banishing ads down the (raspberry pi) hole

ads. i hate ‘em. you probably do, too.

why are they so freaking … invasive … ubiquitous … and annoying? ads are seemingly everywhere in everything, especially on the inter-webs. there’s hardly a web site or app we can use these days that doesn’t overflow with ads. if the sheer volume of ads wasn’t enough, there’s a growing privacy concern in my mind as well. think tracking. ever been on a web site browsing for something and you go to another web site and suddenly there’s an ad for what you were just browsing? ugh. that’s not cool. so … enough!

introducing: raspberry pi-hole.


today i completed installation, set-up, and configuration of my first raspberry pi device in my home. if you’re not familiar with raspberry pi, it’s basically a small (think: tiny - about the size of a deck of cards) and inexpensive computer that can be configured to perform a whole range of things. there are extensive online tutorials about the amazing things that people have done with raspberry pi’s, but one option is to put this device on your home network and use it to block ads using some software called raspberry pi-hole.

it was a straight-forward set-up, install, and configuration with help provided by a scott helme blog post to assist in boosting some additional security settings.

how is it working? in a word: this has been simply … awesome!

in the first few hours of use i have seen nearly 40% - yes, 40%! - of my internet traffic blocked due to requests for ads. that is amazing! i don’t yet know if the network feels any “faster” or not, but with that much ad traffic being blocked it can only be a good thing.

i have some additional changes pending but this is another fabulous step in my journey to secure my home network. give the raspberry pi-hole a try - it’s easy, and you’ll be amazed at how effective it is with your own internet experience.

ps - this is NOT an april fool’s day joke. i swear. really.

fail! epic fail! > gopro karma ... a drone for the common man

update post (nov 20): well, as cool as this was it appears that gopro has an epic fail on its hands. epic.

it seems that the gopro karma is prone to simply falling from the sky without apparent reason or warning. not cool. dangerous.

as a result of this issue gopro has issued a complete recall of the karma and has not (as yet) announced when it might return to market. the fact that this recall has occurred just about two weeks after its launch speaks volumes (to me, at least) in terms of quality control testing that took place. or didn't take place, as the case may be.

a product such as this would presumably have thousands of hours of pre-release testing under various conditions and test scenarios and to have an issue like this reveal itself so quickly after public release says that something obvious was missed.

this is a major blemish on gopro's reputation - embarrassing and utterly ridiculous (at best).

i guess my search for the ultimate drone will continue. time to check out dji, etc.

fail, gopro. epic fail.

original post (sep 19): cool. this is just ... cool.

gopro has announced their first drone. it's called gopro karma.

i've been curious about drones for a while but i've never purchased one for a variety of reasons, usually the complexity and single-use nature of the devices.  the gopro karma appears to turn this around in many ways and it has me very interested.

the modular nature of the system, which utilizes a gopro camera (including the just-announced gopro hero 5!), a drone (duh!) that seems compact and portable, and an image stabilization device that can be used off of the drone in other ways (think handheld) for really impressive video. it's the ability to plug-and-play a camera (which you can use elsewhere) and the inclusion of stabilization that is portable and usable off the drone is really, really nice.

here's a very nice promo video for the gopro karma:

finally, there seems to be an eco-system of devices that will just work together and can be used in a variety of ways. i cannot wait to see this in person and i suspect that i will be an adopter in short order.

nice job gopro. nice job.

quick change artist!

so, i had a "soft opening" of this site several months ago and it was relatively smooth in set-up, maintenance, and roll-out. that said, i wasn't really much of a fan of the "back-end" management and tweaking that was required so i almost immediately started looking for alternatives and have selected squarespace as the preferred blogging option to move forward.

(note: the gallery link will take you to an alternate site where i will have more control over presentation and the option for sales of my photographs. i still expect to post images in my posts but the preferred browsing option will take place through the gallery link.)

so, i have been working behind the scenes over the last couple of weeks to set-up the new site, migrate the (limited) data i had already posted and then (today!) go live. so far, it looks to be a success but i will keep an eye on things and (obviously) keep tweaking and refining things as i go along.

clearly i am not posting a lot, and that's ok from my point of view - this was never intended to be a high-visibility, high-traffic endeavor. perhaps my post frequency will increase, perhaps not. much will depend on the stuff i do every day. :)

then, maybe ... possibly ... we'll see ... i may (may!) have an official "grand opening" at some point. or i'll just quietly go forward. who knows!


