Thursday, June 21, 2018

It's only Money, I need Data

Money vs Data

A friend recently commented that I spend an awful lot of money on gadgets.  He exclaimed that I should save for my retirement.  I tried to explain, but it's hard to let someone else see inside my head.  The above image is a pretty close ideal; lots of numbers and pictures all centering on the flow of money out of my pockets and the flow of data in.

I want all the Data

I want all the data, but to get it costs money, so I will trade my money for the equipment that will bring me the data.   Alas, why do I want the data instead of the money?   I love to solve problems (sometimes problems that no one, besides me, has asked).   I like correlations, I like to see where my problems come from and for that I need more data.

Take My Money, Please

I don't make a lot of money doing this or my other distractions (er jobs).  But I also do not have kids (yet) and so a lot of my money goes to projects like what I will relate in later posts.  I dedicate a sizable chunk of my income to analysis and enjoy searching for more interesting ideas that analysis.  The money isn't the important part, but what the tool of money can do to get me to the important part.

So Why do all this?

Why do anything that one loves to do?  It certainly meets a need or desire.  I love to do it.  But of all the analysis that I have done or will do, is there a purpose or just a need?  I think it best if something that I need and want be beneficial to others.  Many scientist and researchers before me spent most of their lives studying things that might not have been looked upon as necessary or useful.  But now that they have done the work, we all have benefited from it.  I work for mankind

What Data do you Seek?

I seek monitoring data for analysis of the home environment.  I want to find out how to better manage the environment of the home.   There are so many points of information that are in a home, whether it be an old Apartment building or a new Townhouse.   Insulation, Location, Water, Sewer, Lighting, Heating / Cooling, Waste, and so on; these factors are normal lifestyle aspects.  They can be efficient or inefficient, but without data and analysis a person might never know how their life could be easier or better.

Lately, I've been set on Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC).  There are several important factors to consider.  Maintaining a constant stasis temperature requires good insulation and then efficient heating and cooling.  You could heat a cold room all day, but if all the heat is leaking out or pouring out, it causes a good system to be inefficient.   But without the data, how are you even able to find out that this is happening?

Hardware & Software, Data & Analysis

Here comes the part where I recommend some hardware and software that I use help me find data and analyze it. 

Since the outset, even prior to the buyout, I have used Nest products.  They do (most of ) what I want.  And although they're far from cheap, they live up to the axiom that "you get what you pay for."   Utilizing the Nest Thermostat, Nest Cameras, and Nest Temperature Sensors, I am able to get a much more clear picture of what is happening with the temperature and humidity in my home and I have the capacity to make changes immediately.   These products allow me to see not only the current statuses of the home and its rooms, but to track the performance of the HVAC and it's constant war with the exterior climate.

Because Reasons

Since High School, I have sought data analysis and the ways to obtain it.  I wanted to know why my parents refused to turn keep the temp in the house in summer at a reasonable level.  Little did I know that it wasn't that they wanted to be uncomfortable, but that they liked money more than physical comfort.  If I knew then, what I know now about how to make the house more efficient, I would have set out for that immediately.  It took me more than two decades and a great deal of life lessons to discover the reasons.   And it is from these life-lessons that drives me to analyze and divulge to this blog, my experiences and thoughts.

Next Up

In subsequent blog posts I will cover other aspects of home monitoring, such as Lighting, Water management, Air Quality, and Insulation.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Quickbooks Self-Employed

Last year (2017) I quit working for a single, particular company and set out on my own.  I have been in IT Services since 1999 (as of this writing 19 years). 

My primary issue (reason for leaving) was that I felt that I was not being heard by my employer(s).  I had many good ideas, most of which I self-implemented.  These ideas were usually accepted after I implemented them.  I found it was hard to prove that my ideas were sound, on paper.

Through my church and at least one other business experience, I had discovered that Quickbooks made a pretty good tool for book-keeping.  During my first few months on my own, I helped one of my clients move from the Quickbooks Desktop to Quickbooks Online.  This freed up the client to access the books from anywhere and by more than one user.  It also pleased the client's Accountant very much.

It just made sense to me to use Quickbooks Self-Employed, once I discovered that such a software actually existed.  I will admit that I tried a competitor first, Freshbooks.  Freshbooks is everywhere on the internet and YouTube.  They seem to really know how to find small business owners.  However, I did not like the version that I was using.  I had problems creating invoices, I had issues uploading my receipts.  I'm certain that any long-time user of the software might tell me that it has since improved, but it's too late now.

