Tag Cloud Added

I realize I’m about 10 years late to the party but I added a tag cloud to my blog (it shows up in the sidebar). My next big project is going through all the posts and adding tags. I don’t know how the cloud will work with entries that are marked as private but if you suspect you can’t see something then you’re probably right.

Thermostat Confusion? I Have the (a) Solution!

One thing I like about our home is that each level has its own thermostat and can be independently regulated (makes for more efficient cooling and heating and it actually cuts electrical costs). Thermostat technology has come a long way, however if your thermostat is in the wrong location it can cost you money and cause perpetual discomfort.

Situation: Our upstairs thermostat is in the hallway. With no hallway air vents the temperature around that thermostat is mostly dictated by whatever makes its way up from the main floor.

The old thermostat location was not ideal. Air from downstairs would heat and cool the hallway where the thermostat was located. When in use the downstairs fireplace caused a huge temperature discrepancy.

Summer Situation: In summer the upstairs AC will run and run until the hallway cools to whatever temperature the thermostat has been set to. Since the air has to spill out of the bedrooms and into the hallway to reach the thermostat by that time all the bedrooms are too cold.

Winter Situation; In winter the warm air from downstairs keeps the upstairs hallways warn as well. The net effect is that the bedrooms are left unheated if the thermostat is set to a normal heating range. If we compensate by making our heating threshold higher than normal the upstairs AC will run and run until the hallway warms to this temperature. Since the air has to spill out of the bedrooms and into the hallway to reach the thermostat by that time all the bedrooms are too warm.

Solution: My wife pointed out that if we moved the thermostat into the bedroom that would solve all our problems. Since we use an automated system to control our temperature having it in our bedroom isn’t a big deal because others rarely need to adjust it. And thus was the thermostat moved. And there was there peace in the land.

That was all a long-winded way of saying this: If you have a two story home and separate thermostats (main and upstairs) make sure your upstairs thermostat is placed correctly. One alternative option to relocating the thermostat is to use one with a remote sensor.

Bounce House Trampoline Birthday Invite 6 x 4 Template

It seems that more and more kids are doing “bounce house” trampoline birthday parties. My son just had one and my wife recruited me to make the invite. I’ve posted a blank copy below and it’s high enough resolution that it prints out nicely at 4 x 6. We had ours printed at Costco and then we just mailed them out (you can put address info & stamp n the other side). If you feel lazy and don’t want to make a card feel free to use mine. I’ve left the text section of the card blank so you can enter your own text, put a sticker on the card with the info or even hand write the invite.

O Internet, Internet, wherefore art thou Internet?

For some strange and unidentifiable reason there are areas in our home where the Internet simply doesn’t reach via Wi-Fi. The main floor office is one such example. Our primary router (a Nighthawk X6) is in the basement (in the mechanical room) and feeds the entire house and yard quite well. However, that particular network simply doesn’t function inside the office. I picked up a Night Hawk X8 router and set it up in the center of the office thinking it could feed the office and work it’s way out the main and upstairs floors. Not so! The X8’s newly created Wi-Fi network was limited almost exclusively to the office! Even though it was overkill, I left that situation alone for awhile because it got the job done and met our needs. But I knew one day that something would interrupt the status quo.

All was well until I we needed Wi-Fi in the garage (for a computer and the Rainbird Sprinkler box). In hindsight I should have just run an ethernet cable to the garage when we built the house. But I hadn’t (maybe you still can!). There was still a way to potentially run an ethernet cable to the garage though.There’s a network jack in my bedroom which shares a common wall with the garage attic. I could set up a switch and then push a line into the attic and then down into the garage. Realistically it sounded like too much work.

Here’s what I tried first: I picked up a NETGEAR – PowerLINE Wi-Fi 1000 Access Point and Adapter. I plugged one end into an outlet near my router and plugged a LAN cable from my Night Hawk X6 into the Netgear Access Point. I went out to the garage and plugged the receiving end into an outlet. Sure enough! They found each other and linked.  However, the internet indicator was red, denoting a poor connection (I think it ended up being 3-4 mbps). Not great. I was lamenting my problem to a friend who suggested moving the Nighthawk X8 into my bedroom against the common bedroom/garage wall. Huh… that made a lot of sense. Sometimes you need another set of eyes om a problem.

I started the process by moving the Net Gear 1000 into the office. If I repurposed the Night Hawk X8 then my office would need its router replaced. And what do you know? The 1000 linked up just fine from an office plug and after doing some testing I concluded that little Powerline 1000 could easily handle all the internet requirements of the office. Then I moved the NightHawk X8 upstairs. I connected it to the LAN jack behind my bed and stashed the Router beneath my nightstand for the time being.

