Category Archives: Fun

Recommended Tech Podcasts

Microphone photo

Here’s what I’m currently listening to when I can. They’ve been piling up a little bit now that my commute is so short, but last week I had a round-trip drive from San Jose to Fresno so really got caught up :) See last year’s updates at
Best Technical Podcasts.

.NET Rocks! [rss]

Hosted by Carl Franklin and Richard Campbell, this is probably the podcast I’ve listened to the longest. As their site says, the shows “range from introductory information to hardcore geekiness.” In particular I really like their “geek out” episodes, most recently: Supersonic Aircraft Geek Out

Startups For the Rest of Us [rss]

Continues to be a favorite of mine with lots of discussion around bootstrapped startups, with updates from hosts Rob Walling and Mike Taber and occasional interviews.

Hanselminutes [rss]

Still one of my favorites. Scott is really a great interviewer and has a real variety of guests & topics. Recent interesting episode (with a sweet tag line): Failure – “What if you fake it and don’t make it?” with Kronda Adair

Giant Robots Smashing into other Giant Robots Podcast [rss]

Ben Orenstein and Chris Toomey talk about design, code and marketing decisions for a couple of thoughtbot SaaS products.

Bootstrapped Web [rss]

Brian Casel and Jordan Gal give weekly updates on their own “bootstrapped” web projects, with occasional guest interviews.

The Changelog [rss]

All open source, all the time. Recent (awesome!) episode: The Changelog #200: JavaScript and Robots with Raquel VĂ©lez (rockbot)

RunAs Radio [rss]

Hosted by Richard Campbell (also co-host .Net Rocks!), this podcast is more IT-focused rather than developer-focused. Recent interesting episode: The Infrastructure Release Pipeline with Steve Murawski and Michael Greene

Software Engineering Daily [rss]

I found this one when I heard that Tim Berglund would be talking about Cassandra and have stuck around for a nice variety of technical interviews.

Photo credit:
heil pr40 in studio ozdorp by Peet Sneekes (Flickr)

Nest for Sprinklers: OpenSprinkler

My friend Jeff Cable was one of the early adopters of the Nest thermostat. At the time we talked a lot about the obvious next step of supporting home sprinkler/irrigation controls. Especially here in California (where we are in a pretty serious drought), having better control over irrigation (not to mention the remote access) seems like the logical next step.

Rather than waiting around for Nest, I just bought and installed an OpenSprinkler. OpenSprinkler started out as a hobby kit for makers and they still sell it a variety of ways, from kits to completed units. The software is open source as well.

There is also the possibility that if OpenSprinkler can get certified by the EPA WaterSense program, that rebates from water agencies could be possible (similar to low-flow toilets, energy-saving water heaters, etc.). Getting certified is still on the to-do list according to this OpenSprinkler update from Feb 2015.

Hardware

Replacing my old Lawn Genie controller with the OpenSprinkler controller was really simple. All the cabling is compatible (assuming you have the standard 24 VAC controllers), so it’s just a matter of reconnecting everything to the OpenSprinkler. You’ll also need to connect to your home network with an Ethernet cable. (The OpenSprinkler itself does not have Wi-Fi.)

Here’s a comparison of the old Lawn Genie and the new OpenSprinkler:

Photo of Lawn Genie sprinkler controller
My original 20+ year old Lawn Genie controller
Photo of OpenSprinkler controller
My new OpenSprinkler installed

Software

The more interesting part is the software which is easy to set up from a web browser. You can give your zones nice names like “front lawn” or “back roses” so you don’t have to remember zone numbers. Programming the schedule is pretty straightforward as well. If you attach a rain sensor, the OpenSprinkler can also operate in a smart weather mode where it decreases the amount of watering based on local rain or weather forecasts from Weather Underground.

Once you have the software configured, I recommend downloading one of the OpenSprinkler mobile apps so you can control everything from around the house (via Wi-Fi). For me this was one of the best use cases: while I’m out adjusting sprinklers I can remotely turn each zone on or off. (I know, the exciting life of a homeowner!)

With all of the above you’ll have mobile access, but only on your home wireless network. You can also configure your home network to allow access externally from anywhere (depending on your comfort level for setting this up and exposing to the internet in general). Now you can have remote access just like you can for your Nest thermostat :)

Screenshot of OpenSprinkler mobile app
The mobile app interface, including local weather

Yahoo! Open Hack Day Videos

Reminiscing about the good old days at Yahoo, I’m enjoying watching again the “Hackumentary” movie that Ricky Montalvo made for the 2008 Open Hack day at Yahoo:

What if the world’s largest online media corporation opened its doors to “hackers” allowed them access to some of its most important features to see what they could create?

That’s what happened in September 2008, when over 300 developers descended on Yahoo!’s campus for an event that is every coder’s dream.

This first Yahoo! short film documentary will present the intense, fun and real-life Hack culture as illustrated by the Open Hack Day attendees. The short will show the lives of the participating hackers as they hack and compete in the ultimate in developer/coder showdown, discovering not only their obsessive “hack” habits and personalities, but also share what the developer community is all about.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4