Chef’s Plate experience

A few weeks ago, we decided to give Chef’s Plate a try.  As the primary cook for the household, I found it tiring trying to come up with ideas of what to make for dinner, and also the challenge of trying to get the appropriate groceries for the week.  As a result, we fell back on take out, and also found ourselves throwing out a lot of food gone bad.

After the initial trial period where you get a bunch of meals for really low prices, we get a two 4 serving meals a week.  Sometimes we just go with what they offer, other times we go into their website and pick our meals.

The quality of the ingredients has been great.  I find their meat quality to be better than anything I can get from our local grocery stores.

A couple times we ran into issues – one week they didn’t deliver until a couple days later, and another time they had omitted the primary ingredient (no salmon for a salmon chowder).  Both times their customer service was very responsive and resolved the issues to our satisfaction.

The box of 2 four serving meals costs around $70 – so each serving is around $9.  About half of what we would spend when ordering out.  The preparation times on the meal cards are reasonably accurate – and are usually around 30 minutes – so not far off from a typical wait time for a DoorDash order.

The meals come with a letter sized card that details what ingredients the meal includes (and qty), and step by step instructions for the preparation.  The cards are great – we save them (and save the repeats for family and friends).  I find them useful for meal ideas without a kit.  The one thing that can be a challenge is finding the appropriate spice blends they use in most of their meals.  These are often the ‘magic’ that makes their meals.  The do provide ingredient lists and recipes for many of their blends (but not all) over on their Facebook page.

The meals are packed in a medium sized  box with each meal individually packed in it’s own recyclable or biodegradable bag.  A third insulated bag contains a well sealed ice block along with any perishable ingredients from either of the meals.

I have a hard time throwing out the boxes – it doesn’t feel right.  Instead, we’ve been saving them.  Having a bunch of uniformly sized boxes is helpful to get things organized.

Secure your home network

Our home networks are become busier places.  Working from home, more wi-fi enabled light bulbs and switches, home automation, tablets and smartphones all add to the complexity.

Shortly before the pandemic, I had upgrade my service to fibre and gigabit bandwidth.  With the new service came a new modem/router, and a very dumbed-down management interface that provides minimal control over the network.

My previous service provider provided a modem/router that ran in bridged mode, so I was able to bypass their router and use my own router.  The router has a very rich management interface, so I wanted to keep using it.  It also wasn’t that old.

So looking at the devices on our home network, I was able to divide them up into 3 categories:

  • work computers
  • family computers, tablets, and phones
  • home automation devices, Google Home or Mini’s, and a couple appliances

I wanted to set things up so that family computers couldn’t see or access anything else on our work computers, and also isolate the home automation, Google devices, and assorted wi-fi enabled light bulbs and switches from everything else.

One function my router was missing was the ability to create VLANs.  I purchased a small Netgear managed gigabit switch to to do this.  I connected one of the ethernet ports of the service providers router to the Netgear switch, and another ethernet cable from the provider router to my router.

Basically, I use the service provider router to provide a guest wifi network, and use it’s ethernet outputs to connect my own router and a managed switch.  The managed switch provides 3 VLANs for work computers and our home automation hub.  My router is configured so that our IoT devices operate within it’s guest network, and the rest of the router is use for family computers, printer and phones.

In Canada, we have access to an excellent DNS service, called Canadian Shield.  It provides an additional layer of security for the family – and I have my router configured to use it.

Of course there are also the standard things needed to ensure your home network is secure:

  1. Make sure any default passwords have been changed on your router – and use STRONG PASSWORDS.
  2. Set your router to update it’s firmware automatically.  Most manufacturers are pretty proactive to get their firmware updated as new threats and bugs are discovered.  Make sure the manufacturer is proactive and providing timely updates – and if it isn’t, seriously consider purchasing a new one from a manufacturer that is proactive.


Homeseer update

Things have been rocky lately with my Raspberry Pi running Homeseer – over the past couple weeks it was randomly stopping to respond.  This began after attempting to update the system to the latest stable version (and being lazy I forgot to do a complete backup!).

