Oct 272013
 

When we purchased our house a couple of years back I took the time to put in Z-wave switches around the house. I’ve dabbled in a few forms of home automation during that time (I’ll write more on that at some point), but the one I’ve stuck with is MiCasaVerde’s VERA system. It is awkward and occasionally very frustrating, but it is also one of the most powerful and cost effective systems on the market with a lot of community support.

VERA motion sensor scene needs

One of the more frustrating aspects of building scenes I’ve found over the years is when multiple points of automation are touching the same switches or sensors. Take the following example:

  • An outdoor z-wave motion sensor used which can’t detect light levels (Everspring SP103)
  • Z-wave light switch is already used for some scenes (turn on at dusk, off at 10:30 PM)
  • After 10:30 PM, motion sensor should turn light on for 5 minutes on motion trigger
  • Light should not trigger during the day

With the above example it is relatively easy to create a scene to turn the light on if motion is detected – the tricky bit is turning it off after certain periods of inactivity, but only between specific hours of the day.  Thankfully the community has found a workflow option – the VERA Countdown Timer.  Per the app description: “Make custom timers and control them with scenes. Timers can be started and cancelled on an event; timers generate their own event when they expire, and can trigger any other action.”

VERA Device configuration

Using the VERA Countdown timer plugin, create a countdown and set it for the idle time to turn off the light:

vera 5 minute motion timer

VERA Scenes

Sunset

This scene is scheduled at sunset, and turns the light on, regardless of motion.
vera motion start light

10:30 PM

This scene turns the light off, then arms the motion sensor.

vera timer light off scene 1 vera arm motion sensor

Motion activated light

This scene will start the 5 minute motion timer, and activate the light on any motion – but only when the sensor is armed:

vera motion start light vera motion start timer

Motion sensor tripped while device is armed

Turn off motion activated light

This scene will turn the motion activated light off once the timer has completed (no motion for 5 minutes in this case):

vera timer light off scene 1

timer completes while not muted

Sunrise

This scene will be scheduled for sunrise and will disarm (bypass in VERA terminology) the motion sensor:

vera bypass motion sensor

The arm/disarm functionality of the motion sensor allows for layers of control which are not available on many z-wave devices.  The addition of the timer allows setting further runtimes for events when it isn’t supported within the scene or device itself.  As I said earlier the VERA system can be very frustrating with awkward sequences and Rube Goldberg-like logic flows, but the benefit of the system is that there is usually a way to get what you want in the end.

Oct 242013
 

Last fall we took a road trip through some of the South West – I’ve finally got around to posting photos from the first part of that trip to Zion National Park. We were very lucky with the timing as some of the fall colors were starting and the trees were not yet bare. There was yellow colors in the canyon, mostly around the river. The upper road going east out of the canyon was a sea of gorgeous yellows and reds in the river washes, absolutely beautiful set against the tan and red rocks.

We caught a lovely sunset at Canyon Overlook Trail one eve and stayed late to watch the colors disappear. Everyone else at the overlook had already walked back so we quietly wound our way back on the trail in the dark. As we walked we noticed a single bighorn sheep walking on the ridge in front of us, framed by the rising moon. He seemed content to pose for photographs but just then we met some bighorn sheep not ten feet in front of us on the path. Both groups had been walking quietly so several bighorns were very surprised at how close we were and trampled off through the underbrush. The others jumped to a ledge above us and kept a close eye on us as we walked by. It always blows my mind how one can have these intimate experiences by following an easy walking path just a few miles from a major road.

Photos of Zion National Park in fall colors


Oct 202013
 

A month back I finally got around to getting back in the water for some diving. I had just splurged on a large purchase – the Nauticam underwater housing for my Olympus OMD EM5 camera. I just had the kit lens and housing in this instance, and no strobes or lights attached. Some first impressions:

  • It is heavy.  My previous experiences have been with plastic body housings and this has a very different feel underwater and above.  I’ll need to think about adding some floats to achieve neutral buoyancy.
  • It is well made.  Everything is very well fitted together and machined, no need to worry about anything breaking on it.  All buttons are accessible and easy to use.
  • I’m going to use the LCD most of the time.  The housing has the option of using either the large live view LCD screen or the smaller viewfinder screen.  Thus far I find it much easier to use the larger screen with a mask

Next steps I need to get it fitted out with a tray, arm, strobe, and probably a video light of some sort as I have an existing one which can be converted.


Oct 192013
 

I planted an eversweet pomegranate tree about a year ago in a very hot and sunny part of the yard. It seemed to enjoy it and the still small tree has produced 5 fruit this year. They are quite unique, I’ve never tasted any pomegranates like them – very sweet and delacate. The seeds are easy to extract and the juice doesn’t stain anything. I’m looking forward to more growth and harvests next year.

Eversweet Pomegranate fruit Eversweet Pomegranate fruit Eversweet Pomegranate fruit Young Eversweet Pomegranate tree