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  • Sorry for the lack of communication

    Not that I expect there's a lot of people reading this blog, but I apologize for the long time in between posts. It's been crazy busy in other aspects of my life, and this blog always gets pushed to the back of the line.

    Fish tank update. Nothing much. I think the fish population is declining, which is desired. There were just too many fish before. I've cut back food to much more reasonable level, and I've noticed fewer new fish appearing. As a result, water changes are much more measured now, getting closer to the mythical occasional 15% water changes. I'm still changing water, usually about 30-40% every 1-2 weeks, but that's better than the 50-60% I was needing to do weekly. So, we're getting closer to a better balance. Algae hasn't been much of a problem, but it still requires scrubbing/scraping regularly. But otherwise, no big changes are best.

    Smart home update. So here we go back and forth between stuff. I tried HomeKit again. Third time's a charm, right? Nope. I've pretty much given up on HomeKit. It's just unreliable, things fall off all the time, and it's just way more hassle than any benefits it theoretically could provide. I appreciate the local nature, but when it's less reliable than literally everything else in the house, that's pathetic.

    I upgraded to the Hubitat C-8. It's fine I guess. I wiped and reloaded my previous C-7 and use it just for LAN integrations that might be problematic so it doesn't take down the main hub. I share the devices using the built in hub mesh mechanism. It seems to be working quite well. Most of my automations are in Hubitat, but I am setting scenes using Home Assistant as it's easier to set up and make any changes. I am using the Lutron pico buttons in Home Assistant instead of Hubitat. They seem to work faster there. I also have removed the kasa power strips from Hubitat as it just didn't work that well. So all that is controlled via Home Assistant where I have had exactly one problem, due to an update, which was resolved in less than 24 hours and has been rock solid so far.

    I replaced the wifi system for what I hope is the last time in a while. The eeros I had were ok, except they would occasionally wig out and reboot themselves. Sometimes it was just a 5 minute downtime which is inconvenient enough when it happens during the day on con calls, but sometimes it required extraordinary measures such as completely unplugging everything for a few minutes, and then trying to bring them on in the proper order, and then inevitably a lot of wifi devices needed to be rebooted to get them working again. So, it could be quite a production. The new system has been running for a few months, and so far it's been fine. I'm not really enamored with the new system's app or web page. It's slow, and seems to not work fully. The page that shows connected devices is blank, for example. But I have a lot of devices connected, and so far it's held up with good speed and pretty good coverage. Knock on wood.

  • The More Things Change

    So, I was making a transition to being more HomeKit oriented for the smart home. Hubitat was having issues, and the capability of redundant multiple standby hubs in HomeKit was appealing. So, I started to build out routines, swapped some items from Zigbee to HomeKit compliant Thread based ones, and was trying to make that work.

    Long story short, it didn't last long.

    It seems that every time there is a network interruption, like upgrading the router firmware, or an update to the HomePods themselves, things just completely go bonkers and I end up spending hours trying to get stuff back online and working. It doesn't matter how much redundancy and backup hub facilities you have if they just all break with an update or a passing change in the network infrastructure. Things needs to come back online once whatever it was has passed. Network is upgraded and comes back online, it should start working within seconds, not hours. If you upgrade the HomePods, or they automatically update, things should come back online in seconds or I'd even let minutes slide, but not hours.

    So, I'm back to Hubitat as the main thing. Some changes from before are I disabled the native HomeKit integration and installed a community integration that pushes necessary items to Homebridge, and then on to HomeKit. It seems to be much more stable based on a month or so with it. And Hubitat has largely fixed their issues, which honestly, seemed to be related to the HomeKit integration being active. (The new Hubitat C-8 is still going through quite a bit of growing pains, though, so I'm holding steady with the C-7.)

    But I also started playing a little more with Home Assistant. I've created a couple dashboards, integrated it with Hubitat using some community add-ons, and it's been great. The dashboards are more configurable than the standard Home app screens that you get with Apple's app. And it can integrate with the ecobee thermostat and Netatmo weather stations. These are cloud integrations, unfortunately, but they seem to work fine so far. And the dashboards are much more functional and aesthetically appealing than the Hubitat ones out of the box. Hasn't been too hard to get to where I am with it. I have not done anything to create automations in it as of yet, and not sure I'll need to, but the dashboards and adding in the needed integrations have gone pretty smoothly.

    So, that's where I am right now. HomeKit has some things in the background that I'm not using much. Hubitat seems to be pretty stable. Home Assistant is working well for my limited use cases. Homebridge continues to be a rock. Kind of a Frankenstein-ish setup, but if you consider I'm not doing much with HomeKit, then it's actually really just Home Assistant and Hubitat. Mainly using sensors and other equipment that could be used with other systems like SmartThings or directly into Home Assistant if I ever get that far. I think I'm settling in, at least for a little while.

