Layout change for ErgoDox Ez

On April 30, 2016, in Linux, by jafo

I’ve been using the ErgoDox Ez and I really like it but there are some layout changes I wanted to do.  I held off doing it for a while because to change the layout you have to build an entire new firmware for it, which I wanted to dedicate enough time to completing successfully.  In the end, once I had all the parts together and the new layout figured out, it took me 15-30 minutes to do.  Using this guide I could probably do it in 5m, except for the changing the keymap file portion.  That is a bit fiddly and also just requires thought about what you want to do.  This should work on the ErgoDox, but I label this the Ez instructions because it uses the Ez default keymap.


  • Decide on what changes you want to make and write them down.  For example, I wanted to put grave accent where tab usually is, make the key left of “a” be Esc when tapped and Win when held, etc…
  • Download the Teensy flash program from
  • Set up the udev rules as mentioned in the above page.
  • sudo apt-get install gcc-avr avr-libc dfu-programmer
  • Clone the repository: git clone
  • Go to the ErgoDox EZ directory: cd qmk_firmware/keyboard/ergodox_ez/keymaps
  • Make a directory for your keymap: mkdir mykeymap
  • Copy over default layout: cp default/keymap.c mykeymap/

Changing ErgoDoc Ez Layout

  • Modify mykeymap/keymap.c to adjust your layout.  I was able to figure it out by looking at it, but if you need instructions look starting here:
  • Build the new keymap: make KEYMAP=mykeymap
  • Copy the hex file to your directory: cp ergodox_ez.hex keymaps/mykeymap
  • Run the Teensy program: /path/to/teensy.64
  • Press the recessed button through the hole in the upper right corner of the keyboard with a paperclip.
  • Press the right arrow button and select the hex file you created.
  • Press the down arrow to reboot the Teensy.
  • Test the keyboard.
  • Repeat this section until you are happy.

Keymap Cheat-sheet

  • “a” key: KC_A
  • Win when held, Esc when tapped: GUI_T(KC_ESC)
  • Layer 1 when held, Grave accent when tapped: LT(SYMB,KC_GRV)
  • Switch to/from Layer 1: TG(SYMB)
  • Switch to/from Layer 2: TG(MDIA)
  • Control when held, “z” when tapped: CTL_T(KC_Z)


There is a GUI configurator at that I didn’t use because I really want the keys that you can tap for one thing and hold for another, and I couldn’t see that it was supported there.

If you don’t want the keys that you, for example, tap to get “z” and hold to get Ctrl, then the Massdrop GUI configurator linked above may be the way to go.  It gives you a hex file directly.  I really wanted those dual use keys though.  I really wanted to start with the default ErgoDox Ez layout and make a few changes, and this is the easiest way to do that.

I use the Windows key a lot for my window manager (i3wm), and the default layout had left Win on the thumb pad and the right Win on my pinky.  That asymmetry for a modifier key was very hard to get used to.  So I think I’d try to keep modifiers symmetric in the future.

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Chicken Tikka Masala

On January 27, 2013, in Cooking, Recipes, by jafo

I’ve made this Chicken Tikka Masala recipe a few times now, and it is quite good, though I think it’s a bit heavy on cumin. Seroius Eats “The Best Chicken Tikka Masala” recipe. It is a fairly involved recipe, took around 2 hours to do, but it is tasty and the grilling is worth it.

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I’ve been ripping some CDs for my mom. I had been using “ripperX”. It works fine, though it’s very manual. Insert CD, wait for CD to show up, click on “SCAN” wait for track info to show up, click on “LOOKUP” for CDDB information, eyeball CDDB info, click on “GO”.

My mom has a *LOT* of multi-artist CDs, where the track names are things like “Elvis Presley – Jailhouse Rock”, and ripperX doesn’t (that I know of) have anything to help put the artist information in there correctly, it’ll consider the artist “Various Artists” and the track name to be that as above.

However, there’s another ripping program called “jack”, that *WILL* do this correctly. *AND*, you can do neat things like “undo” the tagging/renaming, modify the CDDB information, and then re-apply the naming/tagging.

It’s a curses UI, so I can run it in a screen and access it remotely, for example. Here is my .jack3rc file, because this was fairly tricky to get right:


I run it as “jack –edit-freedb”, which scans the CD, does the freedb lookup, and then pops me into an editor to review and modify the CD information. Then when I save the file, it starts ripping.

