Category: Gadgets

Nest V3 Installation (UK)

For anyone thinking of doing a DIY installation of a Nest Thermostat in the UK, it’s not so difficult.

Obviously, it requires a level of understanding of electrical wiring and confidence in what you’re doing, but the reality is pretty simple.

For most UK installations you’re likely to have a junction box, though I beat the wiring doesn’t look as neat as this diagram.   This is a “Y plan” system where a 3 position valve controls whether the heating, hot water or both has a flow of hot water from the boiler.




Before doing any of this make sure you’ve killed power to the heating system.   If you need help doing that, you should be paying someone to install the system for you.

The nest heat link is pretty much a drop in replacement for the existing programmer, but with the wiring in a different order.

You’ll need to jumper terminals 2 and 4 to the live feed to the programmer, and swap the terminals as below.

Existing Terminal
Hive Terminal
Not used
2, 5
Jumper to Live IN

Once this is done, the next step is to identify the wires from the junction box going to the room thermostat.    Confusingly in my system these are different colours in the junction box to those in the thermostat housing, so theres obviously a link somewhere along the way.

To identify these, I basically had someone to twiddle the ‘stat up and down while I held a multimeter across the terminals I suspected, and when it jumped from open to zero resistance and back I new I had the right connections.

Once I knew what wires were what, what I did was to replace the room thermostat with a link (between points 4 and 5 in the diagram above) to minimise the amount of wiring I actually touched (and to make it simple to revert if needed).  Then I took the existing wiring to the thermostat and linked it to the 12V feeds from the Nest Heat Link.

For safety I did the 12V join in a separate, new junction box so it’s not in danger of touching any 12V circuitry.

As a final check I powered up the system without the Nest thermostat attached, and checked for 12V across the terminals in the thermostat wall mount.

If you plan on using the provided USB power to relocate the thermostat then you can just short out the existing one and you’re done.

It’s now in learning mode – it remains to be seen how good it is – watch this space.

Update: I’ve corrected the wiring terminals since I originally wrote this.  Please use a professional installer if you’re not 100% confident in what you’re doing.

Google Glass: I think I’ve found the killer app

I’ve been watching the fuss around Google Glass with a bit of an air of detachment. In a world where you feel like a geek for wearing a bluetooth headset for your phone, wearable computing has got a way to go.

But the application for Google Glass I’d love is a super version of Evernote Hello – tracking the people you know.

Combine facial recognition with background information – when my boss walks into view it reminds me I need to get him to approve my holiday request. When I meet someone new (they stay in shot for more than 30 seconds) it automatically adds their photo to the “people I met today” where I can add name, contact details etc. If I haven’t seem them for a while it pops up their name and where we met and any other notes. Also tracking context “This is Fred Smith from Fubar computing. Last met at Fubar user conference in Barcelona.”

Going Paperless: Top 10 Paperless Posts of 2012 | Jamie Todd Rubin

I’ve made a few entries on the subject of Paperless – or as I prefer to call it, Paprefree – organisation, and Jamie Todd Rubin has an excellent and informative blog on this subject.   His Top 10 Paperless Posts of 2012 offer a useful insight into how to reduce the amount of paper in your life – and more importantly the amount of time spent filing it and finding the stuff again later.

What I want from an ebook reader

I’m considering getting an ebook reader and I’m finding the technology hasn’t quite matured yet.  My specification list:

  • Should fold to the size and weight of a paperback book.  Max 1.5″ thick when folded.
  • Opens out to reveal two screens with the size and resolution of a printed page in full colour.
  • Readable from bright sunlight to a dark room.
  • Global 3G and Wifi Access for ~ £2.50/month for downloading new books.
  • Ability to trade in back catalog of paper books for non-DRM ebook versions at zero cost.
  • Oh, and no DRM on downloads either.  If I bought it, it’s mine for life.
  • Should run for ~40hrs of reading (without backlight) on a single charge.
  • 24 hr replacement if it fails in the first 3 years.
  • Page redraw ~0.1 seconds.

Come on guys.  I’m not asking much. I’d pay £15/month for unlimited data if it was a general purpose device like an iPad into the bargain.

CADAC vs Cobb

Between my activities with RAYNET and off-roading, and my love of food, I wanted to find a way to do some decent portable cooking. Better than warming stuff up on a camping stove, anyways.

The two contenders – that several people seem to debate, are the Cobb barbecue and the Cadac grill. They are different animals – and ultimately I want both for different reasons.