clever time-lapse camera rig

time-lapse images can be extremely interesting in that they can tell stories and capture events in a way that captivates the viewer like no other story-telling method. yet, even then most of the images tend to be "stationary" since they are usually taken from a fixed point. this isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's always interesting when you can add a dynamic element to a story ...

enter frank howarth, a woodworker/photographer who has taken his love of both crafts and blended them together with the power of individual engineering to create an orbiting time-lapse camera rig to capture images of his woodworking efforts in an unusual and dynamic way:

don't you just love the tone-loc tune at the end? ;)

lunatik epik - mini-review

this is a mini-review of the lunatik epik aluminum apple watch case and band that i have been using for past month or so. first, a little background ...

i am and have been for many, many years a big fan of apple products. i almost exclusively use apple products whether it's a computer (mac pro, mac mini, macbook pro), handheld device (iphone, ipad), or a home entertainment device (apple tv) and you can be sure that i have them incorporated into my life, and i love it.

some may question this immersion in all-things-apple, but it boils down to a simple fact for me: i just simply prefer the apple "ecosystem" and i have not found any reason to seriously consider or evaluate changing. there is a "je ne sais quoi" quality about apple products that appeals to me - ease of use, design, and so-on that i really like and while other products may do this or that a little (or even a lot ... ) better than apple in some cases, none seem to be as cohesive and consistent as apple across the spectrum.

along comes the apple watch ...

then the apple watch was released and for the first time in a very long time i "didn't get it." literally and figuratively. here was a product that was expensive - as with most apple products there is a premium price, so i expected that - but this one seemed excessively expensive for what it delivered. for all intents and purposes the apple watch seemed like a miniaturized iphone. in fact, it almost required an iphone to be anything more than a glorified digital watch.

now, please understand i do appreciate a really good watch and while i would probably pay a lot for nice automatic watch (for example, i would love to own an omega speedmaster ... ) those are heirloom quality pieces that should last generations if cared-for properly. electronic devices, on the other hand, are (if we are honest ... ) ordained with planned obsolescence and will be essentially "disposable" in a few years or less. [psa: please do not just throw electronics away - utilize an electronics recycling program.]

over the last 6 months or so something changed in my thinking, though. i can't quite tell what changed or why, but somehow i started to "get it" and see that the apple watch was not so much a "watch" as it was a tool to help manage different aspects of your day in a more convenient and centralized way. much like the apple phone did so many years ago, here was a device that could suddenly centralize different information and provide a simple and convenient way to interact with that information and manage it more effectively.

yes, it tells time. yes, i can see things like weather and similar notifications without having to interact with my phone. but i can also manage my health and exercise in a more cohesive way and even take steps to actually improve my health and stay motivated to exercise. i can communicate even more easily with family and friends. on their own, these can all be done elsewhere but again apple has managed to unify those capabilities into a simple, small, and attractive device.

all seemed good and i purchased an apple watch 42mm "sport" in space gray with a black silicon band. i was happy in general, but there was still a hitch in my mind: the apple watch and bands offered by apple were actually too simple ... they were too gentle looking, and i wanted something far more rugged. since they market this as a "sport" watch i would have expected apple to offer at least an option to beef-up the profile and provide some ruggedness along the lines of what you might find with a casio g-shock, or suunto. alas, i was to be disappointed and i began to search for third-party options and eventually came across the lunatik epik.

trying out the lunatik epik ...

my first impression of the lunatik epik was promising ... the "looks" were spot-on. here was a case and band designed for the apple watch that had the appearance of suitable ruggedness and seemed to be more premium in quality of materials and construction.

unfortunately, the reviews were mixed (mostly due to user assembly issues ... see below for more detail). to top it off, the cost was high. very high, in fact - pushing $200 or more for an aluminum case and band. the product had been introduced in 2015 as a kickstarter effort, possibly leading to a higher initial cost as things got moving for the company but as much as i liked it, i did not think that was a reasonable price point so i kept looking for other options. yet, as i searched nothing quite seemed to measure up so i decided to live with the basic watch and wait things out.

it turns out that my wait was not long ...

a couple of weeks after my first discovery of the lunatik epik (and as a result of having joined their mailing list) i learned that they were now being offered at a significantly lower cost of approximately $100 for an aluminum case and band. score! this seemed to hit the proverbial bulls-eye on cost so i took the plunge and ordered one.

lunatik epik aluminum

so, let's look at the features and benefits of the lunatik epik aluminum:

  • aircraft-grade anodized aluminum case
  • soft silicone band with anti-dust/dirt nano coating
  • active control crown
  • full access to all sensors

there are several color and band-material combinations available, including leather if desired so there's probably a style that may to your liking.

