Removing COM Module from Honeywell UtilityPRO

A few weeks ago, my apartment complex installed new UtilityPRO programmable thermostats in all of the units. As part of the CPS Energy Peak Saver program. Quite a convenient little gadget, but a little creepy too. With this thermostat, CPS has the ability to modify the temperature remotely without me knowing. Although I personally couldn’t care less, I spoke with some friends who didn’t like this idea. So that got me thinking — I wonder how difficult it would be to disable this remote access.

A little googling revealed that the thermostat I had was a Honeywell UtilityPRO, which handles remote communication through the ZigBee protocol. With this knowledge in hand, I did what any good computer scientist would do and ripped the damn thing apart (carefully, of course). What follows are the steps that I followed in removing the ZigBee COM module, which in turn disabled any remote communication with the thermostat.

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Accurately Track Your Dynamic IP With Text Messages

A few weeks ago, I posted about how to send SMS messages via command line. Today, as promised, I am going to follow up on that post by providing a practical use for this functionality.

My current setup at home includes a hole in my firewall to allow SSH access to a machine sitting inside of the network. On this machine sit various items that may be useful to me when traveling outside of my home network, including movies, music, and various other files. However, this open SSH hole does me zero good if I don’t know what my machine’s IP is, and I generally would not know since the IP is dynamically allocated by my ISP.

In order to always know where my machine is currently located, it needs to phone home every time the allocated IP changes. In this case, I mean to phone home literally. I have setup this particular machine to regularly check its IP, then, if the IP has changed since it last checked, it will send me a text message with the new IP.

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Taking On Art History For My Second Major

Happy April Fools’ Day, all! As some may have guessed, I am not in fact adding a second major just a month before my graduation. As much I do appreciate the beauty of art, I am not nearly dedicated enough to the discipline to make that kind of commitment to it 🙂

Monet's Water Lily Pond
Monet’s Water Lilly Pond is one of the beautiful paintings that inspired this decision.

I love computers. They make life interesting and I could never give up working with them, but I’ve always felt that something was missing. That something is art.

After thinking long and hard about this, I have decided to pick up a second major in Art History. I feel that this additional major, in combination with the minor in Anthropology that I already picked up and my soon-to-be-complete major in Computer Science, will give me a broader appreciation of the world, both computationally and artistically.

Unfortunately I do not have as much time as I would like to discuss all my reasons for this decision, but stay tuned in the coming weeks for more information.

With a New Year, A New Website… Again!

Exactly a year ago, I made a post with this same title (minus the “Again”). I have learned a lot since that post. For starters, I have learned to be careful with local database backups when reinstalling my OS (this is why the first 20ish posts that were on this site no longer exist). Lesson learned.

Since that post from one year ago, I have moved from my position as Web Specialist Intern for the UTSA Honors College to Web Specialist for Startech Foundation. I have presented at two national conferences, one in Indianapolis and one in Boston. But more importantly, I have learned to take myself less seriously. I’ve learned to have fun, roll with the punches, and never be afraid to fail. And boy, have I failed!

Looking past the failure to properly back up my database, which I mentioned above, I’ve failed in numerous other things. I have loved and lost (multiple times). I have thought that I could do it all, and eventually had to concede that I needed help. I have also written enough typos to fill several volumes (thank God for browser inline spell checking). There is no doubt that I have failed plenty in this past year.

As I look forward, I have so many exciting new experiences ahead. I plan to graduate in May, after which I’ll be looking for full-time employment for the first time. Ever. I’ll also be applying to MBA programs around the country. As the end of my undergraduate career approaches, for the first time I feel like I am making decisions that will determine the rest of my life. It’s definitely a scary thought.

As I greet 2013, I have no desire to make no mistakes; that would just mean that I have not challenged myself enough. As Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus says, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” (Yes, I just quoted a kid’s show. Live with it.)

What I do hope to do is always look at life through an open mind, consider every opportunity that comes before me, and, most importantly, have fun! I only get this one life so why waste it being so damn serious all the time?