Nov 17 2017

Guide - Who's Home

I love home automation (HA) because it allows me to make mundane tasks happen without any sustained intervention. Just setup a scene, and let the magic happen. Generally, this works great whether it is a scheduled event or something that is trigger driven. But, every so often I have a scene that requires more intelligence than is available out of the box.

Nov 13 2017

Review - GoControl/Linear GD00Z-4 Z-Wave PLUS Garage Door Controller

The first time I went crazy with Z-Wave at my house, I had to build my own garage door controller. It was not hard, involving a Z-Wave switch, some components from Radio Shack and a door sensor – all tied together with a couple scenes. As I am sure you all know, time has been very kind to the home automation (HA) enthusiast. So this go around it was possible to buy an off-the-shelf controller that includes everything I needed in a convenient package. There are even a few different options, although most seem to be rebrands of the $83 ($90 SRP) Z-Wave PLUS GoControl/Linear GD00Z-4 I selected.

Nov 05 2017

Review - Insteon Home Solutions

I have an older home. One thing about older houses is pull chain lights, many, many pull chains. Anyone who has walked around a basement in the dark or near dark fishing for a light pull chain can attest that it is a massive pain. After one stubbed toe too many, I turned to home automation as a lower cost solution versus rewiring. With so many options to choose from, ranging from protocol+controller level solutions like Insteon, Z-Wave and Zigbee, to device specific options like Hue, Cree, LIFX, etc., I ended up with Insteon because it provides a richer ecosystem with opportunities to control more than just lightbulbs. Insteon has a range of light management options, RF and hardwire, depending on your needs and automation requirements. Aside from lighting Insteon can automate and monitor appliances and integrates with compatible home automation products including Amazon Echo and Nest Thermostats, providing opportunities to grow the system as my requirements change. Adopting Insteon products does not require using their Home Automation Controller (HAC), the Insteon Hub. When I started automating my home’s lighting in 2013 Insteon’s Hub reviews were spotty at best. I chose to skip it at first, not as many features for my configuration but their wall switches, keypads, RF lights and RF wall keypads were fit for the purpose at hand.

Oct 19 2017

News - I thought it was just me

When Amazon announced their new Echo Plus, I was immediately intrigued, and then a bit put off by the decision to use Zigbee instead of Z-Wave (although both radios would have been better). Afterall, Z-Wave has the biggest pool of devices and [near] guarenteed compatiblity. Aparently I'm not the only one who doesn't get the choice - CEPro just does it much more eloquently.

Oct 12 2017

News - Wirecutter picks a "Best 4K Blu-ray Player"

Little disappointed to find my Xbox One S excluded from the top Ultra HD Blu-ray picks due to it's gameyness and Netflix HDR performance (does anyone sell a 4K TV without Netflix built in?). So feel free to completely disregard Chris's picks Smile.

Oct 12 2017

News - What is Fingbox

The other day while I was troubleshooting a network issue I stumbled upon an interesting device called "Fingbox". The device connects via Ethernet to your network and makes some interesting claims around network monitoring and device blocking. Intrigued I reached out to the company to get a better understanding of how it works. As it turns out, it's mostly messing about with ARP. But unlike Circle, which also uses ARP spoofing to manage devices, the Fingbox takes a much more measured approach. Obviously this means they cannot offer the same feature set (i.e. usage tracking, site blocking, etc.), but the trade-off [should] come in very limited impact on network performance. While I wish the Fingbox was PoE capable, it wasn't enough of a minus to stop me from grabbing one to play with/review.

Oct 11 2017

Review - Neato Robotics Botvac D80 Robot Vacuum

Neato Robotics Botvac D80 Robot Vacuum

I've been debating about whether I wanted to put the time into doing a proper review of our Neato Robotics Botvac D80 Robot Vacuum. Afterall, it kind of is a smart home device, and it's really nice to not have to vacuum the house during the week... But on the other hand, it's a vacuum cleaner.