What's Good about Quickbooks Self-Employed (QBSE)

As a very long-time user (26 years) of Intuit's Turbo Tax I was immediately taken by the ease-of-importing my current and old data from prior taxes.  Transitioning between any job and another is sometimes a painstaking process.  Fortunately, QBSE makes it easy (even if you're coming from outside). 

Creating Invoices in QBSE is a snap.  With consulting I can input hours, items, or products.  I can send directly to the email of my clients or the physical address.  Sometimes I send to both.

Managing purchases and income is comparable to using Intuit's Mint software.  Mint began nearly a decade ago as an online tool to manage all personal finances in one ledger.  It made my finance tracking so easy that I've used it ever since.  Quickbooks Self-Employed uses a very similar interface and is quite brilliant in it's adaptation to the single ledger-look.  Of course, you will still need to check if something is Business or Personal, but it can all be automated.

The app is one of the nicest aspects of Quickbooks Self-Employed.  I can so very easily add receipts on the fly or send invoices from anywhere.  For the most part everything that is available in the browser app, is available in the smartphone app. 

For those who have used the Online version of Quickbooks, you'll probably be aware of the cost.  It's not free, but it is worth your money for a software that is continually updated.  The full Online versions range between $20 to $40 / month or 10 times that for a full year in advance. The Self-Employed edition is less than half that, at the most $10 / month.

Going Forward...

I am grateful to Intuit for making a simplified version of the full Online software.  Through my use and feedback, I can help make the software better. 

And now, so can you.  Check out Quickbooks Self-Employed now and get a 50% discount for the first year.  That's only $5 per month for the whole software for a whole year.


Saturday, February 24, 2018

Crypto-currency Exchange: It's harder than you might think

Since 2014 I've been mining Scrypt coins on various machines; from USB Dual Miner up to AntMiner L3+. I was very much into mining all sorts of coins on Mining Pool, MultiPool, Prohasing, Clevermining, even on small-time mining operations of obscure coins.  I was very excited about the awesome possibility that some day the millions DOGE (or whatever) that I had would be very valuable.  While a million DOGE at the time of this article is actually worth above $6,000, it is not worth millions (like a million LITE coin would be).

The trouble is not in the value, but in the exchange.

As an example, someone might have an incredibly valuable object or property, but it is only valuable if there is a market for the item(s).  No market, no value; no matter how much one might value it personally.

The Good

Fortunately there are many markets for Cryptocurrency, but not all exchanges trade every coin.  And even within exchanges, not all coins are transferable.  For example, using YoBit Exchange, one cannot trade AERON coin, it is only trade-able on Binance Exchange.  Or if one is trading on Bittrex, one cannot exchange CARBON coin for anything.  Bittrex Exchange only exchanges between BITCOIN and other coins. Another example; one cannot exchange ETHEREUM for LITE coin on Bittrex. 

The Bad

Unfortunately, not all exchanges are active and even within those that are active there is still a fee to be paid for both transfers and trades.  What's more, if no one is willing to buy for the price that is desired, the coins will not sell at all.  Just because there is an exchange offered, like CARBON to NYC coin, doesn't necessarily mean that anyone is interested in acting on it.

I appreciate that the exchanges allow for all the same basic trading features as typical stock markets.  For example; Limit, Max, Market and Good-Til-Cancelled are all standards with most markets.   If one wishes to sell or buy a coin for a particular price that is not currently available, the market will support the option.  It might very well be a while until that coin sells or can be purchased, but at least one does not have to wait around in real-time for the opportunity.

Thousands of Coins

There are so many coins available, it is difficult to track them all and their current price.  Also, no one knows that future, so it's all speculative about what will be worth more or less in the future.  I've looked through the entire list, and have traded some obscure coins.  But I do not enjoy the arduous process of attempting to estimate the market.  It is a massive mire that could very well occupy all one's precious time. 

My Advice... Stick to less than 5 coins or at least setup a trade to convert regularly to something that is a bit more stable (even if it's USD)

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Amazon Key: Have Packages Dropped INSIDE your home... Wait, What?

Ever have you had packages stolen from your porch?
Are you never home because you work dawn til dusk?
Do you share your entire life with the world via social media?

Then you're probably a Millennial and Amazon Key is for you.

While the concept stands to reason that controlling one of the oldest interfaces in your home with an Internet-Connected interface, might be a step into the future, it's down-right scary to anyone older than 35.  Read the top comment on the above video to see the harsh rejection that has come from the public. It's fairly clear that the general public does not believe that Amazon has their interests at heart.

