Saturday, March 7, 2020

Touching Base...

Wow!  Two months since my last post - not sure if that's a record or not.

It's not that things haven't been happening - it's just that at this season, and this part of our lives, not much happens out of the routine.  I'll try to fill in a bit though, and as always, pontificate with copious verbosity.

I'm typing this on my newly re-formatted laptop.  That's always a mixed blessing.  It's nice to have a clean start, but it's a pain in the neck to get everything set up the way you like.  It's too bad that Windows always seems to bugger stuff up eventually with it's updates.  Update 1909 really seems to be borking all my computers here at the homestead.

As part of my ongoing commitment to ensuring the safety of our data, I have given up on Dropbox - it never encrypted it anyway, but most egregiously, they raised the price close to 50% this year, while offering nothing enticing as a benefit.  2TB storage and the very flaky "selective sync" or "on demand" files just didn't cut it for us.  We don't have quite those huge needs in space, and with slowish internet, on-demand loading isn't really convenient.

So, I switched to Resilio sync a number of months ago, and have purchased three very small microcomputers running Windows 10, Resilio, and a few other small apps.  I have one at the cabin keeping our personal files and Plex movies and tv series in sync, and in turn, it connects to another microcomputer I have set up in the city to syncronize the same data off-site.  This also makes my video files available to family in the city.

Tiny microcomputer with 1TB SSD zip-tied to it.  No other connections required (RJ-45 if preferred) - Google and Dropbox, watch out!  This particular machine is heading to Waterloo.
And here's the aikiServer - as well as the other associated internet stuff (router, PoE adapter, external backup drive).  I zip-tied them to the bottom of the chrome shelving, and after this picture I also cleaned up the cabling so the shelf underneath is still quite useable.  I have also replaced the classic Asus AC66 router with a TP-Link.  Asus 2.4Ghz signal suddenly died - which seems to be a common complaint.  Maybe I should put these comments in the actual post?
Because I've begun storing important work-related files too, I have also decided to set up a third redundant server that I will send to Waterloo to be set up there to keep a third node in the cloud.

I like Resilio very much, although it does still have a bit to go to get to Dropbox's really outstanding synchronizations.  I find that often moving a file from one folder to another within the same Resilio sync still causes it to be re uploaded and downloaded to the other nodes.

This is about half as painful as it was a month ago - when our new local cellphone tower came on-line!  We have been watching them assemble it since last fall.  A few weeks ago they finally completed it and then replaced our entire canopy service - upgrading from 900Mhz to 3.5/3.6GHz.  This has added about 50% to our download speed, and 100% to our upload speed.  An embarrassment of riches!  We're now about 5 down and 2-3 Mbps up!

Our new tower!  Our cell signals still are just okay, but our internet is muchly improved!
I have ploughed lots of snow.  This past Thursday we received another 15cm.  Not really welcome, but not the end of the world - especially since February was so sunny and mild that much of the snow on our roofs had melted and slid off.  I ran less than a tank of gas through the generator in February!

Snow, snow, snow.
Crap!  Truck slid off the parking spot and into the bank.

The AGM batteries in the attic are working well.  They are letting me know that the attic space is strangely much colder than I expected!  It can be as much as 10 degrees cooler up there than in the cabin - which is odd as they are technically in a heated space (although I do have steel wool insulation between the main space and the attic - there is no vapour barrier.)

Our rentals in the city went okay this past year.  Once again we "lost" significant money on owning and operating them.  We definitely want them to be well kept and show well, and we are blessed with wonderful tenants.  Hopefully this year we can see some sort of financial return on the work we have been putting in.  Then again we're always looking to add to our holdings, and each new purchase seems to eat up any benefits from the others.  I suppose when we finally press pause on expansion though, that should change.

We would really like to travel somewhere different this year.  Kenny has been a bit into castles for the past year or more, so it would be fun to show him some real ones (although Casa Loma last year was a pretty good stand-in I think).  It's challenging though when we want to try to be eco-conscious too.  At least our current lifestyle is hopefully somewhat easier on the earth than other paths we could have chosen.  Raising a child definitely can change so many of your ways of thinking and plans.

I'll keep trying to post in spite of other priorities competing.  Wish me luck!  Remember to rate, comment and subscribe in the doobly-doo so I know you all care.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Repairing our Sonya SYW-70S Washing Machine

So!  We've been enjoying this machine for an amazing four years now!  I'm definitely at the point where if it blew up and I had to re-purchase, I'd consider it to have saved us in hassle and costs compared to hitting up the laundromat or something similar.

Last year though, when we left for Christmas, I made the error of not disconnecting the incoming water line from the machine.  I guess I felt that draining the house water lines would also drain water out of the solenoid valve of the machine, but perhaps that wasn't to be.  When we returned and I attempted to do a load of laundry, lo and behold, no satisfying click, followed by the sound of water trickling into the washer.

I left it for a bit to see if it just was taking awhile to thaw out, but eventually gave up and decided that I had permanently damaged the solenoid.

My big brain came up with a great solution - just move the cold water connection to the hot water input, and then do hot water washes from now on (or at least, ask the machine to do hot water washes).  This worked just fine, but did have a few down sides.  The first was, previously, you could just pick your programme and press start.  But now you had to preselect hot water before your programme.  This also had trickle down effects all the way to the end of the cycle - even with a hot water wash selected, it defaulted to a cold water rinse.  So we had to remember wjen we washed a load to cancel the programme and re-run another cycle without detergent to do the rinse.  This also meant that the cycle ended prematurely, so AGAIN we had to finally run a programme of just spinning before we could hang the laundry.

Left is "cold" water input, right is "hot".  We've been on "hot" for a year now.
This was all much easier than washing by hand or even the smaller loads but equal hassle of the Panda machine.  Still, it was a bit disappointing compared to what we had been use to.

We worked this way for all of 2019 - until we returned again from our Christmas vacation in Southern Ontario.  This time the machine was already pulled out from the wall, and I had correctly remembered to disconnect the hose and ensure everything was properly drained.  I noted the screws holding down the plate over the solenoids, so I removed them to just glance inside.  It looked like there were more screws holding both the hot and cold solenoids in place, and perhaps they were physically pressed into the bracket - not that fun of a job.  I delayed for a day when I knew I had a fair bit of time to cipher out a way to exchange the solenoids.

Still pulled out from Christmas Break
The next day I unplugged the machine (Safety first!  Or at least eventually...) and removed the cover again.  As I brandished the screwdriver towards the machine threateningly, I had a sudden realization.  The wires controlling the solenoids were attached with standard blade type connectors...

Rats, this looks like a finicky job.
Why would I swap solenoids, when I could just swap the wires and "trick" the machine into opening the hot solenoid using the cold wires, and perhaps vice versa...

Just swap wires!  Why didn't I think of that a year ago??
I simply removed all the wires, and connected back up the hot water solenoid to the cold water wiring (I did have to cut the tie wrap holding the wires to get a couple of centimetres of slack).  Truth be told, I didn't bother connecting the hot water wires to the cold water side - that solenoid still seems to be a lost cause, and we don't have access to hot water anyway).

Looks like it was meant to be.
Whelp, it worked a charm.  Took maybe three minutes work in total.  Solved a problem we had just endured for a year.

I wish I was rich in money so I could just pay other people to fix problems as they occur.  Then again, better yet, I'm rich in that I have a loving, patient family willing to put up with minor annoyances with few complaints.

We have water!  Note the extreme iron staining.  Sigh.