    Unamused pooch waiting impatiently for the human to finish getting groceries.

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  • Never One to Leave Well Enough Alone

    So this is another smart home update, because that seems to be what I do in my free time these days, when I get it. The HomeKit integration from Hubitat is ok, and I'm using HomeKit more and more for day to day control. Most automations are still in Hubitat, but I'm experimenting with the HomeKit ones. Not as configurable or powerful as Hubitat, but something that makes some sense.

    Hubitat is a single device. A single point of failure should anything happen to it. HomeKit is the framework that Apple uses. It uses a more distributed management. I have a few HomePod Minis and an Apple TV. Any of them can be the "hub" that all the HomeKit devices and integrations connect with. When one is tagged as the hub, the others go into standby. If the one tagged goes offline for whatever reason, one of the other ones takes over the hub duties. No action required on my part. It's actually kind of slick.

    Also, Hubitat has gone through some pretty bad updates as of late. It got to the point where I'd have to reboot it twice a day. For some reason, it just completely wigged out. And when it got to the wigging out part, my network went down. I can't say the Hubitat caused it or what, but one time I shutdown just the hub and the network returned to normal. So, that's pretty damning evidence. The most recent couple of firmware updates seem to have largely resolved this. But it has left me kind of leery of trusting the brains to a single device that has had issues.

    Another thing I've done recently is install a Homebridge hub again. Along with a Hubitat plugin/app I can operate my Hubitat connected Zigbee locks via the home app now. Since Hubitat is trying for HomeKit certification and Apple rules prevent "barrier" devices from connecting to anything other than HomeKit hubs themselves, they were not allowed to be shared directly via Hubitat. Homebridge, which is not certified or even trying, has no problem with this. I can also expose the Ring cameras to HomeKit with Homebridge. It's not great. The lag is very noticeable, the quality is less because it requires re-encoding the video on the Homebridge itself, and it's dependent on an internet connection to the Ring api/dashboard. But, it's there. Just not ideal.

    I installed a HomeKit enabled garage door opener for one of the doors, too. Something I've had for about two years and just never installed. Probably will add another one for the other door since it seems to be working well. I could get a model that works with all doors in one thing, but it's more expensive and frankly, unnecessary. It has 3 ports, all which will show up in HomeKit even when one is not in use.

    I've also started looking into HomeAssistant. Open source home automation project. It's much more complicated than HomeKit or even Hubitat, but it does seem much more configurable. And if I can figure out the dashboards and such, much nicer looking than Hubitat. Downside is remote access, which requires a subscription. But if I get rid of Hubitat, then it's a wash. I don't think I'd subscribe to both. Anyway, it's running in a docker container on a cheap Intel mini PC I picked up, which, with a coupon, was less than what Raspberry Pi 4 devices are going for these days. Faster to ship, too. And HomeAssistant can connect to HomeKit as well. So it could potentially be a replacement for the Hubitat if it came down to it. Hook the Z-Wave and Zigbee devices into Home Assistant instead of Hubitat, expose to HomeKit, go from there.

    So, the smart home continues to be somewhat of a moving target. But the pace has slowed down a lot. Not getting lots of new devices or anything. Just tweaking and playing with how the ones that are currently installed are being utilized and automated with what system. I'm getting to a decent place I guess. Time to start thinking about what's next.

    The dog is generally good at home and pretty loving of everyone. At the vet, it's a completely different story.

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  • Correlation

    I bought a snow blower a few weeks ago because 1) I'm getting older and shoveling snow is a pain in the back, literally, and 2) because I could. I thought for sure that would mean we would not have any appreciable snowfalls the rest of the winter since I got one.

    Today, it is snowing pretty much all day according to the weather reports. It's not a lot of snow, but it could end up being a few inches. It's been going on for a few hours now, and we have 1-2 inches, and it's predicted to continue for the next 4-5. So we could end up with an appreciable snowfall.

    Based on my original theory, this means possibly one of two things.

    1. My snowblower, which I have not turned on yet, is actually broken upon arrival and won't work, or
    2. There actually is no correlation between me owning a snow blower and the weather events affecting me.

    I really hope it's not the first one...

    Past winter fun by a dog with a stick.

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  • New Year, New Geeky Things

    The smart home is pretty much stable in terms of new things. Just minor tweaks here and there. One thing I did over the holiday break was to swap in Lutron Caséta switches and add a Lutron Smart Bridge Pro. Yes, it is another "link" to account for. But the little device connects directly to Hubitat, and it works very well. One of the added benefits to the Lutron system are the pico remote devices. Just little button controllers. But with these little button controllers, I can actually program them using Hubitat. So I can have them do control any of the automation or scenes that I program in Hubitat, even when the target devices are not Lutron switches, etc. Just really handy. I've been putting these little pico devices all over.