I usually rip into the directory “/tmp/d”, and then once I’m happy with it I will move the resulting directory to my normal music storage directory. This allows me to do the undo/edit/redo commands on just a single disc without fuss.

So once you’ve done the rip, if the names aren’t right, you can do “jack -u” to undo the renaming. Then you can do “jack –edit-freedb” to modify the names and rename the files.

This is working REALLY well for ripping the multi-artist CDs.

I don’t know what jack does if the CD drive is ejected though. If it waits for the CD to be inserted, I could imagine a loop like “while true; do jack –edit-freedb; eject; sleep 1; done”.

Then you just need to build one of these:

Or buy one of these:

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Ditch your bank day?

On November 5, 2011, in Uncategorized, by jafo

efm I think was right on the spot today when she said that the people moving away from the banks are likely the least profitable customers for those banks… It seems that the people talking about “dump your bank day” are thinking of it as a way of sending a message to the banks, but I think Evelyn is right that many of them may be happy with the changes…


Android Feature: Do Not Disturb

On September 30, 2011, in Idea, Shouldexist, by jafo

Dear Google Android Team,

I see that Google Voice has a “Do Not Disturb” setting. Nice, but shouldn’t this really be a global setting that I can toggle on and off for everything, rather than having to go into every app? Then apps could have a setting for whether they honor the DND setting or ignore it. That way I could set up Voice and Plus to honor it, and SMS messaging to ignore it (I need to receive SMS messages from computers at night).


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14 Days with Galaxy Tab 10.1

On July 30, 2011, in Gadgets, Review, by jafo

Compelling Features

  • Like an Android phone, but with 10 hours of battery life.
  • All the same apps, much bigger screen.
  • Honeycomb is dramatically improved for a tablet.
  • Mostly familiar, coming from an Android phone.
  • Very nice form-factor.


  • No Google Voice for you (because you can’t make calls, you also
    can’t do text messages).

  • It’s not at all a multi-user device, and $500 feels expensive if
    we can’t really share it.

  • Proprietary USB cable.
  • No SD card slot leads to no ability to use USB to copy things onto

  • Time has to be manually set.
  • I don’t knwo what to do with it other than show it off.

Overall Impression

I got one of these bad boys 2 weeks ago, and have been playing with
it. It’s a very pretty tablet, where other Android tablets are chunky or
clunky feeling, this is quite svelt. However, I’m still trying to figure
out what good it is.

Note that this is running a (very) slightly older version of
Honeycomb. It was very hard to buy this when the one sitting right next to
it asked us when we walked up to it if we wanted to update to a newer
version (3.2 versus 3.1, IIRC). It’s not a huge difference in
functionality, but from reading the net it sounds like it may be months
before I get that revision.

As a tablet experience, it works out extremely well. Getting used to
the home and back keys in the lower left has taken some time. Mostly it’s
very comfortable.

A word about Google Voice though. I use it a fair bit to text with
people, and I was very excited to try it out on the bigger soft keyboard.
It’s not available in the market for the tablets though. Google Voice
requires your device to have a cellular connection to make phone calls, and
because the Galaxy Tab doesn’t have this you are prevented from using it
for testing. Google says they will be coming out with a “tablet optimized”
version later, but at the moment you are on your own to find an “.apk” file
to install manually. Once you do that, it works just fine for texting,

Unlike a laptop, I can’t plug in my Cricket USB modem and get 3G via
it. IMHO, the tablet is fairly worthless without connectivity, something I
didn’t really think about coming from a phone which almost always just has
connectivity. It almost makes the $60/month that most data plans cost feel
worth it (though I think $60/month is a bit much for just data, I’d be more
willing at $30/month I think).

I thought WiFi was all over, but now that I really need it to use
the tablet I’ve felt like WiFi is nowhere.

I was also very surprised to have to manually set the time…
Sure, I don’t have a 3G connection to get the time from, but this
does have both GPS (which delivers first-rate time/date information)
and the network. While there are third-party applications for setting the
time from both these sources, they require “rooting” the device to use.

