Building a Light Level Sensor for Home Assistant – Part 1

I’ve been mucking about with Home Assistant for several months now after buying wifi lights (and shamefully haven’t been blogging about it). Home Assistant is a hugely configurable, Python-based home automation server. I recommend checking it out.

The first thing I set up is automation of our main lights. They turn off when we go out, and turn on when we arrive home. This works fine, but I’d also like the lights to turn off when not required during the day. Home Assistant natively knows about sunrise & sunset, so the obvious thing is to turn the lights off maybe 45 minutes after sunrise. This is fine on sunny days, but on rainy day the lights end up turning off while it’s still quite dim inside.

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Here One: Wonderful Tech That Could Kill You

There’s a couple of hours in my day that are tricky, and I was hoping Here One could solve the problem.

Anyone who has cycled at anything above walking pace knows the omnipresent flutter of wind in their ears. It’s invigorating most of the time – the faster you go the more whoosh in your ears. When wearing regular earphones like Apple’s Earpods, the wind noise is present but not intolerable. The frequency of the noise is low and constant, so it’s possible to listen to speech or music at a reasonable volume while your brain tunes out the wind noise, but it’s far from ideal.

The more critical issue is safety. When cycling you need to be listening for sounds within the general drone of the streetscape that signal impending death. I’m lucky that 90% of my commute is on a separated cycleway, so listening for cars and sirens is not much of an issue. For the on-road parts of my commute, I always drop out my road-side earphone (and sometimes both sides) so I can stay alert. But again, adding music to my commute comes at the cost of some safety. Continue reading

How to disconnect from Social Media without deleting your accounts

I’ve thought about taking a break from Social Media several times in the past. It was this video that finally pushed me to give it a crack, at least experimentally (thanks Rowan). It’s not that the chap had anything groundbreaking to say, but more that it was a handy summary of all the reasons why I’ve considered leaving before.

There’s no dramatic reason why I’ve tuned out right now, but thanks to the couple of people who checked in. I really appreciate it.

The break might turn permanent, who knows? But in the first instance I wanted to reliably and definitively disconnect, but also keep my accounts around just in case*.

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Going Backwards

Delivering on this:


Brexit terrifies me. It reminds me that our basic human operating model is tribalism, and our default economic model is feudalism. What we thought was a new civilised way of sharing growth turned out to just be a brief respite brought on by those who experienced the horrors of tribalism first-hand. Now those memories have just barely passed out of living memory, we’re back to jeering at each other, egged on by lords in high towers.

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Things Software Leaders Should Know

Reflecting on a tumultuous but ultimately successful year. Here’s what I’ve learned, re-learned, or cemented in my “2015 things (software engineering) leaders should know”:

On Measurement

  • Measure everything, as early as possible.
  • Collecting data is cheap. You will not know you need it until after you need it.
  • Do not build anything (teams, features, processes) without having a measure for success.

On Team Empowerment

  • You can never empower teams enough. Ownership is a force multiplier.
  • Convey problems to be solved and jobs to be done, not solutions to be built.
  • But: a great, empowered team still needs direction, and can take direction well when required.
  • An empowered team without appropriate context and direction will (rapidly, skilfully and with great dedication) create chaos.
  • Often mum knows best. Eat your broccoli before you have dessert.

On Coaching

  • Coaching skills are the most impactful thing you can learn as a leader.
  • You may think you’re a good coach, but you’ll be better if you actively train in coaching.
  • Allowing yourself to be coached is a powerful way to improve yourself as a coach.
  • Personal feedback is your lightsaber: be mindful where it’s pointing before you turn it on.

On Discipline

  • Maintain a to-do list. No excuses.
  • If you have people things and tech things on your to-do list, put the people things first on the list.
  • If you don’t have a great technical partner (CTO) to help tick off those tech things on your to-do list, make it your mission to get one.
  • Put Bronnie Ware’s regrets of the dying at the top of your to-do list.
 (also published on Medium)

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