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?

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Unlocking the WORLD!

As I wait for my chance to pre-order my iPhone X, my good old iPhone 6s+ passed its two year mark which means it was time to break it free the shackels of AT&T. This process man. How does one go about removing the carrier lock from you phone?
First you go through the request process with AT&T and they approve it. Then you simple need to erase you phone and re-install it. So, dilligently, I do the local encrypted backup, delete the phone, and restore the phone. Huzzah!
Of course, this process is terrifying and lots of things get lost on the phone.  Secure Enclave? Yeah, you’re gone.  So I have to rebuild the Touch ID database and retrain it which takes a while. It also seems like a lot of apps store authentication in a temporary space so when I launch them I need to re-enter my username and password. Which isn’t horrible, but it’s annoying...
Most frustrating was that my  ᴡᴀᴛᴄʜ got unpaired from the phone in this process - which I didn’t notice until the next day.  How do you fix that?  Reset the phone and restore from backup - which, my last watch backup was much older.  And that too lost all of my watch faces and which apps I had synced and notification preferences and... ya know, more stuff.  Anyway, we’re all good now.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The New Setup

It’s the kind of fatigue that feels earned, rather than imposed. - Wil Wheaton
I really enjoying reading The Sweet Setup’s review of people’s work environments - how do they create their little work space to get things done? One thing that always strikes me is that all of the setups have people starting at a wall. For as long as I’ve had a home office (15+ years? 20+ years?) I have always arranged it so that my home desk lets me look out a window. I can’t believe that staring at a wall is much fun.
I’ve been working on more strongly incorporating my iPad into my digital life. I hear that it’s a desktop replacement. While I think there is a decent length of time before I’ll be able to do my Java development on my iPad, I can do a pretty good portion of my life, so I figured it was time that I had a home setup that reflected making it central. Take a look at this cool setup!
So, an iPad stand, that puts the iPad at the correct ergonomically correct height.  With a nice Apple Pencil stand an Apple Keyboard below. This is the work place of the future! Well, I have to admin, I really don’t link reaching up to tap on the iPad - I sure wish I could use a nice mouse or trackpast with a virtual pointer on the screen, but so it goes.  This setup also makes me wish instead of the iPad Pro, I had the iPad Pro Enormo version.  Still - pretty keen.
The other things I have been trying to get going is that I have all my TV shows over on a local macOS iTunes library.  How do I get these things copied over to my iPad/iPhone so I can watch them when I’m out on the go? I’ve got a start AppleScript that will manually copy the selected tracks (over WiFi) onto my devices.  The next iteration will need to handle copying all unwatched episodes of my shows.

tell application "iTunes"
  if selection is not {} then
    set deviceList to {"Kaoru", "Shinji"}
    set mySelection to selection
    repeat with aTrack in mySelection
      repeat with theDeviceName in deviceList
        set myDevice to item 1 of (every source whose name is theDeviceName)
        add (get aTrack's location) to library playlist 1 of myDevice
      end repeat
    end repeat
  end if
end tell

Saturday, June 10, 2017

An iPad Shaped Hole

I've been waiting to get a new iPad until Apple unveiled the new ones and then on June 5th, THEY DID! Except, it wasn't what I wanted. Is ever exactly what you want? I have been so happy with my little iPad mini 4 with an external Apple keyboard, I just wanted a refreshed version of that which allowed me to use the Apple Pencil, but it was not to be. In fact, it's probably never to be that the mini will have the pencil.
So would it be okay to get a larger one? But, of course, they didn't release an update to the 9.3" version, the released a brand new even larger 10.whatver" version. UG! BIGGER? The mini was such a great "just bring it along" size for me, but okay, back to the large on.
Then what? My final bit of sadness is that T-Mobile discounted it's "free-data for life" program where you got 200MB per month for the life of your device. It's not much, but exactly enough for those times when I'm traveling, trying to work, and there is no WiFi to be found. But that's gone too.
So with all these things weren't quite right, I had a stare down and thought I probably wouldn't buy the new iPad. But then, I said, "whatever." I mean, Apple isn't going to release a mini with a Pencil. The 9.3" version of the iPad Pro has vanished to the land of wind and ghosts, and T-Mobile isn't brining back their FDFL program. Now I just have an iPad-shaped hole in my life as I wait for it to arrive.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Feeling Comcastic!

Since we moved into our house we've had AT&T for internet, and since we moved in we've been annoyed about it. I have a baseline assumption that everyone is annoyed by their service providers, and therefore, there is no point in swapping willy-nilly, because, you're just going to be annoyed by the next one. Still - I have a few very big annoyances over the years.
The first is that I started on AT&T Home DSL at the fatest speed available and it was slow. I called a few times asking if they offered faster, and AT&T DSL did not. But here was the thing - AT&T DSL didn't offer faster speed, but AT&T U-Verse *did* offer faster speed over DSL. Huh? It was bizarre, but by calling AT&T U-Verse (who had a separate number from AT&T DSL), I was able ot get upgraded to faster internet speed.
Then, once or twice a year, my internet would slow to a terrible crawl. I would complain. Technicians would come out. Eventually maybe it would be solved for a time, until it happened again. At one point a technician changed me from a hot/cold dual DSL line to a pair-bonded DSL line and that helped a lot for a long time.
Part of the problem is I live in an infill community and for whatever reason, when they built it, they didn't run fiber through out little infill. Fiber runs a few hours down either direction, but not to us, so the best AT&T can get is 18 MB/s over aDSL and the upstream standards are defined at 1.5 MB/s. So on my aDSL add a couple of dropcams, a SkyBell, and I'm quickly saturating my upstream. I have to start managing QoS for the system to work. LAME!
So I switched to Comcast/Xfinity - which isn't the most loved company out there, but I have 100 MB/s down and around 5 MB/s up. Which means? Everything streams great. I'm lovin' it.