Use an old cell phone as a baby monitor

Use an old cell phone as a baby monitor

When my first child was on her way I bought a fancy baby monitor. It had pan, tilt, zoom, night vision, a temperature sensor, etc etc. It did everything. It had two huge problems though: it severely degraded my wifi whenever it was on and the battery in the monitor went bad before the second baby arrived. Lame.

For my second child I switched to using an old Android. It doesn’t pan or tilt. It doesn’t have night vision. But it works, it is free, and it uses junk I already had laying around.

On the old Android I use IP Webcam. It is a free app that streams your phone’s video/audio.

On my current phone I use VLC for Android beta. It is also free, and lets me stream the audio from IP Webcam (which is all I want at night anyway). I leave it going all night so I can hear my son in case he gets up. It also makes it easy to go out and do yard work without worrying about him waking up without anyone inside to hear him.

To stream the audio on VLC, use the IP from your IP Webcam phone and add audio.wav to the end, like this: http://192.168.1.133:8080/audio.wav

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During the day, when I’m in my home office working, I can use my browser to watch/listen to him when he is down for a nap. Again, I can’t pan or tilt, but all I really care about is whether he is awake or asleep. I don’t really need pan/tilt for that.

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Debugging bash scripts

Debugging bash scripts

I use a lot of bash scripts to automate my server tasks. They are quick and easy to write, and work across multiple distributions with little to no modification.

Debugging bash scripts is easy. If your bash script is named awesome_script, then you would do something like this:

bash -x awesome_script

In addition to running the script, it will output every command the script runs along with the result of that command. No modifications to your script are needed.

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Save money at Amazon with camelcamelcamel

Save money at Amazon with camelcamelcamel

If you like to shop at Amazon, you really should be using camelcamelcamel. This service tracks prices at Amazon and allows you to set alerts to tell you when prices drop on items you want to buy.

Here is a real world example: My wife and I wanted to buy some dishes that, at $76.48 per place setting, are quite a bit more than we are used to paying for dishes. We set a price alert and sat back to wait for the price to fall. Fast forward a month or so, and I got an email letting me know that the price dropped to $58.62, a savings of over $18 (counting taxes) per place setting. It took almost no effort on my part, just a few moments to copy and paste a URL to camelcamelcamel.

They even have a handy Chrome extension called the Camelizer. It adds a button to all Amazon pages that, when clicked, shows you price history and lets you set a price alert.

This works for pretty much anything that you know you want to buy, but don’t really need immediately. I’ve successfully used it to save money on new smoke detectors (the old ones still worked, they were just close to the expiration date), several books, a mattress for my daughter, a NAS, and more.

They also have a version for Best Buy. I don’t shop there so can’t really vouch for it, but looks like it works the same as the Amazon version.

Featured image is a creative commons licensed flickr photo shared by Ted.

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LEGO DUPLO QUATRO

LEGO DUPLO QUATRO

I spent hours and days and weeks playing with LEGO bricks as a kid. I had a huge bucket of LEGO with a handful of DUPLO mingled in.

At a yard sale a few years ago we found a bucket of QUATRO, a lesser known variety of LEGO bricks that were only produced for a couple years. I wasn’t excited about the purchase, but Becca talked me into it. I am so glad she did. They are awesome for young kids!

lego-comparison

The coolest thing about LEGO, DUPLO, and QUATRO bricks is that they all work together. LEGO stacks on DUPLO, which stacks on QUATRO, which stacks on DUPLO, which stacks on LEGO. I thought this was common knowledge, but have recently discovered that many people are completely unaware of this wonderful design decision.

lego-duplo-quatro

This makes it possible to create some really cool things. For example, you can use QUATRO to build huge walls, then stack some DUPLO and LEGO on top to provide a place for your minifigures. Inside the walls, perhaps you could use some DUPLO bricks to make animals and trees. Maybe you have a small castle or house made of LEGO with a big DUPLO baseplate as a foundation.

I avoid non-LEGO brands. LEGO is the only brick system I’ve found with a consistently high quality, attention to detail, and guaranteed compatibility. If you really must choose a non-LEGO brand, go for a Mega Bloks Probuilder set. The Probuilder quality tends to be more consistent than the competition.

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git: Ignoring files during development

git: Ignoring files during development

I use git a lot, and often find myself needing to make changes to a file that I absolutely don’t want to commit to the repo. For example, a default configuration file may be in the repo, but I want to change which database it is pointing to during development. Or maybe I’ll gut a CPU intensive method during preliminary testing, but I obviously don’t want the gutting method committed back to the repo.

Sure, I could stash these changes before and after every commit, but that can be a real hassle. What I like to do instead is use the assume unchanged feature.

To tell git to assume a file is unchanged, use this command:

git update-index --assume-unchanged 

To undo this, use this command:

git update-index --no-assume-unchanged 

A file that has been marked as assume unchanged won’t show up when you run git status. It won’t be added to a commit when you run git add -a. Pretty awesome.

If you need to figure out which files have been marked as assume unchanged, you can use this command:

git ls-files -v | grep "^[[:lower:]]"

The ls-files list with the -v option will show every file and its status, with lowercase letters for the status of assume unchanged files. The grep command will only show files that have that lowercase letter.

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