Skreens unboxing

I am so excited to receive the Kickstarter edition of Skreens!  The package arrived in the mail today, a short 10 months since the project was funded.  Huge congratulations to Team Skreens!

Here is what we got:

1. Nice, simple box

2.  Power supply and quick start guide on top

3.  Here is everything taken out of the box

My first impression is that this is a well thought out package.  It includes everything needed to install the device and begin using it with existing equipment: HDMI cable, power supply, power cord, and the device itself.

I am a little disappointed that the device itself is in a plastic housing, with no standard mounting options, and a strange unlabeled button in the front.  But since this is a Kickstarter edition, I am also impressed at how much this already feels like a retail product.

Here are some more details:

The device itself is 8 inches wide. There are air vents on both sides so you’ll need at least 12 inches of width to keep the air flowing smoothly.

It is 4 inches deep, but watch out for that tiny white button on the front.  It is easy to bump it so I’d suggest giving the front a good half-inch more space and the back is where the wires go, which I always leave a minimum of 3 inches.  I’d recommend at least 8 inches of depth to allow for all of the wires and space in front to avoid any accidental button press.

The heighest point in the curved face of the unit is just shy of 2 inches.  If you are really tight in space I would allow for 1 and 7/8 inches.  There is no need for any additional height.
As for the power supply.  It is a typical power brick, but it is nice that this switching supply supports a large input range for those of you outside the USA.  This one has an output rated for 5V up to 4Amps, which means you won’t be powering this off a USB port.

That’s it for now.  Here is a quick look at the quick start guide.  I plan to install and test everything as soon as possible and will report my findings in the next post.

Oh, and here is a screenshot of the Skreens app before I have the device connected.

Our pool construction story

May 1st, 2015.  We loved our little backyard.  It was perfect except for the holly tree and lack of a pool.  Here is the story of how we started out with two kids and no pool, hired a pool company, and ended up with three kids and one pool.

IMG_6572I have a background in Digital Arts and have done a few other construction projects myself so we began working on designs.  We already had the property survey, we knew the setbacks and easements, and it was not long before we started to visualize what we wanted to build.

June 27th, 2015. We were down to three, very similar, design options.  It was time to find a pool company to help with the final details and begin the project.


July 6th, 2015. This was our first meeting with Atlas Pools.  We came prepared with our designs!  We picked out the tile, deck, pool equipment, and signed on the dotted line.


Here are the tile and deck pavers we chose.

IMG_5349August 14th, 2015.  My wife is now pregnant with baby Jasper.  That means in roughly 9 months we will have a newborn.  The pool hasn’t been started yet because we are working out some details with the HOA over landscaping, screen enclosure, etc.  We have a beautiful neighborhood and the extra scrutiny by the HOA was both expected and appreciated.  In the end, we were able to come to an agreement by adding an additional row of plants for privacy and ensuring the proper “architectural foam” was used for the screen enclosure.

October 1st, 2015. Everything is finally ready to go.  I removed the white picket fence and carefully stored it in my garage.  The pool company had the top layer of grass removed before they layout the pool.

IMG_8618October 2nd, 2015.  The pool layout is framed out so that digging can begin.  Notice that they left some sprinklers?  No worries, we had those zones capped off already so it’s ok.  The digger ends up ripping most of them out.

IMG_8627October 7th, 2015.  The dig is complete.  They did a pretty good job except that the pool company did not give them the most up-to-date drawing so they didn’t dig it quite as deep as it was suppose to be (more on this later).  I was told this is the official “start” of the pool build process and the entire thing will be done in 10-12 weeks.  That means we should be swimming by December 30th.  I can’t wait!

IMG_8649October 13th, 2015.  The rough plumbing is done for the in-floor cleaning system, returns, and drains.  The rebar for the gunite shell is also installed.

IMG_8683October 16th, 2015.  It is a good thing that I checked the depth and slope because both were way off.  The lowest point of the pool needed to be 6 inches lower and the “gradual” slope of the pool would have been more like a water slide.  In the picture below, the Atlas Pools salesman and project manager work to lower the main drain and later straighten out the slope.  It still is not perfect but it is much better than if I had said nothing.

IMG_8708October 21st, 2015. The pool is taking shape, but get used to the view because it will be like this for another two weeks.  In the mean time, additional plumbing is done and most of the pool equipment is installed.




November 9th, 2015.  The tile is installed and looks incredible!  Most of the ground has been back-filled so the deck can be started soon.

IMG_6721November 17th, 2015.  The forms for the retaining wall and coping around the pool are put in place along with some rebar for additional strength.  The screen enclosure will be going in around the entire deck once it has been laid.


