Ecobee’s ecobee3 Thermostat

We had 3 Nest thermostats for several years handling our 3 zone home HVAC system.

With no significant innovations since we purchased the first generation, I wanted to try something different (I’d also tried 2 Nest Protects at the same time, and they were awful in our house. False alarms. False. Alarms. And the fact that they weren’t interconnected with the other 6 smoke detectors made the over-all safety of the occupants of the house a bit less certain).

So, more than a year ago, I switched all of our thermostats to The ecobee3 smart thermostat.

One thing that the zone system didn’t do well was handle temperature differentials between various rooms in our house in a single zone. That meant that one room could be cool while another was warm for example. The ecobee3 can work with room sensors.


2016-11-18_19-31-18Using the Follow Me mode, I can configure one zone to average the temperatures between the various sensors. This helps balance the temperature in ways that the Nest could not.

For example, right now, I’m sitting in my Office/den and the sensor reports the room temperature as 68F and occupied (which makes sense as the sensor is sitting in front of me on my desk).


The Follow Me feature really makes the rooms, on average, more comfortable than the Nest.


Each sensor is powered by the common button battery 2032. The batteries are supposed to last quite a while (more than a year), but I’ve had them last only 8 months.

Each thermostat has a page where you can get a quick overview of the specific details for the thermostat (and some of the household settings).


It’s really simple to add a vacation so that the system can, without guesswork, switch to a mode that should save you some money (turning back the heating for example).


There are a number of graphs and charts …, I don’t look at them very often, but they’re there for the curious.


In the example above, which is the System Monitor, the orange line (in the middle) is highlighting the desired temperature in the basement. In the morning, before we use the room we’ve got some exercise equipment in, we like to make sure the temperature is at least 63F. So, there’s a brief window in the schedule where I’ve set the temperature. Then, it resumes back to normal.

As you can see, the line that goes down dramatically is the outside temperature. It was really warm in the morning and now is headed to a much colder, Northern Hemisphere cold wintry direction. Sad smile:(

I’ve adjusted the temperatures of the floors to closely match our typical patterns and needs:


You can also enable the Smart Home/Away feature:


It says:

If your ecobee detects occupancy during a scheduled Away period, or detects no occupancy during a scheduled Home period, it will automatically override the schedule to maximize comfort and savings.

I’ve got that disabled because in a multi-zone house, it activates the “Home” activity settings, which I often don’t want (mostly because of how we use our house). But, for others, I could totally see it being a useful feature.

Like the nest (and some other smart thermostats), the ecobee3 learns how your HVAC system performs in various weather conditions and will adjust it’s schedule to minimize the amount of time your HVAC needs to run. That translates to: money saved. It also means that if you want the temperature to be a perfect 70F when you get home at 6pm every evening during the winter months, it will be. The furnace will have generally run the minimum amount of time necessary. You don’t need to program a “dumb” thermostat like model where you program 70F at 4:30pm and then hope that by 6pm the house will be warmed to where you want it.


Other nice features:

  • You can use Apple HomeKit to control the thermostat, or the Amazon Echo (Alexa!).
  • It has the current weather available a single tap away.
  • The mobile app is the web app basically (but within a native app shell). So, it looks and behaves like the web version.

The few times I’ve needed a little support (like one of the sensors started to report it was “missing” frequently), ecobee responded very quickly to my support request. It was very “human” and I felt like someone on the other end actually cared. In the case of the misbehaving sensor, they sent me a new one at no-charge.

Here are the few features I’d like to see:

  • A slightly less sensitive way of manually adjusting the temperature. I don’t do it frequently, but when I do, I sometimes have trouble getting the temperature I want.
  • A nice looking wall plate to cover the space left by the traditional programmable thermostat these replaced.
  • The web app asks me to sign in way too frequently. Seriously. Remember Me should actually Remember me.

Overall, I’d recommend the ecobee3 over the Nest, especially if you want a better balanced temperature in your house rather than just the temperature at the thermostat’s location.

Made in the USA Camera Bag Manufacturers

Below is the list I’ve gathered to more permanently record a list of made in the USA or made in America camera bags. There are a number of web sites that have attempted to list manufacturers, but they are often out of date and and worse, missing many options.

The current list is always here (opens in a new window).


