Blog entries tagged Tech

52 blog entries

How I do home automation

After 20 years of tinkering with home automation, I thought it'd be fun to blog about how I've come to approach things.

First, the background

My entry into home automation was tinkering with old school, X10 powerline/RF lamp and outlet modules that were paired with remotes, motion sensors, and a "smart" module that you could program via a PC to begin adding automation.

Since then, I've played with tons of brands and ecosystems, but I've primarily used Zigbee, Zwave, wifi/mesh, and PoE devices.

I've gone pretty deep with Hue, Lutron, Arlo, Ring, Nest, NuHeat, Sonos, Amazon, Google, Apple, Liftmaster, Bond, and other random generic smart devices.

To tie the ecosystems together, I've mostly used SmartThings and HomeAssistant, but …

Snow Leads to Geo Detectives of THE FUTURE

And now for a story about Josh and I geolocating a random YouTube video - and how I'm amazed by how easy it was.

So, this all starts with a conversation with my dad over the recent snowfall we've been having... He tells me about this Toro Power Shovel thing, which sorta looks like a vacuum sized, cheap snowblower. My dad said that he was super skeptical of this power shovel, but he tried it out and wound up being thoroughly impressed.

Soon after, I passed this info onto my buddy, Josh. He's gotten around 3 feet of snowfall this winter, so he was immediately interested. We discussed how dumb the power shovel looks but started reading reviews and looking for videos of it in action (such as this one:…

Gee One to Nexus One

So, my buddy Harper is hooked up with all sorts of the right people. Sometimes it makes me a bit jealous, but a lot of the time I get to benefit from his hookups as well. This is a story of another one of those times.

Last spring, Harper got hooked up with some G1 dev phones - you know, the very first Android phone. He basically had so many that he didn't know what to do with, so he hooked me up with one... He was sort of like the Google Phone Santa Claus.

Fast forward to this February, Harper wound up with a few of the hot new Google phones. Having so few, he couldn't really be as generous with these, so he had a little programming contest with this group of tech dudes we chat with... and this is no lowbrow list of dudes; this …

IE6, The End is Near

About half of my readers are techie enough to share in this enthusiasm. If you're not in that group, just know that something awful is coming to an end. ...Like the end of of a war. The people - the big people, are killing all support of something horrendous. IE6.

Check out this wonderful email that I (and probably a lot of us) got.

Important Notice: Google Apps browser support

Dear Google Apps admin,​

In order to continue to improve our products and deliver more sophisticated features and performance, we are harnessing some of the latest improvements in web browser technology. This includes faster JavaScript processing and new standards like HTML5. As a result, over the course of 2010, we will be phasing out support for …

A week with Android and the G1

So, just to bring you up to speed - Harper (and Google) hooked me up with a developer version of the "Google Phone" or G1. As a developer phone it's sort of "unlocked" or rooted and comes with a fancy case. In short, it's awesome - but definitely, definitely a geek phone. I imagine the actual unrooted version you get from t-mobile is a bit easier to work with, but I still think it's more of a geek phone than a mainstream device like the iPhone. However, I can totally see this OS growing - especially with some better hardware in the future.

Here are my thoughts on the device after a week of use.

Android - the Google OS

I am really, really digging the OS, its openness, and its tie to all of my Google account data, but it still …

So I Bought My First Mac Today

But first, a little history...

I started getting into Apple shortly after I got my first iPod 6 years ago. I began to think of Apple as a media company and Macintosh simply as "media machines." I even said things along the lines of, "yeah they're awesome for music and photos and such, but you could never develop with them."

They even released a Mac Mini to further prove my point. It seemed to be the perfect "media machine" at the time. I even had some big plans to throw one into my home theater system for internet browsing, sharing videos, etc. What a fun little toy.

Fast forward to now. I've developed web apps on a Mac full-time for the past year and a half. And to tell you the truth, I can't imagine going back to …

My iPod Classic Review

So I got an ipod classic a few weeks ago, which is the 4th ipod that I've owned (5th if you count Kari's nano). And even though my first ipod classic went completely corrupt and I had to replace it... I really do love this ipod. The metal front is nice, 160gb rules, and the soft/firmware on it is definitely awesome.

I know it's been reviewed 1,000 times, but I figured I'd talk about some of the features I like/don't like.

