Dec 9, 2017

Smart Home is finally real

I waited for decades for this to happen. The Sci-Fi movies all promised this for a long time. It finally came to a point where it gets serious. It's not perfect by now, but it's a good start.

There is nothing here that wasn't around for decades. Computer geeks used their computers via relais to turn thing on or off for fun. But the thing that really drove smart home forward was the appearance of the Assistants.
Alexa, Google Home and even the Google Assistant on your phone are the key to success.

That's because it's not pratical to go to your computer and give the command to turn on the lights. Why don't you walk to your wall switch in the first place?
But if you sit on your couch and it's getting dark and you can just say "Hey Google, turn on the lights", and the lights are shining in a second, that's where you never want to go back.

However it is not cheap to automate your home. A set of 3 light bulbs with bridge costs you about 200 Bucks. Sure you have a lot of extras like colors and dimming, but still. Not better with power switches. Adapters that sit between the device and your wall power outlet. But about 30 Bucks per device is some serious drawback.


Here is where the Sonoff switch comes into place. The basic model is around $5-8 Dollar. Now we're talking. With that money, everything can be switched with Alexa or Google Home, and your smartphone. Even from underway!
The processing is decent, and if you know what you're doing, it's a quite safe thing. New badges of these comes wit many standard certificates like ROHS and CE. The basic models can handle 10A (2200 Watt), which is good enough for most things. Check your device before using it with this switch. There is a PWR model that handels 16A which is for all common electric devices that plugs into your wall outlet.
You are one of those person that really fears to left the heater running or the oven on when you left? Just take a look. You not only you can see if the device is on, but you can switch it from anywhere.
I use a switch to turn on my sound receiver and the connected Chromecast Audio. I don't have to stand up to turn both things off, but save energy by not letting them run 24/7. I put this in a little certified box (very cheap at your local tool store) and attached a 3 plug outlet to it for switching more devices in the future. You need to keep in mind that the ground wire needs to be connected directly, since there is no ground through in the Sonoff switch.

There are more Sonoff models. Not only for 16A instead of 10A, but with a monitor to see how many energy you consume. Or with a thermostat or humidity control. So basically you can set a heater to only run when the temperate falls below a specific temperature. So you can safe money, but won't let the house go completely cold when underway.


But there is more, much more, to be solved.
Turning on and off is great, and many things can be done. But some devices need a deeper integration, and those often big companies are too slow. The washing machine is a bad example. Smart washing machines are way too expensive and have a bad integration. I want to control and get status via my Google Home or Alexa device. Basta. These things would cost approx. 50 bucks or less (basically they could do this with a small wifi module and a Raspberry Pi). But well-known companies charging hundreds and hundreds of dollar on top of the, already very expensive, prices.

Some other stuff needs better integration, too. Basically everything that needs an action after you turn it on needs more than a simple on/off switch. Sure, I can switch on my Nespresso machine. But I need to press a button after connecting the power and another to start dripping the coffee. Yes, Nespresso e.g. has a connected machine. But only via Bluetooth and only connected to the app. Bummer. No Google Home connection again. Maybe I'll switch to a good old coffee brewer because of that. Just power and the coffee starts to come out.
More examples: VCR/PVR devices to record stuff. Playback is great via Google Chromecast: "Hey Google, play Stranger Things on Netflix" but no recording of a simple TV cast. Door locks also need better integration. Same with window shutters.

But the start is awesome since the voice controlled assistants are available. I'm looking forward to see more things to come, and more possibilities to make Eureka look like a nostalgic romance.

Aug 6, 2017

Can't focus... I want to play Neverwinter now

A few days ago I found the MMORPG Neverwinter on the PS4. I know it's qute some time on the market now, but I never recognized it until Friday.

E3 Expo 2012 - Dungeons & Dragons Neverwinter girls

By Pop Culture Geek [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Now I think this game can motivate me for a long time.  Today's researching for the netcasts are a complete disaster because I just want to play this game now.
I'll soon head over in my living room and play it for the rest of the day.
I really didn't have that WoW feeling when playing an MMO for a long time. This is close to it when playing. Nice. The controls are nicely made for the console. So let's see how it is after playing some time and getting deeper into the game.

See Neverwinter Website

Jul 21, 2017

Back to blogging... about tech!

Yes, I said it on the beginning of the year. I wanted to stop talking about political shit. But it went the other way.
I just couldn't watch that propaganda while people kicking our values that secured freedom for decades with their feet. But I have to admit, I'll let them crash right into the mess they are building up.

So, I'm having enough. I can't change the world, and to be honest, I don't want to change it anymore.
I'm a computer freak, a tech nerd, a science geek and an Android Fan. I like video games and Japanese Anime & Manga.
That's what I want, and that's what I should have sticking to, not making the same mistake that some leftist hipsters are doing: Trying to engage in a topic they didn't really care about since they were born and now forcing their absurd ideas into politics.

I'll really try to concentrate on those topics. Politics are only a framework for people doing really important stuff.
If you're a scientist, developer, engineer or other highly specialized person, just keep to your topic you're are good in. I've learned that. It makes no sense, and you'll harm your whole field of profession otherwise. Don't waste your energy on topics you are not qualified.
That's especially important in science. There is nothing wrong in having an opinion and state it, no matter what that opinion is, but if you invest most of the energy in a fight you don't understand, it will leave your much more important work undone.

New high tech products that secures the future are more helpful to bring people a better life than to cry out loud on TV.
Discovering new milestones in science will change the world view of people much more long-term than your hatred on Twitter can.
Even developing Apps can bring people of all kind closer together than you can by trying to force your views on everyone.

