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Jan11th

My Smart Home

Chromium FTW! (Tech, Toys, Chris' Piss, Home)
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I’ve been interested in technology since I can remember.  Now that I’m an adult, I can start applying some of those interests into more practical applications.  Ever since the products have been coming out, I’ve been following them, and only until recently have they matured enough to warrant the investment necessary to bring together a truly smart home.  The following is my product list along with the relative ease and the pros and cons of each.

Starting off, everything centers around two things: my iPhone and my Amazon Echo.  You can automate the majority of things through your smartphone but to take things up to the next level of usefulness you will need an Echo.

Amazon Echo – $179.99

The center of it all, the Echo is a web connected electronic hub that listens for your commands and can issue them to the correct devices.  I have mine installed in my kitchen, which borders on my computer area and my living room.  At any point, I can issue commands to dim the lights, set timers for cooking, add items to my shopping list or even adjust the temperature.  I can do this because it has hooks into all of those systems in my house and it’s voice activated.  I can do most of these things through my phone as well, but usually through their perspective apps and not through SIRI.  The kids love to ask it for jokes or to play word games.  The kids also love to add random things to my shopping lists like puppies or dead babies (J/K!!!), just for fun of course.  I hear Amazon has just added Jeopardy as well.  I can also use it as a Bluetooth speaker for my phone.  It’s an amazing device that I can’t recommend enough.

Phillips Hue 1st Gen Starter Kit – $199

My first foray into smart lighting is easily the most seductive.  I have two of the colored bulbs in my living room and one in my master bedroom.  Using the Hue app, I’m able to call up preprogrammed “scenes” that can change the mood or brighten the area for reading.  I have since expanded the starter kit with two additional white only bulbs ($15 each) for use outside, and I have programmed those to turn on at dusk and turn off at dawn.  This not only makes it appear as if someone is at home, but is also cost effective at saving electricity.  Two things of note: 1. I had to add an additional Echo to my master bedroom just so I could voice activate the lamp, and 2. the 2nd Generation Starter Kit (also $199.99) is now available, but that’s only compatible with SIRI and not the Echo.  This is good for those without a smart hub, but bad for those of us that want an all in one solution.  To me, the benefit of anyone in my house being able to just call out “Turn on the living room” far outweighs the ability for only me to be able to use SIRI only to do the same thing.  I contacted Amazon about it, and their response was that Apple was not playing nice with their Homekit enabled devices, and since they are a sandbox, allowing outside devices like the Echo to talk to it, was a no no.  You will have to make your own decision on whether you want an Apple or Amazon-centric experience.

Oh and one additional thing: I am also able to hook the Hue lights into the Sleep Cycle ($.99 on Android or $1.99 for premium on the iPhone) app on my smartphone so that it can intelligently dim the lights as I am going to sleep, and also gently wake me up in the morning by also raising the lights in my bedroom.  It gives the Hue lights intelligent functionality that you normally would have to pay separately for.

August Smart Lock – $196.25

This smart lock is my shakiest recommendation solely because of the difficulty of implementation.  This replaces half of your deadbolt mechanism with a smart lock which can be operated by smartphone application.  It still uses your key cylinder so you don’t need to rekey your lock, making this a relatively easy installation with one huge caveat:  If your door doesn’t sit exactly flush, then it will not work 100% of the time until you apply the correct pressure for the deadbolt to slide in comfortably.  Initially I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal, but in reality, it only works by itself maybe 50% of the time.  If you have someone there pushing on the door, then maybe it will work 80-90% of the time.  The other problem also is that it needs the $79.99 August Connect in order to work online.  Otherwise you’re limited to the Bluetooth range of your phone.  That being said, the other solutions in this field have the same exact physical implementation problems, and none of them have any better way around the problem.  Now I can’t use this with the Echo just yet, but it has been hinted that support for it is coming in the near future and the Xfinity home alarm system that I have does interface with this, so that’s a plus as well.

Ecobee 3 Smart Wi-Fi Thermostat 2nd Generation – $243.99

I initially tried to install this myself, but I found out that the townhouse I’m renting didn’t have the required power wire for proper installation so I went to Amazon and opted to get their Home Thermostat Installation – $78.00.  The first time, the installer said that my thermostat wasn’t working right, and it needed to be warranty replaced.  Also he was going to have to charge me the complete fee for attempting the install. :(

I then proceeded to contact Ecobee and they promptly shipped me out a replacement at no charge.  I then chose a different company from Amazon to do the same installation and this time it was a success.  Evidently this second guy told me that my problem was that the house was wired with the improper colors, and yellow was blue or something along those lines.  Regardless, this time it worked like a charm and now I could begin to use it.