    Another plus is that I finally have all interior lighting hooked up to smart switches now. The 3 way and 4 way lighting I had were causing me fits. The electrical setup was not conducive to using the standard Enbrighten Z-Wave switches with add-ons. I just couldn't use them without some rewiring. But with the Lutron setup, I can just replace the secondary and tertiary switches with pico remotes, and I have the 3 way and 4 way setup that I did before.

    Another change that happened over the holidays was I installed the new HomeKit integration in Hubitat. It's currently in beta, but it's working fine. I didn't like HomeKit before because the devices were 1) expensive and 2) limited in options. Most old HomeKit stuff worked via bluetooth or wifi. Bluetooth is limited in range and in my opinion, a silly protocol to use for home automation. Wifi just adds more and more of my wifi network that I primarily use for movies, music, work, and basically anything else these days. I didn't want to tax the wifi network any more. With more recent Apple devices like the HomePod Mini and AppleTV 4k, they added "Thread." Thread is smart home automation system, similar to what Zigbee or Z-Wave does on dedicated "connections." But it's more modern and performs a little better. Problem is, again, device choice and price.

    With the new integration, I can pull the cheaper and more diverse devices into HomeKit and see them in the Home app on iPhone, iPad, and Mac. One thing the Hubitat did not do great was the dashboard. Yes, it has a pretty flexible setup, but it looks dated without diving into more coding than I care to attempt at this point in my life. I just want it to work well and look nice. The Amazon Alexa app is worse. It's expected that voice would be the only way to control devices, and that a dashboard wasn't necessary. You can simply ask Alexa if something is on or locked or whatever. It's just not how I want to work.

    There are some limitations to the HomeKit integration from Hubitat. Apple does not allow devices like locks, garage door openers, or the like operate over a hub like this. All my current locks are Zigbee and cannot be controlled via HomeKit, directly or indirectly. I might be able to do something with virtual switches or something, but I need to think through it a little more. My garage door opener doesn't connect to Hubitat anyway, so I'm ok with that limitation right now. And "LAN" devices are not allowed. I only have one LAN device, an outlet, connected to Hubitat that cannot be integrated to HomeKit. It's not really something I care about right now. All my other "LAN" devices are connected directly to HomeKit anyway. Lutron, Hue, and ecobee connect to HomeKit natively, so we're all good there.

    So, that was my end of year vacation. Cleaning up things (the office looks transformed now), playing with HomeKit (still some things to arrange and see what works best for me). But I felt good with what I was able to accomplish while taking a break.

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  • Happy Holidays

    So it's the end of the year. Again. I have no idea where the year has gone. Lots of changes in various things (which I won't go into) and yet a lot of things stayed the same (COVID). But we made it! So, happy holidays, and may the new year bring you peace, happiness, prosperity, and whatever else new years are supposed to bring you.

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  • COVID Sucks

    The Thanksgiving holiday was good. I was able to visit family and catch up on things. Involved a lot of driving, but it was fine. The better half approved of the music playlist this year, so that was a huge plus.

    About a week after returning from the holidays, I contracted COVID. This is my first time. And I have to say I'm not a fan. I'm fully vaccinated and boosted and all that, and it still sucks. Not hospitalization/ventilator level of suck, but it still sucks. The residual effects are still with me. Sinus issues, coughing, and the fatigue. I could nap several times a day (and have today). Anyway, I'm slowly recovering from that.

    And that's about all the energy I have for a quick update. Here's a dog.

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  • Smart Home Update

    So, I started playing with home automation and such a couple months ago. SmartThings was the hub system I used to connect all my Zigbee and Z-Wave devices together to create these automations of turning lights on and off, fans on and off, mood lighting and scenes, etc. But…

    SmartThings is going through a transition from a mostly cloud based solution through its hub to running a lot of the automations locally. This sounds great in theory, and it is. However, the transition to the new drivers, apps, etc. has been less than ideal. It’s been kind of bumbled, dates changed (earlier and later), and you still need to have a cloud connection in order to get to the hub for any reason, even if you’re on the same network. So it’s still dependent on the cloud. And there seems to be increasing number of issues with their online component. No idea if it is related to all the migration activities or not, but it was frustrating.

    So I’ve moved to Hubitat. It’s a local first solution. It tries to do everything locally, including connecting to the hub to manage it. Remote access is available for a subscription, but it’s completely optional. Other than the optional recurring subscription as a cost, it sounds like a great solution. And for the most part, it is. Not a whole lot of devices officially support it though. But, that didn’t stop the company or the community at large from writing drivers to interface. It’s been wonderful.

