Structured Wiring Home Retrofit

The nearly completed product of a month of planning, sourcing, ordering, build, wiring and terminating cables in my structured wiring home retrofit project.

The nearly completed product of a month of planning, sourcing, ordering, build, wiring and terminating cables in my structured wiring home retrofit project.

It’s been a dream of mine since I bought my first home. A dream of wires and connectivity everywhere. A dream of having constant and consistent connectivity in every room of my home. Don’t get me wrong, wireless is great and over the years it’s definitely come a long way to satisfying my wants for more bandwidth, but success varies and reliability is one thing that can never be guaranteed – the further away from the access point you are, the less you’re going to get of either. I once tried to stream a DVD over my 802.11n wireless connection and was deeply disappointed that not even with the multi-stream router capable of 450mbps could make this 100% reliable. After many years, I finally had the chance to make this dream a reality.

If you’re looking to do something similar in your home, I will say that the adventure is arduous and full of pain, and certainly not without surprises at every corner. You might think a drop will be a straight shot, or that the wall will be empty but it’s quite likely that neither are true. Be prepared, get the right tools, and be ready to cut holes in your walls that are bigger than you had originally thought you would. Herein I provide a list of tools that you’ll need, tips to make the process easier, and comments on the issues I encountered along the way. I posted a series of photos on Imgur to illustrate the progress along the way as well.

Photo Album – https://imgur.com/a/tRHSc

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A missive on gun control, common sense and responsibility

I don’t usually comment on these sorts of things, at least not publicly because of all the controversy and other crap that comes along with it, but I saw a thread posted by a friend of mine about the most recent school shooting in the US. I read the subsequent debate that followed, and I couldn’t help but feel that it seems like when tragedies do occur people in general like to jump to conclusions without really stepping back and thinking through the issues that lead to the tragedy. And in reality, in all of these incidents, I think the issues are FAR more complicated than guns, or mentally unstable people, or whatever else might be the scapegoat the hour, day, week, etc.

I see, when I hear about these incidents, true tragedy – I can’t imagine the loss of one of my children at the hands of another. I can sense what that must feel like, but of course until that happens to you, it’s only the idea or kernel of what it would be like. And I certainly wouldn’t wish it upon anyone in this world. It saddens me to hear about another situation that may have been preventable, may have been mitigated and the “if only” thoughts that go through your head. If only I had seen the signs…

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Setup a Raspberry Pi as a Web and Database Server

Late last year (2012) I ordered and received a couple of Raspberry Pi (Model B with 256MB RAM) from Element14.  As part of that order, I also ordered preloaded 4GB SD cards with the linux distro already on them.  When I got them I was really excited to get started with them but for reasons beyond my control, I’ve been too busy to really play around with them much.

Lately however I’ve had more time to pursue some home automation, integration and generally geeky projects that I’ve been wanting to do for a while.  Most of the home automation work I’ve done so far is with Z-Wave based controllers and devices (mostly light switches, but also thermostats and door locks), and while doing research on compatibility and other such things, I saw several mentions of OpenSprinkler for tying sprinkler automation into their systems.  So I decided to check it out and ended up buying one of the OpenSprinkler Pi boards from Ray’s Hobby.

While I was waiting for my board to ship, I thought it might be a good idea to figure out what needed to be done to prep one of my Raspberry Pi boards to build the sprinkler controller.  I found a nice article on wikiHow which details the process of getting the Raspberry Pi updated and getting the system configured for SSH and as a web/database server.  There are several similar articles I found with steps to update the OS.  Borrowing from the wikiHow article, I ran through the following process and made notes along the way.

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Upgrading My MacBook Pro Hard Drive to SSD

 

I’ve been wanting to upgrade the hard drive in my MacBook Pro for a while now.  I bought it in 2010 (it’s a Mid-2010 year MBP – 15″ with the Core i7 2.66ghz processor in it).  It’s a great machine, and overall, it has been nice to use.  However the one pain point that got to me time and again was how long it took to boot it up and run applications.  I had already upgraded the RAM, seeing as how RAM is so cheap these days (though I was remiss to find out my MBP only supports 8GB) so the next logical upgrade is the drive. With prices on SSDs coming down so drastically over the years, and with speeds of 300MB+ per second read and write (and easily 500MB+ in the latest generation), it’s a chance to drastically improve the performance of any system.

