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

200 views
No Comments

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

100 views
No Comments

Open Letter to Honda

It’s pretty amazing. I have the money and the desire to buy a car but I can’t get it.

Here’s an email I’ve sent to one of the Honda Car dealerships when they asked me why I haven’t taken delivery of a new car from them yet.

I will say that I am plainly frustrated that Honda is unable to deliver on its offerings.

I began the car buying process in earnest a couple of weeks ago. I want to upgrade my wife from her 1995 Civic to a 2016 Fit.

According to Honda’s web site they offer colors and models of the car that cannot be ordered. Rather, they just produce cars and send them out apparently randomly so there is no way to just order a car and get what you want.

Attached please find my “built” car spec sheet.

No, I don’t want another color

No, I don’t want another model and add the missing pieces.

No, I don’t want to have the car driven across the country to me by some teenager and have the engine broken in by someone who doesn’t share my desire for the car to last and perform well. CarMax exists for those cars.

I just want a current model car in my desired advertised color.

Why can’t Honda deliver?

Honda-Automobiles-Personalized-Fact-Sheet 2016 Honda Fit

 

Posted under Retail Experiences

This post was written by Marc
on April 8, 2016 at 12:53 pm

481 views
No Comments

Apparently Celsius is a problem that cannot be fixed

I smiled today when I came across this troubleshooting chart for a thermometer.

Apparently if the unit reads in degrees centigrade, the appropriate course of action is to replace the unit.

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 6.52.35 PM

Posted under Amusing

This post was written by Marc
on March 30, 2016 at 6:56 pm

390 views
No Comments

Trying on the Metric System for Size

I’ve recently begun to use the Metric system in my personal life. Most notably for temperature. Only recently did I realize just how alone, and asinine, we are being as a country by holding out while the rest of the world has standardized on a consistent system of measurement.

Never mind that scientists and airlines need to use the metric system and constantly translate between it and our obsolete Imperial system, but we come up against this every day. How many people go out for a 3.1 or 6.2 mile run? If you want to compete in the Olympics I’m sure you’d be in for a surprise if your practiced every day in a 25 Yard pool. Or ran 100 Yard sprints. Anything we want to do where *we* don’t control the environment we have to translate. It’s inefficient and, frankly, it’s pathetic.

If the spineless politicians of the 1970’s hadn’t backed down we would have two generations of Americans comfortable with this system and it would be another non-issue-that-was-an-amazing-vote-grabbing-issue-of-the-day.

The USA insisting on using its own measurement system (well.. we’re in the company of Liberia and Burma… can you even find those places on the map) is reminiscent of the bully tactics for which people criticize entities such as Walmart. Making everybody with whom we do business conform to our way of doing things. We might as well also dig in our heels and insist on different timezones than the rest of the world. Because we can.

My only two criticisms of the Metric system are:

  1. I can’t really identify with the temperature scale. This is because I have very little history with it. I can viscerally understand that 72 degrees Fahrenheit equates to a pleasant summer day and that 90 degrees is hot and 40 degrees is not. But this is something that I am now working to overcome by adopting metric, at least personally, for the next few months. And would be a no-brainer to the kids today if they just grew up with degrees centigrade.
  2. Harder to fix: I’m not sure why some genius decided that we should move from “Miles per Gallon” to “Liters per Hundred Kilometers”. There is no level on which that works for me. Why we just can’t use the directly relatable “Kilometers per Liter” is a mystery to me. It’s a small issue but it’s a very foreign way of thinking. I am curious if Europeans or anybody else in the world are comfortable with that approach to performance.

Just my rant for the day. I hope we take this up and that we can get past the old guard that can’t let things change because they are too terrified or mentally challenged to work with a system that, while probably not *better* in every way is most certainly *consistent* with the way the rest of our planet does things.

Posted under General, Opinions

This post was written by Marc
on January 27, 2016 at 9:03 am

480 views
No Comments

Replaced my venerable 4 1/2 year old iPad cover with a nice new Leather one

Michelle has been “commenting” on the condition of my iPad cover for a couple of months now. I *like* older, warn things. They just feel right. But when the face of the cover started to tear I couldn’t avoid it any more.

I’m still amazed that I can find things on eBay and they actually show up early and as promised.

 

 

Posted under General

This post was written by Marc
on December 30, 2015 at 2:22 pm

484 views
No Comments

Solution for (most of) your Airplay woes – Airfoil

I first began using Airfoil back in late 2012 with my Windows system in order to take advantage of some existing Airplay speakers that I was using with iTunes only. Airfoil allowed me to redirect the sound from my browser-based Pandora player throughout the house.

Later on, when I switched to using an OS X platform (Mac Mini) I encountered the numerous issues that seem to plague Airplay users, random dropouts and disconnects being among the most annoying. On impulse I purchased the Mac license for Airfoil and found my issues were 90% improved.

I’m not sure why but playing iTunes content through native Airplay is still just an awful experience. Airplay devices seem to come and go as they please. While the issue is most notable with third party speakers (I have a couple of Philips Fidelio Wireless Speakers that I came close to launching out the window), it also manifests with my stereo which is attached via an Airport Express router and with my outdoor TV which is connected via Apple TV.

What a difference! I won’t say it’s perfect, anything depending upon home wireless connectivity seldom is, but the improvement in reliability is dramatic!

If that isn’t enough I can also install free add-on software on my Windows and Macbook machines and broadcast music from my primary Mac to wherever those other devices are. If your goal is to have your music available subtly throughout your home rather than blasting it from a single stereo or computer then this is your solution.

So I’m much happier with my setup now. When I am puttering in the house or when I have a party I have my music coming from every room so you can just enjoy it without straining. And very few dropouts compared to before!

Posted under Tech Stuff, Utils / Tools

This post was written by Marc
on December 28, 2015 at 3:58 pm

664 views
No Comments