Sunday, June 17, 2018

Getting the Pictures Up Here

Move the thing, or the me. They are equivalent - Mathematician (SMBC)
I’ve been mostly exclusively writing on my iPad to get stuff up here these days, which isn’t as easy as it should be.  I am truly contemplating that this might be the end of me needing a “personal laptop” around the house and that I can do everything exclusively by either working on my iPad or using Screens/Prompt to connect to the home server when a I need to do more complex stuff in my person life.
Posting pictures up here though, so much harder than it should be.  All of the main iOS apps I’ve used over the years have gone away for this business - Google no longer has a Blogger app. I used to use and love Blogsy, but retired after some API changes made it not worth upkeep by the developer. Blogo stopped working for silly reasons, it does it’s Google OAuth in a UIWebView and Google now requires OAuth to occur in OSes main browser (or SFVC).
Without a native app, I should just be able to upload directly to Google, right? Wrong. Their web interface allows me to pull in pictures from Google Photos, but not to upload. Oh, should be easy then, right?  Just go into Google Photos an add an image? Wrong.  Google Photos does not allow you to upload a single image, you to “sync/backup.” Anyway, I’ve got the workflow down since I take all these photos on my phone, I just go into iOS Photo’s Photo Stream on the iPad, snatch the ones I want, swap to Google Photos App on the iPad, and it uploads them - without uploading everything. Sounds great - and that’s how I can upload my chalk art pony photos:

Friday, June 8, 2018

You're Not a Mac App Yet

Being bad at everything you try is kind of the definition of being a kid. - David Kestenbaum
Far an away, one of my favorite Podcasts is the Accidental Tech Podcast (ATP).  When it pops up on my Overcast feed (of course), I make sure it jumps above all the other shows I might be listening to. Three hosts, with three different personalities. I often think about which of those hosts is the most like me. The cool indie developer? The hypercritical logical observer? The friends-with-everyone consultant? Yeah, probably that last one. Which is okay, they are all cool.
ATP did a live show at WWDC this year, so I made the pilgrimage down. As we were standing in front, Casey went running by and I asked for a selfie and... well.  I held up my phone and hit the power button (instead of volume to take the picture). I swiped and opened and hit the volume button! But it was on video mode. You know what, here, just accept a picture of me attempting to take a selfie with Casey.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Missing Pods

The story is that which occurs, after all. - Corinna Nicolaou
I’m among the AirPod fan boys for sure. I order them on day 1, got them nearly on day 1 and they are either charging or in my pocket, just those two places. The pods themselves? Always in my ear or in the case. No other places. I’m constantly out with kids who go off to play and I can just pop them in and listen to a podcast, book, etc. they are fabulous.
I’ve misplaced them a couple times and that usually means the whole case with the pods falls out of my pocket. I would think that the “Find My AirPods” feature would be amazing at resolving this but seems to me like this feature is only useful to locate a single lost bud. Every time the case is missing? Nope, can never locate it and the app never seems able to tell me the location.
So it caused my great anxiety when my AirPods went missing one day, and I could not find them. "I had them last night for sure, so they definitely came home with me." I kept looking, kept wondering, and a day past and another day past and another day past.  I checked all my laundry.  I was worried they went through the wash, but no, not in any of my clothes.
Finally sometime around day five or six, Mini-Chaos is sitting on the drive way flipping the case of my AirPods open and closed. "WAIT!?!  Where did you find those?" "Ohh, they were on the desk in the office, so I put them in my stuffy bin so I could check them out."
So, new plan!  I got a Tile, got a case, and attached them. Now I will win at Hide and Seek forever.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Want to be a dreamer? Be one.