Primary Uses

This I’m still trying to figure out…

One excuse for buying it is that we’ve been talking about getting
another Kindle for, get this, the bathroom. :-) Great, the Galaxy Tab can
do Kindle books, but it can also do web browsing, the grocery list, so much

But unlike a Kindle, it’s fairly expensive and so it’s kind of hard to
just leaving it in the bathroom. Which means it’s never in the bathroom
when I’d like some light reading…

I also justified it as being satisfying my temptations to get a Sony
Vaio P 1 pound laptop. For when I need a laptop handy, but don’t want to
carry all 15 pounds of my normal kit.

Again, it kind of falls down here since usually when I need my laptop
I need it so I can connect to remote servers and web-pages for work, and
hoping I can find WiFi isn’t going to cut it. I need to either be able to
use my 3G USB card, tether to my phone, or wait for a 3G model to come out
and decide to spend $60/month for 2 years on a contract.

Also, I probably need OpenVPN to make use of this device for work,
which requires rooting it… And I also need to be sure that none of this
causes my access credentials to become exposed if I lose the device.

In short, I have yet to find a compelling reason for the tablet.

Alternative OS

I’ve toyed with putting Ubuntu on it. But then I’d want a cryptofs on
it, and I’d have to come up with a way to enter the crypto password in the
minimal boot environment where it’s asking for it… Then I could probably
use my 3G card and OpenVPN though…

I’ve also thought about ChromeOS, which does have a first-class system
for sharing the device among multiple users. However, it does not
have much in the way of applications other than a browser, IMHO. When I’ve
used ChromeOS, it’s always felt more like a toy than something I could use,
except as a browser.

Other Tablets?

The ASUS Transformer sounds like a pretty compelling alternative. The
biggest thing is that you can clip it into a keyboard, and it turns into a
laptop form-factor. The big benefit here is that the keyboard has a second
battery giving 16 hours of battery life. However, the transformer
with keyboard and second battery is getting up to 3 pounds, so I might as
well carry my $300 netbook with 8 hours of battery life and a real Linux
distro on it…

The Motorola Xoom has an SD slot and a regular USB port (not for
charging though), and a newer OS… But it’s also chunkier. I really
don’t find it to be a compelling alternative. Though if it had come out at
$500 rather than $700 or $800 I probably would have gotten one then. When
it came out at that price point, I just laughed at it.


My phone basically is useless for running apps. It feels like if I
use any apps on it, I probably will run out of charge before I go to
bed (I charge it every night on the nightstand). The Galaxy Tab has around
10 hours of battery life, so I can use and keep on using it…

It’s 2 been two weeks and my primary use of it over the last week has
been showing it off… I’ll admit that I’m probably not the typical user,
but I’m really struggling to find a use for it.

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Thoughts on Netflix

On July 30, 2011, in Movies, Opinion, by jafo

Pricing Changes

I’m really not upset by the pricing changes. I was a bit surprised at
first, but I’ve remembered that I’ve been waiting for them to start
charging for streaming ever since we got a Roku. When we got the Roku, we
basically immediately started letting DVDs just sit around our house,
usually for months…

So while everyone else seems to be up in arms about NetFlix “doubling
the price” of the service, I have decreased our spending over the last
several years. First I went down from the 4 out plan ($30/month)
down to 2 out ($20/month), and with the announcement of the streaming-only
plan I reduced it to $8/month.

However, in all those cases I think the NetFlix service is a great
service at a great price.

However, now I’m looking at dropping the streaming plan as well…

Dropping Netflix Entirely

So this decision has nothing to do with the pricing increases. I’ve
been toying with the idea for much of the last year.

Mostly it’s because I’m tired of sucking at the teat of the media
industry. This industry has been, at best, unkind to their revenue source,
and I’d go so far as to say they’ve been rude or even criminal. By
“criminal” I am thinking of their sueing over what seems to be clearly
allowed by fair use and extensions of copyright.

File Sharing

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a “file-sharers advocate”… I lay a lot
of the blame for the current state of things squarely on the shoulders of
file sharing. I’ve even heard people who engage in file-sharing say they
don’t blame the media companies, but “I just want a digital download”.

