Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Small Office Updates

My gray desk with a pair of 27" 5K monitors powered by top-specced 2018 MacBook Pro 15. Philips Hue strip behind the desk.I finally got around to redoing some of the pictures of my office. Some of the minor changes are the acquisition of Sonos One speaker and a couple of nice trinkets. I love my cacti collection. A set of pots with little plants and a set of glass ones. And then there is a steampunk mask we brought from Venice.

Twenty-one panel Nanoleaf arrow on the wall.The biggest change is the addition of a twenty one panel Nanoleaf setup on the wall. This thing is amazingly hard to photograph well because of its high level of brightness, but it really is beautiful in person. I have set to turn on automatically when I walked into the office along with my Hue light-strip behind the desk.

And the back wall is pretty much unchanged.And the last change is my monitor arm setup. So in my process I went from $700 arm to $200 arm to $30 arm. And the latter is one I settled one. It’s made by VIVO. All I wanted was to position my monitors in a perfect straight line next to each other and never touch them again. This cheap arm does just that.

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Thursday, May 9, 2019

Smart Home Update

Latest state of our smart home. The home screen doesn’t list the multitude of switches and other accessories used in customizations and automations.

Cameras are blanked out on purpose, but they actually do provide a live feed and recording inside the Home app.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Smart Home — Devices

Eve Degree, Eve Motion and Wemo Switch on the office wall.In the second part of my smart homes series I wanted to concentrate on specific devices and accessories that we’ve picked and used and our experiences with them. Having said that I want to make sure that it’s understood that there are many other viable and good alternatives on the market.

Our actual use, applications and automations of these devices I will mostly leave for the next post.

Before I start I just wanted to mention that everything that we did in the house with regards to smart devices had a requirement of an ability to control EVERYTHING without a phone or voice. Everything had to have a physical control.

The idea of setting up a smart home must make things easier and not harder. Phone apps and voice triggers do provide deeper options, but everything works just fine without them at all. Neither kids nor guests have phones or access to our internal systems.

Homebridge


Homebridge sever running on Raspberry Pi and Hue Dimmer remote next to iPhone X.I’ll kind of start from the end and one of the last thing that I’ve added to our setup. Homebridge is a an open-source project supported by a large community of developers.

Homebridge allows you to add devices to your HomeKit setup that don’t officially support HomeKit protocol among other things. That expands HomeKit device list significantly.

Homebridge also allows for much higher customization of your setup by providing an ability to create such things as fake switches that you can control and monitor various things in your home with. The possibilities are vast.

I was finally pushed to get a Raspberry Pi and install Homebridge on it when I was trying to get Hue Motion sensor to do and behave how I wanted it to, which ended up being impossible. More on that later.

Having said all that I still prefer devices that do offer native HomeKit support.

Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms


Nest Protect.One of the first thing that we upgraded right after moving in was our ancient fire alarms. Since I was a long time fan of Nest I went with Nest Protect.

One thing that I didn’t realize at the time, because I didn’t know I cared yet, was the fact that none of the Nest devices support HomeKit. Nest is owned by Google after all.

However it seems that specifically Nest Protect is the best device on the market. They automatically run self-checks on batteries and sensors, they show their status with a colored ring every time you turn the lights off, they synchronize with each other and they send notifications to your phone beside the normal alarm to let you know that something is off.

Nest Protect is supposedly can tell a burnt toast from a real fire, and instead blaring an alarm it will light up yellow and tell you in a normal human voice what’s up if it is indeed your cooking’s fault. They also come with motion sensors that allows you to turn a night light on.

And even though I didn’t really need these exposed in HomeKit as I was content with them living in their own app, I did install a Homebridge plug-in for Nest. Might as well, since I had everything running anyhow.

We have a total of six Nest Protects placed throughout the house and are feeling happy and safe with these devices.

Smart Lighting


This is going to be the biggest section in this post. There are many different paths and options to go about smart lighting in your home and is probably the first thing that most people do.

I would split this into three different paths that you can take — bulbs, independent lights and light switches.

Philips Hue

Philips Hue Play on the back of our main TV.Philips was one of the pioneers in the smart lighting with their Hue series. Hue has a lot of options starting with differently shaped bulbs. They also make a bunch of different stand-alone lights and lamps and good number of really nice accessories.

One of the first things that we did in our foray into smart lighting was replacing all our living area BR30 bulbs with Hue color bulbs — total of 8 all in all. While we do have many more bulbs in the house, at $50 a pop Hue bulbs are not a cheap proposition.

When going with smart bulbs there is another consideration — light switches. For smart bulbs to work, the power has to be always on. Asking people to not touch the switches is not an option, yet I didn’t want to remove them completely.

3D printed wall plate for Hue Dimmers on top of toggle switches.The best option that I found was a 3D printed wall plate that goes right over your normal switch plate with a Hue Dimmer remote mounted inside of it. You can still cut the actual power to the bulbs, yet those switches are out of the way and are essentially replaced by smart dimmers.

As far as the operation of the bulbs, originally it felt like a fun, yet useless gimmick. But with time it actually grew on us and we do enjoy setting different moods up.

Bulbs perform well, most of the time. On very rare occasions some bulbs will refuse to cooperate, and a flick of an actual power switch brings it back in line.

We also have some other lights from Philips, specifically a pair of Hue Play bars that you can lay flat, put up vertically or mount them on something like the back wall of your TV.

We also have a pair of Hue Light Strips. They are long LED strips that can be glued to some surface to provide a nice defused light. We also have a number of strip extensions for certain applications such as a long perimeter light under our bed.

With these you want to make sure to actually hide the strip itself from view as it is ugly. Only the light from it should be visible.

Hue requires a use of a bridge for its more advanced features and for native HomeKit support.

And as I mentioned before, Philips also makes a good number of very useful smart accessories that I will go into later in this post.

Nanoleaf Aurora

Nanoleaf Aurora on the wall of my office. These are really hard to photograph well.Nanoleaf is stand-alone light option. Currently there are two types of panels in Nanoleaf’s lineup. The original triangular shapes and newer square shapes. They also announced hexagons at this year’s CES.

We decided to go with original ones. I feel that you can build more interesting designs with triangles and their squire panels have a weird cross in the center that does not look right to my eye.

We have two separate sets of these in our house. One consists of 21 panels and one consists of 12. These also come with a module that can listen to music and animate with the beat.

They are natively supported by HomeKit and unlike Hue can have all their animations initiated directly from Home app.

