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This week, we were inspired to discuss home automation after @Joel R raised the question in a topic. With so many commercial options available now, such as Alexa, Siri and Google Home, we started discussing what automation we have in our homes. This week we'll focus on the a few team members who have heavily automated teams. Although @bfarber's answer "I have kids to help automate the home" was a clear winner. Marc S (Support technician & cycle injury enthusiast) For me I just have Hive, which is automation for my central heating system, and an Echo. So I can tell my heating to switch on and off by speaking to the echo if I wish, but to be honest its very rare that I do so. I tend to just use my phone, as it would rely on me being in the same room as my echo. I have some lights which are on sensors in my en-suite, and in my entrance hall. I have thought about getting bulbs I can switch on and off with voice control, but I'm honestly not sure how much they would be used in comparison to what they cost to buy. Because of the way my lights are configured, it would cost a fortune to do (for example my living room would need 5 bulbs for the main light). If I decided to go down that route, I would be looking for lightswitch adaptations, rather than bulbs. Andy (Developer and Support technician) This is a hobby of mine so might be a long answer! When I fully renovated my apartment I took the opportunity to go wild and put structured cabling and do all the prep work for a complete system. I use a system designed and manufactured by a company in my local area (Idratek.com) as the “controller” which handles heating, lighting, presence detection, intercoms, door locks etc and binds everything together. I installed everything myself and in total used about 2km worth of cat5e wiring with hidden magnetic reed switches recessed in door and window jams. I’ve then extended this by adding integrations with other things such as Hue lighting, automated curtains, zoned heating, a smart kettle and cameras etc. A particular favourite of mine is the integration with Logitech Squeezebox. If somebody rings the doorbell or calls me on Skype then the volume automatically decreases in the room I’m in so I can take the call. This system goes beyond the mainstream ad hoc automation kits such as Hue and other retail “smart” products in that it’s not just motion detection but presence. So for example if you’re in a room and the doors and windows are closed the system knows you are in that room until the door is opened. So if you’re sat still reading the light won’t turn off on you but it will still turn off automatically as soon as you leave. There’s no relying on extended 10 minute time outs. Lighting is controlled using internal and external light level sensors too so there’s no messing about adjusting the on/off times with seasonal changes. The system has all the usual smartphone controls but the idea is that it is truly “smart” in that once set up there is little intervention required. Heating is weather compensated for example and although curtains open automatically once the sun comes up, they won’t do so if you’re still in the room to prevent inadvertent flashing to neighbours. If you open a window in a room then the radiators in that room and connecting rooms are automatically switched off so you’re not wasting money heating the outside. I like to kid myself that I’m saving money but in reality the money I have spent probably exceeds any savings I will make in two lifetimes. So if I’m not saving money at least I’m being eco friendly whilst having some fun seeing how far I can push the tech. Mark W (The Senior Developer) I'm not as crazy as Andy, but I do have quite a bit of stuff: All the lights in the house are Hue. These are coupled with motion sensors (Hue motion sensors which also handily double as temperature and light sensors) but for completeness, I took all of the light switches off the walls, replaced the switches with a blank plate which I then added Hue Dimmer Switches on top of - this means that I can still use "normal" light switches when I want to. I have a Hive thermostat, and wrote a Homebridge plugin (https://github.com/mark-wade/homebridge-hive) to allow me to control it with Homekit, which is what I use to tie all my stuff together (Homebridge itself is running on a Raspberry Pi) I have a coffee machine and kettle from Smarter, which I also have Homebridge plugins for. Every room has a Sonos (Play:1 in bedroom and bathroom, Play:3 in office, kitchen and living room), again with Homebridge plugins I have automation set up to: Turns the lights and music on and off as I move throughout the house Turn the coffee machine on after I go into my office in the morning Turn everything off and turn the thermostat down once everyone has left the house But, because I use Homekit to tie it all together, I also use Siri quite a lot. "Hey Siri, turn the coffee machine on" literally never gets old. I'd really like to get a smart door lock and window blinds, but I'm still waiting for products that are actually decent to arrive on the market (there's a lot of US-centric stuff available, but here in the UK we normally need to wait a bit longer). Mark H (Support Technician and part-time Phil) I use an ISY-994i by Universal Devices, which controls *almost* all lights in the house, the door locks (Schlage Z-wave), and is integrated with my: Elk security system OneLink fire/CO alarms 3 Raspberry PI's with temperature sensors (DS2482-100 I2C to 1-Wire IC) Logitech Harmony Davis weather station (Vantage Pro 2) The mobile App I use to control this all, is Orchestrated Mobilinc. Daniel (Support Technician and Developer) A Raspberry Pis running HomeBridge 2 Amazon Dots + 3 Logitech Harmony Hubs & Elite Controllers allow me to control everything via remote controls, phone or voice. Lights: Hue Sound: Sonos in all rooms I have also dozen of homekit compatible sockets to control some none smart devices via the system. The Harmony Hub but also the Raspberry allow me also to control Dyson Fans. Since I moved to a Samsung Phone it's quite a mess because I had to find an alternative to control the homekit stuff Quite clearly, giving developers a box of gadgets and some spare time can lead to very creative things. Do you have any home automation? Do you prefer Alexa to Google Home? Do you also want to move into Andy's house? Let us know.
