Odroid H4 Update: Things Take a NASty Turn- My SATA Dream Deferred

When things go wrong, I admit to a certain amount of anxiety about whether or not things will turn out well. I was so excited about settling on the ODroid H4 as my NAS system. It was small, flexible, had the processor type I wanted…When it showed up last week, I was disappointed that a work trip meant I couldn’t assemble it immediately.

Tonight, I got out the YouTube video from Hardkernel, and started constructing. I took my 4 hard drives and used them to assemble the frame of the case, then put the plastic spacers on the board as shown in the video, then attached the SATA cables and power cable, as shown, which I bought with it. I have SATA cables, but I didn’t have anything like the power cables, and they came as a set. According to the video, it should be 2 200mm cables, and 2 250mm cables for the drives further apart.

I put the top on, and put it in the slot, and tried to attach the cables, but quickly realized that the first one was too short to go to the bottom. I realized I’d gotten 4 identical cables. So I unhooked the top and went to take off the cables. I thought I would try a longer one I already had, although I was worried that would still create a problem with the power cable. I’ve built many computers over the years. To remove a SATA cable,, there is a locking connector you gently push in on, then release. 3 came out, the 4th, when I pushed the release and gently removed the cable, and the connector came up with it. I didn’t pull or yank on it. I tried to reseat it, but I didn’t think that would work. My assumption is, as to other ones seemed secure, that it was not secure initially. I wasn’t optimistic about getting the connector to work again, and I need 4 drives, so this rendered the item useless to me.

So, now comes the anxiety. Will Ameridroid claim human error? I don’t think it was, but the fact that they write in their return policy that if an item is deemed to not be defective by them, they will charge a 25% restocking fee makes me nervous. This is not because I had any bad experiences with Ameridroid, but because I now have to wait nervously to know if I’m going to be out the money.

It also makes me a bit nervous about ODroid and their manufacturer, Hardkernel. Maybe I shouldn’t have bought a product that was just released? Maybe I should have gone for something from a more established provider? Does the manufacturer stand behind their product? I have limited experience with them, but people seem to generally like them.

They say don’t sweat the small stuff, but I hate sometimes how one bump in the wrong can make me question a less conventional route. It’s hard to pick your hardware and assemble it. I’m already regretting my last upgrade for not leaving enough room for future proofing. Is this going to go the same way? What advice do you have for me?

State of the Open Home 2024

On Saturday, the annual State of the Open Home occurred. I got a chance to watch the stream afterward, and took away some interesting notes.

The State of the Open Home is the annual briefing by the Home Assistant developers on the state of that project, and has gradually expanded to their other umbrella projects. Which is what has lead to them announcing the Open Home Foundation. They’ve transferred over 240 projects, including Home Assistant, ESPHome, Zigpy, Piper, Improv Wi-Fi, Wyoming, etc to the foundation, and collaborate with projects like WLED, Zigbee2MQTT, ZwaveJS, etc. The for-profit arm of Home Assistant, Nabu Casa, is a contributor to the foundation, but has no direct control over it.

From what I can deduce, this seems to be in direct response to concerns that the Home Assistant project would be taken in a commercial direction as Nabu Casa tries new initiatives. It also preserves the privacy and choice philosophies Home Assistant is founded on.

They also mentioned the roadmap for Home Assistant as well, with moving toward additional improvements in usability.

I think I will be talking a bit more about Home Assistant in the future. It is mostly a hobbyist system today, but they are making the attempt to make it easier for more casual users, with the Home Assistant Green and other efforts. They did mention the Green will be more commercially available in future as well.

Thoughts On Using a Mini PC On the Go

Recently, I was reading an article by Brady Snyder of XDA Developers about using a Mini PC on the go. It happened to match up with something I’d been thinking about. However, Brady’s premise involved the use of a battery pack. So…turning a Mini PC into a fully portable computer, instead of my goal…a computer I could set up anywhere. I’m thinking about this a lot right now because I just spent two weeks in a hotel for work, where I’d want more than I’d take on a short trip.

