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

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 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