while there is also a polycarbonate case also available (at a lower cost) i really like the aluminum style - it gives a nice, premium look along with some contrast and does not add any significant weight. as this was also intended to be a "sport" watch, the silicone band seemed appropriate.

assembly and use ...

when you receive the watch (which was delivered quickly and without any issues in my case) you are presented with a package that seems as though it could have come from apple which opens easily and presents the case and band in an elegant way. literature is provided on assembly and use, along with the tools and components to assemble the case and band.

this is a good time to mention that the lunatik epik is not like the standard apple watch bands you may buy from apple. it does not attach in the same way, and requires a little more time to assemble and actually attach as this is truly a case and band, and not just a new band. this is not something you are likely to swap on or off frequently as a result, so this product (at least in my mind) is more of a semi-permanent change. that said, it can be removed with relative ease in a few minutes and a standard band put back on if desired or when the situation warrants.

once you have the product out of the box and the tools in front of you, assembly can be completed in a matter of minutes. remove the apple watch band, and slide the two sides of the lunatik epik case over the apple watch. to secure the case to the watch, attach the band using the small screws and allen wrenches provided in the box. do this for both sides of the band and once complete, the watch is ready to go.

one note on the band assembly: although the screws holding the band to the case should be tight, do not over-tighten as you risk putting too much pressure on the case and the apple watch crown which may limit its functionality. should you experience any problems after install in using the crown, consider a slight loosening of the screws to see if that helps. this is the area of concern that seemed to appear most frequently in early reviews and feedback (and even comments from lunatik) have since stated to not over-tighten the screws or there may be problems.

once assembled and attached, the new lunatik epik case and band work flawlessly. access to the apple watch is not impacted and the sensors all appear to work exactly as they would with a standard band. i have not personally experienced any functionality issue since i have been using the lunatik epik over the past month that i have had it. the case around the watch provides a small and unobtrusive beveled edge to help protect the watch surface while still allowing direct access to the watch functions. subtle, but effective, the case seems to do a good job of giving just a little more protection for those of us that may be prone to unintended impacts with our watch as we go about our daily lives. ;)

i will mention that in my caution to not over-tighten the screws during assembly, i may have actually not tightened them sufficiently as i did notice that one of the screws had managed to come loose and fall out (presumably lost forever as they are very, very small!) about 3 weeks after first assembly ... fortunately, the other screws remained secure and the watch band never separated from the case or otherwise presented any problems. i chalk this up to user error during installation and do not blame the product in any way for this issue.

now, kudos to the team at lunatik for anticipating that users will at times lose or misplace parts and they provide two spare screws in the product packaging. awesome! so, i was able to quickly and easily replace the lost screw and ensure appropriate tightness to (hopefully) avoid any problems in the future.

in daily use the case and band have been superb! i could not be happier - the case and band have provided the ruggedness and looks i wanted while not providing any additional weight or inconvenience. others that have seen the case and band have asked me what it is and are surprised to learn that it is an apple watch! everyone i talk with is impressed with the revised looks and style and improved protection afforded by the case, and i am as well.

summary ...

in summary, here's a list of the pro's and con's for the lunatik epik aluminum watch case and band.


  • rugged style and improved protection over standard apple watch bands
  • unobstructed functionality in daily use
  • ease of assembly
  • affordable, range of material and color options


  • assembly not as simple as standard apple watch bands
  • care required during assembly, case and band not easily removed
  • 42mm size only (not available for 38mm)
  • case not waterproof

in short, if you are looking for something a little more robust from a design aesthetic and protection point than what is offered by apple, then i highly recommend the lunatik epik aluminum case and band. this is a great product with several style options and price points to please just about anyone looking to "beef up" the apple watch.

final thoughts ...

perhaps you noticed the point about the case not being waterproof? maybe that is an issue, or maybe it's not. my research seems to suggest that even though apple doesn't explicitly mention that the apple watch can be used around water there does seem to be anecdotal evidence that the out-of-the-box capabilities are actually pretty good in this area. despite that evidence, i would not be comfortable in wearing my apple watch for swimming or other activities that involve significant submersion without some additional protection.

to address this last point, the team at lunatik apparently have been woking in a skunk-works like manner to come up with something new and have announced the lunatik epik h20!

lunatik epik h2o promo

this new product will address this last point by providing a water-proof "jacket" that provide will 50 meters of protection for swimming and related activities. this is a fabulous development, and i have a pre-order in place with delivery expected in june 2016. look for a follow-up review of this new product once i have had an opportunity to give it a test but it looks promising!