After reflashing the micro SD card at least 4 or 5 times, I bought a couple new SD cards to use.  Tried a couple more times and I thought I had things back, but 2 days later it all halted again.  Enough with the Raspberry Pi.

I decided to get a license for HS4 Standard, and run it on an older Windows 10 workstation I have.  The installation was a breeze – although I did have a hiccup when adding the interface – was a bit of a guess choosing the Sigma UBZ interface (I have a Homeseer SmartStick +), and then the COM port (1 or 3).

Service is up and running nice now, and a couple events set up – just have to work on them more and get my garage door events rebuilt and running again.

Planning the upgrade, or creating a monster

The Gecko was running for a bit, but I’m going to make some changes to it.  The Z axis is messed up, and slips once you try to move about 50mm above the bed.

I’ve been following the different Voron builds lately, and I really like the gantry support used in the Voron 2.4 – using linear rails, steppers and belts at each corner.  I also like the electronics arrangement – particularly the DIN rails to mount everything to.

I would also like to build a Voron 0.1 – the small size is amazing, as well as the speed.  I first saw it on the CNC Kitchen youtube channel.

So here’s my initial checklist:

  • modify the existing gantry of the Gecko to use the Z drive approach of the Voron 2.4.
  • I like the Voron 0.8 approach to the electronics – mounting them at the back of the printer.  Would be so much easier to work on, rather than flipping the printer over.
  • replace the Lerdge S board with a BigTreeTech Octopus.
  • I want to move away from the E3D Titan extruder, and will see if I can use the Afterburner or StealthBurner tool end designs with the current Gecko gantry.  Ultimately I may just end up building a new gantry as well, and just convert the Gecko completely to a Voron instead of a Geckostein 🙂

I’ve set up an Ender 3 v2, and for the most part, it is stock.  I did pick up an upgrade bundle from Amazon, and also a Micro Swiss all metal hotend from RepRapWarehouse.

However, I’ve only installed the CR-Touch (and updated the firmware), and the bed spring upgrades –  and I’ve been very happy with the prints – PLA, PETG, and ABS – very impressive for such an inexpensive printer!  I’ll hold off with the rest of the upgrades until stuff actually fails. When that happens, I think I might also switch to the Micro Swiss direct extruder as well – but we’ll see!

Aquarium filtration choices and changes

I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos about sumps and overflows lately – and I am contemplating replacing my Hydor canister filter with a sump. Challenge is with the stand that I built – and getting a suitable sump to fit.

As luck would have it, after adding a few new fish to the aquarium, the impeller decided to blow up. As I haven’t been able to move forward on the sump – I had to get the filtration running ASAP, so I ended up purchasing a new canister filter from the closest pet store, Petland.

Exploded Hydor 250 impeller

The new additions to the tank included 4 more Denison barbs – these ones are pretty young and only about 1.5-2″ long right now, but are schooling great with the older ones that are about 3.5″ now. I also added 5 little Julii Cory’s to help out the 3 clown plecos (that I rarely see). I still only have the one discus – would like to add a couple more at some point.

Julii Corydora’s

h080, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I would have just replaced the impeller, and I had actually been searching for one as a backup. Unfortunately I was unable to find one in town or online. It’s a shame, as the Hydor 250 has been working very well, and I had the filter cleaning process down.  I might see if another brand of impeller might be suitable, or perhaps see if I can cast a new blade.

The new filter I picked up is a Fluval 406 – it’s good for up to a 100 gallon tank. In setting up the filter, I replaced the carbon pouches with more bio media – the stuff I had already in the Hydor filter, along with a bunch of the Eheim substrata sintered glass spheres.

Fluval 406 Canister filter

The media boxes don’t feel as durable as the Hydor trays – the plastic feels more brittle – but we’ll see how things go.

Some of the nice features are the quick release hose assembly at the pump – will be interesting to see how well it works in a week when I give the pre filter it’s first cleaning. The other nice feature is the priming pump – while it doesn’t feel very robust, it did work very well.

The pump did not come with any sort of pre-filter for the intake, so I might look at adding one in the near future, and it also didn’t come with a spray bar. I prefer that to the included spout, which seems a little aggressive – fortunately I was able to reuse the Hydor spray bar.