With Wind

The misconception of totalitarianism is that freedom can be imprisoned. This is not the case. When you constrain freedom, freedom will take flight and land on a windowsill.

Ai Weiwei

We went to the Ai Weiwei exhibition at Alcatraz this last week and it was fantastic.  No one who lives in San Francisco ever actually goes to Alcatraz, so it was a great excuse to take Gbemi over for a visit and see the exhibit at the same time.  I had heard from several people that the exhibit was sold out.  Turns out that @Large has done a pretty poor marketing job because very few people realize that they only need to buy a regular Alcatraz tour ticket to see the exhibition.  We booked our tickets online for $40 each for the ferry ride & tour just three days before.  It couldn’t have been easier.

The exhibit goes through April 26, 2015.  You can buy tickets here (http://www.alcatraztickets.com/).  We had a choice of three different times for the day we wanted and ended up with the 9:10am departure.  The boat ride over is only 10 minutes.  We were super fortunate to have amazing weather that day even though we brought jackets.  The entire tour ended up taking us about 2 1/2 hours, but we kind of rushed through the audio tour and went straight for Ai Weiwei.

More Info

The Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is internationally renowned for work that defies the distinction between art and activism. In this exhibition of new works created specifically for Alcatraz, Ai responds to the island’s layered legacy as a 19th-century military fortress, a notorious federal penitentiary, a site of Native American heritage and protest, and now one of America’s most visited national parks. Revealing new perspectives on Alcatraz, the exhibition raises questions about freedom of expression and human rights that resonate far beyond this particular place.

Some Pics

with wind

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harmony ultimate home remote

I recently threw in the towel and decided to upgrade my old Harmony 700 remote for the latest and greatest Logitech Harmony Ultimate Home remote.  I had been debating it for a month or so because at $350 it seemed rather pricey.

I was drawn to switching it up for a few reasons.  1) My Harmony 700 had reached the device limit so I was unable to add new components to it 2) I have recently – finally – plugged in my SmartThings and hooked up some lighting and other Z-Wave devices and didn’t like having to control these things separately with my phone.  The new Ultimate Home promised home automation integration along with the regular device stuff so it sounded pretty sweet.

Fast forward and I received an email from Best Buy that they were running a special to do trade-ins of old Harmony remotes for a $100 rebate off the Ultimate Home.  I decided that at the price point of $250 it was still expensive, yet doable.

Set Up

The box came with a charger for the remote that is micro USB powered.  It also has a micro USB powered hub and two IR-blasters.  Plugging all of these things in took only a minute.  I used only one IR-blaster and plugged the charger into my USB hub that sits next to the sofa.

I already had the Harmony 700 set up and an account on My Harmony so transferring to this remote was super easy.  Just downloaded the Mac OSX software and the iPhone app and all my devices and activities automagically synced to this remote.  I was super happy about that because I spent a long time getting things right with the previous remote.

MyHarmony

With the addition of home automation gear I had to add on a few new devices.  I started with the SmartThings hub.  The Harmony recognized the hub and added the sensors that I wanted which were lighting based in the living room and kitchen.  I also added on the Sonos so that I can set up activities to turn off the Sonos if I start watching TV.

I also ended up adding an IFTTT channel although I haven’t really found a recipe that I want to use for that.  Tweeting to turn on my TV just isn’t interesting to me at the present time.

The Good

  • Easy if you have another Harmony remote to import the settings.
  • Hardware setup is super simple.

The Bad

  • Set up is done through the iPhone app.  The app interface is super confusing.
  • The iPhone app tries to sync all the time.  It is annoying.

Design

The Good

  • Compact and cute – I got the white remote.
  • Like the charging station – No more dying batteries.
  • The grip feels nice on the underside.
  • Bright touchscreen.

The Bad

  • The DVR controls which I use the most (play, pause, FF) are all at the top of the remote which makes it super awkward to use.
  • The screen is too sensitive.  Plus with the DVR controls being at the top I always feel like I’m about to trigger something accidently.  Annoying.

Overall

I really like the remote.  I have been having a few problems when certain activities start and certain devices aren’t working properly.  I’ll have to troubleshoot this.  I really don’t like iPhone set up and would prefer to do it with a desktop app like before.  The weird thing is that there is a desktop app, but when you open it you are told to set up the remote with the iPhone/Android app.  Grrr.  I’m very happy that I have the home automation integration in one remote now.

My recommendation would be if you are willing to spend $250-350 and you want the home automation integration then this is a great remote.  If you don’t care about the home automation stuff, then I’d go for a cheaper / older Harmony model.

media center 2014

It has been four years since I first installed the media center and I have gone through a few iterations since its inception so I thought I’d write an update on what has evolved.

The latest additions in 2014 are as follows:

The usual equipment:

The component backbones:

  • Samsung 46″ LCD television
  • Sony 7:1 Receiver
  • Mac Mini (HDMI)

Sound (other than Sonos):

  • 2 Bose small speakers – front channel
  • 2 Bose medium speakers – back channel
  • 1 Bose center speaker – center channel
  • 1 Bose subwoofer

I also switched out my Internet service from Comcast home to Comcast Business.  It is more expensive, but I wanted a static IP address for the Synology and they also don’t throttle your speed.  My hope someday is to actually cut my cable, but that has not happened yet out of pure fear.

Anything I’m missing in my setup?!?