Insteon Home Control, Not

I was all excited when I found Insteon products made by Smarthome. It is basically X-10 improved. It is a powerline system that has two way communication (and other technical improvement). What that means is that when a controller sends a command to a device, it will make sure that the device got it, and you can also find out about the state of each device (lamps, etc). It also has a very nicely priced keypad that you can mount in standard switch boxes. So, what's wrong with it? In short, it will not work with 3 phase electric systems. Most commercial grade building uses 3 phase systems. Our loft building is one. So it just won't work well.

If you have a house, I think this system is great. But for me, we have to go back to either Z-Wave which is radio based, new, and have a very poor and ugly selection of controllers and devices, or Lutron RadioRA. Stay tune.

IKEA Shoe Storage

Shoe storage is very important to keeping the house tidy. Us Asian especially like to take our shoes off at the door. Any normal shoe storage solution is likely to be too small. What to do? We bought two IKEA MAGIKER short shelves with doors for our entry hall. Out of all the series at IKEA, I always like the MAGIKER series. It's clean look, especially in the lighter colors, matches a modern interior nicely without being too cold. Since we have very light bamboo floors, the color further matches.

The original idea was to use those cabinets as secondary storage, while giving us a display space for the entry hall. Once we put them up we realized that they are perfect for shoes. The only trouble is that we could use double the shelves. Today I found a new shoes rack that is not in their catalog call FRAN. They fit perfectly in the cabinet, but you need to take one of the doors off temporarily to put them inside. See pictures below:

DSC_9523 DSC_9524

Loft vs High Rise city living

I often hear these from friends -- "you live in the city, right?", "loft? How about those nice luxury condo buildings?", "No? Why not? I thought that's real city living....". Don't get me wrong. I grew up in Hong Kong, and lived in many high rise buildings. I was/am used to them. But given the choice, I very much prefer the real or fake (new) loft buildings that is at most 5 or 6 stories tall. Why? It is because, part of the reason for living in the city is that I feel more connected to the neighborhood and people. From my windows, I can see the streets, and the city activities on the street, day and night. I can see the people in the next building. I can see the courtyard and parks. I feel like I am almost there. If I move to a high rise building, that visual connection is lost. You are now looking out a window far away from the ground. You cannot make out the details of the activities. You are not connected. It's more like voyeurism rather than connected.

Also, most highrise are designed so that the connecting spaces, the corridors on each floor, are narrow and have way too many units per floor. It becames a very impersonal space, very disconnected. You live in a box within a box, and don't know anyone around you. That's not city living.

Redi Shade

Only took us four years, but I finally decided to get some solar shades for the lofts. The new loft is high enough that the sunshine pours into the space all thru the day, which I love. However it is also blindingly bright. Since time is money we decided to get them ordered and installed. After comparing different brands and installer, we settled on Soleil solar shades -- No we did not go for the full motorized version. Those are rediculously expensive. But our installer is kind enough to put up some temp shades while we wait for ours to be made. What did he use? Redi Shade. They are about $5 a set, functional, perfect for temporary use. We may even get a few to put up in our hip (meaning cheap) office loft space.

Here we go again...

Seems like the loft building topic of this blog has been quiet for awhile -- but no more ! I am onto the next loft project. Unfortunately the first round of business is the boring stuff -- financing. Good thing is that my bank is great. I am trying to close on the new loft in less than thirty days, and they got their appraiser on this in three business days from loan application, over the long weekend no less. Because the loft building is still being built, the appraiser has to go thru the agent to get access to the building under constructions. He then has to go back to look at it one more time once it si finished.


I bought a washer and dryer this week. Originally I was waiting to finish rennovating the loft and then get a pair of machines that fit perfectly into the new space. However our rennovation plan is going to be delayed, and I am getting tired of coins managemnt. Our building has common room washers and dryers, but they are coin operated. They should do smart cards !! Anyway went to Sears and bought a stackable pair of machines over the weekend. What a surprise... Have not lived in a building for awhile, I did not realized that almost all condo type buildings cannot provide in unit venting for dryers. It is a building code restriction. Lint filled dryer venting is a fire hazzard. So I need ventless dryers.