Price point. $350 for 160gb isn't bad at all. $250 for the 80gb is really nice. I mean, remember when the 30gig was like $500? ha.

The random album art on the home screens are awesome. However, I wish that you could somehow choose to listen to the album that's on the screen. Too many times a random album …

From a Sidekick 3 to a Blackberry Curve

I've been an avid sidekick supporter since I got my Sidekick 2 back on 04. I upgraded to a Sidekick 3 in 06, and I bought my wife a sidekick slide earlier this year... but now, I'm switching.

Why? The Sidekick is just moving way, way too slow. For every new release, Sidekick users were anticipating changes that kept up with the rest of the mobile phone industry, but Danger kept failing to impress. It was always something like, "With this version, you get bluetooth! and... it's shinier!" It was dumb. The sidekick LX was a pretty decent jump though. That screen is super nice... but still, the phone is so locked down.

You could get around the locked downedness and install normal apps by getting a developer license. But most …

Using cURL to test RESTful Rails Web Services

Lately, I've been writing lots of services for some of our newer Rails 2.0 projects. And one of the quickest/easiest ways I've found to debug these web service apps from a Mac is by using cURL. I'm not exactly an expert on the subject, so I'm documenting this half for myself and half to help anyone else out....

First of all the cURL parameters I usually use are:

-X [action]
Pretty straight forward... let's you specify an action (GET, POST, PUT, DELETE) to take on the URL.
> curl -X GET http://localhost:3000/sites
> curl -X GET http://localhost:3000/sites.xml
> curl -X DELETE http://localhost:3000/sites/1
-H [header]
This lets you specify your HTTP headers. I usually use Content-type and Accept here.
> curl -H "Accept: …

From Broox to Flickr - and back

So last week at work I had to learn the Flickr API for this rails site we're doing. It's been a lot of fun and really got me more excited about Flickr.

I've always loved Flickr and its community. However, I've never used it for my personal photos because I really like having full control of my images. I like to have them stored them locally, I like to run queries on my photos, and I like how I have no limitation on integrating them into my personal site.

With Flickr you lose some of that control. That is, until the Flickr API came along, which is a really nice API. A lot of my friends have used it to display their flickr pics on their blogs. But damn it's slowwwwww (at least slower than running all your stuff locally on your …


As a computer programmer I like to stay on top of new technology - like computers. That said, I think it's important that you buy a new computer at least once every ... 5 years, haha, wtf?

No, for real, I bought my last computer 5 years ago this month, which is pretty baffling.

Don't get me wrong, I upgraded it a bit over the years, but it's still ridiculous. Especially since I think my wife (who uses her computer for e-mail, aim, and myspace) is on her 3rd new computer since then, haha.

So, since I haven't really looked at computers in so long, I was sort of amazed by how much the specs haven't changed. The processor speed increase has slowed quite a lot... but we have faster buses, and dual cores. So here's what I just …

Mosso Sucks. I Need a New Host.

Well, let me rephrase that. Mosso tries hard to be awesome - they just released a beta application without the beta label. Harper convinced me to join Mosso based primarily on the billing/user management system - which rules by the way... but it's really the only part that rules.

When I first joined Mosso, Harper and I got to have a conference with one of the founders of Mosso, Todd Morey. It went really well; we all liked each others input, and aside from a few minor provisioning bugs, it seemed like things would work out really nicely.

The fact of the matter is that my sites are not reliable. I know nothing about server management, but when I had my own box, I was down less in 2 years than I have been in 2 months with Mosso.

I don't want it unless it's BRAND NEW

Things are about to happen financially. I'm excited. As yall probably know, Kari got a new job with like a 40% pay increase and I got a ... not so big raise, but still a raise.

So, I'm going to be in the market for a new PC (and maybe even a new car) very soon and I'm stealing harper's post about asking what to get.

First and foremost, I need a desktop.
1. Because my current desktop is from 2002
2. I'm very inefficient on laptops and really never use them unless I'm traveling.
3. I just got 2 bitchin 22" widescreen monitors that my old PC is having a hard time running.

And really my only requirements are that it's gotta be fast, reliable, fairly inexpensive and have much storage for video prod and various other media.

