What’s Your Biggest Professional Challenge?

Now that we are in a new year (wow, it is hard to believe it is 2018), I want to ask a simple question. With what you are trying to accomplish at work or in your career, what is your biggest challenge? Is it something only you can deal with or is it something that someone can help with? Would you consider this challenge a personal challenge for your own career goals, or is it a challenge that you are trying to solve to further your employer’s objectives?

For me the answer would be something like this–

  1. Biggest Professional Challenge–distractions
  2. Who can help with this–mostly me, but my employer certainly doesn’t help and probably doesn’t truly understand the efficiencies that could be gained.
  3. This is a personal challenge–but my employer could certainly reap the rewards if I could improve in this area.

I wouldn’t necessarily consider this my resolve for 2018. However, it is certainly an area that I will work hard to improve in this new year.  Continue reading

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Reading EEPROM – Obtaining the GE Concord Express Installer Code

One of the more frustrating things for me is when someone, or some company, attempts to control me. Typically having the desire for less responsibility, I have no desire to control individuals in this way. Recently, I started looking into what moving my alarm system to a new monitoring service would entail. The primary goal included eliminating the dependence on a landline and getting the flexibility to do reconfigurations myself. I own the alarm system and I felt like I should be able to make those changes.

Upon investigation, I found that my alarm system was a bit challenging to reset the installer code. Searching the Internet yielded several options to try–1234, 9876, 4112 and 6112. Unfortunately, none of those worked for my system and a call to my current alarm service company was met with, “We don’t provide those, we want to protect you from

making accidental changes.” They eventually agreed to try to change the code to another value  and called me back a few times. Eventually, their remote effort fizzled out, but I’m

sure they would’ve changed them with an on-site visit and a $75 service fee.

A few searches on the internet suggested copying EEPROMs or analyzing them. I fo

und that my unit used a MIC24LC64 chip and started researching ways to read it.

Disclaimer: Use this process at your own list. It worked for me, but I practiced the process on a separate alarm panel that had no value. Removal of and reading of the EEPROM may result in a damaged chip or loss of configuration if it is not done properly.

EEPROM Reader and Software


For me, the biggest challenge was getting an EEPROM reader working with my computer. The EEPROM reader that I purchased is a “SMAKN® USB Port 24CXX EEPROM Programmer Reader Writer to 24C1024 for XP VISTA WIN7” that I picked up from Amazon for roughly $10. It is cheap and also lacking documentation and software. Getting the software working and reading an EEPROM was a bit of a challenge. My first recommendation is watching this video from YouTube.

YouTube — USB EEPROM Programmer and CH341A **DOWNLOAD LINKS Continue reading

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Displaying Pi Output on an LCD

A few weeks ago, I shared an article about leveraging the Meraki API and a Raspberry Pi to create a Dummy Light for My Network. Today’s article expands on this slightly by adding a 16×2 LCD Display for additional output flexibility. For the sake of demonstration, we will continue to use the Meraki API as the source of what will be displayed. An example of what I have built is shown immediately below in this short video.


To accomplish this, I added the HD44780 to my Raspberry Pi (Pi 2 Model B) using the following pinout. Continue reading

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A Dummy Light for My Network

I’ve always heard the red lights in car dashboard referred to as Dummy Lights. One example might be the use of a light to indicate high temperature in lieu of a temperature gauge. Over the past few weeks, I’ve spent more time doing unique things with hardware and software. Yesterday I challenged myself to build an indicator light to show health issues with my Meraki MX.

Before I get into this, the cool factor here is not what I have built. The cool factor is that someone with very little experience, driven by curiosity, can build this in a very short period of time. I’m neither a professional developer nor someone with deep knowledge around hardware hacking. So I want to solicit thoughts, feedback, and recommendations.

The Trigger

After a little research, I found that the Meraki Dashboard provides a “Load Monitor” that is returned via a perfScore value. This feature is in beta and there’s not a lot of information on it. Therefore, consider your own data source that you would like to use as a trigger value. The following python code will store a numeric value (score) between 1 and 100 (with a lower number being a better score).

import requests
import json
import time
import datetime

mydashkey="****API Dashboard Key****"
mydevice="****Dashboard Device ID****"

url = "https://dashboard.meraki.com/api/v0/networks/" + mynetwork + "/devices/" + mydevice + "/performance"

headers = {
    'x-cisco-meraki-api-key': mydashkey,
    'content-type': "application/json",
    'cache-control': "no-cache",

response = requests.request("GET", url, headers=headers)

jsondata = response.json()
score = jsondata['perfScore']

The Wiring

Since we know how to get a value for comparison, the next step is wiring up a Raspberry Pi. In my case, I used pins 6, 11 and 12 on my Pi (Pi 2 Model B) and wired two LEDs.


I leveraged a 1K Ohm resistor, but many choose a 330 Ohm. The right section of this breadboard is my actual wiring. Its hard to see the resistor but I connected both LED cathodes to a common column and inserted the resistance between that column and the ground. Continue reading

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Back In The Future

There are several good nuggets that can be found in this Ted Talk. I particularly like the impetus on local communities and the idea of a Business Plan contest for high school students.

Innovation: Five Steps to Get Your Local Economy Back to the Future

Continue reading

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I Don’t Need a Car

You know, having conversations with teenagers can be a little annoying sometimes. One of mine (and I’ve heard others) keeps responding to my answers with “Why”. While this gets my blood circulating a little too fast in some contexts, getting to the simplest form of the answer often has validity. John G. Miller actually wrote a book called QBQ! The Question Behind the Question: Practicing Personal Accountability in Work and in Life. 

Circling back to the car, why do I have three of these financially draining machines if I don’t need one? The answer is simple, automobiles are a means to a necessary end for my family. We go to work, we play, we go to college, high school, and the associated extracurricular activities. Transportation is necessary for the way we conduct our daily lives. Transportation in middle America requires a car. Continue reading

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Cheap Stuff is not Cheap

I have often fallen for the temptation of buying cheap instead of buying quality. This might be a saw, a drill, a lawnmower or just about anything imaginable. When I look at what professionals use I see them buying well-known and commercial grade products. For example, I wouldn’t expect to see my lawn care team buying a consumer lawnmower at Evil Big Box Store. They actually buy expensive commercial grade zero turn models that are roughly eight to ten times the cost of any mower I would consider.

My lawn care professionals mow lawns to make money, so what gives? Some might assume that these commercial grade products simply allow them to do their jobs faster. In nearly all cases, that is only half of the story. These products last much longer and hold up under the extremes of daily use. Their decks are heavy duty and the blades are less susceptible to being bent. The bottom line that these units mow faster AND they last longer. They spend less time in the shop and do the job they were purchased to do.

I find these quality issues with many consumer grade products. They’re basically cheap and disposable. The end result is that they aren’t that cheap and their breakage tends to happen at the least opportune times. Ultimately, it would be great if our society could figure out how to purchase the quality products and effectively share the costs across many families that would otherwise by the not-so-cheap disposable counterpart.

Disclaimer: This article includes the independent thoughts, opinions, commentary or technical detail of Paul Stewart. This may or may does not reflect the position of past, present or future employers.

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