Here are some photos from the weekend trip we did with Melinda to Anza-Borrego on December 21 & 22, 2019. We camped near Palm Spring and visited View of the Badlands wash and enjoyed the view over the Carrizo Badlands. We also visited the Blue Sun Cave on the solstice and discovered the sun does not enter the cave on the solstice as I'd hoped. We also stopped by the Hawi-Vallecito Cultural Preserve and checked out the Mesquite forest and Bailey's cabin.
You can read more about my incorrect theory about the Blue Sun Cave here:
Back in 2014 I was involved in a major fireworks accident that left me with serious burns to 20% of my body. I went into hypovolemic shock and had to be helicopter lifted to the burn unit of a major hospital. There's a whole other story to that incident but it'll have to wait until another day. This blog post is a recollection of just a small part of my experience, soon after my arrival at the hospital... -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- So I had a memory flashback from my burn accident last
night. I'd just arrived at the hospital by helicopter and was already doped up on 14mg of morphine but was still in a lot of pain. The doctors were just
beginning the first stages of treatment after my initial admission through
the trauma unit. One of the woman doctors gave me an injection of ketamine to help with the pain but because my body was already so fired up
with adrenaline, it just made me angry. Ketamine is known to dysregulate the adrenaline system, and this was the beginnings of ketamine rage that I was experiencing. I started telling the doctors that they're giving
me something that's making me really angry. The doctors were saying not to be angry because they were trying to help me. I said I can't help it, it's something
they're giving me that's making me super pissed off, and I think it's the
ketamine. The same woman doctor came and gave me some more ketamine and I politely said "No
more ketamine, it's making me angry", but she gave it to me anyway. There was a
bit of a panic and rush going on with the doctors and nurses to get me
stabilized. Little did they know that the ketamine was making me enraged and furious and I couldn't
control it. They decided to strap me into the hospital gurney in case I started writhing with pain or behaving oddly from the cocktail of drugs they were giving me. I told them again, "No more ketamine". That same woman doctor heard me and thought I wanted more
ketamine and came at me with a needle to give me more, so I yelled at her "NO MORE FUCKING KETAMINE!". The anger continued to become a furious rage and I couldn't stop it. I started yelling at the
doctors, "YOU'VE GIVEN ME TOO MUCH FUCKING KETAMINE!" I told them I was going into a ketamine rage and needed xylazine. I remembered from my scientist days, we always gave ketamine and xylazine together for anesthetizing animals. By
this time my vital signs were starting to go through the roof as the rage
increased. The doctors noticed this. The rage was incredible, like those stories you
hear of people on angel dust who go on a rampage and still keep running even
when the cops have shot them a bunch of times. Angel dust, or phencyclidine, otherwise known as PCP, is in the same class of chemicals as ketamine and has many of the same effects, and this rage was similar to those angel dust horror stories. It was like those stories you sometimes hear about some grandma who saved her husband who was trapped under a car, in which she had some sort of adrenaline burst and lifted the car with one arm and dragged her husband out from underneath the car with the other. So there I was in emergency room going into a Hulk rage. All my’s
muscles were at full flex, and I no longer had the normal levels of
inhibition that protect us from damaging ourselves by flexing our muscles to
their true capacity. I said "I NEED FUCKING XYLAXINE!" By this
time my whole adrenaline system was on double overtime and I started
joking around to try and keep calm. I said "MY NAME IS NOT QUAID”, a
reference to the scene in Total Recall where Arnold Schwarzenegger's character, Douglas Quaid, pops his memory cap while at Recall. I continued yelling "I NEED
FUCKING XYLAZINE". They asked what's xylazine? I yelled "USE YOUR
FUCKING PHONE AND LOOK IT UP!”. A doctor asked me how to spell it, so I started spelling it out
"X-Y-L-A-fucking-Z-I-N-E!". Someone got it up on their phone and read
what it said, "It's an alpha-2 adrenergic blocker and an analogue of clonidine". Suddenly one of the doctors paused and said "clonidine"
and raced off to get some. By now the rage was severe and becoming uncontrollable.
The doctors debated about adding clonidine to the cocktail of drugs they'd already pumped into me. By this time I was furious and decided to test out my new-found Hulk muscles by flexing against the straps that were holding me down on the hospital gurney. I flexed my arms and was worried about the straps cutting through the burned skin on my arms, but I kept flexing. Suddenly one of the straps popped. For a moment there was silence and the doctors all took a step back in terror.
One of them said they should call security. I said "I DON'T WANT TO
HURT ANYONE BUT I CAN'T HELP BEING ANGRY. I JUST NEED XYLAZINE".
The doctor who'd gone to get some clonidine finally returned. The doctors debated quickly about what the dosage should be and loaded up a syringe. The same woman doctor who'd given me too much ketamine now came at me with a syringe full of clonidine and administered it intravenously. Within a few seconds my muscles relaxed, the rage faded away, and I let
out a couple of sighs of relief as I become almost completely normal again. Right away I said to the doctor who'd given me too much ketamine, "Don't ever do that to
anyone ever again". She said "How did you know you needed
Xylazine?". I said "Because I'm a fucking neuroscientist!". Soon things were back to normal and I was stabilized and wheeled away to the intensive care unit. As I was pushed
out the door I said "You learned some pharmacology tonight, they didn't
teach you that in medical school". They didn't seem to happy with that comment. For months after that, whenever I returned to the hospital, I would jokingly ask them for
drugs that I knew they would never give me. When I asked for ketamine they'd say "There's no way you're ever getting that again". So there you go
folks, watch out for ketamine, it can turn you into a rage monster. The
antidote is clonidine. -Dave Bad Person Just so you get some idea of what I went through, here's a picture they took at the hospital a few days after my admission
Here's a picture from just after my skin graft surgery
Here's an anniversary card I gave to my wife eight years earlier. At that time I was known for putting bottles and cans filled with diesel onto campfires as a pyrotechnic effect, and sometimes it hadn't worked out well.
