Saturday, September 2, 2017

Paradise ponders: white dust, finished stairs, and WiFi meshes edition...

Paradise ponders: white dust, finished stairs, and WiFi meshes edition...  Yesterday I did the final glue-up on the stairs I'm building for Michelle H.  They're now finished except for a couple of blocks I need to fabricate to attach the stairs to her wall.  I'll be headed over to her house on Tuesday or Wednesday to put them in.  The first photo below shows the bottom of the stairs, and the bazillion clamps I put on for gluing two 2x4s along the bottom of all the lap joints.  I did this just to keep down the bowing that will naturally occur over time.  The second photo just shows the other side, which will be the top of the stairs (the photo shows the stairs assembly sitting on its back, just for convenience while gluing).  I'm very pleased with how this all came out, and I'm especially pleased with how well simple lap joints (created on the router table) worked out.


Yesterday afternoon I headed down to the cat room with a pile of new LED bulbs.  We had three (of 12 total) bulbs burn out, and several were the wrong color (“warm white”, yellowish and dim to our eyes, instead of “daylight”), so I was on a mission to make them all uniform and bright.  While replacing the three bulbs on the first fixture, I noticed that the inside of the fixture's glass appeared to be dirty.  I ran my finger along it and discovered that there was nearly a quarter-inch thick layer of bright white fluffy dust.  This layer was absorbing perhaps half the light produced by the fixture!  So I took down the glass from all four fixtures, cleaned it carefully, replaced all the bulbs, and put everything back together.  Success – the room is much brighter now.  I think at least half the brightness problem was that funny dust, and it was thick enough that I think it may have caused some of the bulbs to overheat (and fail) as well.  That cat room has no windows open to the outside, and has a great air cleaner – so I'm wondering just what the heck that dust is.  Something the cats themselves produce, like dander?  I'm not at all sure, but one thing I know: we have to clean those things a couple times a year, or this will just happen again...

This morning my first job was to install another WiFi access point, this time out near the cedar shed that holds my pump.  There are two devices inside the shed that connect to my WiFi network: the irrigation supervisor computer (that I built and programmed) and the irrigation controller (a commercial device that turns all the zone valves on and off).  Both of these devices were having WiFi challenges, as the signal strength there wasn't very good.  A big part of the problem is the two (metal) fuel tanks that happen to be directly between those devices and the access points they could connect to.  The solution was pretty straightforward: I purchased another access point (the white thing with antennas in the photo at right) and mounted it where it had an unobstructed line-of-sight to both the devices inside the cedar shed and the potential access points it could uplink to.  There was just such a place just 8 feet or so from the cedar shed, and very convenient to mount onto, so that's where it went (and that's what the photo shows).  The new access point, when I powered it up, automatically found the other access point that it had the best signal to – and to my surprise, that turned out to be the access point inside my office, in our barn about 200' away!  The kitchen access point is much closer (about 80'), but apparently the house's external wall attenuates the WiFi signal much more than my barn's exterior wall does.  Just as with the rest of the Unifi access points I installed a few months ago, bringing this one up was quite painless.  It's such a different experience from consumer WiFi routers – incrementally extending the “strong signal region” of my WiFi network is now easy and predictable.  We've gotten quite used to having strong WiFi anywhere in our house, barn, or in our yard – so different than the “stand in exactly this spot and turn your iPad 45 degrees” sort of mess we used to have...

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