Amazon Echo can’t discover Hive Home devices

January 1, 2017 Leave a comment

I’m having a really annoying problem with Amazon Echo.

I’ve just bought some Hive Home smart devices, including Thermostat, Hub, and light bulbs, but for some reason I can’t get the Echo to discover them.

A fair amount of googling has shown that no-one else seems to have this problem. The problem appears to stem from some issue with the Hive skill itself. When I search for it in the Amazon store, it doesn’t come up, although it should definitely be there.

Stranger still, if I search for “Hive” as a skill, Amazon reports three hits, but only shows one – a bee quiz game. While the Hivehome skills must be there, they are for some reason hidden.

 

I phoned Amazon and they gave me a URL that takes me directly to the skill. However, when I enable it, although it shows as enabled, it is not listed under my list of available skills in the Alexa app

So – it seems the skill is there, but it’s hidden from me. It feels like a country restriction, but I have my account, and Echo, set to English (UK), and Hive is primarily a UK product.

Hive is also a ‘strange’ skill – it’s a Smarthome skill, but not in the Smarthome skill list. It’s treated as a standard skill, but it isn’t one. I’m not sure if this contributes too. I’ve tried using Discover Devices under Smarthome, which is the recommended way of discovering Hive devices, but nothing shows up. This is also if putting the Hive Hub in discover mode (turning off and on again!).

I’ve spoken to Amazon, and have also created a new account from scratch, but the problem remains. Other skills seem to work fine!

I’ve emailed Amazon, and will see if they come up with any other suggestions.

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January 1, 2017 Leave a comment

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Made.com Edelweiss Chairs

December 31, 2016 Leave a comment

Again, not the best build quality.


We bought two pairs of these to go with our table, and of the four chairs, one could not be assembled as the bolt would not get purchase in the fixing. We complained, and they immediately sent out a second pair zero charge, with a really great customer service.

However, I sent heavily on one of the new chairs today, and again one of the screws popped out. Given we have them less than a week, this is pretty shocking build quality – a 33% failure rate.


Asked us to send the faulty chair back with the same courier, which was completely impractical given it would take 10 minutes to package it in the replacement box while he waited. We simply didn’t send it back, and so far they haven’t said anything.

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Made.com Edelweiss Dining table

December 31, 2016 Leave a comment

[EDIT: I wrote this with inline photos when I was off-line, but then deleted the photos from my camera roll later. Therefore the photos were deleted before I could post this and no longer available, leaving just the text.]

I just had my first experience of made.com, having arrived back in the UK after 6 years away, and so thought I’d share as a newcomer to the brand.

We ordered an Edelweiss Ash&White dining table, that looks strikingly stylish at a very good price of around £320 for the extending version. The middle panel has to be stored separately rather than be concealed under the table, but, for the price, can’t complain!

What I can complain about, however, is the engineering. Assembly involves bolting the legs on, and then fitting the clasps that lock the extension pieces together. You’re supplied the clasps and self-tapping screws, and there are pre-drilled marker holes.

The trouble is, those marker holes are very shallow – only half a mm. And the wood is very hard. In short, it’s impossible for the screw to actually get deep enough into the wood to self-tap and screw in. You have to drill a deeper hole first – since I didn’t have a drill, I used a very thin torx bit for my electric screwdriver.

The clasps themselves are even worse. The holes are too far apart by 2-3mm, such that the clasps can’t actually close fully. But, if you put a bit of effort into it and force them closed, they will close – by pulling and bending (actually un-bending) the metal hook of the clasp!

The hook before
Doesn’t close…
Push real hard

Now it’s closed – but look at the hook now!
The thing is – if you do this, it does work! It’s horrible, but it works, making me wonder if it was deliberate.

Still, the table is sturdy and big enough for our young family, so for the price, I guess we can’t complain too much. (don’t get me started on the chairs!)

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Most efficient speed for a hand coffee bean grinder

September 27, 2016 Leave a comment

Yeah, well…..


I did that thing you do a while back – buy some beans at a cafe, but not be convinced that I’ll get into single origin beans in a big way, so I bought the cheapest quality grinder I could – a Hario MSS-1B hand grinder. The idea was that if I found I was enjoying freshly ground beans (read: have time to actually bother enjoying them), then I’d buy an electric grinder.

That ‘thing you do’, is using it once, then putting it away, until, a few months later, I’m completely out of ground coffee, and find myself needing to use my beans and grinder to get a cuppa.

But one thing bothered me when I was using it: should I turn the handle at the speed that ‘feels like it’s doing the most grinding’, with the most resistance, or should I just turn it as fast as possible, even though it feels like it’s not doing as much work. I had theories about the beans not falling into the grinding stone gap as fully at max speed when compared to the highest resistance, etc.

Well, I did a quick test. I counted 40 beans into the grinder, and ran two grinds with each approach – coarse and medium. The results were pretty demonstrative:

At highest resistance:  Coarse grind:  20s.   Medium grind: 2min30s

At fastest speed (2-3x): Coarse grind: 15s.  Medium grind: 50s

So, yeah, even though ‘as fast as you can’ doesn’t feel like it’s doing as much work, evidently that’s because of the lower resistance per rotation, but the number of rotations more than makes up for it.

