Google Express Review

Did you know about Google Express? I didn’t.

It was by shear chance I ran across it. It was the holidays for 2017 and I was late in the game searching for someplace to buy Google Home Mini’s while the price was still low. Of course, searching on Amazon was less than productive. Of course, they are going to bury their direct competitors product.

So, I Google searched and ran across a Google Site that said I could get a Walmart Discount with an order for the Google Home Mini. Following the links, it took me to Google Express.

The home page had a whole bunch of brick and mortar stores across it’s home splash page. Some I frequent, but always wished they had an online ordering presence. Could this be it?! My interest was piqued. Continue reading “Google Express Review”

To hear the whisper of angels wings ….

This was a phrase I heard while in the military.File:Peter Paul Rubens - Music Making Angels - WGA20442.jpg

The context was that when you near death’s door you may hear the whisper of angels wings.

It’s a sensation of realizing how close to death you were. And how thankful you are that it was a close call rather than a foregone conclusion.

I can say I relate to moments when I might have been close to deaths door. There aren’t many of those moments.

The most poignant time resonated I felt this way, after drinking for years at an ever increasing rate, I realized that I was slowly killing myself. That was a Bingo. At that realization, that point of clarity of how definitively I was hurting, punishing and committing unintended suicide, I forced myself to cut back and eventually quit altogether.

Day 561 sober, feeling pretty dang good and still here.


The Pocketwatch

After my father passed, I received an old Waltham pocketwatch from his belongings. The story behind it was that he found it and attempted to find the owner. He even went so far as to contact the pocketwatch company and attempt to track the owner with the serial number. His effort failed.PocketWatch

As I thought about it, my dad was filled with a lot of conundrums. On one hand, he was a successful accountant, trusted by a lot of clients, carried a certain amount of prestige in our small two and was a president of the state CPA institute. And the pocket watch showed his desire to go above and beyond with honesty and pursuit of truth.

On the other side, he spent years in an affair while married to my mother. When discovered, instead of being clear about what he wanted and honorably facing up to his Continue reading “The Pocketwatch”

Ring Video Doorbell Pro Review

After much experimenting and consternation I finally decided to jump in for a Ring Video Doorbell Pro. 
I had experimented with Raspberry Pi’s, storing video to a local NAS and the results were just ‘meh’ at best and required a lot of personal babysitting and tweaking and was turning as expensive as retail solutions with limited quality.
I attempted to use a Zmodo per a previous post, but it’s video quality and capture weren’t quite what I hoped, it’s low light capability wasn’t good and the storage was rather expensive for the recurring services with less than high end quality hardware.

The Ring Video Doorbell Pro version was aesthetically pleasing with it’s lower profile than it’s other Ring counterparts. And they come with 5 different color faceplates so your not stuck with one color. The sticker price of $250 made me a bit reluctant.

I had seen the Ring products all over the place, but was sold when I finally did the research to uncover how much the video storage is in their ‘cloud’. At the time I write this, it’s $30.00 annually for a single Ring branded device and $100.00 a year for unlimited devices. That provides video retention for 60 days.

It wasn’t until I had installed the Ring Video Doorbell Pro that I learned they provide a full feature functioning trial period of thirty days beginning the day you register your device. That was a pleasant surprise. That’s plenty of time for me to get a total feel for the functions and features.

Installation wasn’t difficult.
Instructions were straight forward if you have some basic electrical tools and aren’t intimidated. At a high level, I needed to confirm that my mechanical doorbell system operated at the right AC low voltage range and was able to do so with a decent multi-meter. Next I dropped the power on my existing doorbell system, wired everything per the instructions and we were done. By far the longest thing to get done was locating the right breaker doing laps to kill power to the doorbell transformer from the garage to the attic. The last thing to do was setting up an app on my phone and we were done.

I was very impressed from the start. You use an app on a phone or tablet to interact with the Ring Doorbell and the video quality was really sharp and clear in the dark and even better in daylight. The lens is a fisheye which captures all of the entryway area, but amazingly provides clarity out to the street.

The app has functions for capturing video for ‘Rings’, ‘Motion’, ‘Live View’ and ‘Starred’ and a final list option called All, which lists everything. It captures video in snippets depending on the function.

‘Motion’ – based on sensitivity and the area to detect motion this is where video snippets are stored related to movement. I had to experiment with the settings and am very happy. I opted to be a bit sensitive and probably get more alerts than needed. On rare occasions it senses a large vehicle like dump truck or bus in the street or in one instance a small dachshund that decided to check out our doorway.
 ‘Rings’ – whenever someone presses the doorbell, it captures video on the approach to the doorbell and during the time you watch them. From your app, you can answer the door through the built in speaker and microphone. This has taken some getting used to. It seems to give me a bit of a problem with bluetooth headsets.
‘Live View’ – If you check the options with the device you’ll find a ‘live view’ button. This allows you to watch things on demand. This might be useful if your checking the weather I guess. And while you view ‘Live View’ it’s capturing that video.
Of course ‘All’, lists all the snippets captured from every category.
The app also includes the option of sharing with others. This allows you to give others access to the Ring device too, so more than one person can view the storage que. Or you can set it up on multiple devices like tablets in addition to your cell phone.

