Adventures with Nest

nest

I recently purchased a pair of Nest Learning Thermostats for my new home. Compared to the white brick style Honeywell thermostats that came with the place, the Nest is so much more advanced. It does temperature learning, auto-away, and remote control over Wi-Fi from the web and iOS devices. It also has a color LCD and just generally looks beautiful on the wall in its brushed stainless steel housing.

Installing the Nest is pretty straightforward with a modern forced air heating and cooling system:

  • Remove the old thermostat and mounting plate from the wall
  • Disconnect the wires
  • Patch and paint any holes
  • Install the Nest mounting base and connect the wires
  • Pop the Nest onto the base and configure the software

My initial install went well physically, but not long after, I discovered that the Nest would regularly run out of battery power. I quickly learned that due to how the HVAC circuits are arranged, the Nest can only draw power while the system is running. When the system is not busy heating, cooling, or running the fan, the Nest is left to run under its own battery power. And in sunny California during the springtime, the system doesn’t run often enough to let the Nest keep a charge. Several times per day, I would have to unplug the Nest from its base and charge it over micro USB. Not a great solution.

Reading more about the Nest and HVAC circuitry, I found that there is a solution for situations like this. A “common wire” that provides a path back to the HVAC controller would allow the Nest to draw the power it needs while not running any systems. As luck would have it, my system provided this common wire, but connecting it to the Nest had no effect on the battery. More telling was the fact that the Nest did not detect that the wire was connected.

So, I decided to find out what was at the other end of that common wire. I put up a ladder and ventured into the attic of my home and scouted around the furnace. On top of it, inside an easily-opened steel enclosure, was the thermostat controller, a ZTech ZTE2S. Double checking the wiring diagram and comparing it with the wires on the left (coming from the Nests), it’s clear that the blue common wire is simply not connected to the controller. In the photo below, you can see that it’s clipped short, close to the brown jacket covering the bundle of five wires.

before

Reconnecting the wire was a matter of disconnecting the wires that were already connected, snipping them all to the same length, and stripping a little plastic off the end so that all five can be connected to the HVAC controller.

after

A few hours after leaving the Nest installed with the common wire attached and the HVAC controller all closed up, its battery has fully charged and the features work great.

Adventures with Nest

Widerbug No Longer Needed

Widerbug

Good news Widerbug users!

The dedicated Firebug team has just added the widescreen option that Widerbug enables into the core of Firebug 1.9.0, making Widerbug obsolete. You may uninstall Widerbug and go back to using regular Firebug and be able to change the layout using the option seen below.

Firebug widescreen support

This is welcome news to all Widerbug users, I imagine. It’s been difficult to keep up with Firefox’s new fast-track release schedule, as well as continually adapting to the Firebug internal changes. Now you can enjoy widescreen support, with Firebug in one of several locations, without sacrificing new critical updates and feature improvements.

Widerbug No Longer Needed

Apple ID Email Verification Woes

As a longtime Mac user, I’ve had an account on file with Apple dating back to when iTools was available. Only recently has the Apple ID become much more important as a personal identifier. Back then, Apple IDs were mostly a means for me to identify myself to Apple. Now, people find me using my Apple ID for FaceTime, iMessage, Game Center, and more.

Not so long ago, I decided that I wasn’t happy with this Apple ID and created a new one to do everything with. It was, however, long enough ago that Apple IDs weren’t yet required to be in the form of an email address. So, this new one was just a new name.

More recently, I decided that I should switch my new Apple ID to be in the form of an email address like they now encourage, and verify the matching email address with it. Only, the Apple ID management system would not let me do this, reporting that:

Email address is already verified for another Apple ID

I didn’t recall verifying this email address with any other Apple ID. Even using the “Forgot my Apple ID” tool, which searches for Apple IDs given an email address, produced no Apple IDs that had a record of that email address. Even my old Apple ID didn’t list this email address as one of its verified emails.

As it turns out — and this is after trying many different things including contacting Apple ID Support — MobileMe requires a backup email address in the event you forget your MobileMe password. The email address I wanted to verify with my new Apple ID was set as my MobileMe backup email address for my old Apple ID. This counts as a verify, even though it’s not listed as a verified email address on the Apple ID site for my MobileMe account.

Simply setting up a new email account with my provider dedicated to MobileMe — one I’ll probably never check unless I need to — and using that as my MobileMe backup email address freed up the desired email address I wanted to associate with my new Apple ID.

Hopefully this will help someone who may be running into the same issue. Figuring all this out was wildly confusing at times, and even more difficult to explain to Apple ID Support, which is probably why we never got the issue resolved until now!

