HomePod is a Speaker Phone!

I made an interesting discovery when I called out from home on my mobile. It showed a new Blue Tooth audio device which happened to be my HomePod. On a lark, I moved the HomePod into my study for the quarterly check-in call with my broker. In my study, the phone (iPhone 6+) speaker phone has a pretty bad echo setting my expectations to switch to headphones after the caller reported hideous call quality.

The first go

When the call came in on my iPhone, I switched it to HomePod expecting that I’d have to switch to ear buds to have the echo tolerable. My advisor calls my Google Voice number which rings both my iPhone and my OOMA Telo VoIP land line. I have the choice of which to use and normally take his call on the iPhone using some Sennheiser headphones made for iPhone calling.

Surprisingly, my advisor reported clean audio on his end free of echo. He sounded well also calling from a 212 area code phone, probably VoIP likely on a local PBX but possibly a cloud PBX. At any rate, HomePod works well as an audio endpoint for a 2 way phone call.

Siri can’t dial

“Hey Siri, call aunt nancy at home”

“Sorry, I can’t help you with that here”

HomePod Siri can’t chat with iPhone Siri to make the call for you.

Invasion of the Pods

I stopped by the Apple Store on the way home from church, always an expensive detour. This Sunday was no exception. I auditioned the HomePod and was suitably impressed. In the noisy way-too-big Apple Store hall, it sounded creditable in the near field. My impressions after a day at home follow. Most of the reviews focus on Siri when the focus should be on the killer app of the “smart speaker”, music reproduction. I’ll talk about music reproduction.

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Roon Take 2

Abstract

Over the past several months, I fell in love with Roon, its ability to stream my digital music collection in pristine full definition audio, the Allmusic artist and album commentary, and Roon Radio, the ability to play other things from my library like what I had been listening too. Nothing offers this combination of features. Nothing appears to have the commercial traction of Roon.

This article serves several purposes. First, it is my working notes from rebuilding my Roon environment, an iohyve managed FreeNAS behave VM. Second, I offer this in the hopes that it might inspire others to home brew. This article is a bit advanced. You really need to have a year or two of Unix system integration experience to pull this off. It is not a character by character, click by click recipe to build a Roon Server.

Those who don’t have system integrator chops but want a quality music server should consider the Roon Nucleus described in Reference [4]. Roon has developed these robust system specifically for the music serving task. They have adequate storage and computing resources to run Roon Server and are designed not to sneak crud into your audio system over the USB ground. If you’d like a fancy panel with that, Bryston, Linn, Naim, and others, will make pretty metal for you.

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Adios Facebook

The recent revelations centered around Facebook and Cambridge Analytica compel me to bring this relationship to an end. Yes, Facebook, it is you.

  • Buggy iPad app
  • Buggy iPad messnger app
  • Only trolls are participating. Everyone I want to hear from is a lurker
  • You aided a hostile foreign power’s information warfare campaign directed at the US electorate, a campaign that probably resulted in the election of the worst US President ever.
  • You allowed an advertising client to plunder 50 million user’s profile information
  • Said advertising client left that information lying about on open or easily penetrated servers

So on Passover, the account goes.

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Introducing YouMail

I’m impressed. Favorably impressed. StraightTalk was OK but ATT, my MVNO carrier had gotten lazy. StraightTalk was not offering ATT visual voicemail, data tethering, or WiFi calling.

Changes in ATT’s ranking in Consumer Reports prompted me to change from StraightTalk to Ting. Consumer Reports ranked T-Mobile above ATT as a carrier and Ting above StraightTalk as an MVNO. StraightTalk is a competent discount MVNO but had not been keeping up on ATT LTE capabilities rollout. The Ting rate plan model offers data tethering, WiFi calling, and visual voicemail across the board.

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The Moocher welcomes Ting Mobile

Ting Mobile has surged to the top of Consumer Reports wireless carrier popularity survey. Ting is a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) serving the continental United States reselling T-Mobile and Sprint service in its service territories. Coverage is the same as the parent carrier. If you’re in town on or a major road, life is good. In the prairie or the mountains I can’t hear you now but I am never there.

References

  1. https://www.ting.com
  2. Consumer Reports carrier survey (website subscribers only)
  3. Online review https://youtu.be/tpcxbBrEHgs
  4. Funny Advert https://youtu.be/vV_l9ZoBfOI

Why did I change

The incumbent MVNO operator was OK technically but known for horrid customer service. Thanks to good articles on GigaOM and Ars, I made it through on boarding with the incumbent without needing to call them. Since then, I’ve not had to call them but I’m finding my website password goes missing from time to time. Most recently, when I started looking at the number porting. You have to mother may I to move your old number. Being a GV convert, i let Ting give me a new number and saved firing the incumbent for another day.

