Home Automation ... Part 1

I've started building my own Home Automation system based around a Raspberry Pi 2 running Windows 10 IoT.

I've got a 800x480 7" Touch Screen TFT (from AdaFruit) for the interface, and a AeoTec z-Stick for providing me access to Z-Wave devices (for the actual automation piece!). It was a bit interesting finding components that actually work with IoT edition, but I was pleasantly surprised to find the screen "just works" although I did need to borrow a Windows machine to switch it into Digitizer mode to get rid of the virtualised mouse cursor.

I just now need to brush off my XAML skills.

Good Customer Service - customer no longer always right?

I'm sure it wasn't that long ago that companies treated customers with respect - and went by the saying "The Customer is Always Right". 

Well it doesn't seem that this is the case any more after a few different retail experiences - I can see why people are starting to do everything online if they are anything to go by.

My most recent "poor" experience is with one of the largest technology companies on the high street. Apple.

I purchased a high end (as in top of the line but one) Macbook Pro Retina 15 online. And had the machine for a week. All was well.
Then it developed a hardware fault. After discussing it with a technical support representative, it was decided that the best course of action was to swap the machine in-store due to the fact it was so new, developed a fault, and that returning it via courier was going to be awkward (my current situation with my son means I'm not home much ... and never during the week at working hours!). And so a 110 mile round trip the Apple store began.
The Apple store in question, Newcastle Metro Centre, didn't have my exact model in stock - but had the marginally newer one, with its grand total of 0.1Ghz faster CPU.
But because I had purchase the machine online they were unable to swap it for this newer SKU. Nor were they able to take it in to return it to Apple for repair on my behalf. All they could do was to "attempt to repair it in-store". Note the word attempt in there. Not overly spectacular considering the cost of the machine in the first place, nor what the technical support rep said, or the fact that Apple seem to make a deal of saying they offer "excellent customer service". Perhaps they do, if you purchase in store - it seems that if this had been the case the machine would have been swapped no questions asked. 

So how do Apple justify this difference between in store and online? They trade as different companies. One for Apple Retail, and one for Apple online - so why do they get away with trading under the same brand? It all seems like it is intended to just confuse members of the public, and I have to admit I did find it confusing - they are the first company that I've come across that have this disparate split between online vs retail.

We have Pi!

My Raspberry Pi turned up today!


First task for this little thing is to work as a buffering syslog server (using rsyslogd if you are interested).

Nokia Unlocking..

I've ordered myself a JAF box so that I can unlock a few Nokia phones ... so, if anyone wants a Nokia unlocked, drop me an e-mail - I'll unlock any phones that I can for £5 + Postage :)  Note, this is hardware unlock, and as such, can NOT be done remotely.

OpenMoko Launched

The OpenMoko based opensource mobile phone has now launched, and is available to Developers to experiment with.


I am terribly tempted, but at this point in time am managing to prevent myself from offering up my credit card details. :)


What an exciting life I lead! The highlight of my week so far has been the SD memory card slot on my PDA decided to go wrong (and that occurred this morning!!). Mind you, was my own fault. Never try and force a memory card. End result was some surgery to straighten the pins (why do they put bloody metal shielding around pins, when if you bend them you end up having to cut it off to get to the pins?? Anyway, works once again. Lesson learnt.

Electronics Graveyard

Well, yesterday my APC UPS (an aging SmartUPS 1000I) decided enough was enough. To be fair, it had been reporting a battery problem for the last 6 months. I came to the conclusion it was NOT the batteries when smoke came out the side - it was then I decided it might be worth replacing it :) I found a Belkin Universal 1000VA UPS at the good people of Misco - which was promptly delivered less than 24hrs after I placed the order. I'm probably going to do a comparison of the two in a few days - the APC beats the Belkin on some things, and on others it is the reverse.... For one, the Belkin software actually handles network shutdown a LOT better than PowerChute ever did (hence me writing my own utilities!). And they have a Linux version.

New geek toys are coming :)

Now, just to set the record straight, I don't own any Lego. None at all.

However, this post caught my eye - not because it is marked up as a geek toy, but for the technical specs (for example, the 32-bit uC) - honest.

Go check it out - seems Lego might take over the work! [Linkto Wired Article]


Well, I couldn't be bothered to look for my Orange box that had the warranty paperwork in. So ... I cracked it open. Turns out there is a small resister that lurks (actually there are four) on the USB connection. Appears two current limit on the charging side; and that's were I found a problem - one was toast! A quick test of its companion, I was rather amused to find we have similar ones at work :) Even better, I managed to wedge a replacement in - I'm starting to be glad that I've got the 738 unit now!! Anyway, mobiles back. I hope.