X-10 Irony

It all started out simple enough.

About 12 years ago I was at Fry’s and I decided to by a X-10 home automation system, which uses the wires in the buildings electrical system as a network, and allows you to turn on/off various devices. Of coarse the version I bought had an interface to a computer. I bought it, because I just needed a side project, I was a bit bored at the time and I heard that this type of activity would keep me out of street gangs. Soon after, I met Heather and I am please to announce that the entire kit was put in my desk drawer never to be seen again.

A house, the arrival of Ryan, and Heather and I are decorating the house for Christmas. For two nights, we would wander the house, plugging in and then unplugging all of the X-mas decorations. As I pondered the pain in the arse that this process was, I remembered the little X-10 devices I had in my desk drawer. So I broke them out, set them up, and basked in my brilliance and the amazement of my lovely wife.

Not only had the X-10 devices saved me from a live of crime, but now…. they were useful. One button and we turned everything one. And by everything, I mean there is a lot. My mom loves the Christmas store. Ryan gets so excited that he can turn “christmas on” every morning in December.

So, I then decided to post my electrical skills in facebook. To this, my friend Randy posted some nonsense about turning it on/ff with my phone. Well, of coarse “I could”, but really the challenge was… Could Heather. This is to say, could I find a way to make it less geeky and does not require linux command line knowledge. Typically, when I start talking Linux command line people start to doze off…. Heather is not yet comfortable with Linux command line. Anyways…

Challenge Accepted!!!

A quick Google search and I found a free product called home genie which has an X-10 interface AND an app for my phone. I did a quick download, install home genie on my server, and mucked around a bit under the hood, and Tah Duh…. I have success. I can turn lights on and off with my phone, and in under one hour of work. So, now Heather has worldwide remote control of some house lights, I don’t have X-10 switches lying around in my desk drawer anymore. This is all very nice. Which, bring us to the point of the matter.

So, the other night, Heather and I are watching “The Big Bang Theory”. It was the episode where the four guys spend the afternoon hooking up a lamp to an X-10 device and turned the light on/off from around the world.

Heather just lost it….

The Green Gopher

Growing up in the 70’s I learned and spent a lot of time camping, hiking, being outdoors and active.  Every spring summer and fall, my parents and I would load up the truck, and later the trailer and head out.  Typically preparations would start the week before departure, and the loading process would start on Thursday afternoon with my brother and I hauling all the gear into the yard, while my mom packed the vehicles.  Friday could not come soon enough and when it did, my dad would come home from work, change is clothes, wrangle up two kids, maybe a dog, adjust the mirrors, and exclaim “We’re off” as we drove out of the driveway.  For the most part, for my family nothing much has changed much from my dad.  It is however the details that matter.

In 1972, I was one year old and to celebrate my dad bought a new truck.  Details of the vehicle back then are scare.  From my point of view, my dad previously owned a 1964 International Scout.  He drive this car for years all over the desert south west in the late 1960s.  When my dad married my mom, my mom made him sell the Scout because the breaks were horrible, and at least three times they failed completely.  It was a wise decision considering the stakes for the family at the time, but the loss of his beloved Scout was difficult and for decades despite its faults the Scout cast a long shadow in our family.

Returning to 1972, my dad decided to purchase his truck.  He chose a Sea Foam Green 1972 Ford F-100 pickup sporting a 302 inch V-8 sporting with a 3.2:1 gear ratio, two fuel tanks, and a four speed manual transmission which included a “Granny Gear”.  The extra costs of a four wheel drive were not an option for my dad at that time.  So, the truck became the “ultimate compromise”.  He opted for 2 wheel drive, but to offer improved traction he chose a four speed with granny gear.  The differential was geared up to offer improve gas mileage, but the little 200 HP V-8 could not pull a grade at any sort of highway speeds.  A camper shell, home built bed, pass-through rear window and the “green gopher” was complete for the initial incarnation.

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Backcounty ethics

IMG_3239Over the last weekend, my wife and I decided to take a camping trip into the back country of Death Valley National Park.  We were inspired to return to Racetrack Valley, and over night at the Homestake Dry campground.  Upon our return, we were greeted with the grim news that another hiker had died in Zion National Park.  Zion is a personal favorite location and I know it well, and every time someone has an accident in the area I can’t help of think of the small little details that allow these tragedy’s to occur.  I would later recall that an actor died in Death Valley National Park this year.  There is, in fact, a book series written by Michael P. Ghiglieri that emphasizes death in various National Parks and the locations of each, are places which I frequent.

To be sure, although stories like these grab attention and headlines I am sure that they are overblown in their publicity and for the most park the National Parks are safe.  The drama in each example is that we all visit there locations and with rare exception we all return with photo graphs and memories to last a life.  Many of this accidents are preventable, with the understanding the hindsight is always clear, I still can’t help but wonder what would happen should I ever find myself in a one of these situation?

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Destination4x4.com start up

I own and operate a website called Destination4x4.com.  I started the website about two years ago with the primary goal of keeping my website skill set at a cutting edge of website development.  My past projects include a lot of LAMP based database driven content and custom built shopping carts.  During my time doing web development it became easy to fall upon past skills, knowledge bases and technology, however the results continued to be profitable.  Several years ago, my career path was changed rather dramatically.

I lost a job of 15 years which I loved, and found myself looking for work for the fist time in over a decade.  Fortunately, my job search did not last long and I found myself working in the Gaming Industry here in Nevada.  As new opportunities presented themselves, I was quick to prove my worth and began to flourish in my new job.  However, I could tell that my old skill sets were being diminished as time went on.  As much as I love my new job, it is not a creative endeavor.

To address my own personal needs I decided to start Destination4x4.com.  The site combines several personal points of interest: off road and back country driving, 4x4s, camping, hiking, photography, exploration, history  and website technology.  The primary purpose to personal continuing education, but as an additional side effect, the problem solving and research that I already conduct for my own trips, now has an outlet and can be branded to a property that I own.

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Zoneminder – A home security system

111174350993_1For years, I have been experimenting with home security and video surveillance systems.  I have seen a variety of them offered on ebay and various manufactures in China, some of which are pretty inexpensive.  However, they all of fail is the usability side and are locked down to such a degree that you can’t update them easily to add new features, and for the mon ey the manufacturers  wont update the software.  Those systems that do run with a large feature set tend to be much more expensive than one can afford for the home.  I have long worried about the safety of my family and house and beyond serving as a means to catch a potential, I also benefit from the system being a deterrent.

Web Enabled

Most of my experimenting was done in ZoneMinder.  ZoneMinder is an open source Linux CCTV security system which  is access via the web.   So, with ZoneMinder, out of the box you have the ability to monitor your video cameras on the Internet, or even a smart phone app.  It supports a variety of cameras including USB, composite video (with additional card), remote camera servers, etc…  So, essentially, any camera configured with ZoneMinder is now online for remote access.

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