I’ve been using the Ring DoorBell Pro for a couple months and signed up for the single device option and figure this is a good time for my review. This requires some explanation.

Storage: Pro or Con – You decide
Ring devices are “alert based” devices.This is my terminology. What I mean is the Ring device (across the product line) have a continuous buffer (or storage loop) and only store footage a few seconds before and after a ‘trigger’ event like motion or the doorbell ringing. Other systems (Nest for example) are continuous footage storage systems. Why does this matter?

Here’s an example: At first Ring was a unique experience and I enjoyed being able to see what was going by. But with the neighborhood being overrun with delivery trucks during the holiday season and receiving alerts nearly every five minutes, I reduced the sensitivity so I wasn’t getting alerts for every single car, stray animal or pedestrian that went by in the field of vision. Then someone let their dog poop directly in the line of sight of the Ring without picking it up, but beyond the sensitivity for the alerts to capture that footage. So, who ever it was didn’t get caught by my Ring DoorBell storage.

In comparison, a friend of mine shared his ‘Nest’ storage experience, which is a ‘continuous storage’ system. His system has an alert based function with adjustable sensitivity. So he gets alerts as I do whenever motion is sensitivity thresholds are triggered. But he can also go online and view all the camera footage. With that type of storage option I would have caught the dog pooper perpetrator.

 My viewpoint: If I had ‘continuous storage’ then I would have shared the pooper footage publicly to shame them.
However, I see the Ring Doorbell as a complimentary function to a full coverage camera solution for the hours. Considering the function of the Ring DoorBell and it’s purpose as being focused on the front door and entry way, I have no regrets.

I Can Run Again And Thank Sobriety

I’ve been a runner since the early seventies. I joined Cross Country duand loved it. Being able to jog the trails in the cool early morning hours was a freeing experience even when I was competing with others. Continue reading “I Can Run Again And Thank Sobriety”

Halloween Projection Setup on a Budget

I was strolling my local building supply store and ran across one of those pre-packaged window projection set ups for roughly $150.

I was interested because I like gadgets and I enjoy Halloween decorating. As I examined the contents, it was pretty clear it was a simple inexpensive digital projector, a projection material and a quality DVD for content. Incredibly simple. But, being the budget

I made a mental note to take a look when I got home to comparison shop and promised myself that if I could do it for less than $100, I’d do it.
Fast forward to that evening and I was YouTubing, Googling, and web shopping all over the place to do cost comparisons. The project seemed incredibly simple especially with the drop in consumer projector prices. The projector, the screen material and the content.

I found a simple digital projector that came in around $40 that seemed to have decent reviews. COOQI Mini Portable Pocket Projector Home Theater Support 1080p White/Yellow is the name of what I got and it was less than $43.00 delivered. By the time this blog entry gets out there, another make or model could be great at that price point.

For projection I bought a cheap frosted thin shower curtain liner large enough to cover the window I intend to use. That was less than $5.00.

For content, search on YouTube for ‘Halloween Projection Loop’. All kinds of options pop up and many of them are long or you can pile a bunch in a row in your ‘Watch List’.

Now, let’s go through the parts and put it all together.

I have a room in my house with no windows so I could do testing in a dark place. Testing the projector showed me it was just the ticket. It provides the option of connecting via HDMI, USB, Micro-SD card or via a pig tail with old style audio visual connectors. With that variety of options, you should be able to find some form of connection that works.

I mounted the Cooqi on a tripod and started projecting on one of my walls. I used a Raspberry Pi with Kodi, an Ubuntu laptop running YouTube, I used a USB stick on the USB port, I used a ChromeCast with YouTube and they all worked fine. My biggest challenge was maneuvering in the dark while switching things up. The image was good enough once it was focused.

Next I opened up the cheap shower curtain liner and suspended it on an old compression curtain rod. Not the perfect arrangement, but it was just the ticket.

Then I realized that Happy Halloween was displaying backwards as it would be seen outside. But that was easily addressed by using the menu to flip the video display and everything came out just right.

Next, was choosing YouTube videos. My preferred method of setting everything up was to use a Google ChromeCast on the HDMI port. I started the video up with my Chromebook casting the YouTube video and then just let it go. It worked great.

I did try using the ChromeCast powered by the built in USB port and that didn’t work. I used an external USB power supply and everything worked fine.

When Halloween arrives, I’ll fold over the top of the curtain, secure it with tape and cut it to size. I’ll probably take a few pictures when I have it set up.

Happy Halloween.

I Dream of Drinking

Yep, it’s true. With more than 450 days dry, it happens.

Does it mean, I feel conflicted about alcohol? I didn’t wake up tempted, so I guess not.

During the first dream, I felt the warming euphoria of the alcohol, in my dream. The spreading warmth and relaxing feeling was very reminiscent of the first good long pull of a tall strong one. Continue reading “I Dream of Drinking”