This week, I’ve been roaming the Colorado wilderness with 250 of my closest/unknown friends, participating in the second annual Fjällräven Classic, USA. I participated in the inaugural event last year, which conveniently fell during my 3-month sabbatical from work. At the time, I said that no matter what else was going on, I would definitely be attending again in 2017. As promised, when the 2017 Classic was announced, I immediately grabbed tickets, and this time even talked Erika into going.
I recently spoke at a small conference we put on in Detroit. I talked about The Future of the Web, in the context of data ownership, and proprietary vs open platforms. It was the first time I’ve done a talk like this without slides of any kind, so I actually wrote out the whole thing (below). The live version was a little different, as you can hear in the audio (sorry it’s a bit echo-y):
On Sunday, Erika and I went on a training hike, to start getting into shape for the Fjallraven Classic. This year it’s over 30 miles of backpacking within 3 days, and we’re both a bit nervous about being able to keep up the pace! We went up to White Ranch Park, and ended up hiking about 8 miles (Belcher Hill, Longhorn, Shorthorn, Longhorn, Whippletree, Belcher Hill), with roughly 20lb packs. We went pretty slow, but I think we did OK considering it was our first longer (and loaded) hike of the season. We’ll definitely need to get a few more in between now and the end of June, along with a bunch of basic walking/hiking training as well. The elevation (10,000 ft+) for the Classic is going to be rough, even for us Mile-Highers.
According to Fitbit, I did just over 21,000 steps and burned 4,500 calories. My heart rate peaked up around 140bpm briefly.
I’ve completed the migration of dentedreality.com.au (along with all my other domains, excluding this one) to a new dedicated virtual server with Media Temple. Mad props to them, they’ve been great in helping me handle some pieces of the process, which has gone relatively smoothly. Things I’m looking forward to on the new host include:
- Working with Plesk Onyx
- Trying out Let’s Encrypt 🔐
- PHP 7 😍
- Hopefully consolidating and simplifying some things
This site (beau.blog) is now my main blogging/writing space, with Dented Reality being more of a full archive of my digital footsteps.
I’ve just released version 1.8 of both Keyring, and the Keyring Social Importers. This version includes a new service file, and an accompanying importer, which allows you to import content from a Jetpack-powered WordPress site, using the WordPress.com REST API. That means any site hosted on WordPress.com, or any self-hosted site with the Jetpack plugin installed. There are also a few key fixes for the Twitter and LinkedIn services/importers, so it’s a nice update.
The new importer will pull across the entire content of posts, including tags. Similar to the Instapaper importer, it attempts to avoid duplicate content issues by marking pages as
noindex if they come from imported content.
This is another piece of the puzzle required for me to create a complete archive of my digital footprints over on Dented Reality, now that I’m blogging here. This post should be imported over there automatically within an hour.
Note that currently the importer doesn’t sideload any media items (will add that soon) or support geo data (again, I’ll add that when I get a chance).
Check it out, and please use responsibly!
Now that I own my own house, and some of the technologies involved are a bit more stable, I’ve gotten into the idea of home automation a bit more. Here’s a quick run down of my current configuration.
At the center of most things, I have a wink hub (first generation). I configure as much as possible through that, since it simplifies interacting with them if they’re all available in one place.
From there, I have 2 Schlage Connect deadbolts (house and garage doors), which are both programmed with the same set of user codes (has to be done manually). It’s nice to be able to control codes from within the wink app, vs using the on-pad controls.
To control lights, we have 3 rooms converted over to Lutron Caseta light switches (so far, I’d like to do a few more). This makes it easy to control an entire circuit (all 3 rooms are controlling either 3 or 6 bulbs, so they’d be expensive to convert using individual smart bulbs). They’re super easy to install, and you don’t need their hub thing if you have the wink, which is compatible. I also have 3 iHome Smartplugs, which plug into an outlet, and then let you plug in any standard lamp/appliance, and control it. I don’t love the Smartplugs, and have had some trouble with them dropping their connections, but when they work they’re fine.
