, it indicates that the Stoker appears to be implemented using a Maxim/Dallas Semiconductor TINI controller. Too Cool!

So, the Stoker is based around:

The TINI platform is a microcontroller-based development platform that executes code for embedded web servers. The platform is a combination of the broad-based I/0, a full TCP/IP stack, and an extensible Java runtime environment that simplifies development of the network connected equipment.

Further perusal finds the full dvelopment kit, user manual, etc… There are also third party FAQs and sites. I also found this site devoted to programming the Tini from Mac OS X.

Reading through the manuals reveals that a typical Tini configuration includes two user/password combinations; root/tini and guest/guest.

% telnet 10.0.1.6
Trying 10.0.1.6...
Connected to 10.0.1.6.
Escape character is '^]'.

Welcome to slush.  (Version 1.16)

tini04952a login: root
tini04952a password: 
tini04952a /> 

Cool. Now what? Beyond the login info, the Tini Specification and Developer’s Guide contains a trove of information about the slush shell and commands that should be present. The Stoker appears to be missing many commands, including those used to explore the filesystem. I don’t believe this is for security reasons as much as it is to maximize memory available to the Stoker’s custom Java control program (which is pretty rich!).

I can see the processes running on the device, though:

tini04952a /> ps 
3 processes
1: Java GC (Owner root)
2: init (Owner root)
3: /flash.tini (Owner root)

I exchanged email with John — the owner of Rock’s BBQ, maker of the Stoker — and he pointed me to this forum post which describes how to log in to the Stoker and put the bbq control program into “logging mode”.

tini04952a /> bbq -k
bbq stopped
tini04952a /> gc
tini04952a /> bbq -st
bbq: create
stoker: stoker
stoker: db
stoker: lcd
stoker: sw
stoker: controller
stoker: www
bbq: start
tini04952a /> stoker: start
query: begin
add: stoker.Sensor_Entry@6e684a8
add: stoker.Sensor_Entry@a510340
add: stoker.Sensor_Entry@afdae60
add: stoker.Switch_Entry@bcd8a3b
set_switch:D20000116F0B2530+DC0000002C96A005
set_switch:stoker.Switch_Entry@bcd8a3b+stoker.Sensor_Entry@a510340
set_switch:A30000116F1AD330+DC0000002C96A005
set_switch:stoker.Switch_Entry@bcd8a3b+stoker.Sensor_Entry@afdae60
SEN:3 SWT:1
370000116F1AC930: 3 17 62.6 -6.3 0.2 0 0.7 0.5 16.1 60.9
D20000116F0B2530: 3 17.4 63.3 -6.9 0.2 0 0.7 0.5 16.1 60.9
67108864 67108864 100
A30000116F1AD330: 3 16.8 62.2 -7.5 0.2 0 0.7 0.5 15.1 59.1
query: begin
SEN:3 SWT:1
370000116F1AC930: 3 16.9 62.4 -6.3 0.2 0 0.7 0.5 15.9 60.7
D20000116F0B2530: 3 17.5 63.5 -6.9 0.2 0 0.7 0.5 16.2 61.2
67108864 67108864 100
A30000116F1AD330: 3 16.8 62.2 -6.9 0.2 0 0.7 0.5 15.4 59.8
query: begin
SEN:3 SWT:1
370000116F1AC930: 3 17 62.6 -6.3 0.2 0 0.7 0.5 16.1 60.9
D20000116F0B2530: 3 17.4 63.3 -6.3 0.2 0 0.7 0.5 16.4 61.6
67108864 67108864 100
A30000116F1AD330: 3 16.8 62.2 -6.9 0.2 0 0.7 0.5 15.4 59.8

The Stoker is now logging probe data. The last number in the line with all the space separated data is the current temperature for that probe. I have no idea what the rest of the numbers are (yet). Interestingly, the “bbq” process doesn’t seem to show up in the list of processes running via “ps”.

