Monthly Archives: September 2021

Sonoff 4 channel relay bricked

Sonoff 4Ch R2 Relay

I have an older Sonoff 4 Channel Relay (R2 Pro) which I had flashed with Tasmota firmware version 6.4.1.

In the interest of incorporating easily into my home automation I decided to upgrade the Tasmota firmware to the latest version (9.5.0 at the time of this writing). I want to use it for landscape lighting.

I uploaded the Tasmota minimal which did upload but when the relay rebooted the relay 2 light came on and the relay 1 relay began furiously clicking.

The WiFi was NOT connected as well.   No problem.  I’ll just put the device in boatloader mode and rewrite the flash memory.  You do that by holding down this button while powering up:

Enter boot loader mode (click pic to enlarge)

Great, except it didn’t work.  I was pretty sure it was bricked for all eternity and I was ready to throw it in the trash.   Holding the button down is supposed to short data pin GPIO0 (zero) to ground causing the device to enter boot loader mode.

I decided I would try to manually short GPIO0 to ground by using these pins while the FTDI controller was connected.

Continue below:

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Smart Plug For Home Assistant

Smart Plug

Bought some of these plugs a few years back and never used them much because I put z-wave smart switches all over my house.

Well, I have a “new” house now which was built in the 80’s and it doesn’t have a dedicated neutral line which limits my smart switch choices a bit which leads me back to the smart outlets.

First of all, when you get switches like this that say “Compatible with Alexa or Google” just know  that that means they are made in China and the controlling software and app are made in China and that your smart device is sending info to China.  You can’t be sure because the software is proprietary,

Enter “Tasmota” which is a custom firmware with Open Source code which means you can see the code which makes you feel more comfortable when you say “Alexa, turn on Safe House, Safe Room lights”.  That of course is an exaggerated joke.

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Nest Thermostat Review

When I lived in Japan I had a co-worker look up from his phone one day to an alert that his unoccupied house in Arizona was too hot. He called a family member and confirmed that there was an HVAC problem.  It was at that moment I understood the importance of a smart Thermostat.

As soon as I moved back to the US in around 2015 I had a home built and I immediately installed a 2nd Generation Nest.  Recently I bought a new home and installed a 3rd Generation Nest Learning Thermostat  ($249 but now reduced to $199) downstairs and a Nest Thermostat (4th Generation) ($129) upstairs.  A few weeks into the new home we opted to install a new upstairs A/C unit which came with a 3rd Generation Nest Learning Thermostat which I had them go ahead and install.

3rd Gen Nest Learning Thermostat

You might think a 4th generation product would be “better” than a 3rd generation product however I don’t really find this to be the case.  The 4th gen only works with the Google Home app whereas the 3rd gen works with the Nest app, the Google Home app, and a web browser.  Also the 3rd gen integrates with Alexa.  To voice command the 4th gen you need a Google Nest Hub.  Speaking of Alexa integration, when I added the 2nd Nest Learning Thermostat Alexa could not find it.  I had to disable the Google Nest skill in Alexa and re-enable it before the Alexa voice commands would work on both thermostats.   There is something very cool about just saying “Alexa, Set Hallway temperature to 74” in the middle of the night without having to get up.

4th Gen Nest Thermostat

So to me the 3rd gen Nest Learning thermostat has way more flexibility.  Also the HVAC installers told me that they did NOT like the 4th gen at all.  Let me preach on it…….

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NEST Thermostat for the Save

This is pretty cool I think.  Bought a new house and we noticed the upstairs unit wasn’t cooling real well.   Fortunately I put a Nest Thermostat on it.

Sure enough, I got the below email from Nest telling me that something was wrong with my AC unit.  The email showed a graph of the temperature and best of all provided a link at the bottom to schedule an appointment with their “Handy Network” for roughly $50.

Click link below to see the email:

Urgent cooling system issue at Your Home Nest Thermostat

For $50, within 2 days I had a tech knocking on my door.   So their email indicates a problem, graphs the temperature increase problem, and asks the basic questions like “Did you leave a door open or something”, etc.

I’m a techie and even this impresses me.  The system doesn’t just tell you its not working good, it provides a solution for inspection and repair.   I won’t take this blog beyond this point but I strongly recommend Nest, which is maturing and getting better all the time.  Only thing that would make it perfect was if Google didn’t own it.


Lightburn USB Issues on Mac OS X

Lightburn is the best software for laser editing, design and control, bar none.  But it always seems to have an issue on Mac OS X when you upgrade.  More times than not, when you upgrade Lightburn it simply will not output your design when you are connected via USB.

There seems to be an issue with the FTDI drivers on Mac OS itself which doesn’t like our Ruida controllers.  There are a couple of workarounds.  First is to take your file you want to engrave or cut and transfer it to a USB stick and upload it directly to the laser.  The other way is to connect your laser via its ethernet port instead of its USB port.  This works flawlessly ………. well almost.  I noticed that once I followed the directions provided by Lightburn that the laser was only recognized when WiFi was turned off.  I dunno about you, but I’d kind of like to use my computer on the internet while I’m sitting there watching my output and making sure nothing catches on fire.

The directions provided by Lightburn instruct you to get the IP address of your computer and then add that to the same subnet.  For example if your computer is, they advise you to add 50 or 100 to the last octet. (, or   This will give you wifi problems.  Let’s tackle this, shall we?

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Repair, Not Replace

I’m a big proponent of fixing stuff rather than replacing it.  The “new” home I moved to has a built in audio system in a lot of rooms and on the front and back porches and even a speaker way out in the woods on a deck.

The speakers on the back porch are all fouled up and only produce sound from the tweeter.  The outdoor speakers are all Polk Audio Atrium55’s which are discontinued.

Polk Audio Atrium 55

So, as luck would have it, so are the replacement speakers ( Part Number RD0756-1).  Can’t find them anywhere.

The successor to these speakers seems to be the Atrium 5’s which cost $250 at Amazon, Best Buy, eBay……….everywhere.

So let’s see how I deal with this………

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