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Comment That's WordPress in a nutshell (Score 5, Insightful) 302

WordPress is the store-bought bread solution. Does what most people need, is advanced enough that most work can be done through the admin GUI, and plugins are easy enough to build that a fellow by-hand person can figure them out without too much difficulty.

The only caveat I'd put on using WordPress is that you need to treat updates like you would on Windows: make sure your WordPress core and plugins are always up to date. Its huge user-base means there's a lot more hackers running automated exploits that'll bog-down a web hosting server if you get compromised, and that might get your account suspended. On our shared hosting we're now recommending clients install WordPress via Installatron (a cPanel addon) and have it automatically patch everything by default.

Simpler sites, but more OS-level issues from going mainstream.

Comment Re: Are people sick of the MPAA? (Score 1) 400

Cirque starts with something like this in Vegas at the beginning of Ka. Some "guy" is talking on the phone and the cast deals with him hilariously. Coincidentally it's also a great show if you haven't seen it.

It's still something I think about when someone can't find the off button on their tech during a movie.

Comment Best starter system I've used (Score 4, Informative) 68

I started down the fancy Christmas lights path last year after seeing a 12-string CCR tree based-on LOR (light-o-rama) that this guy made:

LOR Technology is pretty simple and your IT knowledge will translate pretty well to get it setup. The gist is you're using a LOR network protocol over RS-485 (long-range serial) that itself is using CAT5/6 cable to work. This network needs a control node that's either a hardware device or (like most people) a computer running the LOR software package, both of which can work with an audio component.

The neat part about starting here is that there's translation hardware between LOR and the more widely used DMX protocol when you're ready to step-up to fancier shows. DMX gears tends to be cheaper because there's more of it (and more things you can control), but it'll also need a fair bit of comfort with stuff you can start-off learning by point-and-click in LOR. I've been playing with some DMX stuff this year that'll be in the show for December 2015, but didn't have the time to get it perfect on this go.

One thing to keep in mind: more fancy = more bandwidth. Single flashing strands don't use much traffic, but when you start looking at 150 LED strands where each pixel has RGB+intensity I'd recommend against going wireless.

Happy learning, and post a video!

Comment Don't give-up the rack (Score 1) 287

Only one proper server running ESXi, but the rest is all rack-mountable:

- Unraid server (bought their premade)
- Dell 2950 that's been decommissioned from the DC
- 24 port Gig switch
- 24 port Gig PoE switch for our phones
- TV streaming head-end. 3 Cable boxes on shelves
- Control4 main server and amp, which seemed like a good idea at the time. Would just get the amp and an open source streaming box in the future
- Modem and router

Only addition will be UPS at some point. It's only half a rack, but being able to lock it and run cables through the top means the kids have zero ability to go after what's inside. I do some software development from home so it's a nice setup for days when sweat pants trumps suits :)

Comment Learn a framework well (Score 1) 172

You'll learn a ton, many of them no longer suck, and it can definitely speed-up the development time of future projects.

On the web I work primarily with PHP and for a long time the frameworks weren't any better than reusing my own class libraries. These days there's some very comprehensive ones that do things faster and simpler than I do already, and have been well worth my time to get better at.

A quick Google search shows there's some mature ones for different use cases of Python as well. Research a few and give them a try. You might just find their automating of the less fun parts of programming to be a huge boost to your development work.

Comment This. (Score 0) 274

You're not going to out party these guys, and they don't expect you to. Instead, you will bring life experience balancing a career in software with family, which I guarantee they'll be asking you questions about. Most of them are working to be like you with a family and kids they want to go home to.

As for the start-up side, make sure you and your employer have clearly understood work expectations. You don't want to be the bottle-neck on a critical release cycle because of family commitments, so sharing your schedule and setting fair expectations on when you can work is important. That doesn't make you ineligible for a start-up job, it just means that like the Tahoe trip you need to make sure the plans are known beforehand.

Hope this helps,

Comment Just went through this (Score 1) 336

Went through this exercise and moved-in to our new place in May. My goals were: good future proofing, multi room audio, iPhone airplay for my wife, surround for the main tv, a home office for a guy who sometimes pokes around data projects, and as few exposed cables as possible.

