On a Wink and a prayer

About 18 months ago when making the jump to home automation, I picked a Wink 2 hub to be the brains of the operation. The reasons were simple:

  1. It supports Lutron’s proprietary Clear Connect protocol, used in their Caseta line.
  2. It supports Z-Wave, which I intended to start using for lamp modules.

While my experience with the Wink 2 has been positive overall, they’ve experienced three very lengthy outages in the past 60 days or so, one of which was quite serious in my view, and to be quite honest, I’m starting to worry about their business model.

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The cheap thrill of inductive (wireless) charging

Having recently bitten at Apple’s trade-in incentives to move from an iPhone 7 Plus to an iPhone XS Max, I was finally able to enjoy the benefits of inductive, or “wireless,” charging. Being cheap and biased toward Amazon Prime options, I ended-up buying a very inexpensive charging pad. Recently, I bought a couple of their two-packs to put wireless charging within reach around the house. How’s it working?

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No, your cable and mobile companies aren’t looking out for you (and why you should be)

Here’s the thing about recurring charges for ongoing services, like mobile telephone service, cable television service, internet service, and so on: The companies that provide those services are quite happy to keep charging existing customers more than they do for new customers, and keep providing lesser service than they do to new customers. Of course, I knew that on some level, which is why I periodically look go to my mobile carrier’s web site (AT&T) and click the convenient “change plan” link to see what I might pay, and for what, compared to my current plan. And considering that mobile carriers change their offerings constantly, I’ve often discovered I can save some money and get the same level of service (or better service in many cases over the years). You just have to check.

Well, I discovered today that I’ve been an idiot not to do the same with my internet provider.

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UHD and the Law of Diminishing Returns

I suspect that most people are generally familiar with the concept of the Law of Diminishing Returns. There are formal definitions, of course, but for my purposes, let’s just say that it describes a dynamic in which additional investment in something yields less and less measurable benefit, and that you eventually reach a tipping point where it no longer makes sense. It has its basis in financial concerns, but it’s often applied more broadly, such as (in this case) technological improvement.

I may well be a tech curmudgeon, but I think we’re basically there with UHD (ultra high-definition) television.

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Cord Cutting 7: Niche networks (and Motor Trend On Demand disappoints)

One of the disadvantages of cord cutting is that you have hundreds of sources of programming — many being narrowcast, niche networks, some being streaming services, some both — from which to choose and pay for enjoy. Traditional pay channels like HBO, Showtime, etc., sure, but segmented ones like BritBox (for anglophiles), Motor Trend On Demand (for petrolheads), Quello (for concerts), and many more. Whatever your “thing,” there’s probably a way to pay to watch all of it you want.

I just bit the bullet and signed-up for my first such service: Motor Trend On Demand and not 24 hours in, I can summarize my review in one word: disappointing.

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USB power: The curse of modern tech

Once nice thing about living in a home built in the last few years is that unlike my previous, nearly 100 year old home, the electrical system is modern and code-compliant, with electrical outlets far more plentiful. But just like the old house, there’s still almost never an outlet where you need it, despite paying my builder a lot of extra money to put even more outlets in the place than the plans (or code) called for. And making matters worse? So much stuff is powered by USB these days, there are ugly power bricks everywhere. I have tried to make life moderately better in that regard, however.

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The limits of software testing spectacularly revealed by Apple

When the news hit this week that Apple’s new FaceTime group chat feature had a flaw that allowed someone to briefly eavesdrop on someone else, the tech (and mainstream) press was quick to jump on the story, with some mentioning it in the same breath as the nothing-even-remotely-like-it story about Facebook’s egregious privacy destroying, data vacuuming “research” app that flagrantly violated Apple’s enterprise program rules.

To me, the most disturbing piece of this story is what it reveals about the limits of software testing, and what it means for our ever-increasingly tech-driven world.

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Cord Cutting 5: The last piece of hardware (for now)

The last piece of cord cutting hardware (for now) arrived yesterday: The SiliconDust HDHomeRun Extend. This dual OTA (over-the-air) tuner with integrated transcoding was my approach to resolving the last gap after cutting the cord from DISH Network: being able to stream all my local OTA channels, not just the tiny subset supported by Hulu with Live TV, and secondly, to have DVR capabilities for all of those — especially The CW (Channel 2.1 here in Denver), and my occasional indulgence, Buzzr (which is carried on Channel 3.3 here). So, how’s it working out so far?

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