The Cadac is a gas bbq, with space, from the reviews, to cook burgers and sausages for eight people. You can stick a pan on it, and it comes with flat (bacon and egg) and ribbed (steaks) cooking surfaces. It’s a portable gas barbie, basically.

The Cobb is a portable oven. Charcoal fired, and popularised by the “Hairy Bikers”, it’s a good way of cooking a proper roast or similar out in the field. But it’s not something that can be used for quick grilling of steak, or really for a quick breakfast. If you want to do a roast in the field, it’s the equipment of choice.

So which did I go for?

Ultimately, the Cadac.

It’s a bit cheaper, but the selling point is that it’s really for quick cooking. Grilling a steak, cooking breakfasts, perhaps roasting some veggies. It’s the weapon of choice for the next two events.

I’d like to add a Cobb as well, but funds aren’t unlimited. So I’ll stick with the extra grill space for now.

Not an ex-Parrot

Taking half the dashboard apart to get to the Parrot serial port: 1/2 hour.

Flashing the ROM on the Parrot: 5 minutes.

Putting everything back inside the dashboard: 1/2 hour.

A working Parrot car kit and Windows Mobile 6.1: priceless!

HUGE thanks to Just Car Kits in Slough for answering my questions and supplying the cable promptly. 10/10 for service.

An ex-parrot?

Hmpf.  Not impressed.

I have a rather excellent Windows Mobile phone – the vodaphone 1605.  Apart from fairly limited battery life when set up to synchronise e-mail (it has to get charged every night), I’ve been very pleased with it.

I’ve been using the “Black Dymond” ROM for some time and have been having issues with the keyboard, so I thought I’d try the latest “Black Satin” from the same developer.  Upgrade went smoothly, and because I’ve largely done away with the collection of software updates, the only configuration was to point it back at the company e-mail server and away I go.

Great, keyboard issues fixed, but now the phone won’t pair reliably with the car kit – a Parrot CK3100.

OK, try a different ROM – this time the “Schap 4.30” ROM.  Very nice.  Very purple, but lots of toys.   Keyboard still works great.  No dice on the parrot.  Latest Radio upgrade – not a happy parrot.

Googling shows lots of reports of problems, but not much use.  The phone still pairs with the Jawbone headset, so it’s obviously not the phone, so I try upgrading the parrot instead to their latest firmware.

Leave it in the car upgrading while I nip into the house, come back and it says “upgrade completed”.  Parrot display is blank.  Leave it for a couple of minutes, still blank.  Turn the ignition off and on again, and eventually it comes up and displays “NO SIGNAL”.

Great. It’s officially an ex parrot.  It has ceased to be.  It’s shuffled off this mortal coil and joined the bleeding choir invisible!  I’ve heard lots of horror tales about failed firmware upgrades in the past, and I’ve done dozens of such upgrades myself, and this is the first one that’s completely failed.

Some 20 hours after mailing their support desk, I get an automated reply from parrot telling me how important my enquiry is, and they’ll try to get back to me in three days.  A bit more googling leads me to Just Car Kits, who replied to my e-mail in about 2 minutes suggesting either a serial cable or their reprogramming service.  So the cable is on it’s way  – will this be the end of the saga?  Do I dare try WM6.1 as an upgrade after all this?

Feisty Fawn and Creative Zen

These days of imaginative product naming lead to the chance to write some odd headlines for the blog.

When I moved my home PC to running Linux, one of the things I didn’t think too hard about was the ability to transfer MP3s and Videos to my Creative Zen media player. I googled, and found lots of complicated instructions about building layered libraries to be able to run gnomad2. Well, I started downloading bits, and realised that, as of Feisty, gnomad2 is a standard software package that can just be installed via Synaptic. Download, install, start. Sync data. Job done!

I’ve actually got almost everything running. I still haven’t tried to convert video for the Zen, and I still haven’t fixed the Pocket PC sync – but, to be honest, Calendar sync is probably a bigger concern than the PPC itself. I can sync that at work.

Creative Zen vs Apple iPod

I wrote a while ago about my decision to replace the dead iPod with a Creative Zen.  I think my biggest disappointment with the Zen is the lack of integration of the whole thing.  There are separate bits of software for podcasts, music, video conversion, and synchronising, and it’s not immediately clear whether the Zen software should be doing the synching or if Windows Media Player should be in charge.

If I can’t figure it out after 27 years of messing around with computers, a degree in Computer Science, and 15 years of IT experience, what chance does the average guy have?  Not a snowballs, I suspect.