What I did on my Holiday Staycation, 2020 Edition


I’m very fortunate. I work for a company that closes down for the holidays, from December 25th to January 2nd.

For me, this is a period of decompression. Not just because I have the time off from work, but because all of my colleagues do, as well. There’s no pressure to check email every day and, should anything urgent pop-up during that period, people can always text me.

But mostly, in addition to spending time with family and friends, I take this time to learn new things and to tinker – activities I rarely have time to do throughout the year.

Here’s this year’s list.

  1. I installed a Ring Alarm System that included the Ring Alarm Retrofit Kit and the existing home security wiring. I learned a lot about home security wiring and, more importantly, how the home security market is being disrupted by the Internet of Things (IoT).
  2. I kicked my Vera Edge home controller to the curb and built a new home automation system from scratch using the open source Home Assistant software, a Raspberry Pi 4 and a GoControl HUSBZB-1. (Full post to come.)
  3. I started learning YAML. Even though you don’t have to break out a programmers text editor to use Home Assistant, if you want to create more complex automations or get very specific in how you configure the user interface, you have to use YAML. This also helped me in my next endeavor.
  4. I learned how to manage Ruby packages so that I could install and configure Jekyll to publish this blog. (Full post to come) Jekyll helps you build static sites so they are really fast and, most importantly, unhackable. I’ve had way too many WordPress instances get hacked and fixing them was a major PITA. Jekyll is also configured using YAML.

    Do I really need to do this? I mean, a basic blog on WordPress.com is cheap, fast and reliable.

    Of course not. I just want to learn something new.

    Once I figure out how to customize Jekyll themes and import posts from WordPress, I’ll probably host the files on GitHub Pages. I’ve been considering running the static site from a Raspberry Pi 2 B on my home network, but this might be more trouble than it’s worth. I ran out of time during this holiday break, so getting this working will take a little longer.

What did you learn this year?