Personally, I have Internet-Connected (Nest) Cameras all over my house so that I can see the activity OUTSIDE of my home.  While I do have one camera INSIDE, its squarely pointed at the family pet (our Cockatiel, who rarely leaves his cage).   I am probably one of the few who would be willing to have a delivery person drop off a package inside the house, but my spouse would not.  But I can definitely see why many people reject this concept.

One of the last bastions of defense and security to our private lives is opened to a total stranger through the use of Amazon Key. While the actor in the video may be acting like the trust-worthy face of Amazon, we do not know what the Amazon delivery driver in our local town is like.  Is Amazon willing to back the possibly liability issues that may occur with this service?  Is the added fee enough to cover insurance claims when it fails?

Amazon is a huge company and there is probably more to the suggestion of Amazon Key than merely offering a different sort of security for packages and entry to our homes.  Like Alexa, Google Home, and Siri, the large data mining corporations of this age want all that they can get from us, and access to our homes is likely the greatest gold mine of all.  Where does it stop, or does it stop?

It starts and stops with each of us.  While these corporations have the money to launch a concept to offer features that might be pleasing, there is no mandate to use these offers.  Like Facebook, the choice to post our personal information belongs to each of us; the choice to allow Amazon into our homes is also in our power.  Of course they have a great, fast delivery service, with an immense library of products, but we are the customers and we have the option choose (thankfully).

Sunday, October 15, 2017

E-Ink Clock

E-Ink Clock, based on E-Reader Screen

For ages, ever since I first heard of such things, I have had a minor obsession with Electronic Paper or E-Ink.  

And while searching about the internet today (Sunday, Oct 15, 2017) I came across an MIT Engineer's project to turn an E-Reader Screen into a clock.  

"This is PERFECT!!", I wrote on his blog post.  Because it was exactly what I was looking for.  A large format clock that could be managed by a digital interface.  Granted what I am hoping for in the long run is a Wireless connection so that the clock or device could be used for more than just the clock face that is shown.

My interest in these formats is that they can be changed easily and power cheaply.  Like a Grandfather clock, the power was mechanical and cheap, requiring only that the clock be wound up again by hand every so often.   It's not quite the same here, but then the utility is far more than just telling time.

I want a digital clock to be able to change faces and offer more than just the time, but also possibly the weather.  But I want feedback too.  With a Grandfather clock you'll never know if it's not working until you see that it is either out of winding or when winding it does nothing. 

A wirelessly connected digital clock could give feedback to the user, like battery levels, hyper local weather info (maybe even visual info).  But on output side, a digital, internet-connected clock could list an immense amount of information that can be updated every minute.  The Time, the Date, the Weather, a News Headline, a Favorite Stock price, Times in other zones.... And with an adaptable screen the output can be reformatted to meet with other styles or formats. 

In essence, it becomes an interactive device.   

Thank you to Michael Kainer for building this device.  I look forward to further development on the E-Ink Clock.  Please check out his blog for more information on this device

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Automatic Vehicle Sunshade

Automatic Vehicle Sunshade; Not Stylish, but Still Alluring

I've found some particularly odd new tech things on the interwebs, but this one caught my intrigue.  I'm still not sure if it was my interest or disgust that lured me to the Amazon page for this product. At the very least, they make a good pitch for the product.


You may remember that uncontrollable set of environmental variables under which we live daily, also known as the Climate.  It definitely plays a major role in the reason that we do not all ride motorcycles and that we rely so heavily on that portable HVAC inside our motorcars.  So, why again do we need an Automatic Sunshade to place atop said vehicle? Is the exterior shell of the vehicle not enough?

By the testimony of anyone who has owned a vehicle that is black exterior with black interior, even limo-tint doesn't stop the sun from hitting the roof of the vehicle. If only there were a way to block the Sun's rays before they hit the vehicle.

Enter: the Vehicle Sunshade

Laying aside for the moment any latent American style-struggles, there is a very practical side to this product.  It blocks heat in exactly the same way that a beach umbrella keeps you cool on the sand.  It takes the brunt of the Sun's rays to keep it from hitting the vehicle, like a beach umbrella or a tree's leaves or the next floor up in a garage. But unlike all those other items, it is designed to be portable and easily usable on the roof of a vehicle. 

Style: The Bane of American Intellect

What shallow individual would dare be caught taking the time to make a practical change to their vehicle.  This is 'why' we have window-tint, not just that it makes us look 'cool'.  This device takes time to setup, time that could be otherwise spent aimlessly wandering around the mall or checking out the opposite gender, while looking 'cool'. 