Separately, I also have 2 LIFX bulbs, which can be controlled directly, so they are in a couple of lamps that could otherwise be controlled via Smartplugs (I got these bulbs from their Kickstarter way back).
To control all of the above, I actually have everything configured in both an Amazon Echo, and a Google Home. Redundancy FTW, and it’s fun to experiment with each platform.
Technically, also connected to the wink hub, we have some Nest Outdoor security cameras, which have been really fun to play with. I’ve even hooked up a system to automatically take snapshots, which is interesting for comparing seasonal shade profiles for gardening purposes.
Apart from those power/control/security devices, we’ve also current got an Apple TV, a Chromecast (integrates really nicely with the Google Home), and I use Automatic in my truck.
I’ve played around a bit with configuring shortcuts and “robots” (automations), but really haven’t found many that are that useful to be honest. Probably the best one is one that just turns on our kitchen light when we open the back door (which opens basically into the kitchen). I think one of the biggest problems is that I don’t have a great system for handling “presence”, which needs to take me and Erika into account. Without that, anything I automate based on my presence is likely to just be an annoyance for her if she happens to be at home when I’m not (or vice versa).
Areas that I’d be curious to look into automating would be thermostat control (long story as to why I haven’t done this already), external temperature/precipitation, combined with irrigation, and possibly window coverings.
Last year, Erika and I planted our first ever vegetable garden. We quickly became obsessed with it, and this year we’ve upgraded from 2 beds with approximately 50 square feet, to a total of 6 beds, with over 285 square feet (more than 5x the growing space)! We’re pretty psyched to see what we can produce this year, and will be trying a bunch of new vegetables, in addition to more of the varieties we liked from last year.
Here in Denver (as with most areas that have hard winters), one of the most important dates for growing is our last frost date. Typically for us, that’s May 2nd. Most of our planting needs to be done relative to that date (either before or after, a certain amount of time). We decided that this weekend was when we would get in the bulk of what we’re growing (cooler season crops), so we had a planting party.
Since I’m a bit OCD, I like to plan things out pretty heavily, and figuring out the logistics of when to plant things and where/how is pretty fun. I now have plans in my head for a calendar-generator, where you can tell it where you are, and what you want to plant, and it’ll generate a calendar for you, telling you when to do everything 🙂
In the meantime, I’m manually creating garden maps and planting schedules, which will have to do for this year at least.
I’ll be sure to post some updates once things are growing, and hopefully overflowing their beds.
I’ve been trying to make small improvements to the Keyring Social Importers package (and People & Places) that I maintain, and have made a number of them over the last few weeks. Here are some details of recent updates which you may have missed:
- Improved the labels being used for each taxonomy, so that you don’t get random mentions of “tags” in the WordPress UI.
- Improved the
add_place_to_post()method so that you can add multiple Places to a single Post.
- Now exposing both the
placestaxonomies via the REST API.
- Added a filter so that you can easily (and globally) disable downloading of full content for Instapaper articles.
- Made it easy to inject custom CSS for a specific importer.
- Added a Nest Camera service and importer. Including recent updates, it will download a snapshot from the specified camera(s) during the hour indicated, auto-tag it using the location of the camera, and also associate it with a Place if People & Places is co-installed.
- The Instagram importer now handles video posts properly, and will download the full video and embed it into your posts. Bundled a reprocessor to fix old posts, which would have previously been handled as image posts.
- Also made the Instagram importer link up People mentioned in captions (not just those who are properly tagged as being in a post).
- Fixed a bug in the Twitter importer which was mangling newlines. Added a reprocessor to fix it in old posts as well.
- Now exposing where a post was imported from in the REST API.
- Added Places support to the TripIt importer, which associates each post with Places for each airport flown through on that trip.
Keyring Social Importers has been updated in the WordPress.org plugin directory (version 1.7, or get it from Github) and you can get the latest version of People & Places from Github (still not an “official” plugin yet).
You can see most of them in action on my site, Dented Reality, which uses them to aggregate most of my online social activity. The People & Places data is not directly exposed yet, but you can see it in the REST API output.