Oct 04 2017

News - Ultra HD Blu-ray cracked, let the deplastification begin

TECHSPOT is reporting that the Russian company Arusoft has released an application capable of removing AACS 2.0, enabling ripping a perfect UHD copy, minus the plastic, to your hard drive. The DeUHD software only has limited title support, and the UI is a bit lacking, but frankly none of that really matters long term. I imagine the heavy lifting is done.

I guess we can cross one of our reasons why Blu-ray is still king off the list.

Oct 04 2017

Review - Wisdom of the Crowd

Wisdom of the Crowd Banner


When I finished watching Person of Interest, I was on the prowl for a replacement. Lo’ and behold, someone mentioned that a new show might be able to fill that void called Wisdom of the Crowd. Skeptically optimistic, I scheduled and watched the premier this past Sunday and was simultaneously intrigued and let down with the results. Wisdom of the Crowd could turn into a popular show for CBS, but it could also fall flat on its face as just another Law & Order/perp of the week indulgence, lacking any actual substance for viewers to stick around. Truth be told, I had similar concerns about Person of Interest after the first few episodes. Without major spoilers, let’s dive into what Wisdom of the Crowd has to offer us each week, shall we?

Oct 04 2017

News - Sonos Voice Control - FINALLY! ...soon

Sonos Play1

Today, Sonos finally let us know that voice control in on its way. It was originally announced almost a year ago and the company has been extremely quiet on their progress. People got excited when they updated their terms of service to include wording which seemed indicative of the requirements for voice control. So, what are we getting?

Oct 03 2017

News - NETGEAR adds Circle support to select routers

Circle's ARP spoofing based Internet monitoring and control scheme is an interesting way to keep tabs on what your kids are doing with their devices. Previously, to make it work you had to add their $100 hardware device inside your network. Now, if you have one of the R7000 routers that NETGEAR is supporting you can play with the tech for free. Hard to see this as anything but a bonus, and a big one at that. Worst case, you don't use it. Network OEMs rarely add significant features to their kit, great to see NETGEAR adding something as significant as this to an "ancient" system. Hopefully, others will get the upgrade as well.

Oct 03 2017

News - Axiim announces "WM Series" WiSA speakers

If the idea of a wireless AVR+speaker system from Axiim sounds interesting to you, but were waiting for something a bit grander/larger/towery than what they've had on offer so far... The wait is over, for pre-order anyway with the just announced WM Series. The spec's look interesting and I would expect performance to be a step up from the existing system. Oh, and they come paired with the long awaited Q UHD (which looks to have finally popped up as well).

Head over to the Axiim website to have a look.

Oct 03 2017

Review - Ring Video Doorbell Pro

Ring offers a variety of different doorbell cameras, with options available for those without a doorbell ($200), power-over-Ethernet (PoE) ($500, I imagine for new builds or challenging wireless environments), and the Ring Pro for those with an existing low-voltage setup. The $250 (can be found for $190 occasionally) Ring Pro, is not quite in impulse buy territory. But, if it works well, it would be a cheap way to add interactive video recording at the main entry point(s) to your home.

Sep 29 2017

News - ASUS launches RT-AC86U AC2900 MU-MIMO router

It's good to see ASUS adding a mid-range ($200) AC2900 802.11AC router to their product lineup.

Sep 26 2017

Review - The Good Doctor

The Good Doctor TV Banner

The trailer I watched for ABC’s new show The Good Doctor was pitiful, leading me to have little faith it would become part of my weekly lineup. Had I not been on the hunt for shows to review, I likely never would have watched the first episode. The trailer felt uninspired and shallow; just one more example of how Hollywood has lost the ability to innovate. Lest we forget, this is the same network which brought us the abysmal Dr. Ken, which somehow managed not only to avoid cancellation after the first episode, but also get two full seasons. Another House or, perhaps, a reboot of Doogie Howser, M.D. is the easy analogy to make for The Good Doctor. In reality, that would be doing a great disservice to the potential the show has. Similar to most of my TV show reviews, there will be minimal spoilers, but, in this particular instance, I will absolutely spoil part of the first big scene. You have been warned.

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