New Home Automations

I’ve been toying with the idea of home automation for several years. The expense has been one of the highest priorities, as I don’t like spending where it’s not necessary. With some bonus money over the past year or two, I’ve been able to make some additions that didn’t break the bank.

I was looking through Facebook last year when I came across, which is a way to make use of existing security panels and allow the home user to monitor their own home. It reads the signals of doors, windows, smoke/CO detectors, and any other input devices and allows you to sound the alarm or send yourself an alert on your phone. The options are much greater than that, but you get my point.

Konnected works with SmartThings, which is another element of home automation I had already looked into for lighting, but hadn’t taken the plunge. I found that because Konnected was open source, I could buy the modules at a very low cost and flash them myself to save even more money. For around $10/module, which has 6 inputs/outputs (IO), I figured I could put my disconnected security system back to good use without having monthly charges. Of course, I would have to also invest in the SmartThings hub, but with the plan of extending automations, it was worth it.

I bought the SmartThings hub and 4 modules to load up with Konnected, as well as some accessories to get everything hooked up adding up to less than $200. Using my existing home wiring, door and window sensors, and sirens, I now have a working security system that will alert me when something is not right at home… with no extra monthly fee.

It did take some time to figure out how to load the modules for the first time. I did spend several hours making up all of the connectors for the new modules. I took the extra time to repurpose two used Amazon Fire tablets to use as replacement alarm panels using ActionTiles and FullyKiosk browser. The tablets get their power from my new alarm panel.

I left the original smoke alarms connected to the old panel for several months until they began to die… time for a necessary upgrade because they were at least 18 years old… I bought 6 new 12V 4-wire smoke alarms and one 12V 4-wire combination smoke/CO alarm to wire into a Konnected module, so now my phone will alert me if there’s smoke or CO detected in the house.

Shortly after I ordered the SmartThings hub, I ordered several Smart light switches from Innovelli. They were cheaper than most smart light switches, and also didn’t require multiple smart switches to remotely control 3-way wired lights. On top of that, they work as repeaters for the SmartThings hub network, so using them, I would not have to be concerned with their proximity to the hub. The light in front of my house that illuminates my address now comes on automatically in the evening and turns off in the morning. Before, I just left it on all the time.

When I go in the garage, the lights out there turn on automatically for 5 minutes, because many times anyone goes out there, our hands are full, and reaching for the switch can be a pain.

At night, I have several lights set to turn off on a timer any time they’re turned on, as I have kids that have, so far, refused to turn them back off, even after agreeing to do so.

I have more automations, but I feel like I’m getting a little long-winded at the moment.

Have a great day!


I have written very little on here for quite some time.
Not that I think it is a requirement or anything, but I started this so that I could keep somewhat of a record of what is going on in my life.
A friend of Alaina’s found my blog a few months ago and has been sharing snippets with Alaina. She got a copy of a post where I spent the day with her. For Father’s Day, Alaina gave me a copy of my post, as well as her response to it in a frame. I didn’t realize that a simple post like that could actually stir up memories in her own life.
Have a great day!


For most of my 38 years, I have lived a life of no concern for my health. I have done things to jeopardize my health and well-being, but I wasn’t really concerned about it. I have gotten rid of unhealthy vices, and I don’t feel the need to return to them (other than Blue-Bell). I’ll still have Blue-Bell from time to time, but only if I can retain my self-control.
I have never been called obese, other than being just over the edge of what the obesity charts state, which seems like a really low weight to be considered obese. My cholesterol has been rated a little higher than normal. LDL was even high, but not high enough to warrant medication.
This year, I decided to take action on my weight. In January of 2011, Christle and I had started Atkins and we both did really well until we became pregnant with Sunni. I held the weight off for quite a while before gaining it back with a little extra.
This January, we started the same thing, only a little more slowly. When Blue-Bell started making Rocky Road again, I fell off the wagon for a little while but held off the 15 pounds I had lost in the first 6 weeks of the year. In July, we started back up on the diet, and I’ve lost approximately another 15 pounds to bring my total for the year to 30 pounds lighter. My BMI is around 27.5 now, so that’s great.
I started walking in January, and eventually started jogging. I reached my first goal of jogging for a mile straight, then two miles, then three miles. In July, I started a training plan to run a 10K. I have to attribute my weight loss to both the diet and the exercise. I’ve been running on this training plan for a little over a month, and I’ve already run 5.25 miles, only stopping to adjust my shoes.
The next thing I’ve started is a workout plan using Runtastic Results. I just started my 4th week of the plan, and my jeans are too big to wear. My appearance in the mirror is incredible compared to January. I like the feeling of being healthy. I like the way I look when I’m healthy.
I’d really like to stick with it, and plan to.

