lighting

My house "blue screened", or The Confessions of a House Geek

Posted by Steve on Sat, 01/24/2009 - 8:27pm


I had my first Insteon home automation device failure this week. Unfortunately, it happened to the brains of the "automation" part -- the software/hardware combination that executes the timers that turn the lights on and off. Specifically, the culprit was the PowerLinc device that bridges my house to the USB port on my computer which runs the timers.

2414u Here's the little sucker. At 70 bucks, it's not like changing a lightbulb. Okay, I was pissed about it, especially as it's only a little over two years old. But, fact is, I was never happy with this automation set up. For one thing, it requires leaving a Windows box on 24/7 for the timers to work. And the HouseLinc software I was using must have some memory leaks in it because once I removed it from my computer it seemed to gain an extra half a processor.

What I really want is an Insteon driver for Linux/FreeBSD that would let me build my own timers in Perl, which I could run under Unix cron. That's what I did with my former X10 automation layout, which was decidedly more hobbyist-friendly than Insteon but decidedly more flaky as well, which is why I got rid of it. I spent a couple of hours Googling for open source alternatives to no avail before winding up back at the SmartHome web site.

It was there I noticed a couple of new Insteon products. One was a relatively inexpensive home automation controller that runs from a smart phone. It got 4 out of 6 on my Coolness Meter but it was functionally less than I had with HouseLinc. True Geeks don't downgrade.

Dreaming of a (non)White Christmas

Posted by Steve on Mon, 12/15/2008 - 6:14pm


Judging by how prolific they've become in recent years a lot of people seem to like white Christmas lights. I know I'm gonna get mail about this.

I'm not real big on Christmas. I need to be coaxed (okay, dragged and beaten) into something resembling yuletide spirit. For me, white mini-lights just don't cut it. They have the holiday charm of a corporate office park or a South Beach mojito bar, and about as much comfort and joy as my 60-watt desk lamp. They don't say Christmas to me. They say, "Co-op Sales Office: Suite 300".

White Christmas lights tell me "Like, I was at Saks this weekend and they had the most totally delicious winter display of Ferragamo anaconda leather boots..."

White Christmas bulbs are the lighting equivalent of dropping "Merry Christmas" in favor of the PC generic, "Happy Holidays". Is this is how we celebrate the rich cultural diversity of our country during glad tidings season? With a soulless white light bulb?  By making our houses look like Tavern On The Green?


The Death of the CFL

Posted by Steve on Mon, 10/20/2008 - 11:31pm


I'm really getting fed up with the false lifetime claims of Compact Fluorescent Lighting manufacturers. On average, I've been seeing these bulbs fail at half their published life spans. Maybe we need a class action suit to force companies to publish the MTBF (Mean Time Between Failure) hours for these bulbs in the real world.


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