When looking for new stories, don’t forget the one you are in the middle of. It may be the most important one you could find. - Jon Swanson
At bedtime I switched from reading books to telling stories and that way, I never run out of Transformer stories or any other type of story. They started easy enough to do, but after a few weeks Mini-Chaos started help tell me how the story went - adding plots twists new characters, etc. Now, I try so hard to get the stories to be reasonable timelines as he just keeps adding into them.
“IceStream is super powerful.” “Ok, Bumblebees defeats him.” “No, he is too powerful if anyone touches him, they get frozen by his ice.” “Okay, and then Optimus Prime comes, and he has his Prime Sword and he is able to defeat him.” “No, because IceStream has an ice sword and he can stop Optimus’ sword!” “Uhhh, and then Cody comes out with a flamethrower and the fire melts IceStream.” “Yeah, he melts!” (*whew* wipe brow) “But underneath the ice is a SuperFire and he is all fire and he says, ‘buhahahaha! you can never defeat me!’”
And so on, for far longer than you would expect. Every night is like a re-enactment of Dream vs. Choronzon.... I am hope!

Mrs.Chaos comforts me that these stories, told each night, are inspiring the imagination. I see it too, today in sidewalk art:

“This is Margagon. He was a good guy, but his heart has gone bad and now he is a bad guy. He built an evil robot and he uses it for doing bad stuff. It has noodles on it that he uses to default the good guys (*pew* *pew* *pew*) - he climbs in and drives the evil robot around. Buahahaha.”

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Quantified Self 2017 Guide

It's not polite to remind your partner that you are a gross decaying piece of meat. - John Hodgman
So let's talk about the quantified self and tracking all of your health data forever for reasons! I'm quite excited about this - because I love the future where I have all this data for a long time back in my life. The quantified self is going combine along with genetic sequencing to do amazing things for all of our health.
I'm in the Apple HealthKit ecosystem, so if you're in the Android world, there is probably a different place for you.  The starting point for this is an iPhone and an Apple Watch which is going to serve as the secure enclave and get your the basic move data - let's move on from there!

Smart Scale - you definitely need to be keeping logs of your weight and BMI over time, right? The Withings Scale (now Nokia) is the classic - it's been tweeting peoples weight for a long time and when you launch the Nokia Health Mate app, it syncs your weight and BMI data into HealthKit.

Sleep Tracking - You'll definitely just want to get the AutoSleep.  In its simplest mode, if the last thing you do at night is look at your phone and the first thing you do in the morning is look at your phone, it's going to track your sleep duration. If you're up for wearing your Apple Watch while you sleep, then it will also track your sleep quality during that time.

Water Tracking - I feel like this should be easier than it is.  My favorite on this is the Hidrate Spark smart water bottle it's reasonable priced, works, and the battery lasts months. The main complaint is that you have to open the app to sync.  The other options I've tried is the Vessyl Prime and it never seemed to track accurately and the batter would only last 6-8 hours on a charge which made it hardly useful. I still hold out hope for the original Vessyl which can track, ya know, every thing.

Pulse Oximeter - I know it's silly, but I had this chronic cough and my SpO2 was always tracking super low at the doctor, so I thought, "I wonder if I could track this into HealthKit" and I could! The iHealth Pulse Oximeter works like a charm, syncs over Bluetooth LE and sticks data into HealthKit.  It's easy to just run it at night as I'm on the scale.

Smart Temperature - the Nokia Thermo is a neato smart thermometer that scans across the forehead to track temperature and store it HealthKit.

Smart Toothbrush - On the ridiculous, but amazing, side is the Oral B Pro smart toothbrush which tracks all of my brushing to make sure I'm brushing the right amount every night.  In theory, if your dentist is bought in, they can set focus areas and do other things inside your app.  I don't have that, so basically, I'm just tracking that I am, in fact, brushing my teeth every night.  I also asks you if you floss, mouthwash and tracks that, which could be a little more enlightening.

I have tried some other apps to manually track eating or caffeine intake, but manual never lasts too long before I give up and forgot to be tracking, ya know? It's gotta be automatic.

