Nissan Leaf (2015) Hitch Receiver – CURT 11396 Class 1 Trailer Hitch

1 1/4 inch hitch receiver mounted under Nissan Leaf
I installed a CURT 11396 Class 1 Trailer Hitch receiver onto our 2015 Nissan Leaf. The procedure was relatively straightforward, but took me around three hours (the instructions say the novice install time is 70 minutes).  If you don’t already have a jack and set of jackstands, I’d recommend buying a set of auto ramps for this procedure, as it doesn’t involve the wheels/tires.
Continue reading

AT&T Uverse (DSL) vs Spectrum Cable Modem (Orlando, FL)

At my house, we have two options for wired internet. AT&T Uverse (copper wires DSL modem) “Internet 25” (their slowest option), or Spectrum Internet (via Cable modem). Unfortunately, AT&T Fiber is not an option at our location because the FCC does a poor job incentivizing competition.

AT&T Uverse (DSL) speedtest

The AT&T DSL modem option is the cheapest  (even including their $10 a month DSL Modem / Wifi router rental charge, which you could avoid by buying your own). Notably, the upload Mbps is almost as good as Spectrum’s basic internet. 30 Mbps down obviously isn’t as good as 57 Mbps that I can get from Spectrum, but as we only stream to a single TV and don’t do a lot of downloading, it’s plenty. [Also, every year Spectrum raises their rates by $5 a month.]

Spectrum Cable Modem basic internet speedtest

Continue reading

New (Refurbished) Glowforge

I received one of the original Crowd Funded Glowforge laser cutters  (oh, sorry, “3D laser printer”) in November of 2017. Other than the lid glue detaching from both the front handle and rear hinges in 2019 and 2020, it has worked very nicely. However, I did notice that the power of the unit was gradually decreasing over time in 2019 (I had to use higher and higher power settings to cut through the same wood).
Continue reading

It’s January 3rd 2021, how is Orange County Florida doing with Covid-19?

Seven day averages of new cases and new deaths in Orange County FL.

The 7-day average of new cases (848 per day) has reached levels only seen at the peak of the summer surge, bringing us firmly into “2nd wave” territory. There were dips in reported cases around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays as many testing sites were closed, but it is clear that these holidays drove a continuing increase in infections.

The number of deaths per day are going up, but as physicians have learned better ways to treat patients we are not yet having as many deaths as in the summer peak. (Also, deaths lag infections by several weeks, so I expect these numbers to increase.) 
In November, Orange County Florida had an average of 2.87 covid-19 deaths per day (86 total deaths). In December 2020, the average had risen to 3.35 deaths per day (104 total deaths).  This is still 50% of the deaths reported in the summer peak (June 22nd 2020 to July 22nd, 2020) which had 6.97 average deaths per day (223 total deaths).

In the state of Florida overall, the total number of people hospitalized for covid-19 is slightly over 6,000 (but rising), while the summer peaked at almost 10,000. The deaths per day is also currently lower than the summer peak.

Hospitalization and Death trends for the entire state of Florida. (Hospitalization data was not reported by the Florida DOH until July 10th.)

Percent Positivity
The percent positivity metric has been above 6.55% in 14 of the last 14 days, indicating that community spread is not under control.

How many people have been vaccinated

The Florida department of health reports that as of January 3rd 2020,  19,356 Orange County residents have received their first dose (out of two) of a COVID-19 Vaccine. 

This is 1.3 % of the population (primarily front line healthcare workers and residents of long term care facilities) who have begun the vaccination process.  [Note that full protection is not achieved until two weeks after the second dose, but some protection begins to appear within 10 days of the first dose.]

How many people have been infected

The US Census bureau estimated that Orange County Florida has a population of 1,393,452 people (July 1st, 2019).   The Florida Department of health reports today that  78,512 cases of COVID-19 (confirmed by either a positive PCR or Antigen test result) have occurred in Orange County so far.   That means at least 5.6 percent ( 78512/ 1393452 = .05634352 ) of the population has been infected. The actual percentage is likely to be much higher as many asymptomatic cases may never be detected.

How many people have been hospitalized or died

Of those confirmed infected, 1,953 or  2.5 percent ( 1953 / 78512  =  .02487517) have been hospitalized, and 750 have died.  The death toll is currently 0.96 percent of all detected cases ( 750 / 78512 = 0.00955267).