Ketamine structural formula
Structural formulas of Xylazine (left) and Clonidine (right)
Samsung just showed off their new Ballie robot at the Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas. Ballie is a new personal assistant sphere robot, and looks pretty cool, but can it do 60mph (97kmph) like my sphere robot "Deathball"? I very much doubt it. Deathball will smash Ballie into a million pieces, if your dog doesn't first.
On Christmas Day 2019 I saw a bunch of the usual Christmas posts, straight out of the heart of conformism, straight down the middle of the road. Well of course, me being me, I had to do something different. So I made the following post and posted some pictures and videos shown below, just to stir people up. Hey, I'm Dave Bad Person, what did you expect?
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Hey remember folks, today is Jesus's birthday. He's 2019 years old today. Of course, the reason that God gave us Jesus was so we could kill him. Yes, God needed us to kill his only son so he could forgive us for being the bad people he made us, so he could forgive our sins. That makes sense, right? So why did God do this? Well, ask any devoted Christian and they'll tell you, "Because he loves us". I presume that's also why God wants us to burn in hell for all eternity if we don't follow his rules, because he loves us. Perhaps God shouldn't have made us such shitty people in the first place, that would have saved him a lot of hassle and a dead son.
Hey, come to think of it, why was God only able to have one son? You'd think the almighty that made the entire universe could have another son, right? Seems odd to me.
Hey, and Mary told Joseph she was pregnant but she hadn't been with another man. And he believed that shit? What a gullible idiot.
Hey, why doesn't the Bible mention the miracles of teenage Jesus? Is it because he didn't perfect his godlike powers until adulthood? Or maybe he was a disturbed teenager and did some inappropriate things with his powers that were best not mentioned?
Hey, did you know that crucifixion was the standard punishment for enemies of the Roman state? Yup. Jesus was seen by the Romans as a disturber of the peace, and possibly as someone who might incite the Jews to rise up and try to take back their land from the Romans. So he was crucified as an enemy of the state. Of course, Roman soldiers would have to guard people who were being crucified, otherwise their friends would come and rescue them. Crucifixion would normally take a few days to finish someone off, so to save time the guards would often speed up the process by jabbing them in the chest with a spear to give them a punctured lung. That way they died quicker and the guards could go home sooner. Now you know why Jesus was stabbed in the chest with a spear by the Roman soldier Longinus, because Longinus wanted to get home in time for dinner. Pretty cool huh?
Hey, I'm sure you've heard Jesus referred to as "The Lamb of God", but have you ever noticed that Jesus is never depicted as a lamb on a cross? That's because that would be animal sacrifice, and that's a pagan ritual.
Hey, you've probably heard the story that Jesus's body disappeared from the cave where it was being stored because he'd risen from the dead? That's actually not what happened at all. Nope, his friends actually bribed the guards at the cave so they could take his body away for a burial according to their own traditions. This is actually written in the Bible at Matthew 28: 11-15, and also in the Jewish Tanakh.
That's all for now. I'm glad to have brought you these cheerful Christmas truths. The important thing to remember is what Christmas is all about: the presents. Even more important is to remember that Jesus died for our sins, which means that if you don't sin, then Jesus died for nothing. So get out there and start doing some bad stuff for Jesus's sake.
Look what Santa brought me this year. Best Christmas ever *sniffle*
And now for some Christmas cheer
Here are some clips from South Park season 3 episode 10, Mr Hankey's Christmas Classics. I haven't figured out how to embed these yet, so they're just links for now.
Mr. Garrison attacks the rest of the world for the way they celebrate Christmas.
Here are some tips for growing Sturt's Desert Pea, Swainsonia formosa (formerly known as Clianthus formosus)
They are usually grown as annual plants but can live up to a few years if conditions are favorable.
The seeds have a long viability and can germinate after many years.
Wait until spring to plant your seeds, they prefer warm weather.
Sturt’s Desert Peas like a hot sunny location but can tolerate light frost.
They never survive if you transplant them, so plant the seed exactly where you want it to grow. If that first root is disturbed, the plant will die.
The plants send out runners that spread along the ground, so give them enough space to grow.
They prefer a loose, well-draining, inorganic soil similar to the soil used for cacti and succulents.
If growing in pots, use a pot that’s wide rather than deep, at least 6 inches deep but 12 or more inches across. Hanging baskets also work well.
Boil a cup full of water, let the water cool off until you can just barely put your finger in it without burning, then soak the pea seeds overnight or at least five hours.
Seeds that float don’t have an embryo, so don't use them.
After the warm water soaking, the seeds will germinate within a few days, and some may even appear within a day.
Protect from slugs, snails, and other pests.
When the plant is about 4 inches high you can begin regular applications of slow release fertilizer. Despite being desert plants they are heavy feeders and will reward you with lots of flowers if fertilized well. They are not phosphorus sensitive like some Australian native plants and do not need specialized fertilizer.
Sturt’s Desert Peas don’t like too much water, so don’t overwater them. Bottom watering may help to prevent rotting at the base of the stem. Mounding the soil, planting under eaves, unglazed terracotta pots, and hanging baskets may help them survive in rainy areas.
To keep plants compact and flowering well, pinch out the tips to encourage compact growth. Do not allow runners to become longer than 3ft. Cut back old stems after flowering, this will encourage new growth from the center of the plant.
A few seeds will germinate much later than the rest, so you might find new plants appearing weeks or months after sowing the seeds.
If you succeed it will be worth it. The flowers are large and numerous, and the color is intensely red. They are one of the most spectacular flowers in the pea family.