From the Sears sales person recommendation, I just went to Home Depot and bought a lint trap kit. It is a $10 plastic tray that you put some water in, and pipe the vent into this little box. It probably requires cleaning and refilling and emptying. Not very user friendly.

I think found out there are truly ventless/condensation dryers out there, made by Asko,Bosch, etc that are very expensive but are designed for apartment living.

Loft and Architectural Resources

Some resources for my loft design Appliances

  • Wet Umbrella

    May seems strange to you, but when I walked into the loft this afternoon, I was lost for a second, as to where to put my wet umbrella. City Living. I don't remember the last time I had to do this. Used to be : click the garage door opener, drive in, leave the wet umbrella in the car and walk inside. This is the second weekend in the city. Lousy N.E. weather means both weekends are rainy. It is still nice to be able to walk around. Drinking cappuchino in a local cafe, people watching, found a dry cleaner and a video store, and even the nearest starbucks.

    A side note on moving and mortgages. The mortgage company on the previous house happily auto debited my bank account for another loan payment after the loan was paid off. Just called them and they will return my money, also with the reminding of the escrow balance, next week. Are they going to pay me interest of that money? I doubt it.

    Starting and Stopping Electricity Service

    Time to terminate the electricity account at the Farm. You can do this online with NSTAR here, but (a) it will take up to 5 business days, and (b) that form does not have a review page, you press submit and off it goes. Seems like the app is driven by Allaire ColdFusion, at least the confirmation email says so. However in the confirmation emails contain no reference to the actual details of the stop request -- no address, no account number, this is pathetic.

    So Long, Dear Farm

    4pm on a Tuesday after the long weekend. Finished the last load of laundry. Packed up the bicycle. Emptied the rest of the fridge. Drinking mineral water from the big bottle. Turn off the sound system. Back the Audi out of the garage. I did not think I can be as attached to a house as this one. But I guess this is the first of hopefully a series of homes that are special, as I know the loft will be.

    That's it for the Farm. I hope the new owners look after the house, and the grounds and plants and have as much fun living there as I did.

    Moving is definitely stressful. Moving into a smaller place makes it even more difficult. I kept perhaps 20% of the furniture, and probably another 30% of the "stuff". I have to thank all the friends and family who helped out -- so much easier with help !

    Smoke Alarm Certificate

    Now I am down to the few final things to get the house sold. I need to get a certificate from the local fire department to say that I have working smoke detection system. Since I have a security system with wired (AC) smoke detectors all over the house, how difficult could that be, right? My broker setup the certification visit, and would have dealt with the whole thing for me, except -- First visit from the fire department -- they fail the test because they couldn't reset the detectors after testing them. One paid visit from the alarm company later discovered that one of the key on the control keypad was a little sticky, so they were having problems with it.

    Second visit from the fire deparment -- they fail the test because the siren is not loud enough in the basement ! There is only one (very loud I thought) siren in the house. I guess they think that it was not loud enough to be heard if you are down in the basement.

    So alarm company will come back to install an extra siren. Another visit from the fire department scheduled. At the end this will cost $$$. Oh well, hold on that iPod purchase.

    The Last Box

    Saturday morning 10:05 am. I was going to drive back to the farm to meet a potential buyer of some of my moving sale pieces. He cancelled. No choice but to continue to tackle the stuff here at the loft. There it is, sitting quietly amongst his already cleared peers. The last packed box of kitchen stuff. I stare at it. It stares back. Open me? Do you have space to put my content? I have a slight advantage. I can guess what is in that box. When you are the last box, you lose the edge. Ten minutes, and it was all over. All, Over.

