CategoryPersonal

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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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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Electionish Stuff

Hello. I reckon you should vote.

There’s one interesting thing I’d love you to think about though: no matter who you vote for, nothing much will change.

And this is great.

If you were to listen to all the ads and interviews and rhetoric, you’d be pretty sure that no matter who wins on Saturday night, New Zealand’s economy is going straight down the shitter. This will not happen.

What is being offered (by all but the most extreme parties) are minor tweaks. Sure the proposals are painted as extremist nut-job burn the world leftism or tophat and monocle 7 year old chimney sweep toryism, but this is rubbish.

Please don’t listen to the hype. Take a look at some of the policies, and make a choice based on what you think is right for us.

Us, not just you. Because we live in a society, and the prosperity of everyone from the largest business right down to the poorest kid live off that society. We’re nothing without it.

Thanks.

Smart TV is Bullshit

Smart TV is a pile of arse. Check out this latest fucktastrophe* from LG:

“When you first turn on the TV, an animated character called Bean Bird appears to help guide you through various options.”

What the shit? LG gets WebOS, lauded as one of the most promising operating systems of recent time, and uses it to create fucking Clippy for television?

It’s ironic that after reading all these “you must create!” missives, my first long-form blog post in god knows how long is inspired by the desire to burn down the creations of others, but stick with me here: “Smart TV” needs to die in a fire.

clipart

Standard-issue CD for TV interface designers

For decades now (pretty much since the invention of the remote control), TVs have had on-screen displays, which have been getting more terrible with each passing moment. More menus, more options, more inputs: all artfully designed by some half-blind shitbird with a “250,000 Web ClipArts” CD-ROM.

And somehow, in an age with practically unlimited computing power, TV manufacturers managed to build user interfaces with the responsiveness of a rolled pork roast. What the fuck is up with that? It’s not even like there are space or heat constraints limiting the chips they can use.

All this time computers and phones have been getting more usable and more responsive. What have TV manufacturers been doing? “Why Ben,” you say, “they’ve been adding features!”

Features like an unusably slow, impossible to navigate web browser! A shitty walled-garden tick-the-box-we’ve-shipped-it-boss app store! How about this awesome streaming video service that proxies traffic through our servers in Asia?  And don’t forget Angry Birds!

Fuck. Off.

Just stop. For one second stop and make me a television that looks great, operates quickly, and gets itself the fuck out of the space between me and my video entertainment. Please.

AND: if you feel the need to create a god-damn animated character to help people understand how to set up their TV, step the fuck back and ask yourself WHY you got to that point. Look yourself in the mirror, you “Smart TV” charlatans. Go fix something that is broken for a change.

 

*Credit to Nat Torkington for the word “fucktastrophe”.

 

Use Your Inside Voice

There’s something about Twitter that brings out the troll in me. I’m not sure what it is, but it feels like more often than not I’m responding to public figures with ranting negativity.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/viggum/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/viggum/

To be fair, I’m often responding to examples of deep stupidity, but that doesn’t mean I have to reply likewise. It shouldn’t be surprising, but a calm open-letter to an MP (also sent directly) received a significantly more constructive response than would a ranty 140 character tweet.

I’ve had a few conversations recently, which — combined with my own unease at being “that guy” — have me trying hard to be more careful in my responses. Here are my tips on being less of a troll when responding to stuff that makes you grumpy:

Engaging Governments

With government interaction, a calm, considered approach makes a lot of sense. I imagine politicians are almost immune to shouty rants, due to their daily exposure in the house, and no doubt regular dose of crazy constituents.

One might get the impression that MPs are “listening” on twitter because we are able to interact with them so immediately, but the truth is that using the processes we already have in place for legislation will always get a better result. These include (among other things) submitting to select committees, official information requests, and of course emails and letters directly to MPs.

If you haven’t engaged in lawmaking before, it’s actually not at all daunting. All opinions are valid, and in many cases expert opinion on your particular area of expertise are appreciated. A good place to start might be Mai Chen’s recent book: The Public Law Toolbox. Email your local MP. Look into what processes are currently underway in parliament, or even adopt an MP.

Engaging Corporates

Unfortunately we don’t have the same level of mandated transparency with corporations. The good thing is that they seem to be a lot more sensitive to reasonable social media feedback. If you need to add more detail, a blog post or email to elaborate on a couple of level-headed tweets is a great idea. The key thing to remember is that there are real people with real feelings behind even the most “faceless” social media presence.

Besides, being a troll is a near-certain way to get ignored by corporate social media. Take a look at this classic (did social media even exist in 2008?!) response chart from the US Air Force. Their suggestion for obvious trolls: “Avoid responding to specific posts”.

The other approach to consider is accessing a true inside voice: can you get in touch with an acquaintance employed by the company? Can you get them to see your point of view and work as an ally to foment change? This approach works particularly well for socio-economic or policy issues (as opposed to specific issues with products or services, which you should take through the existing support channels).

So yeah, thanks Koz and Nigel. Like I tell my four year-old: I’m gonna use my inside voice more often. How about you?

 

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