IMG_9263November 19th, 2015.  The retaining wall for the deck and the coping have now been poured.  It will be another week before they start laying down the deck pavers.  Considering we were promised the pool would be finished by around Christmas, this project is going extremely slow.

IMG_9336November 26th, 2015.  The deck pavers are finally installed and look great in pictures.  The problem is that the paver installer did a sloppy job.  They didn’t make sure that the rows were perpendicular to the pool edge and left some tiny (less than 1″) columns right next to the spa.  There were also a few spots that were obvious tripping hazards that would need to be adjusted and they completely forgot one of the door pads.


IMG_7075As you can see, our yorkie is pretty happy with the work done so far.  Unfortunately, this is all that will be done for the next 4 weeks.

December 28th, 2015.  The screen enclosure was completed but, and this is a big one, they didn’t build it to the specifications approved by the HOA.  In fact, the entire enclosure was changed such that the architectural foam would end up being too large in some places and missing entirely in others.  The project should have been done by now, but what we didn’t know is that this mistake would push the project months past the originally promised date.  In hind-sight, they could have torn the entire structure down and rebuilt it to the original specification in a shorter amount of time.

IMG_0204IMG_0186January 12th, 2016.  Happy New Year!  The safety fence is now installed so that’s something.


January 25th, 2016. The foam accents are being installed.  They aren’t quite right but are pretty close to what we expected.  You can see the corner is about 6″ wider than it should be and they installed little booties on all the columns.  We had asked for a very modern look with no accents, but that was somehow lost.  The worst is yet to come, and we don’t even know it.IMG_8008

When all was said and done, the foam install looked awful.  We left in the morning and when we came back, the deed was done.  They added art-deco accents along the tops, they completely forgot the two new columns at the end of the deck, and the booties were floating off the ground around the entire enclosure.


Months go by with no action.  The foam company has lost employees and is saying it will not be able to fix anything till the end of March.  Make that the end of May.  I was tired of waiting to get my garage and yard back so I decided to install the fence.  They would just have to work around it.

April 3rd, 2016.  The fence is being installed.  I hired an expert and worked on the project myself as his assistant.  The install went perfectly and was completed in one day.  Thank you 🙂


May 13th, 2016.  I am tired of waiting to use the pool.  It is now super hot outside and we are over 5 months past the original project deadline.  I asked for the pool to be finished while we wait for the new foam.  The installers of the quartz finish were about as sloppy as the deck pavers.  Again, it looks good in pictures, but it has many obvious flaws including an unclean finish, sloppy edges along the stairs and spa seating, over-spray into the tile grout, and trowel marks throughout the bottom.

IMG_1701May 16th, 2016.  Remember my wife was pregnant?  Well, not anymore!  Jasper was born today and he is a super awesome baby.  My wife made an entire person before the pool company could build a pool…pretty sad.  But it isn’t entirely their fault, the foam people are still holding things up.  I can’t keep waiting for them so the landscaping is going in pronto, if only the garbage truck would stop breaking the irrigation.

IMG_1938June 13th, 2016.  The pool auto filler is connected (sort of).  It is at this time that I learn of a mistake that was made early on in the project.  Unfortunately, it is too late for the separate valve to the outdoor shower to be installed.  I had asked for the separate valve early on to make sure I could control the connection to the auto-fill and shower separately, but I guess they forgot.  It’s a pain, but something I can address myself in the future.


June 30th, 2016.  The foam install has restarted.  They didn’t paint anything correctly and forgot some pieces.  It has been so long now that I am starting to feel defeated.  I will just keep pointing out the errors and hopefully it will all be done someday.

IMG_2375 IMG_2377 July 8th, 2016.  I am still waiting for the deck jets to be fixed.  There was a leak in one of the them that had to be repaired first.  They also stick out of the deck and pose a tripping hazard.  This is something I pointed out a few months ago to the pool company and they are finally going to take care of it.  In fact, they did a really great job making these look better and the final result is much safer and lots of fun 🙂


It is now August, 2016, and the foam people still have a few things to finish and repair.  The in-floor cleaning system has finally been added into the automation system.  I just got the remote controls working from my iPhone and am very happy that it was easy to setup myself.  I did have to update the firmware on the protocol adapter myself, but my background in Software Engineering made that a piece of cake.

I promise the next post will have a lot less complaining and a lot more pretty pictures of the finished project…when it is done.

The project is done.  Find out more here!

