So long Apple. Hello Retirement

Yesterday was my last day at Apple and I’m calling it a day on a 30+ year career (HP and Apple). I’ve been very fortunate to work in an area that I have really enjoyed (Software Engineer). I’ve also been fortunate to work with some amazing people over the years. I very much look forward to moving into this next phase of my life with my lovely wife doing.. well.. who knows what.

I’m definitely going to continue to program, and folks can always see what I’m up to at my Github Profile

Aphantasia and Reye’s Syndrome

So I’m reading the article Aphantasia: Ex-Pixar chief Ed Catmull says ‘my mind’s eye is blind’ and my mind wandered.. heh.. Aphantasia, Pixar/Disney.. Phantasia was their first animated movie… Then, I hit the Wikipedia article about Aphantasia, I was dumbstruck.

Quick aside for folks who don’t know me. I had Reyes Syndrome when I was 17 years old. I will not go into great detail here, but suffice it to say, it’s a miracle that I’m alive and have my mental faculties.

Back to Aphantasia; the Wikipedia article describes the test for it like this:

This questionnaire invites the person to visualize a series of images (a relative, a rising sun, a shop they know, etc.) and rank how vivid the image is, from “perfectly clear and lively as real seeing” (5 points) to “no image at all, you only know that you are thinking of the object” (1 point). It is categorized as aphantasia if they score a total of 30 or less across 16 questions.”

I got sick to my stomach reading this, it was as if somebody reached across 35 years and dropped me right back in my 17 year old self after I awoke from the coma and said.. “oh.. guess what.. you have aphantasia”. I literally lost all images of my life before 17..   but now, for some reason, it feels oddly comforting to know it’s a real *THING*, like I’m not crazy for not remembering things before Reyes.

My Home Automation Setup

I’ve been delaying writing anything about my current home automation setup because I’m never really completely satisfied with it. Well, that’s been the case since I started to dabble almost two decades ago. With that out, I’ll use this post to just give an overview, and possible dive deeper into individual components at another time.

Starting with Insteon, most of my frequently used switches are Insteon. The reliability has been solid, and from what I’ve heard/read, smart switches are a mixed bag whichever technology you choose. The biggest complaint that I have is that they are quite large and really fill an electrical box, so installation/repair can be a pain. They integrate with openHAB through the Insteon PLM (USB)

Other devices each have their own integrations with openHAB (Harmony, Tesla, MyQ Garage Doors, etc…) and all the bindings actually work quite well.

OpenHAB: This is the heart of the system. Open Source, and a multitude of well-maintained integrations are key. The idea of using a system like openHAB is that you end up with a single point of access for every possible “smart” thing you have, and might get in the future. There might be times where you get something that doesn’t have an integration, but typically, writing your own, or using a shell script integration will do the trick. In that sense, it kind of ‘future proofs’ your home automation.

One note about HomeKit. I *REALLY* like being able to control my devices with Siri, so the HomeKit integration with openHAB is fantastic, but can be buggy at times. I think at some point there are just too many moving parts to get the whole thing working perfectly, but it does work most of the time, and when it does, it adds the finishing touch and makes all the technology behind it disappear.

StreamDeck Plugin for Keyboard Maestro integration

I’m a huge Keyboard Maestro fan, and I have been wanting to use the StreamDeck for integration with Keyboard Maestro. Elgato recently released their SDK for StreamDeck which makes this kind of integration possible. I know I can just use ‘buttons’ straight in KM, but a plugin will provide so much more flexibility.

StreamDeck from Elgato

I have created a Python plugin that allows you to specify a Keyboard Maestro Macro UUID in the properties inspector, and pressing the button will run the macro.

I have a lot of things on my todo list for this plugin, primarily to allow two-way communication with KM for status, icon updates, etc…

But for now, this is a good starting point.

NOTE: This is NOT a redistributable plugin as it requires a Python installation with specific packages, or a virtual environment. But it’s a great start for tinkerers.

What’s new

As you might have noticed, it’s been a while since I’ve updated my blog. Back towards the end of 2009, I made a job switch. The first couple years at my new job were demanding enough that a lot of my side projects dropped to the wayside. I couldn’t stay away from tinkering with things for long though, mostly my attention has moved to automation, home, Mac, and iOS automation. I thought this would also be a good time to start the blog back up again.

MythTV and Apple – my saga

Over the past year I’ve been gradually migrating all my hardware from home-built linux boxes to Macs (Mac Mini’s specifically). I’m still keeping my separate MythTV frontend/backend setup. I’m using a Mini as my backend in the office, and a Mini as my frontend in the family room. I’m going to do a couple different posts, describing my frontend configuration, and my backend configuration. Each has it’s own interesting twists, but overall, I wanted to get back into my blog, and try and help folks who might be going down the same path (going Apple).