    Some things I’ve gained are local access to my Hue hub, a kind of Netatmo integration to see my devices (this is a cloud integration, unfortunately), and dashboards that allow me to arrange/group devices and other things however I want.

    What I lost was a connection to the fridge, which I never used, and connection to my garage opener.

    Overall, it’s a net win. I’m happy so far with it, even if it is a small player in the space. The community is fantastic, and there are frequent updates, which you can choose to apply or not.

    Other that that, not a whole lot going on lately. The weather has been fantastic, for any season and just amazing for November. Today I installed a squirrel feeder. Wife wanted to fill the bird feeders, and they never end up being mostly bird feeders with the squirrels. So I’m hoping that installing a dedicated squirrel feeder (with dried corn and peanuts and such) will save the bird feeders for the actual birds. It took the furry critters a little over 2 hours to actually find it, but they seemed to make a dent in the food in it. Here’s hoping this works.

    And with that, here’s a dog, taken today as I was trying to photograph squirrels.

  • 75% of the year is gone

    It’s the end of September, and the year is 3/4 of the way done. The weather is turning cooler here, though the trees have not start turning any sort of color yet. It’s just nice and cool weather where the A/C is not running all the time (or ever lately), and it’s been remarkably dry here in terms of any rainfall. The occasional shower, but I think we’ve had something like a quarter inch total in the past 3-4 weeks.

    The “smart home” experiment is chugging along, with automations based on motion, doors opening, and just time of day working as desired. Haven’t done much in adding anything new. Just making use of what I already have. Still trying to standardize on a platform, and mostly it’s working on SmartThings. Alexa still has some voice control for switching scenes and routines managed by SmartThings and will continue since that’s the only real option at this point, unless I invest in Google Home stuff and essentially throw out all the Alexa stuff I’ve accumulated over the years. Not likely to happen.

    I got my Covid-19 bivalent booster and flu shot yesterday. I haven’t had the same “hit by a truck” feeling that I had with the original vaccination process or the first booster. Slight headache and my arm hurts like heck, but otherwise pretty good so far. A lot better than I was expecting at least. Let’s hope it proves effective.

    Bought a new vacuum cleaner after the Dyson I bought 5-6 years ago just stopped sucking. (Ironically, this is bad for a vacuum.) I got a Shark because it had washable filters, had good seals, and was rated rather highly. It lasted 3 vacuums and then the carpet head stopped working. It still works really well as a standalone canister/extension type thing, but on carpet it does not work. So I bit the bullet and bought another Dyson. The Ball Animal 3. Hoping this one lasts 5-6 years as well. I was happy to see that the filters are washable and easily accessible now. Fingers crossed this one last longer than 3 vacuums.

    And that’s pretty much the update. Not a whole lot has been going on otherwise.

    Back in the dog’s rebellious teen years…

  • Beware the Ides of September

    Or something like that.

    The month is speeding by. Days are noticeably shorter, and it’s nice that the sun doesn’t stay up past 9 any more. Makes it easier to get to bed at a decent hour. Weather is turning ever so slightly. Actually had some mornings in the 50’s, which was refreshing. Daytime highs are generally in the 70’s, with a little stretch in the low 80’s for the next few days. All in all, quite pleasant. No rain or bad weather for something like 10 days is expected. It’s weird.

    The smart home and automation is pretty much complete. Some tweaking here and there, maybe a new component to swap out for what was probably bad choices. But all in all, working mostly well.

    I bought a couple air quality monitors to place around the house. The particulate matter (PM 2.5) is low, which is nice, and CO is holding strong at 1ppm. VOCs are generally under 10, closer to 1 or 2 most of the time. And humidity fluctuates with the weather and how often we open the windows. But nothing crazy wet or crazy dry.

    One thing that really surprised me was CO2 levels. They were elevated. Today, they hit above 1200ppm in what Netatmo considers to be “moderate” territory. So, I was wondering, “Why?” I did some theorizing and noticed that when the AC kicked on, the CO2 levels went up. AC off, they slowly dropped a bit before the AC kicked on again and sent them up. So, I did some thinking.

    CO2 is a heavy gas and it sinks compared to other typical air components (N2 and O2). Half our HVAC air return is upstairs. Other half is floor level in the basement. Hmmm. So, I decided to do the less than pragmatic energy conservation thing and just open the basement door. Placed a couple of fans to kind of suggest where air should go, and waited. I did this for over 2 hours. But the CO2 levels steadily dropped and dropped, and we’re now around 500ppm, solidly in “green” classification, at least according to Netatmo. For reference, 400ppm is considered the baseline as it’s supposedly the average CO2 levels in outside atmosphere for the world or something.