Dual portable monitors are coming down in price, but so are portable USB-C/HDMI single monitors that have good quality, and fit in a bag. I calculated that a USB-C to barrel connector could power everything off a USB-C PD charger. A 60-65% keyboard, portable mouse, and even a second monitor if needed can complete something that fits in a bag.

I stopped using laptops at home ages ago…because staring down at one started to hurt my neck. I could dock my laptop, but I found I rarely used the screen and mostly had it in the dock, so why not save money on the screen and get a better processor?

Over the years, I’ve tried many combinations of mobile setups. Different small keyboards. Different portable monitors. Etc. I’ve already decided on my next experiment, and will be putting out some notes about how different configurations work out. This includes:

  • Improved 60 or 65% keyboard options
  • Different portable monitors
  • Keeping the wiring simple.
  • Converting mini-PCs to USB-C PD using adapters
  • Travel micetrackballs
  • Storage devices

Curious what others thinl.

Should I Install Solar Panels on a Rental Property?

As the world increasingly embraces renewable energy sources, solar panels have become a popular option for homeowners looking to reduce their carbon footprint and energy bills. However, if you own a rental property, you might be wondering whether installing solar panels is a financially sound decision. In this blog post, we’ll explore the pros and cons of installing solar panels on a rental property, helping you make an informed choice.

Pros of Installing Solar Panels on a Rental Property

1. Attract Eco-Conscious Tenants

In today’s environmentally conscious world, many renters actively seek out eco-friendly living options. Installing solar panels can make your rental property more appealing to this demographic, potentially allowing you to charge higher rent and keep your property occupied.

2. Reduced Energy Costs

Solar panels can significantly reduce electricity bills for both you and your tenants. Lower energy costs can make your rental property more attractive and competitive in the market, potentially leading to longer tenant retention.

3. Tax Benefits and Incentives

Many governments offer tax credits and incentives to property owners who invest in solar energy systems. These financial perks can offset the initial installation costs and provide a faster return on investment.

Cons of Installing Solar Panels on a Rental Property

1. High Initial Costs

Solar panel installation can be expensive, and the upfront investment might not align with your budget. You’ll need to weigh the long-term savings against the initial expense to determine if it’s financially feasible.

2. Responsibility for Maintenance

As the property owner, you would typically be responsible for the solar panels’ maintenance and any repairs. This added responsibility can be a burden, especially if you have multiple rental properties.

3. Tenant Turnover

If your tenants move frequently, you may not fully reap the benefits of solar panels. The savings from reduced energy bills may not compensate for the costs and hassle of installing and maintaining the system.


Whether or not to install solar panels on a rental property depends on your specific circumstances, budget, and long-term goals. While they can attract eco-conscious tenants and reduce energy costs, the high initial investment and maintenance responsibilities may not be suitable for everyone. Before making a decision, consult with a solar energy expert, conduct a thorough cost-benefit analysis, and consider the local incentives available in your area. Ultimately, the choice should align with your financial objectives and commitment to sustainable living.

WeeWX Version 5.0 Released- Should You Upgrade Now?

WeeWX released version 5 of its Weather Station software. While there were a lot of foundational improvements, as usually indicated by a major version change, there is little here in terms of showstopping features. Which is fine, this is a stable project, showstopping features are not what is expected. But a lot of essential updates and refactoring. A few highlights:

  • Minimum Python version is now 3.6. Considering the previous minimum hit end of life in January of 2020, this is sort of a necessity. Python 3.6 hit end of life at the end of 2021. Python is currently at 3.12, which was released in October of 2023 and will not hit end of life until 2028. But in my experience, if you don’t have a reason to drop support for an older version, is there a reason just because it isn’t supported any longer? It can be a slow gradual process. For me, WeeWX supporting 3.0 meant I didn’t have to install multiple versions of Python.
  • A new utility, weectl, replaces all the individual utilities.
  • Package installs now use systemd…Systemd has been a staple on Linux systems for over a year.
  • Several Enhancements for Derived Types, including a fix to an issue related to an Air Quality Index calculating extension

A worthy update which should improve the performance and stability of your weather tracking system.  While an upgrade is not immediately necessary, it would be worthwhile to update your installation of WeeWX to version 5.0 in the next few months.