So, grind like the wind.

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HP Elitebook 9470m screen is rotated and won’t change back

September 19, 2016 Leave a comment

Have you ever opened up your Elitebook after taking it from your bag, to find the screen rotated 90 degrees, and whatever you do with the configuration and settings, it keeps flipping back?

 

I had the same with mine, and went through all sorts of troubleshooting pains such as changing the default system display settings, changing the Intel driver settings, rebooting, and sometimes eventually disabled the display driver altogether. This is all in Windows 10.

I eventually discovered the root cause of the problem. The 9470m has an orientation sensor, even though it’s not a tablet/hybrid. This means that when I was putting it into sleep mode and slipping it into my bag, it was still running for a few seconds more and would detect the orientation change to ‘portrait’ (one side down) before it was fully asleep. Therefore, it would interpret me putting the laptop into my bag as “the user has rotated this tablet into portrait mode”, change the screen mode to 90′ or 270 orientation, and have it ready in that mode when I took it back out.

So – although I would try changing the orientation on the driver configuration, the orientation sensor would still report that the screen was on its side, and would flip back as soon as soon as I had closed the configuration panel! Of course, the laptop was sat flat on the desk, but this orientation is not detected as ‘upright / 0 degrees’, so it would flip it back to the last ‘severe’ orientation, usually 90′ or 270′. I suspect that the sensor is on the motherboard, and while in a tablet the motherboard would be in the screen section and so ‘horizontally up’, on the 2470m the motherboard is in the base, and so lying flat on the desk.

The solution is to tilt the entire laptop towards you so the keyboard is almost vertical (space bar towards the floor, number row towards the ceiling). The orientation sensor will detect this as ‘0 degrees’, and your screen will rotate back to horizontal.

Thanks HP, for this ‘feature’!

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Picturelife to Smugmug Migration – Deduplicating Videos

September 6, 2016 Leave a comment

So, now that I’ve removed around 15,000 duplicate photos from my varying levels of overlap between backups of my photos, it was time to look to videos.

Googling “video deduplication” is actually much less productive than for “photo deduplication”; there’s very few reviews or results that come back. I ended up testing three products, and give some very quick results/benchmarks below.

Application

Price

Scan Time
(for 80 x 30-60s videos)

Matches found

Comments

Duplicate Video Search 16.0

USD 29.95

10mins

39 dupes in 80 files

  • Tuneable offset and sensitivity
  • Can scan only first N seconds rather than whole video
  • Also skip first M seconds (eg. To skip identical intro sequences on movies)

Teemoon

Free

50 mins

6 dupes in 80 files

  • Gave application error on some file types

Video Comparer 1.06

Eu30 for 1500vids

15 mins

41 dupes in 82 files

  • No hits with Quick mode – recommended Thorough mode
  • Found all dupes in thorough mode
  • Shows timeline view of both

 

    
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I ran all three on the same set of videos.

  • Teemoon looked promising for free, but churned away for ages, and hardly found any duplicates at the end. I discounted that
  • Duplicate Video Search did pretty well, and had some good options. However, it displays results in a series of rows, with little UI differentiation between the videos that are in groups, so makes it laborious to carefully work through a long list
  • Video Comparer was the leader of the pack. It had the most efficient UI for reviewing many duplicates, and also some great features for more nuanced copies. It also picked up every dupe, whereas DVS missed one or two.

 

Video Comparer in use

 

Below I show a cropped screen capture of the results tab of VC 1.06.

 

There were two stand-out features in Video Comparer ahead of the other products:

  • Colour banding of groups: Although still organised in rows, the pairs of duplicate videos were shown in different colour bands per group. This made it easier to quickly visually follow the duplicates, and select the one to delete
  • Match-banded timeline: If you look at the group of four ‘duplicates’ above, you can see the blue/grey bands on the right, before the keyframe display. This is awesome:
    • The keyframe display shows you much more than a single thumbnail – it assures you that the videos are similar all the way through, and that one isn’t cut (eg. Half the length) in relation to the other
    • The timeline band completes that thought. It shows which parts of the video files matched. Here, you can see:
      • lines 2 and 4 show the full file length in grey, and that part is coloured blue.
      • That blue represents the part of that file that is contained in the files represented by lines 1 & 3
      • Hence, you can see that lines 2 and 4 (the same file; same filename) represent the original video, and lines 1 and 3 represent a split of that video for the front and rear part
      • So, all from this view, I can understand:
        • Which files contain which parts of the full unedited video
        • Which I might want to keep, and which I might want to delete
        • Reassurance that I can delete either the full-length video, or the two parts

It’s great, but at Eu30, it was expensive. I did buy it, because my challenge of comparing 4 copies of 15 years of home movies is a big one, and this tool will save me a heck of a lot of time in doing so.

 

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