Why Smart Light Bulbs Make Sense

I live in a pretty old house and I have many normal light switches that aren’t always in the most convenient location. I had just one dimmer switch but replaced it as we liked using cheap CFL bulbs and now use cheap LED ones, neither of which dim well.

About a month ago I decided to purchase a Google Home (“smart speaker”), and a Philips Hue starter kit including a few white+color LED bulbs and the hub. We’ve been using it fairly basically so far, to just turn on and off indvidual or groups of lights via voice. One thing I’ve started to appreciate is the ability to turn the brightness all the way down to 10-25% at night time, so I can have some visibility in the hallway without the jarring full brightness.

So – for the cost of nice dimmer switches I have dimmable light bulbs, and I’m starting to figure out better ways to control them and automate them to turn on/off automatically without having to use commands. More to come on that soon.


Auto-generate animated GIFs from security camera footage with MotionEye hack

So I’ve set up several raspberry-pi based cameras around the house using MotionEye software ( ), and integrated it very simply with the smart-home software I’m developing for my startup to send near-instant notifications via our Google Hangouts chatbot. While it’s nice to get instantly notified of motion at the front door while I’m working upstairs in my office (so I can know when packages arrive!), sometimes I get false-postives from wind blowing the trees and things like that. And it takes a bit of time to load the built-in web interface and play back video clips. So I set out to find a way to create animated .gif files from recorded motion videos. I was able to get it working with a surprisingly easy hack.



This solution has a single added dependency which is “gifsicle” (it’s much faster than ImageMagick on the Raspberry Pi. Found here: ) which you can easily install on Raspbian via:

sudo apt-get install gifsicle

And then, the only remaining setup is to add this one-liner (!) to your MotionEye camera settings, under “File Storage” -> “Run a command”:

ffmpeg -i %f -vf scale=320:-1 -r 1 -f image2pipe -vcodec gif - | gifsicle --delay=10 -O2 --multifile --loop - > %f.thumb

(substitute “ffmpeg” with “avconv” for your setup if necessary)

Finally, make sure you have “Movies” and “Motion Detection” enabled for your camera as well.

Now when a new movie is saved, that command will automatically generate an animated GIF within a few seconds, and give it the same filename as the thumbnail previews that are normally generated on-demand when you open the playback option in the MotionEye web app. Unfortunately the downscaling method they’re using under the hood doesn’t handle animated GIFs properly, so in the interface it will look like this:

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 2.58.40 PM

But when you click on a recorded event you will see the full animated GIF play immediately, and you can use the left and right navigation buttons to instantly scroll through the GIFs of all your recorded events!

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 2.59.31 PM

Note: if you load the playback pane before the GIF has finished being generated, the default behavior of the web app will still generate a static thumbnail, possibly preventing the GIF file creation altogether. An alternative method would be to ouput the gif files to a different filename, and design your own interface for viewing them separately. Or, modifying the MotionEye interface to not generate the thumbnails, but I haven’t looked into that yet.


Use Your Leaves!

Leaves in front of our house

I grew up thinking that these piles of leaves everywhere in the fall were essentially a nuisance. They attracted dog poop and were therefore potentially dangerous to play in. Yet fresh piles of leaves were definitely played in. And otherwise, that they just looked messy, and you had to spend all this time raking and sweeping them up just to have them hauled away by the street cleaner. No more!

As I’ve grown and watched more and more seasons pass with each trip around the sun, I have come to recognize the inherent value of leaves. In particular, they are possibly the best building block for making garden soil at home. Sure, plenty of people are composting their kitchen scraps nowadays, but how many people are actually using all of the leaves in their yard to make soil? I’d guess it’s less than 10%. (That’s a lot of trucking and hauling around of leaves that can be stopped!) Leaves contain a massive amount of captured energy, that most of us are letting go to waste. Composting piles can even be used for heating water!

I’ll recommend two or three methods for the soil conversion process today, depending on the volume of leaves you’re dealing with:

1. Small Amount of Leaves
If you only have a small amount of leaves, I recommend mixing them into your compost bin, which you should be doing already if you want good, fast decomposing compost. This is very easy and only takes as long as collecting your leaves and dumping them and mixing them in. Use compost as normal in your garden (as a natural fertilizer and microbiological booster)

2. Medium Amount of Leaves
With this method, you’ll use large plastic bags, like garbage bags will work, although I’ve seen clear plastic bags recommended so it doesn’t get too hot in the sun. The trick to making the leaves decompose even faster is adding a compost accelerant like EM-1 or Bokashi, which you can also make yourself. If you don’t have this, you can make something similar just by letting fruit and vegetable scraps ferment in a bucket, and then straining off the liquid. You dilute and spray the liquid into the bags onto the leaves, just enough to kickstart the decomposition process. After the bags have lost 50% of their volume, mix with additional soil in your garden and you’re ready to plant! More info here:

3. Large Amount of Leaves
If you have a massive amount of leaves, it may not make sense to use so many plastic bags. I would recommend making a single huge pile of the leaves, which you can contain inside a wooden fence, or chicken wire, or just in the middle of a cleared area, and then cover it with a tarp. This will help the pile to heat up considerably, and the leaves will break down over a few months, although you may have to stir it up and wait a little into the spring if you get snow in the winter.

Additional options:
You may want to consider adding mycorhizal innoculant (mushroom spore powder, essentially) to the leaves as well, as this will help both break down the leaves as well as deliver nutritients to your plant roots once the compost makes it into your garden.