Very interesting stuff. Now that I have the full SDK and instructions for building Tini apps from Mac OS X, I have quite a few options open to me. I’m particularly interested in figuring out how to both monitor and control the device in a fashion that could be integrated into a Cocoa app. I could just scrap HTML, but I hate scraping HTML.

However, first things first, I am going to use the Stoker and the BGE to cook about 40 lbs of pork butt.



22 Responses to “The Stoker in Detail”

  1. Steve Kirks says:

    Bill:

    I’m ready to hand you a check for piece of MacOS X software for the Stoker. I’ve got a friend who has the Stoker and raves about it. With software from you, it’s a lock.

    Steve

  2. John C. Randolph says:

    Bill,

    Maybe you should talk to Kim Silverman about making a voice-controlled Big Green Egg. ;-)

    -jcr

  3. David says:

    Sign me up too!!

  4. Amie says:

    Ack–Decemeber 10 escaped me and I missed both your AND my baby brother’s (now 20!) birthday. Hope you had a fabulous day, Bill!

  5. bbum’s weblog-o-mat » Blog Archive » So you wanna buy a Big Green Egg? says:

    […] Alternatively, go with a device like the Stoker. It is a little computer that can control a fan attached to the BGE while monitoring a probe installed within the BGE to maintain a particular cooking temperature. A Stoker can also monitor probes and control multiple fans, including monitoring probes inserted into food. Awesome device. The combination of a Stoker and a BGE enables one to easily slow cook meats for upwards of 20 hours at a temperature around 200 degrees without having to intervene, add fuel or otherwise worry about it. […]

  6. Ryan Gardner says:

    Great post about the stoker. Have you gotten anywhere with a stoker control program?

    I’m also an OSX user and java developer. If you want to work together to create a control program – let me know. I’m thinking of making a two-tier control setup where one tier is just a proxy to the stoker that communicates to the stoker via telnet and exposes stoker methods to other applications in a more friendly way.

    I’m planning to start writing this proxy in java next week when I get my stoker for my birthday.

  7. bbum says:

    I haven’t had time to mess with it, unfortunately.

    That and I want to upgrade to the 2.0 OS for the Stoker — I’m still at 0.5 and haven’t had time to update as I keep doing really big cooks for which not having the stoker would be a serious pain.

    I hope to get to it in the November time frame.

  8. bbum’s weblog-o-mat » Blog Archive » Medium Big Green Egg says:

    […] the Stoker, I’m not sure if I’ll attempt pulled pork. But I might do some […]

  9. bNasty says:

    Great info, I am in the starting phases of building my logging / Control / visualization application for my stoker and need all the info on this I can find.

  10. Dan says:

    BE VERY LEARY OF ORDERING FROM ROCKS BBQ STOKER…..!!!!!!

    I am almost certain that Rock’s is going out of business. I, like many of you, have read about this product and was extremely excited about it. I run a business that has four large mobile smokers attached to trailers and they are going all the time. I had BBQ GURU but would love the ability to see all my smokers temps and conditions from one central point. I could actually call and tell one of my operators to do such and such. I was itching to buy four but i thought I better see if the company and product was any good. So, last friday (11-2-2007) one of my GURUS went out. That Saturday Night I paid for a stoker online with a 25CFU blower and by Monday Night I thought it was strange there was no confirmation so I called…. and called, and called all Tuesday, and left email, and called 4 times Wednesday. By Thursday I was up to 14 or so emails and about as many calls. There was even a period of busy signals.

    The Fax number online is “disconnected” and at about 5:54 ET I got an answer. He said he had a computer crash, leaving me to worry about how a computer geek would let one computer shut his operation down for a week and manage to build a device so revolutionary. I told him that was what the phone was for and all he seemed interested in doing was getting me off of the phone. He said he does not confirm anything until it is shipped and PROMISED me he would call me in three hours. Five hours later and there was no call and NO ANSWER the other 5 or so times I called.