Sturt’s Desert Pea makes a great cut flower. If flowers are picked just as they open, they can last up to 30 days in water.
In the wild in Central Australia the flowers are pollinated by birds. However, even without pollinators and other plants around, you might find some seed pods are formed, giving you seeds for future planting. Allow the pods to dry completely before harvesting.
Some of you may know of the Blue Sun Cave in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, which has various Kumeyaay pictographs inside it, including several suns, and one particular blue sun from which the cave gets its name. The surrounding area has ample evidence of native habitation including pottery shards, seed grinding holes, and an overhanging rock shelter with smoke marks from fires.
Last year we just happened to visit the cave around sunset in November and discovered that a shaft of sunlight penetrates the cave just before the sun sets behind the nearby hills. I took photos of this event, as shown below. The phenomenon only lasted for a few minutes.
Returning to the site a month and a half later and examining the situation further, I discovered that a small triangle of sky is formed between the cave mouth, a boulder in front of the cave, and the nearby hills, as shown below.
This arrangement appears to create a natural astronomical calendar that only allows the sun to penetrate the cave for a few minutes just before sunset, and only for several weeks either side of the winter solstice when the sun is correctly aligned with the triangular aperture between the rocks.
To me, it seemed obvious that this was why the Kumeyaay painted suns inside the cave. The cave served as a natural calendar for the Kumeyaay that marked the winter solstice. There is another "solstice cave" in Anza-Borrego with suns painted inside, and Native Americans have been known to mark such natural calendars in other parts of the southwest.
I did some quick online research and found out that these rock calendars are known as "sun daggers", because the shaft of sunlight has a dagger-like shape. Often Native Americans mark these sites with rock art.
For example here are some "sun daggers" similar to the one I observed at Blue Sun Cave.
This one is in Colorado and marks the spring and autumn equinoxes.
Another Kumeyaay solstice calendar After thinking about this for a while I realized there is another Kumeyaay astronomical calendar in this area. It's located at the El Vallecito archeological site, just across the Mexican border near the town of La Rumorosa. The site is the largest collection of Kumeyaay rock art in the region. One particular pictograph is known as El Diablito, which means "The Little Devil". Apparently in the early morning of the winter solstice a sun dagger enters the boulder cave where El Diablito resides and passes through his eyes. I've been to the El Vallecito Archeological Site a few times and have seen the El Diablito pictograph, but I haven't seen it on the winter solstice. I'll have to see if I check that out some time https://wiki2.org/en/El_Vallecito http://lastadventurer.com/last-adventurers-fieldnotes/elvallecitorockart
Well it just so happens we are going camping in Anza-Borrego again this coming weekend and I noticed that Saturday December 21st, 2019 is the winter solstice. This means it would be a great time to check out the Blue Sun Cave's sun dagger again. The question however, was when would we need to be there?
Looking at the EXIF data for the photos I took of the sun dagger last year, I found out that I took the photos between 3:25 and 3:29pm on November 10th, 2018. So the phenomenon lasted no more than about 5 minutes Using timeanddate.com I was able to determine that sunset on that day was at 4:46pm, and that sunset on the winter solstice of 2018 was at 4:42pm. I was also able to determine that those sunset times are the same in 2019. So there is only a four minute difference between the time of sunset on November 10th and December 21st.
So it is reasonable to assume that the sun dagger will appear in the Blue Sun Cave on December 21st, 2019 between about 3:20 and 3:25pm.
Let's see how I go checking it out. I wonder if I can get video? I'll post the results here next week.
Update, December 23rd, 2019.
Well that idea was thoroughly debunked. You can see the shadow on the cave entrance at sunset in this pic. On the winter solstice the sun is too low and therefore sets too far south to enter the cave at all. Wah waaah. I was completely and unequivocally wrong.
Here's what's flowering on the balcony this morning: Fenestraria rhopalophylla, the Window Plant. It normally lives buried in desert sands in Namibia with just the windowed leaf tips poking above the surface to allow light to enter the plant underground. Not long ago this was a rare plant in cultivation. However it's easy growing has made it a lot more common, and now it can be found in the gardening section of big box stores such as Target, Walmart and Home Depot. Here's what it looks like in habitat. This is a pic I got from the internet.
Succulent Revival I had a revival of my interest in succulent plants this autumn. I've been growing cactuses* and succulents for about 25 years now, which started with my dad and grandfather growing them when I was a kid. With the renewed interest, I decided to expand my plant collection significantly for the first time in several years. I live in Southern California and grow my plants outdoors, with no cover against the elements because I just don't have much space. This has caused my collection to undergo natural selection over the years. Anything that can't handle the baking summer sun or the occasional heavy winter rainfall simply dies. However this time I was a little smarter with my choices and looked for plants that I knew were from winter rainfall areas and would therefore be more likely to survive here. * You don't need to use Latin plurals anymore. Latin is dead. It's been dead for about 1500 years. The word "cacti" can now be spelled "cactuses". Get with the times! Another thing I've started doing is collecting seeds of rare and unusual succulent plants. I intend to propagate them. It's a whole lot cheaper to buy rare plants as seeds and grow them yourself. Even moderately rare plants can go for $50-$100 or even more. Growing them yourself saves a lot of money. You just need some care and patience, several years of time for the plants to grow from seed, and an expectation that some things might die along the way. It's also a whole lot more fun to watch them grow than just buying plants off the internet or from a nursery. So I bought a bunch of pots and trays and a bunch of soil ingredients and put them over at my father-in-law's house where there's some space. He has a vegetable garden he no longer uses so I took over some of that space. Here I can begin germinating my seeds. Autumn might not seem like the best time to start sowing seeds, but some of these winter growing plants do germinate in autumn or winter, which is when the rains or fog begins in their native homes in the deserts of Southwestern Africa. So I've managed to get a few things to come up already. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dave's Succulent Soil Just as a quick aside, I'd like to mention that I make my own succulent soil. You can't rely on so-called "cactus potting soil" that you find at most nurseries and garden centers because they generally contain too much organic matter. Succulents live in deserts and perfer a soil that's made of mostly inorganic components. Highly organic soils tend not to drain well and hold too much water for succulents. They also harbor fungi and pests that can be detrimental to succulents. So it's best to make your own succulent soil. Here are the ingredients for my soil.