Open Carry Long Rifle In Texas

I just saw this story on The Blaze about a guy carrying an AR-15 on his back at Parkdale Mall in Beaumont, TX. Apparently several people were scared by this and called the police.
This police officer talking to the Gun Store owner is dead wrong on the charges.  It is completely legal to carry a rifle openly in Texas as long as you’re not threatening anyone.
The legality of carrying a weapon into the mall is void… His gun store is IN THE MALL!!! If people are going to feel threatened by the sight of a firearm (slung across his back with both of his hands full), they should move out of Texas.
The police should have responded to those who called in that he was not breaking any laws.
If a few people can get upset, make a call to police, and take away a person’s constitutional (federal and state) right, then is it truly a right?
I find it absolutely amazing that so many police officers can be so ignorant about Texas laws, especially when the issue comes up so often on national news coverage.
They took his property ILLEGALLY because someone was scared by it.  Police officers are the only people in Texas who are allowed to open-carry handguns. If I call the police every time I see a police officer with a handgun strapped to his/her side because I am scared, or I think I’m gonna die, will they stop letting police officers carry handguns?  I find it even more hilarious that in the above video you can see two men carrying handguns on their waists.
If I find out that this guy does not get off, I’m seriously considering to start calling 911 every time I see a police officer openly carrying a handgun, especially when I’m in Beaumont.

My Computer Experience So Far

My first experience with a computer, if I remember correctly, was playing the Atari with Dad in the living room of the trailer we lived in the early 1980s.  I distinctly remember playing pong, but there may have been other games. While some of you may not consider that a computer, I will take this opportunity to let you know that you are wrong.
In 1985, my brother and I received our Nintendo game system with Mario Bros. in what I consider our first real “house”.  We had a blast playing it and other games, some of which we swapped with the kids next door and across the street.  I never got into the geek mode that the older kids did with games.  I just liked trying to figure out how to complete the games, and learn their quirks.
In 3rd grade, we were introduced to the Apple IIe at school (1986). We did not do much on them.  The only thing I remember doing was drawing a picture using graph paper, translating that into code, and slowly typing said code into the computer to see the drawing in color on the screen.  We saved our code on a 5 1/2″ floppy disk.  There is no GUI (Graphical User Interface) on the Apple IIe.  At least, there was no GUI on the computers at my school…

