In September 2010, I left Colorado after ten years of living there. I moved to Mountain View in California to work for Google, a dream of mine always being to work at a tech company in Silicon Valley.
One of the last things I did before leaving Colorado was to finish my back garden. It was bittersweet, because a lot of weekends were spent getting it done, a lot of weeds were pulled, and a lot of money was spent – and after all was said and done, someone else is enjoying it. Not only that, but thanks to the rotten economy, the house isn’t exactly a big money earner in the rental department. Quite the opposite. I even took a week off to finish the deck, which I made by hand. It was certainly a learning experience.
Usually when we go away on holiday, something happens with either the server (power supply fails, Comcast decides to knock it off the Internet) or the security cameras (transmissions mysteriously stop, etc). This holiday was no exception. I noticed after we landed that there appeared to be a large piece of tumbleweed completely blocking the lens. I thought it might have been put there deliberately – and I was right.
I give you exhibit A:
It built a pretty good nest, but the camera mount couldn’t hold it up and eventually tilted downwards, at which point the bird gave up. There was a single blue egg inside, but sadly it never had a chance because there was a snow storm a couple of days after the bird finished the nest.
Hooray for 8ft trees and LED lights! Happy Christmas!
Following on from my “boredom” post, here’s something that has been keeping me busy for a while. I have a home server called Frankenputer, and it runs a package called Zoneminder along with the web server.
Connected to it I have two black & white outdoor cameras (el cheapo $30 things from Harbor Freight) and one indoor colour wired ethernet camera. The outdoor cameras are connected via very long cables to individual video capture cards in the server. The problem I am having right now is that the picture quality at daytime is fairly noisy:
At night though, it’s plainly crap:
Zoneminder is also fairly terrible at motion detection, requiring a very clean image to work with, and very precise fiddling with “blob counts” and other non-intuitive variables. If I connect either of the cameras to a proper TV, there is absolutely no interference, leading me to believe that the interference is being generated inside the server. However, if I connect a closer source of video to the server (such as a VCR), the picture is also perfect! I think what is happening is that the long run of camera cable (100 feet) is causing the composite video voltage levels to drop, and interference in the server is becoming more noticeable. Any hints would be appreciated though.
I am wondering whether to retire Frankenputer and get a new motherboard, CPU and memory, or to get ethernet cameras all around. Here’s a snap from the ethernet camera:
For the last few weeks I’ve been building a deck. My “bible” is the Home Depot Decks 1-2-3 book, which does a fairly good job of explaining how to build a deck to someone with reasonable carpentry skills.
This is actually only my second carpentry project – the first being some shelves in the garage.
If there’s anything I have learned, it’s the following:
- Don’t be afraid to buy the right tools.
- You will need at least two drills (corded and cordless). You will need a cordless one for difficult areas, and a corded one for the screw that won’t go in or the hole that won’t appear.
- You always need more screws/nails.
- Measure twice, cut once.
- Your posts will try to sink to the centre of the earth. There is nothing you can do to stop it, so you may as well make the posts stick further out of the ground in anticipation.
- If you are British, get some SPF-50 and a hat.
You know what really pisses me off? Comcast. Oh, you already know this, but I thought I’d share with you another reason why they piss me off:
Picture this: we are watching a movie, and this shows up on all channels (analogue and digital). You cannot switch off the digital receiver, and it stays on for five minutes. The TV programmes currently being watched are not paused, and recordings that are in process get gaps in them. A sharp tone is played at maximum volume, easily able to damage speakers that are turned up loud. The information is not localised in any way; the entire of Colorado sees the same message. It goes away, and then it comes back ten minutes later.
Fox occasionally issues “storm watches” to tell people that they may issue a “storm warning”, which is itself a notice that they may issue a “storm alert” at some point in the future. The annoying thing is that they play a very weird tone over the programme being watched and squash the programme into the top half of the screen so they can show these messages.
Yes, in a state prone to tornados and flash floods, this can be useful, but please localise the information. I wonder if they have ever read “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”.
PS. It’s not raining (yet).
We had a lot of rain in Colorado last week, and the ground on the left side of our house settled a bit. It was just enough to break the PVC sprinkler pipe off the end of the copper water supply pipe, and the whole side of our house (outside) flooded. It took two whole days to shift the stones from on top of the weed barrier sheet, pull up the sheet, dig down to fix the pipe, and then pack the soil down using dirt I obtained from the building site across the road. The ground had sunk 4-6 inches in total.
Earlier this year, we found we had an 18 pCi/l (pico Curies per litre) reading of radon in our house. The EPA recommended limit is 4 pCi/l. For those who don’t know, radon is a colourless, odourless radioactive gas that comes from the ground and can increase the risk of getting lung cancer. A few weeks ago we had an extractor fan hooked up to the basement sump (like a moat going around the perimeter of the house for water to drain away). Here are the results:
Yay, no horrible slow death by cancer!
We have a new addition to the family – take a look:
His name is Scooby and he likes chasing cats and nice clean floors. Our kitchen floor accumulates cat hairs at a tremendous rate, and I am terribly allergic to them. So, when I saw him in Target for half price, I had to have him! “He” is an iRobot Scooba, in case you want one too.
The Scooba managed to clean the floor far better than we can. The proof was in the sheer amount of grime it got off the floor just days after we manually mopped it.
What’s wrong with this picture?
Notice the banner ad at the bottom? I am currently paying around $150 for Cable TV and high speed Internet, and this week they decided to put adverts on the electronic programme guide (EPG). Not only that, but the EPG used to have five lines of programming, and now there is only space for four! On top of that, when pressing the down arrow to move down the list, it highlights the advert every fifth press!
They tried this back in November last year, and I swiftly complained. The banner ads were removed within a few hours. This time when I complained, I was told that they are unobtrusive and they will not remove them. So, I told them to cancel my entire service. They even went so far to say they couldn’t believe I was cancelling over a banner ad!
Some channels have already started advertise during shows. Fox and NBC have been doing this for a while with banners on the bottom. This is extremely annoying, especially when they squash the programme to make the advert fit, ruining the aspect ratio. One channel (I forget the name, but they are showing reruns of Star Trek: The Next Generation) even has adverts with sound during programmes! Un-be-freaking-lievable.
What really shocked me though is that they accepted my cancellation without putting up a fight. My friend Eric recently tried to cancel and they took him to hell and back whilst trying to get rid of it. Where’s my free three months of service?