I also need your help adding to the list (and keeping it up to date). It took me a surprisingly long time to collect this list and I’m sure I’ve missed some manufacturers. I’d really like to get them all!

For suggestions please use this survey.


My Raspberry Pi 2 Model B setup

I recently purchased a Raspberry Pi 2 in preparation for installation of Windows 10 (and more) (when there’s a version that’s compatible). In the mean time, I installed the current version of Raspbian.

I bought a simple case via Amazon. Nothing too fancy … extremely functional (it allows the LEDs to still display which is nice).  For storage, I went overboard and splurged on a $29 MicroSD card from SanDisk. While it’s definitely oversized for my Linux needs, when I install Windows on the Pi 2, I wanted to have sufficient extra space for whatever tinkering I would do … and not need to worry about buying a larger card then.

imageI also purchased a cable that permits toggling the power to the Pi. The Pi doesn’t have a power switch on it, but now the cable I use does instead. I suppose I could have just unplugged it, but this seemed handier.

I also bought a 2A USB charger/power for it. This power supply apparently is great for preventing what might be considered a brown-out to the PI when there are many devices connected (as it will hold the voltage much closer to the required 5V). As that seemed Like a Good Thing™, I splurged (an extra $4) and bought it. If you don’t have peripherals connected, this isn’t necessary from what I’ve read. Most any 1.0A USB charger should work. Again, as I didn’t want to rebuy down the road, I spent a tiny bit extra. There are dedicated wall transformers that “are designed” for the Raspberry Pi, but I selected something generic that could be reused for other tasks, so the USB cable is removable (there are a lot that are hardwired to the transformer). The dedicated transformers are $4-6 cheaper.

I also picked up a tiny keyboard from MCM (where I bought the Pi from as well) for when VNC doesn’t make sense. (I’d be shocked if the Windows on ARM for the Pi will support Remote Desktop).

I already had a OK USB mouse, so I skipped that.

image of Raspberry Pi desktop

Node (Current)

Node v0.12.0 from Node-Arm.

sudo dpkg -i node_latest_armhf.deb

VNC Server

I couldn’t get the scripts on to run the vncserver correctly upon startup. So, I found a combination that works.

sudo apt-get install tightvncserver
then run:


Log into a terminal on the Pi as root:

sudo su

Navigate to the directory /etc/init.d/:
cd /etc/init.d/

Create a new file here containing the following script:

# First configure the user you want to run this under - this will generally
be pi, unless you've created your own users
export USER='
eval cd
# Check the state of the command - this'
ll either be start or stop
"$1" in
# if it's start, then start
vncserver using the details below
su $USER -c
'/usr/bin/vncserver :1 -geometry 1920x1080 -depth 24'
"Starting vncserver for $USER "

# if it's stop, then just kill the
pkill Xtightvnc
"vncserver stopped"

echo "Usage: /etc/init.d/vncserver {start|stop}"
exit 0

Save this file as vncboot (for example)

Make this file executable:

chmod 755 vncboot

Enable dependency-based boot sequencing:

update-rc.d /etc/init.d/vncboot defaults

If enabling dependency-based boot sequencing was successful, you will see this:

update-rc.d: using dependency based boot sequencing

But if you see this:

update-rc.d: error: unable to read /etc/init.d//etc/init.d/vncboot

then try the following command:

update-rc.d vncboot defaults

Reboot your Raspberry Pi and you should find a VNC server already started.

sudo reboot


.NET/Mono (current)

sudo apt-key adv --keyserver --recv-keys 3FA7E0328081BFF6A14DA29AA6A19B38D3D831EF
echo "deb wheezy main" | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/mono-xamarin.list
sudo apt-get update && apt-get upgrade
sudo apt-get install mono-complete

Then to test:


With HelloWorld.cs:


By installing the current Mono as shown above, you’ll have access to mscorlib 4.0 by using dmcs for C# compilation.

Kenu Airframe Portable Car Mount

Ever travel and want to use your mobile phone as a navigation device safely and securely? Our cars have built in navigation systems that we rely on normally, but when we rent a car, that’s rarely an option.

Have you tried a bunch of tricks and found that there generally speaking isn’t a good place to put your phone in many vehicles that is safe and effective? I’ve personally resorted to a cup holder on more than one occasion unfortunately.