The reason I chose this over the (Nest – $249) was because my townhouse only has one AC unit for both upstairs and down, so the additional wireless  temperature sensor is necessary here in order to provide accurate readings.  I often times felt myself too hot or too cold depending on where I was.  It took several days in order to dial in all the settings just the way I like, but now I have programmed it so that during the day it raises the temperature to a normal that is not too hot both upstairs and down, and at night it lowers the temperature for a comfortable sleeping temp upstairs.  Also I can set it to a higher “away” temperature, if it senses I am not there, or if I’m away for work.  I can also temporarily override the schedule by a few degrees warmer or lower by either giving a command to the Echo or by using the App on the phone.  To me this is worth it’s weight in gold.

TP-Link HS100 Smart Plug – $29.99

I have added these as a means to turn off a few individual items that don’t use regular light bulbs that the Hue could handle.  I’m currently using it on the three case lights for my collectibles collection and also the lights on the Christmas tree. You have to install and configure them through the Kasa app, but they work with the Echo just fine, and I can schedule them and also program them to randomly turn on and off if I’m away to simulate someone being home.

Automatic Connected Car Adapter – $79.99

This one I added only because the option was there, not necessarily because it adds anything meaningful.  I can hook it up to Echo to tell me where my car is, but if I’m home then that generally means I am too.  I can see where this would be useful to see where my wife or girlfriend would be if they had it on their car, but it does border on a bit of 1984 style monitoring.  Mostly I can use the Automatic app to monitor my driving habits.  It beeps in the car if I accelerate too fast or if I brake too hard so over time it will condition you to be a better driver. It also shows how much gas I use on average for each trip I take around my neighborhood. I can also pair it with an OBD app to diagnose any check engine lights that pop up, but so far I haven’t found this to be useful, and the lights I have tried it on- this didn’t work on, so for that use I’d say pass.

Overall, having these conveniences can range from extremely useful to utterly useless, it all depends on how you use them.  Of course there’s a cost associated with implementing each of these things but if you do one or two at a time, then it doesn’t sting so badly.  In the end, I’ve automated just about as much as I can, providing comfort, convenience and security to enhance my home.

Dec27th

Lonely Island – I Just Had Sex feat. Akon

Chromium FTW! (Music, Celebrities)
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Lonely Island –  I Just Had Sex feat. Akon. Jessica Alba and Blake Lively cameo.

Dec25th

CoD Black Ops Lan Party

Chromium FTW! (Video Games)
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Best party evar!

You must be 21 or over. I will fucking card you, and if you’re not, then your fucking ass is to the curb. Last time I did this I ended up with a bunch of 12 year olds who got dropped off by their moms, and I had to put the beer away and bust out the fucking kool-aid. My house is not a fucking Chucky Cheese.

Dec9th

Greatest Movie Test Ever

Chromium FTW! (Movies)
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Scroll down and do the quiz as it instructs and find out what movie is your favorite one.  This amazing math quiz can likely predict which of 18 films you would enjoy the most.

Pick a number from 1 – 9.
Multiply by 3.
Add 3.
Multiply by 3 again.

Now add the two digits together to find your predicted favorite movie in the list of 18 movies on the other side of the break. Mine was “Star Wars” – exactly right! It’s easy and it works.

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Dec8th

Pimp Business Plan

Chromium FTW! (Educational)
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“Take my game to the next level (From the concrete streets to executive suites.)”

Also important – “Stack Money to the ceiling (Safety Deposit Box)”

Nov18th

The racist Japanese.

DragonTHC FTW! (Movies)
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I watched “Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl”  this morning and holy crap are they racist.

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Nov9th

TRON: LEGACY Official Trailer # 3

Chromium FTW! (Movies)
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Light Planes? Jets even?

Nov9th

Damn You Auto Correct!

Chromium FTW! (Cell Tech, iPhone)
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Funny iPhone Fails and Autocorrect Horror Stories.

Oct29th

TRON: Legacy – Exclusive footage

Chromium FTW! (Sexy, Movies, Cars)
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Olivia Wilde and the Light Runner.

Oct28th

Pin-up photography by Irina Davis

Chromium FTW! (Sexy)
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Haven’t had enough sexy lately.  Let me fix that.