Amazon Echo – First Week

Posted Posted in Technology


Well, It’s been almost a full week with Amazon Echo in my house. And I am hooked.51XeN2UYoyL._SL1000_

At first I only sometimes asked “Alexa” for the forcast for the day or the weekend. Or rarely made it through one of the news Flash Briefing’s without telling Alexa to “stop”.  I do play some music with it as it is much simpler to ask “Alexa” to play “house music” and “set volume to 6” than to find my phone and punch buttons. Though this brings up a short coming and hopefully an opportunity for integration. I have Sonos speakers throughout my house and the sound from even a single Sonos One outperforms Echo’s limited speakers. The Echo’s sound quality isn’t bad. It’s voice is clear and plenty loud but shows what it is lacking when playing music. I would love to see Sonos build an integration so I can ask Alexa to “Play James Blake radio on Sonos” or even be able to access and label groups of Sonos speakers just as you can now group and manage Phillips Hue and Wemo devices. Which brings me to the next point.

There was a new software update (2392) that came out the same day I received the Amazon Echo. This update enabled the first of hopefully many Connected Home features. This update dramatically added to the Echo’s utility in my day to day life. Along with Sonos speakers throughout my house, I have a smattering of Phillips Hue lights and Belkin Wemo switches. I’ve struggled through many configurations with motion sensors, home automation hubs and custom programming and apps on my mobile devices trying to find the perfect balance. Little did I expect the Echo to completely win me over and solve this problem with such a simple implementation and solution.

I have done away with all my motion sensors or home automation hubs, as asking Alexa to “turn on the lights” is as simple as uttering that phrase. I have groups of lights defined and labeled like, kitchen, hallway, basement or even overall groups like lights to let me control them all just as easily. When I get home I no longer need to flip switches or press buttons. I just ask Alexa to turn on the lights.

I hope to see more integration with Amazon’s Echo. Like Nest and Nest Protect, Lockitron locks and other digital locking systems, and Sonos. If they can integrate with more devices and make controlling them natural and simple, I believe the Echo has a great future or is at least the start of bringing the future into every home!

Alien 560 Quad Copter Build

Posted Posted in RC, Technology

After purchasing my first quadcopter, I quickly realized I wanted to do more. Aerial filming and photography definitely are on the top of my list. And the Alien 560 Folding QuadCopter Frame caught my eye. It just looks cool. So I decided to start my build. Below you will see some photos of the final build and a parts list. I still have to level the motor mounts and balance the props before my first test flight.

Adventure into RC QuadCopters/Drones

Posted Posted in RC, Technology

Recently, I caught the bug to try out RC quadcopters. Otherwise known as drones or UAVs. And I have to admit, I’m addicted. So many options and capabilities! As I didn’t have any equipment at all to begin with, I wanted to figure out the fastest way I could get up and flying. I started with a 250mm sized drone from It was one of the few I found that was fully assembled, tested and ready to fly and also came with a controller/transmitter. I’ll post more soon.. here are a few photos of my adventure so far.

Resizing Images In A Word Macro

Posted Posted in Word / VBScript

​​​Creating word documents from a content management system can introduce certain issues. One of which is that images output from the CMS may not be down-sized properly to fit within the bounds of a page or even within a table cell. To fix this I have tweaked the following vbscript macro for word.

Sub AutoResizeGraphics()
    Dim photo As InlineShape
    PArea = 15.24 ‘ Set something for default page width – margins
    ‘ All images in Document
    ‘   For Each shape In ActiveDocument.InlineShapes
    ‘ All images in Selection
    ‘   For Each shape In Selection.InlineShapes
    For Each photo In ActiveDocument.InlineShapes
        With photo
            OrigWidth = .Width
            OrigHeight = .Height
            photomaxwidth = OrigWidth
            tablewidthpercent = 0.95
            ‘ calculate new pagewidth based on the section the image is within
            With .Range.PageSetup
                RMargin = PointsToInches(.RightMargin)
                LMargin = PointsToInches(.LeftMargin)
                PArea = 2.54 * (PointsToInches(.PageWidth) – (LMargin + RMargin)) ‘ convert to cm
            End With
            pagewidthminusmargins = PArea ‘ in cm not points or in
            If PointsToCentimeters(OrigWidth) > pagewidthminusmargins Then
                photomaxwidth = CentimetersToPoints(pagewidthminusmargins)
            End If
            If photo.Range.Information(wdWithInTable) = True Then
                TablePhotoMaxWidth = .Range.Cells(1).Width * tablewidthpercent
                If (OrigWidth > TablePhotoMaxWidth) Then
                    photomaxwidth = TablePhotoMaxWidth
                End If
            End If
            If Not photomaxwidth = OrigWidth Then
                Ratio = OrigWidth / photomaxwidth
                .LockAspectRatio = msoFalse
                .Height = OrigHeight / Ratio
                .Width = photomaxwidth ‘OrigWidth / Ratio
                .LockAspectRatio = msoTrue
            End If
        End With
End Sub​