Florida average percentages for hospitalizations and deaths are 4.7% and 1.6% so Orange County has done better than the rest of the state of Florida for hospitalizations and mortality so far.

Median Age of the infected

Last month the median age of those infected was 35, while 42 was the median age over the last 7 days.  [The median age of Florida residents is 42.2 ] While infections had trended towards the younger demographics in Sep/Oct/Nov, it appears that the age profile of those infected is now matching that of the overall population.

Orange County Schools
Orange county schools closed for winter break after December 18th. On November 27th they had 1,154 confirmed cases, while they had 2,096 on December 18th, a gain of 942 cases.  School will resume on January 4th.  The number of cases in the K-12 schools has reflected community spread primarily outside of the schools, which did not appear to be a major driver of new infections.

Predictions for January:
Case numbers have risen quickly in December. I expect them to continue to rise, especially in the next 7 days after New Year’s eve festivities. I expect the numbers for hospitalizations and deaths to increase in January.

I do not anticipate enough vaccinations to occur in January to have a significant impact on the number of new cases, which I expect to stay at or above current levels. However, I hope to see deaths begin to drop near the end of February as the most vulnerable population (those over 65) are prioritized for vaccinations.

[Charts/Numbers used can be found in this open document spreadsheet:  orange_county_florida.ods ]

2017 Kia Optima Plug In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) Missing maps SD card fix

When we bought a used Kia Optima PHEV (off lease) it was missing the Maps SD card that plugs into the infotainment unit, so the onboard maps & navigation did not work. Given that every phone now comes with multiple GPS navigation & mapping options, this wasn’t a deal-breaker, but I was worried that this would be a very expensive dealer only purchase if we ever wanted to get it working.

I was very pleasantly surprised to find out that Kia will sell and ship you an SD card with updated map data and infotainment software for only $25!
The magic website is easy to find:

I was even happier to find out that if I didn’t want to pay the $25 and wait for shipping, I could buy my own 32 GB Class 10 SDHC UHS-1 card (For $10), download their (Windows or Mac only) software and use it to write the data out to the card myself at home!

Continue reading

1-3 year old Electric Vehicle and Plug in Hybrid EV shopping impressions in 2020

Today we went shopping (at OffLeaseOnly Orlando) for an new commuter vehicle for Val (replacing her 2015 Nissan Leaf, which will become my vehicle.)  We wanted an EV with significantly more range than the Leaf (which is around 80 miles now), or a Plug in Hybrid that could do most if not all of Val’s 20 mile commute on battery power, but use gas for longer trips.  I was most focused on the Chevy Bolt EV or Chevy Volt Plug in Hybrid, of which OffLeaseOnly had multiple units in stock, but we were lucky enough that they also had several other options to try out on the 1-3 year old used “off lease” market. [Because the uncomfortable drivers seats of the Bolt & Volt knocked them out of the running.]

All of the plug in hybrids we drove had almost no charge in their batteries when we took them off the lot for a test drive, so we got to hear/experience their gas engines relatively quickly. The Bolt & Ioniq EVs had enough charge for a test drive, but were at the lower (20-40%) end of their capacity. (Off Lease Only had 4 EV chargers on their lot that we could use to test the J1772 Level 2 charging port, or top up any EV we decided to buy while we did paperwork.)

Presented below are brief notes about the vehicles we test drove (rank ordered by how likely we were to buy them).

Continue reading

Upgrading Ring Video Doorbell (gen1) to Ring Video Doorbell (Gen2)

Back in 2015 I bought a 1st gen Ring Video Doorbell. In 2018 Ring replaced it under warranty after it stopped responding. Two years later, I started having issues with the internal battery not staying charged, even though I had it hard wired with power from an AC doorbell transformer. This resulted in me having to take it off the wall to recharge via the USB plug periodically.  Ring offered to give me a 35% off code to replace it, making the Gen2 ring video doorbell a 65$ purchase, so I decided to upgrade. [Moving my Gen1 video doorbell elsewhere where it will activate less frequently and hopefully not need manual recharging as much.]

Ring’s Website currently has a nice description of the difference between the Gen1 and Gen2 Video Doorbell units.

