Sunday, July 10, 2016

"Hey Siri, Goodnight..."

We appreciate your understanding as the Internet of Things (IoT) market continues to evolve. - Connected by TCP
A few years ago I really REALLY wanted to be able to turn my bedroom lights off with my phone from my bed. I had a long stare down with Phillips Hue. I knew it would solve my problem, it was the marketer leader, but the price tag was impressive. I waited. and waited. and waited. I was getting ready to buy them, when I heard about TCPi Connect Lightbulbs.

It wasn't that TCP Connect was better, it's that is was cheaper. SO MUCH CHEAPER. It was around $60 to connect my bedroom (rather than the $200 Phillips Hue would be). So I installed it and it was amazing.
Now TCP is a lightbulb company, not a technology company. So they didn't innovate, but their private API was really REALLY easy to reverse engineer so it I made a app for my Pebble Smartwatch. More recently I made a Homebridge (HomeKit) module for it. So while TCPi doesn't really provide support, I've always felt like I've had the latest and greatest technology.
TCPi announced this year they are done being a technology company and go back to being a lightening company.  Future smart bulbs will work with WeMo system and they shutdown their server. In their announcement they mentioned that since there server is shutdown, remote access will no longer work.
Except here is the thing, I have Apple Home which works remotely through my AppleTV. So event though my internet bridge is gone, my lights still work the exact same way they always have for me. It's cool - and I also look forward to buying WeMo smart lights at some point.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Future of Money-Honey

Mini-Chaos has started pretend playing with "money" in a couple of different ways. When we go outside to go on a walk he often says, "oh! I forgot my money" and runs back to the front door for a second to pretend to grab it. He also gets stacks of cards from his games and says, "do you want some money?" I'm not sure where he learned the concept of money like that - because I've been running wallet-zero since before he was born by carrying only my phone with a credit card inside and Mrs.Chaos made the transition to wallet-zero in the past couple of years too. There's this cute little Wheels on the Bus video we watch, and in it the Panda Bear holds his RFID card up to the scanner as he boards - "The money on the bus goes *beep* *beep* *beep*."

We're to give him this little piggy bank with the different sections (spend, save, give) so he might be able to start earning a little bit of money for being extra helpful around the house. But man, we're going to have to go to the bank to withdraw money to pay him with. He is going to have only the vaguest uses of physical money in his life. It's going to be really tough to teach a three year old how to balance his checkbook before he can do math with numbers. Can someone kickstart a little re-loadable charge card with an LCD screen that helps a 3yo to visualize how much money he has on the card? And how many more years until Mini-Chaos gets a wearable on he can use to spend money?

Anyway - we’ll need to start our discussion of money by talking about how NFC payments work from smart watches.

Monday, May 16, 2016

A Wearable Year

It’s just one more thing to remember to charge throughout our busy days. - Joseph Volpe
When the Apple Watch pre-order day happened last year, I was in the throws of having a newborn waking me up, I slept through my "wake up to preorder" alarm, and I didn't get my watch for six weeks after it was available. It was horrible! Now I'm somewhere around a year in to owning and wearing my Apple Watch and what's the scoop?  What does it feel like after wearing it a year?

Living outside of the tech bubble bay, the Apple Watch is a rare sight. One my friends-of-friends who works at Apple commented when seeing me, "I think you're the first non-Apple employee I've seen wearing the Apple Watch." Even at my office corporate in San Francisco, I am the only person wearing one. So people still ask me, "Is it cool? What's the coolest thing it does?"
In terms of my wearables, my wedding ring still remains the things that I wear 99% of the time. It comes off briefly under specific "I might lose it" scenarios, but generally, it's on my finger. After that, the next most worn item is my Apple Watch followed by my iPhone. What's the killer feature? Seeing what time it is on my wrist!
What do I actually use my Apple Watch for? Notifications, obviously. I turned off all my work-related notifications (bye-bye Slack, Gmail, etc), so it's really only there to provide me with personal notifications during the work day.  I would like to be able to have work notifications off during the work day (where I am sitting in front of my work computer) and on during the weekend, where I might want to see a quick work email and reply - but since I can't do that? Off all the time.
Up until very recently I used the music controls all the time - the primary way I played music at home was Amazon Prime Music from my phone, through a Bluetooth speaker.  So it was super awesome to be able to adjust volume, pause, skip tracks, using the music player on my wrist. But I recently bought an Amazon Echo, and now that is the way we play music in the house. I find it significantly less convenient and cool to yell out into the air, "Alexa, volume up." "Alexa, skip." "Alexa, pause." than it was to casually do a wrist tap or two.  On the other hand, it's significantly more convenient to have an always-on speaker than to deal with my phone disconnecting when I walk to the far end of the house go outside.
I use Siri to control all of my Internet of Things devices around the house. By using the Homebridge OpenSource server, I've got all my smart devices wired up. The one I use most often is, "Siri, goodnight." That turns off the lights (TCP Connected), turns on the bedroom fan (WeMo Switch), makes sure the garage is closed (Chamberlain MyQ), locks the inside garage door (August Smart Lock).
I also do "use" all of the built-in health tracking features. I put it in quotes, because that one is entirely passive, and I don't do anything with that data, but it's cool to think about the fact that I now have a year worth step counts, standing data, heart rates, etc. I've been using Sleep++ on the watch to track my sleep at night as well.
So that's where I am after a year with this thing. I would probably do a lot more if apps were faster... they are... just... so... slow. I really enjoy BabyConnect to track all the kids activities, but the watch is too painfully slow for me to do it. I cannot wait for The New Apple Watch that speeds all this stuff up a little bit.

