When you see one of these…unused!
I was having an issue with Kdenlive while rending my most recent tutorials for my Extra Life Donation Tracker and so I grabbed the latest Appimage version since it’s more up to date than the version in the Fedora 29 repos. Boy has it changed in the last year or so. Here’s the version in the Fedora 29 repos:
And here’s the latest release with the exact same file open:
Sam sat on my lap and looked at the keyboard on the desk. At first he tried to do the ABCs, but he was stymied by the QWERTY layout. So then he looked at the numbers. He started with 1 and counted up. As Scarlett did before him, he automatically said “10” when he got to the 0. I told him, “That’s not 10, that’s 0”. To which he replied, “Zero doesn’t belong here! It belongs here! [pointing to the beginning of the row of numbers]”.
I would have backed The PDX Broadsides’ Kickstarter for Relatable Content no matter what because I loved Trust Issues and I enjoy nearly all of their older songs. But the thing that made me spread the word everyone and try to get more backers was that they had a goal to do an East Coast tour. When they came to the New Deal Cafe in Greenbelt, MD I was finally able to see them live for the first time. It was also my second time seeing The Misbehavin’ Maidens, who opened for The Doubleclicks earlier in the year.
Just as last time, it was a family show set for the Misbehavin’ Maidens. While the set was very similar to the set they did for The Doubleclicks, part of the fun of these smaller acts and intimate venues is that the moments between the songs have organic improv moments that come from the audience interaction. Also, there are many little quips during the songs that vary from event to event. I’ll once again strongly recommend checking them out if you want a mix of sea shanties and nerd humor. Their regular albums have a lot of rated R material, but they just released an album on Bandcamp with all their family-friendly songs.
Then it was time for The PDX Broadsides to take the stage. Given the fact they were on tour for their new album, I thought they played an excellent mix of older and newer content. I’m not sure how many others at the cafe knew their discography, but it was great to hear those older songs. It was particularly moving to hear The Astronaut’s Hymm, which I hadn’t fully grokked the meaning of before, as its themes of being away from loved ones really touched Dr. Hebert, who was away from her husband. Music often affects us emotionally, but it’s always so neat to see how emotional it can be for the artists.
As with their Live at Orycon live album, a lot of the fun came from the banter between Christian and the ladies. My 4 year old twins’ favorite song is Buffalo, an odd duck of a Christian song. Since The PDX Broadsides hadn’t yet put out their commentary album (a trend they started with Trust Issues), I was wondering where in the world that song came from. Well, they explained it, and it was even more fun than I could have imagined.
There isn’t too much more to say about the concert, except that THIS happened:
I have no idea what that’s about, but apparently it’ll be on their non-family-friendly album that accompanies Relatable Content (another trend they started with Trust Issues – a family family album paired with a dirty album). If you like nerdy content – see my reviews of Trust Issues and Relatable Content – then you have to check their music out. And if they happen to have a concert near you, you have to go see them! And if you’re still not sure if they’re for you. They have a song about Nathan Fillion.
And here’s a bit of it (because my phone ran out of space as I was recording it):
I’ve done a few travelogues on this blog (like the series covering my trip to the Grand Canyon) and I usually cover things chronologically. However, this time around I’m writing things about 3.5 months later. So rather than worry about covering things chronologically, I’m going to cover them by topic.
We were visiting The Redwoods (or, rather, a number of state (and maybe national?) parks containing Redwood trees) for my mom’s birthday. It was her wish to gather the entire clan for her birthday and to check the Redwoods off her bucket list. This was extra special to her because it’s pretty rare for all of us to be in one place at once time. Dave’s family is in the Pacific Northwest while Dan’s family and mine are in the mid-Atlantic. Mom’s in Florida with my three youngest siblings and dad. With everyone married and with all the parents wanting holiday time we can’t always all make it together for the same holidays.
