Sun, Oct 25, 2015
Thu, Mar 19, 2015
I’m going to add to this but wanted to throw something up to test some new features of the site.
What are some simple steps that you can take around your house to “set it and forget it”? Once implemented, you need only a few minutes every few months to verify they are still functional, again, having your taskminder (in my case, GTasks) to remind you.
Fire extinguishers – you have them, right? If not, you should have them in several places throughout your house. You can hang them or stash them strategically around the house. Furnace area, garage, kitchen and near your BBQ make sense as places you should keep them. Set up a reminder to check them every 6 months – I actually check mine monthly.
Lockbox – keep a key outside? Why would you wrap it up and put it under a rock. Even worse, why get a fake rock and stash it inside it? If you are going to keep a key outside then get yourself a key safe. You can find key safes for around $25 from Amazon. Screw it someplace outdoors, and you’ll never have to worry about not being able to get into your house. Need to leave a key under a doormat for a housekeeper? Why? You can get key safes that hang from door knobs. This way you can only put it outside when you need to, and not have to give your housekeeper the code to the safe that you have permanently mounted outside.
Generator – keep an eye out on Craigslist for generators. If there isn’t a pending massive storm coming, you should be able to find one in decent working condition for a discount.
Plants – I’m terrible about plants. Adding a reminder to water them is a great idea. Perhaps I could find moisture sensors to notify me when they are thirsty? Hmm…
Sat, Mar 7, 2015
Things don’t have to be “techy” to appear on LazyAutomation… Lately, I have been converting over to cast iron pans for cooking on the stovetop. They are easy to maintain, extremely cheap (a 12″ cast iron frying pan will run you about $20) and will last FOREVER.
My interest in cast iron began with a blog post over at Art of Manliness (guys, if you haven’t found this site, you should check it out, and girls – if you have a man in your life, you can get some great gift ideas for him there).
You can read the article >here<
In order to cook with cast iron, it needs to be seasoned with some melted vegetable shortening and baked in the oven for at least one hour. Afterwards, NEVER use soap to clean it. Purchase a scrub brush from Lodge and only use that to clean it. If you have some grit that doesn’t want to come off, sprinkle some coarse salt in the pan and then use the brush. Washing the pan with soap will ruin the slick, seasoned coat that is the key to great cooking with cast iron.
What’s great about this is that if you find a cast iron skillet in the back of grandma’s closet that she isn’t using anymore, you can easily re-season it and it will be just as good as new.
It’s simple, it’s lazy (once seasoned) and it works – check it out.
What about you? Are you a believer in cast iron?
Sun, Jul 15, 2012
Well, the vegetable garden is thriving. The tomatoes are growing, the peppers are coming in nicely, and we’ve already harvested a ton of cucumbers and zucchini.
The problem is watering the garden. Normally, this should be something very easy, but I am extremely complacent when it comes to watering the garden regularly. What’s a lazy guy to do?
Enter the irrigation system from Drip Depot.
This product allowed me to set up a full irrigation system to water each plant individually. No more worrying as to whether or not the vegetable plants have enough water. Once connected to the timer on my hose, I can schedule regular waterings for the plants. It cost me about $130 for the kit to irrigate up to 4 beds. I do have a lot of extra hose left over, that I may use to irrigate other plants in the yard.
How do you water your garden? Do you have any tricks? Post them below!
Fri, Feb 24, 2012
I recently had a scare when a neighbor was burglarized. Why he picked his house and not mine was more a case of increased odds in my favor (in my opinion), as opposed to simply dumb luck. Over the years, I have taken certain steps to better secure my home and give me a better “security blanket” to wrap myself in.
This recent event, however, has caused me to re-evaluate the overall security of my house. In doing so, I went “back to the basics” and re-affirmed what I have learned along my path to “lazy security”. Granted, the term “lazy security” does not conjure up thoughts a being snuggled in a nice warm blanket of security, but I will give you some ideas that you can do around your house that will not only make you feel a bit better, it will help deter possible thieves from focusing on your house. Also, once implemented, these “lazy” features are a system of “set it and forget it”.
