I fixed the BBQ lights


So over our BBQ we have some LED strip, the controller and the power supply I was using for this had both gone pop. Maybe something to do with the outdoors. The power supply actually hides in the shed and the controller is with the lights on the underside of the roof of a bus stop type gazebo over the bbq.

First rip out the old stuff

First job was easy and I forgot to take any photos, but the wire I was using had a few joins in and so my plan was replace the wire as well as the power supply and the controller.

Ali Express

As much as I love hue lighting stuff for the amount of use the bbq gets it just wasn’t cost viable to buy a £88 outdoor light strip when my costings come to this list using Ali express

  • LED Strip (Not actually replaced this time) – £4.48
  • Controller Box – £2.19
  • Wire (slight estimate as I used less than half of what i ordered) – £10
  • Old laptop PSU (I found a spare) – £0 (or £8 for similar off eBay)

It didn’t work at first

Turns out that it was supplied with no battery in the remote, but at these prices can I really complain? I think not, so some 2025s are on the way from Amazon. I’ve also ordered some sticky pads so I can replace my not so great loop of gaffa tape trying to hold the controller in place.


What I’d really like to do next is put one high temperature thermocouple in each BBQ and get some semi large 7 segment displays set up. So without having to look at the analog gauge on the front of the BBQ you can see how it’s doing if you’re sitting at the main outside table.

Alarm Improvement

So I’ve been doing a bit more home automation improving over the last few days. What I now have is a automation running on my iPhone at 02:02 am. This automation sends to my Home Assistant setup the time of the morning alarm minus 30 minutes if one is set or a fake time of ’07:24′ if it is not set. Thanks to wltd.org for the info I needed to get this set up

As I use the “Wake Up” alarm on the iPhone it only lets you chose multiples of 5 mins, hence being able to use a fake time rather than having to send another variable to say if the alarm is set or not.

Once home assistant hits the time that it’s been sent it starts a 30 minute fade up on my hue lights meaning I should always have a light room by the time my alarm goes off.

Of course this won’t work if my alarm is set before 02:32, but that’s so rare I can cope with that. An early rise would tend to be around 4am if I had a long drive to an event or something.

Once the alarm triggers I have another shortcut that runs on my iPhone if by battery in my iPhone is above 80 percent it turns the lights on full. (Exactly how the fade up already has them). However if the battery is less than (or equal to) 80 percent it turns the lighting red, the idea being I know I’ve not charged it properly.

Then the not charging has become a lot less of an issue since Apple moved to the MagSafe chargers for the iPhone. Then occasionally I do still forget to put my phone on charge and this gives me enough time to fix it a bit before I need to do anything.

More geek time

I used another one of my ESP32 devices this time as an output. Took me a while to get it working though as I was putting the text of the screen.

OLED display

Refresh rates

Excuse the photo not looking wonderful, but the refresh rate of the display isn’t working well with the iPhone camera. However I’m very happy I can now have a display that gets data over WIFI. I’m still trying to work out the definitions of pressure changes the Met Office use.

I need to try and get a graph on the display to or at least a symbol showing the trend.


I really should try and mount the display in a box, rather than have all these lose devices with wires lying about, but what do I really want on a display I can see before I turn the computer on.


What’s really useful is how many random USB ports that provide power exist in the world these days. My barometer is leeching power from the printer and my display is using the Sky Q box to get power.

I’ve been geeking again

Barometer Gauge

I read about ESP32 devices and home assistant and couldn’t quite believe how many options there are to use them with external devices to get both inputs and outputs home automation wise. I’ve been wanting my own air pressure monitoring ever since the news reports that you could see an effect on air pressure when a volcano went off. So yesterday after dinner I got to work.


What’s nice is there’s only two real parts to this set up. An ESP32 module and a BME280. Okay plus 4 wires and a wee bit of solder. I exclude home assistant and it’s hardware as that’s running anyway.



It took me about 10 minutes to solder the four wires between the two modules. Then probably about an hour to install ESPHome on my PC and configure the ESP32 device using that. Then about another hour finding the custom gauge card to use in home assistant.

Sadly I also found some of my other graphs not working as I like so got them all fixed whilst I was at it. I added two air pressure graphs daily and weekly. Sadly they are not interesting enough to share yet as air pressure has been steady so just a straight line.

Next steps

I want to add some code so I can get a rising or falling indicator next to the air pressure then use that and current pressure with a bit of a look up tables to give a line of text as a weather prediction.

When ordering my parts I also ordered a few more ESP32 devices and an OLED display and a TFT display as I want to also play with using small displays as extra home assistant outputs.

I’m also interested in some of the other devices to attach to these modules getting air quality as tracked data sounds fun, and my gazebo lighting system in the garden is sick and driving LED strips is an output option. Also for BBQ season a thermocouple and temperature display for the BBQ sounds good. So many ideas!


