Nest Smart Thermostat Stupidity

Smart Thermostats are stupid.  $250 for what amounts to a $30 thermostat with $10 of extra smarts and a $180 display is simply insane.  Then you add the installation costs and security risks and the risk that it will become useless within 15 years and it becomes clear that Smart Thermostats are a very very stupid investment.

I have new approach.  I call it the Better Smart thermostat.  It costs the same as today's inexpensive "dumb" Programmable thermostats, but has 100% of the capabilities of the Nest.

Take today's $30 thermostat and keep it as a regular, simply-programmable thermostat.  It has a temperature sensor, a display, and some relays for turning the systems on and off.  Then add BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) to give it the ability to get hints from an external device.

That's it.  No fancy display.  No special wiring.  No 802.11n.  It uses BLE, so it can use regular AA batteries.

But with BLE on-board, some significant opportunities emerge.  Now the thermostat settings can be easily modified from an app on a iPhone or iPad.  Away from your house?  Enable Away mode.  Coming home?  Enable Home mode.  Super-cold weather?  Fire up the heat earlier.  Daylight Saving changes?  Fix the time of the clock.  Temperatures approaching freezing?  Trigger an alarm.  Record temperature history.  Key track of "system on" energy use.  Program setback schedules from a computer.

Need 8 for your electric heat radiators?  Great, you can afford 8.  Unlike the Nest and their insanely designed counterparts.

And if BLE becomes obsolete, or if you simply don't care about smartness, you still have a 100% good and secure thermostat. 


Apple-Supplied MacBook Battery Weight Matters

I buy a lot of aftermarket batteries for MacBooks, and judging by weight, it is very clear that 3rd party batteries are significantly lighter than the originals.

That means that the aftermarket batteries simply cannot provide as much power.


There are three major parts to a laptop battery:
  • The housing, made of plastic and/or aluminum
  • The battery management electronics and power connector
  • The lithium cells
So let's think of everything that makes up a battery except the lithium cells: It seems like a good bet that a genuine Apple battery's housing and electronics has roughly the same weight as an aftermarket battery.  For argument's sake, let's say that a battery unit weights 100 grams PLUS the weight of the cells.

That implies that a lighter battery has smaller (or fewer) cells!

For example, I have a genuine MacBook battery that weights 364 grams.  My aftermarket battery weighs 230 grams.  Assuming that 100 grams is for non-cell componentry, that means the genuine battery has 264 grams of energy cells versus 130 grams of energy cells for the aftermarket battery. 

Doing the math, that means that a genuine MacBook battery has more than twice the battery than the aftermarket battery.  Although the batteries are rated the same, it is virtually impossible that these devices actually deliver the same power.

What about my battery?

Each factory-delivered Apple battery model has a weight.  Below is a list of original MacBook batteries that I've measured.  Check to see how your MacBook battery measures up!

MacBook Air, 13 inch 

Apple Battery Model Number: A1405
Power Label: 7.3VDC, 50Wh, 6700mAh
Official Battery's Weight: 296 grams (Source: MacBook Air 13-inch (mid-2012) 020-7379-A)

All of these MacBook Air models use the A1405 form factor:
  • Apple MacBook Air 13 inch, Late 2010
  • Apple MacBook Air 13 inch, Mid 2011
  • Apple MacBook Air 13 inch, Mid 2012
  • Apple MacBook Air 13 inch, Mid 2013
  • Apple MacBook Air 13 inch, Early 2014
  • Apple MacBook Air 13 inch, Early 2015

MacBook Pro, 15 inch Unibody

Apple Battery Model Number:  A1321
Power Label: 10.95 VDC, 73 Wh
Official Battery's Weight: 450 grams (Source: MacBook Pro 15-inch (mid-2009) 020-6380-A)

The following MacBook Pro models use the A1321 form factor:
  • MacBook Pro 15.4 inch, Mid 2009
  • MacBook Pro 15.4 inch, Mid 2010

MacBook Pro, 13 inch Unibody

Apple Battery Model Number:  A
Power Label: 10.95 VDC, 73 Wh
Official Battery's Weight: 450 grams (Source: MacBook Pro 13-inch (mid-2009) 020-6380-A)

The following MacBook Pro models use the A1321 form factor:
  • MacBook Pro 15.4 inch, Mid 2009
  • MacBook Pro 15.4 inch, Mid 2010
Aftermarket Weight:

MacBook, 13 inch Unibody (white)

Apple Battery Model Number:  A1331
Power Label:10.95 VDC, 63.5 Wh
Official Battery's Weight: 364 grams (Source: Three MacBook 13-inch (mid-2010) 020-6809-A batteries)

The following MacBook models use the A1331 form factor:
  • MacBook 13 inch, Late 2009
  • MacBook 13 inch, Mid 2010
My aftermarket A1331 compatible battery:
Rating Label Claim: 10.95V, 5800mAh/63.5Wh
Weight is 270 grams.

My latest aftermarket A1331 compatible battery:
Rating Label Claim: 10.95V, 5800mAh/63.5Wh
Weight is 230 grams.  Atrocious!