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2017 That Was the Year that Was

Porch Holiday Lights

What a strange year. The first year of continuous scandal national government. Real scandals, not pretend scandal like those during 44’s watch. 45 became in violation of a building lease with the US Government upon inauguration (can’t lease to USG  employees or elected officials) and it has been a steady slide from there.

Institute for Learning in Retirement

Dave remains active as a standing committee chair in this Tidewater seniors club. The club is in the second year of migration from semi-automated membership and class registration processes to on-line processes that should allow our 3 person part time staff to continue to serve our growing membership. Those wanting to learn more about ILR may do so at https://www.oduilr.org.

The club is in the process of engaging a payment processing service and opening a merchant services account. With this change staff and Dave will be actively trying to figure out how things work and revising our internal work flows. We hope these changes will improve member services.

On the Church Front

Dave is a member of the audio-visual and networking teams preparing a new used building to be our future church. Our architect and builder are well regarded small commercial projects builders but we are finding gaps to be filled in completing the technical infrastructure needed by a modern house of worship having other non-profit tenants.

Networking

The increased size and complexity of our new building requires some internal access controls to allow staff to move about while keeping home school children and their minders out of the upper levels and unimproved areas of the building. In addition, we’re adding internal video and security telephones not in our older building.  Figuring out affordable ways to do this has kept Dave and his committee mates busy for a day a week.

It turns out that the best way to do many of these tasks is with Ethernet network devices. Each floor of our new building will have Power over Ethernet network drops for each office, classroom, and location we’d like to have a phone. The main entrance and staff entrances will have video door phones that allow staff to screen visitors and open the door for expected vendors and congregants

Each office and classroom will have an in wall WiFi access point to support use of WHRO educational materials by Home School Out of the Box classes and WiFi access for home schooler parents. The large meeting areas will also have WiFi service.

Audio Visual Stuff

Dave is also involved with the audio visual systems and theatrical lighting for the sanctuary. Planning for the AV system began with the first plans for the sanctuary. We engaged a local contractor to model the hall and recommend acoustical design elements to manage the reverberation time of the hall for spoken word and acoustic music.

The hall will include a robust high fidelity sound reinforcement system suitable for speech, small acoustic ensemble performances, and movie and video projection. The sound system has a modern digital mixer, high efficiency amplifiers, modern assistive listening, and is able to mix both front of house and on-stage monitor sound. Mix configurations can be saved and recalled making setup easier for  our volunteer audio engineers.

Theatrical Lighting

Our new hall will have theatrical lighting designed primarily for lighting services on stage but with multi-color LED sources to permit some use of theatrical effects as we learn how to do that. The church is fortunate to have a congregant whose day job is Exhibits Director at Nauticus, our local maritime museum. Dustin has been handling the nitty gritty of the stage lighting but Dave has been helping with hall lighting control so we can dim the house lights from the AV booth which also doubles as video and lighting booths.

Critters

Nick and Missy on Zombie Watch

Nick and Missy are both well but Nick is a senior citizen and acting it. His activity is down as is his piss and vinegar level. At 11 and a half, he’s pretty mellow and content to let Missy have the alpha role.

Missy

Missy reminding Dave that supper is late.

Missy defends the house from zombies, hoodie teens, bikers, and other assorted blighters. She’s mellowed some as she approaches 6 and no longer trolls school children at the fence but the neighbor dogs are fair game as are skater kids and bicycles.

Nick

Nick showing devil’s ears

Nick may be old but when Missy calls for aid, Nick comes running and is right in the mix. Interestingly, we have a neighbor dog, a playful Golden Doodle, retriever and standard poodle hybrid. He’s just a sapling and sweet as can be. Nick and Missy chat with him at the hole in neighbor’s fence (neighbor is a tenant). Neighbor dog is a bit bouncy so we’ve not let them run together (hardly a fare contest).

The moles appear to have moved on. But we have coyote confirmed in the area with sitings on the Botanical Garden grounds, airport grounds, and in the woods around the reservoir. They pretty much stick to the strip by the lake and are rarely seen in the neighborhood. The local ones are about 40 pounds and are believe to have a taste for outdoor cats and other small critters. Funny, rabbits are scarce at the moment. Maybe most have become coyote.

Thoughts on Electric Power for Puerto Rico

As you may know, I’m a former electric power utility equipment engineer. Although no longer active, I continue to follow developments in my former industry. Hurricanes Irma and Maria significantly damaged Puerto Rico’s ailing state owned public utility. Because of economic conditions on the island and electric power pricing decisions, the utility has been unable to maintain its generation and distribution equipment. Apparently, the utility was also deferring tree maintenance long its rights of way. Because of the lack of care and the strength of the storms, most of the island’s retail distribution is down and some of its backbone transmission is damaged. Puerto Rico is in the position of rebuilding its transmission and distribution and cold starting its generation.

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The trials and tribulations of the retired moocher lifestyle