Burningbird Smart stuff

Hack your home

I am very interested in Internet of Things, DIY, and smart home gadgets. I recently created a new web site, Hack Your Home, both because I wanted to grab a .space domain, and because I wanted to record my new home ownership experiences in one place.

My most recent writing, SmartThings Hub and Samsung SmartCam for Security (with a little Google OnHub action thrown in) covers the set up I have to secure our basement entrance. Let’s just say if anyone enters our home via the basement door or window, they won’t do so unnoticed.

I’m also fascinated by the new microcomputers and microcontrollers such as Raspberry Pi and Arduino. Over time, I plan on incorporating them into the fun, and providing associated how-tos.

The site won’t only be about gadgets. I’m also covering experiences with contractors, aided and abetted by the contractor web sites such as Angie’s List, as well as search engines. The latter has changed home ownership to a remarkable degree: no longer are we neophytes, tender bait for less than scrupulous electricians, concrete companies, and landscapers. Knowledge is still the most powerful tool we have.

Oh and pictures. Thanks to my Nikon P900, I have discovered my back yard is a jungle

Burningbird Technology

Server is moved

Moving to a new VPN (Virtual Private Network) was as simple as signing up for a second Linode instance, and then building it to my specs. Eliminating half the cruft I had on my old system saved about 40GB of space. Now I have room for all new cruft.

I decided to stay with Drupal for this site. Frankly, I just don’t want to muck with content systems anymore. I have a couple of new sites on WordPress, this on Drupal, and that gives me a foot in two worlds. I was reading that the Drupal 8 upgrade should be button-press easy, especially if you haven’t customized your site. Sure sounds simpler than fighting to get it into WordPress.

Linode’s new billing system made the move a whole lot easier, and cheaper. I was only charged for the double VPN until I dropped the original once the move was finished. I think I’ll take this approach the next time there’s a major Ubuntu upgrade. Not only can I cleanly upgrade, this approach gives me a chance to clean my system.

Burningbird Technology

Mind the scaffolding

image of destroyed front porch

I have attempted to upgrade to Ubuntu 14.04 from 12.04.5 three times, failing each time. The points of failure are complex and seemingly many. I can ignore the necessary upgrade until 12.04.5 hits end of life in 2017, but whatever cruft is preventing a clean upgrade may be allowing all sorts of bad things. I also use my server as testing environment for all of my books, which means I’m constantly installing and uninstalling a host of software. When I ran


I was surprised at how many packages I have installed that are no longer supported.

No matter how much I want to avoid it, It’s time to clean up my system.

Not just clean up. I want to move my site to HTTPS/SSL. The new Let’s Encrypt Certificate Authority should be in business in September, simplifying the process for obtaining an SSL certificate, and removing a major obstacle for making this move.

I’m also looking at migrating my site(s) back to WordPress from Drupal. Drupal is a marvelous CMS when you like to tinker under the hood, or you have a business site that needs extensive customization and complexity. But it’s not a good CMS when you don’t have the time to tinker, and you just want a place to write. With the upcoming changes for Drupal 8, I realized that I could either migrate to the new version, or I could migrate to WordPress: the work would be the same.

The advantages to WordPress is it is geared more towards just having a place to write. There is also more updated support for social networking, commentary, mobile devices, and a larger pool of weblog themes. Drupal is powerful, but I’m finding many of the modules I’m interested in have erratic support, at best. The Drupal environment is set up in such a way as to channel all interest in a certain functionality into one module. This is fine, except when the module developer tires of it, and no one picks it up. WordPress fosters a more competitive environment for functional extensions, so you’re almost always going to be able to find a supported plugin for what you need.

Moving from WordPress to Drupal is a snap, but the reverse isn’t true. In fact, it’s been downright ugly in the past, requiring either a great deal of hacking, or an expensive migration service. Thankfully, this has changed with a new PHP script and associated tutorial, both of which help remove most of the pain. I hope.

I expect, though, that my site will end up even more fractured than it is now, with my many moves between domains, weblogs, and software—not to mention removing dated content, and merging and splitting weblogs. Such is life. One of the advantages of today’s web environment is it’s adaptable to change. A broken link is no longer the anathema it once was, and 404 errors are like gray hair and bad knees: a sign of increasing maturity.

All of this is my way of saying that things are going to be erratic around here for the next couple of months. Of course, I’ve been so quiet in my space for so long that folks might not even notice the erratic nature of my web site. I’m hoping to get better about this, too.