Friday, October 5, 2018

The Lucky Life

I would imagine that most of us have lived the "Lucky Life". We've been blessed more than we usually realize. Some of that "luck" may be partly due to hard work and perseverance, but you may be lucky to have that drive.

I have to remind myself of the Lucky life I've often had. I wasn't born into a rich family but never lacked for things as a child. I watched my dad and mom work very hard for what they had and provided for us. From trying their own business to my dad driving hours a day for a better job, and mom working when she could downtown, they set a great example. Maybe I was lucky to have those examples in front of me that helped my "luck" continue in my life.

Maybe I was lucky to always feel valued and loved by my parents, sister, family, and all those around me. I remember friends that weren't so lucky in that area, but most of them changed that luck as adults ensuring their kids never felt the same. I was lucky to be smart enough to do well at what I wanted to do but also lucky to not be so smart, making it a burden to feel normal.

I was lucky to find employment when I wanted and never lacking for a job, but then again I was "lucky" enough to see those opportunities and follow through at the right times. I used my skills and brain to make sure my luck continued in my career by trying to learn all I could and be ready for the next big thing. That helped luck along often I feel, as I watched the technology world grow, change and accelerate at an amazing pace as I rode along these past nearly four decades.

I've been lucky with health, I'm sure, as well, never having had major problems although "luck" may be lacking in that area as one ages. This is the one area that seems the most important as you get older, as without good health, other things in life are harder to enjoy, I'm sure. I have tried at least to hedge my bets on the lucky health side by not abusing the one body we have too much, and by never smoking or drinking to excess. Some things you can't change, and heredity is obviously one, so luck may not have a whole lot to do with health... but then again it may.

I'm lucky to have my wife, Karen, through thick and thin and enjoy our time together every chance we get. I've been lucky to have a close immediate family and a wonderful son, who was a joy to raise, teach, and learn with and experience life with. He's now lucky to have a family of his own with our first grandchild little Stella Jo Nolen. His and Tandra's luck has already started with an extended stay at Children's hospital from an early showing by Stella, but a joyful outcome of them settled into their new home and life. 

I hope to be lucky in old age and retirement as well, and enjoy the twilight years on my own terms,  enjoying simple things I like to do in life and time with family, friends, kids and grand kids. Time will tell if the future is lucky or not but I'm doing what I can to help luck along.

I'm lucky again to be offered an opportunity to retire a little bit earlier than I had planned to start that "old age" phase. I'm lucky that I'm reasonably prepared to take advantage of this offer and do understand others may not be in the same position. I hope they have luck in moving on to new and hopefully better opportunities in their life as I hope to experience as well.

I'm sure you've been lucky too, if you really look at things from the right perspective.


Sunday, April 8, 2018

Wandering Ways...

It’s odd to me how the world, including people, companies and governments, grab onto the latest bandwagon or “viral trend” and jump out of their seats to “change things”. An actual small number of people get attention for feeling “offended” and suddenly everything must change… that is until the next viral topic comes along and then that has to change too.

I’m no angel but from my life observations this is usually due to the individual, corporation or even country not having guiding principles, morals, or ethics. Basically no “moral compass” to keep on the right track during turmoil or disruption. Based on what we’ve seen in the USA the past decade or two it’s pretty obvious. Corporations driven by greed, governments driven by control, and individuals driven by entitlement.

Without that moral guiding compass, people, companies, news media and governments lose their way during the temptations, disruptions, and squeaky wheel situations and jump at the latest “threat” usually over reacting and creating more turmoil in the long run. Nothing actually gets improved and now the rest of the world is offended or unhappy.

To me, a “moral compass” doesn’t mean a certain religious, lifestyle, political ideology or other. It means doing the right thing for everyone involved with logic, sustainability, and compassion be it individual, company or government. It means taking care of yourself first but taking care of others in true need. It means not being distracted by the latest viral trend. It means staying the course you planned but being aware of what is short term versus long term concerns.

If we would guide our life, companies, governments and world with true quality principles, we can weather the storms and truly assess what should change and what should not change just because it’s the latest “trend”.

My two cents… no returns or refunds.

-Stephen


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Smart Home Version 10?