    What is really surprising to me is that my house is not exactly air tight. Lots of air gets in. Lots of air gets out. But I guess since most of that air exchange happens on the upper levels and not downstairs where CO2 probably tends to flow, it was collecting in the basement. I should have put one of the sensors in the basement to measure a before and after, but I was more concerned about getting the normal living spaces back into the green. I think I succeeded. Moral of the story is, use the basement door more often rather than just the upper level ones. Or maybe open a window or something down there. Or get some sort of smart fan powered vent that kicks on when there are elevated CO2 levels. If one exists, I’ll likely find it.

    So, that’s been my evening. Thanks for visiting. Here’s a dog.

  • September Already

    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.

  • August has begun

    So here we are in the first week of the hottest month. This week started out ok, but later this week it's supposed to top 90. So, will the electricity grid hold up? We shall see.

    Fish Tank Update The office fish tank is churning along. Algae is growing and requires somewhat regular cleaning. It was inevitable, I suppose, but kind of annoying nonetheless. The water parameters seem to be stabilized, but I'll need more plants to help keep the nitrate levels from growing faster than I would like. It doesn't seem to be too bad right now, but if/when I move more fish over to the bigger tank, it will get more problematic I feel. Maybe not. But I need a contingency plan. Water is mostly clear, but I'll need to do a gravel vacuum in the next week or so. And I should probably clean the pre-filters at some point as they do seem to be collecting some debris.

    The living room fish tank is fine. There might have been some elevated ammonia levels a few days ago, but they don't appear now. Something probably died in the plants, but heck if I can find anything. Water is very clear, fish seem good. The algae doesn't seem to be growing at the extraordinary rate it had been a month or two ago. Fish seem to be happy, or whatever it is that fish are considered when they aren't stressed or dying.

    Task Management Task management system is currently in Todoist, and I'm not really putting much effort into exploring options. I just don't have the mental capacity to undertake that. Also, with Linux being a current plaything, it makes sense. Most of the other tools I've used recently were macOS only. Lock-in to a service is one thing. Lock-in to a platform (Apple, Windows, Linux, whatever) is a completely different beast. Easier to swap out a service than it is to swap out an entire ecosystem. I'm pretty much locked into Apple for things like music and videos, unfortunately, but at least there are apps and such to access those specific parts in other operating systems and devices. But I don't want to make it even more difficult if the time ever comes that I need to divest myself of all things Apple.

    Notes and PKM Notes and knowledge management are one area I've been focusing on lately. Obsidian is a cross platform tool that's been getting a lot of attention in the PKM sphere. In previous posts, I mentioned that Obsidian was something that I should be looking into. And so I have been. It is available on a lot of platforms, but it was built with being local only first. The idea of storing everything as a text file on my local drive is very appealing. If Obsidian disappears or becomes something I don't want, the data is just a bunch of text files, readable in a lot of different apps, using a public and free formatting idea. So, there is data integrity. I'm not dependent on any one vendor.

    The challenge with a bunch of text files on the local computer is how to sync those to other devices I might use, like a phone or tablet, or in my case, also to a different computer running a completely different operating system. So what are my options? First option was using iCloud Drive and its native sync. Issue is with other platforms outside of Apple. Another idea would be to use something like Dropbox. Issue with that is it's just another OS level service that would be running, taking up resources on any device. Plus, I just have issues in general with the whole Dropbox service. It's not end to end encrypted, which isn't necessarily an issue given that I'm not putting confidential or sensitive data in these notes, but Dropbox privacy protections seem weak.

    One thing I did try was using GitHub to operate as the backend, using private repositories. This seemed good on one level. Rather platform agnostic, but mobile is a pain in the neck. There is no background syncing within the app or as part of the mobile device. It required another app that needs to be run before opening on the mobile device, and then running the app again and pushing any changes. If that is not followed strictly, bad things happen. Using git is not exactly seamless or straightforward. It has its challenges. It's not end to end encrypted, but seems a little more trustworthy than Dropbox. But the usability is what's problematic.

    So what I ended up using in the meantime is the purchased Obsidian Sync service. It's expensive for what it does. Too expensive in my opinion. But it is seamless. And it just seems to work, regardless of which platform I'm on. Took a little effort to get it set up since I already had stuff, but in the end it was easier than using git. We'll see if I renew when the period is up. I'll have to really use Obsidian, and I'll have to see if I still continue to use non-Apple devices like Linux and/or Android. If I retreat back to an Apple only ecosystem, then I'll probably just go back to iCloud sync, even though that means lock-in to a platform. But if I'm not using anything else, little reason to pay that money. Plus, I can always just re-instate it. That's the beauty of text files. You just need to decide how to synchronize them. The rest is agnostic.

    And this is pretty much enough for this entry. I wrote this in Obsidian instead of Ulysses. The publishing to Wordpress is a little more involved. (Ulysses really is nice in this regard even if it is a proprietary database in an Apple only app.) But since I don't do this daily, it should be fine.