1 part perlite. You can also use pumice such as Dry Stall, which can be bought from animal feed stores.
1 part scoria. This is a type of lava rock. It comes in a black or red color, or even mixed, but I prefer the red because it looks more "deserty". Try to get particles less than 3/4 inch otherwise you'll have big chunks in your soil.
1 part quartz sand. This can be bought as pool filter sand in 50 pound bags from hardware stores or Walmart. It's pure quartz sand that's been washed and had the large and small particles seived out so it comes as 20 grit particles, perfect for sucuclent soil. Paver sand, coarse river sand, or any other kind of washed sand can also be used. Don't use beach sand because it contains salt and will hold a lot of water because it's too fine. I've also used decomposed granite in the past, but be warned that it can sometimes contain a lot of fine particles, depending on the batch, and those fine particles will make your soil hold a lot of water for a long time, which is bad for succulents. Keep the particle size of your soil on the coarser side for good drainage.
1 part potting soil. This is the stuff that comes in plastic bags at most nurseries and garden centers. You can even buy the "cactus, palm and citrus soil" but it makes no difference.
DO NOT USE:
Vermiculite. It holds way too much water for succulents.
Rice hulls. These will go moldy and make your plants rot.
Non-porous gravel or pebbles. These larger particles contribute no air spaces or water retention to your soil and are simply a waste of space in your pots.
Mix these ingredients thoroughly by whatever means. A concrete mixer can be useful if you have one. I only make small amounts at a time so I just pour the ingredients onto the ground and kneel down and mix by hand. ONce mixed, you now have your succulent soil. Adjust the ratios of ingredients slightly to give the soil different properties to match the requirements of different plants.
End of digression. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Tylecodon singularis While looking around online for plants to add to my collection, I found out about a plant called Tylecodon singularis. It's an extremely rare plant that grows only in crevices in limstone layers around the mouths of a few caves in the desert of Southern Namibia. The population has been decimated by illegal collection. It's actually a kind of freak of the succulent world and you wouldn't even know it was from the Crassulaceae family until it flowered. Fortunately t's easy to grow and some hobbyists have managed to cultivate and propagate it. I found some seeds being sold online in the Netherlands. Importing seeds into the country can be an issue. So I applied for a USDA permit to import a small batch of seeds. This permit is free and can be filled out online. https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/planthealth/import-information/permits/plants-and-plant-products-permits/plants-for-planting/ct_smalllots_seed I'm starting to wonder if this was a good idea, since the permit application might take 1 to 6 weeks. By then it may be getting late in the plant's winter growing season for me to plant the seeds and get decent sized plants that can survive on their own before their summer dormancy set in. However the people in the Netherlands assure me the seedlings are opportunistic and will grow through the summer if kept cool and shaded and given water. Phew! I guess I can add "endangered species preservation" to my resume. Here's the Llifle entry for Tylecodon singularis. http://www.llifle.com/…/Crassula…/35331/Tylecodon_singularis
Here are some pictures I found online of Tylecodon singularis, including one in habitat.
Update 12/20/2019 I got my USDA permit to import seeds of Tylecodon singularis from the Netherlands today. The permit only took 2 days to get. I sent it on to the seed suppler and should get my seeds soon.
That's all for now. Come back to this blog post later and hopefully I'll have some updates about the various plants I've mentioned.
This is the trip we did to Rancho El Topo and Canyon El Tajo in Northern Baja California, Mexico on October 19th & 20th. We stayed in a converted barn, had a campfire, rode mountain bikes, went horse riding, and did some basic rock climbing. We also did a hike to "The Notch", which is a break in the nearby granite spires where you can enjoy views over Canyon Tajo, all the way over Laguna Salada to the Cucapa Mountains and beyond. You can see my photos of the weekend here. Unfortunately Google Photos doesn't allow public photo albums or allow you to embed a slideshow, so that's why I've switched to Flickr. https://photos.app.goo.gl/KQc1btC2nFrQgeyR7 https://www.flickr.com/gp/183162317@N05/J797n6 Here is a 10 minute video of our hike to The Notch. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ub2TYG2hZ24
In a previous blog post I showed you how to create a network-level ad blocker using a Raspberry Pi and Pi-Hole. Here is a link to that blog post https://www.badperson.net/2019/11/easy-headless-low-power-raspberry-pi-hole.html This blog post assumes you have already built your Pi-Hole device and want to switch it from WiFi to a cabled connection and reduce its power consumption to the lowest level possible. If you don't already have a Pi-hole running then I suggest you go to the link above and follow my instructions to build one, otherwise this post won't be any use to you. By now you've hopefully been using your ad blocker for a while and enjoyed the ad-free internet experience. Here's my Pi-Hole dashboard.
As you can see, since I setup the Pi-hole a week ago, it has received 36,847 DNS requests from 4 devices on my network (two laptops and two phones). Out of those, 9,651 requests were blocked because they were requests for known ad-serving domain names that are on the Pi-hole block list. That's 26.2% of my total DNS requests that were blocked. The number of domain names on the Pi-hole blocklist is 116,818. If you see these numbers updating then your Pi-hole is working just fine to block ads on your network. Now it's time to switch from WiFi to a cabled connection. Why would you want to do that? There are two reasons:
A cable connection is faster than a WiFi connection
Having another wireless device on your network creates more interference and can slows your WiFi connection.
