PSA: Don’t buy Synology with Atom CPUs

Expensive mistake that their site encourages: only the models (typically the ‘plus’ ones) with Intel CPUs can run Docker and the much-improved btrfs. My DS1817, despite having 10gigabit Ethernet and eight drive slots, cannot and that’s an expensive and frustrating mistake.

Their site ellides this when shopping so, caveat emptor, and save yourself money.


iPhone or iPad on Ethernet

This falls between stupid party trick or total clutch move. Two apple dongles plus a lightning cable and your iDevice is online at 100megabits.

Part numbers are A1277 (usb Ethernet) and A1619 (lightning to usb). I’ve heard of sysadmin uses for this, you could combine with the Prompt app for ssh for example.

recommendations Weather

Backyard weather station

I love sensors. Measure all the things! Home power generation/consumption, air quality, CO2, airplanes flying overhead, infrared, ultraviolet, RF… yah.

So here’s the latest, which I’m immediately adding to the “you should buy” list:

Weather station, installed in my back yard.

That’s the WeatherFlow Tempest Weather System, and it’s awesome. Briefly:

  • Smartphone and web-based displays
  • Simple network protocol, so there’s lots of open source to capture data
  • Innovative, clever sensors – ultrasonics for wind speed and direction, piezo for rainfall. No moving parts!
  • Solar powered
  • Works with or without the internet
  • Also has cool stuff like a lightning sensor (useless in San Diego)
  • Calibrated to lux and watts per square meter
  • Reports UV levels too
  • Precise temp/humidity of course.

Here’s a picture from the vendor:

Basically a does-everything solution. I found it via this TechHive review and got one ordered. It took a few weeks to arrive, but having just installed it, like I say, I’m already a fan. You have to pay more ($329) for the better tech, but having bought and had fail any number of $50 to $100 ‘weather stations,’ I’m ready to buy it once and enjoy it.

You can see my data right here on the web. Buy your own from the vendor here.

Covid-19 recommendations

1080p webcam for Zoom for $40

Fact 1:In the Covid-19 pandemic, we’re all on Zoom et al quite a lot.

Fact 2: Apple webcams are 720p resolution and quite low quality.

Fact 3: Nerds want to be helpful.

Consequence one: Good webcams are sold out universally.

Consequence two: The people behind the cheap and awesome WiFi webcam brand Wyze have written custom firmware to convert a wireless security camera into a very decent USB 1080p webcam. And it’s free.

Hardware requirements

  1. Wyze webcam v2 – vendor, or Amazon. $26 bucks as of today.
  2. 8GB or so micro SD card. You might have one around if you use Raspberry Pi. I bought this two-pack of overkill 32GB cards, since that’s a useful size for Pi project. $14.
  3. USB3 A to A cable. These are unusual and I had to order one. I bought a two pack so I can have a spare. $12, and cheaper versions exist. Note that your computer needs to have a USB3 port with an A plug – I’m using the one on my LG monitor.

Flash the firmware

Instructions are here on their site – TL;DR is to unzip the download and copy demo.bin into the root directory. Power up holding reset for five seconds. Pretty do-able even for the less technical.


There are two Wyze cameras, basic or a $35 pan/tilt/zoom. I already had two of each, because at $20 to $35 each, they’re in my hobby budget and have been delighted with ’em. I chose the base camera as I see no use for PTZ.

Here’s the built-in webcam from my MacBook. It’s the 2018 15″ model, my work computer.

Now here’s the Wyze:

Color is a bit off, but resolution is a huge amount better. it’s also wide-angle, with strong curvature at the edges.

I was just in time for a Zoom birthday party.

Why yes, my family does look sharper than everyone else. And wide angle was perfect for this use. Sometimes you get lucky. You can kinda see my low-rent mounting:

I’ll leave it that way for now, as it makes it quick to move around and try other lighting.

Overall – recommended. Pretty cheap, the parts are versatile, and when this ends you just re-flash the camera to get back to a nice smart camera/IoT device.


Night mode iPhone 11 pro

Impressive. Both dark to the eye.

Health recommendations Uncategorized

Quantified self

So I bought a heart rate sensor, the Polar OH1 Plus. (Based entirely on this epic review from DC Rainmaker.) I am curious about fitness and have been liking the 0.5Hz readings from the Motiv.

So this new one should provide better data. And it has a VO2 max fitness test, which of course I promptly took:

Yay me!


This week I’ll play more volleyball and see. I like that it’s cheap, accurate and works for all sports including swimming. And DCR like it too, and he’s a much better judge than I am, so consider the OH1+ recommended.

Get one from Amazon for $80 here.

