Saturday, October 10, 2015

Stressful month but my mind is still on Home Automation

I finished the article for Linux Magazine about Misterhouse (called King of the House). I didnt get a copy of the magazine, so I've ordered a copy of issue 178, which should be here soon. I've created a web page for the article and I'll add an errata in a short time as it needs a few minor things fixed up. I've been busy for the last month or two with all the things going on at work, around the house and at home. But in the back of my mind is always HA. Lately I've wanted to design a PCB based on the PIC32 chips. This will satisfy my electrical engineering background (I have a degree in electronics). These boards would form the basis for my HA remote nodes. I'll return to that shortly but in the meantime I mean to solve an issue with getting the remote nodes to be as dynamically configurable as possible (as reasonable?). I already have the PIC32/W550io board running a DHCP client. I'd love to see the board connect to a cloud MQTT service from a remote location (such as from IXR at Camp Evan (InfoAge)). The issue is dynamically configuring the topics (and eventually the IO). This requires a bit of coordination between application such as Misterhouse, MQTT and some kind of configuration Manager.

I've written a simple configuration manager in Node-Red/Node.js. The device publishes a hello to a given server and topic (device/hello). The manager then looks up the information and publishes the information to another topic (device/<mac>/cfg). Now I'll need to figure out how the device will interpret the information (then I can format the information properly such that it's easy to handle and easy parse).

I've also decided to setup a bridge between my MQTT and a Cloud MQTT. This will require a bit of planning but I can see this working well to allow remotes to share data and commands with Misterhouse which will only be connected to my local MQTT (not that it has to). While the very basic is working very well in Misterhouse, it does need additional work (error correction and failure recovery). All this means I need to work on my Mosquitto setup so that bridging, SSL/TSL, login/passwords and ACL are working properly.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The campaign to revoke Gust, Gail and Windy's bike club membership!

I hereby put forth, before the board, a request to revoke Gust's, Gail's and Windy's club membership for abuse of rider members on club rides!

Wow, I thought last week's ride was windy. It was supposedly a stronger wind with higher gusts but this week's ride felt worse. I guess it really does have to do with ride selection. I was forced to start heading south into the open prairies of the NJ flat lands. This was the only way I could really get my mileage up to the 65 mile ride we did and ride to where I wanted to ride. Yes, I like to site-see while I ride, it's important. The hard part in selecting a ride is not only figuring out where you want to go but also figure out how to get there. My ride is called "Which every way the wind blows" because I tend to get head winds at some point. I try to adjust the ride as we go (hence cue sheets are useless on my rides). Yesterday's ride required I toss in a few extra miles and zig-zag through some tree lined and hilly roads (Province Line Rd outside Allentown NJ). One other part of ride selection is that I have hundreds of rides in my head and thousands of variations. This led to one funny incidence where a rider congratulated me on never getting lost to which I replied: "Oh $#!7 we took a wrong turn 3 miles back. We're doing the wrong ride.". I still get chided about that.

So other than the wind was there anything special about yesterday's ride? Well there were 3 other riders on my ride. Because of the mileage I tend to get only 1 or two riders. And the second, which was really exciting (okay, not really) was Hockamik Rd was being ground up. Never heard of it? Not surprised it's a bit off the beaten path near the Ft Dix Artillery range. We decided to ride down the road only to find it was extremely soft. Our tires sank to a depth of about two inches. Not what we expected from ground up road. We had expect a gravel like material. Boy were we disappointed. Another special thing about the ride was the gorgeous weather. It was in the mid 60's and I would gladly take the wind and that temperature vs the winter we had. The coldest ride I did was 26F which was only slightly better than being stuck indoors. Well next week I have a 78 - 82 mile ride down to the edge of the Barrens (Mt. Misery Rd and New Lisbon). Hopefully there will be less wind and my avg. speed can get to a respectable level. Besides putting on too much weight and asthma and wind and getting older and not getting in as much base miles as I usually do I can't understand why I'm so slow.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Who invited Gust, Gail and Windy?