ADMIN posted a topic in IPS NewsWhat is the one thing you'd like to do in life, but haven't got around to yet? This week, we get introspective and look at the things we'd love to do but haven't found the time to do yet. Brandon (Senior tech support and development) Travel more. I've traveled a little bit, but there are still many many places I'd like to visit. Something tells me I'll need to wait for some of the kids to get older and move out first however. Mark H (Tech support) Take a vacation in Hawaii, as that will complete a goal I set in my youth: Visit all 50 States of the US. Have vacationed, usually camping, in 49 of them so far. Marc S (Tech Support) I have a friend who I have spoken to in the US since I was about 13, through originally chatrooms, then ICQ, and these days Facebook. We have always said one day we will meet up, and thats something I certainly intend to do one day, but havent gotten around to it. Rhett (Cloud Support) A week in Phillip Island, Australia for the MotoGP Race. It's still on my todo list! Matt (Senior Developer) Write a book. Unlike my colleagues, I have no strong desire to travel. I've always wanted to write a book though. In my early teens I used to spend time in front of a mechanical typewriter (through choice, I'm not THAT old) and knocked out a few short stories. They were awful, obviously, but I do love the written word and have a few stories I'd like to get down. Andy (Senior tech support and development) Over the years I’ve started learning a few languages and know just enough French and Italian to be dangerous. I’ve never really focused on either though. I would definitely like to get around to becoming a proficient speaker in at least one other non native language. Mark W (Senior Developer) I'm going to go with everyone else and say more travel. Since I get to work from home I often get a niggling feeling that I could be doing this anywhere in the world rather than in my little office in Colchester. I've made some strides in that direction this year: I spent New Years Eve in Sydney, a somewhat interesting series of events led me to spend some time in Washington DC (but that's a story for another time), plus I visited Berlin and Krakow. 4 countries in one year isn't too bad I think, hopefully next year I can break it though! Jennifer (Designer) Visiting my Irish friend in the UK and attempting to go drink for drink with him to see what sort of shenanigans/trouble he gets me into. Daniel (Senior tech support and development) I want to sail around the world for at least one year (but preferable much longer) and visit as many countries as possible on this trip. I would really love to spent my whole retirement on a sailing ship cruising around the world till i get bankrupt! Stuart (Senior tech support and development) I think quite a few people may have a similar answer, but travelling more is something I would really love to do but haven't got to it yet. I've been to USA many times. There are many places on the list I'd like to go at some point like Peru (Machu Picchu), Austraila, Dubai, Indonesia, Bali... Endless list really. A more realistic answer would be to finish some of my project cars that have been sat in a barn for years. We'd love to hear what you would like to do, but don't have time for just yet. Let us know below!
