Ring Mailbox Sensor Review

Ring sells a “Mailbox Sensor” ($29) which tells you when somebody opens your mailbox. (i.e. it notifies you when the mail is delivered, or picked up.)

Really, it’s just one of their ring outdoor light motion sensor modules with an extra external antenna jack. (The small round object near the white square in the photo below.) It is powered by 3 AAA batteries, and lasts about 2.5 months under “normal” usage (e.g. opening the mailbox twice a day six days a week) using generic AAA batteries. Continue reading

Capacitive Touch Button Failure on Looking Glass Portrait can be solved with a better USB-C PD power supply

I’ve had re-occuring issues with Looking Glass Portrait displays where the touch sensitive capacitive buttons (Forward, Back and Play/Pause) would not work. (Either straight out of the box, or intermittently.)

After a lot of back and forth with Looking Glass (and them shipping me 4! replacement units) I was finally able to determine that the issue is the provided CHOETECH USB-C 20W PD power supplies. (Which apparently don’t work well on the 110-113 volts AC at my house, even though they are rated at 100-240 volts AC….)

I’m not sure if it is a power issue, or some type of noise/frequency that the power supply generates when running on voltages close to the bottom end of its range, but I can reliably fix the issue by changing over to using my Google Pixel 4A USB-C PD power adapter to power the Looking Glass Portrait.

 

 

Ring app on Android (3.40.0) suddenly became a background data hog

In the month of May, the ring app cost me $40 (I pay $10 a GB for cellular data).

Having the ability to see what is going on around the house when I am away is worth spending some mobile data on…in March it cost me 54MB, and in April it cost me 318 MB (54 cents and $3.18 cents respectively). However, that is FOREGROUND data, that is actively used when I am streaming data in the app. Sometime after May 5th, the ring app started to download a LOT of background data. In fact, for the May5-June 4th month, I used 91 MB of foreground data, and the ring app used 3.95 GB of background data (that’s $39.50 it cost me).

[Soon after taking these screenshots, I disabled “Background data” for the ring app, which prevented it from using more excessive amounts of (cellular) data and costing me money.
Ring app using 4 GB of background data in a month

My current version of the ring app is 3.40.0, running on Android 11 on a Pixel 4A phone.
After I got the $40 larger than I was expecting bill in June, I quickly checked to see what was using all of that data, and found that the Ring app had used 1.27 GB of data in only a few days. To put that in perspective, it was using more data than Pokemon GO, which is usually my highest data using application.

 

The problem is not limited to cellular data, the ring app has become a massive data hog when on wifi as well (but at least since my wifi connection is not metered, it doesn’t cost me anything). Every so often when I am at home I will use the ring app to watch the video feed from a camera if I get a motion alert and don’t want to get up to look out the window. In March and April this usage amounted to around 1 GB and 1.7 GB of wifi data respectively.   But, in May, the ring app used 61 GB of wifi data!
I did not stream more video in May than in previous months, so this is primarily background data usage by the app.
Ring using 61 GB of wifi data

If I had to guess, I suspect that the ring app on android has started automatically downloading videos of motion that occur, EVEN IF THE USER DOES NOT WATCH IT! Perhaps this a feature designed to make the app more responsive if the user selects the notification to view the video stream, but when I talked with technical support, they could not offer any explanation for why this was happening or how to disable the high data usage.

Update – Ring app 3.41.0 appears to have fixed the issue

After the Ring app upgraded to version 3.41.0 on Android, I re-enabled background data and kept a close eye on it for a few days. Including a few times I was away from wifi on cellular data, the data usage was much more reasonable, so it appears that the ring developers have fixed whatever the issue was.

2.47 mb of data used over a few days

 

Right Wheel Locking on Ego 21″ Self Propel unit

My 21 inch Ego mower with the updated self propel unit has developed an annoying quirk. Some of the time when I try to move it, or make a turn at the end of a row, the right wheel “locks”. This isn’t an issue when making right pivoting turns, but when you are trying to pivot around the left wheel and the right wheel locks up, it stops the turn.

It appears to happen both with or without the mower motor engaged. It sort of acts like the “anti-roll-back” feature, except that I’m not trying to make the mower go backwards, and it’s always the right wheel that locks up, never the left.

I had never noticed this behavior before a month ago, so it appears to be a newly developed issue. So far the self propel unit is working fine when engaged, but given my history of self propel unit failures, I’m concerned that this quirk may indicate something in the motor control unit is having issues…

June 2021 Update:

The issue shown in the above video kept getting worse until I called Ego support and described it to them. They immediately sent me to the local Ego certified repair place who fixed the issue in about a week. The issue was that the nylon gears at both ends of the drive shaft (as well as the plastic gears inside the wheels) were worn down and slipping/jamming. The shop tech said that he replaced both the motor/drive unit and both wheels. Here is a photo comparing what the nylon gears are supposed to look like with what the actually looked like.

Replacement / Teardown of Intermatic AG3000 Surge Protective Device

The Intermatic AG3000 Surge Arrestor / Surge Suppressor device wired into my main breaker panel had a green indicator light that indicates correct operation. But the green light disappeared, indicating that the device was no longer providing protection, so I replaced it.

Afterwards, I opened up the failed device to see if there was any evidence of a surge (all the electronics in my house still appeared to be working) and to see what was inside it.


The surge suppression functionality is provided entirely by a pair of Mersen 150TPMOVSL (150 volt thermally protected MOV with “short leads” for the internal micro-switch) They are in series between the two 240v hot leads, with the neutral lead in the middle. (You can also use this device on a 120v circuit by connecting both black wires to the single live/hot wire, putting both MOV’s in parallel).

The microswitches are normally open, and the spec sheet says they close when the metal oxide disk inside fails. [This particular model does not include a visual pop-out indicator.]  The indicator circuit board (normally soldered to the top of the MOV’s) is extremely simple, and is powered from neutral and one of the hot lines (120v AC) via two large ohm value resistors (I measured 63 VAC after the resistors) through a single diode.  The microswitches are placed in parallel to the indicator light (which may be a LED of some type, it used a LED symbol next to a 93V-0 marking on the PCB) so that they short it out if they close.

Once I removed the indicator circuit board, the MOV micro-switches were open (non-conducting), so it is possible that the indicator light failed shorted and the MOV’s are still providing proper protection.

 

Salvage 2013 Nissan Leaf Modules – 8 year age capacity test: 75-80%

six nissan leaf modules with capacity test values written on the sides
Back in 2015 I bought a wrecked 2013 Nissan leaf and salvaged it’s 48 battery modules to use in my s-10 electric pickup truck. At the time, the batteries had 18,921 miles from the Leaf on them, (10 quick charges and 775 Level 1/ Level 2 charges) and the leaf BMS reported a capacity of 64 amp hours (98% state of health). [The modules are rated at a minimum of 60 AH new, but most exceed the minimum specifications a bit.]
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Ring Motion sensor (Gen 1) falling offline intermittently? Try a battery change.

Gen 1 Ring Motion Sensor
I have a Ring alarm motion sensor that is located far away from the alarm base station. So I installed the Ring z-wave extender about halfway between the motion sensor and the the base station, and everything worked for about 2 years.  However, within the last year (3rd year of operation) the motion sensor would intermittently fall offline.  Sometimes simply triggering it would bring it online, other times it would come back online on its own, and other times I had to unplug and re-plug the z-wave extender box to get it to come back online.

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