Original Web Front End
Ok, maybe it’s not version 10 but I have been through a LOT of major version changes in my home automation / smart home history. Starting way, way back in the 1980’s with a Commodore Vic20 running as a dedicated controller for turning on and off X10 lights based on my “programmed” schedule and some X10 control pads around the house, through SEVERAL different PC versions of X10 based controls, to a dedicated Time Commander+ setup in the middle 1990’s, to a TC+ version and my own interface to fake keystrokes into the control software, then an integrated TC+ and web services version.
WAP Access - Simple Pull downs

Around this time some very basic WAP pages were developed to allow remote phone access for those nice limited Nokia phones. It worked just fine and was just a list of things to scroll up or down to and click on. With smartphones showing up the mobile interface was updated to a full html style page and formatted to fit the small screen. That interface is still the main front end I used day to day but is on it’s way out. Next to an expanded version of that with Arduino and ESP8266 end points and now my migration from my now “legacy” system over to a dedicated Raspberry Pi3 running Home Assistant / Hassio. That could be more than 10 actually.


Mobile Web Access
I’ve been questioning myself over what is the next version or phase of smart home I’ll be moving to for a while. Actually for a few years now. Obviously X10 is dead and has been for some time but that is what all my controlled devices were built around. Watching the Z’s (Zigbee and ZWave) battle it out, I never made a commitment to either. I did buy one Insteon wall switch that could do both X10 and their own power line carrier (PLC) but at their price point I could see it was going to be way more than I was willing to pay for budget wise to move everything that direction.

Then along came the Internet of Things (IoT) and WiFi device disturbance along with what seems like a million different protocols, options, and “apps” to use. I always loved how my home built web service put everything into a single site of controls so there was no way I was going to “app hop” to turn lights on, then arm the alarm look at cameras, etc. In the meantime I was slowly deploying my own ESP8266 IoT things on my network for temperature monitoring and some endpoint / relay controls but using my own HTTP API processes to do so. I had checked out Smartthings when they were a startup but after being bought out and up by a corporate giant my interest waned.

Hassio Control Screen
Finally during my wanderings around the web I ran across Home Assistant, or more specifically for me Hassio. I had actually recently picked up a Raspberry Pi3 on a whim as I knew I really needed to learn more about them and I had a $50 gift card on Amazon burning a hole in my pocket so to speak. I’ve coded in microcontrollers for years, check that, decades from 68HC11 devices through BX24 chips and for the last several years on the Arduino platform. I’m not saying I’m good by any means, just have been using them for my own fun. Seeing Hassio was basically made to run on a Pi3 with little effort I figured it was worth a try. Honestly the install was dead simple and before long Hassio was running and finding devices on my network.

So my goal now is to slowly, well I really want to do this quickly but time and money come into play so it's slowly, migrate all my old light switches, inputs and outputs, and automation routines over to Hassio and grow it from there. I’ve migrated quite a few switches, have text to voice working, have Alexa and Siri listening and responding, and am working on migrating my automation routines over. Learning YAML and its idiosyncrasies was a bit troubling at first as I am a quite sloppy coder but after a few thousand errors and fixes I’m getting better.

HA Dashboard Master Screen
Although the Hassio control screen does it's job well, it's just too much at once and not that easy to customize. Fortunately, the wonderful HADashboard add on for Hassio and Home Assistant, makes it super easy to build out new web interfaces to replace what I’ve built before. With HADashboard one can configure multiple dashboards and customize them for the particular endpoint display as needed. For example my small old phone displays are laid out different than my larger phones versus the Android tablets versus the old Ipad devices. You can setup your “widgets” and then include them in your dashboards adding easy re-usability of existing code.

I have to say version “10” (or maybe even higher) of our automated home is better than the old versions of the past and continues to improve. There is much work to do including moving inputs and outputs such as the washing machine, dryer, garage doors, alarm system and other sensors over to the new system but this will actually be easier as ESP8266 end points will be much easier to build out than running wires everywhere.

Watch for more details in the future as this decades long adventure continues…

Resources:

Home Assistant/ Hassio:
HADashboard:
My ThingiVerse Things for 3D printable items I've used:

To learn more about Home Assistant and DIY Smart Homes in general check out these Youtube channels: