Blogography Logo
spacer

   

Your Lock is Unreachable

Posted on Monday, November 27th, 2017

Dave!Honestly, I don't condone violence (well, except punching Nazis in the face, because that's what Captain America would do)... but I have a deep-in-my-soul feeling that everybody at Apple who is involved with the colossal fucking failure that is their "HomeKit" home automation technology should be executed.

Publicly.

By firing squad.

Without a blindfold.

It's the only way that tech companies are going to learn that you can't unleash half-baked, non-working, pile-of-shit tech on an unsuspecting public without paying the consequences...

Apple HomeKit Bulshit

I can run my entire home from my iPhone... except my locks. The only thing I can do with my locks is either remote-lock or remote-unlock. Because apparently anything more complex than that overwhelms HomeKit and it just goes non-responsive. My whole lock goes offline until I can get home and hold my phone next to the lock, thus bypassing HomeKit entirely.

The only thing I have that's Apple HomeKit enabled is my locks. The only home automation I consistently have trouble with is my locks. And I don't blame Schlage, because anything you submit for HomeKit has to be approved by Apple.

This is squarely on Apple's doorstep, and somebody needs to die.

And if Steve Jobs was still in charge, somebody probably would.

   

Bullet Sunday 539

Posted on Sunday, February 4th, 2018

Dave!Looking for a Super-Bowl-free Sunday? Then you're in luck, because a Very Special Wish List Edition of Bullet Sunday starts... now...

   
• G Master! Once Sony released their FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM lens, I was pretty much done with collecting lenses for my photography. It perfectly filled a gap that I needed, and 90% of the photos I take are with it. About the only thing left would be to purchase a better super-wide-angle to replace my aging 10-18mm f/4, which is not full-frame. Alas, the Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G $1600 on sale. And I just don't take enough photos to justify the cost...

Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G Lens

Still, it sure is a pretty lens.

   
• Curtains! My home is filled to the brim with home automation. Everything from my lights to my locks to my security cameras to my roof heat tapes to my thermostat to my alarms to my vacuums to my television to my frickin' garbage disposal are automated and can be controlled via my iPhone or by voice thanks to Amazon's Alexa. There's still things left I can automate, but the one highest on my list are my window blinds. I'd like to be able to have my home automatically open and close them based on weather and time of day... and it would be great if I could close them all on command when I want to watch a movie. Alas, automated blinds are hideously expensive. Hundreds of dollars per window. And that doesn't include the interface box and installation. To outfit even just the windows in my living room would probably approach $1000. Alas, that's an absurd amount of money to spend on something fairly frivolous.

Still, they sure are a pretty piece of tech.

   
• Speaker! Apple's delayed "smart speaker"... the HomePod... is up for pre-order. From the early review, it features the best sound of any device in its class. It can play music from Apple Music (which I don't subscribe to), interface with Apple's HomeKit (which I fucking hate), and has the Siri digital assistant built-in (a pale imitation of Amazon's Alexa, which I vastly prefer). And yet... I still want one because it can pull my music off of iTunes Match, which is where every piece of music I own is located. Alas, the HomePod is $350. And I just don't want to spend that kind of money on something that basically does what my stereo already does with a little effort...

Apple HomePod

Still, it sure is a pretty speaker.

   
• Super Carl! One of my all-time favorite tech investments is Carl the RoboVac. It's the thing I never knew I needed until I had one. Thanks to my two cats, my dark wood floors are never clean. Cat hair and kitty litter along with crumbs and dust don't get camouflaged like they would on carpeting, and coming home to dirty floors drives me nuts. But, thanks to Carl (my Deebot N79 RoboVac), my floors are remarkably clean when I get home. And now EcoVacs is coming out with an super-upgraded version, the Deebot Ozmo 930. Not only does it have far better room navigation tools, room mapping, and a built-in mop, you can also define areas you want to clean on your mobile phone. But these cool features come at a price. A whopping $599. Which is actually pretty reasonable compared to Roomba RoboVacs. Alas, it's not worth it when the $150 Carl I have now does a very good job already...

Still, it sure is a pretty robot.

   
• Cool! When it comes to future tech, appliances are late to the party. But they've been slowly trickling out... ovens you can control with your phone... washing machines and dryers that can send you notifications... that kind of thing. But the one that intrigues me most is Samsung's "Family Hub" refrigerator. Not only does it have a bunch of cool apps which bring functionality to the space taken up by your refrigerator, it also adds a number of cool (heh heh) features... like being able to see what's inside when you're at the grocery store. The starting price for all this? $3000. Alas, there's no way I'm dropping that kind of bank for refrigerator tech that's going to be obsolete in a year...

Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator

Still, it sure is a pretty refrigerator.

   
And there you have it... Bullets on a Sunday that are too rich for my blood.

   

In Imperfect Harmony

Posted on Thursday, February 8th, 2018

Dave!Remote control clutter is one of those things that most people just accept. One remote for the TV, one for the Blu-Ray player, another for the stereo receiver, another for Apple TV, another for the cable/satellite box... it's annoying, yes. But still better than having to actually get up off the couch to change the channel or change a setting. The horror.

Universal remotes have been around for a long, long time. Manufacturers have been shipping them with their A/V components for ages. My old Sony TV came with a remote which also controlled my Sony DVD player. Nice. I had a Pioneer receiver with a remote you could program for other manufacturer's gear as well as its own. Even nicer.

But ultimately just being able to control one device at a time can be a bummer. Especially if your remotes aren't multi-function where you have to use multiple remotes to do one thing. Grab the remote to turn on the TV. Grab the remote for the cable box. Grab the remote for the receiver.

Which is where the Logitech "Harmony" series of remotes comes in.

These "smart remotes," which have been around for a dozen years, can be taught how to control a vast multitude of devices. On top of that, they are also programmable, so you can chain remote commands together under a single button-press. Press the "Watch TV" button and Harmony will fire up the TV, cable box, and stereo receiver for you. It will then know to use the channel up/down buttons for the cable box and the volume up/down buttons for the stereo receiver. It's all pretty cool, and I've owned three Harmony remotes in the past decade.

But my latest one is a little different. It's comes with a "Harmony Hub" which can not only control your A/V equipment... it can also interface with a lot of your other home automation. Like, for example, Amazon's Echo, AKA "Alexa."

Logitech Harmony Hub

   
Depending on your devices, the Harmony Hub can eliminate the need for remotes completely... which is the whole reason why I bought it last year.

When I get home, I just say "Alexa, turn on the TV" and I'm done. From there I can have Alexa change the volume... change the channel... switch devices... whatever I need. The only time I'm scrambling for the remote is if I want to access shows stored on my DVR or to select something from a menu somewhere (like Apple TV). Sure, it would be nice if Harmony Hub would allow me to navigate menus via Alexa, but it really seems to be more trouble than it's worth right now. Though I'm sure that will change in the future.

There's a lot to talk about when it comes to Harmony Hub, so let's get started, shall we?