One small downside is the fact that you’re going to have a power wire sticking out of your configuration. You have to make the best of it, be it hiding the wire behind some furniture, or at least lining it up in way that doesn’t ruin the whole appearance.

Light Switches

Wemo Dimmer Switch.This is probably the cheapest way to get your normal light to act as smart lights. Instead of replacing each bulb with a smart bulb you take out a normal switch and replace it with a smart one.

In our house we have used switches from two brands — Belkin’s Wemo and Lutron’s Caseta. We’ve used both normal switches and dimmers from both of these lines.

Both of these require bridges to work or to work with HomeKit. Caseta uses its own proprietary protocol, so it doesn’t hog your Wi-Fi. Wemo uses Wi-Fi, but most of Wemo’s devices did need a bridge for HomeKit, although that’s changing now with newer devices.

Wemo was originally what we started with. Currently we have eight normal Wemo switches and two dimmers. Wemo switches require neutral wire, but we had it everywhere so it was not a problem.

Lutron Caseta dimmer and regular switches.Caseta has some other amazing applications. It allows you to wire up 3 and 4 way setups. It also allows you to use your old manual switch in 3 way setups, making it the cheapest option on the market. And for a 4 way setup you can use a non-wired Pico remote control that looks just as a usual switch when installed.

We have four standard Caseta switches, one dimmer and one pico remote. A thing of note is that Caseta dimmer does not require a neutral wire.

For my simple applications I still prefer simple Wemo switches. They have a nice feel to them and a pleasant click to them when they activate remotely. But if you want to “smartify” you multi-way setup, Caseta is your friend.

Note, however, that all smart switches will require you to fit a lot more bulk inside the wire box than any standard switch will. These will not fit inside all of the boxes and I have struggled with some in our house as well. But in the end I made it all work.

Smart Thermostats


Ecobee4 smart thermostat.As I have mentioned before my whole smart home dream started at the time when original Nest thermostat came to the market. So it is somewhat ironic that in the end I ended up going with another product.

I’ve done my research and still strongly considered going with Nest, but several factors swayed me to a thermostat made by Ecobee. And one of those factors was in fact a native HomeKit support that Ecobee has and Nest does not.

Another major factor was the way both thermostats work. All the information about Nest comes from reading reviews as I have no personal experience with it.

My understanding that the idea behind Nest is that you never have to fiddle with it after initial learning phase. It learns how and when you prefer your temperature, detects your proximity and just does its thing afterwards — hence learning thermostat.

Ecobee on the other hand gives you a lot of fiddling options and I’m nothing but a major fiddler, so to speak. Another very enticing option for me was the fact Ecobee logs all kinds of data on five minute intervals in a spreadsheet format for you to look over and analyze. I love that.

Both thermostats can employ remote sensors. Ecobee can handle around 30 paired sensors. When it logs the data it will save all the readings of those sensors as well.

So you end up with a file that has the thermostat mode (heat or cool), set temperature, what equipment is running or not running, outside temperature (comes from weather service), inside temperature on all individual sensors and thermostat itself, occupancy (remote sensors report on temperature and occupancy data) and a bunch of other fields. Love it.

However there is another side to all that glory — it all depends on Ecobee servers being up. And specifically at a time when I’m writing this the servers have been down for almost a week now, and your logged data looks more like a Morse code than a steady graph. I bet Nest with Google behind it would not have their servers practically down for a week.

Ecobee3 lite.We had Ecobee since early December and the performance has been stellar, but this particular week that we’re going through now gives me pause. How healthy is Ecobee as a business?

Note that even thought a lot of data logging and remote control does depend on the remote servers, normal thermostat operation and following your set schedule does not need an internet connection at all. So the actual operation is not compromised, but a regular dumb thermostat can do that too.

The only difference with scheduling versus dumb thermostats is that it can be much more granular. I can have a different schedule for each day with as many segments as I want and each segment can rely on the sensors that I select. And with my work schedule that definitely is handy.

The downside with remote sensors is that it uses the average temperature of all your selected sensors. I would much prefer if I could use the lowest reading as the target. With average you can end up with a situation of having 66 degrees in one room, 62 in another, and with a target set at 64 the boiler will not engage, since the average is also 64.

Ecobee has two thermostats on the market right now. There is Ecobee3 lite and Ecobee4. Originally the biggest difference that would matter to me was that Ecobee3 lite could not use remote sensors. But that has changed and is no longer the case.

Ecobee4 comes with Alexa built in, which I have disabled. Ecobee4 however does have an occupancy sensor built in, which Ecobee3 lite does not have.

Currently we have two thermostats in our main floor zones. The hallway one is Ecobee3 lite and the one for the bedrooms is Ecobee4. Alexa was redundant since I have an actual Echo device in that same bedroom.

Ecobee has a feature called Smart Recovery. What it does is that you don’t have to guess how long it will take for your house to reach a certain temperature. It tries to analyze your house along with outside temperature and eventually learns to start the heat so it will be at your desired point by the time that point arrives.

What that means is that when I wake up I want the bedroom to be at, say, 70 degrees and I wake up at 7am. So that’s exactly what will happen. It doesn’t start heating at 7am. It is already at 70 at that point. It’s been working fairly well for us after its initial learning period.

It has a number of other smart features which for now we have turned off. We’re tuning and adjusting things as we go, incorporating more and more things into our schedule.

Smart Sensors


There is a multitude of different sensors available. Beside providing some informational data points most of them allow you to trigger different automations based on the events created by these sensors.

To give an example — I use a space heater in my office in addition to the regular heating system, to heat the only occupied room on a whole floor. When a temperature sensor in my office reaches a certain number, my space heater turns off.

Some sensors provide a single data point, some combine multiple things and events.

Temperature

Ecobee remote sensor and Eve Degree.My favorite temperature sensor is made by a company called Elgato under their smart home brand called Eve Home. In fact Eve makes a lot of great things.

This temperature sensor has a nice screen which can display the temperature or humidity. What makes these especially nice is that it collects historical data inside Eve’s application and all that is done locally. So having that I can monitor what’s been happening with temperature or humidity not only when I’m staring at the sensor, but all throughout the day and night.

Another set of temperature sensors that we have all around our house are Ecobee remote sensors. We’re using this purely for information purposes. How is the temperature in the rooms of our kids? What’s going on in the living room? These also save historical data, but as I mentioned before these rely on Ecobee servers.

Obviously thermostats themselves also expose the temperature reading into HomeKit. However if you factor the above mentioned sensors into your current setting, thermostat starts showing the average temperature of all the participating sensors instead of its own sensor.

