Almond+ Wifi Router

I ordered the Almond+ router in March of 2013. About a month ago, it finally shipped.


It’s a very nice looking box and is physically well designed.  It has a small touchscreen interface, perfect for getting basic settings on the router to get it up and running.

What?  A touch screen router?  Who needs this?

Yes, I can hear you thinking that.  Just a couple of weeks ago, my brother called to ask my advice about an issue his daughter had.  She just got cable Internet and picked up a wireless router.  Only, she doesn’t have anything to configure it with.  Her computer is a Macbook Air, which doesn’t have an Ethernet port.  Microsoft is promoting it’s new Surface tablets as replacements for laptops.  I can see a day coming where most people probably won’t have an Ethernet port on any machine they own.  For them, a touch screen router makes perfect sense.

Control Your Home

Home automation is one of the key features of the Almond+.  I don’t currently have any compatible hardware, so I can’t comment on how well this works yet.  From reading the forum, most people are having good luck with many products.  I expect that given a bit more time, this support will really mature.

Based on OpenWRT

To me, this is a major selling point.  Instead of trying to roll their own OS, they have chosen to use a great open-source platform, and just build their additions to it.  This made me very excited, thinking about all the expansion possibilities with the package system of OpenWRT.  However, the Almond hardware is based on a different processor and wireless chip than any other OpenWRT platform.  As such, you can’t just point to the OpenWRT REPOs and install new packages.  While the potential is there for this to really open up the possibilities for this little box, it’s currently held back because it’s not really supported yet.

As a Wifi Router…

This is where I have trouble.  Earlier versions of the firmware have had issues with some device types (like IOS devices) dropping off the network.  It’s too early to tell if the newly released R066 firmware fixes these issues completely, or not.

One feature that’s missing is supporting Enterprise Authentication of the Wifi network.  While I understand that business isn’t their target market, I run Enterprise Auth on my Wifi network at home.  Lots of other home Wifi hardware supports Enterprise Auth.

Another feature that seems to be missing is VLAN support.


At this time, I don’t recommend the Almond+ if you are an advanced user.  I expect that as it matures the wifi issues will be resolved, and especially related to OpenWRT, the feature set will broaden.

September 20, 2014 at 9:05 pm Leave a comment

Switch SIM cards on AT&T

I do something that is probably pretty common.  Every year, one of my cell phones (mine or my wife’s) comes off contract, giving me a subsidized price on a new phone.  My wife, being the loving and less gadgety one, allows me to use her upgrade to get the new hotness.  Doing this, I’ve only skipped the release of the iPhone 5 (due to problems requiring an early upgrade one year).

Today, I got my new iPhone 6, upgraded on my wife’s number.  I moved the SIM from my iPhone 5S over to it, restored it, and all was good.  It was immediately active with my phone number.

I backed up my wife’s phone, restored it to my iPhone 5S…  And nothing…  The number remained active on her old phone.  Since her old phone was a 4S, the SIM from it wouldn’t fit into the 5S.

So, I drove to an AT&T store to get her number transferred to the 5S.  After consulting with a tech, I found out that the SIM card I had removed from the new iPhone 6 was “parked”.  It just needed to be activated.  To do so, I just needed to call 866-895-1099.  It’s a completely automated system.  You just enter the phone number to activate, the billing zip code, and the last 4 of the social of the primary account holder.  Then, it tells you to turn off the device you are trying to activate and wait 5 minutes, then turn it back on.

I somehow doubt the reboot is really required, but I did it anyhow, and her number was active on her phone right after it completed booting.

Now, there was zero documentation in the box instructing me on how to do this.  Perhaps if I had left the SIM card in the iPhone 6 and let it talk to iTunes prior to moving the SIM, it would have activated…

So, I’m partially posting this to help others, but I’m also posting this so I have a reference to look at next year, assuming I order another iPhone…

September 19, 2014 at 6:25 pm Leave a comment

iPhone 6 and 6 Plus

What about the I.O.U.S.’s?

iPhones Of Unusual Size? I don’t think they exist.


Okay, Princess Bride reference aside, the new iPhones are here, and they are bigger than any iPhone before.

When I saw the initial photos, the 6 Plus looked absolutely ginormous! It practically took up the entire hand in the photo. It’s truly an iPhone Of Unusual Size.