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An Introduction to the Arduino Uno

Arduino

I have always had an interest in the world of electronics and ended up working in the technology realm because of it. My experience with the Leo Villareal exhibits really inspired me to explore that interest further. In my exploration I took a look at micro-controllers, prototyping and the Arduino.

From the site (www.arduino.cc): “Arduino is an open-source electronics prototyping platform based on flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. It’s intended for artists, designers, hobbyists and anyone interested in creating interactive objects or environments.” I couldn’t have summarized it better myself. This community of hackers, so-to-speak, have come together to build a small but very robust and capable platform that can be used as the core for just about anything you can imagine.

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Technology and the Origin of Life

It’s not every day that you come across something that truly inspires you.  You know those things that really grab you. Those things that make you say WOW that’s really cool.  I had one of those moments recently and it’s cascaded through my life sort of like a steel ball through a pinball machine.  If only we could all feel and put this inspiration to use in our daily lives, and more often.

Leo Villareal Big Bang

Big Bang

Walking through the office, I noticed a new piece of artwork in a coworker’s cube.  A perfect circle it was, thick and somewhat shiny and sparkly.  One side of it had a dark background with a smattering of little multicolored dots about it in what seemed like a random pattern.  If you stared long enough you might detect a pattern to it even if a trick of the mind, trying to place some order in the chaos.  On the other side of this post card was information for an exhibit that was on display at the Nevada Museum of Art.

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Reinventing my blog space and putting more answers at your fingertips

Reading through my previous posts, I realize this place has nothing much to offer folks passing through from the far reaches of the Internet. I’ve neglected my duty to post more content over the past several years primarily because I’ve been focusing on trading hours for dollars. I’ve also been keenly focused on the ratio that we all know as the work-life balance.  I’ve come to this juncture, a place where I’ve been before, and realize that I could be utilizing all this great technology to my (and possibly your) advantage by putting more relevant, useful information here.

It’s a shame really. The net is chock full of information that actually is useful. I should know as I’m an avid (ab)user of the informational component of the Internet. I probably Google at least a dozen times a day for things I’m interested in, from mindless browsing to things that make my life (and job) easier. Through all the browsing and hunting I’ve come to realize that the one thing I might be able to do here is to put useful information at not only my fingertips, but within reach of others as well.

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How to replace your Motorola RAZR LCD screen

I recently upgraded from the Motorola RAZR V3 to a SLVR L7. I’ve never been a fan of “flip-phones” but I did enjoy my time with the RAZR. It is a good looking addition to any geek’s gadget collection. When the SLVR came out I just about fell in love. Then of course they came out with Q and I was lusting once again…

Anyway, to make a long story short I “gifted” my RAZR to someone I knew to replace a Samsung E317. This person liked the RAZR and soon after started getting the ringtones they could never download with their old E317. Now after years of excellent service in my hands, soon after, the screen on this thing was toast. Let’s just say you shouldn’t clamshell these babies over your beltloop and expect it to last when it gets booty bumped by a rather hefty ass.

Broken RAZR LCD Screen

I thought it was a goner. I mean look at it – that’s a neat fractal pattern there on the screen but its otherwise fairly useless without the big screen. You could dial if you knew what you were doing (and indeed the phone did otherwise work). I asked a friend if he could find someone to fix or sell it and he confirmed my supposition that it might just be more than it’s worth. Case closed, right?  Nope!

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How to upgrade your laptop hard drive

So there you are with your kick ass laptop and you’ve become totally addicted to it. You and your laptop are inseparable. You’ve used it for everything from browsing the web to downloading and listening to music. But the hard drive is full – what to do now? Don’t delete your favorite Aerosmith tracks, upgrade your hard drive!

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Bart’s Preinstalled Environment (BartPE) Version 3.1.10

Version 3.1.10 (released on Feb 13, 2006) – This looks like one of the better tools available for troubleshooting a windows installation that won’t boot. I’ve used InsertCD (Knoppix based I believe) and this works, but I’m eager to put this BartPE to use. That last version he produced was problematic for me so I hope this version shows some improvement.

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