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    The Bungee Line was an audio podcast for web developers, covering web API's, software development, and the creation of richly interactive web applications.

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Home Automation: The Network


Automating a home well requires communication pathways between the different things you want to control and automate. Light switches, audio-visual components, garage door openers, and climate control equipment–all of these can be harnessed only if there is a way to communicate with them.

A fully automated home will actually have two networks, an IP network and a ZigBee network.

  • TCP/IP of course is the network you probably already have, providing wireless Internet access throughout much of your house. But most of us don’t have a network that’s ready for streaming video workloads, whether for TV’s or security cameras. That requires wired ethernet.
  • ZigBee is a low-power, low-bandwith wireless protocol used in a lot of components for home automation. ZigBee provides amazing flexibility so that you don’t need to run ethernet cables or power cables to every component in the system you automate. ZigBee works as a mesh, so each component in the system can act as a wireless relay for all the others. Battery-powered components running ZigBee cannot act as a relay, but things like powered light switches and dimmers will.

Going Gigabit

To stream video to any room of the house requires bandwidth. So for the TCP/IP network in our house, I selected a 24-port gigabit switch from Luxul. Fortunately, my house is already wired with cat 5, which means I won’t need to pull much cable. I got a smaller, 8-port switch for our main entertainment center because there are several components to connect in there. I also picked up an 8-port Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) switch.

Power-over-Ethernet gives great flexibility for things like a front-door camera or a wall-mounted touchscreen. Ethernet is required for streaming video, but with PoE you can run a touchscreen without running a power cable.

Getting Ziggy

All of the dimmers and switches in a system work over ZigBee. In replacing existing switches, it also builds out multiple powered ZigBee nodes. That should create a pretty solid mesh throughout my house so that any battery-powered devices can be added. Controllers from Control4 include a ZigBee network, so for my 2,800 square foot home system I likely won’t need extra ZigBee networking components. (I’ll need to verify this notion.)


After I get the ethernet gear set up, I’ll put in the next post in this project.


Note: Control4 systems can be installed only by professionals. Go to the Control4 Dealer Locator to find an installer in your area.

Home Automation: A New Frontier


A vast new technological field stretches ahead of us, and for me in particular. I’ve just joined Control4, a company creating advanced home automation solutions. Now I’m going through the steps to ready my house for some awesome new features.

Some of the things I want to do include:

  • Lock up the house, but make it easier for my family to get in. When I leave the house, I want the confidence that the house is secure because I have contact sensors to tell me what door or window is open, and automated deadbolts to remotely lock the doors. Modern deadbolts have programmable keypads, allowing codes for different people.
  • Stream Video to any room so that my wife doesn’t have to be chained to the TV room to watch televised murder trials and Vinnie Politan’s courtroom analyses. (There are real life men named “Vinnie.” Who knew?)
  • Light pathways for when I wake up, so that I can more easily do my fumble-stumble routine (which consists of fumbling around for my pajamas, and then stumbling around as I herd the dogs from our bedroom to the back door downstairs). Current non-dimmable light switches make for jarring light, and many of our switches are hard to find in the dark.

These are just a couple examples of what Control4 can do. So, I thought I might start explaining how I am working to make this happen. In my next post, I’ll cover the foundation of a home automation solution: the network.

Open Letter to eBay CEO John Donahoe


Does eBay Really Need a Special Exception to online tax collection? I received an email from eBay’s CEO, stating

…we believe small businesses with less than 50 employees or less than $10 million in annual out-of-state sales should be exempt from the burden of collecting sales taxes nationwide.

At first blush, the exception seems reasonable. But considering eBay’s business model, it’s completely self-serving. I replied to the address from which he sent the email. Since it might bounce, I share my response publicly.

Mr. Donahoe:

I agree that processing state & local taxes could be a burden on small businesses, especially the sort of special-focus, long tail small businesses that reach customers far and wide through eBay. eBay’s opportunity is to alleviate this burden. How? Provide new services & API’s in your platform to make tax collection a dead-simple process. Wouldn’t this render eBay an even more strategic platform for the small businesses that integrate with your platform? Coming from eBay–a company among the first to demonstrate how a web platform could simplify doing business online for micro-businesses–the “burden of collecting sales taxes nationwide” argument is rather specious. I notice that eBay does not advocate that all businesses of the scale you state–online or not–should get that exception.

Online businesses have had a remarkable opportunity to germinate and prosper for nearly two decades free of sales taxes. As online sales have grown, state and local governments’ revenues have declined. That affects our schools, highways, municipal services and other infrastructure. Furthermore, since the demographics show that online shoppers are generally wealthier than those who don’t shop online, isn’t your exception for online micro-businesses a special accommodation for higher-income households?

Perhaps eBay needs to re-think this issue in broader terms than asking for a special exception for eBay’s sweet spot in the market.

Thanks for your email and consideration of my response,

Ted Haeger

Donohoe’s complete letter follows. Continue reading

Working at Mozy


UtahBusiness.com logoAlthough I have been blogging all too seldom in the past couple years, I want to share one of my responses for the “Best Companies to Work For in Utah” survey conducted annually by UtahBusiness.com. Why? Because I want to share with tech professionals in Utah what its like working at Mozy right now. Continue reading

Wow, that was ugly.


Did these guys just totally take each other off the board? How will people react to their behavior tonight?

Photo from ABCNews article.

My Republican Debate Rundown


  • Romney – Oh, snore!
  • Bachman – Crazy.
  • Paul – What’s this “Constitution” thing he keeps harping on about, and why does he think it’s relevant?
  • Cain – If was running under “Herman”…
  • Gingrich – 1994…only now his head seems bigger.
  • Parry – See Bachman, subtract scientific literacy. (Yes, he’s in deficit…and I’d like to buy a vowel.)
  • Huntsman – Inviable. As he steadily earns my respect, his chances diminish.
  • Santorum – Ew! Why, Google? Why?!

 

Hey, Sealy: You Suck!


You know that old line of jokes about The Mattress Police, the people who check whether a mattress still has its law tags attached? If you live in the U.S., then you probably do. After all, it was a joke in the 1985 movie Fletch, an author uses it for his registered domain name, and there are t-shirts,  a punk band, and countless other links riffing on the concept. The whole joke is based on the absurd notion that someone checks such an obscure thing. Of course, the tags also state that the tags can be removed by the consumer, so it’s just a joke. Right?

Not according to Sealy. They use those tags as a way to weasel out of their warranty. Wow. Sealy just screwed me out of $1000+.

In Spring of 2007, I bought a California King Sealy mattress. The mattress has turned out to be an epic fail. Within 3 years it began to cave in, and now it has sunken in deep enough to cause me a lot of back pain. However, Sealy will not honor their 10 year warranty because I removed the “law tags.”

Although the warranty states that you must have these, the tags merely state that they may only be removed by the consumer. They don’t mention that removing the tags can void your warranty. Talk about your fine-print technicality.

Sealy uses cheap technicalities to get out of serving customers. That really sucks, Sealy. You suck, Sealy.

I post this rant because I hope that some small number of people will see this and avoid Sealy when purchasing a Sealy sleep set.

I’ll take it down should Sealy ever decide that their brand matters enough to honor the warranty that helped their authorized retailer sell me their shoddy Shy Blossom mattress.

Other Suckful Rants on Sealy

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