A few days ago, I got our long awaited new internet service from Greenlight Networks. This is fiber to the home, and I got the top tier, which advertises 1000Mbps down and 100Mbps up. I’m not getting quite that advertised speed, but what I am getting is pretty amazing.
This is on my very busy home network, no attempt to shut down anything using the net heavily to increase the speed. At other times I’ve seen downloads over 450Mbps and uploads closer to 80Mbps.
I worked hard to get this network in our neighborhood, talking it up to anybody I could (and emphasizing that “fast internet speeds will help your resale value” with people who don’t care about fast internet speeds for themselves) and distributing flyers. One day I put flyers on every since door on Windemere Road.
The connection so far seems a little “bursty” – sometimes it will take a few seconds to make a connection, but once it’s connected everything is fast as hell. I was a little disappointed that my favorite 4K YouTube video didn’t play without interruption until I installed a plugin to get more buffer before it started playing. I think that’s a symptom of the burstiness – the extra buffer gets me over the few seconds of slowness before the fast bit starts up again.
Also, because the upload speed is go good, I’m moving some of the web sites I was hosting for free off my colo box back to my home. At the time I made that decision, I thought “hey, I’m paying $80/month for that colo box, that will almost completely offset the cost of GreenLight right there”. But as I was moving stuff, I looked through my bill paying software and couldn’t find any record of my paying for the colo box since last November. And then I checked my email archive, and discovered that several months after the colo facility got bought by Earthlink IT (yeah, I was surprised that Earthlink still exists too) they cancelled the automatic Paypal payment, and when I emailed their support email address to find out why, they bounced my mail because my email address wasn’t in their ticketing system as a valid customer. I guess I was going to wait for them to start billing me, and they never did. So now I’m wondering how I can get that computer back from their colo facility, and if I’m going to be hit with a bill for a year of service if I do so. The thing is, I’m pretty sure I’ve visited the facility to reboot my box when it’s frozen up at least once since the transition to Earthlink started, but I’m not sure if that was before or after they stopped billing me. The box probably has a resale value around half of what I owe them, but on the other hand, I did get the services they haven’t billed me for. Sigh. I should probably do the right thing and contact them to get my billing up to date and the account properly closed out. I anticipate massive headaches.
Currently, my daily desktop is a big Linux tower. It has two video cards (GT 430 and GT 620) driving three monitors, a 28″ 4K (Acer B286HK) and 2 21″ 1080p Dells. I also have a MacBook Pro (MBP) which is almost as powerful as the Linux tower (same i7 processor, same 16Gb of RAM, bigger SSD).
Some of the weirdness-es of Linux are driving me up the wall, and I’m thinking of switching to using the MBP as my daily machine. I’ve verified that the MBP will drive the 4K monitor through a mini-DisplayPort cable (which plugs into one of the Thunderbolt ports) while driving one of the 21″ Dells through HDMI. I could drop the Linux box down to one of the 21″ Dells (and maybe also a ViewSonic 21″ monitor which is just gathering dust in the corner) and still be able to use it.
There are only a couple of reasons I haven’t done it yet:
I need another keyboard and mouse for the Linux box. I had a junk-box clearing out a year or two ago and I don’t have any spare keyboards or mice right now.
I’d have to move a bunch of hardware around to make room for everything the way I want it, and if it doesn’t work out, I’d have to move it all back.
Every time I needed to take my MBP on work trips, I’d have to disconnect a forest of cables (MiniDP, Ethernet, USB Hub, USB external drive, HDMI) and reconnect it all when I got home.
Last time I tried hooking up the 4K to the MBP, every time the display went to sleep it regathered all the windows into the top left corner like it forgot the display was bigger than the built-in and moved them to where they would be on the built-in. I *think* I found a solution for that, but I don’t recall.
If this works out, I will be getting rid of the biggest annoyances of Linux (like the fact that Chrome will play videos on one screen but not on another, or that Youtube will support 4K display in the “default” Flash player but will only support 720p in HTML5) but on the other hand I’ll be losing the biggest advantages of Linux – like “focus follows mouse” (I’m not sure most people would consider it an advantage, but I love it). So I’m not sure if this is 100% going to make me happy, but it’s something I want to at least try.
So for several years now, I’ve had two cameras protecting the front and back of the house. It looks like I got the first one in February 2013. Both cameras were very similar even though they were from different companies – it looked like they’d licensed the firmware from the same source, but one got a much later build of the software. Either that, or being Chinese companies, they probably just ripped each other off.