    Rocks is in violation of California Law buy taking my order but not confirming it via email or contacting me when I have placed so many calls. TOO bad. I don’t particularly like the GURU (I have bought 6, two wore out) and I should I have been treated with common professionality I would have bought another 4 by the time spring got here. I am also the type of guy to buy extras in case this guy goes out of business. But not now. The only reason someone would let CPU shut down their business, get their fax number disconnected and not return calls to a customer waiting for a simple confirmation would be he is going out of business. I would be very wary of buying into his product unless you have the money to lose. I see that in alot of cases the company was helpful as far as support… but lately more than a few bloggers mad about the way the order went down… no confirmation, tracking etc.

    Dan

  11. Scott Cockrell says:

    My stoker will be here in a couple of days and I would love to be able to use the Stoker Log in OS X. Please keep us up to date of any solutions. Until then I guess I’ll have to use Boot Camp. YUCK!!!

  12. Kent Fletcher says:

    I ordered mine on Friday 12/28. Specified overnight on the website. But I called, email, and tried to fax to confirm. Initially the line was busy, but got through after about an hour. Spoke to the owner and said I wanted it for Saturday delivery. He shipped out that same day Friday 12/28, and I got mine on Saturday 12/29. No complaints from me other than shipping cost. It is an awesome device. I’m using stokerLog written by a bbq enthusiast hanging around in the virtual weber board named Amir. Works on Windows XP, Vista, etc using .net framework. I’m not sure if .net is write once run anywhere like java is. But, If Mac OS can load the .net framework, you should be able to stokerLog. BTW, stokerLog overrides the web base interface, and gives you a realtime feed of temp/vs time for each probe w/ alarms, etc. My first weekend using the stoker, I did my cooks from my laptop on the couch. Turned out perfect.

  13. Brent says:

    I bought a Stoker a few weeks ago and really like it. I plugged it into an Airport Express and haven’t been about to get it working on my network.

    At first I used the Airport Admin utility and set the Airport Express to join my existing network like you would to have it stream music. With that scenario no IP address was assigned. Then I changed it to a WDS network. An IP address was assigned but when I use the IP address number in the manual it returns the error message “Safari could not open the page “http://192.168.0.2/” because the server stopped responding.”

    Any help is appreciated.

  14. Bash Coder says:

    Howdy all,

    Well, I just got my Stoker yesterday and I fired it up last night. It works great. It’s making my first slow-cook (pork butt-ock) on a brand new Egg a stress-free experience, which is frankly worth the price of admission right there. I like the algorithm, how it learns to adjust to my cooker by observing the results of the air it injects. It got better and better and controlling the temp, adjusting when and how much air it provided, and last night I had no worries about sleeping while it worked. When I woke up this morning, the meat had gone from 40 degrees to 164.2 and the cooker was at 225.4 degrees (my target is 225).

    I called Rock’s on Wednesday, and they were very helpful. I wanted it shipped next-day air and they said no problem. They provided a tracking number for me the next day and it arrived as scheduled, just a couple hours after my Big Green Egg was delivered.

    Setup was easy, and as a techie and incurable gadget hacker I really like the whole design, software and hardware. I like the nice little perks like a built-in webserver, DHCP and NTP timesetting (on a temp controller? that’s off the hook!). Now I gotta learn how to program one of those TINI controllers! Chaos will ensue…

    Let’s just say there was NO WAY I was not going to buy this thing. Web-enable a cooker with thousands of years of design heritage behind it? It must be done. That’s an ancient-modern mashup like Stargate and The Fifth Element. But I digress…

    I’m going to set up a VPN at home so I can log in from work. I’m also writing a little perl script to fetch the status page, parse the HTML and give me an RSS feed. For you guys talking about a Mac OS X widget, I recommend using one of the many RSS widgets out there and do likewise. Besides, don’t despise screen-scraping: HTML, XML, tab-delimited, whatever. It’s all ASCII and whatever you do you’re gonna parse anyway. Good programmers are lazy, and I say easiest is best.

    I wish it was more weather-proof, but as a gadgeteer I get why it isn’t. There was supposed to be some rain today, so I simply put a cover over the box and the connectors. No problemo.

    But for all this tech talk, the Stoker is easy-to-use and requires no tech savvy whatsoever to set up and run. You don’t have to connect it to the network or anything. There just happens to be lots of little fun stuff in there for those of us who like to play around. And the fact that it can indeed control any number of cookers gets me thinking about bigger and better parties. I might buy a few el-cheapo grills that this thing has blower adapters for and get some serious parallel processing going.

    I must say that Dan’s post below (from 8 months ago) is ridiculous. It’s completely irresponsible to suggest that someone is going out of business just because of an apparent lapse in communication with one customer. Heck, I wouldn’t return his emails either. Fax machine? Who uses a fax machine anymore anyway? As to violating Kalifornia law, Dan’s hot air must somehow violate their emissions rules.

    I found Rock’s to be helpful and courteous, and their product is innovative and well-made. We need to encourage and support entrepreneurs that have small businesses and still manage crank out cool technology. It’s nice to see this stuff coming from someone other than Microsoft, Dell, HP or Cisco. Or Sharper Image (ugh). This is guerrilla gadgetry at it’s best, and I’m all for it.

    Anyway, the butt is now at 183.5 degrees (target is 200) so we’re getting closer to suppertime.

    – Bash

  15. Jeremy says:

    I just came across this post, and could not have been more surprised. I actually work in the group that designed/developed the TINI that powers the Stoker. I recently bought a Large BGE and have been toying with the idea of setting up a wireless temp control and meat monitoring system to let me be even more lazy while smoking some butt or brisket or other various large wad of meat. Its fun to see a product I’ve spent years working on being used. Small world I guess. Nice website.

    -Jeremy

  16. bbum says:

    @Jeremy — that’s awesome! Good work!

    The TINI platform is quite neat. When I first got my Stoker, I portscanned it, figured out how to telnet to it (non-standard port) and, from the login query, found the TINI technical materials and used one of the various default logins to get in and have a poke around.

    Neat little embedded system. So very high level in such a small package. Combined with the single-wire serial makes for a brilliant embedded controller.

  17. Clif says:

    I am buying a stoker but I run ubuntu on my laptop. will they interface?

  18. bbum says:

    Yes.

  19. Bob says:

    I ordered a stoker from Rock’s, but am getting no response from them. I think they might be out of business. Do you know of any other website that might sell the same system or is there another system that is comperable. The digiqii does not seem to be as good.

  20. Ninna says:

    I ordered a Stoker loaded May 20th to use on my BGE and never received a conformation either. After waiting at least 2 weeks I called and called and called.
    Finally fed up I kept calling one after the other until someone finally answered the phone!
    The excuse was that they were having trouble getting parts, but they should be able to send it out
    the following week.

    It finally did arrive last Thursday or Friday while I was at work. Saturday, the day I would have time to try it out……can’t use it! There is no power supply in the
    box!!!!!!!

    So I called and called and called. Of corse it’s closed on the weekend! But I call anyway and leave a message with the problem, my phone #,
    cell # and my email address. No response! Tuesday I call again … no answer, leave another message.
    Wednesday called again no answer leave a message: ” If I don’t get some kind of response I am going to pack the thing up and send it back”! … No response so far.

    At this rate if I send it back I’ll probably be old and or dead before my credit ever shows up on my credit card!

    Wow! What a way to run a business!

    I have put off at least 4 family BBQ’s since ordering this blasted thing! Good Grief! I live in Montana, our summer is almost over!!

    Should I wait or make funeral arrangements?

  21. Dis McCarthy says:

    Not to drag out an ancient post, but did you ever do any dev on the stoker directly?

    Ordered one a couple weeks ago (hoping to have better luck than the other posters, but..) and I’m thinking of hacking up a ruby app to monitor it from the web. (I want to learn ruby anyway..)

    FYI there is an OSX management/monitor app over on this forum.

  22. Dis McCarthy says:

    To follow up on that, it took about 3 weeks to get my kit. He responded to email after a couple of days with updates, and it shipped when he said it would. (Last month a smaller followup order, just probes, shipped in 2 days and got to me in under a week.) I really get the impression its just some guy in his garage tinkering, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

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