These also provide occupancy information, but are mostly useful for letting know the thermostat to regulate the set temperature based on rooms which people are in. But at this point we prefer to control which sensors are used manually, instead of using the occupancy data.

Interestingly enough Hue Motion sensor also provides temperature information even though you wouldn’t know it from the packing or the information on Hue’s website.

Door and Window Sensors

Eve Door & Window sensor.Currently we use a single Door and Windows sensor made by Eve in our house. It allows you to trigger an automation when a door is opened and when a door is closed.

To give an example — when our closet door opens, this sensor triggers a Wemo switch which controls the lights inside the closet. And the reverse.

The sensor is a little bit bulky, and since all Eve devices use bluetooth, sometimes it takes a fraction of a second to reach your hub. Most of the time the events are instant, but not 100% of the time.

I also have gotten a pair of Koogeek Door and Window sensors on a good sale that I have plans for controlling air conditioning and open and closed porch doors during the summer.

Both of these have native HomeKit support. In fact, Eve ONLY has HomeKit support and nothing else.

Motion Sensors

Philips Hue and Eve motion sensors.Philips has been making an indoor motion sensor as a part of their line up for a good while now. They just came out with a new outdoor model several weeks ago.

Indoor version comes with high recommendations. It’s small, very fast, sensitive and includes two additional non-advertised surprises — a temperature sensor and a light intensity sensor.

It works really well if you want to control your Hue lights with it for a typical application — turn the lights on when motion is detected and turn the lights off if the motion has not been detected for a specified amount of time.

If you want to control something other than your Hue lights, things get ugly. The delay for no-motion trigger can only be set inside Hue app and is not controllable in HomeKit. So if I want to turn off my Wemo switch on no-motion in five minutes I can’t do it.

There are hacky workarounds that people have invented and even when they work they have a lot of issues. And even those I was not able to get to work after lots and lots of trial and error experiments. I had zero luck.

This is what actually pushed me to get Homebridge going. There is a simple plug-in that creates a fake occupancy sensor. You use Hue sensor to trigger it on and off, but the off event only goes off after the delay that you specify in your plug-in configuration. And if the motion is detected again, the timer stops. Works beautifully.

While I was struggling with Hue Motion sensor I’ve acquired a motion sensor made by Eve. As opposed to Hue this sensor actually lets you set up a time-out without any additional plug-ins and works natively as you would hope a motion sensor would.

It works just as fast as Hue, but it is bulkier and has no additional sensors built in. And as with all Eve devices it keeps a local log of all events — when and for how long was the motion sensor active.

To sum up — if you are willing to run Homebridge — and there are many reasons to do so — I’d most probably go with Hue for the additional sensors and smaller size. If you care about motion sensor logs and simple set up, Eve is better.

Smart Plugs


Eve Energy, Wemo Mini, iDevices smart plugs.Smart plugs allow you to turn your dumb devices into smart devices. Plug your lamp, your fan or your kettle into one of these plugs and you can turn them on remotely and use them in your automations.

The only caveat is that you device should have an analog on/off switch. Meaning that if your lamp is on, you pull it out of the outlet, then plug in back in, it should still be on.

We’re using three different switches in our house — Wemo, iDevices and Eve.

Eve Energy, Wemo Mini, iDevices smart plugs.Wemo are probably the cheapest ones and are often on sale. They have a physical button on them, so you can still turn things off without using anything else, but your finger.

Current Wemo plugs natively support HomeKit, but since I already had a bridge for my Wemo switches it made no difference. We have four of these in our house and they work reliably.

We have one iDevices plug which has a native HomeKit support. The unique thing about iDevices plug is that it has an LED strip on it which can be turned on with any color. It gets exposed in HomeKit as a separate light which can be controlled independently.

iDevices plug as a status indicator.We’re actually not using the “plug” part of this plug. We are using its LED strip as a status light — all doors are locked, the light is green. Any of the outside doors are open — light is red.

And you can also use the brightness of the strip as a separate tracker — we have a trigger that sets the brightness to 97% and all motion sensors do nothing if this light is set to that. This is useful to prevent lights from going on and off while your cat is roaming around the house at night.

A third smart plug that we have is made be Eve. I use this one to actually track how much energy my office heater is using. It also has a physical button on it. And as with any Eve device it logs a bunch of data locally.

Smart Locks


August Smart Lock Pro.One of the things that Alёna was most resistant to was a smart lock. But for it was the last step on my mission to get rid of all the keys. Eventually she agreed it give it a go and is now is a strong believer in the convince of such things.

There weren’t many HomeKit options on the market. We decided to go with August Smart Lock Pro. One of the appeals was that it leaves the outside cylinder intact and looks like a regular lock.

The idea is that you just replace the handle on the inside. Our door happened to have a cylinder on both sides, which was inconvenient to begin with. And as a result I ended up having to change the whole lock anyhow to a more compatible version.

The lock itself is rather large which is its biggest downside. Other than that we really have no complaints. We don’t have a smart lock or unlock enabled and we control it from either our phones or our watches.

Another thing to note that it does need your phone or watch to be authenticated before it will unlock the lock. And HomePod will completely refuse to unlock it for you as a security feature. You don’t want to end up with a situation when somebody can yell loudly enough from the outside to unlock your door.

The lock keeps a complete log of the door activity in August’s own app. It shows when the lock locked and unlocked and who initiated the event. It also has a sensor which can tell if the actual door was opened as well, which is also logged.

And in the end it can be controlled fully manually from the inside by turning the ring on the lock, or via a key from the outside.

Another smart lock that we have is on our garage door. This happened by a pure accident. Our motor went bad and it ended up getting replaced with a Wi-Fi enabled LiftMaster unit. It worked with a proprietary MyQ app, but in order to add it to HomeKit another piece of hardware was required — a LiftMaster HomeKit bridge.

Both of these locks’ states can be tracked inside HomeKit and can be used in various automations.

Smart Controllers


Hue Dimmer switches.To achieve our goal of having an ability to control all our smart devices with physical devices, we had to employ a couple of different controls.

The most affordable and versatile one is Hue Dimmer switch. Currently we have six of these in use. Each of these comes with four buttons which can be programmed to control any HomeKit device.

These can be used as stand-alone remote controls or they can be mounted on the wall with a supplied wall plate.

Our kids bedrooms do not have ceiling lights and the most convenient location for the floor lamps ended up being on the opposite side of the entrance.

I was able to mount a pair of these at their doors. For Anna it turns on and off her regular lamp plugged into a Wemo plug. For Aaron it turns his Nanoleaf panels with a soft white lite. Very convenient.