I love when the original Mesa brothers trio gets together and this vacation allowed us to have time to riff off of each other and enjoy all of us being in one place at a time. It was also a lot of fun to get to see my niece interact with my kids since their maternal cousins have all moved away from the East Coast, so they don’t often get to play with their cousins. It definitely left an impression on them because they still often talk about the Redwoods forest and “The Big House”. I think Mom had the best time because she got to have all her children and all her grandchildren in one spot.
I caught the running bug this May when I did the Red Had Summit 5k. As soon as I got back, I started training for a 10k, so I knew I’d be running while I was on the Redwoods trip. I let mom know and she told me that my younger siblings were also doing some running training as part of their martial arts. So we arranged to run together the first morning. Everyone didn’t make the full 5k run I did that day, but I was very proud of Alex for doing the entire round trip. After we’d driven around the area a bit, I realized we were right by the California border (we were staying in Oregon). So I resolved to use one of my morning runs to cross the border and back.
It was scary running along US-101. I was just in the shoulder while cars were rushing by at 55+ MPH; I could feel the breeze as the cars passed me by. I was rewarded with some pretty great early morning vistas that the photos below don’t do any justice. It also helped me understand why some folks get up early to run in nature. Not only is the sunlight beautiful at that time of day, but there’s something magical about having the world to yourself when everyone else is asleep. (Well, except on US-101) Also, that fog you see on the photo of all of us on the first running day lent a sort of fun-spooky feel to the morning runs.
Food and Stores
At this point I should probably stop being surprised that I shouldn’t judge a restaurant by its appearance. On various trips some of the best food I’ve had has been in places that don’t look like they have great food. We had a lot of great food experiences on this trip. There was a roadside taqueria that we discovered by chance where pretty much everything was great. A random Italian place had large and delicious portions. Over near where we were staying The Hungry Clam had some of the best fish and chips style seafood I’ve ever had. On a whim we walked into Slugs ‘n’ Stones ‘n’ Ice Cream Cones and were amazed both by the variety of flavors and also how delicious those flavors were.
Back at the rental house, we took turns cooking. The opening photo is from the day when Dan and Katie bought a ton of ingredients to make custom pizzas for everyone. I grilled a few times with some rubs mom had bought me – the shrimp and corn were incredible even if I was very nervous using a grill that didn’t function like the one I had back home. At home I never get to cook for large groups, so that added to some of the fun and excitement.
Having grown up in Florida and having in-laws who practically live at the beach, beaches aren’t anything special to me. I don’t make special trips just to be there. So for us, the beach was just a place to take the kids on the days and times we weren’t in the forests. Neither the wife nor I are the “read a book on the beach” type of folks. We go to the beach to play in the sand and (in places where it makes sense) to get in the water. So the kids played in the sand and explored the tide pools and climbed rocks and generally had a good time.
What I found trippy with the beach by our house was that it had this really dark sand that could burn your feet in the middle of the day. Yet, at the same time every time there was a breeze, it would be freezing. I remembered going to the beach with windbreakers when we lived in Oregon. This was no different. It could go from t-shirt beach weather to sweater beach weather in minutes.
There are also some photos here from a beach we found when we stopped off of US-101 (I think) for some lunch. I went exploring and found that there was a trail leading from the area we parked down to a beach. That beach had some seagulls lounging on rocks that were pretty fun to photograph (even though I didn’t have my 120-400mm lens). The kids enjoyed a break from hiking to just mess around on the beach.
I’m not super outdoorsy, but over the course of my life I’ve done my fair share of hiking, most of it taking place in forests (as opposed to deserts). To some degree, hiking these Redwood trails was no different from the Smokey Mountains or Lubec, Maine or Shenandoah Valley. But then you saw the enormity of the trees around you. It was pretty insane to see cross-sections that were nearly as wide as I was tall. Trees that were alive before Christ walked on the other side of the Earth just blew my mind. Resilient trees that could sometimes survive being involved in a fire, blacked on the inside, but still growing leaves. It was almost too much.
I was incredibly proud of my children. On the Boy Scout Tree Trail they were able to do the entire thing by themselves, being carried for about 10 minutes total split into a couple chunks when they needed a break from walking.
