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When Your Doorbell Tells You Your UPS Has Died

While Steve and I were on vacation, something very curious happened. As you know we’ve been getting more and more into Home Automation, adding connected devices with reckless abandon lately. One of our early devices was our Ring Video Doorbell.

When we’re away, we find it comforting to watch the notifications when our Ring doorbell gets triggered. Sometimes it’s a big truck going by but usually it’s something useful like a package getting delivered. When I see a package on the doorstep, I sweet talk my lovely neighbor Naila into grabbing it for me before someone pinches it. She really loves helping me like this, I’m sure.

When we were in Hawaii last week, I was expecting the delivery of yet another package. Coincidentally it was yet another Ring device. We not only have the doorbell, we’ve also got the Floodlight cam that gives us a great, wide-angle view of the backyard. It’s fantastic because it not only works in daylight, it’s infrared, and you can turn on the floodlights. It has a mic and speakers so you can yell at someone sneaking around in the backyard, but there’s even a siren to scare them off if you so choose. It’s motion-triggered and for another $30/year we can store the video online for later viewing.

But that wasn’t enough. For Steve’s birthday he’d asked for a third device. Along the side of our house, we have a gate to the backyard, and it’s nice to have light there, so why not a floodlight that’s motion-triggered there too? But we don’t have a power source there, so Steve asked for the Ring Spotlight Cam Solar. It is battery powered but coupled with the solar panel he’ll never have to charge it. The Spotlight Cam will light Steve’s path when he takes the trash out at night. It will also give him a nice view of our trash cans, along with the gate, and give him the ability to holler at people in the side yard before they’re visible in the backyard.

I said that something interesting happened while we were gone. Our Ring devices told us that our UPS had died. It’s not quite as tricky as that sounds, but it was our early indicator.

When I knew the third Ring device was going to be delivered, I checked the front doorbell’s live view to see if it was there. Oddly the Ring Video Doorbell did not respond. Steve said he’d noticed that the day before but figured it was some sort of glitch we’d have to fix when we got home. Remember, Everything is Fiddly!

Even though we had a beautiful bay out in front of us swarming with turtles and Forbes to play with, I couldn’t resist trying to figure out what was wrong. We check our Wyzcams, which are on the IoT network, and they were all working fine. The Ring doorbell is on our good network supplied by our Netgear Nighthawk router. I’m not sure exactly why it’s not on the IoT network. If the Wyzcams were up, and the Ring was down, we needed to test another device on the good network to verify it was down.

Our first thought was to check our D-Link OMNA webcam that’s on the good network, because it points at a clock with a pendulum so you can tell if it’s live. But then we remembered that we gave that camera to our son Kyle and his fiancé Nikki so they could watch their new puppy Charlie while they were at work.

I was unable to access our PLEX server, which is on our Mac mini on the good network. That wasn’t a great test though because our PLEX server has a real attitude about making itself available to the outside network. Sometimes it’s just not in the mood!

Finally, we tried seeing if we could toggle one of our Hue lights on and off, and those too were not responding. Hue is HomeKit-compatible and is on the good network. So that cinched it, the good network was down.

I texted our house sitter Brandy (who must enjoy the heck out of our cameras watching things and us flicking lights on and off) to see if something odd was going on.

She said yes, there was a beeping noise in the room where she was sleeping. She stays in Lindsay’s old room which is where our Netgear router lives. But I couldn’t think that it would be making a beeping sound and a blinking blue light. The Netgear Nighthawk sits on top of two Drobos, which have lots of lights, but they show the status of their drives. It could have been one of them that was failing but I didn’t think it would beep. There’s also the Hue Hub with blue lights but it also doesn’t make sense as the beeping culprit.

Blinking UPSAnd then I remembered the Uninterruptible Power Supply, into which the two Drobos, the router, a switch, the printer, and the Hue hub are all plugged. I asked her if she could text me a picture of the device that was blinking. She did one better, she sent me a video and sure enough, it was our UPS. Because she had video and moved around a bit, I was able to see that the Drobos were both off as well.

She did a great job of testing different solutions, including unplugging everything and just plugging in one thing at a time. At one point she said the printer came on when she turned on the UPS, but that didn’t make sense so I dismissed it as a red herring. We decided to have her plug the router into the wall, and unplug everything else and shut off the beeping UPS and take care of it when we got home. I kept saying to Lindsay that the UPS had one job…to be uninterruptible.