Philips Hue Tap switch.Another control that I use is Philips Hue Tap. It’s a switch that works on kinetic energy without the use of batteries. It can have a weird feel to it for some people, because the buttons are harder to press than a regular switch is, but I have no problems with that.

As Hue Dimmer switch Hue Tap also has four buttons and they also can be programmed individually in HomeKit. But if you want to turn buttons into toggle switches you can easily do it with 3rd party apps such as the one made by Eve. So instead of having one button turn a light on and another turn it off you can have the same button do both depending on the state of the light.

Another intriguing remote that exist on the market is a dodecahedron shaped unit made by Nanoleaf. Each of the twelve sides can have its own setting and you activate it by simply placing that side up. I haven’t had a chance to experiment with one yet, but if I see it on sale I might pick one of these up.

Conclusion


Part of my well hidden, dusty bridge "collection".This ended up being a rather long post. That’s what you get when you put writing something like this off for six months.

In the next and last post of these series I will go room-by-room through our house and talk about scenes, automations and device application for each location and how some of the above mentioned accessories interact with each other.

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Saturday, February 2, 2019

Smart Home — Ecosystems

Apple Home.Elgato Eve.This is going to be a long post on my foray into smart home and automations. This venture has started soon after we bought our home — about 6 months in now — and I was finally able to do things that I couldn’t while living in an apartment.

I was fascinated by this for a long time — ever since Nest thermostat came to the market and by what Philips was doing with its Hue series. Those two products were something that I wanted to do as soon as I had the chance.

I had never really explored it any further and had no idea how quickly this hobby could suck in a lot of time and money, none of which I regret in the slightest.

I have decided to split this post(s) into several parts — general introduction into our ecosystem, overview of types of devices and specific devices in those groups that I’ve used and my impressions of them, room by room setup in the house and automations that we use.

Ecosystem


At first I didn’t give this much thought, but very soon after I’ve started to realize that I need to figure out what I want to use as a core of my system.

Amazon Alexa.Vendor apps.The biggest players in the market would be Amazon Alexa, Google Home and Apple HomeKit. The idea is that you want ALL of your smart devices exposed in one place in order to be able to do complex automations evolving multiple products and brands.

Amazon Alexa


Before I considered this all and since I had a mild fascination with Alexa for a while that’s what we started with, but eventually went in a different direction.

Amazon Echo.Amazon’s system is generally a very safe bet. Vast majority of smart devices support it. One huge plus that it has going for is the range of products available — starting from $30 Echo Dot all the way to $230 Echo show. And then there is a ton of 3rd party products with Alexa integrated. This is very convenient for voice control.

I bought a pair of Amazon Echo devices. Standard Echo lives in our kitchen and Echo Spot lives in our bedroom on my bedside table.

Alёna uses the kitchen one for audio books and music listening. I use Echo Spot as my alarm clock — and a great one at that. It automatically goes into night-mode during the night where its display produces practically no light and shows the time in non-disruptive red color.

The smartphone app generally does its job, but I’m not a huge fan of the way it handles device grouping and automation in general. Automations specifically is quite a weak spot for this system in my opinion.

Amazon Echo Spot.As I mentioned before I decided against using it as our core system, although we still have our most used scenes and devices replicated into the Alexa system for easily reachable voice triggers.

Beside the pair of Amazon devices we have a Sonos One speaker and a thermostat of all things with Alexa built in.

Thermostat Alexa is disabled and Sonos speaker Alexa implementation is not stellar. I have much higher success rate with voice triggers on Amazon’s own devices. Though Sonos does provide great sound for music playback.

Apple HomeKit


Each vendor of smart home products ships their own application to manage the accessories. The more different vendors you end up using, the more messy managing it all becomes. That’s why having one single place that unifies everything is important for not only managing your devices, but stringing them up together in automation.

HomeKit emerged as a natural choice for us since we’re heavily embedded into Apple ecosystem. We have numerous iPhones, iPads, Apple TVs and Macs. As such I really have no experience with Google Home, but I imagine it’s a good choice for Android families.

Apple HomePod.There are downsides and upsides to HomeKit. The choices of accessories is more limited because Apple has stricter rules for HomeKit certification. To counter the negative part of that you end up with a more secure system. And since we, as Apple users, have to pay the price for Siri voice assistant that is not using all the data given to it to improve, we end up with a company with a very high focus on privacy.

I imagine Google collects a lot more information on your usage. I imagine Amazon does its share of this as well. And you have to be insane to even consider putting Facebook’s device with a camera and a microphone in your home. HomeKit is a big winner in the category in my opinion. I actually wouldn’t mind sharing more information with Apple if that would mean staying ahead with such things as Siri.

With regards to the main app to control your accessories once they have been added to HomeKit you have numerous options. First of all there is Apple’s own Home app. It’s clean and good looking, so we use it as our primary hub for most day to day things.

However HomeKit protocol in itself is just a back-end database which can be managed by any app. And there is a multitude of them. Elgato Eve makes a beautiful free application which lets you manipulate HomeKit’s database to a much higher degree than native Home does. It exposes a lot of controls that you wouldn’t know existed if you were only using Apple’s Home.

Sonos One.Another great application that I use for configuring complex automations is a 3rd party app named Home 3 by Matthias Hochgatterer. While it’s not very pretty, the Trigger — Condition — Action automations are invaluable as is a granular control of your accessories.

And then there is an open-source project called Homebridge, which I’ll provide more details on a little bit later.

HomeKit voice control is a mixed bag. Siri at its release was completely useless to me because of my accent. With years the voice recognition has improved SIGNIFICANTLY. I have a very high success rate with it. It’s very much on par with Alexa if not better.

I’m not asking Siri of any complex inquiries and it follows smart home informational request and scene and accessory setting commands easily.

The negative part is that while pretty much all Apple devices have Siri built-in using your phone is far from convenient for voice triggers. It’s better on the watch, but still not ideal.

The one and only option right now is HomePod. And at $350 retail price you won’t get far without breaking the bank. We have one that we got for $250 on a big sale from BestBuy.

We placed it centrally in our living area and the performance of it is superb. Microphones are very sensitive so I can reach it easily from the kitchen, living, dinning and family rooms. And the sound it produces for music playback is the best we have in our house.

However music playback is my least needed feature and I’m saddened by the fact that Apple chose that as their focus. What I’m really looking and hoping for is that there will be additional choices of cheap(er) Siri devices that I can place in other parts of the house.