But both of them had just about every feature I wanted in a camera. They had Pan/Tilt/Zoom, a simple web interface which worked on every browser on every OS I cared about, IR night mode, motion detection alarms that would send you email or ftp pictures to a server, and both wifi and wired ethernet. The one on the front wasn’t near a power source so rather than running power out there, I ran an ethernet cable and did Power Over Ethernet (PoE), but the one in the back was near power but not somewhere I could run ethernet, so it’s transmitting over wifi. Both had a few minor quirks, but for the most part they were exactly what I wanted – I keep a couple of windows open on my monitor showing both video streams and I have an app on my iPad that will do the same. It’s very handy when I’m working to see people coming to the front door because I can’t hear a door bell up in my office. Their biggest flaw was that they were pretty low-resolution (640×480). Unless it’s close up, it would be pretty hard to identify a face at 640×480.
So I’ve been looking for replacements that do everything these ones do, except do it in high def. And I’ve run into a shitload of problems. Evidently the “Server Push Mode” that made these things work on Linux browsers has gone out of fashion or something, because I haven’t found anybody who has it. Even if the screen shots on their downloadable manuals indicates they have it, they don’t. That option is not on the screens you see in the shipping product.
Another problem is that evidently I’ve become incapable of reading product descriptions in detail. I ordered a really nice D-Link camera that did a weird “920P” resolution (somewhere between 1080P and 720P), but which worked on Linux browser. The only problem with it, which I didn’t notice until I was installing it outside, is that it’s not advertised as an outdoor camera. I thought it was. It lasted several months but a rainstorm a few weeks ago seems to have finally killed it. Lesson 1: Check to make sure it’s weatherproof before ordering. I also ordered one that when it arrived it turned out it didn’t do Pan/Tilt/Zoom, even though NewEggs’ search function returned it when I’d specified that as one of the required options. Lesson #2: NewEggs’ search function is crap. I eventually got one from Foscam that was advertised as working with “any standard browser”. It turns out that to them, “any standard browser” means IE or Firefox on Windows 8 or below. Lesson #3: People who write product descriptions are a bunch of liars.
After I returned that one, I got a similar camera from Ipcam Central. Once again, their downloadable manual showed a “Server Push Mode” that was not present in the actual product. Once again, their promise of “Supports Mac OS X” turned out to be a lie – they claim that they will have an application that will be available in a few weeks or months, but I’m not holding my breath. But I decided that since all the cameras seem to have the same problems no matter the vendor, I was going to do my damnedest to see if I could make it work. With with a lot of help from their tech support I’ve got it pretty workable. First they recommended I download some Linux software to do ONVIF – the software is called OpenCVR and it didn’t work for shit. But then they told me the secret undocumented rtsp stream names, and so now I’ve got a VLC window displaying the lower resolution version of the video and audio feed on my monitor (vlc rtsp://admin:password@backcam/12). I tried the high resolution version and it froze up after a while. Not sure if that was due to network problems or what. I’ve also set up a job on my Linux box that uses VLC to continuously grab 10 minute movies into files (vlc rtsp://admin:password@backcam/11 --sout=file/ts:/backup_2/backcam/backcam-$(date +"%Y%m%d%H%M%S").mpg -I dummy --stop-time=600 vlc://quit). I figure that breaking it up into 10 minute chunks will help restart it if it freezes up, and also it will be easier to provide files to the police if it sees anything.
The web interface doesn’t display the actual video (except on Windows), but it does allow me to control the pan/tilt/zoom features and do much of the setup. The only thing it wouldn’t allow me to set up is the motion detection, because it wants visual “zones”, and it won’t display those except on Windows. Fortunately I have a Windows laptop that I hardly ever use that I was able to drag out and dust off to do that one piece of setup. It didn’t work at first because Edge, the new browser in Windows 10 doesn’t support plugins, and it didn’t work at second even after switching back to IE11. Eventually tech support figured out that I needed to tell IE to run in the dreaded “Compatibility mode”. Once I did that I was able to set up the motion detection, and this morning I got emailed a series of pictures of me letting the dogs out for their morning pee. I also got pictures of a few points in the night where nothing happened, but that’s par for the course with these things – even the old cameras sometimes go nuts when it’s raining or snowing and send me hundreds of these emails in a night. As well, each of these motion alarms saved a nice little short movie to the on-board storage of the camera.
Oh yeah, remember how I said that every camera vendor lies? Well, another sort-of lie these guys tell on their web page is they describe the on-board storage as “an SD card”. Except when you ask tech support, there is no way to get to this SD card to remove it or replace it with something bigger. If you can’t replace it, then while calling it “an SD card” might be technically correct, it doesn’t matter to the end user how you implemented the on-board storage. You might as well have called it magnetic core memory for all the good it does me.
But the upshot of all this is that I’ve managed to cobble up a system that works for me. I’ve ordered some PoE adapters, and when it comes I’m going to move this camera to the front door position, and order another one for the back door.