From a bit of the Googles, it appears that the CyberPower AVR850 UPS might have dead batteries, which would explain the blinking and hollering it was doing. UPSs generally have two sets of plugs. One side provides battery during an outage along with surge protection. The other side is purely for surge protection with no battery backup. I plugged a lamp into the surge-only side and it worked just fine, but when I plugged it into the battery side the lamp didn’t work. Remember when Brandy said the printer came on and I said that didn’t make sense? Well not it does make sense, it must have been on the surge-only side.

We had considered replacing the batteries in the UPS, but then I had a flash of memory. I realized that we didn’t buy this UPS new, we bought it from Tim Verpoorten’s estate. That means it’s been working away at our house for 5 full years, and who knows how long when it was with Tim. I also thought about the diagnostics with the lamp and the printer.

If one or more of the batteries were dead, why didn’t the UPS simply pass house power through to the devices on that side? We know it was getting house power because the surge-only side was working, as demonstrated with the printer and lamp. The answer had to be that the controller that figures out which kind of power to send had actually failed. That theory would be in concert with the fact that the display was just blinking blue, not displaying information about the state of the batteries like it was supposed to.

We decided it was time to replace the UPS. The original was a CyberPower 850AWR, and since it had done a pretty good job for a long time, we went with CyberPower again. The new version of the 850VA UPS from CyberPower is only $106 on Amazon. But hey, the 1500VA version was only $145 so rather than do any math to see what we actually need, we went for the big girl UPS!

We accidentally got one great new feature with this new UPS. Our 2-year-old grandson Forbes is clearly going to be an engineer based on his interesting in plugging and unplugging things (he’s figured out coax connectors) and turning things on and off. More than once he has waddled over to the original UPS and promptly pushed the power button, causing a hard shutdown of both Drobos and our router. I’ll always wonder whether that had anything to do with it failing.

But the new and improved version of the CyberPower UPS is that you have to hold the power down for three seconds before it turns off! I wonder how soon Forbes will figure that out?

The bottom line is that our doorbell told us that our UPS had died. So that’s cool, right?

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NC #676 Polaroid ZIP Mobile Printer, Vitec Imaging, Hindenburg Journalist, mimoLive

Next week the SMR Podcast guys are in charge of the show (good luck with that) so there won’t be a live show till May 6th. This week we’ve got a review of the Polaroid ZIP Mobile Printer done on location in Belgium with Peter Boodts, we’ve got two interviews from NAB: Vice Imaging about their Manfrotto grip for the mobile videographer and Hindenburg Journalist, the software I use for recording the NosillaCast. Then I’ll tell you about a crazy tool called mimoLive from Boinx Software that Steve and I are using to produce the live NosillaCast.

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Can StepShot Guides Replace Clarify?

Two weeks ago on the NosillaCast I gave you an update on the future of Clarify. I said that there were no good alternatives. I downplayed the only alternative out there when I said:

I tried out StepShot from stepshot.net/… which is similar but in my opinion it is a very poor substitute. It’s also $12/month, or $119/year. Even as many tutorials as I do that’s a pretty steep price.

The fine folks at StepShot saw that and reached out to me. I got an email from Anastasia Yasevych, the marketing manager for StepShot. She asked if I’d give her the opportunity to demonstrate the tool to me. I told her I would be delighted to be proven wrong, and after calculating time zones between California and Estonia, we scheduled a Discord video screen sharing session.

Before you read or listen to this review, remember that we’re comparing a new tool to one that is in my top favorite apps of all time. It might even be in the number one slot. So if this tool sounds like it gets a B-, that’s a ringing sign of endorsement!

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CCATP #534 – Bart Busschots on GDPR

In another Lite version of Chit Chat Across the Pond, Bart agreed to come on and explain the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. This is a regulation that will take effect across the European Union starting on 25 May 2018. Bart first gives us an overview, outlining the main objectives, the 7 core principles, and explains how a regulation differs from a directive. From there he defines the terminology and concepts which are critical to understanding the regulation. He explains the legal grounds, what consent means and what rights individuals will have. Then he covers data processing objections, how automation decision making is affected, and people’s right to erasure. Finally, he goes through what kind of data breaches are mandatory to be disclosed and to whom. It’s a really impressive bit of work that the EU have done here, and Bart does a great job explaining it.

