Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Land of Equal - Opportunity, Not Life

It seems that too many Americans have forgotten what this country was built on in my opinion. The entitlement mindset is quickly taking over our nation, and apparently our world as individuals believe they are "owed" something in life. One would think this would be unique to to the U.S. but it is quickly becoming a world wild downward slid.

That mindset quickly leads to a lazy ass world where people think someone ELSE is supposed to take care of their needs and generally that someone else appears to be the "government". This country was founded on hard work, individualism, and persistence and without that mindset I think we will quickly fall into yet another "3rd world" country that can't support themselves much less others.

This is indicative not just economically but in many other areas as well. We want a pill to fix all our health issues instead of taking on the responsibility of our own health. It's someone else's fault that we are mad, or sad, or hurt, or even happy anymore. It's someone else's fault I can't get a job, not that I have no skills or a degree that is useless in a productive world. It's the policeman's fault I'm in trouble because he caught me, not like I was doing illegal things. It's the judges fault I'm in prison. It's the legal gun owners or NRA's fault some idiot killed someone. The list goes on.

I hear these things daily and it's full blown entitlement and lack of self responsibility. It's also the easy way out, which is why it's likely so popular as we have fallen from a nation of self support, self confidence, and self building to it's someone else's job to do it.

No easy fix in sight either which is the worse part of the situation. My two and 1/2 cents...

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Don't Be Stupid

In today's world it seems every time there is some problem, some concern, something different that people don't like some lawmaker somewhere comes up with a new law to address it. We are a country of millions of laws... literally. Nobody knows them all and I'd imagine we all be surprised at how few are enforced.

With all these laws in place and all the law makers trying to keep us all "legal", it seems to me nearly all of these could be fixed with one single law...

"Don't be stupid"

That seems to sum up all that is needed to function as a society. Think about how that can be applied across the board.

Don't be stupid and kill people.
Don't be stupid and steal stuff.
Don't be stupid and cheat.
Don't be stupid and hurt anyone.
Don't be stupid.

Just Don't be stupid- fixes a lot of the worlds problems.

Not like that's going to happen but seems to be a solution.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

It's The Process That Counts

I've now spent about 60 years on this big round ball (yeah, I'm not giving into the flat earth stuff yet) and have completed a few things during that time. With "things" being jobs, projects, goals, challenges and more. I've built things, broke things, fixed things, rebuilt things, re-broke things, explored new things, enjoyed old things, and tried new things. These things range from bicycles, Lego animation, go karts, old cars, motorcycles, automated homes, big and small computer networks, dynamic websites, patios, carports, computers, robots, 3D printers, relationships, policies, processes, and beyond.

I've found for my purpose, it's not the end result thing that counts, it's the process of getting there. Figuring out the process, finding the right design, making the new part, making it all work out, getting the right algorithm, assembling the code or finished up parts, or working through the wording on that new policy, is the part I actually enjoy, usually more than using the finished "thing". It's not that I don't want or enjoy the end result, be it a paper, car, bot, process, computer or whatever, it's just that getting there was as much or more fun than the results often to me.

I guess that's a good thing since, as in life, getting to the end isn't the real goal. I'm glad I never felt I was only "working for retirement". I worked for 45 years from car hop, cashier/sacker to outside plant engineer and on to Chief Information Officer, but enjoyed each of those stops along the way and what was involved in making each job work the best it could. I remember working on Long Range Outside Plant Plans (LROPPs) for many Bell wire centers and, although I was happy to be finished with each, the end product didn't have as much meaning to me as the working through the process.

Interestingly enough, in the Information Systems career that followed, the end result of your work had a very short "shelf life" so the job required constant "processing" to keep it updated and relevant. Maybe that is why I liked it as much as I did. The same feeling is there for cars, bikes, robots, and more. The end result is cool and fun, but the process was the most fun.

I'm glad I enjoyed the process of life so far, and hope to enjoy the process of retirement for some time to come. In reality, life is just a series of "now" moments strung through seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, and decades, so life's plan really should be "enjoy each day" ... and the "process" of that day you have been given.

-Stephen W Nolen

Friday, December 7, 2018

Saying Goodbye to the City

When I walked through the City of Shawnee Oklahoma City Hall doors on January 10th, 2000, and sat waiting for then Finance Director Jim Wilsie to welcome me to the City of Shawnee as a new employee, I really didn’t have a clue of what the future really looked like here. I had actually always wanted to work at the City of Shawnee, having spent seven years at the City of Tecumseh, and three at the Citizen Potawatomi Nation building technology solutions and supporting their goals. When I received a phone call from James Roberts about Shawnee exploring a possible “Systems Administrator” position, and what it should pay and how it should look, it peaked my interest.

Little did I know I’d spent nearly 19 years here, and at least try to keep us moving along the never ending technology treadmill. We did make progress, deploying working solutions, and continued to improve our operations. We were ahead of some cities, and behind others in our technology ventures. It all depended on time, money, and motivation during that time. 

