Better Living Through Electricity: How the Internet of Things improves my marriage

Short Form


Remote workers make terrible partners, turning your humble sleeping space into a virtual stage for clients a world away.

Find out how a little empathy, a little ingenuity, and a lot of hardware hacking made me a better partner. No more accidental limelight.

Come for the demo, stay for the code.


No matter how many times I’ve gotten the “hardware talk”, I’ve always left with the impression that microcontrollers, the Internet of Things, and I just won’t get along. There are complicated rules and expensive costs, and I can’t afford more of either. After the third time in a row my partner received some “accidental limelight”, however, I decided to try anyway. As it turns out, it’s gotten cheaper and easier than I could have imagined—and most of the “rules” haven’t kept up.

I built an Internet-connected “on-air” light to automatically tell my family when I’m in a call. No more chuckling from the other side of the call, and no pushing a toddler away live on TV.

Along the way, I did some mythbusting:

- Soldering sucks: Lead and you!
- Breadboards are temporary: There’s no more permanent solution…
- Breadboards are immutable: The original “hacking”
- Don’t connect LEDs in parallel: Following the “rules”
- This Side Up: Using the wrong parts in the wrong way
- Batteries are best: Someone else’s goals

Demonstrations will include the working “On Air” light, working code for the device, and working code integrating the device with a MacBook Pro.


hardware, iot, Open Source

Speaking experience

I organize and speak at events in Bellingham, WA. I've spoken at events in Boston, Seattle, and Vancouver.


  • Michael Schoonmaker

    Test Double


    I want to make art. I’ll even use a paintbrush, if it’s absolutely necessary.

    Before I got a “real job” [Thanks, Dad…], I made video games. To the chagrin of my fellow consultants at Test Double, I still cling to many of the bottom-up, test-after habits I developed while pushing pixels and building digital worlds. The rest of the time, I toe the line: test-driving web applications and mentoring people of all stripes in empathetic, humane software development.

    When not in my Cave, I co-organize the tech meetup for a small city in coastal Washington, pursue the odd hobby, and chase my partner and 2 kids.


      • Title: JavaScriptural Exegesis
      • Track: Theory
      • Room: B202/203
      • Time: 2:303:15pm
      • Excerpt:

        If we’re going to be so religious about our standards and patterns, why not use religious tools to analyze and improve them?

        Exegesis is a tool for nuance and understanding in the absolutes found on bikesheds everywhere, such as “replace all vars with const” and “arrow functions will save your eternal soul”.

      • Speakers: Michael Schoonmaker