Before we start with the switch to cable, open a command line window, and ping your Pi-hole device. In Windows you open the command line by typing "cmd" in the search box and pressing Enter. On the command line type "ping pi.hole -4 -n 20". This will ping your Pi-hole 20 times using the IPv4 address. You can leave out the "-4" if you want, the result will be the same but it will use the IPv6 address of your Pi.
In this example I pinged my Pi-hole 20 times and the average time to get a reply from the Pi-hole was 7 milliseconds. We'll take a look at this again later once the device is cabled to see how much faster it is. Hardware required To cable up your Raspberry Pi you're going to need a micro-USB-to-ethernet adapter and a short ethernet cable. Here are the ones I bought on Amazon. Plugable micro-USB-to-ethernet adapter. Other brands will also work. Be sure to get the micro-USB type so it can plug into your Raspberrry Pi. This one only does 100Mb/sec internet and not Gigabit ethernet, but that's fine because the amount of data going over this connection is quite small and it works fast enough for this purpose. You can get a faster one if you want. There are also adapters like this that have a few USB ports if you want to add other peripherals to your Pi, for example if you have other services and projects running on the same Pi device. However, since my Pi is dedicated to running only Pi-hole I don't need that. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00RM3KXAU
Ethernet cable, 6 inches long, Cat5E, with RJ45 connectors on each end. For some reason the blue one is the cheapest. This cable can support up to Gigabit speeds but is not certified for Gigabit speeds, whatever that means. Since my adapter can only do 100Mb/sec I have no need to use Cat6 or higher rated cable. Remember this is only going to be carrying DNS requests, so it's not much data and doesn't need to be super high speed. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008F0YD46
Since my Google WiFi router is powered by a USB-C connector, I decided that I would power both my router and the Raspberry Pi from the same power supply. This saves me having two power supplies and two cables, and leaves one more power socket free on my power strip/surge suppressor. My Google Wifi router uses 9 watts of power and the Pi uses no more than 1.25 watts, which is 10.25 watts total. The power supply from the kit can supply 12.5 watts, so it will be enough to power both devices. To split the power cable I bought a 1ft USB cable with a USB-micro connector on one end and a USB-C connector on the other end. I will cut this cable in half and solder the power wires to the power supply. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07CWFNSSN
Once you have these new items, simply plug the ethernet adapter into the USB port of your Pi, plug the ethernet cable into the adapter, and plug the other end of the ethernet cable into one of the ports on your router. My Google WiFi router only has one available port.
If your ethernet adapter has lights on it then these should now be lit and the activity light may be blinking. In my photo above you can also see that I've already made my USB Y-cable to power the router and Pi from the same power supply, and I'll go through making this cable at the end of this post. Configuring the new cabled network interface Now open the VNC connection to your Pi using VNC Viewer, just as I showed you in the previous blog post. Now open a Terminal window.
In the terminal window, type "ifconfig" and press Enter. Now if you scroll up in the terminal window you will see that you now have a new network interface called eth0. This is your new cabled connection to the router. You'll also see that it has a different IP address than the wlan0 interface. This is also shown in the box that appears if you hover the mouse pointer over the network icon at the top right of the screen.
The eth0 network interface has already been allocated an IP address by my router's DHCP service. The new network interface will default to DHCP to get it's IP address from your router and that's fine. However, remember that for Pi-hole to work, it needs to always have the same IP address. So go into your router and reserve this address so the Pi always gets the same IP address from your router. This will be the same or similar process you used before to reserve an IP address for your Pi's WiFi connection. How to do this will vary by router. Remember that your Pi now has two network interfaces connected to the router, one is the WiFi connection and the other is the cable connection. Here is how to reserve an IP address in a Google Wifi router. If the device uses DHCP then it's MAC address will always get the same IP address from DHCP. If the device is set to static it will also work because the router will not allocate the Pi's address to another device. So it works fine both ways. Open the Google Wifi app..... Click on Devices Click on raspberrypi Chrome OS Device That's the cable connection, the other is the WiFi
Click the three dots at top right and select Reserve IP Click NEXT to reserve
Now that you have your Pi-hole connected to your router by a cable, it's time to switch the Pi-hole ad blocker to start using that interface.
Open the Pi-hole admin web page in your browser. This was the browser bookmark you created earlier. You can also type into the browser URL box "pi.hole/admin" or the IP address of your Pi, e.g. 192.168.86.80/admin
On the left side of the page click Login and login to the admin page using the password you changed earlier. I would assume you changed the web admin password to the same one you changed for the pi login, that would make sense.
In the Pi-hole admin page, go to Settings on the left, then click the DNS tab. On the right you will see options for Interface listening behavior select "Listen on all interfaces" and then be sure to scroll to the bottom of the page and press Save.
OK. Let's take a break for a moment and have a look at some things.
At the top left of the admin web page you will see the Status box.
It shows some basic info, for example that Pi-hole is active and the CPU temperature. The next line below shows the system load averages for 1, 5, and 15 minutes. The way these values are calculated is actually quite complex, they are actually exponentially-damped moving sum averages that use 1, 5, and 15 minutes as constraints in the equation that calculates them. These are not just CPU load values, but also take into consideration other system resources such as disk access, number of CPU cores, and processes that are not actively running but are idle and waiting to run. Because of this the numbers can have odd values. The Pi Zero W only has one CPU core so it's load values are somewhere between 0 and 2. Values of zero means the system is idle. Values around 1 mean the system is busy. Values closer to 2 mean your Pi is overloaded and you will probably notice it responding slowly to your inputs. The actual values of the numbers are not all that useful, the important thing is that they allow you to compare relative values of system load under different conditions when the computer is doing different things, and therefore determine what is impacting system load. For simplicity's sake you can think of these values as the average system load for 1, 5, and 15 minutes. In this way the three values allow you to see how the system load is changing over time. You can read more about system load values here:
The next line in the status box is memory usage. I expect you to have a memory usage of about 30% right now if you're using a Pi Zero W and only running Pi-hole, the GUI, terminal window, and VNC server. The GUI you are using actually takes up about 10% of the Pi Zero W's memory. It also uses some CPU cycles as well, even when it's not being used. Another thing that takes some memory and CPU is the VNC connection. If we get rid of the GUI and VNC, not only will you save some memory but also some electricity because the CPU won't need to manage them.