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Software Video Switching with mimoLive on NosillaCast Live

MimoLive in action for Live showLast week we had breakfast with Oliver and Achim Breidenbach from Boinx Software. They’d told me ages ago about their product called mimoLive which is a video switching application but I didn’t really think I needed it. Oliver suggested they make a house call to set it up and show us how it worked. Well, who am I to refuse tech support from the CEO of the company?

But first, the problem(s) to be solved, right?

Steve and I have been doing the Live NosillaCast for quite a long time now but there are some things we’ve long talked about improving. One of the biggest things is that we’d like to shift more of the production from me to Steve. I swear it’s not just me who wants that!

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NC #675 AssisTech SmartCane, LED Shoe Lights, Smartbox, Security Bits

In this week’s show I announce the new “Special Pages” button on podfeet.com (I know, exciting to have a new button, isn’t it?) We used mimoLive from Boinx Software for the first time making the live show, but I only tease you at the beginning that I’ll explain what that is. I promise, I’ll tell you all about it next week! We’ve got two last interviews from CSUN: the AssisTech SmartCane and Smartbox for those with speaking challenges. I’ll tell you how I have even MORE blinky lights on me when I go for a walk thanks to Bart, and then we’ll have Security Bits where Bart gives us an update on the Cambridge Analytica/Facebook kerfuffle, WebAuthn, and more security news and information.

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Polaroid ZIP Mobile Printer by Peter Boodts

Polaroid ZIP Mobile PrinterWhile Steve and I were in France on vacation, we took a day trip over to Belgium to meet up with friends. It all started when Helma from the Netherlands pointed out that it was only an hour and a half drive from her to get to Brussels and the same time for us to take a bullet train from Paris.

I’ve been trying to get Helma together with our crazy friend Knightwise and his lovely wife Nyana from Belgium so this looked like a great excuse. Well, we couldn’t go to Brussels and not see good friend of the show Peter Boodts.

When we got to Brussels, it was 27F outside and some of us (particularly Knightwise) were not adequately clothed for the weather, so we kept stopping in coffee shops and restaurants every time we got chilly. Steve and I actually ate 7 times that day.

Anyway, while in one of the restaurants, Peter said he had a product review for us. He showed us the Polaroid ZIP Mobile Printer. I recorded his review on my iPhone and shortly after Peter and I started to talk, Knightwise decided to record it on video. The full interview is a bit longer in audio where you’ll hear the voices of Knightwise, Nyana, Helma, and Steve introduce themselves and we do a bit of silliness. That full-length audio interview will play in the audio podcast.

Here’s the video from Peter’s product review where you can see the product in action. You can find Peter on Twitter at https://twitter.com/peterboodts

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CCATP #533- Bart Busschots on Choosing a DNS Resolver

In this “Lite” version of Chit Chat Across the Pond (within a NosillaCastaway’s definition of Lite), Bart teaches us about DNS Resolvers and helps give us the information to choose the right one for us. To get us there he starts by explaining the background technologies. He explains DNS and how there’s two kinds of servers, he explains DNS Name resolution and why caching is important, and the security problems (and solutions) of DNS. Then he explains how third-party DNS providers can solve some of these problems. He explains their motivations which will inform your own decision. Finally (at about the 1 hour mark) he walks through the solutions offered by OpenDNS, Google, Quad9 and Cloudflare. I loved this episode and you can tell Bart really loves talking about DNS.

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Safer Nighttime Exercise with LED Shoe Clip Lights

In January I wrote a post entitled Nite Ize Taglit Might Save Your Life. I explained that I was nearly hit by a car twice while walking Tesla in the early evening hours. I figured that I might live a bit longer if I lit myself up with blinky lights. At Bart’s recommendation, I bought the Taglits from Nite Ize and I’ve had several people actually stop their cars to tell me that they saw me because of them.

But Bart had an idea for yet another addition to my ensemble. He bought a pair of LED shoe clip lights for when he’s cycling at night. He was so pleased with their effectiveness that he bought me a pair and sent them across the pond. The design is quite simple. It’s a C-shaped band that clamps around the upper heel of your shoe, and it has a big button you push to turn on the LED. The LED itself goes all around the C so you’ve got a big area of your shoe lit up when they’re on.

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