I am in no way an expert on security, mind you. I simply would like to regurgitate (and possibly reinforce) certain things I have learned along the way.
1. Install a home security system – you would be amazed how generally easy it is for the DIYer to install a home security system in your house. After it is installed, make SURE you set it up for remote monitoring. Most people don’t realize that If you install a security system yourself, you can utilize services like Alarm Relay to monitor your house for as little as $9 a month. Even better, if you add smoke alarms to it, that is included in the monthly monitoring fee. And lastly, if you install a security system, ADVERTISE that fact! Add stickers to your windows, put a stake in your front yard, and if your side yard or back yard faces a street, add a sign there as well. The sign alone will cause the majority of thieves to keep walking by. Websites are out there that cater to the DIYer that will help you choose a security system based upon your needs, and then help you to install that system in your house. People are out there and are willing to help you for FREE. Home security systems with wireless window and door sensors can be installed by the DIYer for way under $1k (closer to $700). You will also experience significant savings over time ($9/month as opposed to $30/month – a savings of over $250 per year) and you have a hi-end security system that blows away the typical ADT $100 alarm system. In 3 years the alarm will have paid for itself. Once you have picked out an alarm, the helpful members at DIY Alarm Forum can give you the knowledge to need to properly install it.
2. Install cameras – these days, it’s surprising how simple it is to install a security camera system in your house. It’s basically a DVR (similar to what you use to record TV) that records the streams coming from the cameras you install around your house which then allows you to play it back. Plug in a USB thumb drive and you can easily download the video and playback on a PC. The DVRs also generally come with software that let you log into the DVR from your laptop or desktop and view live as well as pre-recorded footage. Even cooler, some DVRs have software for your Android phone or iPhone, and you can show off to your friends how you can view who is at your front door from anywhere in the world. Once the cameras have been installed, the unit runs itself – you never have to touch it again, unless you need to review the recordings. And lastly, as with 1 above, ADVERTISE that you have video surveillance. Put up a sign that let’s people know that you are recording your premises 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can install a fairly sophisticated system in your house with 6 cameras for way under $1k (probably closer to $750). This is a project that can easily be completed on a day off from work.
3. Get a safe – if you have things in your house that you need to protect, get a safe. Not just any safe, a safe that is water and fire proof. Then, BOLT THE SAFE to the floor. Once the safe is installed, organize important documents and put them there. Once done, you never have to think about this again.
4. Keep gates locked – if you have gates to your yard, lock them. Why wouldn’t you? Granted, these are not Fort Knox quality locks, but they provide a certain level of security, right?
5. Off-site backup – what if your house is compromised and your laptop is stolen. Do you keep an offsite backup of your data? If not, do you at least perform regular backups of photos and files and burn them to a thumb drive or a portable drive? Once you’ve done this, you can leave the drive in the safe that you installed (you listened to my advice, right?). My suggestion then would be to set up a recurring task in Astrid to remind you to connect the drive to your network at certain intervals to keep the backup current. If you want to truly backup your data off-premises, websites like Mozy or Carbonite can assist you with plans that run around $50-60 per year. The services will install apps on your PC which will then automatically back up data for you.
6. Motion sensors outside your house – these will trigger lights to come on when motion is detected. These can compliment the security cameras you installed. Home Automation software can do things like this for you as well (look for my articles on Homeseer).
7. Smoke Alarms – everyone has smoke alarms in their house (right?) – but if you install an alarm with the ability to monitor the smoke alarms, a fire in your house when you are not home will trigger a call to your local fire department. What’s the sense of having a smoke alarm go off if you are not home to hear it?
All of the things I have listed above are projects that once completed, require very little maintenance and provide you with a significant level of security and let people know that you are serious about protecting your assets and your family. 99.9% of thieves will simply pass you by so as to avoid the headache of trying to overcome obstacles.
