Going all-in with Nest cameras

I seem to go through technology re-orgs every four years or so. To start off 2019 I decided to re-do my security camera setup.

My first cameras were installed in 2010 (Foscam outside, TRENDnet inside). In 2014 I switched my indoor cameras to Dropcams but since Dropcam (now Nest) didn’t have an outdoor solution at the time I went with PoE TRENDnet dome cameras outside. While this solution was perfectly functional and served me well for the past five years, it was a bit of a pain having to use two different apps to view the indoor vs. outdoor cameras. Now that there’s the Nest Outdoor (released in 2016 and then the IQ Outdoor in 2017), and I also have a Nest thermostat and smoke detectors, it was not a tough decision to consolidate and go with more Nest cameras.

Continue reading ‘Going all-in with Nest cameras’ »

“Ralph Wrecks VR” at The VOID

Yesterday we spent the day over at Disney and after finishing up early at Animal Kingdom we headed over to Disney Springs for lunch. After eating at Terralina we went over to The VOID and played “Ralph Wrecks VR” … WOW!

The VOID bills itself as a “hyper-reality … whole-body, fully immersive VR experience” and it delivers. You put on a VR helmet and equipment vest and then get to walk around the virtual world by actually walking. You’re not tethered to anything, you’re completely detached and free. If DisneyQuest was still around, this would fit right in.

Unlike my first (disembodied) experience with the Oculus Rift, you can look down and see your body, your arms, even wiggle your fingers. Check your wrist and you can see the scoreboard flip up. You can talk to your team members and see their mouths move as they talk back to you. You can reach out and touch the wall, grab a railing, press buttons on a control panel, and it all syncs with the VR world in the helmet without lag. It’s just incredible! We chose “Ralph” over “Star Wars” because this was wife’s first immersive VR experience (and she’s not really into Star Wars). It was a great family experience and there was no dizziness, no motion sickness, it was seamless. The vest even had some force feedback mechanisms so you could feel things hitting you, or get shocked. The best part? Pancake/milkshake gun … oh yeah, come get some! My daughter and I will definitely go back to try the Star Wars experience.

My only complaint is the wait time. We had 1:30pm “reservations” but had to wait in three separate staging areas for about 20 minutes each, so by the time we actually got to play it was after 2:30pm. The experience itself was about 20 minutes and they only have a certain number of “arenas” so I guess I should have expected that (plus, they were only running “Ralph” in one arena, so the “Star Wars” line was moving faster.

Happy New Year 2019! (with a sports update)

Happy New Year!

Last year on New Year’s Eve my Cleveland Browns finished their perfect 0-16 season. They closed out the 2018 season just shy of a winning season with a 7-8-1 record and Baker Mayfield broke the record for most touchdown passes by a rookie quarterback in his first season.

Baker Mayfield sets rookie quarterback TD pass record

Both the Browns and Bucs will be looking for new coaches this year (Hue Jackson was fired back in October and Derek Koetter was fired on Sunday after the Bucs finished with another 5-11 season).

The Lightning closed out December “unbeaten” (just a single overtime loss) and are the #1 team in the league going into the new year.

The Cavs are back to losing now that Lebron James is gone (again), sitting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference with an 8-29 record.

The Rays aren’t getting a new stadium anytime soon, which is making people wonder how much longer they’ll be in Tampa Bay.

Coming up in 2019, the Indians will host the All-Star Game for the first time since 1997 when Sandy Alomar, Jr. hit that homer and was named the game’s MVP (I was watching down at the Field of Dreams at Nautica). I hope to get up to Cleveland in July to attend (I’ve already got my annual Arizona spring training trip planned).

What about my New Years’ resolutions? I’m going with something counter to the norm. Instead of drinking less (which I don’t do a lot of anyway) and inspired by the drinks I had on our Thanksgiving cruise, I’m going to learn how to make more cocktails! 😀


Capturing the Cosmic Cuttlefish

October: it’s fall, but we’re still seeing temps in the high 80s here in central Florida. The Browns have played 4 overtime games in the first seven weeks of the NFL season. The Lebron-less Cavaliers have lost their first four games of the new NBA season. And hockey has started again (the Lightning are 6-4 and currently drubbing the Blackhawks 4-1 as I write this (they set an NHL record 33 shots-on-goal in the second period alone))!

Ok, enough of the fall sports update, it’s time for another type of update: Ubuntu 18.10 Cosmic Cuttlefish was released last week.