Rather than the system load values on the Pi-hole web page, a better way to look at CPU load is from the command line using "top". Go back to VNC and open a terminal window in your Pi and type "top".
The important columns on this screen are %CPU, %MEM and COMMAND. I've circled VNCserver in this example. As you can see, VNCserver and VNCagent together were using 14% of CPU time when I took this screenshot, and this was at idle. If you start moving the terminal window around inside VNC you'll see this value can shoot up as high as 75%. VNC uses a lot of CPU time. However it only uses about 5% of memory, so is not a memory hog. Memory is not a power concern because memory uses the same amount of power regardless of how full or empty it is. However memory might be a concern if you are running multiple services on a Pi and each one takes some memory. The Pi-hole ad blocker uses very little memory and CPU time.
Let's look at a couple of other items in the list. The next one down is lxterminal. This is the terminal window you are using to view "top", and as you can see it is using 10.1% of CPU time and 11.1% of memory in this screenshot. After that is Xorg, which is the GUI you are using, with all it's fancy windows and easy to use menus. When I took this screen shot it was using 8.8% of CPU time and 9.1% of memory. You will see these values update every few seconds. Try moving the terminal window around in the GUI and you'll see how VNCserver and Xorg cause large increases in the CPU load.
When you're done press Ctrl-C to exit out of "top".
So as you can see there are some services running on your Pi which use a lot of CPU time and they are mostly things to do with the graphical user interface (GUI) you're using. Since your Pi is only going to be running Pi-hole without you logged into it most of the time, it makes sense that to reduce the electricity used by the CPU, you can turn the GUI and VNC services off. Actually, since you're no longer using the HDMI to connect to a display, you can turn that off as well. And since you've cabled your Pi to your router you can also turn off the WiFi too. How about Bluetooth and audio? We've never used those in this setup, so they can also be turned off to save power, memory, and CPU.
How will you connect to your Pi if you turn off VNC? You will use a service called SSH. SSH stands for Secure SHell. SSH provides a secure command line connection to your Pi over the network, just like the terminal window. The service that listens for and makes SSH connections to your Pi uses only a tiny amount of CPU and other resources, so it is much more efficient than the GUI and VNC. If you remember from the first blog post, I had you turn on SSH when you turned on VNC, so SSH should already be running.
However, before we turn off VNC, let's use the GUI to turn off the other things first. Let's turn off the HDMI display, WiFi, Bluetooth, audio, and setup Pi-hole to listen only on the wired connection to your router.
Your Pi Zero W uses no more than 250mA, which is very little to begin with, but every little bit counts, especially since this device will be running 24/7/365. Turning off the HDMI chip probably saves about 30mA. I don't know how much are saved by turning off WiFi, Bluetooth, and audio, but we know we don't need them so they can be turned off.
Turning off these parts is done by editing the boot config file: /boot/config.txt
This can be done from the terminal window by typing "sudo mousepad". This will open the text editor called Mousepad and give you root permissions so you can edit the system file /boot/config.txt. Don't worry if some warnings appear in the terminal window when you run Mousepad. If you're familiar with command line text editors like vi or nano, you can use those as well, but I'll give the Mousepad example here because it's a lot easier to work with.
In Mousepad, use the File menu to open a file. Click the boot folder at left and then scroll down to config.txt and open it.
Near the top of the file you're going to add a few new lines. These are the lines you'll add to the file to turn off the HDMI, WiFI, and Bluetooth.
# These lines added by Dave to turn off WiFi, Bluetooth, and the HDMI display hdmi_blanking=2 dtoverlay=pi3-disable-wifi dtoverlay=pi3-disable-bt
If you bought the black case for the Pi Zero W then you can also turn off the power & activity light on the board. I prefer to leave it on because I have the clear case and it's useful to know if the Pi is actually turned on. However if you turn it off you will save another 30mA of power. If you want to turn off the LED then add these two lines to the three lines above.
Here is my /boot/config.txt file with the new lines I've added.
Now scroll to the bottom of the file and find the line for the audio, dtparam=audio=on. Change the setting from on to off.
Now you can save the file and exit Mousepad. Important step: Remember not long ago that we set Pi-hole to listen on both the cabled and WiFi interfaces. Now we can make the switch to the cabled connection in your router. Go into your router's settings and change the DNS addresses to the ones for the wired interface. You can find these by typing "ifconfig" into the terminal window and looking at the eth0 interface. In the example below the IPv4 address is 192.168.86.84 and the IPv6 address is the long one that has eight blocks of four numbers. If you don't do this, then when you turn off your Pi's WiFi interface your connection to the internet will go down. This is because your router will not be able to resolve DNS requests because your Pi is your DNS and you turned off the WiFi link to it. If you make a mistake and need to recover your internet connection, just set your router's DNS address back to default, e.g. Google's DNS server address, 220.127.116.11
OK, now you have edited your boot config file and set your router to use the new DNS addresses of your Pi's cable connection. The next step is to reboot your Pi. To reboot simply type "reboot" in the terminal window and press enter. Your VNC connection will be lost. You can close the VNC window.
Now go back to VNC and open a new connection using the new IP address you got for the eth0 interface. You will now be connecting via the wired interface instead of the Wifi, because the Wifi has been turned off. In the above example the address is 192.168.86.84. Simply subsitute your address.