This week's question is inspired by liquidfractals's reply to last weeks question. What is your favorite music and which bands would you have loved to see live? We learned many things; mostly that our team have poor taste in music. Brandon (Senior tech support and development) I like a lot of different genres. I grew up with rap and pop, but I like R&B, country, electronic and rock too. Krayzie Bone of Bone Thugs n Harmony is probably my favorite rapper (and I've seen the group perform live), with Chamillionaire being a close second (and I've actually met him and talked to him one on one). I'd love to see Pentatonix live, that's on my bucket list I'd say. Mark H (Tech support) My tastes in music are quite eclectic. Given my age, "Rock & Roll" is at the top of the list, but after that it's "anything except Rap and Country". Who I'd like to see? Well.... I did have an invite from an older friend to attend Woodstock with him and his even older brother. Problem being, I was still very much a minor. Dad put the kibosh on that idea. I do wish I had gone. Marc S (Tech Support) I have lots of different genres of music that I listen to. Pretty much everything from Classical to hard trance, Whitney Houston to Marilyn Manson. I think if I was forced to pick just one, then it would likely be Progressive, or uplifting Trance. I could listen to this all day and night, and have produced some tracks, alongside one of my friends in the past. Rhett (Cloud Support) That's a hard one for me, I have kids, and a wife, we listen to all sorts of music, I'm not often in control of the station 😂 Matt (Senior Developer) Music is a huge part of my life. I listen to music all day while I work and I always have a pair of headphones in my pocket. My tastes change considerably depending on my mood but Sigur Ros, Radiohead, The National and Metallica are often on repeat. I quite like Apple Music as it often suggests bands that I've not heard of. I used to be a guitarist in a Metallica cover band in school. Thankfully it was before the internet existed so no shameful footage exists of those days. Mark W (Senior Developer) <looks over to now playing... "Miley Cyrus"> Maybe I won't take part this week... Jennifer (Designer) I listen to a lot of different genres and artists. Honestly my music tastes depend on my mood and what I'm focusing on. Thank god for Spotify. I listen to nearly everything except for Death Metal and Country (although I'm sure there are exceptions to the rule for both of them). I tend to lean to female voices over male voices most of the time. I have a special love for Five Nights At Freddys Fan songs, Portal Music and Pink Fluffy Unicorns (dancing on rainbows). I'd say some of my top artist loves would be: Amanda Palmer, Janelle Monae, Lily Allen, Nicki Minaj, The Pretty Reckless, Muse, Black Veil Brides, Fall Out Boy, Maroon 5 and Skillet Daniel (Senior tech support and development) All kind of electronic music (DnB, Electro, Frenchcore... literally everything) Stuart (Senior tech support and development) I listen mostly to classical music (being married to an Opera singer does that to you). I do also enjoy listening to rock and metal. One band I would have loved to see live is Queen, but unfortunately that was a little (not much) before my time. Drop us a line and let us know what your favorite music is. If you have any questions for the team that you'd like to be featured, let us know and we'll queue them up!
This week, the team have been discussing the one thing they can not live without. Some found this a hard question to answer. What is the one thing you cannot live without? A tricky question for some. Could you pick just one thing? Brandon (Senior tech support and development) My family is my saving grace and escape, and even though they're (collectively) the ones typically causing me the most work I wouldn't trade them for anything. Mark H (Tech support) I believe my choice would have to be "good coffee". I can deal with no phone, even deal with no credit card. But no coffee? The horror.... the horror. (2 points for naming the reference). Marc S (Tech Support) For me, no matter how much I like my computer, and look around for my phone before I do so much as make a coffee, it would have to be speakers. Not because I have a decent set of speakers, and don't even have to be my own speakers, but something that can play music. Whether I'm doing tickets, developing, cleaning, driving, sat in my office or sat in a bar, its the one thing I cant do without. Rhett (Cloud Support) The question really has two answers, On the tech side, it would be my iPhone, I can do anything from it you can think of really and my go to device for communication of all sorts. In life in general, that's an easy one, "My children, they are the center of my life, and really all that matters is I have them by my side!" Matt (Senior Developer) The one "thing" means I don't have to say family or kids! So I definitely think it has to be my MacBook Pro. I switched from a traditional desktop set-up earlier in the year and haven't looked back. I like being able to pick up my MacBook and carry on working while out and about. When I'm home, I plug it up to my two external monitors and it performs as well as any desktop. Jennifer (Designer) My iPhone. There is no worse thing than leaving my house without being able to check my chat programs or to be able to play Pokemon Go. Daniel (Senior tech support and development) The nerd in me can't live without alfredapp to automate all the things! ( check out their great forum https://www.alfredforum.com ) And the two hours a day of free time I get, I couldn't be without my son and bike. Stuart (Senior tech support and development) I pretty much couldn't be without my laptop, I use it for everything from Gaming, Films to Work. Is there one thing that you can't be without? Let us know below!