What are some of the easy and simple steps taken around your house to increase the level of security?
Sun, Nov 6, 2011
I have been very happy with it over the years, but lately, the ability to EASILY choose which music I wanted to listen to AND be able to listen to it anywhere I want has been a struggling cause. My system has been built around my home server (that runs Homeseer for home automation) with a Delta M410 audio card that provides me with 5 sets of RCA stereo plugs. Four of these are currently in use and the connect to amplifiers that proved sound for each zone in my house (Living Room / Kitchen, Master Bedroom, Family Room and Backyard). JRiver Media Center is a great app for supporting multiple sound cards (which is a HUGE issue for Windows Media Player, for purposes of multi-zone playback). What that basically means is that the Delta M410 looks like 5 independent sound cards inside your computer. JRiver can then output whatever you are playing to any one of these outputs (independently as well).
So this setup sounds really cool, except you need a front-end to control it. What’s so great about this if every time you want play music you have to walk up to a computer and start using a mouse? The front-end gives you the ability to control everything remotely with a clean interface. I was using NetRemote, but I never seemed to get it to easily do what I wanted. Admittedly, I never had the focus to really learn how to program within NetRemote, but I think if the interface was more intuitive and there were more out of the box templates included, I might have done more with it.
Which leads me to this past weekend’s find. I will say that I browse a lot of the “Gadget” blogs and hadn’t run across it (looks like its been around since August, 2010) . Gizmo installs on your Android device (phone or tablet) and syncs with Jriver. Once connected, your Android has access to your entire media collection (this also includes photos and videos). Open Gizmo, select where you want to listen to music (including “here” which streams it right to your handheld device – plug in your headphones and head out) and hit play. You have access to your playlists and tagging is supported.
A friend came over the house this weekend, and I handed him the tablet and opened Gizmo and handed it to him. Within 5 minutes he was browsing my collection and playing music in the house. The ability to have someone pick up the device and easily understand how to work it rates very high for me.
Although I have wiring throughout my house (I’m constantly pulling wires through my house) with multiple amplifiers, I could easily see someone taking an old laptop, installing JRiver on it and then connecting it to their living room receiver. That would be your first zone. As your system grew, you could add USB audio cards (note that if you add more than one of these, you may not be able to fit them side by side in your laptop) and connect them to additional amplifiers (either by running and hiding a wire) or wirelessly.
Project Cost (one zone)
USB Sound Card – $10
plus wiring – $depends (this can be tough if you don’t know how to pull wires through your house)
Wireless Sender/Receiver – $100 (easier solution)
Some audio device to play the music (this could be an old receiver with speakers, or maybe you have another receiver in your family room) – $0
What’s great is that you can download JRiver for free and try it out for 30 days to decide whether or not you like it. You could have it up and running in your living room on a Sunday afternoon. By attaching your laptop to your receiver’s auxiliary input (or a CD input, since you will never need that CD player again – your media collection is stored on your laptop’s hard drive) the music on the laptop will play through speakers in your room. The most current version of JRiver gives you the ability to control the volume as well.
Try it out. It’s pretty easy. And it’s real cool.
Tue, Oct 11, 2011
For those of you that struggle from time to time like I do, trying to figure out the band or singer on the radio, you need to have SoundHound installed on your Android Phone (I believe there are iPhone versions as well). I used to use Shazam to identify bands (I was in the beta phase), but when I changed phones, I was unable to move the license. Honestly, I wasn’t thrilled with that, and it made me stop using the app as much as I previously was (the free version only allows a minimum number of lookups per month). Shazam is essentially the same program as SoundHound, but you need to pay for it (I’m sure someone out there would argue that they’re different). Let’s face it, free is good, especially when it is a great little program.