Update: So I moved the camera to the front door, and about 3 hours later the camera started slowly going out of focus, and the focus buttons on the interface don’t work. Tech support remoted in and said “we can make it focus”, so I said “well, if you can make it focus, how about putting it back in focus and leave it like that?”, and then they admitted that they hadn’t made it focus. Fuck.
Update 2: I got the second camera, and replaced the first camera with the second camera, and got it set up nicely. Then I took the first camera and set it up for the WiFi so I can put it in the back yard, and noticed it is now completely in focus. So I guess when I power cycled it last time and did a factory reset, I didn’t leave it off long enough. Fingers cross that it stays that way.
I had to miss last years LLLBR because of other commitments which is a shame because this is always a good competitive race. Also when the weather is good (like it was this year) it’s a spectacularly beautiful venue. Unfortunately whatever wind there is tends to funnel straight down the lake, but it’s the same for everybody so no problem. This year it was sunny and cool, and with almost no wind at the beginning which built into a light breeze in the middle.
In previous years, it’s been a simple out and back, but evidently last year they changed it so we start at the same place, but go in the other direction under the bridge, go about 3.5 km into the lower part of the lake, come back under the bridge, then circle around an island and come back for a total of about 17km. Not only is it more interesting route but it’s more spectator friendly. This year there was actually cash prizes for the touring class kayaks, so there were a lot of people in touring class, meaning that the unlimited class looked like it was going to be a fight between John H, Pete G and myself. Todd, Roger, Doug and others were all fighting it out for the money.
Less than 100 meters after the start, Todd was leading, John was on this tail, Roger and I were side by side, and Pete was behind us. (Update after reviewing the video, it appears that it was Pete and I side by side and Roger was already on John’s wake.) Within another hundred meters, Roger had claimed John’s stern wake, I was glued to his stern, and Pete was glued to mine. The canoe wave had started a few minutes ahead of us, so we were passing the slower ones almost immediately. And Todd was not taking any prisoners. At the first canoe, he tried to scrape us all off – John didn’t lose the wake, but Roger ended up a little off John’s wake and I was a little off Roger’s, but we fought back on. At the next canoe, John lost a little distance, but clawed back on. At the next canoe, John ended up going the opposite side of the canoe from Todd, and Roger lost his wake as well. That was pretty much the way it stayed to the first turn – Todd alone, John alone, then Roger, me and Pete in a conga line. (Update: from the video it appears that John got back on Todd’s wake after the scrape, and stayed there around the turn.)
At the turn, I intended to follow Roger around, even though his boat doesn’t turn as well as mine. But Pete decided to turn as tight as he could and come around us on the inside. I took the bait and latched on his stern wake and Roger latched on mine. On the way back to the bridge we came up through some wakes of some of the faster c-2s and slower c-4s, as well as some boat wakes, but otherwise it was nice and flat. A couple of times Pete looked like he decided to try to catch John and put in a big dig for a few hundred meters. But we were nearly a minute behind John even after those digs and not really closing.
Now this whole way I’d been paddling way too hard. My heart rate was in the low 160s and I was sure Pete was going to blow me up, so at about the six kilometer mark I decided I needed to slow down, drop off Pete’s wake and paddle my own race and hope I could catch him later. But after I slowed down, he slowed down as well, so he ended up not getting more than two or three boat lengths ahead of me.
After the bridge, there was a strong head wind, and it seemed to be slowing down Pete more than me. I caught him not long after and almost immediately he wanted me to come through. He asked me if I thought we should follow Todd towards the left side of the lake or John towards the right. I didn’t think it made any difference because there didn’t appear to be any shelter on either side, so I just went straight towards the boat at the turn. Pete latched on my wake.
About half way from the bridge to the turn, I got passed by a stranger in my boat. That wasn’t a total surprise – I’d advertised my Think Legend and this guy Kurt had agreed to pick it up today at the race. But I hadn’t seen him before the race, so I wondered if he’d blown me off. But now he came steaming by. We introduced ourselves to each other and he went off to hunt down John and Todd.
As we got closer to the turn, I was starting to think that I was starting to close the gap on John. I timed the gap at around a minute back at the bridge, and now it was closer to forty seconds. Hope bloomed. And then as I’m turning, I sneak a look back and I’ve got a few second gap on Pete and Roger. Time to put the hammer down!
For the whole last four kilometers from the turn to the finish, I’m convinced that I’m getting closer and closer to John, but I just don’t have any gas left in the tank to put in a final sprint to catch him. I sneak glances behind and it appears I have a good gap on Pete and Roger, and it may be growing. As I cross the line about 10 or 20 seconds back on John, he appears completely surprised to see me there. He jokingly accused me of sneaking up on him like I had at Armond Bassett. There was nothing stealthy about my approach – I was wheezing like a steam engine, but he was probably working just as hard and just as loud. I looked back and it appeared that Roger had taken back the lead from Pete and Pete was latched onto his wake.
