2018 Holiday Letter

Best wishes for a wonderful 2019. Boy has it been a busy year. As 2018 closes, Dave, Nick, and Missy are well. Dave remains busy with club activities while the Greyhounds continue to keep our garden zombie free.

I’m now officially a Moocher

I turned 70 and started collecting Social Security. This should be a good bet as monthly benefits increase by about 30 percent. The design is neutral from an actuarial vantage point. Social Security will pay out the same total from commencement to median life expectancy. The bet you make is that you will live past median life expectancy, a good bet as most relatives who dodged early canecer have done so on both sides of the family. Most cancer cases involve risk factors like tobacco use, agent orange exposure, or alcohol abuse.  I now actually have some income. Surprisingly, Social Security covers about 1/2 of my income needs.

New Gadgets

As usual, there have been a whole slew of new gadgets. Most have a detailed post earlier in the year but some deserve mention here because they have proven pleasant to live with or they can fulfill a novel use case like a dog door bell.

First print job

I switched printers this fall replacing an old Canon with a modern Epson XP-830. I printed envelopes for holiday cards without fuss. The trick was to select the card group from Apple Contacts, print to PDF, and use Preview to submit the actual print job. Preview exposed the complete set of printer controls so I could tell the printer to use the rear feeder. The printer walks you through setup and manual feeding of each sheet. Everything went smoothly with nary a cobble or smudge.

The dogs have a door bell

The dogs have a door bell. I have OOMA Telo home phone service. OOMA now offers security gadgets including a door/window sensor, motion sensors, etc I put a door sensor on the garden door and leave it ajar. When the dogs come in, they push the door open. The system sends an open event to my Apple Watch and I can shut the door.

OOMA Home Security Bits

In addition to the usual home security sensors OOMA offers a water sensor that can watch a basement sump for overflow or watch for washer or dishwasher spills. Few of the competitors have such a sensor.

The deal with OOMA is that you buy the box and sensors. Phone service is optional. Monitoring is optional. The sensors communicate via the latest DECT protocol. As usual, there is an app and some configuration to do at OOMA to set up a security enclave.

OOMA also offers firewall and net nanny service on the box which may be of interest to some.

New humidifier

A Dyson Humidifier joined the household this fall. It is on sale for the holiday ($350) which is pricey. But it is normal excellent Dyson design. The base unit is one of those magic Dyson thingies that pushes air up into a ring gadget they call an air multiplier. The second bit of Dyson magic is that the water is sterilized by a UV light on the way to the piezoelectric mist maker. This beast is silent, controlled by a humidistat that actually works, and has a remote to loose.

I’ve had it in service for about 2 weeks of cold weather. The machine is able to keep the bedroom near 50% relative humidity but it is not up to humidifying the whole house. Neither is the whole house humidifier in the aircon. This old house is just too leaky with gingerbread on the outside of the studs and a vented attic. But my sinuses do seem better on waking. Less congestion so far.

Eve Home sensors

I also have an Eve contact sensor on the front door. It is useful only when the sensor is part of an event network. I’ve not learned how to do that yet so it is just logging events. If there is a break-in, it will tell me where in the video to look.

Eve Home offers a mildly water resistant (drip proof but not dunk proof) motion sensor. I’m planning to put one low on the back porch column to sense the dogs coming up onto the stoop. If this works, I can stop leaving the door ajar. I could do this with an OOMA sensor but they are indoor only.

Eve also has some environment sensors. The newest (not hear yet) is rechargable and senses volatile organic compounds in addition to temperature and humidity.

New Network Video Recorder

I have a new Cloud Key G2+ and switches for the network. The G2+ has a new NVR software that continuously records my 3 cameras and tags the motion detection events. The motion detection is much less sensitive to traffic so cry wolfs are way down. The new UI is slick and I can look in from way by phone.

Church Moves to a new home

The Moocher’s church spent much of 2017 and 2018 renovating a former engineering offices building to serve as its new worship space. Dave worked with the design team on audio, lighting, and communications systems. Among other things, the building needed a new sound reinforcement system, new house and stage lighting, new networking plant, and new telephone system. We had tight budget constraints which forced us, after a too high round of initial quotes, to do some of the system integration ourselves.

Audio

Providential Integration Concepts did superb system design work for us and Sunset Sound did the system installation. Our system included a new Allen and Heath SQ-5 mixer, Martin Audio CDD Live speakers, stage monitors, lobby sound, and stage boxes. The SQ-5 mixer has 16 channels of IO in the desk and up to 48 channels from stage boxes or Dante/Ravenna capable devices. Ethernet connects the mixer to the stage boxes.

Dave continues to mix service audio about one Sunday per month. This mixer is a joy to work with. We can do mic checks from the stage using an iPad and mixer control app. Working with visiting performers also benefits from the iPad. It is easy to show microphone equalization to a performer and make adjustments on the spot. The mixer channel settings can be saved as presets and recalled. The complete mixer configuration can be saved as a scene, and a sequence of scenes can be saved as a show. A midi input can be used to sequence the mixer through the scenes in the show from the stage.

Network and Telephones

The local system integrators came in over budget so the design committee ended up serving as contractor for this part of the project. We had one part-timer do most of the old work Ethernet runs for us. A second company came in and installed wall plates and labeling for us per contemporary practice. A third company racked our router and switches and configured the router, switches, and WiFI and we did the telephones ourselves using OnSip VoIP service.

Oh, and ILR is Moving Too

The Moocher remains active as a committee chairman at Institute for  Learning in Retirement, https://ilrvb.org. And yes, that is a new URL to go with a new website, a new online membership and registration provider,  and a new clubhouse. Our former home repurposed the building we were in to house the School of Nursing. Having trouble envisioning the program growth, they were reluctant to commit space to ILR so we searched for and found a new sponsor near by.

Yet another SOHO network

With the change of sponsors, we become employers (our staff had been employees of the former sponsor) and we became responsible for our own telecommunications. So the Moocher cleverly adjusted the equipment lists from church for the much smaller ILR office project. During 2019, we’ll be building a nework core and configuring a network and phone system for ILR.

We’re still learning the TCC rules. Cox has a point of presence on campus and provides telecommunications to the campus. We will be able to add a cable modem to the network closet and repatch an Ethernet circuit from the closet to our spaces. In our spaces we’ll have a small tabletop enclosure with our router, network manager, switch, and patch panel. The sponsor’s IT folks should be able to run some local cables for us and swap keystones for us. They would also add a WiFi access point for us.

As before, this would be a Ubiquity Unify deployment with a USG, a new Cloud Key G2+, and a Switch-16-150. We’re planning to use Unifi UVP VoIP smart phones with Bluetooth so staff can work hands free.

ILR Data Backup and Recovery

ILR was relying on the sponsor’s IT infrastructure including the sponsor’s file servers, IT administrators, and IT backup system. When we move, we’re on our own. Fortunately, our sponsor has a computing program and an active computer club that refurbishes second had machines for students in need and area non-profits like ILR. Should something need fixed, the club will sort it for $25 per incident plus parts. But we’re on our own for data restoration.

After some searching on the FreeNAS forums, the Moocher found BackBlaze, downloaded the client and gave it a try. This one actually works and is reasonably priced at $50 per host per year and offers small business subscriptions for organizations like ILR. BackBlaze won’t do bare metal recovery but it will recover your user environment from soup to nuts. To recover from disk failure, you first install your OS and applications, add the BackBlaze client, and restore  your user data.