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Lights Out, Please! Enlightened Devices Support Darkness

Today, the simple fact is that IoT devices are excessively, unnecessarily, intrusively bright. This is not the first time I’ve addressed this matter. Sadly, the trend does not seem to be improving. All manner of techno-gadgetry has power or status LEDs that typically cannot be disabled. In the hallway of our home, where the network core and IoT hubs reside, there are several devices with status lights that likely made the product designer proud, but they convey no useful information at all. They merely make it impossible to have a dark room.

“You are beginning to damage my calm.” – Jayne, Firefly.

I am recently reminded of this in the course of dealing with our elderly Labrador. She’s had trouble sleeping the past few weeks. This is quite common in very old dogs. We’ve tried many things to help her sleep at night. Anti-anxiety medication only sorta works. Brown noise helps a little to mask the noise of nearby traffic.

Last weekend we installed a couple of calming pheromone dispensers. These are like Glade scented plug-ins, except they dispense a pheromone that is supposed to have a calming effect.

Calming pheromone dispenser

Each pheromone dispenser covers 700 square feet. So, two of them handle our entire home. Further, they last about 30 days under normal circumstances. Pheromone refills are $22 each.

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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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Welcoming the Ubiquit Unifi 24 Port Gen2 Switch

Late last year I replaced my core network switch with a 24 port Ubiquiti Unifi (US-24-250W) managed switch. The Unifi switch was offered on E-bay at an attractive price. It fit into our existing Unifi cloud-key managed Wi-Fi arrangement, so I splurged.

Unifi-Stuff

In general, the Unifi switch was a good upgrade. It let me make greater use of POE. It made Wiresharking SIP traffic more convenient.

Alas, I stumbled upon an issue that I had not expected. It was noisy. The noise was the result of a pair of cooling fans.

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The Sound of Silence

For the past couple of days my office has been blissfully, almost eerily silent. Silent like I’ve not heard in several years. It’s enough to make me want some kind of background sounds, which is something that I’ve never wanted previously.

This newfound silence has been brought about by a combination of things. It cool enough outside that the door is closed. The mighty Fujitsu Halycon air conditioner is taking a much needed break. Today, it’s not so cool that I need a heater.

Most significantly, I’ve turned off the 24-port Netgear switch that serves as our network core. The other day I swapped an older 10/100 switch into service so I could clean out the old Netgear unit. Racked and untouched for along while, it was terribly dusty inside & out.

Netgear GS524T

This old Netgear GS524T has two built-in 40mm fans. They’ve been making noise forever. It’s been getting steadily worse. The 10/00 switch that I have as backup is fanless, so the familiar whine of the wee fans has been silenced for now.

In fact, according to my Netatmo Weather Station the ambient noise level in my home office is around 36 dba. That’s pretty quiet.

2019-12-10 15.11.05

Just now, staring at the approaching holidays, I don’t really want to spend on a new & much better switch, so I think I will replace the fans in the old one. It’s a $20-30 project. I’m told that folks do this routinely in the case of Ubiquiti switches. They replace the noisy stock fans with quieter fans from Noctua.

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A Cautionary Tale of Meshes & Networks

ubiquiti amplifi 300pxEveryone wants great Wi-Fi. That much is a given. Our homes occasionally make achieving this difficult, either by way of their sheer size or manner of construction. This is a cautionary tale about a project I undertook around our home, and its unexpected impact on our Wi-Fi.

In recent years wireless mesh networks have become quite fashionable. And why not? Providing reliable coverage in a large home may require multiple wireless access points. Pulling Ethernet cable to each of those locations (yeah, baby!) is beyond all but the most ambitious of DIY homeowners.

For the average Joe installing one central router, then plugging in a couple of more distant wireless repeaters seems so much easier. That’s a Saturday morning chore that might well ingratiate you with the family.

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