The BME280 also measures temperature and humidity. This means I now have two devices doing that in my room. The other also has a UV sensor and being the ginger that I am plan to get that outside for real UV data this summer.

The oven has gone pop

I don’t believe it

I hope my guess diagnosis is right, but if you turn the main oven on it neither gets hot or increases the household electricity consumption. I’ve guessed at the element.

It could be worse

It at least had the decency to not wait till Christmas Day to do this or do half the Christmas dinner then die. It also means I now have plans C and D in my head.

Plan D

Does anyone know how long it takes to BBQ a roast dinner? We are lucky that we have a BBQ wide enough you could cook with indirect heat in there. Also being the gadget nerd that I am I of course have a meat thermometer.

Network connected USB


So my car records the last 60 minutes from multiple cameras to a USB stick if you plug one in. I want to do something more long term like take a snapshot every 5 mins when driving. Sowhen COVID eventually goes away I can get a time lapse for each road trip I do. I’ll probably have it generate automatically, but needing to have a sanity you may publish check from me.


I was doing some reading and I came across the TeslaUSB project on reading about this I discovered that the Pi Zero and Pi 4 can be used as USB gadgets. (It’s all to do with how the USB is set up on the boards that only these options will work). So I got a Raspberry Pi 4 and m.2 SSD drive and an enclosure for it.


First I put Raspberry Pi OS Lite onto my Pi my sdcard then added the ssh flag file so I could workout it’s IP and connect to it over a wired network connection, from that connection I set the Pi up for the home wifi and then gave that a static IP address in the router’s interface.

Next I added my m.2 USB enclosure to the Pi and got that mounted as /data then added to fstab as I always want my data drive mounted.

Loop devices

Damn I learnt a lot about how not to do it here. To create a file system in a file is really easy, but to get it so both Windows and Linux accept the same file system is where I really struggled.

sudo fallocate -l 100GB /data/piusb.bin
sudo mkdosfs /data/piusb.bin -F 32 -I

From fstab I have this mounted readonly so I can get my data off to process on a read write file system without confusing the car as it should have sole access to a USB stick that is plugged into it.

/data/piusb.bin /mnt/usb_share vfat auto,user,ro,umask=000,offset=1048576 0 0

We present the same file to the USB gadget in rc.local (lazy start up script)

/bin/sleep 5
/sbin/modprobe g_mass_storage file=/data/piusb.bin stall=0

As the car is expecting a device with partition table and partition we don’t need to worry about the offset for that, but without working out what the offset should be I couldn’t see the data on the read only filesystem so couldn’t copy it off.

pi@raspberrypi:~ $ sudo fdisk -lu /data/piusb.bin
Disk /data/piusb.bin: 32 GiB, 34359738368 bytes, 67108864 sectors
Units: sectors of 1 * 512 = 512 bytes
Sector size (logical/physical): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
I/O size (minimum/optimal): 512 bytes / 512 bytes
Disklabel type: dos
Disk identifier: 0xfe02295c

Device           Boot Start      End  Sectors Size Id Type
/data/piusb.bin1       2048 67108863 67106816  32G  c W95 FAT32 (LBA)

And 2048 x 512 = 1,048,576 which is the number you might recognise from the fstab line offset.

I did consider pulling the video off to process on a device not in the car, but I’m not going to add a access point just for the car and transfers happen at about 300 KB/s so I think it makes more sense to make my time lapse images in the car then upload the images for rejoining to a video outside the car.

What else could I do with this

Some equipment writes it’s log or image files to USB. By using the same approach (probably with a better wifi connection that in a glovebox in a metal cage of a car). It would be possible to get data off this kind of device and onto machines able to process it faster.


Oh f*%#

Is how I can describe waking up on Thursday morning. If I touched my big toe on my right foot then I wanted to scream and I just couldn’t put a sock on and my toe wouldn’t move if I moved the others it was stuck frozen solid.

So I went along to open surgery at my GP practice who queried gout and then due to my asthma / blood pressure medicines chose to put me on a drug that comes with a warning “DRUG TOXICITY WARNING: High doses of Colchicine can result in drug toxicity.” It then goes on to say you can’t start a second course for three days. I also got told to stay off the ibuprofen with my asthma. The doctor did say when she first saw me that the blood tests for Urate (Uric Acid) normally peak six weeks after an attack. So when they got the blood test results back and called me about them she was able to say that all the numbers were normal (including Urate being normal, but on the high side of normal) which made me glad nothing else was seeming to be wrong with me.

I’m very lucky with my doctors being able to go to open surgery and get seen the same day makes me glad I have the GPs I do. I was even more pleasantly surprised when I got called about my blood test results and didn’t need to phone up myself.

Is it getting better?

Well I can move my big toe a whole millimetre now, but I really needed a hair cut so off to the hairdressers I went with sandals and a sock just on my good (left) foot. Yes I felt and looked stupid, but there was no way I could get a sock on and not scream the house down and my sandals seem to just miss the sore area, but even so I was so glad to get home and get the damn think off my right foot.