The big gain is in image quality. The Gen2 camera is noticeably better, both with a higher resolution and with better low light performance. The field of view in the Gen2 unit is reduced (155 horizontal and 90 vertical, vs 180 horizontal and 140 vertical for the Gen 1 unit) and while I can tell the difference in visible area, I don’t feel like I’m losing any useful coverage. The difference between the 1080P (Gen2) and 720P (Gen1) is a clear and welcome improvement. In addition to the higher resolution, I feel that the lens is better and produces a sharper image. (Click on the images below to get full sized views as shown in the phone app.)

Gen2 – Day

Gen1 – Day

The improvement at night is even more striking.

Continue reading

USPS Click-n-Ship account error: “Sorry, your transaction has been declined. Your transaction cannot be processed at this time with this payment type”

I’ve been having an issue with the USPS Click & Ship account where it would not allow me to pay for shipping labels online. Everything would work fine up until I tried to pay, and then it would give me the “Sorry, your transaction has been declined. Your transaction cannot be processed at this time with this payment type” error message. It only took USPS a week to resolve it.
Continue reading

My Glowforge Glass Lid Detached!

Remember how the handle on the front of my Glowforge’s glass lid fell off back in 2019? Well today when I went to lift the lid, the entire glass lid was detached from the back (hinges!).  I am NOT impressed with the adhesive that Glowforge used on this unit.

Glass lid detached from the hindges

Last time I was able to simply epoxy the handle back into place. I’m hopeful I can do the same thing for the back of the lid, but unfortunately this time it will be very important that I be able to get the lid as close to possible to the original position, as the calibration of the under-lid camera may be negatively impacted by any offsets.   On the plus side, since my last issue, Glowforge has introduced a “beta” Calibrate Camera feature which should hopefully give me the ability to re-calibrate the under-lid (wide angle) camera “in the field”.

Somebody on the Glowforge community forums suggested that they had used E6000 (a flexible adhesive) to repair their lid, so I decided to give that a shot. I made this choice based mostly on the fact that E6000 is a single part adhesive that comes in a squeeze tube with a nice nozzle for dispensing. Getting a good bead between the lid and the hinge mechanism was going to be a little tricky because the lid is still attached to the main unit by a flexible circuit board/wire and it wasn’t immediately clear how to detach the connector. (I was worried that getting 2-part epoxy between the two of them without spilling any would be difficult. In retrospect, I should have ordered one of those “mix in the nozzle” dispensers for the epoxy….).

So, I laid down a few beads of E6000 and then clamped the lid down onto the hinges for 48 hours.

Rocks holding the lid down

Clamping force provided by gravity.

When I opened the lid, the E6000 mostly held, but there was a noticeable “glue stretching” sound, and the right hand side of the lid (nearest the flexible wire, and hardest to get the nozzle under) detached.  The E6000 was holding the lid on the hinge in an upright orientation, but I didn’t want to risk closing and opening the lid more.

So I ended up using JB Weld Clear 2 part 5 minute epoxy all along the edge of the lid and the hinge mechanism (using a toothpick to push it down in the gap on the right hand side) and then clamping the lid to the hinge in an upright position  (using a real clamp this time) for another 24 hours.

The Epoxy is currently holding the lid onto the hinge very solidly. I’d feel better if I’d used epoxy between the entire lid and hinge mechanism, instead of just the edge and what I could force down the crack on the right hand side, so I’ll be gentle with the lid (but then again, I’ve been gentle with it ever since the handle fell off….)

I’m hopeful the bond will remain at least as permanent as my repair on the handle has so far.

Update: My laser tube gave up the ghost, and GlowForge exchanged my (well out of warranty) unit for a Refurbished one for $500.  (Yes, they were informed about my lid repair activities with Epoxy and approved the exchange anyways…..)

It’s November 27th, 2020, how is Orange County Florida doing with COVID-19?

The rate of  new cases had a slight rise in September, and continues to be on a slight upward trend in October. This upward trend accelerated in November. Orange County is averaging 469 confirmed new cases per day over the last two weeks (compared to 224 in the same period in October). While not quite as bad as the summer peak of 600-800 per day in July, these numbers are  going in the wrong direction.

We had 96 people die from Covid-19 in Orange County in the last month (slightly better than the 105 in the prior month) and the total death count is at 642.
Continue reading