In this new location the Night Hawk X8 appears to serve the garage much better than anything else I’ve tried (and it also works throughout the upstairs and main floor, minus the office- something’s wrong with that office…). I’m ending up with with about 20mbps download speeds which are quite sufficient. And the signal level seems very strong, and this is, in some ways, just as important as the speed. I really think the relocated Wi-Fi network will be a huge help moving forward.

Long story short: I solved  the Wi-Fi internet dead zone in my garage by moving my Night Hawk X8 to a better location. I added a Powerline 1000 unit to the office to provide Wi-Fi there in the absence of the X8. This was a cost effective purchase and a great example of successfully relocating existing assets. At some point I need to set up the networks so they are, for all intents and purpose, one large mesh network. Anyone want to help me figure that out?

Conclusion; 8/10 – NETGEAR – PowerLINE Wi-Fi 1000 Access Point and Adapter
Works well to create an additional Wifi hotspot. Claims gigabit speeds but it doesn’t seem particularly fast to me. Only broadcasts on 2.4 Ghz frequency (right?).

Rainbird ESP-Me Wifi Sprinkler Control – Mini Review

I have been visiting with a friend who’s doing a major yard overhaul. One change he’s planning to make is to move his sprinkler system to a wireless setup so that watering can be controlled via a phone application. That sounded pretty good to me so I did some research to determine what I’d need to make a similar migration.

It turns out that I didn’t need much! I have Rainbird ESP-Me controller that was installed a couple of years ago when we put in our yard. I noticed that Rainbird offered a wireless module for this controller, however my particular unit was not compatible, due to it’s age. At first I priced out a new controller with the wifi module, but eventually I discovered that I only needed a new control panel (not the actual box with the station controllers).

A quick google search led me to YardOutlet.com. They offered a bundle package with the control panel and wifi module for about $130 with free shipping. They are located in Ogden Utah which seemed like a nice plus. I ordered Monday and, incredibly, I had my package on Tuesday. Whaaat? Everything came well packed and as advertised. Well done, Yard Outlet!

Replacing the panel was incredibly simple. All you have to do is unplug the harness, pop off the old control panel, put on the new one and plug it back in (I think I spent about a minute doing this). I reprogrammed my sprinklers from the panel and then set about linking the sprinkler controller with the Rainbird App.

Initially I had a little difficulty getting things to connect properly. I think part of that, in my case, was because the wifi in my garage is terrible (something I am working on fixing today). The Rainbird wifi module initially creates its own hotspot  and then, from the app, you move the module to your home network. Obviously at that point your phone needs to switch networks too and mine hadn’t which is probably another reason I got the error below. After a few tries everything seemed to be working and I was ready to try out the app.

After perusing the app my impressions are quite positive. It gives you all the same accessibility as the physical control panel. After you make adjustments you save them and the new program is written to your control box. Everything is fairly intuitive and you can even opt to have the app make watering adjustments based on the weather. The app control worked well on my wifi networks and via my cellular service (one thing to note- you can’t switch from a wifi network to LTE while you run the the Rainbird application- you have to close and restart the app for it to work properly).

Below is a quick demonstration of starting and stopping the sprinklers via the Rainbird application (complete with a silly kid in the background). Being able to control the sprinkler zones from my phone will make it infinitely easier to do testing and make repairs.

Overall, I think this is a very solid wifi sprinkler control set up, especially give how inexpensive it is. I’d give it my recommendation.

Overall: 8.5/10

BONUS: A friend pointed out that this system may be eligible for a rebate. It looks like by adding a rain sensor I could get up to 50% back for my purchase. I might just do that…

http://rebates.cuwcd.com/
https://www.rainbird.com/documents/turf/bro_ESP-Me_WiFi_en.pdf

BONUS 2: The RainBird app spends quite awhile getting the schedule and setting information when each connects to the sprinkler box. Originally I had thought this was because I had connected the unit to to a network with very low signal strength. I rearranged things and then connected the ESP-Me to a much better network. Sadly, the app’s load time was the same. I’m docking a half point for that.

Bose QuietControl 3.0 Mini Review

The absence of the earphone jack on my new iPhone 7 has been troublesome. For whatever reason I have earphones / headphones in various parts of the house and frequently switch between them. In lieu of buying 6 “lightning to 3.5mm jack” adapters I decided to try and find a pair of good Bluetooth headphones. I was sick of cords anyway so I figured this would the perfect opportunity for a change.