As far as hubs go, which are required for remote control and automation, HomeKit can use Apple TVs, HomePods and iPads. Since we have a pair of Apple TVs and one HomePod we use them as hubs. iPads should be used as hubs as a last resort only, in my opinion, so we do not do that.

3rd Party Apps


As I mentioned each manufacturer of devices also ships an app to control those products. In vast majority of cases I use those to only go through an initial product setup and rarely visit them afterwards.

Some of those offer additional controls that are not exposed in HomeKit and you need to use those apps for firmware updates. However I rarely have a need to revisit those apps.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Smart Home Preview

HomeKit.
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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

BMW 4 Series Coupe

BMW 4 Series Coupe.One of the things that we had to do after moving to suburbia was getting a second car. If one car in Brooklyn was more than enough, life out here is impossible without several. We decided to keep our Mercedes for the time being as it is almost paid out as a family car and lease a second fancy car for my work commute and general driving.

LED headlights.We’ve ended up doing something that we couldn’t really do before — get a coupe — 2 door sports car. My two primary choices were BMW 4 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-class. The problem with C-class ended up it being redesigned and still unreleased and we couldn’t really wait.

Profile.I kept picking Snapper Rocks Blue Metallic color for BMW that I kept building out it being my favorite color. But it costing extra money I was ready to settle for a simple black. Two colors that I really didn’t want was white and silver. Everything else I was OK with.

Apple CarPlay.Another new thing was that we finally could afford to lease the car as the yearly mileage would significantly go down. It made sense to try to find 2018 model. A new 2019 was already out, but there were absolutely no changes made to the car. And since BMW wanted to get rid of 2018 models they had nice incentives going.

Debaged.When I came to the dealership the search revealed that there were only four 2018 cars left in the North East.

19 inch wheels.Two of them were white. No go. One was dark gray, but sadly it lacked some options that I really wanted — like Apple CarPlay and premium sound system. And than the dealer says — the last one is sadly very bright blue. I made a sad face and said that I guess I’ll have to settle down for that, while I was quietly jumping excitedly inside.

19 inch wheels with M logo.The car ended up being equipped with BMW M package, which was also somewhat exciting. It had M suspension, M wheels, M steering wheel and M body parts. It had Heads-Up display and parking assistant which I really didn’t care for and it was lacking a digital cluster which I somewhat wanted, but these weren’t deal breakers.

Interior.It had LED headlight option which was a must. It has all-wheel-drive, which is another must in Ridgеfield especially. And it has a full leather interior among other things.

BMW logo.Before going further I have to admit that I had to settle down for a 4 cylinder turbo engine, instead of a 6 cylinder one. It was just too much money having spent so much on everything else related to the house. But to my surprise this is probably one of the most fun cars to drive that I had. I guess little weight of the car combined with a high tech 4 cylinder turbo results in a very exciting package — surprising indeed.

Profile.I think I got a decent deal on the car as well. I pushed it to 15% off MSRP which I’m quite happy about.

Signature angel eyes.Also since we re-registered our Mercedes to Connecticut our combined insurance for both cars ended up being the same as our Mercedes was in Brooklyn. It’s not much of a surprise that it came out lower, knowing that Brooklyn insurance is one of the highest in the country. I just didn’t expect it not to go up at all.

M logo.We had to wait for about a week for the car to get shipped up from Virginia, but I love it. I think it’s the most gorgeous car I have ever owned. And I got SO many compliments on the color already. Now I’m just waiting for iOS 12 the most exciting feature of which was Apple allowing third party maps such as Waze to be available on CarPlay.

Engine.P.S. I had the car debaged by the dealer as I really hate how xDrive (AWD) logo looks. Since that was getting removed I got the rest of the lettering also removed. Makes for a nice clean look.

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Sunday, November 12, 2017

iPhone X

iPhone X. My home screen.I’ve only had iPhone X for 5 days and I already have a number of thoughts with regards to it that I want to jot down. But the short summary is that I love it. Such a big leap forward for me personally going to iPhone X from iPhone 6S.

Pre-Order


First — a couple of words on my pre-order ordeal. Things did not go as I have envisioned them. I woke up at 2:55am to get ready for 3am pre-order process. I was planning to go with Apple’s upgrade program that has no additional costs and allows for an upgrade to the next phone by trading in your old one. I don’t think I would need to upgrade in a year, but it was nice to have an option since it doesn’t cost anything extra.

Back side.I tried using Apple Store app which worked very well in previous years. The store came up soon enough after 3am, I saw a phone that I wanted available to be delivered by November 3rd — first day — and the first couple of steps worked fine. I even didn’t get stuck on AT&T verification. However in order to get approved for Apple upgrade program one has to fill out a good deal of financial information to get credit verified.

And that’s where all the problems started. I had to fill in all this stuff numerous times and it kept failing to get to the next step. Eventually the delivery time slipped to 1-2 weeks and then to 2-3 weeks. In the end it said that all the information was accepted, but I would have to wait for an email with-in 8 hours that would provide me with further information. I tried going trough the process a couple of times more, but was not able to reach the final step at all.

When I saw the delivery time-frame slipping I decided to check what was happening at AT&T. Instead of being to do a pre-order there I was placed into some virtual queue which said that I had 30-40 minutes wait time — never seen anything like that. Anyhow, I apparently left this page open and when all my attempts over at Apple have failed I looked at this page and I had 3 minutes of queue left. So I ended up placing an order after 4am through AT&T which claimed that I would get my phone on November 3rd. In exactly the configuration that I wanted.

Lock screen.It seemed really iffy to me since the delivery time-frame on Apple’s site has gone to 5-6 weeks by then. But what do you know — I did get my phone on November 3rd, as promised. I guess everyone had to go through a similar AT&T queue and as a result the stock wasn’t sold out as quickly. First time I ordered an Apple product through AT&T and it worked out just fine.

And in the morning I did get an email from Apple saying that they couldn’t verify my information after all and I should try placing an order again. Glad I ordered via AT&T as a backup.

The Phone


I have purchased an iPhone X in silver with 256GB of storage. Initially I was going to go with 64GB as my current phone is, but then I thought that I actually like not having to remove photographs from my phone. And it didn’t make a big difference on monthly basis over the course of 2 year loan.

iPhone X. HealthView app.The phone is gorgeous. Silver back, completely black front, and shiny stainless steel sides. There is no visible separation between thin bezels and the screen on the front. It’s all 100% black. Same as on Apple Watch with OLED screen the display itself is indistinguishable from the rest of the glass. The only time when the screen actually shows is when it’s in a very bright sun.