I found out recently that my old school was torn down a few years ago…  🙁

Dad brought a computer home a few years later.  It was installed with Windows 3.1, or some version close to that. He showed me all of the components on the inside.  He taught me the basics of how it all worked together.  I helped him put together a few that he had sold through his side business. He taught me how to install the Microsoft Windows OS (operating system), as well as the applications to actually be able to do work, such as Microsoft Word and Excel (There was no MS Office at the time).
We upgraded to Windows 95, which was one of the biggest advances I had seen in computer interaction.  AOL came a year or two later.  It was difficult to use AOL, though, because it seemed like we couldn’t call 10 miles down the road without getting charged for long distance service.  It made the potential uses of the personal computer exponentially greater, though.
In the fall of 1996, I went to the local University and learned about HAL (C++), which was the name of the University mail system.  It wasn’t completely isolated from the rest of the world, but it was very limited and text based.  I did, however set up at least 2 blind dates by looking for nursing students on there.
In 1997, I did some computer upgrades for a power company.  We upgraded all of the computers from Windows NT 3.51 to Windows NT 4.0.  It was a cool experience because I learned a little networking (Token Ring, which they were dropping for TCP/IP). I knew very little about these technologies at the time.
I bought a Gateway PC in late 1998 shortly after I moved into my own place.  It was really cool to be able to dial in to AOL (local number) and not have to time my dial-up connection.  I also used Netzero, and some other dial-up ( services for several years.
In 2000, I was asked to work at ExxonMobil as a computer technician. I learned about Laser Jet Printers and repaired those along with the computers they were using at the time. I took part in their upgrade from NT 4.0 to Windows 2000.  I was laid off in 2002 because the upgrades were complete, they had fewer positions available, and I was the low guy on the list at the time.
In 2003, the cable company came by the house and upgraded our cable box for who knows what reason (I knew the reason), and I called them that afternoon to come back out and install my cable modem!  THAT was awesome!  At the time there was a BMW Films series that I had been downloading over the modem that took me at least a day of downloading to complete each 7 minute video.  When I got cable internet service I downloaded them again just to see the difference and it only took a few minutes.
I did some data recovery work from 2003 to 2004.  We took crashed hard drives, cracked CDs/DVDs, and even some broken floppies from people who really needed the data stored on them, and recovered the data.  I worked in a clean room, and swapped the platters out.  I did some really neat stuff to recover data off of destroyed media.  The only one I can remember not recovering was a drive that the heads had broken off of the arms.  The person had tried accessing the data so much before sending it in, that the arms had scratched the metal off of the discs.  The drive was filled with metallic dust, and the discs looked like scratched glass.
For a few years in there, I had my own DBA (Doing Business As), doing small computer jobs for individuals.  I built, repaired, and freshened up computers, as well as installed extra phone cables and hookups in their homes.  It didn’t take me long to realize that building computers was turning into a losing business strategy.  The big computer makers were lowering their prices so drastically, that my labor to purchase the pieces and build myself just had little to no profit.
I went back to work at ExxonMobil in 2004 for the upgrade to Windows XP, and worked for several of their sites through the upgrade to Windows 7.  Shortly before the upgrade, though, I changed departments, and started working on the control systems.
I installed my own network cabling in my house for our home network when I installed the CAT6 cabling for our new cable service. The idea of installing my own network infrastructure has always been intriguing. I do not know why, because it is really simple. I just like knowing how everything is built, because if you know how it is built, you can figure out where the problem is when there is one.
Since the first Gateway computer I bought, I have built several computers for myself, family, friends, and church.  I have also purchased a few desktops and laptops. Windows XP was beginning to feel a little stale after a few years, so I started using Ubuntu (Linux) for approximately 9 months solid (at home). It was a pleasant experience, but there were too many things I couldn’t (didn’t want to take the time to learn how to) do there that I could in Windows, and eventually went back to Windows.  Microsoft Windows 7 was the best version I have ever used. Windows 8 (I have had approximately 45 minutes of experience with it) makes me sick to my stomach. On a desktop, it feels like I should be using a touchscreen tablet. On a tablet, it may work well, but I’m not gonna spend the cash to find out if I like it. For the past year, I have been using a Mac Mini, and it is the best desktop I have ever owned.
I’ll write another post about my transition from Windows to OS X.
I no longer work at ExxonMobil (the correct way to spell it, btw), but I have been working on Honeywell, Foxboro, and Emerson Delta V control systems for the past 5.5 years. To put it simply, a control system is a computer system that controls all of the instruments in a refinery or chemical plant, and transmits data to the operators in the control room. It allows them the safety of operating the process without having to be in the danger zones.
It seems that every part of computer technology I have used in the past is in use in some part of the control systems I support today, except for the games.