I tried a couple less expensive brands like this set from Senso. The drivers in the Senso (and comparable $30 models) was miserably underpowered. Still, they sounded okay and they fit on my ears quite well. The deal breaker was that they lost their connection with the phone when I went outside (intermittently, but frequently).

Eventually, almost in desperation, I picked up a set of the Bose QuietControl 3.0 ear buds. I have a couple other pairs of Bose headphones that I really like so I figured I had nothing to lose. Well, except some money- the QuietControls are pricey, running around $300. To their credit, they have a profusion of features, some not present in other Bluetooth models.

For starters the battery is situated in a comfortable neck band, as opposed to being in the actual ear piece. In addition to increasing the battery life this makes the portion that sits in your ear much more comfortable (the earpiece also has Bose’s “stay hear” fitting which is very effective). The on and off button is situated in this neck band. Syncing with your device is very simple and pressing the button multiple times lets’s you cycle through up to three connected devices (I use it with my phone and laptop). In my opinion the best feature is the noise cancelling technology. While not perfect, it’s effective enough at muting background noises that I was able to mow the lawn while listening to an audio book. There are several levels of noise-cancelling- I think I would have opted for on/off as cycling through 10 levels (or whatever) is cumbersome. In addition to noise cancelling controls, there are the standard volume and pause buttons as well as a microphone for calls.

Audio quality is excellent. Compared to the other models I used the QuietComfort’s sound is deep and full of detail (excellent base, considering this is really a set of ear buds). Drop out is minimal and I have used the headphones mowing, biking, running and shopping with very few problems.

The QuietComforts are not perfect, by an means. Here are my gripes:

  • When you turn your head left and right sometimes the earphones can actually get pulled out.
  • The neck band will periodically rotate and become uncomfortable (it’s very easy to readjust it).
  • When the noise cancelling feature is turned down the headphones almost seem to amplify ambient sounds and there is a strong “white noise’ present in the phones.
  • Even the QC’s Bluetooth occasionally cuts out.
  • A little more expensive that I think they should be.
  • The built in microphone seems to do a poor job filtering out background sound.

And here’s what I like:

  • Battery life is very solid and the charge quickly.
  • Neck band is comfortable and allows for smaller more comfortable ear buds.
  • Noise cancelling feature is a welcome benefit.
  • Audio quality is excellent.
  • Good solid construction.
  • Pairing is effective and the connection is generally very solid.

With all that being said it’s probably not clear where I stand on the QuietComfort 3.0 line. You might even be thinking that I don’t like them all that much. But such is not the case. Despite a few limitations (negative quirks) these have become my go-to headphones. I typically have them on all day and they have literally replaced every other set that I own. I would recommend them to anyone who’d looking for a pair of solid Bluetooth ear buds and who’s willing to settle for very good, but not great.

Overall Initial Impression Score: 7.5/10

I’ll follow this us with a long term usability score  after I’ve used the headphones for a few months.

 

 

Generation Toy J4ZZ (Jazz the 991 Porsche)

Jazz and I go way back. While I’m not a huge fan of the music, I absolutely the 935 Porsche Transformer from the 1984 cartoon series. In addition to be being a robot stud he was one of my favorite cars. I’m always a little slow on the uptake so I missed the release info for the Generation Toy J4ZZ figure. I finally got around to picking on up last month and I have to say it’s pretty amazing.

The box’s slipcover features some very nice artwork. Inside you’ll find the figure, a blaster and some instructions.

The car looks exceptional. They opted for a pearl white finish which looks good but might not have been the perfect choice. The detailing and fitment are excellent and the molding and paint are nice as well (there is one paint spot that’s an issue on my car and the side view mirrors need to be cleaned up a little). This particular model has a Porsche 991 front and a [more or less] 991 rear. That’s more exciting for me than a 935 since I’ve actually own a 991 style Porsche.

This is a 991 Martini Porsche and I’m certain the Generation Toy J4ZZ is modeled after this car (or one similar to it).

As far as transformation goes: One look under the chassis and it’s clear there’s a lot going on. J4ZZ comes with instructions, but it was honestly easier to stop using them and figure out the transformation on my own. Most of it is quite intuitive, although there are some small flaps here and there that I missed the first time around. This is definitely not like the toys you played with as a kid!

