USPS Still looking for my (not so much) missing registered letter…

I originally posted the below on facebook at the end of September 2017. When they lost my final mortgage check I asked them to find it and NOT deliver it.

Of course they subsequently delivered it a week or so after that. I found it funny that about a month ago I received an update letting me know they are still diligently looking for it.

I thought I’d post this today to track exactly how long they keep “looking” for it. Today I received ANOTHER notification that they are still on the hunt.

It’s kind of too bad their “Search” doesn’t include checking their own system to see that the letter was delivered.

 

 

Original Facebook post:

Yay? US Postal Service finally delivered my check! Only 12 days late and against my express instructions! I guess it could have been worse, it could have been food…

Now to see if the mortgage folks try to apply the Stopped-Payment check and try to give me grief over that…

Well, what’s a little challenge in your life, right? It could be a *whole* lot worse.

 

Posted under Fail, Retail Experiences

This post was written by Marc
on January 20, 2018 at 2:07 pm

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SmartThings Hub V2 and WEMO

Last month there was a pretty major update to my SmartThings Hub and, once it was done, I found that none of my WEMO switches worked with that ecosystem any more. The things still showed up in SmartThings “stuck” in the last state that it had known them to be in prior to the update. But the state would not update as the switches were cycled, nor could I control them via SmartThings any longer.

The WEMO app continued to control the switches just fine so I knew it was unlikely to be an issue with the switches.

I conferred with SmartThings’ support folks and they pointed out that WEMO integration is a SmartThings Labs initiative. Which basically means it’s not a collaboration between Belkin and SmartThings and that Belkin can change things at any time and mess things up.

The long and short of it is that I needed to remove each WEMO switch from SmartThings, then let it discover them anew and then update every routine, SmartApp and webCoRE piston that used them as well.

This was driven home a couple of weeks later when I had to shut down my SmartThings Hub for several hours and again found the WEMO devices to be unresponsive.

The same technique worked to resolve the issue this time as well.

I’m still not 100% clear on exactly what it takes to cause the issue. Whether it’s the amount of time the SmartThings Hub is offline or if there is a confluence of events that has to happen. But I thought I’d post this to help folks who might be experiencing the same “zombie” Belkin WEMO switches in their SmartThings ecosystem.

You just need to suck it up and re-do. It’s a bit painful but you’ll resolve the issue and get on with life that much faster if you just go for it.

 

Posted under Smart Home

This post was written by Marc
on January 15, 2018 at 7:18 pm

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LG LMXC23796S Fridge Review

Our last fridge was a Whirlpool side-by-side that we bought back in 1996. It still works well but the door started rusting in spots and we were tired of the cramped freezer side. Also, I’m told on all fronts that newer fridges should be less power hungry. We’ll see.
Besides the freezer/fridge difference, the LG LMXC23796S Fridge is also counter depth and fits much more nicely in my kitchen. This size difference necessarily came with some compromises.

Pros:
– Love the wide fridge area and generous shelving
– The doors are pretty easy to open, especially the door-in-door
– The door-in-door feature is surprisingly handy, especially with the ability to see what’s there before you open it.
– The latched drawers are IMHO *much* easier to open than magnetically sealed ones. We tried many in the showrooms and the latches hands-down are the way to go.
– The stainless steel looks very nice
– The LED lighting fills the fridge with no dark areas except the bottom-most freezer drawer
– See the “Con” on water filters below. The “Pro” here is that they are not required if you so choose, so Kudos to LG for that.

Cons:
– Less Ice available than I’m used to. I use a *lot* of ice in the summer when I go bicycling so I’m not sure yet how this will affect me. This was a known trade-off so I’m not harping too much on it
– Also the ice maker tends to spray a bit of moisture when dispensing (even in cube mode) which makes things a bit messier than they need to be.
– The touch switch to change between cubed and crushed ice is finicky and requires you to put your whole thumb over it rather than just touching it like all the other buttons on that panel. It does work fine once you figure that out.
– Water from the dispenser is MUCH less cool than I’m used too. This is probably my biggest annoyance so maybe I’m just nit-picking. I’m working on adjusting the overall fridge temperature settings to correct this but I’ll probably just get in the habit of filling up my water bottles and keeping them in the fridge.
– The fridge can be web connected but it’s a bit of a nuisance to set up as the website is NOT synched with whatever backend system the iOS app talks to. Helpful hint: just create an account on both using the same email and password and save yourself headaches. Beyond that the IOT connectivity isn’t being used for anything that I find useful at all. And I have my home “SmartHomed” out the whazoo.
– OMG I can’t believe how expensive replacement water filters are. $50 retail! I knew this going in though. So we’ll see if they become more reasonable or if they become the “Inkjet cartridges” of the Fridge world.