What we ended up with was pretty good, but there's a couple lessons learned and things I'd do differently. First, what we did:

- dual cat6 and coax runs wherever a tv would be. 4xcat6 for bonus room/main tv
- quad cat6 to home office
- cat6/coax/power to outside CCTV. No plans to use it, but it's there.
- conduit to bonus room/main tv
- replaced all phone jacks with cat6/rj45
- pair of good speakers in main rooms and deck, wired to basement
- surround, in-wall speakers in bonus room/main tv
- Control4 system for automation and audio
- separate receiver for the main tv
- cubox-i's for xbmc. These are new, but working really well
- couple control4 light switches to play around with
- control4 module for the security system
- Nest for thermostat
- couple wemo power switches for Christmas lights
- iPhone for remote, but any phone would work
- good 24port managed gigabit switch. It's worth the extra few hundred bucks
- 2 ASUS dark knight routers with after-market range extenders. Full bars anywhere on the block :)
- rack in the basement. Keeps son out of the cabling and they're cheap secondhand
- unraid NAS for media. Cheap, reliable solution $/GB
- good power management

No regrets about any of this. The iPhone makes for a good universal remote and Control4 (audio/lights), the nest, our receiver, and xbmc all work great. If you wanted better integration you could probably buy a module from Control4, but I found the single controller offered a lot less than purpose-built apps.

No shortage on networking. I see fiber to the rooms being recommended, but they're already testing 10Gbit over cat6 so I was content to settle on copper. I figured it's a risk either way, there's always the potential for a new standard of cable in a couple years so conduit where it counts and practical for the rest. We don't use all the jacks right now, but they're cheaper at build than fishing cables after the fact.

The audio is also very good for a closed system like Control4. It'll read your library and has modules for services like Rhapsody which my wife uses regularly. I opted for a separate Yamaha for the main tv for better sound, plus I'm not spending a bunch of money on a Control4 locked-in video switcher in the basement. XBMC does a fine job sharing media and it's easy enough for non-techies like babysitting grandparents to figure out.

I'm not pleased with the two Control4 light switches. They use a Zigbee wireless system that has range issues unless you wire enough switches in your house for coverage, and are ridiculously expensive (almost $200 pretty switch!). It's neat being able to turn on the lights on my iPhone, but definitely not worth the price. is promising sub-$60 light switches this spring that are rip and replace with app and an open API, so I'm keeping an eye on this as a future solution.

Two things I'd definitely have done differently knowing what I now do:

1) get more power. We've filled the breaker box and have been told will need another line from the city if we ever need more power. For a guy familiar with servers and power consumption this was pretty dumb on my part. Calculate your power needs before they trench your utility lines, or have them run one before the house is built. Our options for more power in the future are looking expensive, and a little planning could have saved that.

2) comparison shop your automation vendors, including multiple resellers of the same product. We picked Control4 with the builder's recommended vendor because they had a mature app and most of the features we wanted at the time, with what looked like good future options. This was a poor choice. The reseller intentionally misled us to believe the main Control4 unit would support AirPlay out of the box; it doesn't, you need an addon module (surprise $$$). We're also stuck paying expensive install rates for any future work, including something a simple as adding a light switch to the network (you can't do this yourself). All in all I should have checked with other Control4 resellers before buying-in instead of relying just on personal research and the sales rep.

Make no mistake, I'm not against Control4. Their audio system is very good, and we're happy with it. I also think that value for dollar you won't get an out-of-the-box solution that's easier to use for whole-home audio or some of the other things they do. If like me you don't have a lot of time to tinker with your own system this is the way to go. They also have a fairly decent controller for installed hardware that let's you do things like program a triple-tap of a light switch to dim the lights and turn on the music.

Long story short: consider a suite like Control4 if you want a single controller for everything and are ok with the feature set they provide being all you need. If you have a little time and brain space for learning look at the new guys in town like Nest and MyUbe as a more cost effective solution. I'm going to wait on reviews for MyUbe before buying, but from what's out there it's looking pretty good.

"You need tender loving care once a week - so that I can slap you into shape." - Ellyn Mustard