Dodder stepping stones passable indicator

I often pass over the stepping stones on the River Dodder to access Bushy Park in Terenure.

On days like today, when there’s been a lot of rain recently, I can pretty much predict that the river level will be high, and make the stepping stones flooded and unusable.

But other days it’s harder to predict, and it’s not until you get to the actual stepping stones that you find out if they are passable.

So I got to thinking that it would be very useful to have some kind of online indicator to say if the river level is high blocking that crossing. It wouldn’t be that hard to create.

We would need a water level measuring device linked to a small computer (say a raspberry pi), with a SIM card for connection to the outside world, and maybe a small solar panel for power.

It could do a check of the water level, say every 10 minutes, and then call an API end-point on a publicly accessible server somewhere, to pass on the water level information.

The server can then host a very simple web interface (mobile accessible, obviously) showing if the steps are passable.

Then, when I’m out walking the dogs, I would be able to check online before I got near the steps, and divert to another route if needed.

Nightline redirect to Parcel Motel

I am expecting a delivery from Virgin Media.

They use the courier Nightline for their deliveries, which on the face of it is a good idea, because Nightline have an advantage over other courier services. They have the Parcel Motel network of storage lockers, so if you’re not at home to receive your parcel, it can be held in a locker to be picked up at your convenience.

My order with Virgin Media went through at 10.00am on Friday, but for some reason Virgin didn’t dispatch my equipment until the following Monday evening.

An email I received from Nightline said that I could track my order online, or redirect the parcel elsewhere if I wan’t going to be in to accept the delivery. So on the Monday evening I tried the redirection process to send it straight to my local Parcel Motel, but every time submitted the request I kept getting an error in Nightline’s Parcel Pilot system. After a few attempts I abandoned it.

I tried again on the Tuesday morning to redirect to Parcel Motel, and it actually worked, and was recorded as a “Motel Redirect” in the tracking system. Unfortunately Nightline didn’t check their own records because they still took it out in their van to deliver to my home. It subsequently got returned to the depot, and the tracking system now says “Nightline delay, due next business day”.

So much for Virgin’s promise to have the equipment in my hands within 2 days! 

Update

So having asked to redirect to Parcel Motel, I received an second email from Nightline on the Wednesday saying it would be delivered to my Parcel Motel locker (they even listed the address of the locker location) between 2.00pm and 4.00pm.

I checked the Nightline tracking, and it said that the parcel was delivered at 3.30pm. However by 5.30pm I still hadn’t heard from Parcel Motel about how to collect the parcel (I need a PIN to access the locker).

So I called Nightline (018835400), and they said they couldn’t help and said I needed to call Parcel Motel on a different number (0768886677).

I called Parcel Motel, and kept getting cut off. It seems that unless your call gets picked up within about 20 seconds then you get a message saying “no agents available” and the call is dropped. Anyway, I eventually spoke to a person on the 5th attempt at calling, and they confirmed to me that it wasn’t actually delivered to Parcel Motel at all. The online tracker was wrong.

It seems that Nightline ignored the redirection request (for a second time) and actually delivered themselves to my neighbour.

Cancel next alarm

I’ve been looking for an alarm clock app for my mobile phone that supports a very specific feature, but I can’t find it anywhere.

What I want is the ability to cancel the next occurrence of a repeating alarm without having to disable all future alarms.

Here is my problem. When there’s a bank holiday or I take a random day off work, and I want a lie-in, I want to be able to cancel that day’s alarm. But I don’t want to disable the whole recurring alarm, as I have to do with most alarm apps, because I invariably forgot to re-enable it a day later.

I want to be able to cancel the next morning’s alarm, but leave the alarm for the day after and all future recurring alarms untouched.

I’ve looked around the Play store and checked the description of all the alarm clock apps, but can’t find any mention of my feature.

So what do I want? Well it would be great if an app developer found this blog post and took it upon themselves to build this feature.

Any takers?

Pebble or Fitbit Versa

I love my Pebble smartwatch. I’m on my third one, having backed them from the start on Kickstarter. And so I was naturally quite upset to learn that Pebble closed down just over a year ago.

Knowing that the Pebble servers are due to be switched off at the end of June 2018, I feel a pressing need to look into alternatives. I’ve already bought and abandoned a Wear OS watch, and am now considering the Fitbit Versa as an alternative, but I’m torn.

A lifeline for Pebble

It’s heartening to know that a group of enthusiasts at Rebble.io are working hard to keep Pebble watches working after the servers are switched off in June. And if their efforts pay off, I could keep using my Pebble with pretty-much all of its functionality still intact.

The only problem is that the Pebble is now old technology. There’s never going to be an updated version of the hardware, and with the best will in the world the good folks at Rebble.io are probably not going to do more than keep the lights on. They’re not going to have the resources to innovate and add new features.

And that’s the heart of my concern. Pebble watches are only ever going to decline in usage. You can’t buy them any more, except for the odd one that pops up on Amazon or eBay at inflated prices. So when my current watch breaks, or the battery becomes too old to hold a charge, I won’t be able to get my Pebble repaired or replaced.

Fitbit Versa as an alternative?

So I’m looking at the Fitbit Versa as an alternative. There are plenty of good things going for it. It seems to have a decent 4-day battery life, and the fitness tracking would probably be a step-up from the Pebble. But there’s one or two things holding me back from buying:

  • It doesn’t support Spotify. Fitbit seem to have done a deal with Pandora and Deezer as their music streaming partners, and have no plans to support Spotify.
  • The screen doesn’t stay on. I would need to flick my wrist or press a button to get the screen to light up and see the time. And because its motion-enabled the watch screen has the potential to come on when I don’t want it – say in the cinema or in bed at night.
  • The smartwatch features aren’t very mature. Support for quick replies to messages is coming for Android phone users (but not iOS) later this year, but this will be limited to picking from a pre-defined list. There is no support for voice dictation of replies. Also I’ve heard that the range of watch faces and apps available is still pretty limited.

On the other hand, I like the fact that I will be able to wear it 24 hours – due to it being waterproof and having a 4-day battery life. The Wear OS watch I tried ran out of juice after a day’s usage, so I could never use it for sleep tracking.

I also like the Fitbit dashboard for viewing health tracking stats. I’m not exactly an athlete, but I do like to track my daily steps and my cycle commuting to make sure I’m getting some exercise. I used to use a Fitbit Charge HR (until it literally fell apart), and liked checking the Fitbit app and website.

So I don’t know. Should I go head and try out the Versa? I’d be interested to hear from people who are using one – especially if you have migrated from using a Pebble!

Spam phone calls from Finland

Over the last couple of days I’ve been receiving loads of spam calls on my mobile phone from the +358 international prefix, which is the country code for Finland.

The phone only rings for a couple of seconds before they hang-up, and I can only presume that the spammers are trying to get missed calls showing up on the phone in the hope that I will call them back – and they can somehow make money from that phone call.

Just make sure you don’t call them back!

I’m guessing that the spammers are targeting Irish numbers because the Finnish country code of 358 and Irish country code of 353 are so similar, and people might think the phone call comes from someone they might know.

The 41 prefix of all of these numbers come from the range of mobile numbers assigned to the network DNA, but I can’t find any reference online to other people having trouble with these numbers.

I know of a few people that would always call back missed calls on their mobiles, even if they don’t recognise the phone number. So I’m going to make sure to warm them about these dodgy calls.

Update: I’ve now started getting the same calls from +46 prefixed numbers in Sweden. Am seriously considering changing my mobile number to get rid them.

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