Bluetooth garage door opener

Today I made a Bluetooth garage door opener. Now I can open my garage from my Android phone. There’s a short how-to YouTube video from Lou Prado. Lou also made a website that has more information, and you can watch an earlier howto video as well.

The project itself was pretty simple:
- Acquire a Samsung HM1100 bluetooth headset (the Samsung HM1800 also works). You can buy these cheap from Fry’s or eBay. I got mine on eBay for $10-$15.
- Crack open the earpiece on the Bluetooth headset and solder one of the earpiece wires to the base pin of a transistor. Solder red and black wires to the other pins of the transistor.
- Connect the red and black wires to the garage door opener. It turns out that most garage door openers are built to allow easy insertion of wires, which is nice.

That’s more or less it. My soldering was ugly as sin–too ugly for me to even post a picture. And rather than leave the house for some heat shrink tubing, I just left bare wires on the transistor, but everything works fine.

Lou wrote a nice Android app that’s free to install and then pay-what-you-want for a license. Then it’s just a single button to open or close the garage door. In theory, I could use Tasker to open the garage door automatically when I get home.

It’s not quite as sexy as Brad Fitzpatrick’s Android garage door opener, but it was a fun little project for a day.

On vacation the rest of November 2013

For the folks that don’t know, I’ve been out for a couple weeks and I’ll be on vacation the rest of November. If you’ve tried to contact me recently and haven’t heard back, that’s probably the reason.

Added: if you enjoy watching our webmaster videos, you can follow @googlewmc to hear as soon as we publish new Webmaster Central videos. It looks like @googlewmc is just about to hit 100,000 followers on Twitter!

Please help me run the Boston Marathon

On April 21st, 2014, I’m going to run the Boston Marathon. If you want to show your support, please donate to a good cause for cancer research. Anyone who wants to give is welcome. :)

So many people have been affected by cancer, including members of my own family. The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute funds basic and innovative cancer research. That’s why I’m trying to raise $9,000 for the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge.

Matt Cutts in the San Francisco marathon

I’ve been running for a few years now (that’s me at the San Francisco marathon), but this is the first time I’m trying to run to raise money for a cause, and I would really appreciate donations. It won’t give you more PageRank or a higher rank on Google, but Dana-Farber is a great institution and I’d love to raise as much money for them as I can before I run in Boston. If you can, please consider donating to kick cancer’s butt. Thank you!

Email backlog

This is a “hairball” post you can ignore. However, this post does trace my thinking about how to scale webmaster communication. Part of me wants to start answering questions I get via email by stripping out the identifying information and then replying with a blog post. Instead of one person getting a single reply, everybody could see what the answer is.

I spent most of the past week tackling my horrendous email backlog. At the start of the weekend, I was just touching 500 unread emails. I got it down to 218 unread emails and 264 total emails in my inbox. Of course, the ones that are left are the harder messages. And out of those 264 emails, 167 are from outside Google.

A few weeks ago, I flew up to the Kirkland office for a couple days to catch up with the Webmaster Central team. At some point, we were talking about doing videos for webmasters. Someone said “Why don’t we just grab a video camera and see how many videos we can shoot in an hour?” So we did. We managed to tape three pretty informative videos in about an hour, and that includes set-up/breakdown time.

So now I’m looking at these 150+ emails from outside Google, and I’m pondering about how much time I should spend on email compared to other things. Email is a 1:1 communication, so I could answer 10 emails and help roughly 10 people. Or in the same amount of time, I could comment on a forum, start on a blog post, or plan out another video that could benefit a lot more people. I did a series of about 15 videos last year when my wife was out of town, and the videos have been watched over 300K times and downloaded over 100K times.

So to make a long story short, I’m trying to figure out how I should handle email going forward. I’ve been thinking about this for a while, but don’t be offended if I don’t reply to email as much going forward.

My wife keeps me grounded

This is a harmless “hairball” post I had as a draft.

Me: Hey, they added me to!
My wife: Never heard of it. (pause) Had you heard of it before?
Me: Yeah.
Wife: Really?
Me: Yeah!
Wife: (with an extra helping of sarcasm) Really?
Me: Yes!
Wife: (dripping with condescension) You’re a very important man.