Dave, Kendra, and I did a hike that took us climbing 1070 feet and descending 1202 feet as we made our way towards the beach. We had a few sections where we had to jump over little “lakes” that had formed due to precipitation. In those areas we saw a few others. But once we started the hike, for nearly the entire hike it was just the three of us. We went at what I thought was a pretty swift pace for a hike – 2.2 MPH with a max of 3.9 MPH. It took us 2 hours and 34 minutes, but we occasionally stopped for photos and to eat. With just the three of us, it was eerie how the forest would be silent but for the surprisingly loud sound of the trees swaying. It wasn’t that loud, but I can’t say I’ve EVER heard a tree sway before. So it sounded pretty loud. We even found a tree that had fallen across one of the bridges we had to cross. (And my mom, who showed up to do the second half of the trail with Dave and Kendra said that she saw a tree fall behind her).
This hike turned out to be one of my favorite events during the trip as we spent a lot of time talking and enjoying nature and pushing through a beautiful forest. We don’t often get to spend time as adults without any responsibilities or other things we need to do but enjoy the world around us. I can see why throughout our industrialized history, humans have sought refuge in nature.
One quick shout-out to the programmers behind GPXSee, the program I used to display the GPS data in this blog post.
I’m getting really close to finally getting this program to where I wanted it to be 4 years ago. My most recent release adds in the Team info to the GUI (and the previous release, which I didn’t blog about added team info in general). I’m getting feature requests and bug reports and all those kinds of encouraging things that make people want to provide programs for others. Also new as of a couple releases ago is the fact that I’m using Github’s CI (called Github Actions) to produce binaries for me that I can attach to releases to make it easier for folks to use the software.
Scarlett was watching Peg + Cat which has an episode called Mack the Fork. So she asked me if that was a song and I told her that Mack the Knife was a song and she asked me to play it. Then the following exchange with my 3.5 year old happened:
Samuel: What’s this song?
Me: Mack the Knife
Samuel: The knife can talk?
The biggest dish for me this month was the pit beef, which I’d been wanting to make for at least two years now. I finally went ahead and smoked it according to Meathead’s recipe (along with his recipe for Tiger Sauce – a type of horseradish). I was afraid after waiting for so long I’d have hyped it up too much in my head, but it turned out to be my new favorite way to eat roast beef.
The bigger-on-the-inside cheeseburgers were one of those rare (for me) America’s Test Kitchen recipes that were just OK. So far I’ve enjoyed Weber’s Big Book of Burgers more than ATK burger recipes. The FreshJax Bold Bayou rub was a gift from my mom and I can say that it tasted very delicious when liberally rubbed on some chicken legs.
The quinoa taco salad was from Dinner Illustrated and was a vegetarian dish. Rather than using ground beef, the quinoa was showered in taco herbs and spices. It was actually incredibly good. Sometimes the veggie imitation is just as delicious as the meaty dish it apes. The roasted asparagus was actually from a recipe I’d cooked before, but this time I made the accompanying gremolata and that really elevated the dish to the next level.
On the baking front were the Speculoos and the Quick Cheese Bread. The bread was the second or third cheese bread I’ve made since I started baking breads, but of all the cheese breads I’ve made, this was my favorite tasting. It seemed to have the perfect balance between cheesy taste and quick-bread (or chemically leavened) taste. The Speculoos were a request from the wife. I liked them a lot, as did Stella. My wife said they were good, but not the same as Biscoff’s. Fair enough – while the recipe started off making a replica of Biscoff, they did admit to changing the recipe to increase the cinnamon taste and reduce the sugary taste.
