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.
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.
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.
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
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?
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.
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?
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?
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.
For the past two years I’ve been looking for a solution to automate my blinds without having to replace them with new ones. I would love to have Serena blinds by Lutron to integrate into my existing system, but those would set me back anywhere from $500-$800 a window. I just can’t justify that. Luckily now I don’t have to. I stumbled upon the MySmartBlinds Automation kit. MySmartBlinds allows you to automate your existing traditional horizontal blinds. I have 24 windows with these blinds already installed. No need to replace the blinds. I can just pick and choose which windows I want to automate and install the MySmartBlinds kit.
How hard are they to install?
It takes about 10-20 minutes to install the kit on one set of blinds. I can do it pretty quickly now that I’ve done about 10 of my windows. Here’s a video of how the installation and setup in the app works:
I love my Apple AirPods on a level you can’t imagine. They are not perfect, but they are absolutely the best wireless earbud solution I have ever tried. While I love my AirPods there are times when I wish I could use them with a device that doesn’t have bluetooth. For example, the in-flight system on planes requires a wired connection. The same goes for gym equipment if you want to watch any of the TV’s that are broadcasting.
AirFly to the rescue
The good folks over at Twelve South have created a great solution. It’s called AirFly. I picked one up in the airport right before a flight. I was happy that it came pre-charged. The cashier even helped to get it paired with my AirPods while I was paying for them.
Anyone that knows me knows that I’m a huge fan of smart home gear. When we built our house back in 2016 I got a chance to have a clean slate and really install all the latest and greatest smart home gear of the time. I wanted lights that would come and and go off at different times, WiFi controlled garage door openers, cameras, voice assistants and more. When it came to lighting I standardized on the Lutron Caséta system. I’ve been 100% happy with it for the last two years. While I love the Caséta system it does have a hard limit of 50 devices per hub. I couldn’t believe it one day when I went to add a device and it told me that I had hit the limit. Now keep in mind that’s wall switches, lamps and pico remotes. But yeah, I hit the 50 limit. Luckily I was able to unpair a remote that we weren’t really using and add the last device.
Happy New Year! I hope you had a great holiday break. I took some extra time off to unwind, but I’m back! I’ll be in my home office this week and that means that I’ll be live streaming design and photography tutorials. Here’s my schedule for this week:
Monday, 1/7 – 1PM PT – A look back at the BEST New Features introduced in 2018 for Graphic Designers
Last year the holiday season snuck up on me and I failed to get my guide done last year. This year isn’t much different as once again the season just kinda appeared and the next thing you know it’s the last week fo November and here we are. I try to get this done before Black Friday (which has become Black November), but as they say better late than never. If you have a techie or photographer on your holiday gift list, here are my top recommendations for gifts that they are likely to appreciate. In no particular order:
Anker Qi Wireless Charger for iPhone/Android smartphones
Wireless charging is so convenient and this Anker charger is my favorite. Fast, low profile and it just works.
Get it here: Anker Wireless Charger
Logitech Circle 2 Wired HomeKit compatible security camera
My top three favorite home security cameras are from Nest, Ring and Logitech. I find myself adding more and more Logitech Circle 2’s because they are cost effective, easy to setup and the only ones (that I like) that work flawlessly with Apple’s HomeKit.
Get it here: Logitech Circle 2
DJI Copilot – Backup On Site Solution (B.O.S.S.)
One of the things I hear from photographers again and again is that they want to travel with less gear. One of the things that people want to do is carry an iPad instead of a laptop or not carry a computer at all. The DJI Copilot is a solution that lets you backup your images in the field AND use your mobile devices to review, edit and share your images. Yes, even your raw files. With 2TB of storage and all the connections you need it’s a great solution.
Get it here: DJI CoPilot Boss