Simply open the app, hold the phone somewhat near a phone (I say somewhat because I was clothes shopping one day and wanted to know who was playing through their PA system. I opened SoundHound and walked near a ceiling speaker. A few seconds later, I knew the singer and song.
It’s a pretty cool app, and it’s free. Check it out – you can find in the Android Market Place.
Sun, Oct 9, 2011
So I learned a week ago that dropping your HTC Evo on the pavement from about three feet will undoubtedly result in a cracked screen. Fortunately, I have insurance on the phone and within 24 hours a new one was waiting for me on my doorstep. I was also lucky in the sense that the cracked phone was still (somewhat) operational.
After taking an inventory of all my Android apps, I realized that by migrating all my data to the new phone, I would be losing all my text messages. You may or may not care about this, but I have many messages with phone numbers and notes that I simply do not want to lose.
I found SMS Backup & Restore (http://android.riteshsahu.com/apps/sms-backup-restore) – works like a charm. Be sure to read their Related Downloads section (http://tinyurl.com/27dyj2k), as you will need a css sheet to place in the folder with the XML file that is created. Once you do, you can open all the messages in your browser and easily read them.
Great program to fix what may or may not be an issue when transferring to a new phone.
Sun, Sep 25, 2011
I have been reading about (and enjoying) smoked foods throughout my life. I’ve even tried smoking in my Weber grill.
How do I do this with as little effort possible and achieve a decent to better than decent piece of smoked meat?
It began with a Google search of Food Smoking Forums. There are actually a lot of forums on the web of people that have a passion for smoked foods and love bestowing their knowledge upon newbie’s such as myself. The forum I found that seemed to be very active with a good community of “food smokers” was Smoking Meat Forums (SMF).
Browsing SMF led me to find a 5 day Food Smoking “eCourse”. Jeff Phillips (aka @tulsajeff) Jeff will send you a 5 day course that really gives you the basics. You receive this course in the form of daily chapters that are e-mailed to you. Of course, with each chapter comes a bunch of links to things offered by Jeff, such as his rubs, but overall the chapters are well written with an emphasis on providing you with the basics. You can sign up for his course here (I have no affiliation with this site, by the way).
*** Of course you will use your subscription e-mail address and not your personal e-mail addy when signing up. ***
I was able to stop at my local Lowes and pick up the new smoker. I decided to go with the Master Forge Double Door Liquid Propane Gas Smoker for $150. It seemed to have some pretty good reviews both on Lowes’ website as well as on SMF.
Between what I learned from the eCourse and some quick browsing on the Smoking Meat Forums I was able to knock out an unbelievable rack of ribs on my first time out.
A couple of things I learned:
I recognize that I have A LOT more to learn, but I have gotten some of the basics down. I think I’ve given you a good starting point if you are looking to jump into this “sport”. There are some “mods” you can do to this smoker (as with most smokers), such as installing an oven gasket around the door to help prevent smoke from escaping from anywhere but the smoke stack (smoke DOES leak).
Here is a picture of my first rack of ribs. The picture was taken with my Evo – unfortunately, it didn’t come out as clear as I would have liked it. The ribs were gone in 10 minutes. They were fantastic.
Sun, Sep 18, 2011
This is specific to NYC; depending on your city, you may or may not have this option.
So I got an e-mail the other day from the MTA (Metropolitan Transit Authority, NYC’s transit division) offering their new EasyPay MetroCard. It doesn’t get any easier than this. If you have to commute regularly (or even not that often, as is the case with me) I can not understand why anyone would not want one of these cards. I generally do not commute in NYC, so when I do, I am always wondering if I have enough money on my MetroCard. The EasyPay card will allow you to view your balance online and add money if you need to. Better yet, if you lose it, you don’t lose the remaining money on the card.
Tell me why you wouldn’t want one? Unless, of course, you are one of those people that don’t use EZ-Pass. If you are lazy like me, having a commuter card that can be re-filled online is lazy 101.
Does your city offer something like this? Do you take advantage of it?