EVlife recommendations

OBD-II monitoring the Bolt

Three live readouts from my Bolt EV as seen in the EngineLink iOS app

Since I got the Bolt I’ve been looking for a way to view OBD-II data. For those who’ve not encountered it, OBD-II is a specification and connector; all vehicles since 1996 have it. (More at Wikipedia) The Bolt didn’t work with my copy of EngineLink, but… today it does!

The secret is this google docs spreadsheet.

It has the codes (secret decoder, literally) to let EngineLink understand what the numbers mean. So now I can create dashboards and monitors to my heart’s content.

You need hardware, mine is this one from Amazon, cost me $35:

Image credit: Amazon

More details on the spreadsheet, including how to do it on Android, links to other adapters and more. I love the internet sometimes!


Apple TV as a big display

Apple TV makes a great, inexpensive way to collaborate.

recommendations Uncategorized

Hardware for gigabit

As part of my series of posts on gigabit Internet connections I had a friend ask about hardware, which is currently spread across multiple posts. Here’s what I’m running with a bit of details for each item. I’ll go from the outermost layer inwards.

Guidelines and goals

All equipment must be low power.

No cooling fans.

Reliability is worth paying extra.

Modem and router

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The modem is supplied by Spectrum, as their only approved model, and is DOCSIS 3.1. A bit bulky but low-power, reliable and delivering the promised speed. It’s linked via a short cable to my Ubiquiti ER-4 router/firewall. I had to upgrade from the ER-X as explained here, I wasn’t able to get line speed out of the ER-X and rather than fight that I upgraded to the ER-4. So far, it’s been great and I recommend it without hesitation.

Backbone switch

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I wanted a backbone that’d handle lots of load, give me the ability to monitor/tweak, and generally be awesome. For an ethernet switch, that means

  1. Fully non-blocking; i.e. handle 100% traffic, bidirectionally, across all ports.
  2. Managed, with a web interface
  3. Media ports so I can add fiber if necessary

I bought the TP-Link TL-SG2216 which is a 16 port version; you can get more ports in the same switch. It’s been a good choice, right now I’ve got some bug with SSL on the web interface but the switch and SNMP have been flawless. I should have paid for more ports; if you squint at the picture you can see a 5-port dumb switch I had to daisy chain in to add more ports. Ahh well.


I have had much better luck using access points as opposed to all-in-one, so I use and recommend that. In my case, that’s the no longer sold Apple AirPort Extreme 802.11ac in access point mode. I disable disk sharing, DHCP, etc, etc and it runs for months and months with no problem. Note that I have very heavy usage, with upwards of 50 clients ranging from laptops, IoT, phones, tablets, etc, so the split AP/router configuration should also work for small biz or advanced home networks too.

A bit more detail about Wi-Fi Gigabit internet, the WiFi link.


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That’s my four-drive Synology DS416play. It’s a drive server, basically, but Synology makes great software so I also run other services on it that I used to host on Debian:

  • Local DNS and forwarding. I can resolve internal hostnames and also forward to and resolvers.
  • DHCP server – hand out permanent and dynamic IPs on my class C subnet.
  • TimeMachine and NFS backup, then mirrored to Amazon Drive for off-site backups.

It’s a great little machine and my second Synology. Quiet, reliable and fast – I run the dual gigabit links to the switch and use the bridged mode, so I’ve got ~200MB/sec available.

Pi Hole ad blocker

I mentioned this in Staying sane and well-read with tab sets ad blocking and RSS – I adore this thing! I use a gen-1 pi for hardware and it provides DNS-level ad filtering for every device on the network.

Note that the DHCP server on the NAS gives out the Pi-hole’s IP as the DNS server to use, and the Pi-Hole is setup to use the NAS as its upstream. That way you get ad blocking plus local resolution. Takes a bit to configure that way but the results are excellent.

Battery backup

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After an outage I added the APC Back-UPS Pro BR1500G and external battery pack. Since the entire set of hardware uses 65 watts, this provides around 300 minutes of power, more than enough to keep running and nicely avoiding server problems due to the short 1-second glitches that I see about once a week.

Computer science

New details released on Huawei’s intent-based network

Intent-Driven Network software. CampusInsight 2.0 is an upgrade to Huawei’s network insight engine and should be considered the intelligence that powers the intent. Network and application data is collected and turned into telemetry information in real time. Machine learning is then applied to monitor the network and predict problems. The network insight engine uses a digital twin of the network, so analysis can be applied and changes tested without affecting the production network. A digital twin is a virtual copy of the original item and allows companies to conduct real-time simulations

Fascinating. I usually see ‘intent’ used to describe ‘extracting meaning from customer input’, so this is a new usage. I’m used to deterministic networking protocols like BGP, so the idea of ML analytics and prediction makes me both interested and wary.

Make that ‘very interested and very wary.’ The prediction system seems like a way to address the worries though.

via New details released on Huawei’s intent-based network