    And here's a dog, which I'll have to upload separately.


  • Already the end of July

    I can’t believe it’s the end of July already. This year has been a blur.

    I started playing with Linux again last weekend. I tried Ubuntu, openSUSE, and Kubuntu, but I settled on Fedora, the KDE spin. This is on my old laptop, but it works quite well. Faster than Windows, and just something to toy around with. I settled on the KDE desktop despite having more recent experience with GNOME. KDE just seems lighter and quicker. GNOME is cleaner, but it just seems a little heavy for some reason.

    Just some updates based on the last several posts.

    My task management process is still mainly focused around Todoist. I’m kind of surprised that I’ve stayed with it since the last time. I think it’s mainly because I just haven’t had the mental capacity to think about moving to another system. I’ve achieved “Master” karma status on it, for what it’s worth.

    The office fish tank is humming along. I’ve had one fish death (out of the 40 or so I put in there). No idea why, but it didn’t look diseased or anything. Just dead. I also now have 4 new fish that “appeared” at some point in the past couple weeks. Darn mollies are like rabbits.

    Vacation starts now. No plans; not traveling anywhere. Just taking a break before I go crazy. Anyway, supposedly vacation.

    That’s about it. I don’t have much more to add.

    And the dog, 2 seconds after I step outside and before I can sit down.

  • Just a quick update

    It’s been a couple weeks since I last posted. Nothing earth shattering has happened as of yet, which is probably a good thing. The new fish tank seems to be doing quite well, though algae or the like is cropping up a lot. Not thrilled about that, but it was inevitable. Water has cleared, and nitrogen cycle seems to be established. I have not moved any more fish into the tank, but with the stability of the tank, I might add a few more from the other tank in time.

    I’m hoping this weekend is rather uneventful and restful. I’ve been feeling stressed for various reasons, and I need a break.

    No dog picture as this doesn’t seem to be a real update. If I have time and the inclination, maybe I’ll post a more thorough fish tank update or a pupdate.

  • Holiday Weekend

    Here in the US, it’s a holiday weekend, and one that the dogs fear the most. Here’s hoping we get through it unscathed. That is, without claw scratches from the furry beats trying to crawl all over us when the loud noises outside happen.

    The new fish tank is still in the process of fully cycling. I have not noticed any kind of appreciable ammonia reading, despite having around 40 fish, mostly smaller, transferred over. I have, however, gotten a bloom from the bacteria that break down organic material in the tank. These are different than the nitrifying bacteria which I assume are at least present and working since no ammonia readings. So, trying to get the cloudiness cleared up, which unfortunately, just takes time and making sure not too much organic matter accumulates. I cleaned the gravel a bit and added some finer filter media, but to be honest, there isn’t a whole lot of waste to clean up.

    The plants are not doing much of anything. I’ve been fertilizing and adding plant growth hormones to the mix to help them, but they’ve been just siting there, looking poor. If I see any more degradation, they’re being pulled. I’ll just have to figure out something else if that happens.

    Short entry this time as it’s early, and I’ve been neglecting my normal household chores to “play” with the fish tanks. No updated fish tank pictures yet as I want to wait for the water to clear a little more, so here’s the requisite dog picture.

  • Another Weekend

    And so another weekend starts. I got a few hours head start today, and I filled it with exciting summertime activities like picking up the backyard and mowing! Do I know how to live or what?

    It’s not too bad of a day. It’s 75° (F), sunny, slight breeze, and generally quite enjoyable in the shade. I think I’ve spent more time outside this afternoon than I have the rest of the year combined. Of course this is just commentary on how much I just don’t go outside unless I’m doing something, like mowing. Or bike riding.

    Which is something I haven’t done yet this year. The knee is coming along I guess. It’s still sore, and it’s definitely weaker than it was before this whole knee thing happened. But hopefully I’ll get there. One of the things I’ll be doing before I actually get back on the bike is swapping out my pedals for something that doesn’t clip in. I have a feeling that the twisting motion you do to get out of the pedal just won’t work well with my current situation. So I’m going for what most people would call just plain old pedals. Mine will have some additional grip to keep my foot from slipping off if I’m really pushing, but I fully intend to go back to my SPD pedals at some point this summer. I just need to get some rehab work in without worrying about falling over or twisting my knee awkwardly. So that’s the current plan. No idea when I’ll put that plan into action, but it’s a start.

    So, about that task thing. Yeah. I’m playing with Todoist right now. It’s not perfect, but there are some things about OmniFocus that aren’t, either. Don’t know if I’ll stick with it or if I’ll go back to OmniFocus. It could go either way right now. Todoist has natural language entry, which is fine in most instances and maddening in others, especially trying to find the right combination of words for repeating tasks that aren’t every week or month or whatever. It still uses due dates only and doesn’t use start dates, which annoys me to no end, but I’m trying to see if I can make it work without too much effort.

