Studio711

Giving Feedback To Microsoft

sendfeedbackWe all find things that we like or dislike (usually the latter) when we’re using applications or websites. The good news, is that more and more apps (especially from Microsoft) are coming with easy ways to give feedback. It’s generally in the upper right hand corner and it often looks like a Smiley Face. You might also find a button or a menu option called something like “Give Feedback”. Wherever you find it, I encourage you to use it. As an employee on a team that makes a product with easy user feedback options, I can tell you that one report from a user carries a LOT more weight than me giving feedback to my own team. We love to hear from you and it’s one of the most important signals we have for improving our products. (And if you throw in a positive note every once in a while, that’s appreciated too!)

Microphone Light

arduinomiclightA few months ago, I bought new wireless microphones for church. They’re simple but they work well. The old ones were dying so it’s nice to have some that work well. The only downside is that the old ones had a nice flip switch on the top so you could tell by feeling the box whether the mic was on or off. These new mics have a button that you press once to turn on and another to turn off. Pastor turns his mic on and off throughout the service and it’s really easy to get mixed around with the on/off state.

After thinking about this for quite a while, I decided I could turn this into a project. There is a light on the mic receiver up in the balcony that goes on when his mic is on. I taped a light sensor on top of that and ran that to one of the analog input pins on an Arduino. If the light is off (meaning his mic is off), the Arduino sends a signal to a relay to let power flow to a light bulb. The bulb is red so if Pastor sees a red light, he knows his mic is off. I’ve only been testing it for a couple Sundays but so far, it works great!

This was the first time that I’ve ordered from AdaFruit.com but I was really impressed. Each product page has lots of examples and documentation to get you going. I also really liked their “Power Tail 2” product. It has all the relay stuff built into a short extension cord so you can skip all of those pieces. It’s way more expensive than doing it yourself, but “it just works.” And obviously I didn’t need an Arduino to do this simple logic, but again, it was easier.

This was a fun project to research and build. I love these Arduino projects, but I don’t have a lot projects on my list that require one.

Giving Your Best

quality-timeWe have a lot of interactions during the day whether it’s with family, coworkers, cashiers, online people, etc. They all demand some level of civility and good behavior. But over the course of a week, who gets the best you have to offer? I wish I could remember where I first heard this, but whoever said it, it stuck in my mind. Their point was that instead of letting go and giving our spouse (or family, etc) the rest of whatever we have to give that day, we should be giving them our best. We might rationalize it by saying, “My spouse knows me better than anyone else so he/she knows I don’t really mean it when I let me bad mood run wild.” But flip that over… if you have a limited amount of good behavior to dish out, shouldn’t you give it to the people you love the most? Save your best for your spouse.

Of course that’s easier said than done. We usually see our spouse at the end of the day when we’re really tired and fed up with all the other interactions we had during the day. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s not a great idea.

I suppose ideally we’d have infinite good behavior to dish out to everyone we see, but even if you are nice to everyone, you can’t reasonably go the extra mile for everyone. Save that extra effort for the ones you love the most! Don’t use that close relationship to dump them with the leftovers of your day.

UPDATE: I wrote this before hearing Pastor’s sermon last Sunday, but it fit this post very well. One key tagline from his sermon was “You’d die for your spouse, but do you live for them?”

Edmonds Marina Beach Park

Tyla and Elijah found Edmonds Marina Beach Park and they were both very excited about it. Elijah particularly loved it because the park features:

  1. Train tracks that run by the park
  2. A nice playground
  3. A beach
  4. Ferries
  5. Fork lifts moving boats around

The fork lifts probably trumped all the rest. They store quite a few boats on racks on land and then forklifts put them in the water. It’s quite a process and Elijah can watch them for a long time without getting bored.

One Saturday a few weeks ago, I went along with them to check out the park. I think it’s going to be a regular spot for us. The park really is beautiful and there are a lot of things for Elijah to enjoy.

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Comcast Bill

comcasticI’ve been a Comcast customer for the last 13 years, and honestly I complain, but for the past few years, the internet and TV connections have been almost rock solid. That’s good. The price increases on the other hand, are not.

In December of 2013, we dropped to a lower TV package and we saved $40/month with no contract*. In the 20 months since then, our price went up 15% for exactly the same service. Give me a break.

I complained about it on Twitter and got a reply from the @ComcastCares service account. I’ve talked to them before without much luck, but this time it was great. They dropped our bill to ~$55/month without changing our service or requiring a contract. That’s awesome! I hate that their business model requires good customers to whine to get lower prices, but whatever.

* Why is no contract important to me? I feel like we’re at the tail end of having any TV package at all. We only record about a dozen series per year and they’re all available online either for free or for purchase. If I didn’t host football parties here, I think I would have already dropped cable TV. But when we have all those people over to watch a game, Comcast is still the most reliable way for me to display it. We can’t get over the air because of all the hills/trees, and the online streaming options aren’t stable enough yet.