It has been a long time since the last update. Not a lot has happened in my world. Work continues to be extremely busy, occupying a lot of my days and about 95% of my mental capacity, sadly. Doesn’t leave a lot of time for blogging. But it’s been a month, I took a day off. Let’s provide some quick updates.

Fish tanks

The fish tanks have been rather stable. A few fish fatalities in the older tank, which is honestly to be expected at this stage when the fish have been around for so long. There doesn’t seem to be any root cause I can find, and the vast majority of fish appear to be fine. The new fish tank is showing a good talent for growing algae. I adjusted the number of hours the light is on, and that seems to have helped a bit, but it is a constant battle. Nothing running rampant, but I do have to scrape the glass at least once a week.

Todo lists

Everyone’s favorite topic. (That was sarcasm.) I’m still using Todoist for most things. Best characterization is “it’s working.” And I suppose that’s all you really can hope for in a task management solution. I have not had the energy to look at anything else (see above spare mental capacity statement), and frankly, that’s fine. Due continues to nag me for my daily routine items, and it does that quite well.


Still using Obsidian for most of my brain dumps and PKM related items. It’s fine. It does the job, and there’s something comforting about having everything in platform agnostic file format. So it might actually stick around. The mobile component is a little weak if I’m being honest. It’s serviceable for looking at notes, but it’s not really all that great for any on-the-move capture. Luckily, I still don’t leave the house much, so the laptop is usually nearby. If I do need to capture something when mobile, I can use Drafts and then shove into Obsidian via an action when I get back to the laptop. I’ve also started carrying around a tiny notebook and pen for that old school feel. The pen is great, and the little field books are actually quite resilient; they’ve survived going through the wash and dryer, amazingly enough. And the notes were still there and not blurred or washed away. I’m impressed.

Smart home

And now the new thing I’ve been working on this past month, especially in the past week or two. I’ve decided to redo my smart home setup.

I had been using a mix of HomeKit items (cameras, sensors, lock), HomePods, Alexa devices, Ring cameras, and Hue lights. It was ok, but as one might expect, not exactly efficient. So, I’ve been revamping things.

HomeKit is pretty much gone at this point. Some things are still hooked up; a couple of cameras pointing out windows and the Hue lights are integrated to be controlled from it If I want. But for the most part I don’t use HomeKit for anything now. I found the app on the laptop to be a mess that hung or crashed 50% of the time. The devices available for HomeKit are very limited, and they usually carry the “Apple tax” to make them more expensive than everything else on the market. Additionally, camera performance was bad and they went offline a lot. So wasn’t really a reliable solution.

My main thing was lighting, and the ability to turn off lights when not at home. I can do that with the Hue lights, but we don’t have Hue lights in everything, especially those fixtures that are controlled by switches. So, just adding more Hue bulbs was not really an option. I needed a better solution.

Enter SmartThings. It’s a platform that allows for some interesting automations. You can trigger sequences of events based on multiple conditions. For a simple example, if it’s after sunset and I open the front door, then turn on the front porch light, send a notification, and turn it off after 5 minutes. It seems so straightforward and easy to say, but it’s amazing how complicated or impossible some platforms make this. Really is mind boggling.

SmartThings in my house is all based on using a SmartThings Hub. It is the brains of the operation, and it can connect to either of the dominant smart home protocols - Zigbee and Z-Wave - natively as well as integrate with other services like the Hue lights, ecobee, etc. Through it, I’ve connected door sensors, smart light switches, and motion sensors. All work in tandem to turn on or off lights based on what triggered it, alert me when certain doors open after certain hours, etc. I’ve only scratched the surface so far, but I’m having fun with it. The main “wins” as far as my better half is concerned is that the kitchen counter lights turn on when she enters the kitchen first thing in the morning and triggers a motion sensor without having to fumble for the switch or use the really bright, jarring overhead lights. Same thing with the living room lights when motion is detected in the early morning hours. And the basement lights as well.

The few annoying things I have with SmartThings is around integrations. The Ring integration is kind of basic and poor. I can use cameras for motion detection, but that’s about it. The Hue lights integration does not include all the “scenes” that we’ve added to Hue over the years, so they either need to be recreated manually or just plain done elsewhere. So I still use Alexa for controlling the Hue lights. Scenes from Hue populate just fine into Alexa. Good thing is that Alexa can integrate somewhat into SmartThings, and devices that get added to SmartThings are available to use in Alexa routines. Bad things is this can result in duplicates that need to be disabled/renamed/managed when you have Alexa and SmartThings connected to the same services (like Hue).

I plan on adding more smart things over the coming months. My next step will be to add a smart switch to the attic light so I can automatically make sure it’s turned off at least once a day when someone cough flips that switch instead of the hallway switch that is unfortunately right next to it. Replacing the attic bulb is not a fun experience based on where it is and how dark it is up there when there is no light. I’m also thinking about hooking something up to the garage lights, though I am limited by the ridiculously slim junction box that was used there when the house was built, so I may be out of luck with that. And if I ever figure out the secret sauce to 3 and 4 way smart switches which are not as straightforward as 3 and 4 way manual switches, I may work on the hallway and entryway lights. We’ll see what other fun stuff I can conjure up.

Just a note on smart home connectivity and devices. There is a new “standard” that hopefully will be released into the wild later this year. Matter is being pushed by most of the major smart home platforms as a way to achieve an interoperability and common framework so users don’t have to look for “works with Alexa” or “HomeKit compatible” or other things. If it does get traction, that would be a huge step forward for most consumers that just want things to work. HomeKit, Alexa, and SmartThings are all signatories of the Matter standard, so the hubs I have now should be able to support devices in the future.

And that’s the end of my September rant. And here’s a dog who thinks I spend too much time in the office chair and not enough time playing with him, trying to fix that situation.