Sometimes you only think you don’t like a dish because you simply don’t like the way it’s been prepared for you in the past. This has happened to me with a LOT of foods. Most recently I realized had written off oatmeal simply because my tastes didn’t match that of the others around me. From childhood to adulthood I’d only been given instant oatmeal if I’d asked to taste oatmeal. It has a place in people’s lives, but like most instant foods, the instant version is a pale imitation of the real thing. Then, when I got married my wife ate steel cut oats. I tried them, but again didn’t like them. It wasn’t until Red Hat Summit this year when I ended up trying them again because I wasn’t really feeling the other breakfast options. And it turned out that I could indeed enjoy oatmeal. It’s just that I liked it more al dente than my wife. Armed with the knowledge that oatmeal didn’t have to be mushy, I set about figuring out the right water to oats ratios to get it to the consistency I preferred. Now, at least once a week I have oatmeal with some fruit and, if we have some in the house, nuts. In the photo above I have some brown suger, but I’ve stopped adding that. With the sugars in the fruit, it’s not necessary. I do add a little vanilla extract and, if the flavors make sense, some cinnamon or cardamom.
Sometimes the things my kids focus on just crack me up.
I thought I’d blogged before about the bird who made a nest in my BBQ prep station, but a couple quick searches didn’t find it. So the background is that this bird decided the best place to nest is at my BBQ prep station which has a couple shelves that basically look like a bird house (a small, circular hole). I tried to frustrate the bird out of doing it by dumping out the nest daily. At some point I let the bird win. A few months later, these baby birds were born.
I recently started an electronics hacking project to build a thermostat for my Weber Smokey Mountain. You can find details at Hackaday.io, but if you’ve been here long enough you know that I don’t trust other sites to continue to exist. (It’s why I copy my book reviews over from Good Reads). As of right now I’ve got the board able to read temperatures from a thermocouple that I send, via WiFi, to an MQTT broker. Then, via Python I take subscribe to that MQTT topic and put it into InfluxDB. From there I use Grafana to graph it. Here’s an early beta where I was trying to make sure it was working from end-to-end:
The spikes and dips are due to my powering it via USB connected to my desktop. If it’s on my laptop on battery power it runs just fine. I’ll probably have to get a LiPo battery for it when I’m ready to go. At this point what’s left for the project is to figure out how to drive a fan, how to connect the fan to the smoker, and finally, the hardest part – calibrating the thermostat part of it so that it’s not seesawing back and forth temperature-wise.
Below is a record of my progress so far via project logs (basically blog posts) on my Hackaday page.
Selected and Purchased a board
After a lot of research and deliberation, I went with an Arduino MKR 1010 board since it’s got both WiFi and Bluetooth. I also got the MKRTHERM shield. I had been considering the breakout board the Adafruit sells that has the same controller on it (the MAX31855), but rather than have to have a messy breadboard for no reason, I figured the shield would work better. I *did* end up ordering the K-thermocouple from Adafruit as they had a decent one for $10. I think it goes up to 500F and I plan to use this for my smoker, so I wouldn’t need it to go any higher than 375F and they tend to be more accurate in the middle of their range.
So that’s pretty neat! Next step will be the get the board and flash it with the example code and test it against ambient temp, ice water, and boiling water. After that I’ll probably work on the WiFi and server code. Then I’ll worry about local display. Once all that is working correctly it’ll be time to tackle the fan chunk of this project – which I think is probably going to be the hardest part. (Although I haven’t done too much searching, maybe someone out there has some code I can use as a starting point) I’m pretty excited!
The Real Making Begins
All the parts have arrived. Unfortunately, when I plug in the thermocouple, while I get a correct reference temp of 24.19 °C, I get a nonsensical 1073741760.00 °C as the thermocouple reading. Now, it arrived with a damaged-looking sheath, so maybe the cable is messed up. But maybe not? And this is why I gave this post the title I did. I’ve done a lot of software debugging in the past, but this is the first time doing hardware debugging. I’m GUESSING that since the reference temperature coming in makes sense for the temp I have the house A/C set for, that the connections between the MKR THERM shield and the MKR WiFi 1010 are fine. I’m also assuming that means the Arduino_MKRTHERM.h that I’m importing is fine.
Of course, it’s possible that something is wrong with the inputs on the THERM shield, but unless it’s a wiring error on the board, I don’t think so because I get the same readings whether I use the screw mounts or the k-couple inputs (although that requires some futzing around since I don’t have a k-connector on this wire).