Friday, May 6, 2016

The Movies

Just follow your heart, and keep smiling. - Kiki’s Delivery Service
When Mini-Chaos turned 2yo, we started to let him watch movies. One of my desires while we get to pick what he watches is to help him watch good movies. I've gone back and watched movies I have found memories of from my childhood, shaken my head, and moved on. Maybe he can go back and watch movies and think, "yeah, my childhood movies were great!"
So far the movies he's watched are: Ponyo, Totoro, Toy Story, Cars, and Rio. His favorite movie is Totoro - just loves it. Who wouldn't? The story about two kids moving to the country and how they perceive the world through their imagination.

One of things I've been struck by watching these movies that has made me love Studio Ghibli even more is the fact that Ghibli movies star characters and stories (though fantastical) that are completely relatable to a 2yo. He knows what it's like to be a little kid, and play, and have kid-friendships, and love to find acorns on the ground, and chase animals, and enjoy boats, and all the stuff that characters of the Ghibli movies do.
The other movies? They are movies about adult characters with adult issues and adult relationships and love interests. They characters might be toys, and cars, and birds, but they are adult cars, and adult toys, and adult birds with adult fights and adult relationships.
As I look forward to the next movies he is going to get to watch as he gets older I'm so excited about Laputa, Kiki's, Cat Returns, and then eventually NausicaƤ, Porco Rosso, Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howls.  Stories about kids who are kids, doing kid things with kid interests and kid relationships.
Yes, yes, he'll definitely get to watch the Pixar and Disney catalogues too - but I'm not sure he'll like them as much. We'll see.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Even More Hydration

Water is the driving force of all nature. - Leonardo da Vinci
In June of 2015, Tim Cook got on stage and mentioned that the new HealthKit would include hydration tracking "for all of those smart water bottles" and I immediately went online to buy a smart water bottle. There were none. The best thing I found was a smart water bottle I Kickstarted called "Hidrate" expecting to ship in November of 2015.
It was a Kickstarter, which I funded in June, so it obviously did not ship in November of 2015. I never really expected it to. What I was more shocked by was in October, when Vessyl (which I backed in June of 2014) announced the Pryme Vessyl was going to a thing and in Apple Stores, and early backers would get one for free. This became a fun backer-race. Who would get me my smart hydration system first, Pryme Vessyl or Hidrate?
The answer was Pryme Vessyl, but not by much.  Within about a month my Hidrate arrived!
So what's the verdict of the Pryme Vessyl ($99) versus the Hidrate Spark ($54)? Well, sadly, it depends - but if you don't want to read, I say go with the Hidrate Spark.
The Vessyl is, in every way, a better cooler sturdier more amazing beverage container. The thing is, mine constantly fails to track what I am drinking. I think if the Vessyl isn't actively connected via Bluetooth to the phone while drinking, then it doesn't track it. So as cool and neat and wonderful as it is, if it doesn't actually track how much water I am drinking, then what is the point? Very little.
The Hidrate Spark feels cheaper and less cool and way less sturdy than my Tervis water bottles - but you know what? It has been consistent about tracking every ounce of water that I drink. If my phone isn't connected it stores the tracking in the bottle until the next sync.  Awesome all the time.
My major complaint with both apps is that they only track water you have imbibed with the beverage container of choice.  So I can't use both at the same time and have everything work.  I have to commit on a given day to drink all my water from my Pryme Vessyl or from my Hidrate Spark.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Hydrated So Much It Hurts

We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. - Bill Gates
I don't even want to look back through my credit card statements to know when I backed the Vessyl - the world's most beautiful beverage container. Let's just say, it would be counted in years. I kind of assumed I would never get one until in late 2015 they pivoted! Vessyl released the Pryme Vessyl into Apple Stores that let you track hydration, and told all of us early backers that we'd get one for free - probably by the end of November! Mine arrived March 14th, a little late, but gorgeous.

I'm incredibly excited about the health future that Apple is ushering in with all of these connected devices tracking everything we do and storing it into our phones for us to have forever. Forty years from now, I should have 40 years of health activity tracked as well as weight, heartbeats, blood-oxygen, etc. Can you even imagine the type of research science we've got coming?
While I might be tracking all this stuff, it's not really inspiring action from me. Just collecting data. So I'm still unhealthy, but at least I KNOW that I'm unhealthy. The Pryme Vessyl is pretty cool - and I have been drinking A LOT more water than I usually drink. We'll see if it holds true.
When iOS 9 got announced back in October, Apple mentioned that had added hydration tracking to HealthKit "for all those smart water bottles." Here's a hint - there aren't any.  I did kickstart one at the time assuming it would get here before I ever got a Vessyl. I did not, but my Hidrate smart water bottle is scheduled to ship on March 28th (just 3 months behind schedule).

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Planning the Meals

Being busy does not always mean real work. - Thomas Edison

We struggle with our “eating out” budget, just like every family in America. Cooking? Yeah, I theoretically like to cook, but in practice when I’m done with work and have two kids who want to play, do I really want to cook? In practice when I get off work, and Mrs.Chaos has spent eight hours taking care of two kids, does she really want to cook? No. But yet, eating out (or getting take out) adds up fast on the budget.

When we decided that meal planning needed to be a joint marital effort, I did the only thing I know how to do: researched apps to find one that would be awesome for meal planning. Because, the theory goes, if I have a super-convenient method to do it across all my devices, won’t that really be the tipping point?

We’re three weeks in and all is going pretty well on this front. Saturday is meal-planning day. Sunday is grocery run. We’ve been sticking to the schedule.

The app? Paprika - which goes on sale once a year after Thanksgiving, but we shelled out for the full price across Mac, iPad, and iPhone.