What Do Air Quality Monitors Measure?

In a previous post, I discussed my plans for buying an outdoor quality sensor. But, I didn’t explain what air quality actually entails. It isn’t just one thing. There are a lot of factors involved.  The US Environmental Protection Agency sets an air quality index for five major air pollutants:

  • ground-level ozone – created by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC). Ozone is most likely to reach unhealthy levels on hot sunny days in urban environments, but can still reach high levels during colder months. Ozone can also be transported long distances by wind.
  • particle pollution –  This most commonly includes PM2.5 and PM10. The 2.5 and the 10 indicates the size of of particulates and the measurement is of the concentration in the air
  • carbon monoxide – The most common source of CO outdoors would be cars, trucks and other vehicles or machinery that burn fossil fuels. Indoors, gas appliances, furnaces, and chmineys.
  • sulfur dioxide – The most common source of SO2 is burning of fossil fuels by power plants and other industrial facilities, as well as some heavy equipment.
  • nitrogen dioxide – NO2 forms when fossil fuels such as coal, oil, natural gas or diesel are burned at high temperatures. Again, cars are the most common one here.

These are all a concern indoors as well to some degree, but there are additional items that are a focus indoors:

  • carbon dioxide – CO2 is produced both naturally and through human activities, such as burning gasoline, coal, oil, and wood. People exhale CO2 which contributes to CO2 levels in the air. Why is this important indoors? It is often measured to quickly but indirectly assess approximately how much outdoor air is entering a room in relation to the number of occupants. During the pandemic, as a measurement of air circulation, using this as a way to determine how well ventilated a space is. When I was in one older building with a group of people, the bulding had a protocol that, if the levels grew too high, they would open windows to get it down.
  • formaldehyde – HCHO is found in some building materials, including composite wood, insulation, glues, paints and finishes, preservatives, pesticides, cigarette smoke, etc…
  • volatile organic compounds – emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids and are emitted by thousands of products such as paint, solvents, aerosol sprays, cleansers and disinfectants, air fresheners, automotive products, hobby supplies, dry-cleaned clothing, pesticides, copiers, etc.

Scary stuff. Most indoor air quality sensors contain a TVOC sensor, a PM2.5 sensor, and a CO2 or eCO2 sensor.

  • TVOC – because there are so many VOCs, it’s impossible to monitor them all. TVOC is a measurement used to measure the overall amount of VOCs in a space. It is not uniformly defined.
  • PM2.5 – As mentioned before, this is the size of the particulates. Anything PM10 or less is inhalable. Fine particulates are PM2.5 or less. Therefore, the PM10 reading contains the PM2.5 particulates as well. Combustion of gasoline, oil, diesel fuel or wood produces most of the PM2.5 pollution in the air, and PM10 also includes dust from construction sites, landfills and agriculture, wildfires and brush/waste burning, industrial sources, wind-blown dust from open lands, pollen and fragments of bacteria.
  • CO2 vs eCO2 – Estimated CO2 is a derived number based on the TVOC reading of a sensor. . If there are substantial concentrations of other VOCs present, the eCO2 reading would be higher than the actual CO2 level.

If you remember from that previous post, my on-order outdoor sensor has dual PMS5003T sensors, which measure PM2.5 and PM10, an SGP41 for VOC and NOx measurements, and I could opt to add a NDIR CO2 sensor. In fact, after I ordered, they switched from dual particulate sensors to 1 Particulate and one CO2 sensor for their outdoor kit. While elevated CO2 levels are usually used to derive indoor air circulation and quality, they can also be used outdoors to indicate other harmful gases that are often emitted with CO2 like SO2, NO and NO2 as they are often emitted with them.  Similarly, VOC is more commonly measured on indoor sensors, but can also appear outdoors near chemical factories, gas stations, natural gas leakages, and burning of garbage.