OKC @ Warriors: Game winning shot video

Here are some video clips from Instagram (that I found on Twitter…)

And this is possibly what worked them up to it:


Made Something Cool At The Food Hackathon This Weekend

Screenshot (11).png

This past weekend I had a good time meeting like-minded people at the first Food Hackathon here in San Francisco. The organizers billed it as “the first of its kind”, however I’m familiar with Food+Tech Connect in New York City so I’m not sure they can make that claim (see: 2010 eventbrite. Note the almost free ticket prices. Can’t quite say the same for the event we just went to… Paid hackathons? Not sure this is how it’s supposed to work…) Anyway, we still had a lot of fun participating in the madness.

My co-founder and I went to this event together with the idea of building a simple local foodsharing, fresh fruit and vegetable barter marketplace to help create a more accessible sustainable alternative to the very money-dependent food system we all primarily rely on every day to feed ourselves. However in the process of brainstorming a name for our fruit and vegetable exchange we actually found at least two pre-existing websites that we hadn’t found before and were the exact same thing we had been trying to find, and ended up deciding to try using those sites first and reconsider what to build for the Hackathon.

We teamed up with Luke Iseman of Growerbot (Kickstarter) and Garduino (Project), along with his girlfriend Heather to work on his idea for building an online game similar to the mega-popular FarmVille (Facebook game by Zynga) but In Real Life. So like, you earn points (“Seeds”) for actually planting plants in your garden, and earn more points for uploading pictures and checking on your plants and posting measured growth values regularly. It’s called “Seed Mogul” and the goal is to encourage more local, independent, and distributed food production with an addictive and truly rewarding game. One of the parts of the idea that I really liked was his plan to actually allow users to “cash in” their “Seed” points for actual heirloom seeds that they would receive in the mail and use in their garden.

You can see what we built here (You just sign in with Facebook, just like FarmVille). Unfortunately we did not win any of the competition categories at the Hackathon. We probably could have made it a little more polished. But a lot of the key functionality is there. I’m realizing now that we could have also made a stronger case in our final pitch presentation for how this fits into the larger picture of the food sustainability movement and the efficacy of hyper-local fruit and vegetable production as a truly viable alternative food system model. In any case, feel free to sign up and check out our game! We’re hoping to see if anyone’s interested before working further on it. Most of all, James and I are very happy to have met Luke and Heather, and foodclouds is looking forward to possibly working together with Luke more in some fashion in the near future.


How To Pair Samsung 3D Glasses to TV When They Don’t Want To Pair

So we just bought a bunch of replacement 3D glasses for the TV we got on craigslist. I followed all the instructions I could find, which all pretty much said the same thing:

Turn the TV on.
Start playing something 3D or turn the 3D mode on.
Press the Power button on the glasses, and wait for them to connect.

Well, that wasn’t working for me. After about an hour of research, I came across the solution! You have to unplug the television from the wall for at least 40 seconds (wait for the red TV power light to go off in the front), and plug the TV back in and retry the above procedure.

Apparently this resets the bluetooth(?) receiver in the TV. Good luck!

Featured Productivity Web

If This Then That: How To Automate Your Web

There’s a cool new web application that you may want to check out. It’s called “If This Then That”, and it lets you connect your social media and web application accounts and create “triggers” that will automatically do things for you. The possibilities are endless, you can basically do anything with this tool. Like, for example: You can set up an auto-response when you get a new follower on Twitter. You can automatically email yourself when the weather forecast says it’s going to rain. And you can automatically move files between different services including DropBox, YouTube, and Photo sharing services…

It’s kind of hard to explain, it’s probably best to just try it yourself. The website is Have fun! And feel free to ask me questions in the comments if you need help figuring it out.


If newspapers really want to “Get Digital”

Update: Google updated Google Goggles today to include a feature which makes the big first step in this direction:

Let’s say you’re reading a magazine article you really like and want to share it with your friends. Just point Goggles at a part of the page, and instantly find a link to an online version to share immediately or read again later. You won’t even need the entire article in the frame. Goggles will also pull up more information from pages around the web where that text is mentioned, so its easier to learn about what you’re seeing. more

Original Post:
So… It seems to me that if Newspapers truly wanted to get “hip”, they would not just use social networks to let their readers spam their friends, but actually integrate with social networks to let their readers connect with their friends and co-comment on articles and create and foster real discussion about the issues presented.
Picture this: For every article in the newspaper, you can scan it with your phone and pull up the online version.. Check in with facebook or twitter or your newspaper website account, and see which friends have read, liked, commented or shared, and then be able to join the conversation either on site or link through to the 3rd party site.
Or how about scanning the front of the newspaper to see which of the articles your friends have read/liked/shared/commented, and then being able to jump to the article on your phone, or see which page it’s on?
This sounds like an epic iPhone/Android/MobileWeb application dev project for any local or major newspaper that wants to not only stay relevant, but be the leader in connecting the physical paper experience with the digital world.
I’d love to work with a local paper on this. 🙂


How Do You Sleep At Night?

Do you ever worry about the problems in the world? Would you consider yourself “concerned” about Global Warming? Do you ever wonder what your daily actions are contributing to the bigger picture? Are you comfortable with the way you are living now or is it a guessing game of greenwashing and faux sustainability? I’m here to blast through all the bullshit and get back to basics with you, right here right now.

So basically, here’s what you want to do…

In the words of Mahatma Ghandi: “Be The Change”

And in the words of Marie Curie:

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”

So read up! Educate yourself. And do everything that you can live your life in a way that affects the most positive reality around you.

My suggestions? Meditate. Breathe deeply. Focus on what you can change. Drink water. Eat for nutrition. (Raw Vegan is best). Give yourself rest. Love often.



Some, What? Important Videos [Explicit Language]

Hey so these are a bunch of videos on youtube that I found inspirational. Like, Awesome… Informative… makes me want to dance type stuff, all rolled into one. I’m still figuring out what order I want to put them in or how to best present them. But I guess if you’re interested in me, I guess it would be fun/interesting to watch. Hah! Anyway.. Enjoy! 🙂