When you reconnect VNC it will give you a warning about a Duplicate VNC Server Identity. Simply click Continue to accept and store the new identity.
Login again as user pi with the password you changed earlier. Check the box "Remember password". When the GUI opens in VNC you will see in the top right corner that the audio icon is grayed out and has a red cross on it. You will also see the WiFi and Bluetooth icons are no longer there and have been replaced with a pair of arrows that represent the wired connection.
OK, let's go back to the Pi-hole web interface. Use yor browser to go to the new address of your Pi-hole. You should edit the bookmark you created earlier with the new address.
Login to the admin interface, go to Settings, and go to the DNS tab. In the interface listening behavior you will see that you are still listening on all interfaces. The second option is to listen on wlan0, but we just turned this WiFi interface off.
This is not really a problem, but since I'm being obsessive about this, I feel I need to fix it. You can leave it if you want. The only way I've found so far to fix this is to repair the Pi-hole install. To do this, simply open a terminal window and type "pihole -r". When asked if you want to Repair or Reconfigure Pi-hole, select Reconfigure and then press TAB and Enter to select Ok. I'm sure there must be a config file somewhere you can edit to make this change without reconfiguring the entire Pi-hole install, but I haven't found it yet.
Press return three times to get past the first few screens.
Use the down arrow key to select Quad9 filtered DNSSEC as your upstream DNS, then press TAB and Enter for OK.
For protocols press TAB and Enter for OK.
For the static IP selection press TAB and Enter for Yes.
Press Enter at the IP Conflict screen for OK.
Press Enter at the IPv6 screen for OK.
For the web admin interface press TAB and Enter for OK.
For the web server screen press TAB and Enter for OK.
For Privacy levels, select your privacy level according to this web page. If you choose higher levels of privacy you will not be able to view statistics like Top Permitted and Blocked Domains, and Top Clients. I actually like these statistics so I'm leaving them enabled for now. Just be aware that they require another set of logs to be recorded. : https://docs.pi-hole.net/ftldns/privacylevels/
The install will now continue. When it completes it should show the same IPv4 and IPv6 addresses you used for DNS in your router already, and the web admin page password will be unchanged.
Now when you go to the Pi-hole admin web page, Login, go to Settings, and click the DNS Tab. Under Interface listening behavior you can now select Listen only on interface eth0. Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the page and click Save.
That was a lot of crap just to change that, and it wasn't all that necessary, but now it's fixed. One day I'll try to find out where that Listening interface info is stored and just change it there. There is a file at /etc/dnsmasq.d/01-pihole.conf that changes its last line when you change the listening interface in the web page, but changing the file manually and restarting Pi-hole does not change the listening interface is the web page.
Now we have your Pi-role running on a cable to your router, and the WiFi, Bluetooth, audio, and HDMI have been turned off.
The next step is to turn off VNC. Once you do that you will be connecting to your Pi by SSH. You'll remember in the last blog post that I had you turn on SSH when you turned on VNC, so it should already be running on your Pi. Before we turn off VNC however, we must test to make sure SSH works, because if it doesn't and you turn off VNC, your Pi will become uncontactable on your network and you'll probably have to start the entire OS install process from the beginning again. (Actually, I think there is a serial service on the USB port that you could use for a terminal connection).
Technical Note: For SSH to work it needs to use port 22, and your router and firewall will need to allow traffic on port 22. If that sounds like gobbledygook to you then don't worry about it. In most cases your firewall and router will allow traffic on port 22 automatically because it's the standard port for SSH. I'm only mentioning it here in case you have problems with SSH, which I certainly hope you don't. If so then you may need to open up port 22 on your firewall or router and make sure SSH is working before you disable VNC.
First of all you will need a program to connect to your Pi with SSH. There are many SSH clients out there but the one I use is Tera Term. Download and install Tera Term from this page:
In Tera Term, put in the IP address of your Pi and press OK.
You will get a message saying that your Pi is not in the list of known hosts. Simply press Continue to add it to the list of known hosts.
You will now be logging into as "pi" using the password you set before.
Once you've entered the username and password, click OK.
You will now be logged into your Pi with SSH. If Tera Term doesn't connect then the connection may have timed out while you were reading these instruction. Simply close Tera Term and try again.
This window behaves in exactly the same way as the terminal windows we've used before in the GUI. For example, type "top" and press Enter to see CPU load.
Now that we have tested that SSH works, we can turn off VNC. Go back to the VNC connection to your Pi. Click on the Raspberry icon at top left, select Preferences, and select Raspberry Pi Configuration. In the configuration select the Interfaces tab and Disable VNC and press OK. If your VNC screen is too small go into Pi settings and change the appearance settings to those for a Small screen.
Your VNC connection will now be lost.
Go back to the Tera Term and type "top" into the terminal. You'll notice in "top" that VNC, Xorg, and lxterminal are no longer present because we turned those off when we turned off VNC. As you can see, "top" is using the most resources now, with pi-hole in second place. Overall your processor is idle 98.4% of the time. Nice!
Use Ctrl-C to exit top.
Remember at the beginning of this blog post I had you ping your Pi to see how fast the connection was? The average reply time from the Pi was 7 milliseconds. Let's have a look what it is now. Go to a command line window on your PC and ping the Pi using "ping pi.hole -4 -n 20".
As you can see the average ping reply time is now 2 milliseconds, or less than one third of the time it took through the WiFi connection. Now you can see why cabling the connection is a good idea, it's always faster than a wireless connection. Using a cable also reduces the amount of radio interference on your WiFi network, especially since this device is going to be sitting very close to your WiFi router.