Sadly to me we’ve watched the core function of information systems department move from being change and efficiency drivers, to “defenders of the fort” simply trying to keep the bad guy from burning down what we have built. I truly believe that has slowed down progress in our department as much effort has had to be made on building security systems, training users, and deeply monitoring systems to identify and stop any threats. I hope that gets better before it gets worse, but the online world really is a nasty place anymore.

As I walk away from the City of Shawnee I see big changes on the horizon, and that’s a good thing. It’s time to explore new options, solutions, and processes and actually deploy some of the true cost saving solutions that have been “in the list” for way too long. Here’s wishing good luck to everyone that will making the future with the City!

Sunday, November 4, 2018


Life really is like chapters of a book when you look back. The introduction to the story of your life, the rising action and build up to exciting times, the climax where you've done the best you can and are enjoying every day, the falling action or wind down when you finish out your career or see your children go off to their own, and finally, the resolution or closing, where hopefully you are happy with it all.

We all experience some of these during slightly different ages, I suppose, but I'm sure all of us who are older can identify with the basic concept. Unfortunately, many do not get to enjoy the full book of life, when things end early or abruptly, so those who get to enjoy the book of life all the way through, are indeed quite lucky.

Our Introduction

During our youth, we are establishing our character, building our ethics and morals, and deciding where we are headed. As toddlers learning right from wrong to teens testing the limits of parents and society, we mold ourselves into the human we will likely be from now on. Our parents, grandparents, friends and enemies, all play roles in these early days and make us the unique individuals we turn out to be.

Our Rising Action

During our late teens and twenties, we may be learning the skills of life, building our careers, work and life experiences or having our own children to mentor and enjoy. Often our children help drive our motivation to do good in the world, to do the best we can and to be the person they would be proud of. We are learning, living and loving life and beginning to realize how special it is.

Our Climax

At some point we may feel like we've done our good for the world, be it our children, work, volunteerism or other life accomplishments. We should be happy with our accomplishments and look back at our life, so far, with pride. We aren't all so lucky to feel or see that, but I believe that should be our goal. For some this may be our 40's, other 50's, or even older, depending on the individual.

Our Falling Action

Our falling action years would hopefully be our golden years of retirement, resting, thoughts of our past with good memories and taking time for ourselves to enjoy the world, without the need for work or daily actions, unless that is what we really enjoy doing.

Our Resolution

In the end we finish out, hopefully knowing we did do the best we could, that we stopped and smelled the roses along the way, that we presented the best example we could as a human being, and that we enjoyed each day to our best ability. Those late years in life are very special and hopefully we have no regrets during this time.

We all should step back and make sure we are writing our book of life the way we hope it will be.


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.


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…


Home Assistant/ Hassio:
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:

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Believing in Change

I believe in change. I’ve been a change driver my whole life through technology and the deployment and use of it. “Change is the only constant” as they say. The older I get the more I do see the other side too however. Age brings experience and when you see what works historically you stand by it.

Change isn’t always good. Most software companies motto should be “new ways to do things you already know how to do”. Add a couple new features and then change how you do the rest. Do I want to still be using Windows 3.11? Of course not but then again I don’t want to have to use “search” to find a simple setting that used to be two clicks away.

But on a bigger note, I can’t support change that is more destructive. I can’t support change that criminalizes victims and makes them the bad guy for defending themselves. I can’t support change that victimizes criminals and looks for outside excuses for their actions no matter their race, creed, religion, or culture. I can’t support change that ignores laws such as immigration when there are legal methods in place. I can’t support change that disrespects our country and those that have fought for our freedom. I can’t support change that seeks to legitimize violence to suppress free speech and then uses free speech to justify their actions. I can’t support change that attempts to divide our citizens by race, religion, geolocation, or culture. I can’t support change that encourages reliance on others and ridicules self reliance. These may be change, but there is good and bad change and sometimes it seems we can’t see the difference.

These are changes we have seen for years now that is destroying what we are about as a nation and change that does not move us forward but backwards as a nation. I can only hope we change how we see these actions sooner than later and keep what works, actually appreciate living in the greatest nation on the planet, and actually change what needs to be fixed instead of tearing down what works.

That’s my two cents of change...

Friday, January 27, 2017

Does Your 3D Printer Tweet? Or Email or Text?

Does Your 3D Printer Tweet?
Or Email or Text?

Get an email, text or Tweet from your 3D printer lately? No, why not? Well, OK, it’s not REALLY from your printer but it’s still pretty handy to get a notice when that print job is done if you’re not sitting there babysitting it.
If you’re using PronterFace or any other PC based printer control that supports external commands you can easily get email or text notifications when print jobs are done or if there is an error. In fact with some free email to Twitter options such as TwitterMail.com you can put your 3D printer online and have it Tweet when it’s done.
This will cover how to do this on a Windows machine for the details but Linux gurus can easily replicate the end results I’m sure.
PronterFace has an option under the Settings / Options menu item and the External Commands tab to run external programs for printer start, printer final, and printer error situations. With this we can run any program we want to for our purposes we will use some simple VBScript to make it happen. This could just as easily be done in PowerShell if you’re a PS expert.

