Back in June of 2012 I first started working on the initial Snail Mail Notifier, inspired by an RF set up. The RF version got tossed early on. It wasn't ideal because it required one arduino to stay in the mailbox at all times.
So I started on an ethernet edition in July inspired by this nice video out on MAKE. This route has worked out much better, especially since we have a mailbox on our house.

I'm happy to say we have now been consistently using the Snail Mail Notifier since late October 2012. After a minor tweak to the code due to massive email spam, the setup has been working perfectly. We have it sitting on top of a pedestal sturdy cardboard box we picked up at a local craft store.
Here's how it's set up:
A snap action switch is installed in the mailbox. The wires run in to the house and are hooked up to the arduino just inside the door. When the mailbox is opened three things happen:

  • A push notification is sent to the iOS app Prowl. 
    • Note that the avviso library does allow this to be configured with android as well
  • An email is sent to Chris and I letting us know mail has arrived (thanks to some php code Chris whipped up)
  • A green LED status light goes on (great visual cue for when neither of us have checked a device lately)

The arduino then waits for 5 minutes and checks to see if the mailbox is still open. If it is, another round of notifications get sent out. The whole thing will repeat this 5 times then stop until the device is manually reset (there's a simple reset button on the arduino). The 5 notifications in a row is a great way to know if there is a large envelope or package stuffed in the mailbox.
Since we don't have a router in our living room, I had to figure out a way to make this wireless. The XBee and other wireless shields for the arduino are kind of pricey so I opted for another solution - an ethernet shield and the TP-Link TL-WR703N router. As you can see, it's a relatively small wireless router and it only costs around $21. And since Deal Extreme sells a nice ethernet shield with the correct W5100 chipset for $14, this wireless solution was much cheaper.

Admittedly configuring the router was painful until I found this very helpful instructable (and specifically these wireless client configuration example). Now our Snail Mail Notifier is completely wireless!
As you can see, everything fits very comfortably in the box.
updated design
schematics courtesy of Fritzing

And the actual wiring on the arduino is pretty easy as well. 

All in all I'm pretty happy with the set up. There are only two major things that I feel like could really be improved upon. I plan to get to them eventually, but I'm in no rush. They are: 
  • configure the arduino sketch to reset the counter for the next day automatically. Right now the device has to be manually reset each day. Since I pass right by it, hitting the reset button isn't a big deal, but eventually I'd like this automated. 
  • decoupage the box
If you're interested, you can download the project here. The only thing not included is the php script, but there are some great examples on the net for that.

Hardware Used
Additional Software Used


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