Neutrals / Notes:
– The compressor makes a different noise than I’m used to. Not bad but will take a bit of time to get used to it as the fridge is quite near my office. I would say the compressor noise is on par with that of my old fridge.
– I haven’t really figured out what to do with the “Customchill” drawer – I started with setting it to a “cold drink” temperature but it’s not really great at holding free cans (they just topple over and/or roll around). So more experimentation is needed. I’m sure I’ll find it invaluable once I figure it out. Some suggestions from LG would be useful on this front.

I tend to buy good quality and expect it to last. Everything about my old fridge still works perfectly so it’s being used as my overflow now. I’m expecting this new LG Fridge to live up to that expectation.

Posted under Opinions, Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on January 13, 2018 at 8:57 pm

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Looks Like Amazon’s Tracking system is just a *wee* bit confused this holiday season

This isn’t the only order I’ve seen this with. It appears that something between Amazon, the shippers and the sheer volume of traffic is right about at the breaking point these days….

Posted under Amusing

This post was written by Marc
on December 21, 2017 at 6:42 pm

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Kudos to AT&T Support for my Internet Gateway issue

On Monday (Dec 4, 2017) I recycled my AT&T Fiber gateway and my routers as I tend to do every couple of weeks. Only problem was.. the Gateway refused to come back. It just showed the power light as green and nothing else for about 3-5 minutes and then EVERY light on the device went to RED. It did this a couple of times regardless of power cycling, reset or full factory reset.

I decided to pull up AT&T’s internet web app to see if there was anything else that could be done (Reset something on their end perhaps?), but after some perfunctory troubleshooting steps the app concluded that a technician visit was needed. Not the best news but I knew my path now and was sure it wasn’t going to be a quick fix…

The app then offered to schedule the appointment for me. The first available date available was… today (Monday). Well.. color me surprised. The first available time slot was… 10 AM – Noon. Keep in mind I was doing this at about 9:00 in the morning. I figured this was a mistake but scheduled myself for that time slot see what happens.

About 9:30 I get a call from AT&T’s automated service confirming the appointment. 20 minutes later the tech calls me and tells me he’s about 30 minutes out.

Long story short by about 10:45 AM the same day I was back up and running just fine.

So credit where credit is due. Thank you AT&T for the swift response and getting me sorted out so quickly after that hardware failure.

 

Posted under Retail Experiences, Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on December 10, 2017 at 8:40 pm

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Amazon Dot vs Airplay

It seems that Amazon’s Alexa app doesn’t coexist well with my Philips AD7000W/37 units. These are speakers that support Apple’s Airplay protocol.

Last week I picked up an Amazon Dot (baby brother of their Echo product) and liked it so much I ordered another one a day later. I was then away from home to attend a wedding so it took a couple of days for me to realize that my Philips speakers were not regularly showing up on my Airfoil panel any more.

After doing some research on the web it seems there are a small number of folks who are complaining about similar issues (check reddit). But the symptoms vary somewhat from mine. While my issue is exclusively through Wi-Fi connectivity, many of the other reports seem to be for hard wired devices. Also, I have a few Apple TV units and an Airport Express that all participate in my AirPlay ecosystem and none of these seem to be affected.

The issue, where my Philips speakers would just drop off the network, seemed to happen at random at first but I eventually sorted out that it had something to do with the Alexa App’s Smart Home Discovery feature. If I’m using those speakers and initiate discovery manually they immediately disconnect.

I just got off the phone with Amazon’s Alexa department and they were pretty understanding about it. Unfortunately I got disconnected before we could complete (my phone’s fault not theirs – thanks AT&T) and am presently trying to get back to them.

From some of the other solutions I’ve seen out there it seems the issue is some kind of Multicast Broadcast the App (or the Dots, it’s not clear to me) puts out is the actual cause. Whether it’s a poor Airplay implementation or Alexa is doing something it shouldn’t is not clear to me.

I’m asking Amazon to consider an advanced setting to simply disable auto discovery of Smart Home devices. Whenever I add or update a device I manually trigger such discoveries on any devices that interact with them anyway so I gain nothing from having the Discovery feature running in the background anyway.

Maybe something as simple as “Alexa, Disable Smart Home Auto Discovery” and “Alexa, Enable Smart Home Auto Discovery” would be a suitable enough interface for this kind of setting.

I’m posting this in the hopes that other people who are experiencing AirPlay issues since adding an Alexa device to their home find it and can realize what the problem is before they get frustrated with either or both of the technologies.

*Update* I was able to get back with Amazon and we created a ticket, I’m not sure if you can reference *my* ticket but if you can and it can help you here it is: # 0094625730

They will follow up with me on Wednesday (Nov 2, 2016), I don’t have high hopes for such a fast resolution but.. we are in a nimble age so we’ll see what happens.