The phone is too good looking to put into a case of any kind and I haven’t used cases since the very first phone I had because of the added bulk. But this phone being as expensive as it is I’ve bought into Apple Care Plus program for the first time for some insurance, just in case — but that’s yet another $200.

Some Specifics


The first most obvious thing is the lack of home button and Touch-ID along with it. The phone can be woken up by pressing sleep-wake side button or by simply tapping on the screen — à la Apple Watch. The swipe up gesture that replaces the click of a home button feels great. I somehow didn’t even notice any kind of re-learning process. It just felt right from the start. And it actually feels like a much more natural alternative to a physical and somewhat wobbly button of my 6S.

Ilya. Stage Light mode when it works looks great.Beside the regular swipe-up to go to home screen the bar can be swiped from side to side to switch between recently used apps. They stay in the queue in the same order that they have been opened in. So I can open Overcast, then open Waze and the swipe from left to right will bring me back to Overcast. And the next swipe from right to left will bring me back to Waze. Very convenient. The Control Center however has been moved to the very top right corner of the screen. I wasn’t using it often, but the new location it’s not ideal.

The notch turned out to be a non-issue. When you look at screenshots of the phone the notch seems to be the only thing that your eyes run to. When I use the phone — I don’t notice it at all — I’m looking at a gorgeous screen and the content displayed on it. Notch is just sitting up there, not being annoying. And even the bottom aligning of status bar elements doesn’t seem to bother me as it id on the screenshots.

The size of the screen is very pleasant. The actual phone is slightly bigger then the regular model of 6, 6S, 7 and 8. The screen itself is the size of those phones. It fits comfortably enough in my pockets and has a screen that is bigger than one on the Plus phones. And it’s an OLED screen which looks good enough — not that LCDs looked bad either. The best thing is the deep blacks that match the rest of the glass — when an app hasn’t been updated to fit on iPhone X it just looks like your holding an older black 6S-like phone. The only give-away is the lit up icons on the top and home indicator on the bottom.

Face-ID


So much fuss was made of Face-ID and fears of losing Touch-ID and it was all for nothing. Face-ID really just works. It actually makes the phone feel like there is no lock of any kind of it. You just use it as you normally would and Face-ID just does it’s thing. So it should be treated as if just didn’t exist at all.

Arosha. Portrait mode.The place where I can actually observe its speed is on locked apps such as 1Password. It authenticates you via Face-ID and it takes a fraction of a second — 2nd generation Touch-ID was probably faster, but here you don’t have to place a finger over a button or do anything at all. Totally acceptable.

In addition to all that there are several interesting things that Apple is dong with it. I had my previews of notifications disabled on all my phones for security reasons — you don’t want somebody to see a confirmation code that might come to you via an SMS message for example. So notifications of certain things were just not very useful. Now all the notification previews are off by default, but once the phone sees YOU — the owner — looking at the screen they just unroll and show the preview — great.

I also noticed that if the phone call comes through and you happen to be looking at the phone the ring comes through with a very low volume — if you’re not looking at it, it’s very loud. And another thing is that the phone no longer dims its screen if you looking at it.

Artur. My barber, portrait mode.Face-ID seems to a little less reliable in very bright sun light. It seems to take a little bit longer to work it’s magic in this specific case. But on the other hand even when the phone is mounted on the dash of my car and I’m off center it works just fine. And it does work through my sunglasses and my beard doesn’t scare it either.

Restore Process


I’ve been using iCloud backups to move over to new phones since the time it was possible. This time I did the same thing. And after everything was restored and all the passwords have been entered I was dismayed to find out that none of my Activity Achievements that I’ve been collecting over the past two and a half years have been unlocked, even though all the health data and filled in rings have been ported just fine.

Aleksey. Portrait mode.Luckily I haven’t dismantled my 6S yet. So I hooked it up to iTunes and made an encrypted backup from it. Then I restarted the whole setup process and restored from this iTunes backup. Luckily everything came back up correctly. Phew. And I didn’t have to re-enter all the passwords either. I’m probably going to stick to this process, although it’s a scary prospect if iCloud backup doesn’t get some things right, since that really is the process that I rely on in case something happens to the phone itself.

The Cameras


Now this is the crowning jewel of iPhone X. This is THE MAIN reason why I wanted to get my hands on this phone as soon as possible — a camera system that can measure depth and fit into my pocket at the same time. Like the saying goes — the best camera is the one that you have with you — and I always have my phone with me. And having as advanced of a camera system as this one on a phone is amazing for somebody who takes as many pictures with the phone as I do.

I love what Apple is doing on the software side to overcome the limitation of physics and tiny lenses. The portrait process with blurred background works really well. I do notice that it makes small mistakes here and there, but in most cases it does great. What separates iPhone X from iPhone 8 Plus is also the fact that you can take selfies in portrait mode as well thanks to the array of sensors in the notch. It has same issues though as Face-ID does with a bright sun light.

Home screen.Blog. New phone call indicator.Have a double optical zoom on a phone is also incredibly useful. I never use digital zoom that was available for a while on iOS since it just ruins the photo quality, so it might as well just not be there. But optical 2x zoom — perfect.

The different lightning modes that Apple is doing by using the depth information is also pretty great. I really like Studio Light and Contour Light modes. Stage Light — all black background — though doesn’t work as well yet. In certain conditions it does wonders, but most of the time it just ruins the photograph. Luckily all these things can be adjust in the post-processing on the phone since all the depth information is stored along with the photo.

Yesterday we went over to Coney Island with the family and I took a good number of photographs. So there is a good collection of samples. I did put them through my normal post-processing steps in Photoshop, but this is the first set of phone photographs that are actually good enough initially to go through that.

Issues


I’ve ran into a weird issue where my Automatic Pro OBD scanner in the car seems to cause Bluetooth interference which affects the call quality when it goes through the car audio system. I’m going to create a ticket on Autmatic’s site to see if they have any suggestions, but for now I had to unplug it from the car — annoying. Worked just fine with iPhone 6S.

Another thing I already mentioned — bright sunlight degrades the performance of the front sensors. It hasn’t been annoying yet, but we’ll if it becomes that as the time goes by.

Waze. Dark theme.Weather Line. Hasn't yet been updated for iPhone X app.While OLED screens do have their benefits burn-in is a thing. I keep Waze running for long periods of time — 3+ hours per day on my commute and I don’t know how it will affect the screen. I switch Waze into dark theme, which I like less, but now I have to be thinking about preserving the screen. The time will show how it holds up.

