This is gonna come off as self-indulgent. Since this non-commercial blog, I’m gonna go with it anyway. It’s a collection of thoughts brought about by the purchase of a new laptop, a process that was not simple. It could have been, but it wasn’t.
You see, it’s been along time since I last bought a laptop. All the way back in January 2013. I had forgotten a lot of things in the intervening six-and-a-half years.
The last laptop I carried when I worked for Pixel Power was an HP 8510W. This was not standard company issue. In the UK, they had a standard issue laptop (I think.) In the US, lacking central admin, we were given a spending allocation to go procure something for ourselves.
It’s that time of year once again, when the mercury rises and I am reminded of how the air conditioner in my home office is so critical to comfort and productivity. This is a little story of how I recently enhanced the now nine-year-old master of cool.
The Fujitsu Halcyon ductless mini-split air conditioner installed here is one of the larger models they make. It’s rated for 30,000 BTU (2.5T if you prefer) which is quite large for the 400 square foot office. It was sized to accommodate a full-height rack of broadcast equipment that used to occupy a corner in my office.
Back when it was installed, it was enough that it did the basics. It kept the space cool and dry, without being noisy. It meets those requirements even today.
With no controls on the device itself, it’s operated using a simple IR cordless remote control. The remote functions are very basic; on/off, target temperature, mode (cool, dry, auto) and control of the motorized vanes that direct air flow. I hardly had to use the remote control beyond on/off. Since it’s an IR remote, it only works when pointed directly at the indoor unit.
I can’t fault the Fujitsu air conditioner, since it’s installation we have become more sophisticated users. We’ve had a Nest thermostat installed in the house for years. We’ve become accustomed to the ability to program a schedule of temperature changes to minimize energy use. We also appreciate remote control from our smart phones, whether we’re home or elsewhere. This leaves the mini-split feeling primitive and costly to run.
A few weeks ago I discovered Sensibo Sky, a small IoT device that adds all the remote control flexibility of a Nest thermostat to a split ductless unit with IR remote control. It’s similar to the Logitech Harmony remote control scheme, in that it emulates the IR emitter of the original remote, connecting it to our Wi-Fi, and making it accessible via the web and smart phone apps.
Originally priced at $149, Sensibo Sky initially seemed a bit pricey. I found a recent offer of $99 with free shipping too good to pass up, so I bought one.
The RPi, HiFiBerry and PiCorePlayer combination work great! They outperform the original SqueezeBox 3 in every way, save the lack of an IR remote control. Also, they cost less, even with the fancy metal case.
All the above is preface to help explain something that I discovered this past weekend. There’s a fundamental difference between the behavior of the SB3 and a RPi/HFB combination.
After 6 years with the Lenovo X1 Carbon (Gen 2 circa 2013) I’m seriously considering a new laptop. In truth, the existing X1C still does most of what I need. The display is getting dimmer. The battery life is shorter. It’s short on ports. The 256 GB SSD feels a bit constrained, but it remains a basically functional machine.
My experience has been so good that I would buy another X1 Carbon (Gen 6), but Lenovo has thrown me a curve in the form of the X1 Extreme. It’s an enhanced model that include more; bigger display, more ports, more potent CPU, and most significantly a more capable nVidia GTX GPU. The second generation of the X1 Extreme is about to be released, which has my purchase plans temporarily on hold.
The discrete GPU is a real benefit to anyone who does any kind of live streaming. My favorite tools, vMix and OBS, can both leverage the hardware H264 encoders on a GTX card, offloading a ton of work from the CPU.
Power-over-Ethernet is for more than IP phones, Wi-Fi access points and surveillance cameras. It can be used anywhere there’s a low-power device that would benefit from continuous power and the reliability of Ethernet connectivity. Assuming your network switch (or POE injector) is connected to a UPS, POE allows the attached devices to remain powered in the event of a power failure.
In my home and office, I use POE to connect and power a number of Raspberry Pi single-board computers configured as music players. The RPi3 B+ isn’t natively POE capable, so I use a POE splitter like the one pictured here.
Now and then I discover a product that inspires my imagination. I’ve long dreamt of very sophisticated, whole house audio. In fact, whole property would be a better characterization. The ability to put any sounds I like anywhere. Not to…