Posted under Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on October 26, 2016 at 7:57 pm

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Salt Water Generator Pool Recommendations

For the below I want to acknowledge the tremendous amount of knowledge I gleaned from various web sites and forums across the Web. But foremost among these I have to say was TroubleFreePool.com. Of course every pool is a bit different, whether it be the equipment you are using or the construction of the pool (cement, plaster, vinyl, etc.) or the environment your pool is in (indoor, outdoor, lots of debris can get into it, lots of sun exposure, etc.) so you need to tailor what you learn to your specific situation.

So the following is what I’ve synthesized to be ideal for myself and is still a bit of a work in progress but I think I’m asymptotically approaching the ideal for my situation.

My pool is relatively small (just under 11,000 Gallons), in ground and outside but protected from debris by being within a Lanai, sanitized using a Salt Water Generator (SWG) with massive filtration capacity due to having a DesJoyaux pump/filter which is efficient and quiet as my main cleaning system and a separate Jandy pump/filter which is primarily for sanitizing and heating the water. It’s also a vinyl pool for simplicity.

I use a blue bubble pool cover in the mid-fall through mid-spring to retain heat and do not close the pool in the winter even though it’s pretty much not usable from late November through early March.

Here is a letter I sent to my Pool folks after they emailed me with some concerns regarding my pool chemistry this year. Hitherto my pool was known to them for being pretty much perfectly chemically balanced all the time. There was a change in leadership and staff at the beginning of this season and I found that the chemistry readings from my weekly samples (yep, I said weekly) were all over the map. This told me that either the equipment being used was aged or faulty or that there was a training issue with the staff on using the sample testing equipment.

So I went ahead and ordered the TAYLOR TECHNOLOGIES INC K-2006 TEST KIT COMP CHLORINE FAS-DPD from Amazon (yes that’s a product link that pays me a tiny amount if you use it), sat down with the included booklet and spent a solid day studying just the kit. This made me realize how little I *really* knew about my pool’s chemistry and so I embarked on another month of research and then a few months of experimenting with my pool to get things to what I felt was the right place.

Anyway, this is what I sent to my pool folks, if you can make use of it or have questions or comments, please let me know.

After the premature failure of my salt cell (fortunately still in Warranty) and the somewhat erratic readings that the bioguard equipment was giving you this past year (not sure what happened as they have been very consistent prior to this), I did a *lot* of research into pool chemistry and determined that the recommendations that are being presented in the bioguard reports, while fine for a traditional chlorinated pool, are not suitable for a SWG pool.

In my opinion, two critical components for a SWG pool are the CYA readings and the Borate readings. These should be assessed with every sample.

If the CYA is too low, not only is the chlorine destroyed by sunlight too quickly, but the SWG itself is not nearly as efficient as at should be and will fail prematurely. This is what I believe happened to me. Higher CYA levels, combined with slightly elevated Salt levels, will keep my SWG functioning efficiently and without undue stress.

The Borate level is critical to stabilizing the PH which, by the nature of the chemistry involved has a tendency to increase significantly with rain fall. This was my biggest challenge in the past. Getting my Borate level up to a proper level now buffers my pool against tremendous PH swings.

Of course you have to be careful since the only way to remove too much CYA, Borate and Salt is to replace pool water so this is where care is required to *slowly* bring these to the proper levels while also balancing the other pool chemistry (since these will alter the PH levels).

Anyway, where I had “perfect” pool chemistry for the past 3 years for a generic pool, this year I believe I now have “proper” pool chemistry for a SWG pool. My Saturation index for the past month has been between -.04 and -.22 which is definitely acceptable.

I’d like to share my conclusions with you in case you are willing to share them with other SWG customers.

Item Range
Free CL 4.0-6.0
PH 7.4-7.6
Total ALK 60-80
Total Calcium Hardness 50-300 (not a typo)
CYA 70-80
Salt (depends on SWG) 3200-3700 (should be at high end of range for your SWG)
Borates 30-50
Saturation Index 0.5 – -0.3
Also, and this applies specifically to people who have a Fastlane (Endless Pools), The copper level needs to be tested every few weeks, monthly at the very least. While it is important to NOT use copper-based algaecides, I am finding that nearly all Zinc sacrificial anodes except those provided (at tremendous cost) by Endless Pools themselves have some level of Copper in them. This results in a black deposit on any stainless steel fittings in the pool. This is a cosmetic issue but it is distressing until you know what is causing it.

Hopefully this can help your other customers. The above is still a work in progress but I feel that these represent a consensus of the information I’ve gleaned from my research along with my own experience so far. With each passing month I have narrowed and refined the various ranges.
The ease with which I am able to balance my pool next year will be the proof in the pudding for me.

 

Posted under Pool

This post was written by Marc
on October 23, 2016 at 9:15 pm

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