Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Initial Review of the Automatic Link

I purchased a Link to measure my driving habits. One of the things I was most curious about was the cost of my commute. I have two some equal commute options and I wanted to know if there was a significant savings to one or the other. I only have 18 data points so far (as I split my commute twice a week for a workout) but here's the data so far:

  • Route 1 (17.78 miles) Cost - \$2.86/one way
  • Route 2 (18.55 miles) Cost - \$2.75/one way

Weekly Cost Difference: \$1.0833

  • Route 1 Time - 27.25 minutes
  • Route 2 Time - 28.33 minutes

Weekly Time Difference: 10.83 minutes

Now, this isn't the full story, since Route 1 is somewhat asymetric. It takes ~25.75 minutes to go and 30.25 minutes to come on Route 1, whereas Route 2 is pretty symetric. It's also interesting to see that Route 1 is shorter and more expensive as my average speed is much higher (there are large portions where I'm going >75 MPH). I should also note that I have 12 datapoints for Route 1 and only 6 for Route 2. Definitely not enough data. Saving \$1 a week at the expense of 10 minutes doesn't really seem worth it. However, Route 2 is much more senic and that gives me 10 more minutes of Podcast time.

Here's a histogram of my trip times:

I'll post again as the data becomes larger.

As for the Link itself, it seems to work pretty well (especially for a beta). It'll be nice as features are added, like an API, so I won't have to manually collect these statistics. I don't necessarily see it changing my habits that much - maybe it would for my wife who makes many more elective trips.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Whole House Sound on the Cheap

I happen to like the luxury of "whole house sound". I don't consider myself an audiophile, but it's nice to be able to queue up music on a Saturday morning and be able to move through the house about my business and have it stay in sync. Sonos seems to be the Gold Standard here, but I can't stomach the price. Apple's AirPlay works well with Apple hardware but leaves a bit lacking in terms of multiple speaker controls and receiving sound from a variety of sources.
So, here's my preferred solution:
1. Buy AirPort Express receivers from Craigslist.
There has been three models of AirPort Express receivers. The latest model is nice and all, but for the purpose of sending sound the previous model (A1264) works just fine. I paid $30 for both of mine. Try Craigslist for yours. The older model works fine but it is only 802.11 b/g and probably best left to its own network.
2. Hook cheap speakers/amplifiers to the receivers. Again, Craigslist helps here.
Your own taste for sound quality dictates here. Frankly I'm no audiophile so simple powered speakers and maybe a subwoofer work just fine.
3. AirFoil running on my laptop sends sound from any source
AirFoil is an amazing - cross platform - piece of software that "just works." The app can capture sound from any playing source - browser, Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, etc. - and stream it to any of the receivers on your network. This includes Apple AirPlay devices, other phones running the "speaker" app or other computers running the AirFoil software. The software works well enough to sync sound across my whole house with now pauses or phase delays.
4. AirFoils (very recent) control app lets me adjust sound and speaker zones on the fly from my phone.
The very recently released AirFoil control app now lets me control my laptop sound source from my phone. It also lets me control the individual volumes of all the speaker zones. This is amazing, as it lets me cue up music in Spotity or iTunes and then change things on the fly from my phone, like when I'm chilling on the porch.
I estimate the total cost per "zone" is anywhere from \$30 - \$74.