Welcome to the 79th Edition of The Catch Block!

In this edition: a musing about progress, involving appropriately nerdy switches. Plus: Visual Studio 2022 launches in November; new head content and page title controls in Blazor; how do we know if our code is readable?; and debunking the myth of the 10x programmer.

A Nintendo Switch console, showing the main menu, with red and blue remotes attached.
Wrong kind of Switch! Photo by Alvaro Reyes / Unsplash

On Progress and Smart Switches

One of the earliest editions of this very newsletter contained a story about me, as a "not great with physical stuff" person, wanting to replace all the electrical outlets in our house because, frankly, they were a fire hazard. Hiring someone to do it was too expensive, and I needed a project, so I took it on myself. When it was done, I was very glad that I took the time.

The Catch Block #8 - Outlets, a Tester, Handoffs, Pi, and Ducks
Outlets, a tester, handoffs, Gameboy, ducks, Pi, previews, strategy, and GraphQL.

The work itself was enormously satisfying; it felt amazing to have tangible evidence of things that I accomplished. I got pretty melancholy about the whole thing, though, when I realized something: who's gonna know I did it? With the notable exception of my spouse, no one would know, just by looking at the outlets, that I had replaced them. The majority of the story was me coming to terms with that realization, and discovering that it really is the same with software: most of the work you do is hidden.

I bring this up because I'm embarking on a slower and more expensive, but far more visible change to our house. For this project, I'm making slow progress, but it is still progress. I'm replacing the standard rocker light switches with something more appropriately nerdy: smart connected switches.

Follow us over on Instagram @twinsfisch #fischertwinsphotography. Please tag us when using our photo. Thanks!
Yep, those things are going buh-bye. Photo by Isabella and Zsa Fischer / Unsplash

The idea is that now I should be able to control all the lights in my house from my phone, set up automatic changes (e.g. "make the Halloween decorations and come on at sunset and turn off at 10PM"), and generally make our house a just a bit smarter.

I started doing this by installing switches that look like this:

The one on the left. Also, I need new screws for this 2-gang.

These are Wemo V2 Switches (affiliate link), and so far they've been pretty nice. They feel sturdy, they appear to be responsive and the biggest thing, in my opinion, is they were super easy to install, provided you know your way around your home's electrical box.

I like seeing the real-world results of my work. But this isn't as satisfying as the electrical outlets were, probably because I have to do this much more slowly; each of these switches is $30, and I need somewhere around 25 of them, plus six dimmers and four three-way switches. Heading right out and spending more than $1000 on silly little switches is not exactly feasible for us at the moment, so I'm biding my time, buying one or two a month, slowly working towards my ultimate goal of a house full of smart lights.

For this project, the progress comes in fits and starts comes in waves: first when I order the switches, then when they arrive, then when they are installed, then when they are connected. After that, well... both progress, and my personal enjoyment of doing this project, drop off. Mostly because I know in my head that I'm not done yet, and the time until when I will be done is still long and far away.

But it's progress. Progress is slow, sometimes. I guess I'll just have to learn to live with that.

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