To be honest, this reduction in time isn't actually a big thing. You saw at the beginning of this blog post that my Pi-hole had received 36,847 DNS requests in the 24 hours since I'd got it running. If we multiply that by the time difference between a WiFi and a cable connection (5ms) it only amounts to 3 minutes over that whole day. It's not a whole lot of time wasted while I'm waiting for a web page to load. Also the WiFi modems on the Pi and router should turn down the radio power to communicate with each other, reducing unwanted interference. So this is really all just an exercise of diminishing returns and more about learning some Linux.
OK, now go back to the Tera Term SSH window.
We are nearly done. Now we can get rid of the last few things. In the terminal window. Type "sudo raspi-config" and press Enter. This will open the Raspberry Pi configuration where we can make changes to the system.
One of the first things we can do is change the hostname of your Raspberri Pi. Currently it's called raspberrypi. You can change it to whatever you want as long as you follow the rules that are shown: use only lower case characters, numbers, and hyphens.
First of all select option 2 Network Options using the arrows and press Enter.
Select N1 Hostname and press Enter. Enter your new hostname.
Press Tab and Enter to select OK.
The Desktop GUI is still running on your Pi so it's time to turn it off. We're also going to turn off the splash screen that appears at bootup. So, on the main screen again, select Boot Options. Select option B1 and then select option B1 again so that your Pi boots to a terminal console where you log in, just the same as the terminal you're using now. After this change you will be logging into that terminal console when you log in with SSH using Tera Term.
When set, you will be taken back to the main screen. Select Boot Options again and option B3 Splash screen. Use the arrow keys to select No and press enter to turn off the bootup Splash screen.
If you need to turn on VNC again, go to Interfacing options and select VNC and turn it on again. This is good to know if you ever need to go back to the GUI again. However you will also need to turn on the Desktop GUI in the Boot Options, otherwise when you VNC to the Pi you will get the command line terminal that your Pi now boots into.
Select Finish on the main menu and when asked to reboot, select Ok.
Your Pi will now reboot with the new setup.
That's It!!! You have now configured your Pi-hole device for minimal power usage.
You will always be connecting to your Pi with SSH from now on. However there's really no need to log into the Pi because it will run fine on its own and update itself without any interaction from you.
Note that the Pi-hole admin web page still works exactly the same as before, so you can see statistics and manage your Pi-hole.
That's all folks. Enjoy your low power ad-free internet experience. If you have any difficulties just leave a comment below. Also, don't be a bragger about your Pi-hole. If everyone had one of these things the internet wouldn't be free and you'd have to pay for most web sites. Be happy there are other people out there who endure ads so you don't have to. Welcome to our little secret, you non-conformist!! 😄
Look out for a future a future blog post where I'll show you how to install Pi-hole on Android so you canhave it on your mobile devices as well. Thanks for reading. Subscribe to my blog post at the top right of this page for regular updates.
-Dave Bad Person Epilogue: USB power In this final section I'll quickly show you how to cable up USB power. You don't have to do this, you can just use the power supply that came with the Raspberry Pi Zero W kit. However, since my Google WiFi router uses a USB-C connection for power, and the Pi will be sitting right next to it, I decided to take the power supply from the kit and turn it into a Y-cable with a USB-C on one branch and a USB-micro on the other. That way I have one less cord and one more power outlet available. According to Google, my router takes 9 watts and comes with a 15 watt power supply. The Pi Zero W uses no more than 250mA, or a quarter of an amp, which multiplied by 5 volts gives 1.25 watts. So the router and the Pi together are a total of 10.25 watts. The power supply in the Pi kit is rated at 2.5A at 5V, which means it can deliver 12.5 watts, so it will be able to deliver enough power to run both these devices.
As I showed at the beginning of this blog post, I bought a 1ft cable with a USB-C on one end and a USB-micro on the other. I simply cut this cable in half. I also took off the fancy braiding with a razor knife because once you snip the cord the braiding starts to fray and misbehave. With the power supply cord from the kit, simply snip off the USB-micro on the end. I keep the micro connector in case I might want to use it later, so I leave a couple of inches of cord on the connector for future use.
Strip off the outer layers of the cables. The USB cable has a layer of braided shielding wire, and under that is a layer of shielding foil. You can tease these out and expose the wires underneath.
Below is a picture of the wires inside the USB cable. Starting from left and going clockwise, the wires are:
The first wire is the braided shielding, which I've teased out and twisted into a single wire.
Next is a layer of shielding foil.
The red wire is the positive power wire.
Next there are some fibers and a piece of string. These give the cable strength so it doesn't stretch or crush so easily.
The green and white wires carry data through the cable. These are a differential signalling pair and represent one data channel. Differential signalling makes the data connection more resistance to electromagnetic noise from external sources outside the wire.
Finally there is a bare wire which appears to be the power negative wire. If you use a multimeter you'll see this wire is connected with the outer shielding of the cable and can therefore be tied together with those.
For the bare metal wires including the shielding braid, foil, and the negative power wire, you can twist them together. The green and white data wires can be cut off short and will not be used. The red power wire can be stripped back a little for soldering.
Here I have joined the power wires of two USB cables together and soldered them.
Now I've soldered the red and black wires from the power supply to the positive and negative power wires of the USB cables. As you vcan see my soldering isn't the tidiest. If you have some heat shrink remember to put that on before you solder the wires.
Shrink the heat shrink tubing and/or wrap the cable with electrical tape so the power wires don't touch and short out. Here's the Y-cable I made.
Tadaa! Here is the Y-cable providing power to both the router and Pi. Dang, now that I look at that ethernet cable, it's obvious that it needs to be 3 inches long instead of 6. Doh!
Look out for a future a future blog post where I'll show you how to install Pi-hole on Android so you canhave it on your mobile devices as well. Thanks for reading. Subscribe to my blog post at the top right of this page for regular updates.