I think the file-sharers are part of the problem because they trigger
the media companies to fight back. They have an attitude of “I want a
digital download, but the media companies won’t give them to me, so I’ll
find a way around it.” An alternative is saying “I can’t get what I
want so instead I’ll go elsewhere” (reading, playing games, having dinner
with friends)…

If the media companies saw, instead of an increasing demand for their
product via file-sharing, a decreasing demand I believe they would be much
more open to working with the file sharers rather than against

But, speaking of working with you rather than against you…

Unpaid Netflix Accounts

I’ve had Netflix for many, many years… I have a lot of
ratings, looks like around 2,250. This week we have been watching almost
nothing, so I brought up the idea of stopping streaming as well. But if I
decide to come back it would be nice if I still had my rating history…

Netflix has a nice option where you can put a plan on hold. However,
it’s got quite a lot of restrictions… You have to tell it how long to
put it on hold up front (it’s not clear you can disable the hold part-way
through). You are also limited to at most 90 days. While they don’t bill
you while you’re on hold, they also will consume the whatever you have paid
on the current month (which for me, started 3 days ago).

In other words, I can put my service on hold for 3 months, at the cost
of a third of a month’s service per month…

Why can’t I have a Netflix account that has no streaming movies, no
DVDs, and costs nothing, but preserves my queues and ratings?

I imagine someone thought that requiring you to pay for storing 2,250
movie ratings on their server, would make their service more “sticky”. And
I’ll admit that I felt some reluctance to cancel my account when I found
I’d lose those ratings.

On the other hand, if I lose my ratings and other account information,
there’s now more reluctance for me to return to Netflix if I later decide
to. Now I have to somehow import my ratings or re-rate 2,250 movies.

Exporting of Ratings

Aparently, there are ways of exporting the Netflix ratings
though… I haven’t tried any, it’s not clear that there are “no strings
attached” with any that I’ve looked at so far. I’ll probably look at this
a bit more, since I have nearly a month to either do this or decide that
it’s not really that important.

In Closing

Netflix is one of the few websites I visit that I have to pay to keep
a login on. They offer a great service, at a very fair price, but I want
to try something else. Not another service, but doing something completely
different. I want to be less of a consumer and more of a producer.


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Keeping your data safe from the police

On June 28, 2011, in Politics, by jafo

I was reading the EFF’s article on your rights to prevent the searching of your digital devices. One of the paradoxes here is that the Fifth amendment covers you if revealing your password or encryption key will incriminate you, and even a court is unlikely to be able to compel you to do that. But if the search is not for something that would incriminate you, they could compel you to release your keys.

However, the Three Felonies a Day guy says that the laws are so complex and cover so much that the average person commits 3 felonies a day. Seems to me that you could make the case that revealing your password and crypto keys would almost certainly incriminate you, without having to incriminate yourself with saying what the crime would be.

However, border crossings are an exception, they can search your electronics without a warrant or probable cause.

In any case, you should never say anything to the police without your lawyer present.

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On June 3, 2011, in Amusing, Conversations, Random, by jafo

Hello world!

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Everybody was Kung-Fu Fighting…

On June 3, 2011, in Uncategorized, by jafo

Yesterday we were watching the trailer for that Kung-Fu Panda movie, and it features that “Kung-Fu Fighting” song. And I was wondering where that riff in that song comes from, because I’ve heard it in a lot of contexts as an ur-Asian riff. So, I typed into a search engine: “kung fu fighting” riff

Sure enough, the first hit was the Wikipedia entry for Oriental Riff. That particular riff dates back to the mid-1800s, but the origins of it are not well documented — did it come from something from the orient or not?

Anyway, it’s one of those “where did that originate” things that I love so much.

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Ultimate BBQ Lighter

On April 23, 2011, in Cooking, Idea, by jafo

I like the BBQ chimneys (Alan Robertson turned me on to them quite a long time ago), I like that they start up well without needing lighter fluid.  You put newspaper in the bottom, and charcoal above, and light the paper.

I like to light the paper with matches because it feels more like making a fire…  But if there’s much wind, or even without it can be annoying to deal with the matches.  So a few months ago I decided to try some of those really long lighters.

After trying a few, I’m fairly disappointed in them.  They’re probably all suitable for lighting a gas grill, but if I thought that matches were inconvenient then these lighters have been something worse.  I searched around the Internet figuring that there would be something better, but I really didn’t find anything that was clearly better.