Practicality: The Real Reason for this Post

I quite like this product.  It is a good idea.  But is has it's limits.  For the model at the top, the Lanmodo, it's a tad-bit heavy at 30 lbs to lugging about in the trunk of my vehicle.  It's also a bit of overkill with it's automated opening and closing.  However, It is shown on the website to be useful in more ways than one, as a Tent or Canopy.  It has a battery that can charge a phone or run a projector.  

The general concept of the Vehicle Sunshade appears to have taken-off as several manufacturers have taken to Amazon to sell the idea. If you search for "lanmodo" as I did, it will yield at least 3 other offerings. (YEEGE, YIKESHU, Dr. Deng)

Final Thoughts

For those who live in the desert, this seems like a pretty good idea.  I used to live in Bakersfield, California where the weather was known to crest 40-45 C (104 - 113 F) all summer.  I lost, to excessive heat, more than one car-thermometer, the highest record stuck the last one at a record 57 C (135 F ).  I would have liked to have had one of these sunshades back then. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

MST3k Hybrid B-Movie Names

Mystery Science Theater Returns with some amazing awesomeness.

In episode four of the new season, Jonah (the host) makes a Public Service Announcement on behalf of all who love / hate Hybrid B-Movies.  They have registered the names of as many concepts as they could think of and scrolled them on the screen, mocking them.

Here they are...

  • Snowcano
  • Triceraquake
  • Birdaclysm
  • Gatorlanche
  • Ghost Orca
  • Horsetapus
  • Three-Toes Blitzsloth
  • Rainicane
  • Frog Fog
  • Pugslide
  • Gatoricane
  • Underlanche
  • Brunchtapus
  • Narwarlrus: Arctic Terror
  • Blitzcano
  • Blitzfrog
  • Crocowasteland
  • Mastodennui
  • Swanpedo
  • Firenadosarurus
  • Eaglesaurus: American Frightmare
  • Tor-NATO
  • T-Rexplosion
  • Clamorrhoids
  • Frankesnake Riftbeaver Vs. Outer Space Napalmuskrat
  • Abominable Meg Snow Spiders
  • Beet Wave
  • Vocanosaurus Rex
  • Wooly Clammoth
  • Dinoseal
  • Beluga Moose
  • Rabbitoxicity
  • Rabbi Rabbit
  • Pugslide 2: The Puggenining
  • Cesium Storm-odile
  • Monsoonicane 6000
  • Monsoonasaurus
  • Ptarmageddon
  • Blitztastrophe
  • Sunfishoscopy
  • Cancercano
  • Snaketological Duckopalypse Vs. Protopuffin
  • Catpuffin
  • Bluejayquake
  • Buffalocalypse
  • Volecano Vs. Mole-atron
  • Snowbeaver Vs. Ultra-Fox
  • Lemonado
  • Streptocrocker Spaniel
  • Mechaflood Vs. CloneSnake
  • Swanquake
  • Moose Moth Vs. Lemming Bear
  • Mothometer Vs. Pianodon
  • Ponyshark Meets the Tortostito
  • Basswasp
  • Velociwalrus
  • El-Nino Bear
  • Spider-Man: But a Monster, not the Superhero
  • Roboquake
  • Beaglebot Vs. Horsetapus
  • Shark-Heatindexwarning
  • Tarantullama
  • Blitzcanoswordapocalastronaut
  • Dogclopse II
  • Volcanosaurus Rex
  • BlitzCraig
  • Adobe Flashflood
  • Fraggle Rockslide
  • Frankenferrent
  • Rikki Tikki Tarantula
  • Robo-Bonobo
  • Sharkstesthiologist Vs. Proctologerbil
  • Clowntapus
  • Skunk Bucket
  • Mech-Shakespeare-icane
  • Magpatonsil
  • Platapocalypse Vs. Clownocerus
  • Cari-BOO
  • Raptor Identity Theft 2016
  • Wooly Clammoth Vs. Leopardvangelist
  • Nerdemic
  • Global Worming
  • Night of the Were-Dads
  • Sharkstadon
  • Rhinoculus
  • Shrimptologastrophe
  • Will Feral Cats
  • GoatSwarm
  • Kangapus Vs. Gullfrog
  • Mastadonatello
  • Underwater Kidnaposaurus
  • Robocowboys Vs. Sickle Squid Anemia
  • Influenzalanche
  • Glutenoceros
  • Mammalsquid Vs. Sandstorm
  • Lionado
  • Wedgiegeddon
  • Underground Coyoteprawn Meets the Tsunami Crab Squirrel