I, Kettle

WIFIKETTLE_1Last year, flush with the success of a year without changing employment more than once, I bought one of the most geeky items I have ever bought. On spec, I ordered a wi-fi enabled kettle.

This isn’t as crazy as it seems. Being a tea snob and evolving coffee appreciator, I’d like to be able to specify what temperature to heat the water in my kettle to, and once you want to do that the cost of buying a kettle jumps north quite significantly, to the point where getting a wi-fi enabled one is a jump of a few tens of pounds, rather than tripling the price. It cost me a hundred pounds, and now is going for around that, give or take twenty quid.

This is how it works:

In the normal way of things, it’s a kettle. You fill it with water, push the button, wait for boil. You can push another button to change the temperature. It boils quite fast, the water is the right temperature, so far, so kettle.

It comes with an app – free from the App Store or Google Play – which is how you can interact with it on your phone. By default it launches its own iKettle wifi network, and the app guides you though teaching the kettle how to connect to yours instead. This done, the app presents you with the same options as the kettle does, but from the comfort of your own bed. Press button to boil water. Press another button to keep the kettle at that temperature afterwards. It’s even got a built-in countdown clock for your brewing time.

Geek-Tech Corner

The tech’s not very efficient. While mDNS would have been a great idea, instead it scans the recognised IP range and fires a HELLOKETTLE at everything listening on the right port. This means connecting to it can be quite slow the first time. Someone’s worked out the right things to send enough to put together a python script to control it, and Loxone’s home automation has a module for it too. I’ve not started working on a Pebble app for it, but it’s tempting.


  • It’s not going to fill the kettle for you, and it’s not going to pour the water into the kettle for you.
  • I’ve had a couple of finicky problems with the wifi connection, usually fixed by rebooting the kettle (*sigh*), and one router it point-blank refused to talk to ever.
  • The build quality’s on the high side of reasonable, though the spring in the lid’s stretching out after a year, so it doesn’t seal at the top anymore.
  • I’ve had one base-station die, but once I got through to tech support they sent a new one over by courier.
  • Local network only. You cannot turn on your kettle over the internet.

WIFIKETTLE_4Nice things

  • It’ll boil at a specific time, so you can wake up with the kettle already boiling.
  • The app has the option to learn the GPS coordinates of home, so as you get home it’ll greet you with the option to put the kettle on.
  • The “Keep Warm” function will keep the water at the specified temperature until you get around to doing something about it.
  • It’ll tell you when it’s boiling dry.
  • You’ll get a phone notification when the kettle’s boiled.
  • The same company – and the same app – are working on a coffee maker too.
  • Local network only. There is no method for anyone to be able to hack your kettle.

All in all, I don’t regret buying it. It’s not a great saver of time, but the temperature control and the keep-warm are definitely advantages, and being able to boil the kettle without getting out of bed, or before I get in through the door, are low level improvements on my day.

(Disclosure: This product was bought personally, but use of the link above will earn us a commission on purchases)



The annual resolution to spend more time blogging has been made, and it’s 4am on Boxing Day, so what else am I going to do?

Christmas has happened, in the way that it does. This year we got a tree (which is better than last year) and I got most of my presents sorted (Actually, I got just over half of them sorted, and claimed act of deity for the rest. I’ll sort this).

We do Christmas as a couple, and have done for the last four years or so, rather than heading off to one or the other’s relatives. Standing agreement is that day of just us, and everything else can deluge later. By a melding of different family traditions, and a few new ones of our own, we get though.

It Begins
It Begins – Christmas dinner starts. Not pictured: A large block of gammon, simmering merrily to the left.

Christmas dinner was a qualified success. A more complicated roast than I usually do – usually I go for something that’s as close to “Bung it in the oven” as I can manage, this year I went for something significantly more complicated at more or less the last minute. This worked, mostly (Gantt chart at the ready), though a misreading of a recipe bolloxed the braised cabbage in a “What do you mean another hour, fuck that” and was replaced with something quick and simple.

Christmas Dinner:

Lack of dining table in this flat, so enjoyed in front of Guardians of the Galaxy, followed by me falling asleep and waking up at 3am on boxing day.


Office Space

This month, I’ve mostly been getting better at working from home.


It’s been a year and a half since I quit my full time job and went contracting. The first gig was office-based, so didn’t change my day to day experience, but working for the New Startup (Now named Skute) and more recently for my second client, all the work is remote save a few catchup meetings. My self-disapline for working from home has never been great, so I rented an office at an industrial complex nearby, and spent eight months or so commuting to it daily. 