I did find this $80 electric gadget that is a cigarette lighter at the end, and a fan up in the handle, blowing down and around the lighter.  You touch the lighter element to a briquette for something around 15 seconds, then pull back a little bit and let the fan take it from there.  It looks neat, but $80 seems a little steep and you lose some of the advantages of the chimney such as being able to pour the lighted coals where you want them.

Today I tried something a little different for getting the paper in the chimney started: my mapp gas plumbing torch.  This has a push-button start, and seems like it would start even in winds far worse than I’d want to be BBQing in.  It puts out enough flame that the paper just bursts into flames.  While I’ve only used it once so far, the early results are encouraging.

Plus, unlike the lighters, the safety on this is easy to operate.  It has a turn dial for off/on, and when in the on position you pull in the dial like a trigger to ignite and start the flow of gas.  Release it and it turns off.  Unlike the annoying child-proof lighters, this is easy to run.  Of course, we don’t have children, and our cats have no interest in fire, so our situation is particularly compatible with this solution.

Of course, if you don’t already have a mapp gas torch, this is probably a fairly expensive solution.  For me it was free, because I already spent the $60-ish on the torch.  Of course, the other way to look at it is that if you don’t have a mapp gas torch, you need one.  :-)  I use mine for home plumbing jobs, so it was an easy decision for me.

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Assange for President?

On February 1, 2011, in Politics, Random, by jafo

Yesterday I made an off-hand comment on facebook about “where do I get my Assange 2012 bumper-stickers”.  Since then I’ve been thinking about it, and besides the obvious objections, and while I don’t like all the drama that surrounds all of it (a lot of which I’m sure has been manufactured), there is one thing…

I think Assange has done more for transparency in government than President Obama, and Obama campaigned on it!

So, in reality I’ll probably just get “Ellsberg 2012” or “Bamford 2012” stickers.  :-)

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Knife Recommendations

On February 1, 2011, in Kitchen, Tip, Tools, by jafo

Being a Linux geek, I often find myself obsessing about the right tool for the job, and this extends to the kitchen. Knives are one of those critical components, a dull or bad knife makes cooking just annoying.

Executive Summary

My recommendation would be to get quality (say, $35 to $75 in 2011) knives with a regular (non-serrated) edge.  You will also need a sharpener, I recommend a ceramic 12 to 14 inch rod sharpener, which requires some skill, or one of those ones that you draw a knife through (manual, not electric).

The primary benefit of the non-serrated steel knives is that you can spend 10 seconds sharpening them every time you use them (a couple of swipes on the rod, a couple of pulls through the block-type), and you’ll have a great edge every time you use it.

Serrated and ceramic knives are good for longer without sharpening, but eventually they do need sharpening.

Sharpening “Steels”

For a regular steel, non-serrated knife, sharpening is going to be a part of your life with the knives.  Every time you use it, that’s my recommendation.

I tend to prefer the ceramic rod-type, though I’ve also used the ones that have slots you put the knife in and then draw the knife through and they work just fine.  The rods are cooler.  :-)  I was told by a knife shop once that their steel rods would maintain an edge but not put one on, and the ceramic would put an edge on.  I ended up getting the ceramic one, even though I had a very good sharpening kit, and I’ve been very happy with the results.

The primary thing is to use it every time you use the knife.  If you do, the edge will be great when you are using it.

I used to use a really serious sharpening kit put an amazing edge on the knives, but it would take 20 minutes per knife and I’d only do it every 6 to 12 months — usually on the longer side.  So, for a month or so the knife was great, but then for 5 to 10 it was not.  Now, I always have a good edge, not quite so good as right after I sharpened it before, but better than the 5 to 10 months…

Unfortunately, the ceramic “steels” (rod-type sharpeners) are much thicker than the metal ones, so the knife block I have, which has a hole for a steel, is too small.  But seriously, keep the steel right by your knives and use it.

Ceramic Knives

These things are amazing, for around the first year.  But, they really aren’t meant to be sharpened at home.  You need to send them back to the manufacturer to have them sharpened.  Plus, they’re brittle — I broke the tip off our really good one within a month of buying it.  They’re also very expensive.

They’re probably a good choice if you’re going to have the discipline to actually send them in and do without them, every year for sharpening.  And you treat your knives very well (hand washing, and you’re very careful).  However, I’d recommend a serrated knife over a ceramic, for similar length of wear but much cheaper.