First we need ability to use an SMTP server somewhere. If you have an account with SMTP.com or are running your own SMTP server somewhere then it’s easy. For a local SMTP server just ensure the IP you’re PC is using is able to send email through the server if local and make sure you know a valid username and password for either option.

You can even use Gmail to send the messages if you desire but it takes a little bit more and lessens the security on your Gmail account. If you want or need to use Gmail it might be best to create another GMail account just for this to insure your main account doesn’t have any other risk. The reason is that you do need to lower the security level for “Less Secure Devices” after you log into the Gmail account by visiting this link and making the change: https://www.google.com/settings/security/lesssecureapps. Additionally you will have to store the email password for the gmail account in open text in the script which is obviously not good either. Once you turn ON access for less secure apps, our script can then send email through that Gmail account.
Once you have an SMTP server accessible then the rest is rather simple. We can setup the following command in the PronterFace or other print controller to run your .VBS script to email the notice. In PronterFace your external command should be like this: “Cscript.exe C:\3Dprinting\SendEmail.vbs” where the path is where ever you put the VBS script from below. The script is a little messier with the TLS requirements vs if you run your own email server and can simply whitelist the IP of the host computer but either works.

Super easy way with your own SMTP or use something simpler like SMTP.com:

Set Arg = Wscript.Arguments
If arg.count > 0 then strJob = arg.item(0)

SendEmail “WhoTo@from.com”, “Gray Hair 3D printer just finished print job “ & strJob

Sub SendEmail(ToAddress, Subject, Text)
 Set MyEmail=CreateObject("CDO.Message")
 MyEmail.From=”MrWallace@Protowrxs.com” ‘ Whatever you want/need the FROM to be
 MyEmail.Configuration.Fields.Item ("http://schemas.microsoft.com/cdo/configuration/sendusing")=2
 'SMTP Server
 MyEmail.Configuration.Fields.Item ("http://schemas.microsoft.com/cdo/configuration/smtpserver")=""
 'SMTP Port
 MyEmail.Configuration.Fields.Item ("http://schemas.microsoft.com/cdo/configuration/smtpserverport")=25 
 set MyEmail=nothing
End Sub

More Complicated when using GMail:

Set Arg = Wscript.Arguments
If arg.count > 0 then strJob = arg.item(0)
‘Call the sub like this
'SendEmail "", "", ""
SendEmail “WhoTo@from.com”, “Gray Hair 3D printer just finished print job “ & strJob
Sub SendEmail(ToAddress, Subject, Text)
    Dim iMsg 
    Dim iConf
    Dim Flds
    Set iMsg = CreateObject("CDO.Message")
    Set iConf = CreateObject("CDO.Configuration")
    iConf.Load -1
    Set Flds = iConf.Fields
    With Flds
        .Item("http://schemas.microsoft.com/cdo/configuration/smtpusessl") = True
        .Item("http://schemas.microsoft.com/cdo/configuration/smtpauthenticate") = 1
        .Item("http://schemas.microsoft.com/cdo/configuration/sendusername") = "@Gmail.com"
        .Item("http://schemas.microsoft.com/cdo/configuration/sendpassword") = ""
        .Item("http://schemas.microsoft.com/cdo/configuration/smtpserver") = "smtp.gmail.com" 'smtp mail server
        .Item("http://schemas.microsoft.com/cdo/configuration/sendusing") = 2
        .Item("http://schemas.microsoft.com/cdo/configuration/smtpserverport") = 465 'stmp server
    End With
    With iMsg
        Set .Configuration = iConf
        .To = ToAddress
        .From = "@Gmail.com"
        .Subject = Subject
        .TextBody = Text
    End With
    Set iMsg = Nothing
    Set iConf = Nothing
End Sub

Tweeting Your Print Info using TwitterMail.com

You can have your printer Tweet when it’s done as well by using the free Twittermail.com or TwitterCounter.com service.
Visit the http://www.TwitterMail.com site and login with your Twitter credentials. Once logged in go to the Settings / TwitterMail option and you’ll see a unique @Twittermail.com email address that can be emailed to in order to Tweet something. Then you can simply email to that @twittermail.com email address to Tweet your printer message.

Doing the Text Thing

I’m sure there are some better ways of sending an actual text and this will likely only work for some carriers but at least for AT&T one can send an EMAIL to @txt.att.net and it will forward it as a text messages. I believe Verizon and other carriers offer similar but have no clue on non US carrier options. It work for me on AT&T at least.

Other ways? Your Way?

Of course this will not work if you are printing from an SD card or MKS controller, etc that I know of. But I usually have a PC running my print jobs so I have a bit more control over it.
 Do you know a better or different way of doing this? Post up your solution.