Bryan Ruby

Thoughts, Words, and Deeds


Age Allows Fantasy to Become Reality

It's no secret that I am a science fiction fan. When dating my wife, one of our first kisses was from me becoming overjoyed after I found out she stayed up too late the previous night watching a "dumb movie" on the SciFi channel. In my book, a girl willing to lose some sleep watching science fiction on TV was a girl worth dating.

One thing that has always made me uncomfortable with science fiction is when science doesn't support what's happening in the story. So for instance, in Star Trek I could always buy-off on the science behind the crew's planet-to-ship handheld communicators and even the ships transporter (which turns matter into energy and then energy back into matter).  But the concept that humankind in a few centuries could build a ship that traveled faster than the speed of light is pure fantasy. Fantasy doesn't make a show less enjoyable to watch but it's not science nor grounded in reality.

When I was eleven years old, there was a television show called Salvage 1 starring Andy Griffith. The premise of the show was focused on a salvage man's dream to build a rocket, go to the moon, and bring back to Earth the old Apollo mission "junk" for resale. While his character's use of a semi-truck cement mixer for the capsule or that a salvage company had the resources to build and launch a rocket seemed far-fetched...I could buy off on it.

Powered by Battery: The Ryobi Electric Riding Lawnmower

A few weeks ago during my visit to the local Home Depot, I came across the Ryobi RM480E, an all-battery powered electric riding lawn mower. Ryobi claims that you'll get up to 2 hours of run time or cut up to 2 acres on a single charge. This quiet, smooth battery powered riding mower houses three high-torque brushless motors to support the mower's blades and drivetrain.  The RM480E's uses four 12V lead acid batteries instead of lithium-ion which given the choice  and given the size of the mower  so they're not lithium).

The mower itself has a 38 in. cutting width with a 12-position deck height adjustment. Cutting height ranges from a minimum measured at 1.5 inches to a maximum of 4.5 inches. The mower is capable of cutting in three modes: side-discharge, mulching, and bagging.

I have not reviewed the Ryobi RM480E myself, but overall the mower has received favorable reviews. However, most reviewers recommend that if you have around 2 acres or more you should stick with a gas mower. After 2 acres of mowing, the RM480E will likely require an overnight charge before you can continue cutting the rest of your acreage. The best Ryobi RM480E reviews I've read so far are written by Pro Tool Reviews as well as Paul Sikkema over at Today's Mowers.  For the best video review, check out the review by Tools In Actions (embedded below).

Recovering from Blogging Burnout

I don't think I want to do this anymore...

After three or four decades of being immersed in the digital lifestyle and blogging on a continual basis for 15 years, I found myself puking at the idea of spending more time in front of the computer outside of work. It's not that I don't still like technology and content management, but I didn't recognize until it was too late that the lack of topic diversity would eventually lead me to digital burnout. To fix this, I seriously tried not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. In the end that's exactly what I did.

Having walked away from CMS Report earlier this year, it's taken me months to recognize that the problem wasn't being bored with content management systems. The problem is I didn't do it in moderation.  Between my day job working in information technology and the evenings spent blogging and running personal websites, there were days I spent close to 16 hours in front of a computer screen. For someone like me that can be over enthusiastic in pursuing my interests and activities, I never considered my computer time as work. As odd as it sounds, it became a great shock to me that my body both physically and mentally still perceived it as work.

Starting my Summer with the Blossom Smart Watering Controller

Spring brought to South Dakota plenty of rain. The lawns are green, the flowers are in full bloom, and it seems we can't go beyond a couple days without a rain shower or thunderstorm. While water is usually plenty for my city, we do things smart around here and restrict water usage for our lawns year round. It's not uncommon in my part of the country to see the weather pattern quickly change from wet to dry. What once was green can turn brown in a hurry.

If you want a green yard when summer is in full swing, you will do best to respect the water restrictions and program your sprinkler controller the smartest way possible. Here in my city, watering lawns is not allowed during the hours of 12 p.m to 5 PM. Homeowners with even-numbered addresses may water lawns on even-numbered calendar dates and users with odd-numbered addresses may water lawns on odd-numbered calendar dates. Last summer though, my traditional sprinkler controller decided this responsibility was too much of a burden. The failing controller couldn't even keep the time of day correctly yet alone maintain an ideal watering schedule. So this May, I replaced my failing controller with Blossom's Smart Watering Controller in hopes of a greener lawn and a better sprinkler system.

My Blossom Sprinkler Controller Has Arrived

My Blossom Sprinkler Controller has arrived! For home owners with a water sprinkler system, you no longer have to be stuck with the expensive but dumb irrigation controllers that was originally installed at your house. There is a new generation of "smart" sprinkler systems arriving on the scene, including those created by Rachio and Blossom. The Blossom controller self-programs based on real-time weather data and gives you control of your schedule right from your phone. Once the controller understands the vegetation, layout of your yard, and the weather it should do the thinking for you when deciding how much to water should be used. The company claims that because their controller is "smarter" than conventional controllers (and hopefully smarter than me), I can expect to save up to 30% on my water bill.