    Change of Addresses

    Good Friday, have some time at home, so it's time to call all the services and switch addresses. Apparently, for electricity from NSTAR, they will pick up the tab for the electricity during the time the the loft is not occupied. That's pretty good. So I don't have to pay for the initial few weeks that I was not there. Really, I wasn't there.... Switching off my old DSS from DirecTV was a little harder -- their phone menu system will not let me talk to a real person, until I tried pressing the "0" key. They were very nice and tried really hard to get me to just suspend my account so that they can come and install the new service at the loft later.

    Packing day 2 and a half

    Moving is ...painful. Lucky that I have help to packed my entire kitchen, all 15 boxes of it. Books and CD's and DVD's are easy also. But the office is, well, not done yet. Last two times when I moved it was so much easier, partly I think I am moving to a bigger place both times. This move is a reduction move, so I really have to decide what not to take. I still have not decided on which furniture to take yet. This has to be the most unorganized move I have ever made. At least I am not too stressed out by it... One fun (and distracting) part of packing is that I find old items that I have not seen for a while. Since I started working I have always kept a Engineering Notebook, at least that's what my old old boss told me. This was one of the many great things that I learn from him. (Of course, he is English trained)! Last time I flip through my archive I found that I have some years missing. Well, I found them during my packing. It is like finding two lost years of my life.

    Another thing is that I found old pictures. That is pictures on photo paper, before the days of digital photography. How nostalgic. I still have not organized my old pictures after all these years. But I found time to rip all my CD's to MP3's. Go figures !

    Start Packing....

    ARRGGHHH.... I hate packing. Picked up 25 small boxes from Uhaul, paper tape, and movers wrapping tape. Then I found 20 boxes in my basement from my previous move. I think I have enough boxes now. Five minutes into (re)assembling the boxes, gave myself a huge papercut from the box. Now I am boxing with blood -- how's that for motivation. Rock music playing.. I am all set to go. It's not what I am packing, but what I am throwing away that is of interest. I am giving up on my old Java books. Remember Core Java 1.1? Visual Cafe 2.0, Visual Page (a pretty good product BTW), Codewright (my emacs clone editor for windows of choice way back then). And -- the most painful of all, Ecco Pro manuals. I loved that product. Now the closest replacement is Info Select from Micro logic. But I don't use it that much anymore, I rather trade web accessibility from anywhere (wiki) then desktop features.

    Day 1 at the loft

    Ok. I am counting this as Sunday, day 2 at the loft. More cleaning. I actually got the aero bed setup now so that I can sleep here. Minor problem with the curtain in the bedroom. Until I replace the broken curtain rod I think I am going to be awoken by sunlight at 6 am everyday. Wireless net is up. Kitchen cabinets are 80% cleaned (not, it's not that big a kitchen, I am just lazy). Did my first city living thing -- walked down to the store to buy coffee filter. Walking to the stores -- what a new concept for this ex-burbs person. After two days I very much realized that I need to move a comfortable sofa here asap. It is just too hard (sic) to not have a soft chair to sit on after all the working.

    Blogging from the Loft, really

    This blog entry marks the first actual blog entry made from the Loft. Via a RCN MegaModem line last clocked at 1.9Mb download. Finally !! (Update -- Now I am clocking 3Mbit download, 597Mbit upload !! yippy). Or use this test to see how fast is your own connection. * Update: Verizon -- so typical of them, took down the speedtest service above. Now it is limited to verizon customer only. Not to worry. DSL Report site has a much better speed test tool anyway. Go there instead.

    One kudos to RCN. I signed up for service on Thursday. They originally can only schedule the install for Friday week after. I asked the rep to see what he can do, and he called me back the next day and scheduled this Sat morning appointment for me. The install guy was very professional. Hooked me up with voice, cable and data. Left me enough spare coax for all my outlets. So far impressive, almost as impressive as the new found broadband at home feeling.

    On a different note, somehow I have decided to clean up the loft all my myself before moving in for real. Washing the insides of the refrigerator, wiping down kitchen shelves, cleaning the floors, wiping down the closets, bathroom, what fun, not !