Enter the Kenu Airframe Portable Car Mount!


imageI used it all last week while traveling for business and it was extremely useful. Using a rubber-like pincher-like back, it grips onto the vents in most cars. Unlike some vent mounts, it’s just using a friction grip and isn’t the type where it’s physically snapping on to the vent.

It takes only a few seconds to install and remove from a vent.

The front portion expands horizontally to allow a variety of sizes of devices to be held. For the first time on a trip, my phone was held perfectly in place and was easily viewable without taking my eyes off the road any more often that you might with a normal dash or window mounted GPS. It held in place and at no point slid off the dash or tumbled into the seat or onto the floor like often has happened with my previous solutions to this problem.

It shouldn’t block power/cables in most modern mobile phones, so I had my phone charging while in the mount.


Available on Amazon for around $25 USD.


(I also used SyncStop on the trip to prevent the car’s USB plug from doing the nasty with my phone; SyncStop was formerly called the USB Condom… :-) ).

Attaching a GoPro Hero with Aero Bars from RedShift

I recently purchased a set of aero bars for my Trek road bike.  After a lot of research, I decided the best fit for my bike and requirements were aero bars from Redshift:IMG_1161

Redshift Quick-Release Clip-On Aerobars – Carbon Extensions – L-bend

I picked these aero bars for a few reasons:

  1. They had decent reviews around the web
  2. There was a carbon mount available (my bike frame and seat post is carbon, so for a few extra bucks, so are the aero bars)
  3. They were easily removed if I didn’t want to always ride with them (a tool free removal)
  4. With an extra purchase, I could get a computer mount (which later turned out to be not so worthwhile)
  5. In about 5 seconds, you can remove a single bar. This may be important to you as it was to me.

While the instructions for the aero bar are unnecessarily and unfortunately terse, they’re relatively easy to install.

Once I installed the aero bars per the instructions I couldn’t initially find a satisfactory location for my GoPro. I like riding with the GoPro set to 1 second time-lapse … then put to video (the results are often mesmerizing!).

A few months ago, I purchased a non-GoPro Hero mount for my bicycle, the K-EDGE GO BIG Pro HandleBar Mount. I bought this to reduce the vibrations and also better secure the Hero to the bicycle. Before the K-EDGE, I simply could not get the mount to stay consistently secure on my semi-bumpy rides. It would slowly change positions and ruin a large segment of the captures if I didn’t notice it quickly. The K-EDGE is certainly a premium product (but made in the USA!).

The K-EDGE is ROCK SOLID. I couldn’t believe how much better the results were when the camera would stay firmly in position. While it can’t solve the problem of a bumpy ride, the camera shakes less on it’s own (reducing secondary vibrations).


With the K-EDGE, the mount takes up very little space on the handlebars, unlike the original GoPro bicycle mount. So, by orienting the K-EDGE down and flipping the Hero, the image nicely captures the scene in front of the bicycle without being obscured by the aero bars.

I also own the Annex Quad Lock Bike Mount Kit for iPhone 5/5S – Black. At first I was concerned that the combination of the aero bars, and the phone would be a disaster (and that there wouldn’t be enough room to properly snap and lock the quad lock case onto the bicycle mount). In fact, there isn’t room. But, in about 5 seconds, you can release the tension on one of the aero bars, flip the small catch, and remove the bar completely. Snap the phone onto the Quad Lock, and replace the bar. It’s a really nice setup.IMG_1160

What didn’t work out was the Redshift Computer Mount for Quick-Release Aerobars. I didn’t realize that the mount was not the same diameter as my road bike handle bars. In fact, it’s small enough that I don’t have a single thing that would attach to it. I had a wonderful steel bicycle bell I’d bought via a Kickstarter that unfortunately doesn’t have a home on my bike anymore. I thought it would attach to the computer mount, but it’s much too large as is. I’ll probably need to rig up some extra padding for it to make up the difference, but I’d hate to loose the bell to my faulty contraption.


From the back …


On my first ride with the aero bars I noticed they’d rattle a tiny bit when riding. After stopping and over-analyzing the situation, I noticed that I simply had not tightened the quick release bolt well enough. An extra turn on both made them both rattle-free.

I also didn’t care for the raw feel of the bars, so I added handle-bar tape to the end where I rest my hands. The Comfort cork is very nice: Planet Bike Comfort GEL Road Bike Handlebar Tape with Reflective Bar Plugs (Orange Cork).