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Comment: Second Vote for Insteon (Score 3, Informative) 189

by sparkyradar (#48776399) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Options For Cheap Home Automation?
I've been happy, for several years now, with my Insteon setup. I think it will meet many of your needs:

-For a central controller, I use the Universal Devices ISY-994i. This provides a web-interface for status, and quick toggle-controls, but it's also where I do my "programming"

-if you buy and install an Insteon switch, it will "just work" as a regular switch - others in your home will have zero learning-curve.

-they do have some universal I/O modules with dry contacts, etc. You may be able to work with these to perform your temperature monitoring and control, along with water-level detection, etc. See if it would work for you.

And, here is a bit more "geek" for you to ponder:

The Insteon signalling uses both a data-burst on the AC power-line, and also a radio-frequency data burst. Each device will repeat a burst (up to 3 hops only, or something like that) - in practise, I've found it really, really reliable. I started with just a controller and a couple of (AC-powerline-only) switches, but this required me to add a hardware phase-bridge, so data-bursts on one phase of my house-wiring could reach devices on the other phase. As I added more devices, especially more wireless devices, the mesh got better and better.

The Insteon switches will require 3 wires in your switch-box:
1) Hot wire. The Insteon switch will use a bit of power, as well this is what powers your light or other device(s). Typically it's a black wire.
2) Load wire. This is what goes to your devices.
3) Neutral wire. Typically this is white, and can sometimes be a problem. My older (1950's) home had all the hot-and-neutral wires run to the lights first, then a pair of wires ran down to the switches... this won't work :-( I renovated/re-wired my home such that all the wiring ran first to the switches, then up to the lights - you need this arrangement.

Each Insteon switch is internally pretty cool: it's comprised of two parts:
1) a switch part, that detects when you press the switch, and reports this data-event
2) a responder part, which receives a data-event and closes the circuit (with relay, or whatever).

So, you can actually have a single switch act to control several devices, if you want :-) In fact, Insteon contantly refers to "scenes" where you would do exactly that: press one single swtich to bring down your home-theater screen, close curtains, dim lights, etc. Personally, I don't use this feature

The "programming" is not really very geeky: it's more just a set of conditions and actions, selected from drop-down dialogue boxes. That said, you can do some fun stuff, like:
- change actions based on sunrise-sunset times (great for lighting)
- use a motion-detector, which also contains an ambient-light sensor! I use one of these outside, to tailor my lighting to the Pacific Northwest's gray and dreary winter days.

HTH,

Comment: Definition of Millionaire doesn't include your hom (Score 1) 467

by sparkyradar (#46773907) Attached to: Survey: 56 Percent of US Developers Expect To Become Millionaires
Yes, your home will be worth that much quite easily, I bet. But, the "new-age" definition of a "millionaire" is having $1M investible... *NOT INCLUDING* your home. But these days, being a millionaire at retirement is just middle-class - nothing exceptional, but you should be comfortable. It's a great aim-point.

Comment: Tried Cyanogenmod for this very reason (Score 3, Informative) 120

by sparkyradar (#46300421) Attached to: Drive-by Android Malware Exploits Unpatchable Vulnerability
My HTC One X has been abandoned last year at 4.1.2, with still more 2yrs left on the contract :-O :-( While that sucks, I did move to Cyanogenmod, through a few different flavours. I'm running CM11 Milestone 2, but I think I can safely predict what will and will not work for anyone who goes this route (because these issues have persisted through several releases in Cyanogenmod):

1) you will have Bluetooth for audio, but not for keyboards, game-controllers (no HID stuff)
2) you will not have IPv6. Not a big deal for most people, but this is News for Nerds :-)
3) returning to a previous WiFi location may require toggling Airplane Mode to get it to reconnect

But for a non-technical person like my wife, using CM11 / KitKat 4.4.2 truly *IS* a viable answer (hahaha - using. Getting to CM11 is most definitely not for her... that's my thing). For the future, Nexus devices or Play devices are likeliest.

Comment: Re:Wait a minute there... (Score 3, Interesting) 164

by sparkyradar (#39294117) Attached to: Ford Tests DIY Firmware Updates

Well, the hardware was made by Sony, so "update" means:

a) remove functionality
b) rooting and snitching on your usage
c) adding requirement for cryptic, lightning-fast keypresses to perform even the most-basic functions, like turning on
c) new TOS to prevent suing

I cannot think of a better Marriage Made in Hell than Sony and Microsoft. B*stards forever :-)

Comment: Prior Art :-) (Score 1) 77

by sparkyradar (#37152968) Attached to: Car Makers Explore EEG Headrests

Heck, I remember taking an Engineering Design class about 30yrs ago. where we explored several ideas to detect dozy drivers. Sensing brain activity (and I think we found ourselves zeroing in on alpha-wave activity) was one idea, and arguably the best idea we came up with. Even so, it wasn't ground-breaking 30yrs ago (although a good *implementation* may have been groundbreaking).