Just like back in April (and every time before that), the upgrade process itself was smooth: I issued the do-release-upgrade command and the whole process took just under 20 minutes to download the new packages and execute the reconfiguration. I then re-applied my customizations to a few affected configuration files, rebooted the server, and was back in business:

$ lsb_release -a
Distributor ID: Ubuntu
Description: Ubuntu 18.10
Release: 18.10
Codename: cosmic

$ uname -r

So far I haven’t run into any post-upgrade issues (which has happened to me the past few times, being an early adopter), but I’ll update this post if I do have any problems.

Coming in the spring … 19.04!

Nest Protect smoke/CO2 detector

Nest ProtectWhen I installed the ADT Pulse system in 2011, it came with monitored smoke/heat and CO2 detectors. Since then I’ve been paying the monthly monitoring fee to ADT and have had to deal with inexplicable false alarms (usually in the middle of the night and ADT’s answer was always “just change the battery”). This was in addition to two (non-ADT) wired smoke/CO2 detectors elsewhere in the house. I’ve had Nest (formerly Dropcam) cameras in my home network setup since 2014 and the Nest thermostat since 2016 so I’m not sure why I waited so long to get the Nest Protect.

Continue reading ‘Nest Protect smoke/CO2 detector’ »

The Browns have a better record than the Pats?

September is winding down so it’s time for October playoff baseball, week 3 of NFL football, and the impending start of the hockey season.

But can you believe it? Thanks to their game 1 tie with the Steelers and their incredible first win in 635 days over the New York Jets this past Thursday night the Cleveland Browns currently have a better record than the Patriots and the Steelers!! I’ll enjoy this while it lasts (“we’re #1-1-1!”).

AFC East and North standings

AFC East and North standings

The Bucs are undefeated as well and take on Pittsburgh tonight on Monday Night Football. Let’s hope for some more Fitzmagic!

Meanwhile, over in baseball-land my Indians clinched the AL Central (for the third time in a row) two weeks ago. The Tampa Bay Rays, who have the same record as the Tribe, however, are going to miss out on a wild card spot thanks to their position in the tougher AL East (the Red Sox are on fire this year).

AL playoff standings

AL playoff standings

Still, not a bad showing this season for Tampa Bay.

Go October sports teams! 😀

No more plywood!

A year ago we were bracing for the approach of Hurricane Irma. We had installed impact windows in 2008 and replaced the overhead garage door in 2015 but had never gotten around to replacing the entry doors. So last year at this time we were boarding up those doors with plywood:

But today, the impact-rated doors we ordered from Home Depot back in late April were finally installed:

So now this week, if Hurricane Florence turns and threatens the Tampa Bay area, I won’t have board anything up!

Labor Day Weekend 2018 at Disney: Day 3

It wouldn’t be Labor Day weekend in Florida without rain and we got plenty of it today.

Normally we would start Monday out at the hotel pool but this year we decided to go to one of the parks instead. Of course, this was mainly because Monday afternoon was the only time we were able to snag FastPasses for the new Slinky Dog Dash roller coaster in Toy Story Land over at Hollywood Studios. After checking out of the Port Orleans Riverside, we drove over to Hollywood Studios. The parking lot is currently a mess due to the Skyliner terminal construction so getting into the lot and then actually walking to the front gate took longer than expected, but we were still inside by 10:00am. Our first FastPass of the morning (after grabbing some drinks at Starbucks) was Aerosmith’s Rock’n’Roller Coaster.

Continue reading ‘Labor Day Weekend 2018 at Disney: Day 3’ »

Labor Day Weekend 2018 at Disney: Day 2

We’re taking it easy this weekend, so no getting up early to do any Extra Magic Hours. After waking up around 9:30am, we walked over to the French Quarter to pick up fresh beignets for breakfast.

At 11:30am we were getting off the bus at Animal Kingdom when my daughter announced she had forgotten her MagicBand back at the hotel! Rather than having to bus back, we went to guest services at the front of the park to inquire if we could get her a replacement. The cast member (Ryan) informed us that our Passholder card was also actually a valid park ticket! We’re so used to the MagicBands we had completely forgotten the “old school” plastic credit card-like ticket (which luckily we had with us). It did turn out that my daughter’s name was incorrect on the ticket (we had never used it so never noticed) so Ryan corrected that and also gave us each two “generic” FastPasses good for any attraction in the park (except Avatar: Flight of Passage, of course). Nice!

Continue reading ‘Labor Day Weekend 2018 at Disney: Day 2’ »