And the last issue that I think will go away — I have a little bit of pain between my thumb and the rest of my fingers that seems to be caused by the fact that I have to reach to the bottom of the screen and swipe up to use home indicator in place of a button. Again, hope my hand will just get used to it and the pain will go away.

Conclusion


Overall I’m very happy with this upgrade. Older phones somehow look very dated very quickly after using this new phone. The new one is just so much better in so many respects. As I said at the start — so far I’m loving it.
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Friday, September 15, 2017

iPhone X Keynote

Straight out of camera photo taken with iPhone 7 Plus by Maruk.A couple of thoughts with regards to Apple’s latest event where iPhone X was announced among other things. A little bit on each topic of any interest to me.

Apple TV


Apple TV is getting upgraded to support 4K video. And even though we ended up with a 4K TV a while ago we already have a 4th generation Apple TV — previous one — and it already runs tvOS. So we have no plans to upgrade. The quality is plenty good for us.

The good news is that Apple said that all the HD content that you have purchased through iTunes will be upgraded to 4K for free. And we do have quite a bit of movies purchased. That’s nice to have for the time when we do upgrade to 4K. Haven’t touched our blu-ray or DVD content in ages — all that feels so dated.

Apple Watch


Apple has announced a 3rd generation of Apple Watch which has an option for an LTE chip. I currently wear 2nd generation and it serves my needs just fine. On-board LTE also cost an additional $10 per month from our carrier — AT&T. Really have no need to pay anything extra to AT&T. No upgrade.

The Phones


This is the most interesting category. I will preface this by saying that I take an enormous amount of photographs with my phone. My current Instagram library contains 2,245 pictures and that is curated content only. Camera is one of the most important features of my phone. Continue Reading

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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Cannondale SuperSix EVO 105

2017 Cannondale SuperSix EVO 105.After spending more than 6 months on stationary bike spinning pedals every single day and after putting our real Cannondale Synapse on a trainer we thought that we’re ready to get back on a pair of real bicycles. As I said we’ve already had one very good cycling machine from a couple of years back, so we needed to expand our current road bike collection by one more unit.

Shimano breaks.I did some research and with my mind made up we visited our favorite local bike store. The owner — Allen — was in and he is our favorite guy to work with. I had my heart set on 2017 Cannondale SuperSix EVO 105 racing road bike. And what do you know — they had the exact model in my size handing on display. I took it for a spin around the block and I knew I wanted it.

Shimano components.For future reference I want to attach some pricing information — as it turned out to be useful this time around. The MSRP on this particular bicycle was $2,199 without pedals until very recently when Cannodale dropped it to $1,999 several weeks ago. Allen sold it to us for $1,700 with pedals included. Essentially this is aluminum price territory of CAAD12.

Clip-in side of the pedal.So as it becomes clear from all of the above SuperSix is top of the line carbon frame from Cannondale’s racing line fitted with Shimano 105 componentry. It’s as stiff as CAAD12, but does absorb more shock from the road. Our Cannondale Synapse was more of an endurance bike and we had it refitted and adjusted for Alёna free of charge by our shop.

Platform.As for the pedals — I went for something similar that I had before. This particular pedal has a clip-in mechanism on one side and a platform for any other shoe on the other. Since I haven’t ridden on a bike with cleats in a long time I wanted to have this option. Now we just have to stick with this and put some serious miles on these bikes.

Some stickers removed. Work in progress.

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Sunday, March 6, 2016

Phone Car Mount

Phone mounted via a CD slot magnetic phone holder.I drive quite a bit as my commute to work comes out to 120 miles round trip. During those trip my phone is on most of the time running one or more application to make that driving easier. Among other things I typically use Waze for social alerts about the road conditions, Overcast to play one of the numerous podcasts I subscribe to or Pandora to play one of the custom radio stations, depending on the mood of the day.

Koomus Pro CD-Slot - M car mount.I typically used to put the phone into an opening next to cup holders down into the console between the seats. And it’s less than convenient to reach down there and pickup the phone up to check on the alert, switch a podcast or rate a song.

Koomus Pro CD-Slot - M car mount.Because of that I wanted to get a convenient car mount for my phone to raise it to the eye level. The most common holders are mounted on the air vents or are attached to the windshield. I didn’t really want to glue anything anywhere. Both of those options have problems — I don’t want hot air blowing onto my phone during winters and I don’t want to block air vents in general. And mounting on the windshields obstructs the view of the road and would be too far to conveniently reach.

With phone attached.The other day however I stumbled upon another way to mount the holder that I haven’t heard of before — CD slot. This is probably the least used piece of the whole entertainment system in my car that also happens to take quite a bit of space. And it seems mounting the phone via it is a perfect solution for my car. The position of the phone doesn’t block any vital controls or the main screen and is very easy to reach.

Case and the metal plate.I opted it for a magnetic car mount — easy to just stick the phone on without fiddling with the arms of the mount — made by Koomus. The only downside is that you need to attach a metal plate to the phone for the magnet to work. There are two options — glue it on or put it between the phone and the case. I had a spare Apple case layout around that we got by accident for free, but I prefer my phone without the case. So that’s the downside. Now I have a case. Gluing the plate is an uglier option.

Vertically mounted.The magnetic hold is very very strong. I tried attaching the phone to the mount and waving my hand with it violently. It doesn’t budge. Initial driving tests went well. It really is convenient to have it there. It’s easy to put on and take off and it stays dead still while driving.

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Friday, October 2, 2015

Apple Watch

Apple WatchAt the end of June I have bought myself the Apple Watch. Now that I have lived with it for over two months I want to share some thoughts regarding my experiences with the watch.

Decision


There is no need to go and check back into my older posts with regards to the watch. Yes, I did say that I’m not going to buy the first generation. I do admit it. Two things really pushed me into it.

When the watch came out I’ve read numerous reviews and blog posts filled with mostly positive feedback. That’s factor one. Another thing came about when we visited a local Apple Store to pick up some accessories for my dad for Father’s Day. We walked into the store and there they were. Alёna looked at me and said — “You can get one if you want it.” How can a gadget lover like myself resist such an offer?

I tried a bunch on, picked out the kit that I liked the most and — they didn’t have ANY in stock at all. Sold out because of Father’s Day. So I came home and placed an order online — 3-4 weeks wait time. Three days later though I was checking for stock at the stores around the area and one had an exact thing that I was looking for. I made a reservation and two hours later I had a box with my brand new Apple Watch in my hands.