So, …

Server: Dead

Well, I was trying for a month without blogging, but this is an emergency blog which all began this morning with:

rich: so my outlook wont check my dick4d email
rich: anymore

Rich is a friend of mine whose websiteI host. I'm currently in the process of switching hosting companies from my dedicated box to a mosso account. However, half of my sites are still on the old server, which went down:,,,,,,,,,,,, and truespin-media.

A couple hours, calls, failed reboot attempts, and e-mails later, I get this e-mail: After running hardware tests on your …

How to Sync Google Calendar, Outlook, and a Sidekick II

I don't know if this is the best way, but it's the first way I've figured out to sync all of my calendars, so here it is...

I used to just put all of my appointments into Outlook at work, then use IntelliSync to sync it to my phone's Calendar. But then I realized that wifey and I had a really hard time keeping track of each other's schedules. I can't easily share my Outlook calendar with her... and I don't look at the paper calendar inside the closet door to find out what she's up to. So here's how we solved this...

1. We setup Google Calendars under our respective accounts and shared them with each other.
-My Calendar (my default)
-Kari's calendar (her default)
-Brooks Calendar (for things we're both up to, family visiting, …

USB Punches To Your Face

Ever since I have met Kevi we've been having conversations that usually go something like this:

keviatwork: i'm going to try to convince usa today to pay for our wedding
keviatwork: USA Today presents.... Mr. and Mrs. Kevin Switzer
keviatwork: haha
brooxatwork: i really wish i could administer punches over aim

Seriously, some friends and i have been talking about punching each other through the internet for years. I have always wanted to hook that old school AIM "warning" button up to physically harm them. And now that USB is becoming awesome... we may be getting close.

keviatwork: a usb attachment that punches you right in the face
brooxatwork: you are onto something

I think we could do something like this with one of …


Oh man, so I got a new computer at work.

Dell Optiplex GX620
-P4 HT 3ghz
-2gb RAM
-150gb HD
-And a ball mouse, wtf? I need an optical mouse in this piece.

Combined with my new dual LCD monitors, I'm loving life at work.

I haven't even had it setup for a full day yet and I already want to get a new setup for home. There, I'm running the same computer I got back in 2002. It was pretty fast at the time, but it's over 4 years old. I've doubled the RAM and added 120 more gigs to the HD, but it's just not keeping up with my video/photo stuff anymore.

So, I need a new PC to compliment my new 22" wide screen LCD from Jeff. And then I'll compliment that with another one of the same monitors. And then compliment …

How to Convert Mp3s into Audiobooks with iTunes

If you didn't know, iTunes has an audiobooks category similar to the radio and podcast categories. An advantage to audio books is that iTunes will remember where you left off on your book so it will always start where you want it to.

The problem is that if you rip an audiobook CD into iTunes or have an audiobook in mp3 format, iTunes will not let you simply drag your song into the audiobooks category. There isn't even a buried setting to change the category. So Kari's dad had me help figure out a solution to organize his audiobooks using this category.

The short version:
    1. Show audiobooks in iTunes (on the general tab of your preferences).
    2. Convert your track to AAC (.m4a file type).
    3. Rename the actual file to .m4b.
    4. Remove the old …

Twit, Twit, Twitter.

Remember back in college when you could find out what everyone was up to just by checking their AIM away message?

Like, "Ah, Kari's at Hilltop? Bet. I'm headin up town."

It was nice, real real nice. But now, if I wanna know where my peeps are, there are like 18 places to check. I got AIM, Google Talk, MySpace, Facebook, Web Sites, etc. So I have to result in sending 1000 text messages or phone calls. And at that, some of my friends would rather not even be found for hanging out, so then they may get annoyed by me asking, "what's up tonight?"

This all ruins one of the major strengths of the internet. There needs to be a way to tie all of this together. There needs to be a way to set a status for yourself for all of your …

Broken Hard Drive - Round 2.

Oh man. I'm really really scared again.

So I was just working on my home electrical system when I accidentally flipped breaker 8 - the one with all outlets for the top floor. It shut my computer off, etc. No big deal really.

Later I came upstairs to turn it back on and listen to music. I opened up itunes and hit play.

The song "Seein Thangs [feat. David Banner]" could not be used because the original file could not be found. Would you like to locate it?

wtf. so I tried another, and another, and another. none of my songs (which are all located on a slave drive) worked. I tried opening the drive directly.

"The disk in drive F is not formatted.
Do you want to format it now?"

No, and I want all my photos, music, and …