Category Archives: News

Just stuff about things in the news.

Home Automation

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Openhab

As you may have seen I have the Amazon Echo at home. I liked the potential to make the echo the hub for home automation. The first step is to get something you can control so I set out to find something that works with Alexa natively so there would be no issues with integration. I searched Amazon for the a switchable plug that I could plug my living room light in to. I found the TP-LINK HS100.打印

This is a wifi enabled smart plug. You plug it in and from an Android app set it up on your wi-fi network. Once it’s set up you just ask Alexa to look for new devices and it will find the smart plug. Through the set up you designate a name for the device so now you can say something like “Alexa turn on the living room light” and it will switch it on and say “OK”. This is cool and how I work my living room light today. Of course the light is just one thing you can turn any item on that is plugged in to the smart plug. It is just a simple way to power on and power off. This is the beginning of automating the home of course, the smart plug is about $30 so this could be an expensive way to avoid turning a light switch. I will admit that I got mine a lot cheaper than that, it was on sale and I had a gift card from a survey so I ended up paying about $4 out of pocket.  Since we have had that light operated by Alexa we have wished that we had one for the bedroom light so that it would be on when we go upstairs. Now imagine, instead of saying “Alexa turn off the living room light” at the end of the day we could say “Alexa its bed time” and have her turn off the living room light, turn off the tv and the tuner, turn on the bedroom light, set the alarm, check the garage door is closed, and start the sounds of the sea music. – Well, this is possible if you introduce something like Openhab. What is this you ask, here’s a brief description of Openhab

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Cat Wheel Chair

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I met a sweetheart little cat who had been hit by a car and injured his spine. Regardless of this horrific injury he is a lively and inquisitive little fellow that can move his front legs and scoot around on his bottom. This can cause issues with wear and tear on his rear end. His back legs appear to have some feeling but are not working as they should. He needs a “cat wheel chair” so I thought how can we create something light enough, strong enough and cheap enough that we can make it a reality for him. How about some some plastic plumbing pipe and pair of wheels?

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Here’s the first attempt. The idea is his back legs will sit in the sling and the front of the wheelchair will be attached to a harness.

 

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Here he is trying it on for the first time. It needs some adjusting, it’s a little too tall for him yet. We will get that right and do a final fitting then hopefully, he will be able to move himself around without hurting himself.

Great news! Thanks to the dedication of the folks at Hoof and Paw Vets this little guy is able to walk again…  Just look here.

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The Amazon Echo

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I saw the Amazon Echo online and thought that it looked like a cool device, it’s essentially a smart blue tooth speaker. How is it smart you ask? Well, it can understand some of your spoken questions/commands. Take a look at the Amazon page here Amazon Echo

Or simply search for Echo on Amazon.com – I was intrigued by the capability and wanted to see how hard it was to build an “Alexa” skill so I researched a little and it turns out that you build a skill from a template. Although that sounds simple, it’s anything but simple. There are several parts to the creation and publishing. I decided to create one that could provide some car insurance facts. The template gives you all the code that you need you just need to carefully follow the instructions and replace the key words and facts with the data you want to share. Having done that I was able to successfully publish my first Alexa skill and it is now available from the ever growing skills library on Alexa.

feature-setupYou can ask Alexa things like, “what’s the weather today?” or “give me an update” and it will give you whatever it can. You can also ask it to add things to your shopping list which can see on your phone when you are at the store. It’s very cool that way. Where it really falls down is it’s not linked to a regular search engine so if you ask it something that you think Google can answer you may stump Alexa! It is improving daily, there are more “skills” being added daily. I am very interested to see where this technology goes. I suspect that Amazon is going to integrate Alexa into many other devices.

One of the other cool features of Amazon Echo involves home automation. You can use “Alexa” to automate things at home check out my page on home automation.

Liz’s new acquistion

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Yes, here it is her new guitar.

LizGuitarIt’s an Epiphone Les Paul Special II

What a lovely guitar, should make playing Rocksmith a lot of fun. It’s a little lighter than the Les Paul Standard but plays very much the same.

Now a quick Rocksmith 2014 tip:

To change the headstock representation from a 6 in line to a 3+3 headstock do the following:

Go to the main menu where you can choose “Learn a song” and “Session mode” etc.

Press:

  • Spacebar (tools)
  • Options
  • Play settings
  • Guitar Head
  • 3+3

Verizon NFL Mobile

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Last night we were able to see Monday Night Football on our Verizon NFL Mobile, now my phone doesn’t have an HDMI output so I have ordered a cable that converts the USB to HDMI and gives you access to a charger, when that arrives we may have another solution for our football woes. – It’s interesting how many services you have that you pay for but you really don’t need. I would estimate we are watching cable tv about 5% of the time we are watching TV. In fact, we have pretty much stopped recording TV, that has to tell you something.

Quickbooks really?

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I just wasted another hour trying to figure out how to print a liability check for a wage garnishment, really quickbooks?

Here’s how you do it:

  • QuickBooks 2014 and higher:  Choose Employees > Payroll Center. Click thePay Liabilities tab.  Towards the bottom, under Other Activities click Create Custom Payments.
  • Once you get in there set the date to pay the liabilities up to the date you withheld the garnishment
  • Then select the liability and create….
  • Now it will create a check with the right information on it.

I am not covering how you create the liability here as that is a whole other bunch of hunt and peck.

Roku and Sling

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Well cord cutting can be painful. Part of the attempt at reducing my ever growing cable bill was to cut back to the basic cable package. That worked but we lost ESPN and with it, access to Monday Night Football. – That bites so we came up with a solution, sling tv. Sling is an all streaming offering by Dish TV that provides a handful of channels. It cost $20/month so it’s quite expensive unless it hits the mark on several channels you want/don’t have. So we tried to watch Monday night football on Sling (a channel on the Roku) – Man that sucked, it was choppy and went blank many times. It was basically unwatchable. This was a free trial so we expected that was the end of that story however, after calling them it appears you can access the Watch ESPN channel on the Roku as part of the subscription to Sling Tv. So we watched last nights MNF and sure enough that was a sweet experience. I think the ability to stream channels will only grow and that will become the delivery vehicle of choice.

Brilliant Gun Sites

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I just found a craigslist for guns it allows you to browse guns in your neighborhood and it allows you to post your own listings.

gunlistings.org

It looks pretty cool not sure how well it works.

There’s another one called

Armslist.com

That’s brilliant too.

———–Update————

These worked very well. I was able to sell two of my guns quite quickly. I  was very impressed. I will certainly look here if I want to buy more guns.