Picking The Model


Apple Watch. 42mm Stainless Steel Case Watch with Bright Blue Leather Loop.I had a pretty good idea of the model that I would like to get right after the announcement. I have confirmed it during my first visit to the Apple Store. And even though the watch starts from $350, the prices of various upgrades and options add up to a hefty amount.

Want 42mm version instead of 38mm? $50. Want stainless steel instead of aluminum? $200. Want a leather band instead of a rubber one? Another $100. So my particular watch totaled out at $700. Another bracelet that I was considering was a steel bracelet, but it was another $400 instead of $100 for leather and it seemed a bit too bulky in person, even though it was much lighter than I expected.

I ended up picking out a 42mm Stainless Steel Case Watch with Bright Blue Leather Loop. I was actually thinking of getting either black or brown one, but Alёna thought that a blue one was much more interesting. Thinking about it I did agree. It’s a pretty dark blue (even though it’s called bright) and goes well with jeans that I wear on daily basis most of the time.

Experience


Heartbeat sensor.By now I have worn this watch from early morning to the late night every single day since I bought it. It has been many years now that I have worn the same watch for even seven days in a row, before this one. I like how it looks on my hand, but most of all I like the functionality that it gives me, and the killer app that I don’t want to be without — more on that later.

I like how the bracelet doesn’t have a fixed width and I can tighten it to my comfort. Sometimes I like it tighter, sometimes I like it looser. By the end of the day though my hand does kind of feel tired if I had it on tight setting all day long — but heart beat sensor seems to works better with the watch closer to the skin. The magnets in the bracelet are very strong and I haven’t had it come loose on its own a single time.

The battery life is perfectly fine. Yes, you do have to charge the watch every night (although I had days when went without an overnight charge just fine). I do however prefer to top off the batters on my phone and the watch nightly. Typically by the end of the full day use I’m at about 50% of battery reserve. So battery has not been an issue.

Software


The core software that comes with the watch seems decent enough. There is a number of decent looking watch faces — although a screen can’t really compare with aesthetics of a real thing. Most of the faces have a number of user settable complications — little gadgets with information. Third party software support is there, but it’s not usable. Only the UI shows up on the watch and everything else has to happen on the phone. This makes everything very slow and useless.

Apps.The only 3rd party app that i use at this time is Overcast to switch between podcasts when I’m on my bicycle or when I don’t want to pull the phone out. I would love to get good experience with Darksky and Fantastical but it’s not quite there yet because of watch OS limitations. All that is about to get fixed with watch OS 2. Really native 3rd party app support and 3rd party complications. This will open up a lot of possibilities.

Simple.Currently I use Simple watch face with four complications — Activity (fitness information), Date and Day, Calendar (shows next event) and Digital Time. Glances are simple screens that can be pulled out when in Watch mode. I use only three at this time — Settings (airplane mode, sound), Heartbeat (lets you have the watch measure your heart rate) and Battery (not really needed anymore).

Killer Apps


Workout goals.These are the things that I find very helpful and use on daily basis. There is only a handful of them, but here is where the watch excels over the phone.

Move goals for each day of the week.Activity and Workout — this is the pair that keeps me wanting to wear the watch every day. Activity is a simple motivator app which makes you want to fill out 3 simple circles on daily basis — active calories burned (you can set your own goal), 30 minutes of exercise (anything like a brisk walk and above counts) and moving at least a little bit each hour for 12 hours or more per day. This actually seems to be a pretty good motivator for me to be active more.

Goals.I do try to achieve all these 3 goals every day. I get up every time it tells me to and run up a couple of flights of stares. I actually got out my bicycle out of storage and did some riding. And I walk a lot more than I used to. Strangely enough I would hate to walk now and not get credit for it — the watch must be on. Vacation do throw a wrench into those goals for me though. I lose my routine and have to make an effort to get back into it after one.

Apple Pay.Apple Pay is so much better with the watch. I love using Apple Pay in general. But with the phone there is a bit of an anxiety of getting your fingerprint being read right. People behind you are waiting, the cashier is waiting — not comfortable experimenting with your tech. With the watch you just have to double press the side button, credit card comes up on the screen, move the watch to the reader, fill a little tap on your wrist — done. Works every single time without a fail.

Communications.Communication encompasses in it several things. It’s great for an SMS to come in and show up on your wrist. You can respond to it with a bunch of pre-canned responses or send a message back via Siri — which by the way has gotten much better at understanding me. You can also initiate communication with a list of your favorites by hitting the side button once. You can start a call or send a message. Has been very useful to fire a short message to my wife without taking my hand of the top of the steering wheel.

Modular.Other group of little niceties is also there. Using the watch as a viewfinder for your camera phone, getting walking directions via maps on your wrist, seeing Slack and other pre-selected notifications and actually picking up and having a phone call. I was surprised that I would ever use it, but it certain situations it has been quite convenient.

Activity medal.The next version of OS that is about too land will definitely expand the horizons with useful software and I’m looking forward to that.

In the Wild


I’ve been surprised by the number number of comments and inquires that I’ve gotten by wearing the watch. My most expensive watches don’t get nowhere near the same kind of interest that this little watch seems to produce. I was also quite surprised at the number of people that I’ve run up against with Apple Watch on their wrist. Close to 20 sightings in these months and for a gadget like this that’s a lot.

Activity.6In all my time before that I’ve seen only two smart watches or any other brand — one Motorola 360 and one Pebble watch. So by the standards of smart watches Apple seems to be doing quite well.
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Saturday, September 12, 2015

Compulsory TV Upgrade

New TV. Samsung UN50JU7100.Unexpectedly for us we had to upgrade our TV. The whole thing started somewhere in the middle of August when our daughter decided that our TV needed some cleaning. With the use of a glass of water and her toothbrush she managed to do a pretty thorough job by the time we noticed it.

At first a thick vertical gray line appeared. Then everything got covered by fog. Then lines started to spread. And eventually in a course of a couple of days the whole screen turned to pretty colorful lines and nothing else was coming through. Our 46″ Samsung TV that we bought at the end of 2009 was done.

Our new TV.After doing a bit of research I decided to settle on 50″ Samsung JU7100 — 4K TV. Another choice was Vizio M series, but the best screens are used on 55″ and bigger units and 50″ was the biggest we could fit. But on both Wirecutter and CNET Samsung came highly recommended.

Over the last six years the UI of Samsung has improved significantly. Everything is fast and responsive. The old was completely useless. Although we still watch most of our content through Apple TV which is also about to get significantly updated by Apple. We’ll probably upgrade it eventually as well. We bought our TV at P.C. Richard & Son where we got a good deal on it, as always.

TV remote with Wii-like controller behavior.

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