(among other ideas: frequency and magnitude of driver-corrections; embedded steering-wheel sensors for pulse & blood-oxygen).

Kudos to them if they can make it work.

Comment: YES! We need 4k - just not predigested by YouTube (Score 1) 204

by sparkyradar (#32863048) Attached to: YouTube Adds 'Leanback,' Support For 4K Video

Nearly a decade ago, I built a 100" fabric screen, and a home-theater. I've gone through projectors at 1024x768, 1366x768 (ie 720p), and now 1920x1080. I'm one of these guys who kinda likes the IMAX experience, so I sit 6' away from this 100" screen (and love the sense of immersion it brings!!!).

Let me be the first to say that the best BluRay discs (~33Mb/s) look really, really nice. But, they don't knock my socks off, and it's rare that I say "wow". When this is digested down to satellite / cable / over-the-air at the best ~17Mb/s, the image still can look good, but compression is a huge annoyance, and resolution has degraded enough that I cannot imagine "wow".

What does look *stunning* is some of my own content, run straight up the HDMI cable at 6Gb/s, for brief moments. So, I suppose that 1080 *can* look "wow", but it's a very, very uncommon experience.

So we may as well go to 4k, and once the compression/distribution has chewed on the content, it may finally look off-the-shelf "wow" to me :-)

But, I'm with everyone else, as far as YouTube is concerned - utter crap! It's gotta be big, it's gotta be clear, and I'm also on-side with Cameron, when he calls for higher frame-rates. And, the IntarWeb pipes of today certainly won't be a viable delivery-medium for this :-)

Comment: Re:SecurID - Incorrect (Score 1) 205

by sparkyradar (#29174005) Attached to: Real-Time Keyloggers

If an attacker captures your passcode after you use it to successfully log in it's not going to do them any good at all. I feel like I'm missing something because none of the comments that I read above mention this fact. Pretty basic stuff to anyone who has administrated the system before.

hehe... here's the thing: with a *real time keylogger* they catch your password/passphrase/passcode *before* you hit ENTER. Then, they use your info, and hit ENTER *before* you manage to... effectively stealing your session right out from under you. YOU are the one that is now locked out.

Comment: I'm an actual LED-lighting user, and disappointed (Score 1) 685

by sparkyradar (#26281607) Attached to: Why LEDs Don't Beat CFLs Even Though They Should
Our University moved to a new campus a few years ago, and the architectural firm tossed in some LED lighting. I thought it would be efficient and trendy, and I wanted to see first-hand how it performed (hey - I'm an engineer :-) ).

The result: Disappointment :-(

You know those air-deflectors on the back of cars, with an LED-third-taillight, and how many of them seem to have a few dead LED's? Well, that's what our trendy-and-cool LED lighting is like, now.

Each fixture was comprised of about 10 individual white (ish) LED's, and I am estimating that about 50% are not working now, after only 3 years!

Sure, I've done Mil-Std 217 reliability calculations, and I understand that the operating-life *expectancy* for these LED components is high, but it's just not translating into reality. Maybe the manufacturing (of the finished-product) degrades the individual LED's... I don't know.

I just know that the light is harsh, the cost is high, the actual life is low.

My experience with CFL's mirrors that of some other posters: short life, even from the late-90's through 'til now.

So, I am resisting "green-wash", and I buy partly based on TCO (total cost of ownership), which is largely based on purchase-price, and operating-cost, and partly based on light-quality. In most cases, tungsten-filament wins out.

Just my $0.02 at the end of 2008.

Comment: Re:People are switching (Score 1) 528

by sparkyradar (#18231692) Attached to: Can Apple Take Microsoft on the Desktop?
(I admin a network and user-desktops, which include PC laptops and Mac PowerBooks) One huge problem with the PowerBooks is that they're *just* like the iPods: they are fragile. Not only do they scratch and dent unreasonably easily, but nearly every one (out of 20) has required warranty-service. To Apple's credit, their warranty-service was stellar, but I never had to test IBM, Toshiba or Sony on these fronts. And, to those who say Apple has achieved price-parity: nope, they haven't. There certainly are some things to like about Apples, but they *do* "think different" and the result isn't corporate-friendly. Too Fisher Price. -sparkyradar

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