A day or two later, I printed a template of the new phones to get a feel for exactly how big they really were. I have to say that while the 5.5 inch model is big, it doesn’t seem quite as huge as I originally thought.

While part of me thinks I’d be happy with a 6 Plus, I’m still unsure.

I asked my wife if she’d like a phone that size, and she is definitely not interested. Since she’s about to inherit my 5S (she’s looking forward to the fingerprint sensor), next year she should inherit the model of iPhone 6 that I buy now, so this was a factor.

Being the loving wife she is, she suggested that I could buy the 6 Plus and then sell it next year when I’d upgrade to the newer model.

But this is where is gets really easy. I really can’t justify spending the extra $100. If I were a real shutterbug, I might do it for the Optical Image Stabilization, but I’m not. The larger screen would probably be very nice to look at, but the overall size of the phone just seems like it would be awkward to hold/use/put in my pocket.

It’s really a personal preference thing. After a year with the 6, I might be ready to use a larger phone, but I’m just not there right now.

September 11, 2014 at 9:39 pm Leave a comment

New iPhone Time

It’s that time of year again! When people camp out overnight in line at Apple stores across the country, just so they can be among the first to get their shiny new phone.

I like my gadgets as much as the next guy, but I’m just not willing to go that far for a phone.

Several years back, I have showed up around opening time at stores on launch day to try to get a new iPhone, but it has always been a frustrating experience. Long lines, long wait times, and the anxiety of not knowing if I was going to walk away with a phone, or just walk away.

Perhaps growing older (wiser?) has lessened my patience for this sort of thing. However, I am willing to inconvenience myself a little. Those of you who adore your sleep may think this sounds crazy, but last year I set my alarm for about 2:55 AM on the first morning you could order the iPhone 5S online. They didn’t offer pre-orders of the 5S, only the 5C, so this was launch morning. Orders started at midnight PST, so 2:55 was long enough for me to get to my computer and wake up a little.

Am I crazy? Nope. It took about 10-15 minutes to get it ordered, but then I went right back to sleep, knowing my phone would show up in a week or two.

Aside from the slowness of tens of thousands of people hitting their servers to order their phones all at the same time, it was pretty painless. Part of me wants to say I actually ended up ordering it through the Apple Store app on my iPhone 4S, but I don’t remember for sure. Anyhow, this experience was so simple that I’m planning on ordering this way again this year. Since it is actually a pre-order, it might even show up at my house on launch day. If so, that would be great, but if it arrives a few days later, that’s okay too.

September 11, 2014 at 9:03 pm Leave a comment

HP N54L is on the way

I am in the process of acquiring a used HP N54L N40L.  If you don’t know, this is a microserver.  They are extremely small machines that have room for 4 swappable hard drives, and maybe two more without adding any more cards.  I heard about it a year or more ago and considered buying one for myself, but ultimately my budget decided I couldn’t afford it.

What changed?  Well, this machine was a gift, so the budget isn’t a factor.  Since I found out it was coming my way, I have been looking around the web to find out the best thing to do with it.  It didn’t take long before I ran across pages talking about installing ESXi 5.5 (there is an ESX image for it put out by HP!)  Since there is a supported version of ESXi floating around, it’s liable to be very stable.  Further, from what I’ve read, the processor in this unit isn’t really that bad.  A quick check shows that it’s a little shy of twice as fast as the processor in my Synology 1512+ NAS.

Speaking of the NAS, some of the tutorials I’ve found tell you how to install Synology’s OS on a VM, then point it to your individual raw disks.  If this works as well as I suspect it might, I could end up with the advantages of Synology OS running in a VM, but still keep the advantage of the physical write speeds as if it were running natively.  I could also have a couple of other VMs running at the same time (not doing any hard number crunching).

I”m not 100% sure what I’m going to do yet, but I’m working on the plans.

Update:  The server arrived, and it was actually the older version, the HP N40L, not the N54L.  So, the processor speed is 1.5 Ghz, instead of the 2.2 Ghz I was expecting.  Other than that, it’s the same, really.  It’s got a lot less processing power than I expected, but I think it’s still a potentially very useful box.  Considering that it was given to me at no cost, I can’t complain too much about the mix-up.