Apple ID Email Verification Woes

Simulating Slow Internet for iOS Testing

Apple’s iOS Simulator is an acceptable environment for testing development code, but when users purchase your finished app from the App Store, they’ll be running it on real hardware, particularly on networks that are likely much less reliable than your home or office internet.

To ensure your app performs well under real-world conditions, you can load up the code on a device and go outside, but then you can’t debug as easily. And even if you bring your MacBook Air with you, what if your Verizon iPhone is everything you hoped, and it performs admirably on the worst of days? To get around all of this, you can approximate an unreliable network with SpeedLimit. SpeedLimit is a System Preferences pane for intentionally and selectively slowing down specific ports and domains.

speedlimit

Download and install SpeedLimit, add one or more hosts (separated by commas, as seen above), select a target speed, and click Slow Down. Subsequent network requests matching the criteria you set will be throttled, giving you time to go all out testing your app’s performance and error handling. Does it crash when users hit the Back button while a UITableView is loading? Does it lock the UI while downloading avatars or thumbnails? SpeedLimit lets you find out, and be confident in your networking code.

Simulating Slow Internet for iOS Testing

fmTuner 1.1

My WordPress plugin for displaying Last.fm music, fmTuner, has been updated to 1.1, adding a much-requested album artwork placeholder field, and testing for the latest and greatest version of WordPress.

The upgrade will work seamlessly with your current fmTuner design, but if you visit the fmTuner Settings page, you’ll see that you can now specify a link to a placeholder image, which will be used if Last.fm comes up short on album art. Leaving this field blank (the default) will simply skip tracks without artwork. If you want to get really fancy, there’s even a fmTuner tag that will print out the path to your current WordPress theme, if you’d like different album art placeholders for different themes.

Download fmTuner from WordPress.org for the latest version!

fmTuner 1.1

Widerbug for Firefox 3.6+

I’ve just updated Widerbug to 1.5.0, once again up to date with the enhancements from Firebug 1.5.0. If you’re running Widerbug 1.3.3 or later, you should receive 1.5.0 via an automatic update. Or, head over to the Widerbug download page to install it.

I know at some point I should attempt to merge my changes into the Firebug codebase and submit a patch (and stop this Firebug cat-and-mouse game), but my XUL knowledge is still fairly limited. If anyone would like to take on the challenge, though, I imagine your patch would be a welcome addition to Firebug’s core!

Widerbug for Firefox 3.6+

How to Find the Right Windows Driver

When setting up a new Windows machine, whether it’s Windows 2000 all the way up through Windows 7, you’ll occasionally run into an issue where you need drivers for a system or PCI device that you just can’t seem to find. To make matters worse, you don’t know which company made the device, so you don’t even know where to start looking for drivers. Should you go to Dell’s site? The motherboard manufacturer? Persistent “Unknown device” entries in the Windows Device Manager are a plague upon even the most seasoned techs. Here’s a tip to get your driver hunt moving in the right direction.

Find Out Who Made the Device

Figuring out which company made the device(s) in question is the first step towards getting it working. Start by opening the Windows Device Manager. My preferred quick way of doing this is clicking Start -> Run -> type “devmgmt.msc” -> press Enter. Once there, choose the device in question and right click it, and select Properties. Select the Details tab to see something like the view below:

windows_device_manager

Note the PCI “VEN” and “DEV” 4-character identifiers. PCI, USB, and many other system devices have Vendor and Device IDs. The Vendor ID is specific to the manufacturer, like Broadcom or nVIDIA. The Device ID is specific to the particular make or model of device you have. These are expressed in hexadecimal (0 through 9 plus A through F), so don’t be surprised to see letters there, as well. Some common Vendor IDs are 8080 and 8086 for Intel, 0A5C for Broadcom, 10DE for nVIDIA, 1002 for ATI, and many more.

Look Up Vendor and Device IDs

A common way to express both the Vendor and Device IDs in a single string is 1022:2000, Vendor ID first. Combine your Vendor and Device IDs in this manner, and wrap it with quotes: “1022:2000”. Google that, and you should quickly figure out who made your “Unknown device” and what model it is. With this knowledge, you can either find the appropriate driver on your computer manufacturer’s website (Dell makes a good note of which manufacturer’s devices they use for a particular system), or you can visit the device manufacturer’s website directly.

I hope this information can help those looking to simply get their hardware working under Windows, whether it’s running on a Mac or PC.

How to Find the Right Windows Driver