MacBook, 13 inch (white, non-Unibody)

I haven't measured a genuine Apple battery for these models, but I do have details for my aftermarket battery.  If you have a genuine Apple battery, please let me know the details!

Apple Battery Model Number: A1185
Power Label:
Official Battery's Weight: ??? grams (Source: Maybe you?  Let me know!)

The following MacBook models use the A1185 form factor:
  • MacBook 13 inch, 2006 through mid-2009
My aftermarket A1185 compatible battery:
Rating Label Claim: 10.8V, 5600mAh/60Wh
Weight is 280 grams.
Note: the aftermarket battery has a housing that is all plastic, instead of partially aluminum


Repairing a MagSafe Charger's Cord

Apple MacSafe power adapters can get a lot of use, and their cords are quite robust.  But they do fail, leading to no function or poor reliability.

Cats chew on the wire.  They get wound tightly very often.  They get yanked and tripped over.  And they get pinched by doors and furniture.

All this abuse can ruin the MagSafe cable.  The power brick itself is usually fine, but the cord needs repairing.

In this article, I show how you how I mend a MagSafe cord.  At the bottom, I've added an alternative procedure.

Tools Required:

  1. A Soldering Iron kit, like this one, including a low-wattage soldering iron, rosin-core Solder, and wire strippers
  2. Heat shrink tubing
  3. One Soldering Sleeve, appropriate for 22 or 24 AWG wire
  4. Heat gun (optional)


1. Using wire cutters, cut the cable, removing the flawed section.  The flawed area might be obvious due to a tear or a bite mark.  Or perhaps just the ends are starting to fray.  In that case, I still have to cut the cord.
Cut out bad section of the cord

2. Slide a roughly 2 inch piece of heat shrink tubing over one of the wires.  It should be pushed down far away from the end of the cable that is being worked on in order to prevent it from shrinking too early.  If the ends are starting to weaken and fray, use heat shrink to repair.

Slide on heat shrink tube

3. On each end, strip about 1 inch off of the outer plastic coating of the outer wire
4. Twist the metal wires together, revealing the internal wire.

The outer sheathing is twisted on both ends

5. Strip about a quarter inch of the insulation off of the inner wire.
6. Twist together the external wires.

The external sheathing is rejoined by twisting. The inner wires are striped
7. Solder the external sheathing together.
8. Allow work to cool (about 5 minutes) 
External sheathing is soldered together

9. Stick solder sleeve into place in order to join inner wire.  Trim solder sleeve as necessary.
Solder Sleeve
Solder Sleeve, trimmed and placed over joint

9. Heat solder sleeve until its internal solder melts and the sleeve shrinks tight.
10. Allow for work to cool (about 5 minutes)

Activated Solder Sleeve

11. Slide heat shrink tube over exposed "wound"
Heat shrink tube over wound

12. Shrink tubing with heat source.

13. Test.  Success!

Modified Procedure

I have since modified my procedure to make a smaller, prettier, stronger repair. My new procedure:
  1. Original steps (step 1 through 5) are the same.
  2. Then, use a solder sleeve for the inner wire (step 9).  Let cool.
  3. Bind the outer cable with some wire wrap wire and then solder.  Let cool.
  4. Apply shrink tubing over cut (step 11-13).  Use white heat shrink tube.
This process results in a slightly smaller repair area, and seems stronger too.


The $18000 cup of coffee

$1 a day is a lot of money.
  • It's $365 a year.
  • Estimating that you pay an average of 15% interest on your credit card, you'll pay $420 a year for that $365 dollar a year cost.
  • Do you pay wage taxes?  Assuming 30% taxes, that means you need to earn $600 in your paycheck to cover that $420 a year financial expense.
  • Adding it all up over ten years, you need $6000 to pay for $1 per day
So remember:
  • the $8 dollar sandwich instead of the $7 sandwich costs you $6000.
  • the $3 coffee instead of the free cup of water costs you $18000.
Next Steps

The next step is to start getting cheap.  Stop buying ANY stuff that isn't needed, and skip extra expenses.  Take any savings and pay off  debts.  Once debts are gone, there is a lot more money to spend.


Supermarket Storm Crazy Crowds

Did you ever notice that before a big storm rolls in, people go nuts and crowd the supermarket?

I notice the crowds.  But I don't think it's because people go nuts.

If a big storm is forecast for Wednesday, people who were planning to go to the store on Wednesday pretty much have to go on Tuesday.  And that means that Tuesday might be twice as crowded as normal.  Twice the crowd is a huge leap.  The longer the storm, the bigger the impact.

Imagine that you're planning a dinner for a 15 person party, and then you get word that 30 people are going to show up.  That's a real scramble even if you get advanced notice.

Supermarkets are a pretty predictable business, but a sudden 100% increase in foot traffic can completely throw off inventory and employee scheduling.  It can also throw off parking, cash register availability, and shopping cart use.

I'm sure supermarkets work hard to try to cover the bases when many more people show up, but clearly everyone is going to notice.

The Price of Electricity

I'm sitting at home here looking at my electric bill.  My bill says that electricity costs 21¢ per KWH.  But that's not true. The ...