Yup, Saturday, Sunday and Monday's rides were very windy and the usual trio decided to ride with us (Gust, Gail, and Windy). Of course now it's going to rain for the next few days (wish I could ride with Gust, Gail and Windy instead). Despite the 20+ mph NW winds it was nice to have warm day to ride. Saturday started out like any other ride, I wore out the rear tire and needed to replace it before we could leave Cranbury. I created a 50 mile loop that would first take us East, then turn North and allow us to zig-zag north and west to the Griggstown Canal. The 50 miles was important since I suffered a nasty asthma attack a few weeks ago and I haven't been able to build up my miles as much as I'd like. So how strong were the winds? Well I managed to get pushed up the hill at the quarry in Kingston (no pedaling required). Made this flatlander feel like quite the climber. ;-)

Our first rest stop was 36 miles into the ride at the Main Street Kingston Eatery on Rt 27 in Kingston. We met up with Wendell and his friends (they were riding fixed gears, ouch). It was nice to meet up with a bunch of cyclists who don't look at you funny when you says your only doing 50 miles. ;-)

Next month I have the CJBC's Farmlands Century. After that I start training like I'm doing the CJBC's Longest Day ride (210 miles). I won't actually be able to do the ride but I do love to do the training. So all these base miles should help smooth out that first Century. I'm also expecting that it will have an effect on my weight which I've allowed to get too far from healthy.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Riding with my peeps

The last few days have been some of the nicest to get in some mileage. But the signs of spring are there. Various birds have arrived (boy does it get noisy, I love it) but most of all, the tree frogs having begun their mating calls (some folks call them peepers because that's what it sounds like). They're wonderful frogs (unless you're trying to sleep), I found one climbing on my house last year.

2 weeks ago I started what has to be the worst asthma attack I've had in years. I had to work to breath (extra push on the exhale). I would walk around the block gasping. Now I'm up to 30 minute walks with my dogs and almost 30 miles on the bike today. Hills still cause me to gasp but that's because I'm a flat lander not my asthma. I've learned an important lesson that I must continue to exercise on a regular basis. I can't let everything else get in the way or I'll have to spend weeks working out to get back to where I can breath again.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Winter rides 2015

It is Wednesday, mid-week, between last Sunday's 42°F, Tuesday's near blizzard and Saturday's predicted high of 21°F temperature and I'm trying to plan out my next outdoor ride. ;-) Perhaps Sunday's predicted high of 29°F will allow for a few miles. I will have to watch out for ice though.

My friend Mark and I have been suffering from cabin fever. We haven't been able to get out on the road as much or as far as we'd like as it has either been too cold, rainy or we've had snow. So when it hit 42°F last Sunday, we took off for a short 20 mile ride. Wow it was nice. The roads were a bit crowded (narrowed by snow, potholes and puddles) but we managed. We did get wet once or twice but we expected that. Still it was just nice to get out and ride. Let's face it winter miles aren't really about speed or distance so they might as well be about enjoyment. Now for Sunday we'll be looking at a similar ride except it is below freezing. Wet roads will be salty and puddles could hide ice (the infamous black ice). We've done it before but we'll have to be careful. With the 6 inch blanket of snow on the ground any wind will be a cold one. Still it's outdoor mileage.

Friday, January 9, 2015

I (heart) MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses)

I'm pretty excited about learning and that's a good thing as I'm in the STEM field and the technology barely lasts 3 to 5 years before it's replaced. I'm now taking free courses on subjects like Statistics, Data Science, Learning (I suffer from ADD and will do anything to make learning easier) and the IoT. These MOOCs are allowing a new generation of people the resources to learn without the heavy load of student loans. One thing about a MOOC, you need to participate in the course for it to work. The Professors, Instructors and Assistants are few and can't do all the work, so some work is offloaded on to the students and is part of the grading. So far this is working well (from what I can see) and I don't mind helping as it makes me feel like I'm actually learning and helping others. In addition to the free aspect there is the certificate aspect (which you pay for). Good certificates look good on your resume. The Data Science specialization costs as much as one of my single 4 credit course, from 30 years ago.

Right now I'm watching a course in Coursera called: "Learning How to Learn" by Dr. Terrence Sejnowski & Dr. Barbara Oakley, excellent course. It is helping me to learn and explaining things like: why exercise helps me to learn. I'm also taking a Data Science specialization on Coursera, current course is R programming language. I'm certain I need this for future employment and I am interested in the topic. I'll experiment more with MOOCs, so far I'm thrilled I can learn in a formal, organized way.