This week, the team have been discussing their very first computing memory. This will probably reveal a lot about the age of some of our team. We recently worked out that when Matt and Charles first met and started producing community software, some of the younger members of our team were still in primary school. What is your first computing memory? An easy question for tech-heads as we've all been toying with computers since our earliest days. Brandon (Senior tech support and development) We had a VIC20 and a Commodore128 growing up. In 6th grade I got into BASIC a little bit and wrote my own home-grown computer program for my school's science fair on the Commodore. It had a 'moon' and a rocket ship sprite, and the sprite flew around the screen and landed into the moon, ending with a quit or play again option. I won the science fair that year. Mark H (Tech support) My first "Computing Memory"...... that would be the mainframe I got to play with in 10th grade, one which some wealthy benefactor donated to my Junior High School, 1970. Magnetic core memory and drum memory, and not a transistor to be found within it.. Marc S (Tech Support) First memory of an actual computer, rather than just a games console, would be the Atari 65XE. My parents got me one for Christmas, along with a few different books and games. My parents were expecting me to hit the games the second I got it, and instead I was copying out the code for making the computer 'Do things'. I guess that was my introduction to programming at the time. Rhett (Cloud Support) "Learning "Basic" on an Apple II in College with 5 1/4 floppies! followed by building my first PC, a 386DX 40, then doing home banking via dial up and dos prompts" Matt (Senior Developer) The BBC Micro. It was a computer developed for the classroom to encourage a nation of coders. My dad brought one home along with a magazine and we spent all night typing in a Star Trek game from the magazine and debugged it together. I still have nightmares over my brother reading it out and calling a full colon "a double dot". I loved that machine and often tinkered with it between playing games and using it for homework. I remember writing a Naughts and Crosses (tic-tac-toe) game in school that my teacher did not understand and assumed I had cheated. Special shout out to "Elite" the space trading game that stole most of my youth. Ryan (Senior Developer) My first real computing memory was on a Packard Bell running Windows 3.11. I performed my first "echo" at the MS-DOS Command Line, and it was all downhill from there. Andy (Senior tech support and development) My first computing memory is probably playing Sim City on the BBC micro at school aged 6 or 7 but computers were a part of family life from before I was born so I must have had some interactions before this I can’t remember. My first Internet memories were getting home from school aged 10 helping dad build PC motherboards he designed from scratch. I would help place the components before they were soldered and then I would get to use the single machine set up in the corner which had the Mosaic browser and then later the first version of Netscape Navigator installed. I still have an original Internet Movie Database account from 1993. This was probably also my first “Job”. I’m still waiting for my first pay packet! Jennifer (Designer) My first really strong memory of computers in general was a Mac. It was Oregon Trails at school with those huge 5 1/2 floppy disks. I always remember how excited I would be to see that black and green screen with that 8 bit old west adventure. True facts. If there was a modern like Conan Exiles survival game that was Oregon Trail based I would most probably get it. If it exists don't tell me about it! Daniel (Senior tech support and development) My first coding experience was in the school with really, really old DOS computers.. No Basic, No Pascal ... it was the famous TURTLE aka LOGO! Stuart (Senior tech support and development) My first real computer related memory was having a Commodore 64 and an early Amiga with Theme Park. For some reason we also had an external drive for the Amiga that meant we could copy games. After that it was a steady progression of Windows based PCs and now I've got a "large" Laptop that everyone at IPS loves to joke about.
Welcome to the first of a new regular series we're calling "Question of the week". Each week, we'll ask our team a question and share the replies. To kick things off, we posed a very simple question: What is your favorite TV show right now? We may have over-estimated how much TV the average geek watches. Here's what our team said. Brandon (Senior tech support and development) How do I answer this without writing an essay?! I really don't watch too many TV shows personally, and I definitely don't have any that I watch religiously. I'd say my favorite is probably Fixer Upper as I tend to like to have those sorts of home repair shows on in the background, and Chip and Joanna Gaines are just too hard not to love. Mark H (Tech support) Nova, on our PBS station, because it is not filled with speculation, half-truths, and fake news. Marc S (Tech Support) Have been watching misfits. It just seems to be its the more likely scenario around someone getting superpowers. Lets be honest, superman/spiderman etc just isn't what you would realistically do? Rhett (Cloud Support) "The Blacklist" James Spader is excellent in this series! I've been hooked since it started in 2013. Matt (Senior Developer) I’m in Game of Thrones hibernation along with most of the world at the moment. I’ve just finished season two of Preacher which I really enjoyed. I found Eugene’s journey through Hell to be a highlight and enjoyed how a small character in season one was fleshed out some more. Also, who cannot love watching Hitler order plum cakes? Mark W (Senior Developer) RuPaul's Drag Race. Because I'm what? Sickening. Ryan (Senior Developer) I don't really watch a lot of TV - there isn't anything that really catches my eye nowadays, so I mostly just stick to watching my local sports teams with friends (Cincinnati Reds [baseball] and Cincinnati Bengals [football]). That being said, though, I saw a commercial for the Big Bang Theory spin-off "Sheldon" the other day, and I might get hooked into that. It looked pretty good. Andy (Senior tech support and development) I'm looking forward to the next series of Stranger Things on Netflix Jennifer (Designer) I'm personally in between shows at the moment. I just finished The Walking Dead Season 7 and I'm watching some Anime with the family. I'm the sort of person that bounces around binge watching TV shows and movies. I can say that I am really looking forward to the next season of Santa Clarita Diet though because a zombie housewife is just funny to watch the misadventures of. Daniel (Senior tech support and development) I've started watching Dexter. Stuart (Senior tech support and development) Star Trek TNG, Just because of Jean-Luc Picard! Drop us a line and let us know what your favorite show is. If you have any questions for the team that you'd like to be featured, let us know and we'll queue them up!