HomeKit vs. Alexa vs. Google Home – Which smart home platform is best?

My Smart Home in the Apple Home App on iPad

My Smart Home in the Apple Home App on iPad Pro

I’ve been into home automation and smart home gear for years. I really got serious about it when we built a new house in 2016. A new house meant being about to start from scratch with the best solutions for every aspect of home automation that I wanted. When you talk smart home the usual suspects come to people’s minds: lights, cameras, thermostats, locks, security systems, shades/window blinds, garage door openers, etc. Beyond simple control from your smartphone, smart home automation is really about Scenes and Routines. It’s about using one verbal command, or press one button or come home and have a series of things happen.

This is when picking a smart home platform comes into play

Continue Reading »

SliceCharge Pro – the wireless charger you’ve been waiting for

Apple’s AirPower was supposed to be the only wireless charger you would need. One charging mat that lets you charge an iPhone (or Android), Apple Watch and AirPods. Apple decided to cancel the AirPower before it ever shipped. They sited quality/technical difficulties. I can only imagine that this was because you would have been able to put your phone, watch or AirPods anywhere on the mat. Since the Apple Watch doesn’t use a standard Qi charger I’m sure it was hard to make it work when placed anywhere on the mat.

There are lots of Qi wireless chargers on the market. Some are designed just to charge a phone while other bigger mats are designed to charge two to three devices. I originally went with the Nomad Wireless Charger as it was one of the first to have an integrated Apple Watch charger. The Nomad solution works fine, but what I didn’t like about it was that it was one configuration. You lay your phone on it either vertically or horizontally and you put your watch on the dedicated spot. If you want to charge a third device then you put the phone vertically in the middle. What I don’t like about this is that you have to put the phone on it just right (not to far forward and not too far towards the front) or it won’t be on one of the three charging coils and therefore it won’t charge. I have woke up on occasion only to realize that my phone didn’t charge because it wasn’t sitting on it just right.

SliceCharge Pro offers six high speed charging coils instead of three or four

inside view of the 6 total charging coils

Continue Reading »

Apple Card – 1 Month Later

It was just over a month ago that I applied for the NEW Apple Card. I got approved and documented the whole application process here:

What’s so special about Apple Card?

This was the first question that my friends and fans started asking me. After all, it is just a credit card right? On the surface, it is a credit card. You apply and if approved you’re assigned a limit and you receive a physical card in the mail. However, that’s where the similarities stop.

Apple Card in My Hand

The first thing that makes Apple Card different is the way you apply. If you watched my video above, you’ll note that the entire process happened in the Wallet app on my iPhone. Yes, you can apply for other credit cards on your phone in a browser or a dedicated banking app, but once you’re approved you’re likely to still need to wait for a physical card to show up in the mail. Once approved for the Apple Card it’s immediately available in your Apple Wallet app. You get to use it with Apple Pay immediately. Even if you don’t use it with Apple Pay you can still look up your Credit Card Number, CCD and Expiration Date in the Wallet app so that you can start using it online with places that don’t yet accept Apple Pay.

A titanium card with just your name on it

Continue Reading »

It’s a wallet, not tech

Although my old wallet wasn’t quite a “Costanza Wallet” it was thick enough to be noticed by my buddy Larry Becker. We trade tech recommendations all the time and while this had nothing to with tech, it’s hands down the best wallet I’ve ever had. It’s actually quite a simple concept. Instead of trying to consolidate everything into a smaller footprint, The Big Skinny wallet spreads things out a bit so that the same contents can be, well skinny in your pocket.

The Big Skinny is the best wallet I’ve ever had!

I stopped carrying my wallet in my back pocket years ago because I was sitting lopsided. Also, it’s less of a pickpocket opportunity. Moving it to my front pocket was more comfortable and as you might imagine caused an unnecessary bulge.

Continue Reading »

Tesla takes a step forward towards self-driving cars – Smart Summon Review

It’s definitely an amazing time that we live in. While we’re still probably a few years out from being able to climb in the back seat and nap while your car drives you safely to your destination, Tesla has definitely been moving us closer and closer to that goal. In the latest Over-the-Air software update (v10), Tesla delivered the long-awaited Smart Summon feature.

See me demonstrate it here with a 2018 Tesla Model 3

Smart Summon allows a Tesla owner with either Enhanced Autopilot or Full Self Driving options to remotely summon their car in a parking lot from up to 150 feet away. The car will figure out how to leave its parking space and navigate its way to the owner.