Serrated Knives

These are great when they’re new, and tend to be much better for much longer than a non-serrated edge.  But, you just can’t really sharpen them at home.

Unless, they have very “gentle” serrations.  We have a bread knife that I just love which has maybe 4 serrations per inch, and I basically just draw it slowly over my “steel” and it sharpens up nicely.  For most uses though, you probably want much more aggressive serrations, and those are going to be hard to sharpen yourself.  So you’d probably want something that you can send back to the manufacturer to get re-sharpened.

However, I will say that I prefer serrated steak knives.  I usually pull a steak knife when I’m ready to use it and don’t want to go sharpening it then.  So, I prefer the $5 stamped steel serrated steak knives to the $50 forged ones, though admittedly I haven’t tried a set of $50 ones for fairly obvious reasons.  :-)

Super Expensive Knives

I’ve been fairly happy with middle-of-the-road knives.  It’s pretty easy to spend $100 or more per knife, but I’ve been quite happy with knives closer to $50.  I’ll admit that I haven’t spent much time with the high end forged knives, but I really have been quite happy with the more mid-range knives.

A Word on Handles

I prefer the solid plastic molded handles over the riveted wooden ones.  Definitely, get one with the blade running through the handle, if you are going with rivets.  A comfortable shape is good, but also consider the texture.  My favorite knife has a slicker handle than I’d like, and it works well for small cutting jobs but when I’m preparing for a big meal like Thanksgiving with friends, I find that I really wish I was using the pairing knife that has a diamond-textured handle.

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Video Publishing Should Allow Offset in URL

On January 31, 2011, in Idea, Video, by jafo

Video publishing sites like youtube or should allow a way to specify an offset in the video, and possibly even a length.  Often, I want to highlight a specific part of the clip, sometimes well into the clip.  Like the interview with Hannah Minx where she agrees that Japanese Animation sometimes isn’t very respectful of women.

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We have a cat that sometimes has problems keeping his lunch down…  Then we heard about this great thing called a Spot Bot, and we were sold!  That was the original version they came out with, at least 5 and possibly coming up on 10 years ago now…

As the name implies, it’s really only good for doing a spot — something smaller than the diameter of it’s hood — say around 6 inches across.  And for that, it works extremely well.  It’s really one of the best purchases we’ve made, but we have quite a bit of carpet in our house.

If your carpet is clean, it works great.

The first thing we noticed was that it left these little “clean” circles in our carpet, which we hadn’t cleaned for probably at least a year or maybe two before getting it.  So, it made it obvious that we really just needed to clean the whole thing.  We now rent a big machine and do a full cleaning about once every 6 to 9 months and use the spot bot for the spots, particularly the pet spots, in between.

It also works very poorly on big dirty spots.  The cleaning area is surrounded by a hood, and dirty water ends up collecting on this hood and so a large dirty area that you try to “divide and conquer” using the Spot Bot tends to just leave a bunch of clean areas with dirty rings around the inner edge of the hood.  You can use it to clean up pet spots that are maybe 12 inches by 4 or 6 inches, but cleaning a foot by foot dirty section I’ve never been happy with the results, even after 8 or more application.

The other thing I found was that the cleaned areas it kind of “perked up” the carpet in, so we had these circles where the carpet was standing up — even if it was clean the circles were noticeable.  Then I started vacuuming the area after the Spot Bot worked them…  That’s the key!  Vacuum after the spot bot, and the area doesn’t stand up so much.

They market the Spot Bot as “put it down and walk away”, which is true but is only part of the truth.  You can’t just leave the house.  Since it’s got a hood covering the area that it’s cleaned, it won’t dry properly if you just leave it there.  So when it’s done, it will keep beeping, reminding you to move it.  I really wish it had a fan in it so you could set it up, run it, and then leave it and it would run the fan on the area after the cleaning was done.  Or it had a little track or arm or something that would move it slightly out of the way.  Then it would truly be a robot!  :-)

The other minor complaint I have about it is that it doesn’t hold that much fluid.  It will do around 4 cleanings, and then it needs to be emptied and refilled.  However, it looks like they have a new model that has twice the capacity, that might be nice.  But, on the other hand, I wonder if that would be too big, the current unit is nice and compact, so it may be one of those “be careful what you wish for” situations.  I will, probably, end up buying one of those new units.