Next post… my frontend.

Myth Mac just got promoted

My MythTV frontend on a Mac Mini experiment just moved up to a new level. My downstairs, full-time, home-built, ubuntu frontend died. The mac just got promoted from a part-time upstairs frontend, to a full time downstairs big tv frontend. I have been a bit hesitant really promoting the mythtv on a mac experiment, but now that I’ve had it downstairs and up front for about a week, I can say that I’m very impressed. Here are some of the things I like about the mini:

  • Small
  • Silent
  • I can run far more useful applications with the same remote as mythtv than I could with my Linux box
  • did i say small?

The third bullet (all the applications I can run) deserves some attention, and I’m going to do a separate post on just that topic. Here are a few things I don’t like (so far…)

  • I haven’t been able to resize the screen to non-native resolutions without getting skippy playback. Which means.. overscan.. and lots of it.
  • The mac remote has 6 buttons (3 are overloaded, so there are really 9). That’s enough for 95% of the everyday use, but not for more advanced tasks.

As I mentioned above, the possibilities are broad and wide when it comes to now integrating MythTV with other Mac multimedia apps. Here is a short list.

  • Hulu Desktop
  • Frontrow
  • Itunes
  • Netflix Watch Now
  • Better games

As I begin putting all this together into one monster media machine, I’ll make sure to document the pitfalls, how-to’s etc… along the way for anybody who wants to go down this path.

One Trillion bytes

A co-worker recently sent me a link to an interesting site about what a trillion dollars looks like. A trillion dollars is cool and all, but since this is a technology blog, I thought I’d take a cut at:

What does one TRILLION bytes look like?

All this talk about “google” and “data”…

A billion bytes…

A hundred billion bytes…

Eight hundred billion bytes…

One TRILLION bytes…

What does that look like? I mean, these various numbers are tossed around like the amount of data stored on bill gates secret linux file server, so I thought I’d take Acorn out for a test drive and try to get a sense of what exactly a trillion bytes looks like.

We’ll start with a 720k floppy. Currently the largest, most useless physical media device in general circulation. Most everyone has seen them, anybody who remembers Billy Beer have owned them. Guaranteed to lose data wherever they go.

5.5 720k floppy

A box of fur covered floppies is sits nicely on a desk and contains 7,200 Kbytes!. Fits in your pocket awkwardly but is more than enough for day or two of shamefully decadent ‘image downloading’.

Box O' Floppies

Let’s put all these thousands of bytes into perspective, shall we?

One floppy

Believe it or not, this next little pile is 9,676,800 bytes (150 5.25″ floppies). You could stuff that into your go bag and walk around with it.

10 Meg

While a measly 9,676,800 bytes looked a little unimpressive, 96,768,000 bytes is a little more respectable. It fits neatly into 4 contiguous 8×10 standard cubicles

100 Meg

And One Gigabyte… now we’re really getting somewhere… enough to store over 8 minutes of high-definition television.

1 Gig baby

Next we’ll look at ONE TRILLION bytes. This is that number we’ve been hearing so much about. What is a trillion bytes? Well, it’s a million million. It’s a thousand billion. It’s a one followed by 12 zeros.

You ready for this?

It’s pretty surprising.

Go ahead…

Scroll down…

Ladies and gentlemen… I give you 1 trillion bytes

c'mon... what were you expecting

Notice those platters are triple stacked baby.

So the next time you hear someone toss around the phrase “dude… I just got a new 1 Terabyte drive…”… that’s all they’re talking about.

TextMate OpenSong Bundle

Our Music Worship Team at church uses OpenSong, opensource Worship Planning software, but one of my frustrations has been that it’s music editor is not the best. I’ve also been getting a bit deeper into TextMate; more specifically, bundles. I’ve recently put together an OpenSong bundle which primarily allows for better syntax highlighting, but also has a ‘new file’ snippet for creating a new OpenSong file.

It’s a work in progress, so as I modify it, I’ll be sure to keep it updated.

Streaming HD wirelessly

As I had mentioned in a preview post, I’ve been working on a mac mini MythTV frontend. The only current issue I have is streaming HD content over 802.11n. My first attempt worked great as long as I didn’t move the mini to a different room than the router. I’m learning a bit more about wireless networking as I go along here, essentially, my ‘old’ router operates in the 2.4 Ghz range which is significantly more crowded than the 5 Ghz range, so I’m going to test out a 5Ghz router this weekend, and see what I can get.

Another possibility is to transcode the HD to SD (which is the quality I would be viewing it anyway) and stream that. I don’t want to outright replace my HD content (I still watch it in HD downstairs afterall), so I might set up a User Job to transcode it, and place an entry in the MythTV database for a ‘second’ show.