    So why did I change? I don’t really know. Todoist has more integrations with things. It works with Fantastical, which I’m using right now mainly for the iPhone and iPad widgets; I don’t use 75% of what Fantastical can do. Todoist integrates with services like IFTTT and Zapier. Only thing I’ve done with IFTTT is to have it create a task to shovel the driveway when snow is forecast. Kind of cool, but not sure it’s a critical item. Todoist also works on more platforms like Android, Windows, and Web. I generally like apps that are multiple-platform when they are a service. But again, only if it works as well or better than the alternatives. Not sure it’s there. Only been a few days, so, still in the honeymoon phase. Time will tell. Probably before next weekend with my current tendencies.

    I’ve been working on the fish tank lately. My wife was criticizing the recent cloudiness of the water, so I did a cleaning (which I do at least every other week anyway) and broke out the water test kit, which apparently expired 2 years ago. I should probably check the water more often. Anyway, the ammonia was through the roof according to the kit. The fish weren’t displaying any signs you’d normally see with high ammonia levels. Reddened gills, death. So I changed more of the water than I usually do. Still off the scale. I was beginning to wonder if this was the end of the great fish tank experiment which started over 10 years ago.

    So through some aggressive water changes, more thorough cleaning (a couple of times), a couple doses of ammo lock, and some “quick start” stuff that supposedly has the nitrifying bacteria in it, the tank seems much, much better. Ammonia is down to 0.25 ppm. Just above the ideal “zero.” I also changed the filter unit I was using. The old one had replaceable cartridges which you swapped out regularly. Problem is, a lot of your bacteria live there, too. So every time you throw away the filter cartridge, there goes a whole host of good bacteria. Plus, I was in the habit of changing the filter when I did water changes. So even more bacteria literally down the drain. It was not a good process I had.

    The new filter assembly doesn’t use cartridges. It has a large “bin” that you build up what kind of filtering material you want in there. So, I have a “sponge” or mechanical filter to filter out the you know what. I have a big bag of carbon to help with clarity and smells. And I have a “bio bag.” It’s just some porous ceramic cylinders that the bacteria can grow in, on, and around. When the filter gets clogged, I just rinse it out in some discarded aquarium water (not tap water) to get rid of the crap but hopefully still leave a lot of the bacteria that are clinging in there. Same with the bio bag and/or carbon. And I can mix and match. I can put twice as much bio material and leave the carbon out. I can rely on the pre-filter sponge and replace the inside sponge (which I won’t do, because there’s a boatload of fish in there right now). It’s a better solution I hope. At least I won’t be throwing away all my bacteria when I do a cleaning.

    So, taking a wait and see approach. I did get a new water test kit that wasn’t expired. So, I’ve been monitoring it daily for ammonia and maybe every other day for nitrites and nitrates, both of which are fine. If I see a spike in ammonia, then I’ll need to figure something out. The tank is overpopulated by most metrics. Darn mollies multiple like rabbits. So, I’ll probably need to monitor more than my current pace of once every couple years.

    And a dog from the past, enjoying a head scratch. He was quite an interesting boy, and I doubt I’ll ever see a dog with his personality again.

  • Let the Weekend Commenceth

    As the US gears up for an extended weekend, I have to say I am really looking forward to it. Also, we need more of these. Compared with my international colleagues, we have noticeably fewer holidays. That whole “you must work your fingers to the bone because we say so” mentality has resulted in fewer holidays. Kind of sucks. My plans for the weekend involve a lot of lounging, and hopefully, naps. I need to chill and recharge.

    So when last I wrote, I had switched over to OmniFocus as my primary task manager, not sure if it will stick or not. It’s been a few days, and it’s been fine, with one little tweak. I’ve added in Due to the mix. Why do I need two task managers? Well, the stuff I put in Due are regularly recurring, routine type items. Things that generally take me less than 15 minutes to do and that I do very regularly. Take your meds, let the dogs out one last time, refill the coffee pot, and silly things like that. Things that I need to be reminded about because I am distracted when I typically need to do those things. Either involved in a book, going down some rabbit hole on the Internet, or whatever. I’d completely forget about them or realize when it’s too late.

    So I put these in Due. One, because they’re not part of some large project or take a lot of time, and two, because Due will nag you a lot until the task gets done. That’s kind of what I need for these routine type things. Hound me until I do them.

    So, that’s where I am with task management. Actual tasks, and maybe someday, projects, go into OmniFocus. The mundane routine things that I need to be reminded about, in Due. I’ll see if I stick with it or if I change it up again in a few weeks or months like I usually do.

    And dog. Can’t be entirely comfortable, but he’s claimed as his spot.

