Ring Alarm security system

2021 Home Security/Home Automation Re-Design [ Part 1 of 3 ]

I’ve been an ADT customer for almost 20 years. When we moved to Florida in 2001, our house already had a hard-wired alarm system put in by the previous owners so subscribing to ADT’s monitoring service was one of the first “utilities” we set up (along with the normal electric, water/sewer, and TV/internet). Over the past two decades we’d added more sensors/zones, switched from the old copper landline to cellular connection, and of course the big upgrade to Pulse back in 2011 that started my interest in home automation.

Unfortunately, the past few years have seen constant rate increases for ADT’s already expensive monitoring service, with little updates or new services being added to Pulse to justify the expense (rumor has it they are also pushing customers away from Pulse to Control). Additionally, we’d been experiencing an increase in false alarms being triggered by window sensors (ADT support: maybe the wind shook your window? Me: I live in Florida and have hurricane rated impact windows, the wind is not shaking my windows), always seemingly in the middle of the night and even with fresh batteries in the sensors. Finally, earlier this year ADT experienced a two-week outage of their Alexa skill, during which I made several calls to support speaking with clueless representatives who wanted to send a technician to my house! This was the last straw. I decided I was done wasting my time (and money) with ADT and it was time to look at new options.

As you can tell by the title of this post, I chose the Ring Alarm security system.

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Home automation and security re-design

Ok, enough sports posts, let’s get back to some tech!

I’ve been distracted from tinkering with my 3D printer lately because for the past two weeks or so I’ve been going through a re-design of my home automation and security setups. After an almost two-week outage of the ADT skill for Alexa (during which I wasted a lot of time on the phone with clueless tech support people who kept trying to walk me through the re-linking process despite the fact it kept failing), plus more false alerts from some of my window sensors and the realization that I was paying ADT a lot of money each month for these hassles, I decided to dump them and move on to something else.

Since ADT was both my security system and home automation hub (through Pulse), this decision necessitated some research and careful planning on how to replace ADT and still be able to use all of the Z-Wave hardware I’ve acquired since 2011 and replicate all of my automations, schedules, alerts, etc. The end result was a combination of Ring SecurityHomeSeer, and Amazon Alexa.

I’ve got a lot of cool stuff to write about, so watch this space for three separate posts coming soon about my new setups and experiences with both systems.

Champa Bay! Bucs win Super Bowl LV

Wow. I was hoping for a good game for the 3-point underdog Bucs in Super Bowl LV against the reigning champion Kansas City Chiefs, but I was not expecting a 31-9 blowout. No touchdowns scored by Mahomes and the Chiefs offense … only field goals. The Bucs were dominant in their home stadium, and Kansas City killed themselves with penalties. Tom Brady has his 7th Super Bowl ring and the Bucs have their 2nd Lombardi trophy (both since I’ve lived here in Florida).

And look at this, the Bucs scored 31 points in every playoff game except the divisional round against the Saints where they scored 30:

I know I’ve said this a lot, but what a crazy sports year 2020 has been. The Lightning win the Stanley Cup, the Rays went to the World Series, and now the Bucs have won the Super Bowl. Amazing. Go Bucs!!


Victory Monday (redux)! (NFL playoffs)

The Browns played a fantastic game against the Chiefs yesterday in the NFL playoffs divisional round, but just couldn’t stage the comeback they needed, losing 22-17. So close! But what a fantastic season.

Tom Brady and the Bucs, on the other hand, walked all over Drew Brees and the Saints at the Superdome, eliminating them 30-20. On to Green Bay! I hope Brady hasn’t gotten too used to our warm Florida weather now that he’s heading back to colder climes in January! Bring on the Packers! Go Bucs!

NFL bracket

OctoPrint and the OctoPi

Now that I’m semi-comfortable with the 3D printing process for my Ender 3 Pro (download/create model, slice STL in Cura, save GCode to micro SD card, put micro SD card in printer, print model), I wanted to eliminate the “sneakernet” step of manually shuffling the SD card between my PC and the printer and enable some more monitoring options (eliminating another sneakernet connection: walking back into the office every now and then to check on the printer!).

Enter OctoPrint: “the snappy web interface for your 3D printer that allows you to control and monitor all aspects of your printer and print jobs, right from within any browser on your network. It runs basically everywhere, from a Raspberry Pi to your gaming rig, can be easily extended thanks to a powerful plugin system, and is Free and Open Source Software.” Specifically, I’m using the Raspberry Pi-enabled version, OctoPi.

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Creality Ender 3 Pro 3D printer

Ender 3 ProI have a new hobby!