Results haven’t been posted yet, but Todd won touring class, followed by Roger and John won unlimited class followed by me and Pete. All in all a fantastic race and a very pleasing result for me. A great way to end the race season.
Today was the BayCreek race. The first time I wrote a long blog post about it. The second time I didn’t – I wrote a few lines on Facebook but that’s all.
Just like last time, the race got postponed because of the weather. This time the forecast was a bit crazy on the Saturday although the thunder didn’t show up. But no matter – Sunday was actually quite nice. It was partly cloudy which turned into sunny about the time the race started. There was a stiff breeze almost straight down the bay. During the warm up I determined that while the breeze slowed things down a bit on the way out and helped a bit on the way back, the waves didn’t really help on the way back because they were moving too slowly and you had to blast over them. Good thing they were small.
The other thing I did while warming up was verify that my new GPS was working right. Last weekend I left my old one on top of my car, and by the time I came back for it it had been run over by multiple cars,ruining it. I ordered the new Garmin Forerunner 920xt, and it arrived while I was out of town, so this is the first time I’ve paddled with it. It was fine, except just before the 1km mark it gave me some message I could not understand about heart rate recovery. I hoped that wouldn’t happen every kilometer in the race and decided it was good enough.
Ok, after checking out the conditions, next thing is to check out the competition. Jim won last year, but he is sidelined by an injury. The guy in the Stellar surf ski came again this year, but he wasn’t a threat. The one that had me worried was Pete – I’d beaten him last year but he’s gotten a lot faster this year. Not only is he in a faster boat, he’s just paddling better. He’s faster than me in the BayCreek Wednesday night time trials now, and he managed to complete Blackburn when Mike and I quit. Paul D and Dennis Moriarty were in touring class and weren’t going to be challenging me either, so I figured it would be me and Pete fighting for first and second place.
At the start, it very quickly sorted out as I’d expected. Pete and I were neck and neck going up the channel. I don’t envy the guys who had to stand there in the water up to their waists to take pictures but last year they got some really good shots so it’s worth it. At the one kilometer mark I got another one of those annoying message pop ups on my GPS although I’m pretty sure it was different.
After the channel Pete slipped back into my stern wake. A couple of times I snuck a look back and see we had a good gap. After 3km I pulled off to the side and made Pete take a pull. I’d intended to make him pull for at least 2km (because we’d been side by side for the first kilometer so it only seemed fair). My heart rate recovered a bit but our average speed also dropped. Also his speed didn’t seem all that steady – although that could be the wind. So I ended up tapping his stern a couple of times. After a few times l decided to pull through – my rest ended up only being 1.7 km. After the turn we got a good look at the other racers – the guy in the stellar was a few minutes back, and Dennis was pulling Paul D a few minutes behind him.
After they had all gone by, I made Pete take another pull. Once again, I got a bit of recovery, but once again I got impatient and pulled through after just a short while. But by now the short rests were starting to tell on me and it wasn’t very much longer before Pete pulled through without any prompting on my part. The entire final 4km I was either on Pete’s stern wake or beside him. At one point, we got hit by a gigantic side wake and I made the mistake of trying to get some surf from it. Pete didn’t – he just took it without altering course. By the time it was passed, I was a boat length behind him and 20 meters to his side. It was an effort to get back to him, and then we were in the shallow water just before the channel. I faded really badly, or maybe Pete put the hammer down early. The water there was so slow you couldn’t compare your speed in that area with the speed in the deep – we’d been making around 11 km/hr in the deep, now we were barely making 9.5 in spite of being in a sprint. Pete got at least two boat lengths on me. But as it got a bit deeper in the creek I started clawing it back. Pete said afterwards that he thinks he started his sprint early and faded – I don’t know, I must know I was sprinting as hard as I’ve ever sprinted. And the final result is that at the line I was about a foot behind him. Close but no cigar.
So what’s my take away?
It was nice to be in a strategic side by side battle again – most races I’m chasing one guy and trying not to get caught by the guy behind me. I think the last time it was like this was last year’s Long Lake race where I was in a pack with Mike Littlejohn and Roger Gocking.
I’ve got to be more patient when I’m riding wake and less generous when taking my pull. The third guy was well behind us, so there was no reason to kill myself to go fast. If I’d gone 10.3 km/hr instead of 10.6 into the wind, I might have had some more energy going down wind.
Pete is turning into a formidable opponent. I’m going to have to work hard to stay close to him.
By the way, other than that one notification at the one kilometer mark, the new GPS is great. I really like it.