Adafruit was great about an RMA for the wire since (again) it came with what looked like a damaged sheath, but I’m left not yet knowing at this point where the problem lies and how much of an issue this is for my project.
Of course, there’s always the possibility of shelling out for some Thermoworks k-couples – https://www.thermoworks.com/TW-113-442-GC then I’d be a lot more certain if the issue persisted that it wasn’t with the cable.
That’s where hardware debugging is a lot more expensive than software debugging.
But that’s why this is where the real making begins….
When debugging it’s never what you think it is
In the previous project log I mentioned that I was getting nonsense values from the thermocouple. I tried everything to figure out what was wrong. I even bought a different thermocouple (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0142RXG84/). Still the same issue. I posted to reddit and the Arduino forums. What I learned on the Arduino forums is that there’s another library I can use for the therm chip (separate from the official Arduino one) that makes it easy to see what errors one is getting. But still no success. I was getting really bummed – I was still in one of the easiest parts of the development phase.
I tried different USB cables and got some slightly different, but inconsistent results. Maybe it was the USB ports on my computer? So I installed Arduino IDE on my laptop, got the code on there, and …. it was exactly the same. I had read that full E/M environment could mess with the sensor. So I unplugged my laptop and took it to my bedroom. There….. it worked! REALLY? Was it the wifi router in the office?
So I came back into the office. It was still working! I plugged in my laptop and things went screwy again. I took this to the net and it seems the consensus is that the voltage is very noisy on the 5V line and that screws with the tiny measurements being made on the thermocouple. So it looks like I’ll be doing debugging on a battery-powered laptop. Also, I may have to make sure the final project runs on battery power rather than AC power. We’ll see.
You can now go to https://github.com/djotaku/BBQThermostat to see the code for the project. First step was to get THERM and WiFi code together and make sure it compiles. Next up is to get MQTT code compiling.
Making great progress
After being stuck forever because I didn’t realize the noise on the 5V line was causing me trouble, things seem to be going much more quickly now. I’ve now got the code setup to send data to my MQTT broker. I can see it in Home Assistant and in Python’s Eclipse Paho client. Next step is calibration (I think I need roughly a +2C adjustment) and then a test from out in the smoker. At that point I’ll know that everything up to the point of controlling the fan works.
Today I did a calibration test with the thermocouple and on the boiling test it came 3° C short. Strangely on the cold water test (couldn’t quite get the water to 0° C), it was over 2° C. I would have expected it to be 3° C short all along the range. However, coming up 2-3° C short was consistent with the room temp it tends to read compared to the reference temp. ALSO, for a BBQ thermostat, a 2-3° C different from actual temperature doesn’t matter. Usually we’re talking about being OK if your smoker or BBQ temps are between 225°F and 260°F for a low and slow cook. So I plan to edit my Arduino code to compensate.
One thing I am curious about how to solve is the random spike or dip in temperature. I don’t want that to affect the fan until the next time a reading is taken. I wonder if I should just expect only a certain delta in temperature within a minute and throw out anything over that range. I’ll have to continue to think about it.
When MakeMKV added a new requirement for ccextractor, allowing it to grab subtitles that are encoded on the DVD or Blueray as Closed Captioning instead of subtitles, there wasn’t a package available for Fedora. (There is now, but at the time where wasn’t) So I wanted to make an RPM that I could host on Fedora’s COPR for others who needed the package. There was a problem with their shell script for building RPMs. At the time I just kept hacking away at it until I was able to build RPMs. But I didn’t think about how the manual process wouldn’t be sustainable as changes were made to CC Extractor. They weren’t having releases too often, so I didn’t worry about it. But then they made a new release and I knew that this time, having leveled up on my git-fu, I would try and figure out how to fix that problem and submit a pull request.
I was doing this on a system that is well-configured for pull requests because making a PR triggers CI:
While some tests didn’t pass, I thought they were probably OK and the maintainers agreed:
and it ended up being merged! Hurray!!!