The quality on J4ZZ is comparable to other Masterpiece releases that I have (but to clarify- this is not a Masterpiece release).I can’t even fathom the amount of engineering that went into this project. I am blown away by how good he looks in car and robot mode. Everything is properly jointed and you can easily achieve some hero-caliber stances. I think this is an easy recommendation. If you love Jazz and you’re okay with it not being period-correct piece I’d pick one up ASAP.

Rating: 9/10

Preoccupation with “Progress”

We hear memorable sayings about living in the moment, the “now,” all the time. It’s good, solid advice. I often catch myself saying things like “I’ll feel satisfied when…” or “After such and such I’ll feel better.” This mentality robs us of our ability to appreciate what’s right in front of us. It’s misdirects our focus and attention. It can rob us of our ability to live in the present. Of our happiness.

This post may feel like it’s headed somewhere substantial, but I assure you it will be as superficial as usual. Let’s talk about my car (which is really more of a metaphor in this post). I am perpetually fixated on what parts I’m going to get, what I’m going to do and what it will be like “when.” What’s up with that? I have done a bunch of cool upgrade and all I can do is think about the next one. There must be some emotional component at play I’m not in touch with (spoiler: there is).

Realistically the Turbo S has all the power you’d ever need in a street car. But there I am online looking at the COBB AP, Kline exhaust systems and an IPD plenum. Why? So it will go a little faster? I don’t even open the car up as it sits. I live in perpetual fear of being pulled over or crashing; more power has got to the last thing I need, logically speaking. I have had some bad luck with car upgrades in the past and, again logically assessing the situation, I don’t know why I’d want to void my warranty and risk catastrophic engine failure to achieve a higher trap speed in a quarter mile I won’t even run. Insane.

Visually I’m super happy with my car. I love the black wheels, the carbon fiber accents and the ’16 styling in general. And yet… I look at rear diffusers, I consider putting in different door sills (With lighting? Yes please!), carbon fiber side view mirrors, a spoiler swap and maybe painting that rear valance… maybe I’ll just trade it in for a 2017. Again, I’m so fixated on going another round I can’t even appreciate what’s just been added, what’s right in front of me. All to common, I think.

So the question is “Why?” Is it the “more” mentality that seems to drive this generation? Is it the fear of missing out on something better? Other people have this stuff and they’re happy, right? Or maybe it’s just a hole – and emotional void – that I try to fill by dumping endless stuff into. And as I explore my feelings I begin to realize that I loath things. Not all things are bad, of course. But things are demanding. They need other things. They need your time.

Thinking about what’s next for my car isn’t limited to upgrades and modifications. No, it extends into worrying about what the next problem will be. It involves thinking about that little speaker buzz I couldn’t find, the clicking noise I imagine I hear, the fear that my boost level will drop, the transmission will fail, the car will literally fall apart. To what end? Every drive should be a chance to enjoy the car’s capabilities and performance but part of it inevitably ends up as a worry session. An opportunity to try and predict the most negative future I can imagine based off of fear. Fear controls. Things control. Somehow they have to power to grab our attention and shift it.

Things often distract us from what’s important. Every moment wasted thinking about my car is time I could have writing, reading, learning, spending time time with family, friends. Don’t get me wrong- a hobby is fine, probably even healthy. But when a pastime consumes you and tricks you into giving more time that it deserves and removes you from the now then you lose and everyone around you loses.

As I mentioned my car is a metaphor; you can substitute the idea of a car for anything, really. I chose a car because it’s clear to me that my car gets more than it’s fair share of my time. I see people who become obsessed with all kinds of things (some, like me, are not limited to just one thing): work, money, food, interior decorating, home improvements, Facebook, video games, health and exercise, travel, art, toys and phones. There are no end to worldly diversions.

So I’ve recognized a problem. What’s next? Far from being preachy this post is simply an exploration of my own feelings. None of these ideas are new to me, but I wanted to put them somewhere. I don’t have advice to dispense. After I finish this post I’ll probably look at carbon fiber car parts, see what’s new on Facebook and think about home improvements. Alas.

After I wrote this post I actually did a Google search for “living in the now” and found this TED talk. I’ll just put this here for later. Maybe what I’m really blogging about (saying) is that things can be an obstacle to our happiness. Duh. But it’s more than that. I’m also trying to convey that things can take us out of the moment. And being out of the moment can diminish our happiness.

But won’t being content and living in the moment rob us of our motivation? Maybe I’m misconstruing vision and progress as an obsession with material goods. Eh.

May 1, 2017: An Update- For the record I find that I become hyper-fixated on my car when I have something very stressful looming over me, as I do right now.