As you do when you’ve been told what a problem most likely is I was looking up diet advice on the internet and found this about whisky.

What’s really annoying is I had to cancel too personal training type gym sessions as I couldn’t go to work due to the toe and it’s still not moving 🙁

I just want it to work again

So my various internet reading suggests a typical attack lasts between three and ten days. So if Thursday was day one, then Saturday (today) is day three and there’s now starting to be hope it will bugger off and i can stop building towel mountains to try to help.

I really can’t moan too much, as it’s not the end of the world it’s just a bit of pain and inconvenience, but alas not something I was planning for.

Doesn’t help my mood that this weekend should have been the start of the F1 season, and I’ve been looking forward to that to have coronavirus take that away from us. That said I think the comment that explains it best is if anyone of these measures saves just one life it will have all been worth it, but at the same time it is also fair to accept these enforced changes of plan aren’t the best for everyone’s mental health and we should take extra special care to look after each other.

Tough Mudder Clapham Common

Early get up

First train on a Saturday to change at London Bridge for the Northern Line to Clapham South meant I couldn’t stay out too long on Friday.

I also found it quite hard not to get off the tube at Clapham Common, but the maps all agreed that Clapham South was the right station.


First I gave a hand checking in the other volunteers. With a bit of multitasking craziness fortunately the 5km Tough Mudders use less MVPs than a full event weekend so I coped without the normal gang helping me.

Spread Eagle

Spread Eagle was the obstacle I was based at all day. The main challenge looking after this one is first convincing people not to go one at a time, but once that challenge is sorted it then becomes a challenge of controlling the number of people at a time isn’t too high.

It also needed a little bit of care from the construction team during the day and that gave the fun of shutting half at a time and managing the queue caused as we did so.

Second time round we had a great group at the front who were happy to use it as a reason for a rest and have a good chin wag about nothing in particular.

So in general I had a great day out.

Once the last participants were through my obstacle it was time to dismantle the bunting round it then the course marking along from it.

Finally it was help pack down the main village. I’m slowly getting the hang of the pop up gazebos TM like to use.

Sore feet

I spend a lot of my working life sitting down and the area I was standing on was fairly well compacted ground and my feet were sure telling me about this once I was home on Saturday and all day Sunday, but now it is Monday they have recovered ready for work. Which is damn useful as we expect this to be the busiest week of the year for me and my team.

Fireman Sam

So Sunday I had an interesting start to my day.

I was helping at a local half marathon and walked to my marshalling spot getting there nice and early just in case.

A lady nothing to do with the event came up to me in a major panic as she had locked her child in her car along with her car keys.

Nothing I could do so called 999 and asked for the fire brigade. Who turned up very quickly and provided much reassurance to the lady and went as far as helping entertain the child through the window with holding a mobile phone against the glass.

In the end they summoned a recovery firm who came and gained access to the car.

I did also hear them suggesting they should ask for some content on the fire brigade issued tablet such that they can use that to help entertain.

Not quite how I expected marshalling a half marathon to start, but very impressed with their care for the lady and her child.

They also joined in encouraging the runners as they came past. Was a pleasure to have that fire engine crew on my corner with me.


In short

It opened last night in the West End and there are a criminal number of empty seats at very good prices!

It is at the Peacock theatre until Saturday 19th October 2019

Go and buy tickets

Seen it before

I’ve seen this production twice before as it toured the UK and it’s has not disappointed me yet. (Tunbridge Wells and New Wimbledon)

My Highlights

So there were four parts of the show that I’d call my personal highlights based on last night.

The teachers argument

Miss Sherman (Mica Paris) vs. Miss Bell (Katie Warsop) sung with such emotion you can not help but completely believe in these two characters.

Think of Meryl Streep

Serena (Molly McGuire) acts whilst singing and again really makes me connect the the character as that character learns how to connect to her emotions for acting.

These are my children

Every time I’ve seen the show this song blows me away Miss Sherman (Mica Paris) delivers this song with such power, and you cannot help but believe how much she feels she has “the privilege to teach” 

Bring on tomorrow (reprise)

Just a piano played by Schlomo (Simon Anthony) had the entire theatre in complete silence! Quite a contrast from some of the louder numbers, but done so well. (I’ll excuse the the slight equipment fan noise).

Other thoughts

The dancing needs mentioning a lot of it is such high energy. It also can not be easy dancing badly when you know how to do it well! They all inspire me to get myself back to the gym, but don’t think I’ll catch up with them.

My verdict

I can only give this show 10/10. It to me is a real feel good show (despite dealing with a drugs overdose in the storyline). When my mates are free and in London I’ll be going back!

Met one of my childhood friends who I’m still in touch with who was also watching the show, and know she shared my opinion of how good this production is! 


Who’s free to come and see it again with me?