Friday, November 24, 2017

IoT 2017 Guide

Life is series of doors that only open one way. - Luna: New Moon (Ian MacDonald)
I've been asked by quite a few friends about what amazing internet of things devices they should be putting on their wishlist or buying for family members this year - so let me organize my thoughts around this for this buying season about what I have.
First I am bought into the Apple HomeKit ecosystem as my choice. If you are an Android or Alexa ecosystem, the options are probably different for you. You'll need an AppleTV as your home hub - in theory an old iPad, but don't be silly. I also have devices that are not natively HomeKit, and use a cool app called HomeBridge to connect them. See below!
Smart Thermostat - I think the first big IoT thing was the thermostat.  My recommendation on this one is now the ecobee4 as the best one with native HomeKit support.  I currently own a Nest and I like it better, but it will probably never have HomeKit support and I would like to phaseout the HomeBridge for managing my smart devices.
Sprinkler Controller - I got the Rachio Iro the moment it came out and I have loved it every moment I had it. It does seasonal adjustments automatically increasing and decreasing watering times and it does skips if there is rain so I'm not watering my lawn as water is falling down from the sky. I've been extremely happy with this purchase.  I think there is a HomeBridge plugin for it, but I've never tried. I really don't have any need to tell Siri to turn on the sprinkler system.
Smart Lights - Favorite - I recently installed Lutron Caseta and this is the system I've WANTED. It's not smart lightbulbs, it's smart dimmer wall switches and they work on a three-way switch.  It requires enough bravery to turn off your circuit break and change the wall switch - it's not hard. What's great about this is that if you have a fixture with four bulbs, you're just changes the one one all socket and you're good to go.  You don't need four smart bolts for it.
Smart Lights - Also - Okay, so I also have 4 Philips Hue bulbs in the living room.  If you want to do colors, then Philips Hue is the way to go. But I don't need to be able to control lighting colors through the entire house - it's just my party trick in the main room - so I have the set there, and the Caseta switches everywhere else.
Smart Doorbell - I'm in a wait and see mode on this one since there aren't any that have HomeKit support and HomeBridge doesn't have video support.   There are two main contenders, both of whom have said HomeKit support is "coming in a future software update."  I own a earlier SkyBell and it's slick.  My main complaint is that my earlier version doesn't save videos - but it does look like the latest version does store videos for download without a paid online subscription which is great. The other contender is Ring Doorbell, but it looks like you need to pay a $3/mo subscription fee to download videos which isn't crazy.
Smart Lock - I have an August Smart Lock and it's great.  You don't replace your whole mechanism, just the interior side where you have your latch for the deadbolt.  This thing is big - because it needs to have a motor powerful enough to drive an ancient and powerful deadbolt, but it works like a charm.
Camera - I don't have a solid recommendation for this one.  I have the Nest Cam and I love it, but you pay $140 - $200 for the camera, and the $10/mo for Nest Aware.  When I think about owning mine for four years? It's a lot.  There's no HomeKit support, but it's awesome.  I can set it to only get notifications if it sees an unrecognized person when I'm not home (and my wife isn't home). Awesome.  The Nest App that lets me review my last week of video is also amazing in it's ability to scrub around see when motion occurs and info what I'm looking for.
I also have a D-Link Omna 180 which has HomeKit support and local storage without a subscription fee.  HomeKit support doesn't mean much. I can see the video in my Home app and it also puts a motion detector in Home which I can use for smart triggers.  To actually review history, I need to launch the Omna app and it just records 30s video clips every time it detects motion.  It's functional, gets the job done, but is a way harder to use and more annoying than the Nest app.  On the other hand, I'm not paying $100/yr for this thing.
Garage Door - I have the Chamberlain MyQ and I love it! It's one of those most magical things to be able to tell Siri to open and close the garage on my watch.  I'm current using HomeBridge to enable this, but Chamberlain recently released an official hub that adds HomeKit support.
Switch - I have a couple things (fan, coffee maker) on smart switches.  I'm currently using WeMo for this, but I have to HomeBridge it because there is no HomeKit support at this time.  So don't do that. At this point I'd recommend the iHome iSP8 as the smart switch. It's the one I'll buy for my next smart switch need.
Weather - I have a Netatmo Weather Station setup.  With the weather station module in the backyard, it's kind of cool to ask Siri for the temperature in the backyard.  I also have a fancy script that checks the temperature in the backyard (NetAtMo) versus the temperature in the house and Nest Thermostat settings (heat/cool/range) and tells me if it's a good time to open/close the windows.
Smoke Detector - I don't have a great recommendation on this, I think Onelink is the only HomeKit compatible version.  I have a Nest Protect and it's fine.
Vehicle Tracker - No HomeKit on this one, but I use the Automatic in the car to keep track of all the trips travelled. My car is too old to keep track fuel automatically, so I use Road Trip for that.
Cooking Thermometer - I use the Weber iGrill 2 and it's not HomeKit, but I love it. It's a food thermometer that does a bluetooth connection to your phone. You can see a graph of your food as it cooks and you get an alert when your food is 10m away from being done. I don't cook meat in the oven or on the BBQ without using it. What I find most amazing is how linear the path of heating food is when constant heat is applied to it - what I find frustrating is that it doesn't give you an estimated time to completion as it seems totally predicable to me.