Air Quality is derived from the concentration of these items in the air and usually displayed as a number on the Air Quality Index. Different countries have different scales and formulas for calculating this. The US EPA’s scale is 0-500 and uses color coded ‘traffic light’ system to indicate good versus bad air.

  • 0-50 is Good(Green)
  • 51-100 is Moderate (Yellow)
  • 101-150 is Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups (Orange)
  • 151-200 is Unhealthy (Red)
  • 201-300 is Very Unhealthy (Purple)
  • Above 300 is Hazardous (Maroon)


Throw Away The Key- Should You Be Switching to a Digital Lock?

In my exploration of home automation, locks and cameras are always the most concerning when it comes to privacy and security. With all the hacks and exploits you hear about, trusting a third-party with the keys to your house can be a scary thing. Having control of your security is important. Every time I’ve compromised on control in the name of convenience, I’ve regretted it.

So, rather than starting with Smart Locks, I’m starting with the concept of digital locks in general. I’ll get to smart locks in a subsequent post.

What are Digital Locks?

The term can be somewhat confusing, because a digital lock is not necessarily electronic, it can be mechanical. It refers to a lock that is opened using a combination keypad over a key.  Some people still prefer a mechanical digital lock. Why?

  • Electronic deadbolts are usually battery powered…what happens when the battery dies?
  • They often contain a motor to turn the bolt, and this part can wear out or otherwise over time meaning more frequent replacement.
  • Mechanical Options are also popular with Observant Jews as they would refrain from using electronic devices on Saturdays and holidays.

A digital lock replaces something you have…a key, with something you know…a code, although many of these locks still offer a key override. But this is nothing new. For years, one of the entries to my building has been through a garage, with a keypad on the outside to open it. More and more people are moving to locks that don’t require a traditional key for at least one entry into their home. In my follow-up where I get into Smart Lock technology, these do not just include built-in keypads, but using your phone to unlock, fingerprint, etc.

Digital locks have also become increasingly popular for short term rentals, such as AirBnB, as providing a code is easier than key exchange, and changing the code is a trivial matter. The Smart digital locks allow remote changing of the code and the others allow changing at the unit itself.

Are Digital Locks Safer than Keyed Locks?

The traditional keyed lock itself is inherently risky in itself. An expert lock-picker can pick a lock rather quickly. It is possible the absence of a key may actually be more secure, because there is nothing to pick.

But all this doesn’t mean you can’t bypass a digital lock in the same way most people bypass keyed locks, it just means you can’t do it with a pick. In most cases, the biggest security of a lock, is not the key. Most criminals are more likely to use brute force to break in over picking the lock. So, a key question in any lock purchase is hard it is to brute force it. For example, Consumer Reports tests their door locks with a 100 pound steel battering ram, and test both with and without a reinforced box strike plate. Their recommendation, by the way is to invest in reinforcing against a brute force attack as well as a hardened lock that is not easy to drill or otherwise break.

Again, that doesn’t mean a determined individual can’t get in. Security is often about making things harder, not impossible.


Finding the Right Outdoor Air Quality Monitor

In 2023, there were wildfires in Canada which blanketed the Northeastern United States with smoke. This marked a change in what parts of North America had to deal with this problem. This marked an overall increase in interest in air quality sensors.  I had looked into air quality sensors over the last few years, and there are a lot of options for indoor air quality sensors, but not quite so many for outdoor. Will talk a bit more about indoor air quality and how air quality is evaluated in a separate post.

My requirements were not achieved easily by most of the commercial options I explored. After failing to find one I liked, I built my own outdoor air quality sensor. It failed. So I rebuilt it…and it failed again…this time due to condensation somehow getting into the assembly. You can’t fully enclose the sensor because it needs air to flow over it, so there is this risk. So, after wasting two perfectly good sensors, I decided to fall back to something made by someone else as clearly I’m not that level of builder.


  • Local access to the data as opposed to having to get data from my own network from a remote API. I feed everything into Weewx, so anything with local data can be fed that way.
  • User replaceable parts
  • More than just a PM2.5 sensor.