Obviously, it’s built really well.  We’ve had it for quite a long time with absolutely no problems.

Over all, I’d highly recommend the Spot Bot.

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Dyson DC25 Animal Vacuum Review

On January 30, 2011, in Cleaning, Household, Review, by jafo

We put off buying one of these for quite a while, partly because we had a so-so experience with an expensive vacuum in the past.  As I recall, it cost almost double what the Dyson did, but it really was nothing special.

If I knew then, what I know now, I’d have gotten the Dyson much sooner.  For the last several years, we’ve had a cheapo vacuum that at least was bag-less.  Bags are a pain in the butt, and I’m glad they’re gone.  This vacuum was good, but it did have some quirks that annoyed me.  Mostly related to maintenance and the size of what serves in the place of the bag.  I’d have to empty it 3 times while doing the main level of our house, and if you don’t empty it soon enough, the cat hair would get sucked up into this screen, that you couldn’t easily see (to check if it was gunked up) or clean.

The Dyson is, pretty much, the perfect vacuum.

The “ball” I wasn’t sure about initially, but it does provide quite a lot of maneuverability.  However, the “kick stand” that holds it up when you aren’t using it took some getting used to, I initially could never get it to release when I wanted it to.

It’s also surprisingly quiet.  Sure, it still freaks out the one cat, but he’s scared of everything.  It’s not so quiet that I’d vacuum with someone sleeping, but it is something both Evelyn and I noticed.

The big thing is the maintenance.  The beater bar is direct drive instead of belt drive.  I’m very much looking forward to not burning up any more belts and having the house smell like burnt rubber.  But, time will tell whether it just burns the motor out…  However, the cover over the beater bar is clear, so you can see if it’s running or not…  And to clean the beater bar, you twist off a cover and slide it out — very easy.  Sadly, to unlock the twist-off, you have to use a coin, it’s not finger-operated.  And time will tell if that gets stripped up using a coin.

However, you don’t have to do this maintenance on the floor…  The whole power head comes off the vacuum, so you can unhook it and bring it over to a counter or table to work on.

The cover over the 2 filters seems similarly easy to get to, and they only require cleaning every 3 months, which is probably about what our previous vacuum required.  You just wash them in the sink and let them dry.

The button to activate “bare floor” cleaning is easy to access (on our old one it was a dial on the head that we never used).  We’ve been using it all the time for vacuuming the kitchen vinyl flooring.

The bin is much larger than our old vacuum and can go the whole level without emptying even when we haven’t vacuumed recently.  Better: you press a button and the whole, contained bin comes off.  You take it to the trash or put it in a trash bag, and push a button and the bottom opens and the cruft falls out.  This is clear so you can see when it’s empty and shake it to get the last out.  This includes the equivalent to the screen in our old one, if it gets over-full — just shake it and it comes clean.  The old vacuum had an open cup and if it was full often the cup would spill when emptied and required vacuuming a bit around where you emptied it.

My primary complaint about the setup we  have is that it included this extra “powered head” for the extension wand, but there’s nowhere on the vacuum to store it.  Our old vacuum had a similar “power paw”, but it had a nice place that it snapped into for storage.  I have no idea where the power head now is.  On the other hand, the power head is larger than on the old one, and does work much better.  We have these curtains that the cats walk by that it works great on.

Another complaint I had but I think I just figured out today was the cord clip.  It’s kind of like the springy black paper clips, it’s wedge-shaped.  If you put the cord fully into this, the plug just slips down the cord.  I realized today that if you put one loop of the cord fully into this clip, and then clip it onto a second, it works perfectly.  I wish they could get a spring-loaded cord retractor in it, that’s the one thing that expensive vacuum we got 20 years ago had that I absolutely loved.  But, that was a cannister vacuum, and the retractors are rare on the uprights.

So, while there are some things that could be improved, I will say that it is a huge improvement and I really wish I had gotten one sooner.  It’s expensive, but a good value.  We got it for 20% off during a sale before the holidays, which helped a bit.  It’s, admittedly, probably not 4 times better than our previous vacuum, despite being 4 times as expensive, but it’s definitely worth it to me.

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