The owner can either simply hold down the “Come to Me” button on the screen in the Tesla App or go into the Summon feature and plot a point on the map for the car to drive to.

It’s amazing to see Smart Summon in action and I can’t wait to see what comes next. If you’re interested in getting a Tesla, you can get FREE Supercharging by ordering with my link here.

Do-it-Yourself Home Security System – SimpliSafe Review

My house was built in 2016. Back then I went with the security system that had been partnered with the builder. It turned out to be Alarm.com and later was acquired by Brinks. The system itself did its job. I was even able to set it up so that it could be armed via my voice by Alexa, Google Home and their mobile app. The system was basic and covered all the entry doors as well as a motion detector. It included a panel on the wall and this panel had the siren built-in as well as a cellular connection to the monitoring service. That’s it.

Why I switched from a system that I had paid off to one that I would have to buy from scratch?

Continue Reading »

Nest vs. Ring vs. Logitech – Which Security Camera is Best?

There are several security web cameras and video doorbells on the market right now. Each as you would expect has its advantages and disadvantages over the other one. While there are several viable options out there, today I’m going to focus on three that I use regularly. All of these webcams connect to your home/office network via Wi-Fi. By no means should you walk away thinking that these are the only three options. However, these are the three that I’ve had the most direct experience with.

Why use more than one brand?

You can absolutely get good cameras from any of the three vendors I’m reviewing today and use that brand exclusively. However, sticking with a single brand may mean that you’re missing out on other features and uses that you may be interested in. For example, I like my Ring cameras because Ring offers solar powered options that don’t require a power outlet outside the house or having to constantly take them down and charge their internal batteries. Ring also works with Amazon Echo (Alexa) smart speakers with displays so that you can view them in any room without having to fire up the app on your phone.

Amazon Echo 5 Showing the Ring Video Pro Doorbell by saying “Alexa, show me the front door.”

Nest offers both indoor and outdoor cameras that work just as good as the ones from the other two vendors, but I really like that they offer of all things a native Apple TV app so that I can view my cameras on the big screen.

Nest Apple TV App

Logitech offers cameras that cost less and have the big advantage of having native HomeKit support. Having HomeKit support means that the cameras can be integrated into HomeKit Automations. For example, if someone walks within range of a camera at night it can trigger lights inside and/or outside the home to come on automatically. Logitech also lets you do more without having to pay for a monthly subscription to store the videos in the cloud. Because Nest cameras are powered via AC they are always recording/streaming whether there is activity or not. This way you can look at any timeframe to see what happened even if there wasn’t a specific event trigger.

I love all of these features and use them daily, but don’t worry, I’ll tell you by the end of this post which camera I’d go with if I could only pick one.

I started with Nest before it was Nest

Continue Reading »

I’m glad I gave iRobot Roomba another try!

It was roughly 17 years ago that the first Roomba robotic vacuum was introduced. Being a gadget geek I bought one. It was OK. Yes as a vacuum I was immediately amazed by how much it actually picked up, but as time went on it was obvious that the “brain” of the original Roomba wasn’t that smart. It would seemingly randomly go over the same places over and over again while missing other places completely. It was also easy for it to get stuck and not figure out how to get free. Lastly, it almost never returned home on its own. I would have to pick it up and return it to the charging base more often than not. When the rechargeable batteries died, I never bothered to replace them. I was over it.

17 Years Later the iRobot Roomba 960 is MUCH MUCH BETTER!

Vacuuming is absolutely a task that needs to be done and is one that in most cases we wish it could be done by someone or something else. There isn’t much joy derived from vacuuming by hand. So if you could literally have a robot (or should I say droid – sorry I had a Star Wars moment) do it. Why not? I researched various robotic vacuums and settled on the iRobot Roomba 960 It’s in the middle of the product line. It’s not the most or least expensive model. It’s priced and featured comfortably right in the middle. Trust me, it wasn’t easy spending this much money on something that I hadn’t proven to be worth it, but a little over a month later and I couldn’t imagine life without it.

What makes it worth the money?

Continue Reading »

Is it finally time to get an electric vehicle? Answer these 5 questions to see:

I made up my mind that it was time for me to get one back in 2016. Although I still had a year left on my current lease, I knew that my next car would be an EV (electric vehicle). I watched every video that I could find. I read countless blogs and articles, and I asked my EV driving friends every question that I could think of. Most of these questions consisted of “what if” scenarios because of the infamous human condition known as “range anxiety.” More on that later. I did my research, and in the late summer of 2017, I placed my order for a new EV.