Mac OS X Board thingdev (platform esp8266, package esp8266) is unknown

Here is a quick fix if you run into the error:
“Board thingdev (platform esp8266, package esp8266) is unknown”

This will remove all of your Arduino boards and preferences

1. open a terminal
2. type cd to access your home directory
3. type cd Library
4. type rm -rf Arduino15/ to remove all Arduino settings
5. follow the instructions found here to reinstall:

Sad Review of Solar Winds IP Address Tracker Tools

I was hoping to find a good, simple, tool for tracking IP address assignments. My first choice was Excel, but I thought someone must have an easy to use program for this common task. After a quick Internet search I found, Solar Winds

I installed the Solar Winds Free IP Tracker using their installer “SolarWinds-IPAT-FreeTool-v4.3.exe” but was never able to run the program. It seems to install. I definitely see a lot of background processes running for it. I just can’t get the program to launch without an error.

I contacted Solar Winds to report the problem but it has been over a week and still no response. I am sad to say all of this and must recommend that you Do Not Use Solar Winds products.

Buy THIS Not THAT – Exposed Pipe Shower Edition

Sometimes I see something on the Internet that just shocks me. “What a surprise?” Anyway, I am all about quality products, but I do not see why there is such a HUGE difference here. Even if the valve or shower head for the product in the second image is superior, it just cannot possibly justify the price. This is all exposed hardware! I could easily buy a second or third set of the first product and just replace it when needed. This is crazy!

Great Price

Crazy Price

Disney Infinity 3.0

I have decided to start a new hobby. It is called Disney Infinity. I have a few goals:
1. Have fun and relax
2. Introduce my kids to Star Wars
3. Make my own game level

So far so good. I got the kids interested by letting Olaf drive a speeder around the Toy Box. I am also playing the Twilight of the Republic Play Set, which they seem to enjoy. I like that I can switch characters when the one I am playing gets knocked out by the droid army. I feel like I have only scratched the surface.

My only complaints so far are the loading times could be better and that Anakin tends to be slow taking the light saber out when I need it. Other than that, the controls are decent and I can’t wait to play more 🙂

I am not sure when or if I will achieve goal number 3, but I’ll let you all know once I get through the play set and learn more about the rest of the game.

Using LUA in a C++, Visual Studio 2013, Qt, or any C/C++ application

Start Super-Quick-Start Guide:

  1. Download and extract the LUA source.  Click here
  2. Add all of the .c files in the “src” directory to your project except for lua.c and luac.c (these are the interpreter and compiler that are not needed for this example and, depending on your use, are not needed at all)
  3. Add the path to the LUA headers to your project include paths. For example:
  4. Assuming you are using C++, add this line to the top of your source to include the headers needed in a C++ friendly way:
    #include “lua.hpp”
  5. That is it!  You are all set and ready to use LUA in your program.
  6. OK, here is an example to get you started!
const char* luaScript = "\
function addTwoNumbers(x,y)\n\
  addCount = addCount + 1\n\
  return (x+y)\n\
int luaScriptLength = strlen(luaScript);
int addCount;
int addResult;

// create lua and load the script data
lua_State *L = 0;
L = luaL_newstate();
luaL_loadbuffer(L, luaScript, luaScriptLength, "luaScript");
lua_pcall(L, 0, 0, 0);

// get value of addCount global variable
// stack addCount
lua_getglobal(L, "addCount");
// value of top stack item (in this case addCount)
addCount = lua_tointeger(L, -1);
// addCount should be 0
// unstack var1
lua_pop(L, 1);

// add two numbers
// stack addTwoNumbers
lua_getglobal(L, "addTwoNumbers");
// stack value 5
lua_pushinteger(L, 5);
// stack value 10
lua_pushinteger(L, 10);
// call 2 stacked args, 1 stacked function, and expect 1 stack result
lua_pcall(L, 2, 1, 0);
// value of top stack item (in this case the addTwoNumbers result)
addResult = lua_tointeger(L, -1);
// addResult should be 15
// unstack result
lua_pop(L, 1);

// get value of addCount global variable
// stack addCount
lua_getglobal(L, "addCount");
// value of top stack item (in this case addCount)
addCount = lua_tointeger(L, -1);
// addCount should be 1
// unstack addCount
lua_pop(L, 1);


RED – change quoted strings

Your Regular Expression of the Day (RED) is how to change a quoted string in C/C++.  This is a bit complex, but hopefully it will be a good starting point.  It will allow some start characters to be captured, followed by the quoted string, and finally some end characters.  The captured data can then be used with whatever additional data you want to insert.

RED: ([,\( ])\”(.*)\”([,\) ;])

In VS2013, the Replace with string would be: $1_T(“$2”)$3


TI CC3200 LaunchPad Gotcha

Important things to note about the CC3200:

1.  You can get the launch pad from Digikey for about $30

2.  If you follow the Getting Started Guide, make sure you also try the following when the Code Composer connection fails:

A.  press the reset button on the board before debugging

B.  Do Not open your serial port terminal application until after the debug session has started (or it won’t start at all)

3.  Code Composer is pretty low-level and may ultimately be unnecessary.  You may get faster results using Energia