HomeBridge is awesome and I randomly stumbled upon and here very little about it.  It's an open source project you install on your macOS server at home that provides a HomeKit interface to a ton of IoT devices that don't support it.  I have connect my MyQ garage, WeMo smart plugs and switches, TCP Wireless bulbs, Netatmo weather station, and SamsungTV.  It's great.

Probably also worth mentioning the WiFi setup. I used to have 2 Apple Airport Extremes setup on opposite ends of the house and it worked like a charm.  Never had any issues.  As all the various "mesh wifi" systems came out, I felt like I'd been running one for a long time. Since Apple is probably(?) leaving the AirPort product line, I recently swapped over to the Eero system at home and works like a charm.

"Hey Siri, goodnight" - turns off my bedroom lights, turns off my bedroom TV, turns on my bedroom fan, makes sure the garage is closed, makes sure the garage light is off, and locks the door from garage to house.  It's awesome.

The Robot Army

After making all those recommendations, I realized that it didn't include the robot army. These are not HomeKit at all, but the more I can get robots to do stuff I don't want to, the happier I am. These is the small fleet I deploy.

  • Roomba
  • Scooba
  • Winbot
  • Grillbot

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Doing it the Hard Way

It’s the kind of fatigue that feels earned, rather than imposed. - Wil Wheaton
Trying to do slightly complex things on my iPad, things I could trivially on my MacBook, brings back some of the joy of early computing to me. When I was first using computers as a kid, reading through my 3-ring binder manual of MS DOS 3.3 and BASIC and discovering how to do things was pure bliss. In the modern world, I’m competent enough I rarely hit those moments on the old MacBook, but I still hit them on my iPad where I have a, “I wonder if...” Like, tonight, “I wonder if I could get the Rescue Bots theme song onto Mini-Chaos’  Amazon Music playlist...”
Find the song on YouTube and then use to convert it to MP3.  This opens as a new tab in Safari, where I can “Share” the URL into the clipboard and swap over to GoodReader to download the MP3 onto my iPad. From GoodReader, export it over to iCloud Drive.
Now, because it’s YouTube, the song has gross “monetization” stuff in the sound (“Please subscribe...”) which I want to clip out.  Lucky for me is the existing of Hokusai which is an audio-editing app.  Wahoo!
And then? Well, then I’m dead in the water - because I can’t actually upload this MP3 file into my Amazon Music account.  You have to use Amazon Music on your Mac/PC.  So, sadly, at this point I need to use Screens on my iPad to connect to my Mac, and upload the file from iCloud Drive to Amazon Music - but hey, pretty close right?