August 15, 2014 at 11:40 pm Leave a comment

Amazon FireTV developments

Several weeks ago, I ordered a FireTV.  Right out of the box, it’s pretty nice, but some things have happened…

About two weeks ago, a procedure came out to root your FireTV.  While there wasn’t a lot known that you could do extra with root yet, I rooted mine knowing that things would come.

Some time later, a new version of the Amazon software came out with additional features.  Some say it’s more stable (though I haven’t had a stability issue, really).  A day or two later, someone had figured out how to upgrade without losing root access.  It also appears that this new version is vulnerable to root as well.  I upgraded and all was well.

Someone posted how to get the Google Play store installed on the FireTV.  I installed it, but was underwhelmed, because there wasn’t much you could install, since the store saw so few programs compatible with the FireTV.

A couple days went by, and then I found Market Helper, a tool that lets you tell Google that your FireTV is really a different piece of hardware.  I selected the Nexus 7 tablet.  (You do have to log into your dashboard from your computer before it will register it as a different device type.)  Initially, it didn’t seem to be working, as the things showing up on the FireTV didn’t seem to change yet.  Browsing the Play store online, however, allowed me to select apps to install on my new Nexus 7.  After selecting to install something, within a few minutes, it was installed on my FireTV.  Some time later (perhaps an hour) I checked the Play store on the FireTV and saw many more options available to install, so it worked, but it took a while before the results were seen on the Play store app on the FireTV itself.

With Market Helper, you can install LOTS of stuff, easily.  The only down side is that the software might not work well with FireTV because it’s meant for a tablet.  Most apps have their interfaces optimized for a touchscreen.  Apps like Xfinity TV are available if you have your FireTV connected wirelessly, but the interface expects you to have touch.  With a keyboard and mouse, this can be worked around, but it was awkward to stand up at my TV to run this app.

Back several days ago, I had read that the FireTV was compatible with the Logitech Dinovo keyboard.  That appears to be a confusing term, though.  Apparently, it refers to multiple keyboards.  I thought it refereed to my Mini keyboard that I bought a year or two ago to use with my Logitech Revue.  Try as I might, I couldn’t get the FireTV to recognize my mini keyboard.

Until tonight.

I searched Logitech’s website and downloaded the Logitech Unifying software for my Mac.  I hit the advanced view and it said there was no Unifying receiver in my computer.  I opened the back of my keyboard and removed the USB dongle that was stored there (which was never needed for my Revue), and I attached the USB dongle to my Mac and it linked my mini keyboard to it.  I was then able to type on it and the letters appeared on my Mac.  Cool!  The mouse pad area worked too!

It was about then that I had the thought, “Gee… I wonder if it’s linked to this dongle now, and will it work if I plug it into my FireTV”.  So, I tried it.  I’m absolutely THRILLED to report that it works!  Both the keyboard AND the mouse portion!  The home button on it even works to take you to the FireTV home screen!  This is awesome!  Now, I can sit in comfort across the room with the mini keyboard and use those apps that require a touch interface!

July 4, 2014 at 11:19 pm Leave a comment

Hayward Ecostar VS Pool Pump Flow Rates & Cost Savings

Sort of off my normal topics, but somewhat related to budgeting…  My pool pump started making a terrible noise on Sunday evening.  Today, I replaced the pump with a new variable speed pump.  Instead of running full speed, like my old model, this one lets me adjust the RPM in 50 RPM increments from 600 RPM all the way to 3450 RPM.  I’m trying to determine the optimal RPM to run my pump at.  The VS pump should let me run at a much lower rate over a longer period of time and save energy (which should translate directly to saving money on my electric bill).  Apparently, running just a few hundred RPMs less cuts the energy use in half, so this could end up saving me serious money every summer.

I plan to run my pool pump 24 hours per day while turning over the water at least once each day.  First, I needed to figure out the Gallons Per Minute (GPM) rate of my pump…

(Below information from a post in a forum on

Variable Speed Pump Flow Rate Approximations

The following formulas use the affinity equations to yield a very rough estimate of flow rate.