For Christmas, my wife and daughter surprised me with a 3D printer, the (SainSmart-branded) Creality Ender-3 Pro. It was a well-timed gift since we were stuck at home for the holidays and winter break so I had a whole week to immerse myself in a brand new area of tech, learning about new acronyms (FDM, PTFE, PLA, TPU), terminology, filaments, web sites, and, of course, printing stuff!

Where to start?

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Victory Monday! (NFL Playoffs)

2020’s sports season continues to deliver. Both of my teams finished the regular season 11-5 and ended long playoff droughts. It’s been a long time since I got to watch my Bucs and Browns play football past early January but both of them won their wildcard games this past weekend and are advancing to the divisional round this Sunday!

The Browns last played in a playoff game in 2003 (losing to the Steelers) and before that was 1995 where, with head coach Bill Belichick, beat Bill Parcel’s Patriots (but then went on to lose to the Steelers) and last won a playoff game on the road back in 1969. So beating the Steelers two weeks in a row, in Heinz Field, eliminating them from the playoffs, despite all the COVID-19 issues, is sweet revenge (ok sure, no fans or terrible towels). The Browns now have to face the defending Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs (another old rivalry from the Marty Schottenheimer days).

Tom Brady continued his playoff streak, guiding the Bucs to their first playoff appearance since 2007 and first playoff victory since 2002 (the year they won the Super Bowl). It was hard to believe that with an 11-5 record they had to play a road game against the 7-9 Washington Football Team (wow, the NFC East was terrible this year), but they won and will face Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

With Super Bowl LV here in Tampa on February 7, you know I’m pulling for both teams to make it, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Both teams have a tough road ahead.

NFL bracket

Go Bucs! Go Browns!

Advent of Code 2020

For the past few years I’ve “watched” some fellow sysadmins (from the psadmin.io community I’m a member of) participate in the Advent of Code: “an Advent calendar of small programming puzzles for a variety of skill sets and skill levels that can be solved in any programming language you like.” I’ve never really had the time to participate before, and I’m certainly not a hard-core programmer, but I like to code and enjoy solving puzzles so I figured this year I would give it a shot.

I’m already a little behind (it’s Day 5 and I’ve only finished Day and Day 2) since, you know, I have to work during the week, but I hope to make a little more progress this weekend. I’m sure I’ll hit a wall at some point where the complexity of the puzzles are no match for my meager skills. I’ve started with Python just because it was the easiest language I had access to on my Linux box, I’ve messed around with it before on some of my other projects (like the old TiVoToGo plug-in for Plex), and I figured this is another good way to get experience with it.

My code solutions (such as they are) are out in my Github repo.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max

iPhone 12 Pro MaxIt’d been almost four years since I got a new phone, still rockin’ my trusty Apple iPhone 7 Plus. But recently I’d been having charging issues due to a loose Lightning connector port, and with Apple’s advances in processor and camera technology for the latest generation of iPhones, I decided it was finally time to upgrade.

After researching and comparing the four new iPhone 12 models, I had a few decisions to make. First: size. The 12 and 12 Pro are just slightly smaller than my 7 Plus, so that eliminated the Mini. Next, the camera. I’ve always preferred my point-and-shoot cameras to my phone’s camera, especially when it comes to low light and zoom situations. If I was ready to pay a little more for a better phone camera (going with “the best camera is the one you have with you” mantra) than that meant the 12 Pro. Once I had decided that, though, it was an easy jump to just go all the way and get the top-of-the-line 12 Pro Max.

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Weekend getaway to Fernandina Beach

This past weekend we were up in the Amelia Island area at a beach rental in Fernandina Beach visiting with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law. We drove up Thursday evening after work and then worked from the beach house on Friday while we waited for my wife’s sister and her husband to arrive (they were renting the other side of the duplex so we could appropriately social distance). We had dinner delivered from Fancy Sushi and then sat outside on the deck (bundled up since it was actually kinda cold!).

Saturday (Halloween) morning we started with a walk along the beach and over to Starbucks for breakfast and back. We grabbed lunch at Cantina Louie (sitting outside at separate ends of a large table) and then walked around Centre Street before it started raining. Since I had my growler in the car, I got it filled at the Amelia Island Brewing Company before we headed back to the house. My wife and sister-in-law set up a tent outside so we were able to sit (again, appropriately distanced) outside in the rain and still visit. Quite the odd Halloween, but at least it was warmer than last night.

We had to check out of the VRBO by 10:00am on Sunday, so after our morning walk on the beach we had to clean up and pack up. Since it was a beautiful day we went back to Centre Street to actually walk around in the sun. For lunch we ate at the Salty Pelican (mmmm … fish and shrimp tacos) near the river. Then we had to say our goodbyes and headed back home. It was a quick weekend, but nice to get away to the beach for a while with family.