Partly this is vanity. The idea of my tiny little company having an actual office with an address and a name on the door made it feel much more like a Real Thing than sitting around in my pajamas coding stuff. It kept work as a ritual, and put a firm dividing line between Work Time and Fucking Around On The Internet time, and all this was good for my productivity.


Less good for my general sanity was getting up early, going to an office to sit on my own all day, then going home and to bed. With the office in an even more remote bit of North London than the bit I live in, visiting people for lunch or going out in the evening was significant effort, and I could go for weeks without interacting with anyone apart from my girlfriend. In this regard, my previous office-experiement – a desk in a shared office space in Dalton – worked a lot better. The social buzz in the office was good for both myself and my business – a couple of contacts I made there have panned out well. The office complex, with a hundred different businesses behind a hundred anonymous blue doors, was a lot more isolated in every way. Also, quite expensive.


So I packed that in with thirty days notice in September, and am now in month two of working from home. The work-life division is embedded within my Macbook, which remains my work machine. While I use it as a personal machine away from home, the laptop works well as a Work Indicator to my brain, and mostly keeps me on side and focused.


The abandoning of the office wasn’t entirely positive, it’s always a downer to take a step backwards, even if they’re long-term-positive ones, but it’s given me a lot better ability to establish a Work mindset, even while at home. 


Now to work out how to include gym visits when I don’t go past it on the way to work…


Black Boxes

It’s been two years since I built my new computer. Well, it’s been about two months since I built my computer, but before that, it was two years.

Well, not since I built this computer. This computer was built under harsh conditions in a Chinese factory, with the rest of the MacBook Airs, but my desktop computer, my gaming machine, was two years old.

There’s something very Grandfather’s Axe about the home-built computer. I say it’s a new machine, because my definition of a new machine is the new Motherboard/CPU and usually Case combo. In this case, it’s a new primary hard drive as well, but the other three drives in the machine came directly out of the old one, as did the graphics card, which I’ll replace this or next month as a separate thing. So it’s a lot of the old desktop, but with a new CPU, a new Motherboard, and a new name.

Building my own machine is more of a hobby than a dedication. I could buy a new gaming machine, but that’s a lot of money to spend all at once. Also, while mass-produced gaming PCs are now closer to the same bang-for-buck rating as home built machines, it’s a lot easier to get a mid-range variation. In this case, I knew my CPU was my main weak point – I’d under-specced on the last rebuild two years ago due to a temporary price spike – so I was looking for a new CPU/Mobo combo combination.

Building a PC is practically lego. There are compatibility things to be aware of, but in general if it fits, it works, so long as it’s the right generation. So since I’m build from a CPU, everything will flow from what of those I buy.  The full and eventual specs of the machine are online if you want the numbers.

Scan were selling a bundle on a CPU, Ram, Motherboard, SSD and Water Cooling set for less than the CPU + Mobo + SSD would cost me, so I went for that. It’s the first time I’ve ever used water cooling, and while it’s an integral unit, it was an absolute arse to fit. rigid tubes inside the tight space of a midi-tower make me sad, and my hands are slightly too big to make sodding around with plugging things into the CPU easy or fun.

Once that was in, the rest of it was mostly clockwork. The concept of a single separate block to plug all the random wires from the case into (LED lights for power/hdd, power & reset switches) which then plugs into the motherboard was really handy, as it meant a lot less faffing around with the Motherboard manual and wiring diagrams. The Asus Ranger motherboard I’m using also has a segmented LCD display to show a double-hex code indicating current boot status, which is handy for debugging (6A – Your memory hasn’t been seated properly).

The biggest problem turned out to be that my new machine didn’t have a working DVD drive – my new Motherboard is the first I’ve ever bought with no IDE ports at all, which my existing optical drive needed – and the motherboard’s network port was too new to be supported by standard Windows built-in drivers, so there was a certain amount of faffery getting the contents of the driver DVD onto the machine.

The hard part was, as it ever is, naming it. The tradition for my windows desktop has been precipitation-based weather systems (It’s 12 years since me and ccooke came up with the naming system for computers, but all mine are still water-based). The last several have been Maelstrom (2006), Tsunami (2008), Cloudburst (2010), Thundersnow (2012). Stumble around on Wikipedia for a while. New machine is Graupel.

Other than that, it’s amazing. It’s running so quiet most of the time I’m occasionally worried it’s not cooling at all, though that will automatically flip up a few levels if the cooling needs it (Plus it goes into jet-engine mode for a second or so on reboot, just to make sure everything’s working).

A few weeks later, my partner’s PC got mostly replaced with bits that used to be in the old machine, plus a new power supply, and suddenly everyone can run Dragon Age Inquisition, the machines all run moderately quietly, and all is quiet, peaceful, serene.