1.5″ Return Line with 1 x 1.5″ Suction Line:
Intelliflo Flow Rate (GPM) = RPM / 47
EcoStar Flow Rate (GPM) = RPM / 48
Plumbing Head (ft)= 0.0167 * GPM^2 – CEC Curve A

1.5″ Return Line with 2 x 1.5″ Suction Lines or 1 x 2″ Suction Line
Intelliflo Flow Rate (GPM) = RPM / 44
EcoStar Flow Rate (GPM) = RPM / 45
Plumbing Head (ft)= 0.0140 * GPM^2

2″ Return Line with 1 x 2″ Suction Line
Intelliflo Flow Rate (GPM) = RPM / 37
EcoStar Flow Rate (GPM) = RPM / 38
Plumbing Head (ft)= 0.0093 * GPM^2

2″ Return Line with 2 x 2″ Suction Lines or 1 x 2.5″ Suction Line
Intelliflo Flow Rate (GPM) = RPM / 35
EcoStar Flow Rate (GPM) = RPM / 36
Plumbing Head (ft)= 0.0083 * GPM^2 – CEC Curve C

2.5″ Return Line with 1 x 2.5″ Suction Line
Intelliflo Flow Rate (GPM) = RPM / 34
EcoStar Flow Rate (GPM) = RPM / 35
Plumbing Head (ft)= 0.0074 * GPM^2

2.5″ Return Line with 2 x 2.5″ Suction Lines
Intelliflo Flow Rate (GPM) = RPM / 33
EcoStar Flow Rate (GPM) = RPM / 34
Plumbing Head (ft)= 0.0069 * GPM^2

In my case, I have a line from my main drain and a line from my skimmers.  They are 2 inches when they come out of the ground, but if I recall correctly, before my pool was refinished, they were 1 1/2 inches.  I’m sure the pipes weren’t replaced, so I’m going to say I have a single 1 1/2 inch return line and two 1 1/2 inch suction lines.  Since my pump is an Ecostar, that means the RPM / 45 should give me an approximate GPM rate.

My pool is 27000 gallons.  Running 24 hours a day, that means my GPM needs to be 27000 / 1440 = 18.75 GPM.

600  :  13.33700  :  15.55
800  :  17.77
900  :  20  – Minimum speed to run 24 hrs a day to turn the pool over once
1000 :  22.22
1100  :  24.44
1200  :  26.66
1300  :  28.88 – Turn over my pool 1.5X per day (Or run pump for 16 hours/day)
1400  :  31.11
1500  :  33.33
1600  :  35.55
1700  :  37.77  – Turn over my pool 2X per day  (Or run pump for 12 hours/day)
1800  :  40
2000  :  44.44
2200  :  48.88
2400  :  53.33
2600  :  57.77  –  Turn over my pool 3X per day  (Or run pump for 8 hours/day)
2800  :  62.22
3000  :  66.66
3200  :  71.11
3400  :  75.55  – Turn over my pool 4X per day (Or run pump for 6 hours / day)

My old pool pump was a StaRite 1.5 HP pump, part number P2RA5F-182L.  It runs at 3450 RPM.   I have no idea of the GPM performance, but I can tell you that when I ran my new pump on 3250 RPM (the default “quick clean” RPM), the returns felt much stronger than with my old pump.

According to the label, my old pump drew 9.6 watts at 230V.  Multiple them together (per this page: and that’s 2208 watts.  Divide by 1000 to get KWh = 2.208 KWh.  Most recently, I’ve been running this 24 hours a day, for a total of 52.99 KWh per day.  My local electric rate is about .11 per KWh, so since I started running my pump 24×7, it was costing me about 5.83 every day!

If I run my new pump at 1000 RPMs, it consumes 105 Watts (it shows the live Watt usage right on the display panel).  If I run it 24×7, and go through the same math process described above, that yields 2.52 KWh per day, costing me about .28 per day.  That’s less than $9 per month!


Up until about a month ago, I ran my pump on a timer, running it as few as about 2 hours a day during the winter, on up to 6 – 12 hours a day through spring, and finally started running it 24 hours a day last month.  I don’t know what a good “average” number per day would be, but if it were 8, my average cost over a year would be a little over $700.  With the new pump, running 24 hours a day at 1000 RPM every day of the year would cost just over $100 per year.  Of course, I’ll run it at a medium speed for a few hours here and there to vacuum, but that shouldn’t substantially increase the cost.

So, the budget side of this story is that I’m going to be saving a bunch of money on my electric bill from now on.  This pump cost $870 before tax.  The single speed pump I was looking at was around $500.  By the end of the year, I should have recouped that cost difference.   Assuming the pump lasts two years, it pays for itself completely with the energy savings.

July 4, 2014 at 7:08 pm Leave a comment

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