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About Mint Mobile International Roaming

evergreen-foxEarlier this month we spent a week in Canada visiting with family. This was the first trip back to my homeland since we switched to Mint Mobile for our phones, and I certainly learned a few things along the way.

My Bad

It simply did not occur to me that I should look into exactly how Mint Mobile would work in Canada before departing. It turns out that roaming in Canada is possible, but requires that you log into the web portal and enable International Roaming, which involves adding funds specifically to cover services used while abroad.

When our flight from Houston landed in Toronto I was able to use put my laptop on airport Wi-Fi and add International Roaming Credit. After a short while it appeared that I could send SMS, and incoming calls rang through to the phone, but I could not make calls. Any attempt to dial out was immediately disconnected.

Since we had a two-hour layover in Toronto, I engaged with Mint support via their web-based chat tool. Their support staffer was nice enough. They said they were dealing with multiple sessions at a time, so to be patient if there was a delay in their responding to any messages.

They offered some guidance, but none that seemed to resolve the trouble. We ran out of time and had to board our next flight without any real insight into why we didn’t have service.

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Pneumatic Candy Canon Delivers COVID-Safe Halloween

Halloween is big deal in our household. Now is the time when I start thinking about how we might revise or update the presentation. With the onset of COVID, in 2020, we decided to skip the year. Prior to the availability of vaccines there was no way to ensure a safe experience with what has historically been a large crowd.

No Trick-or-Treating in 2020

No Trick-or-Treating in 2020

In 2021, given the availability of vaccines, we opted to resume engagement with trick-or-treaters. However, we did so taking precautions to keep our boo-crew at a safe distance from the kiddos. The core of this strategy was not allowing trick-or-treaters into the yard.

Instead, we enhanced the decor along our fence line, and delivered candy to the front gate using a pneumatic candy canon. While not yet perfect, this worked quite well. This post details some of the design considerations, experiments, and lessons learned in creating the candy canon.

Others in the neighborhood were experimenting with using PVC pipe to create a candy chute from a second story window to their fence line. This was nice and simple, since gravity did all the work for you. However, ours is a single story home. Further, we didn’t relish the idea of Boo Crew on the sloped roof.

I thought it possible to use air pressure to push the candy along the tube, not unlike the system we find at drive-up banks or pharmacies. I could use our existing Shop-Vac in reverse to generate the air flow, connecting it to a length of PVC pipe.

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Flume: Know About The Flow

As I’ve mentioned previously, household instrumentation is addictive. Further, it can draw out my compulsive tendencies. I’ve been wanting to add a smart water flow meter to our home for a while. This was motivated by the fact that we have gardens, and we occasionally forget the water is on. On such occasions the result is a soggy, boggy part of the yard and an unwelcome spike in the water bill.

A False Start

Last year, I tried an initial experiment using the Orbit B-Hyve Smart Hose Faucet timer. This device would only control one faucet, but under $60, it was cheap. I thought it a good experiment. The trouble is I could not get it to work for me. I was never able to get its little hub to connect to the device.

As a result, I returned it and began to investigate devices that would meter flow in the main water line from the city. I hoped that I could set an alert to tell me if we left the water running too long or into the evening. It would not turn off the water, just alert me that I had to do it.

Red Pill or Blue Pill?

I considered two kinds of add-on flow meters designed for DIY installation by the homeowner. One type, as embodied in the Stream Labs Smart Home Water Monitor, clamps onto the water supply line and read the flow using an ultrasonic beam sent through the pipe. They work with copper or plastic pipe. At our home the main water supply line from the city is plastic, so this could work for us.

Flume-Box-and-Devices-copy

However, I settled on the simpler approach used by the Flume water flow meter. It has a sensor device that clamps onto the city water meter. This senses the motion of a magnet on the rotating mechanism inside the city meter.

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NYT on Household Energy Monitors

Last week the New York Times Wirecutter ran an article whose headline posed a question; Do You Really Need a Home Energy Monitor? It’s an interesting question.

Wirecutter - Do your really need a home energy monitor

They say only that you might save some money. Maybe. And they even question that assertion. Well, we installed a Shelly 3EM last year for reasons that the Wirecutter article completely fails to mention. So, I thought it worth sharing our experience.

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Upgrading Our Home Assistant Server

Home_Assistant_Logo.300For our first couple of years using Home Assistant the software was hosted on a Raspberry Pi 4B with 4GB of memory and a 32GB High-Endurance micro SD card. To get started, the Pi4 was cheap and readily available. It had enough power to do most things. My initial requirements were very simple, so not a lot of CPU requirement. The RPi4 was an admirable, accessible solution at the time.

However, times change. I get silly new ideas that I’d like to try. For example, it would be interesting to integrate our surveillance cameras with HA. Perhaps with some AI-based object detection.

Also, in post-COVID times, RPi4 have become hard to get, and much more costly. They’re currently running about 3x normal price, if you can get them. Thus, it could be useful to reclaim the RPI4 from HA duty, if another suitable host could be found.

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