  • Only/Already Halfway Through the Week

    I can’t believe it’s only Wednesday. Also, I can’t believe it’s already Wednesday.

    As far as a status update, my knee is still about the same as theist time. Sometimes I can bend it without really noticing that I’m bending it. That is good progress. But walking is still a chore. So not there yet.

    After the previous couple of posts regarding some apps/software I have played around with, it got me thinking about portability and open formats of data. So, I’ve been playing more with Obsidian. Still not ready to use it instead of Ulysses, especially for writing up blog posts. But I’ve been reading a lot about it, looking through the community plugins, and thinking about how I want to structure it and what to use it for. Not sure I’m any further than I was after the great note app post. But I’m thinking about it.

    In looking through the above and people shouting about open file formats led me to a couple of items from one company. First one has been around for ages; second one was released this week.

    Hog Bay Software is a small indie developer in Maine that makes a few software apps for the Mac. The first app I started thinking about was the older app Taskpaper. It’s a simple task manager and uses a simple text file as the backend. It adds some basic functionality to manipulate, view, search, create tasks. The text format is extremely straightforward. If a line of text has a “:” after it, it’s a project designation. If a line of text begins with a “-“ it’s a task, belonging to the Project under which it sits. If a line has neither, then it’s a note. You handle due dates, start dates, completion, etc., using tags starting with an “@“ instead of a hash symbol. So you could have something like:

    So in the above, I have a project “Write Article.” Under that I have two tasks. Task 1 was due on May 16 and completed on May 17. Second task is due May 18. So It’s just a matter of learning the “special” tags regarding dates. I find that this is just a text file intriguing. It’s so simple. I will say that this particular software is really geared towards tracking what needs to be done but not alerting you when it comes due. Just doesn’t work that well. Another downside is that Taskpaper does not have a first party mobile app. There is Taskmator which is a taskpaper client, but is separate from the official company. But since we’re dealing with just text files, little chance of causing many problems.

    The second app I followed down a rabbit hole, is Bike. Came out this week as official 1.0 version. It’s rather limited in scope right now, but seems like there are several ideas that will be coming in a while. Bike is an outliner app. You write outlines in it. At $30 it’s not exactly cheap, but other outline software generally costs more. I haven’t played around with it much yet, and I don’t know how much I need an outliner. But it seems extremely fluid and quick so far. Bike also does not have a mobile app, but this time there is no third party to fill the gap. An iOS app is planned for a future date, but I don’t know what the timeframe for it is. Default format is a “proprietary” file, but it’s essentially just an html file. You can actually rename the file to “.html” and open it in a browser to see it. It can also save file format as text, where a lot of the features would not work. And it can save in OPML.

    Could I do the above using any text editor? Technically, yes!. For taskpaper format, you can use any text editor. For Bike, you can save it as text if you want. And if you use OPML as the file format, it can be opened by other apps that read OPML (an open standard). The fact that both of the above are just local files and are in standard file formats is very intriguing to me. Portability with few downsides. So, I’m playing around with the above while I also decide how to use Obsidian and what I should put in it.

    While this post is just kind of an extension of what I wrote the previous two times, it’s just how my brain works. Always looking for the next thing.

    And here’s a dog.

  • Knee is coming along

    Had my surgery follow up visit today. Seemed to go well. Got a little more detail on what the surgery did. In a nutshell I have a lot of torn and floating cartilage that needed cleaned up. Also quite of bit of general inflamed tissue.

    Overall, surgeon seemed pleased with how my knee looks 10 days after and also thought my flexibility was good. No physical therapy at this point as I’m just supposed to “move forward” at my own pace. This includes walking, straight leg lifts, and a stationary bike, which I don’t own. But I’m thinking the with the relatively flat bike path close to the house, I figure I can do some actual bike riding in a couple/few weeks. I’ll probably swap out my pedals for generic ones that I don’t clip into. Don’t think twisting out of them will feel pretty or be very easy for a while.

    And heeeeeeeeeeere’s a dog…

  • Nothing exciting

    It’s been a couple days since I posted here, and I thought I’d write just a short entry to stay in the habit. My knee is slightly improved from the weekend. It’s still really sore, but no stabbing pain. The swelling is starting to go down a bit. Still an effort to bend it or walk, but it’s now only slightly worse than it was in March.

    I’m trying to compile a list of ideas for potential posts here, and it’s a pretty sad list. So far I have

    • Dogs
    • Tech stuff
    • Photography
    • Biking

    It’s a pretty limited set of topics right now, and most are limited due to experience, current mobility, and money. So, it’s not like the above will provide a year’s worth of posts. But anyway, it’s a start to the thinking. If you have any ideas, post in the comments.

    And as customary, a dog picture as a reward for reading to the end.