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Further Adventures in Power-Over-Ethernet Land: POE Extenders

For the past month or so we’ve had a couple of foster dogs on the property. They are a Husky and a Rottweiler, both less than a year old, who were wandering nearby and I (unthinkingly) took them in. This has caused me to want improved coverage of the yard by our security cameras. I need to keep an eye on them so they don’t become destructive.

In particular, I want to add another IP camera to our front porch. The two existing cameras were intended to monitor our on-street parking. So, they are west facing, pointing toward the street. I’d like to add one looking at the porch and the front door. That view would include several chairs. The Rottweiler is inclined to play with the cushions from the chairs on the porch, which I simply cannot allow.

We’re a Unifi House

Each of the existing cameras has a Cat 5e home run to the Ubiquiti Unifi POE+ switch in the central hallway of the house. I selected the Gen 2 managed Unifi switches for the best combination of price, POE+ and a fanless design. I like silent.

Ubiquiti Networks USW-24-POE Gen 2 UniFi UniFi 24-Port PoE

While I could run another Ethernet lead, that would be tedious, and hardly seems necessary given the limited bandwidth and power requirement of our Grandstream IP cameras.

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How-To Geek: Be Careful Before Running Your Computer From a Gas Generator

The web site How-To Geek has long been a useful resource. Last week they published an article entitled, “Be Careful Before Running Your Computer From a Gas Generator.” Given our experience during the Great Texas Freeze of 2021 this hits close to home. It’s a reasonable article overall, but it has a couple of holes that I’d like to fill.

How-ToGeek on Lenovo X-1-Carbon

Mr. Butler is absolutely correct, a traditional generator can be a problem when running sensitive electronics like computers or TVs. We discovered this in February 2021 when our reasonably new furnace would not run reliably on the generator. I would not have guessed that a gas-fired furnace would present a problem. However, the electronically controlled, variable speed blower struggled to start when connected to the dirty and lumpy generator power.

He suggests using a UPS to protect your sensitive devices from the generator. That’s a nice idea, but there is some subtlety to that as well. The type of UPS matters.

Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS)

Our older, admittedly inexpensive, line-interactive UPSs absolutely freaked out when connected to generator power. They saw the variability in the generator output as something to be corrected, but way beyond their scope. They reacted very badly, cyclically putting backup power in/out of circuit every couple of seconds.

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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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