Although there are several EVs on the market (more now than back then), I went with Tesla, an American made EV. I originally wanted the NEW Tesla Model 3 that had just been introduced (early 2016). It was initially projected to be delivered in a year, and I figured if I placed my order right then in 2016, it would be ready by the time my lease was up. About a month or two went by, and I had already succumbed to my fear and anxiety that it wouldn’t be built in time. There was just no guarantee that Tesla would be able to deliver my Model 3 by the fall of 2017. They had hundreds of thousands of pre-orders, and producing a new vehicle from scratch isn’t easy. I just couldn’t take it, and I canceled my order. I got my $1,000 deposit refunded and decided that if I were really going to do this, I would get the Model S instead. After all the Model S had been around since 2012 and it was proven to be a great car. It would be the most expensive car that I ever bought (leased). I wasn’t thrilled about the price, but I was excited about everything else. When I placed my order in late summer 2017, I just couldn’t stop smiling. This was it! I was finally getting the car that I had wanted for over a year. My “dream” car was delivered on time (if not a week early), and it was love at first sight. I could NEVER go back to an ICE (internal combustion engine) Vehicle. 

It was everything that I dreamed it would be.

It was quiet. It was fast. It was full of tech. The 17” touch screen was amazing. It handled like a dream. Best of all, I would never need to buy gas again. About a week before taking delivery, I had my electrician install a 240V (NEMA 14-50, same plug you would use for an electric oven) plug in my garage. While you can charge an EV even with a standard 120V household outlet, it’s much faster and more energy efficient to charge at 240V. The car comes with a Mobile Connector (charger) and at the time with the necessary adapters to plug into a 120V or a 240V NEMA 14-50 plug.

Although I had this NEMA 14-50 plug installed initially, I later upgraded to Tesla’s (optional) dedicated High Powered Wall Connectors (HPWC)

I got home, and it was the first thing I tested. I wanted to make sure that I’d be able to charge my car without any issues. It worked perfectly. It was really at this moment that I would be spoiled for life. Waking up to a full charge every day and never going to a gas station again is life changing. 

Let’s answer the question: Is it finally time to get an electric vehicle?

The short answer for the vast majority of you reading this post is YES. I won’t try to BS you and say that EVs are for everyone. They aren’t (yet). I also don’t have any hidden agenda about this. I don’t get paid by Tesla or any other EV manufacturer. I just want to educate those that are interested. Don’t bother telling why it’s not for you. You have your reasons, and that’s fine. 

Most of the people driving cars today would definitely benefit from going with an EV. They are cheaper to operate and maintain. Like I said though, they aren’t for everyone and depending upon your situation, it might not yet be the right move for you at this time. So let’s go through the usual questions/objections and figure it out. There are really five questions that will help you decide:

1. What’s your daily commute look like?

By the way, stop and go traffic doesn’t negatively affect your range in any significant way.

Most EVs sold today have a range of 200-370 miles on a single charge. If you have a round trip commute each day of less than that, then you’re probably a candidate for an EV. Even if your commute is longer than that, but you have a charger friendly workplace/school, then it’s still a probability that you can drive an EV. The average daily commute in the US is 16 miles each way. That’s 32 miles just back and forth to work. Add the occasional errands during the day, and it’s probably still easily under 100 miles a day. This means that the average US commuter could charge at home or at work once a day or as needed and never need to charge anywhere else unless they were going on a long road trip.

2. Can you afford it?

Continue Reading »

My 2019 Gadget Guide is Here

Terry White Recommends

Thanks to Amazon’s new Influencer Program, I can now put all my gadget and photography recommendations in one place. This is the most complete guide that I’ve ever had simply because Amazon carries so many products. Does this mean that I don’t shop or recommend places like B&H Photo anymore? Absolutely not. I love B&H and quite honestly I will continue to buy my big ticket photography gear and electronics from there. However, there are so many things that I recommend that B&H just doesn’t carry. That’s why I’m stoked to have the opportunity to have my own spot on Amazon. There isn’t anything here that I haven’t used personally. The only possible exception would be a newer version of a gadget or piece of tech that I use that is no longer available.

They are nicely organized by category. You can see my recommendations here.