The Other Options

That initially took me to the Purpleair line of products. Purpleair offers a several sensors plus a community of enthusiasts and their devices can be polled directly. At the time I last looked, they had what they now call the Classic…which did not her user replaceable sensors…being as the PM5003 sensors they use only have a few years of lifespan, it meant replacing the entire unit at that point. Their new Flex and Zen models allow replacement of the sensors without having to replace the whole unit, but you have to get parts from them. And the unit is are just under $300 each.

I looked at Ecowitt as well. Ecowitt sensors are sold under several names in multiple countries. They have 3 air quality sensors, only one is rated for outdoor use, and is battery operated. I tried it, but on battery it has an update time of ten minutes…which created a variety of problems in my receiver missing the update. The indoor ones allow for USB power which increases the frequency of updates.

What I Picked

I explored a few additional choices and finally found something to try. A company in Thaland called AirGradient. AirGradient is an open-source platform with a strong community behind it. They launched their first outdoor design in December of 2022.


  • They design long lasting air quality monitors that are open source and open hardware…perfect for my philosophy on the matter.
  • The prices are reasonable, and if you don’t like them, you could in theory build it yourself.
  • They provide kits to various organizations.


  • 1-3 Weeks to Ship, and 2-3 weeks once shipped to most destinations

Their outdoor unit can be purchased as a DIY kit with all the parts or as a preassembled and tested unit. It consists of:

  • Dual PMS5003T air quality sensors. The T variation includes temperature and humidity sensors.
  • Based on an ESP32 C3 chip, which means you can install Esphome…the software platform I used for my homebrew sensors
  • A sensor slot for a third sensor, they offer a TVOC/NOx board for this, an SGP40
  • While the two PMS5003T sensors are for redundancy, one could be replaced by an CO2 sensor which they sell.

The fully assembled version includes either the SGP40 or the SGP40 plus a NDIR CO2 sensor included, as well as full testing of the unit with a report.

So, I’ve ordered one of these kits for $95 with all the parts. If it works, I may order more of their products. But, even if I never order from them again, I can get PMS5003 replacement sensors from a variety of vendors and keep the one I have going indefinitely. But, if it is as advertised, I feel another weeks long order coming on.

Their indoor sensor is equally impressive, and even includes an RGB LED system to act as an air quality ‘traffic light’, but will talk about that in future.


Secure Your Vacation Home with Remote Monitoring

Are you worried about the security of your vacation home while you’re away? With remote monitoring, you can have peace of mind knowing that your property is safe and secure. Let’s explore the benefits of remote surveillance for your vacation home and how it can help you protect your investment.

Why Remote Monitoring is Essential for Your Vacation Home

Protect Your Property from Burglars and Vandalism

Vacation home securityby Daniel Chen (https://unsplash.com/@dchestudio)

Vacation homes are often targets for burglars and vandals, especially during the off-season when they are left unoccupied. With remote monitoring, you can keep an eye on your property from anywhere in the world. This means you can quickly respond to any suspicious activity and alert the authorities if necessary.

Monitor for Fire and Water Damage

Aside from theft and vandalism, vacation homes are also at risk for fire and water damage. With remote monitoring, you can receive alerts if there is a fire or water leak in your home. This allows you to take immediate action and prevent further damage to your property.

Keep an Eye on Your Property Management Team

If you rent out your vacation home, you may have a property management team that takes care of the property while you’re away.

Remote monitoring allows you to oversee their actions and guarantee suitable maintenance of your property.

This can also help you identify any potential issues or concerns with your property management team.

How Remote Monitoring Works

Remote monitoring involves the use of cameras and sensors to keep an eye on your property. These devices are connected to a central monitoring system, which can be accessed through a mobile app or a web portal. This allows you to view live footage of your property and receive alerts if there is any suspicious activity.

Types of Remote Monitoring Devices

There are various types of devices that can be used for remote monitoring, including:

  • Security cameras: These can be placed both indoors and outdoors to capture footage of your property.
  • Motion sensors: These can detect movement and trigger an alert if there is any activity on your property.
  • Door and window sensors: These can alert you if there is any unauthorized entry into your vacation home.