The great ENIAC

After spending most of my years years in grade school working hard on experimental science fair projects and not receiving a ribbon, I finally gave up and wrote a "non-experimental" paper on the history of computers in the eighth grade. Despite the paper being weak even for eighth grade standards, I finally won a ribbon (third place) in the school science fair. Remember, this was the early 1980's and everyone was still fascinated with the then new concept of computers entering "everyday" life. Why am I going down memory lane? Well I came across an article on the 60th anniversary of ENIAC  [via, broken link] the "first" computer built which of course was mentioned in that paper of mine some 25 years ago.

Though, only to find out after reading the article, ENIAC wasn't the first computer and it really didn't do a whole lot. They just had a good public relations department that explained well to the American audience what role the computer would play in the future. If you read the article you'll find (not included in my excerpt) that the PR people went so far to include the placing of flashing light bulbs on the computer console so that people had something to look at besides vacuum tubes and switches. Still, you have to admit it was an amazing engineering achievement despite needing a good marketing campaign to go along with it.

Technology is no longer a disruptive force

When Google announced in 2012 that they were bringing Google Fiber to Kansas City, my father called me and said he was interested. As an information technologist, I was excited. I told the “old man” that Google Fiber was going to change everything. Last month, Google Fiber finally came to my parents' neighborhood, and I made the six-hour drive to visit the house I grew up in.

After watching my parents interact with Google Fiber, I confirmed not only that Google Fiber was a game changer, but I also discovered something I hadn't expected: in a world where technology companies prefer to deliver shock and awe, Google made every effort to deliver no surprises to homeowners. On the surface, my parents weren't doing anything different than they had before Google brought their tech to town. This ultimate game changing disruptive technology could not be more non-disruptive to the families who are about to consume it.

Home Is Where The Network Is

A couple years ago, my wife and I took advantage of the post-housing bubble low interest rates and upgraded to a larger home. We came across a pre-owned house built in 2006 that came with the price, size, and style that just screamed to us "buy me".  As a family, we carefully reviewed our finances and listed our pros and cons before making the purchase. My wife and I were excited to finally have a bathroom connected to the master bedroom. Our then young son was excited that he finally had a family room that offered him fun and adventure. Secretly though, what sold me on the house had nothing to do with these things. What impressed me most was that this house had a network distribution panel.

Anyone who likes to avoid supporting a "rats nest" of network wiring should insist that their next house contain a well thought-out network distribution panel. In fact if it doesn't and I were you, I would insist to the seller that's why you as the buyer will pay less for the house due to future headaches you are likely to encounter. In my house, the builder and contractors pre-wired the house for phone, data, cable, satellite, cable, and audio. What more could an IT professional want? The best thing of all, the previous owner of the house barely touched those wires giving me the opportunity to hook things up my way for the very first time.

Dethroned: Content Is No Longer King

I spent most of the last two weeks camping and hiking in the Grand Teton National Park of northwest Wyoming. If you've never visited this national park then take my word on it that Grand Teton is one of the most beautiful places a person can visit in this world. The mountains in this place peak near 13,800 feet and rise from the valley by almost 7,000 feet. Despite the warm summer much of the United States experienced, ice glaciers can still be accessed through a number of day hikes. For anyone that loves the outdoors, this place has everything in the form of wildlife, scenery, and activities. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending from your perspective), what the Grand Teton doesn't have is good 3G or 4G cell phone coverage.

Mobile cell phone coverage in vacation spots like these are spotty at best. There were times my Android 4.0 enabled smartphone phone was rendered into nothing more than a tin can on a string.  I'm usually OK with this, but my Jayco CMS developed a problem with it's propane powered refrigerator and a good internet connection would have been very helpful to help me troubleshoot the issue. In the end, old fashion workarounds and a bit of luck fixed my fridge issue at a time when the Internet and its vast amount of content remained unreachable to me. During those two weeks, I quickly found that content was not my king. The desired end product for me was not content but instead it was information.

I purchased the Google Nexus 7 tablet

If you follow me on Google+ or Twitter, you likely already know that I am not a tablet fan. I know the statement is contradictory when coming from a techy person like me. I have a hard time seeing the benefit of a tablet in my day to day life. I already own a great smartphone (the Android-based Droid Razr) and I prefer the ease of a physical keyboard on my computer and notebooks when writing content is crucial. Overall, I'm just not convinced that a tablet will allow me to do anything more than what my current devices already do. Perhaps this is a sign of my age, but I lost my "wow" some time ago for new technology.

Google Nexus 7 BannerYesterday, I bit the bullet and finally ordered my first tablet, the Google Nexus 7. Although, I bought my wife an iPad 3 last spring (it seldom gets used around here), I never really felt comfortable playing with the iPad since I am not the primary user of the device. With regards to my decision to purchase the Nexus 7, I have to admit that I'm not looking forward to confusing my family further with another new device in our home. We are already at war here in Ruby Manor battling the mix of Windows, OSX, iOS, Linux, and Android devices scattered throughout the household. The mix of DVR and Blueray players connected to our TV's aren't helping either. Life should be simpler but we tend to have complicated matters as none of my family are fully satisfied with a single cloud service whether those services come from Apple, Google, or Amazon.