Towards the end of last year, I jumped on the Kickstarter bandwagon for a new backpack. They blew their goal away, and it turned out to be a really professional release that went smoothly, and delivered on time. Major kudos to the folks at Peak Design.
I had previously been using a free backpack that was one of the swag items we gave away to some of our VIP clients, but wanted something a bit bigger, and more comfortable. The 20L version of the Everyday Backpack has thus far proven to be exactly that, and much more.
Let’s start with the very few things that I can fault this bag on. Here are the only ones I could come up with:
- I find that the shoulder straps self-adjust/slide out of position on their own sometimes. So basically I’ll put the backpack on, and find that I need to tighten the shoulder straps (pull down on the ends). Not a big deal at all, but a minor annoyance on an otherwise pretty flawless bag.
- Perhaps because of how I’m using the dividers, I find myself opening side pockets constantly to get things out. Again, not a big deal, and to be honest, I could probably reduce this by re-organizing the interior a bit, but the reality is that the side pockets are marginally awkward to get into once you put the bag down (e.g. you probably end up laying it flat on a desk or something to do it).
- There is a small reflector strip at the bottom/front of the bag, but it doesn’t seem to reflect all that well, so I don’t know how visible it makes you as a cyclist, for example.
- The side pockets are relatively small, so you can’t for example fit a full-sized Nalgene bottle in there, but this one from Miir fits pretty perfectly.
Things I Love
With that out of the way, let’s move on to all the things I really like about it!
- I really like the size of the 20L. It’s just right to carry everything I could possibly want in a day, without giving me enough room to tote around a bunch of junk that I don’t need.
- The materials all seem really high quality, especially the custom hardware (clips etc). The fabric is a weird, futuristic-feeling stuff, and the waterproofing seems to work pretty well (already got snowed/melted on once).
- The zipper locking loops, while not useful all the time, are a pretty nifty addition, and it’s impressive how they serve dual-purpose with the external load-straps. Speaking of which…
- The external load straps are a great idea, and surprisingly useful. I’ve already used them a few times for carrying a jacket/sweater after needing it in the morning, and then finding myself too hot in the afternoon.
- I really love the shoulder straps, and their pivoting joint to the main bag. I find them perfectly comfortable, no matter how much weight I’ve put in the bag.
- All the magnets are such a subtly-stylish way of handling closures, and make this thing feel like it’s from the future. Side pockets, base/front panel, interior pocket. Fwap.
- At first I thought the top + side handles were overkill, but I’ve come to really appreciate them. They feel sturdy, and are easy to grab from any angle.
- The luggage pass-through has already proven really handy, especially when combined with the side pockets (one of which becomes the “top” pocket, when you have the backpack mounted on the handle of a piece of rolling luggage. I travel a fair bit, so it’s good to be able to keep things organized when on the move.
- The interior dividers are awesome! I thought they were kind of ridiculous when I was looking at the specs of the bag, and since I’m not a photographer I had assumed that I’d just pull them out and forget about them. Instead, I figured I’d give them a shot, and absolutely love them. They are the main form of organization for me within the bag, and I’ve tinkered around with flipping panels up/down, re-arranging them to create different sized compartments to suit different needs. Absolutely brilliant.
- I kept all the external load straps on there, although I’ve mainly used the bottom 2 so far.
- I have the key fob carry still attached (with the little disc on my keychain), but only really use it when I travel (normally my keys live in my pocket).
- I have the waist strap tucked into the side pockets, and don’t normally use it. Maybe if I find myself riding a bike a lot with the backpack (it’s winter, so that hasn’t happened yet), then I’ll use it more.
- I use the chest strap pretty regularly, since I walk a lot with the pack on, and that helps distribute things, and make it more comfortable.
- I’ll often carry a 13″ MacBook Pro, adaptor, 9.7″ iPad Pro in a keyboard case, a bunch of cables, and a few notebooks, plus a bunch of smaller things (plugs, memory cards, spare batteries, etc).
Overall, I think this is my favorite daily-carry/work backpack I’ve had thus far, and I’ve had a bunch. This is a great bag, and I’m looking forward to using it for years. Or at least until some other new fancy bag comes along 😉