Online Tools for Writing

I’ve recently started using two tools for writing that are new to me. is a mind mapping tool (think brainstorm chart) that helps put ideas on your screen. It really helps put all ideas on the screen in a manner that makes it easy to weed out weak ideas for the stronger ones (or vice-versa). The free version only allows for three mind maps, but that is really all I need (currently). is a writing tool that allows the user to write notes for private use by default, with the option to make them public. For anyone with a desire to have a (very) simple blog, this is where you want to go (Example). I went to export a note, and it said I had to have a premium account to do it, but then I clicked on the link to upgrade (just to find out the cost), and it upgraded me to a free premium account because it is in beta. The awesome part of that is that the upgrade to Premium is a lifetime upgrade… even when it gets out of beta, I have a premium account.
Anyway, feel free to check them out.


I have spent a long time working on our network here at the house.  One of my primary purposes for doing this is media consumption.  While constantly consuming media is not something I would recommend, it helps to make things run as smoothly as possible and user friendly for the whole family.
What seems like several years ago, I purchased a WD Sharespace to use as a central storage space for our digital media (movies/television shows).  I was using XBMC on my first generation Xbox to view said data.  Up until that point, I had to copy stuff over to the internal drive, but I was getting annoyed with constantly copying the files over to it.  Using DLNA (or maybe it was SMBA), I was able to put all of the media on the Sharespace, and just browse for what I wanted, streaming the media over my network.  There were no pictures to go along with the media, so I had to rely on the names and sXXeXX to make sure I was starting the movie or television episode I wanted.  One of the annoying features of this was having a noisy Xbox running every time we wanted to watch something.
A few years ago, I purchased a WD TV Live Plus.  This silent little box ran very well… still does, actually.  Still had no pictures (metadata), although I knew how to add them at this point.  Every now and again, we would have a slight issue with it, but it was much better than the Xbox.  It also has a Netflix, Hulu, and several other apps installed with each new version of the firmware.  The only real issue I’ve had with it was on the latest firmware update, which led to not being able to transcode many of the movie files stored on the Sharespace.  I remedied that by going to the WD site and downloading an earlier version of the firmware to install on the box.
A few months ago (probably 8 months), I found a tremendous deal on the top Roku in production at the time (I think it’s the Roku 2 XS).  It was something like half-price.  It had many apps available in the Channel Store, including Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Plex.  While it does not include DLNA accessibility, the Plex app allows you to view media from a server on a home PC (or Mac – more on that in another post).
I installed the Roku in our bedroom, since we already had the WD TV in the living room.  I was amazed at the speed of the menu, and even the response time of Netflix and Hulu.  I decided to try out Plex, and installed the server on my Mac Mini.  The server configuration screen started scanning the folders I added, and automatically added the metadata information to about 95-98% of the database of our media.  I was impressed with how easy it was to correct the files that had not been identified correctly through the automatic process.  When I went to the bedroom, and loaded the Plex app on the Roku, it was a beautiful display.  It automatically found the server, and a gorgeous showing of all of our media including all of the video posters was there.  It was like viewing Netflix but only with content that I already owned.
Imagine, if you will, that you have taken the time to rip every movie you own to digital format stored on a hard drive.  When you turn on your TV, you can look through your movie list, as if you’ve gone to your movie shelf that is designed like the video rental store.  They’re all in alphabetical order, or ordered by genre or decade.  You can also do a search.
I know this post is not typical.  I just feel like I need to tip my hat to the makers of this fantastic device, as well as the developers of Plex.
Just a little more information… The Roku 3 (2 to 3 months old in our house) is a terrific upgrade!  I love the quick response of the menu and apps.  I didn’t think they could get any better until I replaced the one in our room with that.  The headphone jack on the remote is incredibly handy.


I get the feeling that I am supposed to be writing. I have found a few places that allow me to be creative in that, but there’s not that many out there. As I’ve said before, I am going to try to write a little more frequently on here so that my ability to move my thoughts to words will happen more smoothly over time. Happy New Year!