Fixing a Blank Default Web Browser Setting in OS X El Capitan

I don’t know what causes this problem but recently I discovered that the “Default web browser” setting in the General preferences tab was blank. Clicking on the drop-down showed no browser names so I could not change the use of Safari as the default browser.

The fix was relatively simple. I opened Chrome and via settings within Chrome I set it to be the default web browser. After completing this action I then had the names of the installed browsers in the “Default web browser” drop-down.

This fix may work using any browser that allows you to set it as the default from within the browser settings itself.

Back to the Pebble (Time)

Pebble-Time

A couple of years ago I jumped onto the smartwatch bandwagon with the Pebble Smartwatch, which I enjoyed. Last summer I had the opportunity to use an Apple Watch instead.

I enjoyed the Apple Watch but after several months I switched to Pebble Time.

Why?

I’m drawn to technology that is not overly complicated and I found that the Apple Watch offers more features than I needed. In addition, it’s not a watch.

The Apple Watch is an extension of the iPhone. It’s a watch as much as an iPhone is a phone. Sure, the Apple Watch can display the time but it does much more.

I certainly didn’t hate the device. I simply wanted a smart watch that did little more than provide some notifications on my wrist. Even while I had the Apple Watch I rarely used most of its capabilities. I used it the way that I used the Pebble, except it is not really well designed to be used in this manner.

The Pebble devices can last for several days without a charge whereas I usually had to charge the Apple Watch each night (simply a result of the hardware used by the different devices). The Pebble watches are waterproof while the Apple Watch is technically considered water resistant.

I didn’t need to view photos on my wrist, send canned text replies or talk to someone through the watch. I just wanted a device that would display minor details and vibrate when I receive a phone call, text message or important e-mail message. And behave like a watch when it wasn’t doing those things.

For myself the Apple Watch is overkill.

I’m not stating that it’s a bad device or that others would not love it. But if you just want a smart watch then a Pebble is a good way to go and it is also much less expensive. It bends to suit my life rather than working the other way.

Home Automation: “The dryer has finished drying your clothes.”

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While most of the things that I can do with my home automation setup are only of interest to myself on occasion I manage to add something that my wife also thinks is useful. This is one of them.

A while back I decided to add the ability for the home automation system to know when the washer has finished washing clothes and to make an announcement. This worked well though the module itself appears to have been damaged and is no longer communicating. Before that module failed I managed to find a way to sense when the dryer has finished. This was accomplished using an Aeon Labs Energy Reader.

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The unit is a Z-Wave device with two clamps, which is typically intended to be used at a breaker box. It wouldn’t have been able to properly sense current flow if I had just placed the clamps around the power cable for the dryer; the clamps need to be over individual wires that are normally within the cable sheath. However, on my dryer the three wires are individually accessible for a few inches before they enter the main sheath and are then covered.

It was just a matter of placing the clamps around two of these cables. Fortunately, as with the washer, our dryer is low-tech and doesn’t draw any power while not in use so setting up the sensing thresholds in Indigo was relatively easy (actually easier than setting up the washer). Though the washer module is not currently working the dryer notifications still continue to work.

TaoTronics Bluetooth Transmitter

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Several months ago I decided to purchase a set of Bluetooth headphones so I could, on occasion, watch TV in the bedroom late at night without disturbing my wife. At one time I had a wireless headphones set that worked well for this purpose but they were simply very bulky (both the charging unit and the headphones themselves). I attempted to use a jail-broken iPod as well but I wasn’t satisfied with that either.


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The TV itself doesn’t support Bluetooth so I decided to purchasing a Bluetooth audio transmitter. In this case, one manufactured by TaoTronics, which is small and reliable. Overall the device is very good but there is a slight delay in the audio that is noticeable relative to the action on TV, especially with dialog, though I grew accustomed to it rather quickly.

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Using a Zubie Key: A Year in Review

Zubie

Almost a year ago I purchased a Zubie Key, which is a device that can be used to track the location, and monitor the status, of a vehicle through a vehicle’s OBD-II port. This device has a built-in cellular connection and requires a yearly subscription fee of about $100. My motivation at the time was to integrate it into my home automation setup, which I actually did by connecting it to the IFTTT service combined with text message notifications that my home automation software can receive and process.

A year later I am uncertain whether or not I will continue to pay for the service. Mind you, it is not bad and has lived up to my expectations. But with daycare and various other child-related costs I’m not sure that it’s worth (that suddenly more valuable amount of) $100.

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