Choosing the Right Remote Monitoring System

When choosing a remote monitoring system for your vacation home, there are a few factors to consider:

  • Coverage: Make sure the system covers all areas of your property that you want to monitor.
  • Connectivity: The system should have a reliable internet connection to ensure that you can access it from anywhere.
  • Mobile app or web portal: Decide which option is more convenient for you to access the system.
  • Cost: Consider the upfront cost of the system as well as any ongoing fees for monitoring services.

Benefits of Remote Monitoring for Your Vacation Home

Peace of Mind

Remote monitoring appby Annie Spratt (https://unsplash.com/@anniespratt)

The biggest benefit of remote monitoring for your vacation home is the peace of mind it provides. You can relax and enjoy your vacation knowing that your property is being monitored and any issues will be addressed immediately.

Cost Savings

Investing in a remote monitoring system can also save you money in the long run. By preventing theft, vandalism, and damage to your property, you can avoid costly repairs and replacements.

Insurance Discounts

Many insurance companies offer discounts for homes with remote monitoring systems. This is because these systems can help prevent and mitigate potential damage to your property, reducing the risk for insurance companies.

Remote Access

With remote monitoring, you can access your vacation home from anywhere in the world. This means you can check in on your property at any time and receive alerts if there is any suspicious activity.

How to Set Up Remote Monitoring for Your Vacation Home

Step 1: Choose a Remote Monitoring System

The first step is to choose a remote monitoring system that meets your needs and budget. Do your research and read reviews to find the best option for your vacation home.

Step 2: Install the Devices

Once you have your system, you can install the devices in and around your vacation home. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper installation.

Step 3: Connect to the Monitoring System

Next, you’ll need to connect your devices to the central monitoring system. This may involve downloading a mobile app or setting up a web portal account.

Step 4: Test the System

Before leaving your vacation home, make sure to test the system to ensure that it is working properly. This will give you peace of mind knowing that your property is being monitored while you’re away.

Real-World Examples of Remote Monitoring for Vacation Homes

Example 1: The Smith Family

The Smith family owns a vacation home in a remote area. They were concerned about the security of their property while they were away, so they invested in a remote monitoring system. One day, they received an alert on their phone that there was motion detected on their property. They were able to quickly access the live footage and saw that there were two individuals attempting to break into their home. The Smiths immediately called the authorities, and the burglars were caught in the act.

Example 2: The Johnson Family

The Johnson family rents out their vacation home during the off-season. They wanted to keep an eye on their property and ensure that their guests were following the rules. With remote monitoring, they were able to monitor their property management team and ensure that their guests were not causing any damage to their home. This helped them maintain the value of their property and avoid any potential issues with their guests.


Remote monitoring is an essential tool for securing your vacation home. With the ability to monitor your property from anywhere in the world, you can have peace of mind knowing that your investment is safe and secure. By choosing the right system and setting it up properly, you can enjoy your vacation without worrying about the security of your vacation home.

Home Automation Obsession: The Home Assistant Green

Years ago, as part of this series, I started to discuss why my preferred home automation platform is Home Assistant. The fact that it merges multiple different platforms together into a seamless whole means you don’t have to pick a side, per se. The most popular platform people run Home Assistant on is a Raspberry Pi. I’ve always had issues, much as I love the Pi, with the fact that it uses a microSD card for storing the operating system and data….as those cards would regularly fail on me.

But, despite the process of installation therefore was, insert microSD card into computer, write to it, and then insert in Pi…that was still a higher level than many people were willing to go. So, the Home Assistant team tried a few different iterations of hardware before they got to one meant for someone who just wants to plug and play. The Home Assistant Green. It is $99 MSRP, and you can add a USB dongle to support Zigbee, Z-Wave, or Thread radios. It has built in storage for the operating system, It does not have built-in wifi though, but your home automation hub is probably more reliable wired.

After you plug it in, you can configure it with a web browser or a mobile app. And since it can be easily upgraded with the latest version of Home Assistant, you’ll continue to get new integrations with various platforms and technology on your network.