Easy Accessory Power Switch for a 2008 Chevrolet Impala

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I used a dashcam, phone charger and bluetooth adapter in the car for a while but I grew tired of having to manually unplug those devices when not in use or when I turned the car off. Unfortunately, in my 2008 Chevrolet Impala the vehicle would continue to provide power to any plugged in accessories even when the engine was off. Most of these devices are low power but even a dashcam, given enough time, could eventually drain the vehicle batter, especially if the car wasn’t being used for several days.

Re-wiring the electrical system and messing with fuses is beyond my experience so I decided to see if I could find an automotive power strip that would have a built-in power switch and sure enough I was able to find the perfect device.

The EUGIZMO Cigarette Lighter Splitter only costs about $16, offers three DC outlets, four USB power ports, a large power switch for the unit and also a very good visual indicator to show whether or not it is on.

I chose to mount this upside-down, just below the vehicle’s built-in DC power ports. This placement moves most of the power adapters and cables out of the way; whenever I turn the car on or off it’s very easy to just reach down and hit the large power button.

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At first affixing the unit beneath the dash was a bit of the problem as the first type of velcro that I had used simply wasn’t holding and it would often come loose during the day. Eventually I ended up using some VELCRO Exterme Outdoor Strips and it hasn’t come loose since.

Accessing a Remote Network with a TP-Link SafeStream TL-ER604W Router

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Back in December I started using a TP-Link SafeStream TL-R600VPN Gigabit Broadband Desktop VPN Router to be able to login to the network at a remote property. It provided most of the functions I needed but unfortunately the client/server mode of the VPN service only supported PPTP. While not every secure it would have been fine for my purposes but unfortunately Apple dropped support for PPTP VPN connections from the newer Mac OS and iOS versions. I was able to purchase a program called Shimo to use PPTP from the Mac but there wasn’t really a good solution for iOS and being able to access the network from my phone was a critical need.

Frustrated that I couldn’t use my phone to connect to the network I eventually purchased a TP-Link SafeStream TL-ER604W Wireless N300 Gigabit Broadband Desktop VPN Router, which provides PPTP, L2TP and IPSEC client/server connections and so far it has worked great.

Both routers have, on at least one or two occasions, each hung up and required a manual power reset. The NetReset device I purchased recently seems to have eliminated that infrequent problem.

Using an Aeotec Smart Strip

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A while back I decided that it would be nice to have our son’s bedroom lamp, white noise machine and humidifier all plugged into Z-Wave automation switches. But I no longer had any free modules and this meant that I’d need to purchase three Z-Wave plug-in modules. That’s not a small cost and would require more room than was available at the outlet or involve a very ugly set of power cables.

To resolve this problem, and also reduce cost, I decided to purchase an Aeotec DSC11 Smart Power Strip. This power strip provides six power outlets with four of them controllable using Z-Wave. The four can also be controlled as a single unit to turn all of them on or off.

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This turned out to work well. I have it connected to my Indigo software and also an Aeon Labs Minimote. On the Minimote one button controls only the lamp and another controlls the noise machine and humidifier as a group.

I haven’t had any problems with this device.

Using Indigo 7 for Home Automation with a Mac

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Back in 2013 I moved from using a very good Windows program called mControl for home automation control over to Indigo for Mac OS. mControl worked great for my needs then but I didn’t want to dedicate an additional computer to the home automation and video recording tasks since I usually left my iMac running anyway.

Indigo looked like an excellent choice and over the years and it has indeed proven to be a great software package for home automation control from a Mac. I realized that even though I’ve blogged about some of the things that I’ve done with Indigo I haven’t really mentioned my overall experience with the software.

It’s now on version 7 and though the cost has risen this is largely due to improved software support and the inclusion of the required licensed technology needed to control Z-Wave compatible door locks. Indigo is very extensible; one can find a number of community-built plugins and it also supports scripting via Python.

I wouldn’t recommend it for someone that isn’t very tech savvy; there are other consumer appliances more suitable for basic home usage, but if you want to do anything more than have a few automated tasks (for example, anything that requires a good bit of logic and virtual devices or variables) you’ll need something like Indigo.

At our house I do use a Wink system and it works fine there but it’s not capable of doing much more than running a few automated tasks; consumer appliances (usually cloud-connected) currently don’t offer very much in this realm. But at the apartment I’m still using Indigo and have moved into some more advanced home automation interactions.

With Indigo I now have several actions that are dependent on the status of other devices, virtual devices and variables. I’m also using some Bluetooth proximity detectors to provide additional enhancements and in the past I’ve done some more interesting things that I currently don’t have setup.

I highly encourage anyone with more than a passing interest in home automation, and a Mac that you’re willing to leave powered on all of the time, to look into Indigo. The initial cost may seem high but when you consider the basic cost just to purchase a consumer appliance hub such as Wink or SmartThings, and then potential issues with any of your existing equipment, you may find that the savings aren’t really there in the long run. Indigo works with X10, Insteaon and Z-Wave devices as well as some other devices that don’t use those protocols.

Scheduling Automatic Modem and Router Power Cycling Using a NetReset NR-1000US

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Back at the house the cable modem and router usually operate just fine but every now and then something hangs up and unfortunately it’s not always practical to go by to reset the gear. And asking a friend to do it for me, even when they’re eager to do it, just seems unfair.

So I searched for a device on Amazon.com, as usual, and sure enough someone has a product that is intended for exactly this need. The NetReset NR100US, which cost about $45, can be set to automatically reset the power to both outlets on the device using a set delay between them. It will turn off one outlet for a minute, turn it back on, and then a minute later do the same for the next.

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Comcast X1 DVR Experiencing Distored Video and Audio Problems

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Our run as cord-cutters has come to an end after several years though it wasn’t by choice; the apartment complex where we live has made a fee mandatory that includes the cost of cable and since there’s no point paying for cable and not using it we decided to cut some of the online streaming services that we’ve been using and get a DVR from our cable provider.

Living as cord-cutters for over six years worked great but that’s a post for another time.

I opted to get an X1 DVR from Comcast so we could record shows (we chose to drop Hulu and HBO) that we would have watched via Hulu as well as some other series that we’ve been purchasing through iTunes over the years.

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