That's why I want to back off and concentrate on things I'm really committed to. And yes, that includes even "Russian" tech and science. Because talking about living together in peace, doesn't mean you can just bring up an outdated picture of an enemy and channel all hate towards them. That will badly go wrong at some point.
I only hope I don't let myself get sucked in that political discussions again.

Jul 6, 2017

The Death of the Free Internet

You can easily see, that recently my posts in all of my blogs are seldom.
That has something to do with teh social media sites. We know for long: Using social media kills blogging, right?
But it isn't that easy. There is a cascade of problems that emerges out of it.

Why social media is taking over blogging

First of all easiness. Retweeting/Sharing is all over the place. Just share stuff with a preview of the site or a photo, nicely presented right on your timeline with one click. Enter your own short opinion about it or not. Boom!
With blogging, it's not nearly as easy in both technical or legal procedures. Think about just pulling a preview of a photo and article header from a news agency right into your blog. Well you've got a problem in most parts of the world. You need to get permissions. It's timely and depressing. Why can't a blog have the same status than things you post on social media?
Then the technical site. There is no "share" button with preview etc. You only share a link to your blog. You need to do everything on your own. How does the post look like etc.

Then there are expectations. People seem to think you need to write a long article. Even if the thing you want to say fits into 140 chars. Ineffective! Don't write unnecessary words.
"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." - Albert Einstein

Why this is a bad thing

Companies like Facebook and Google are under immense pressure from governments all over the world. They openly admitted to censor things, even in the so-called free world.
In Germany laws have been applied that literally force those companies to delete things in 24 hours when "illegal". No judge necessary. So they need to decide on their own. Google said they rather will delete anything quickly than face the immense fine they have to pay otherwise.

People lose control over their own rights. The thing is, if you do something illegal, you have to face the consequences. But you can't be stopped to do so, if you're sure you're doing the right thing. Often, putting out information and opinions are at first not okay, later on they are valuable legal writings.
Think about what happened in the past if you could control a pen and only let you write things the government liked. Now pens are irrelevant. The Internet are. And if you hand over the control of free speech on the Internet to companies that get pushed by the governments, we lose our ability to write freely. We may do so by law, but we can't.

Bloggers are being hunted everywhere

Read those news before? "Blogger in <type in shady country here> got arrested".
Well you can say that in Europe, bloggers are hunted by the governments. They are under immense pressure and have to fear getting personally ruined. It's more subtle, you aren't get killed. But your life can get ruined quickly.
Imprint rules are taking away safety and privacy of the blogger. More and more legal restrictions putting them in a situation where you better just blog about cats, or else you are getting financially ruined by fines and compensation. Or worse, having one foot in jail if you have the wrong opinion, even in many "western" countries.
Those things are easily overseen.
So, it's no wonder why people just sharing stuff on social networks. You have apparently more rights there. Apparently, because although you have the rights, action will be taken to delete or mute your posts & videos.
Yes, it's easy. Very easy. But that comes with the cost of losing your right to express yourself freely. Think again.

The Internet is under attack. Using laws on private companies to suppress "unwanted" opinions is a clear sign for that. If we lose the Internet, we lose free speech. Because even now, but much more in the future, it's irrelevant what you say, until you can find it in the global network of people.

Jun 1, 2017

Using Twitter much more again

Well, you can't deny that Google+ is on the decline in general use. Google is repositioning it for business usage, and will continue to be an important tool for group and private communication.
For me that means, I have to choose another platform to reach general public. And so I find myself using an old comrade much more again: Twitter!

Instagram is tempting, but it belongs to Facebook. Don't want to use their services. But Twitter got many good features lately. Using it for photos is good enough, 140 chars capping doesn't bother in normal usage, and for writing longer article, I'm using my blogs anyway and link on Twitter.

And Twitter got much attention lately :). Did you recognize? No media without embedding tweets in their posts.

But no, that's not the end of Google+ for me. It's still the place where I share my stuff with my friends, and I still post public. But don't expect to post every tweet there, too. And that's the thing. Twitter took the crown of importance for me from Google+ again. No anger, no complain. Just the way it is.

With that, I'lll remind you of my Twitter-account. Check it out. But beware... I post weird stuff sometimes :).

Mar 15, 2017

i3wm as a C64 lookalike

Retro feelings are the new spring :)
So I decided to make my i3wm a C64 lookalike on top of KDE Neon (Ubuntu).
For that I used C64 TrueType v1.2 / Style, which is brilliant. The most exact font I found. Remember to disable anti-aliasing when using this font in GIMP e.g. since there was no anti-aliasing back in the days ;)

I made a "fake" C64 screen with a Ram and Rem visit (those from Re:Zero, you know, so I don't get confused with the konsole (KDE). I switched back to bash for this, just because I need a simple environment.

The C64-Wiki was very useful to get the correct colors. Thanks to the people behind the font and the wiki for keeping the spirit of this nice little computer alive with their work!

3 terminals with htop at the top
It's not emacs on the C64, calm down ;)
I made the Google Chrome theme with My Chrome Theme 
That's the fake C64 screen wallpaper. I thought Ram (!) and Rem (!) fits in perfectly ;)
Full Screen Konsole with i3bar on the bottom
Audacity. I changed the GTK-Fonts to C64 Pro
Gimp. GTK-Font C64 Pro
Konsole with some commands. It feels like the real deal.
Okay, while this is all "work in progress", I think it's a start. There are room for some improvements. And starting Vice64 in that environment, it naturally floats in :).