  • You actually don't need a Harmony remote or Alexa to use Harmony Hub for controlling your stuff. You can use an iPhone or Android phone or tablet.
  • You can use either a smartphone app or a computer app to set up and program your Harmony Hub. Both are shitty, frustrating, non-intuitive, ball-busting asshole apps to use. Setting up the WiFi connection from my phone was a piece of cake because the hub uses Bluetooth to do it. No having to switch networks and all that other annoying crap... just enter the WiFi name and password and you're done. Everything after that point is a horrendous exercise in futility that left me screaming. Seriously, all the Harmony software is utter garbage.
  • Setting aside the shitty UI (which is rage-inducing all by itself), programming simple tasks is a hundred times more difficult than it needs to be. So many times I run across things that make zero sense. If you want your stereo receiver left on all the time, but use Harmony to access it for changing inputs or whatever, Harmony will turn it off regardless. You have the option to tell Harmony you want it left on all the time, but getting it to accept that option is fucking psychotic. First you go to the device. Then you edit the device. Then you select power settings. Then you select "I want this device left on all the time." Simple, right? You'd think. But then you have to tell Harmony whether you use one button or two different buttons to turn the power off and on. My receiver has one one-button toggle, so I select that. At this point Harmony will completely ignore everything you just did and not allow you to save the setting. No... you have to select "I use two buttons" EVEN IF YOU FUCKING DON'T in order for it to accept the command. Which they don't bother fucking telling you anywhere on the shitty smartphone app... I eventually found this helpful hint in the shitty computer app (even though I couldn't get power settings to work on the computer app). And don't think that you can just delete the "power off" command from the "closing tasks" list... you absolutely cannot. You have to use information from one app to do the work on another app... none of which is mentioned anywhere. Assuming you haven't blown your fucking brains out before you figure out all this insane bullshit, your Harmony Hub will then kindly not turn your stereo receiver off. And this is just the tip of the fucking iceberg.
  • If you haven't smashed your Harmony Hub with a fucking hammer and actually manage to get something programmed the way you want, congratulations. You can now use your phone/tablet or app to control whatever it is you just programmed. Inevitably you'll need to make changes though... inserting a pause between commands... changing a command... adding a command... whatever... at which point you have to use the horrendously shitty apps to do it. Once again putting your shiny Harmony Hub in danger of getting smashed with a fucking hammer.
  • Then it's time to get Harmony set up for voice control via Alexa. If you thought the Harmony apps were shit... wait until you get a load of the fucking bullshit required to get that working. Here's a sampler: You can assign voice "friendly names" to television channels. These can be shortcuts... phonetic spellings... or whatever. I have given FOX "News" the friendly name of "propaganda and lies" so if I ever want to torture myself I can just say "Alexa, turn on propaganda and lies" to see what fucked up shit Hannity is spewing. Sometimes it's critical to assign friendly names because Alexa can be stupid. When I say "Alexa, turn on ABC" Alexa responds with "I can't find a BC for this device" (or whatever). So I had to add a friendly name of "como" to get that to work (my Seattle ABC affiliate is KOMO 4). But here's the thing... every time you want to add, change, or delete a "friendly name" YOU HAVE TO DISABLE THE SKILL ON ALEXA, THEN ADD IT BACK AGAIN AND LOG BACK IN TO YOUR LOGITECH ACCOUNT TO DO SO... THEN YOU HAVE TO TELL ALEXA TO "DISCOVER DEVICES" TO ACTUALLY FIND THE CHANGES. Granted, this is all probably Amazon's fault for the way that Alexa works, but it's still not the cakewalk you're led to believe. Fine-tuning the names takes literally hours... days even... as you try to figure out what works, what doesn't work, and what works best.
  • There's so much more I could rage about when it comes to programming Harmony Hub (the fact that it keeps telling you that you need to set up favorite channels over and over and over and over again... after you've already set up your favorite channels fifty times... is enough to drive you to drink), but the take-away is this: Harmony Hub is a fantastic piece of tech marred by shitty apps.
  • Assuming your Harmony Hub isn't in the garbage from all the rage-inducing shit you have to go through to get it working with your stuff, it then works as advertised. And, I must say, that having it paired with Alexa is so brilliant. I absolutely love it. I also love the simple Harmony Remote that came with the unit (I bought the cheapest one and it's great). Using the smartphone app to control things is not as easy as you might like, but it does work.
  • As if controlling your A/V gear wasn't enough, Harmony hub can also interface with other home automation equipment. Thermostats, smart door locks, switches, smoke alarms, window shades... it's all pretty fantastic. Some things I get, like turning down the lights and closing the shades automatically when you say "Alexa, turn on a movie." But controlling your thermostat and door locks via the Harmony app is puzzling. I mean, sure... maybe some people like to have their heat turned up to 90° when they watch a movie, so it's great that Harmony can do that, but huh? It is, I guess, handy to be able to access other controls from the remote or the Harmony smartphone app without having to open a separate app... but to me adding those things just adds clutter. Harmony is compatible with INSTEON hubs, but not yet able to interface with the ISY994i hub which I use to control my INSTEON devices (darnit!). Hopefully one day...
  • If you have Z-Wave or Zigbee devices, Harmony Hub can control them directly with the addition of a small base station that plugs in and sits underneath. It will set you back $100, however.
  • If there's one thing that Harmony Hub does very well... it's get signal to your devices. I have the hub sitting on top of my media cabinet where the IR signal can bounce around the walls and reach all my equipment. I found that my DirecTV box (which is on a low shelf) wasn't getting signal all the time, so I added an "IR Blaster" (included in the bundle I bought) which plugs into the Harmony Hub and can be run to where you need it. I just threaded it through the back of the cabinet... put it in front of my DirecTV box... and now it works without fail. Nifty.
  • Harmony Hub alone retails for $100. You can also purchase it with a bundled remote for extra. Their high-end remotes have lighted displays and other tech goodness, but I just bought the cheapest remote which does not have any bells and whistles. Still, it works just fine for all I want to do. The retail for that package is $130 at Amazon, but you can sometimes find refurbs on Amazon for $80 (less than the retail price of the hub alone).
  • There is a caveat to buying stuff from Logitech. They are a fucking asshole of a company. Their previous Harmony Hub was called "Harmony Link." As of next month, anybody who purchased a Harmony Link from Logitech owns a hockey puck, because Logitech will no longer support the device. Instead they will turn off the supporting servers which will brick it, rendering it useless. So... just know that five years down the line that Logitech could decide they don't want to support Harmony Hub and brick that as well.

And there you have it. The ugly truth about some really cool tech. It's a real shame that there isn't better software, because I enjoy the end result very much. It's the getting there that sucks. I do know that there are other companies who have similar devices, but I didn't research them since I had such great luck with my previous two Harmony remotes. Had I known then what I know now, I might have investigated a few other options before pulling the trigger.

   

  Home  

spacer
Welcome:
Blogography is a place to learn and grow by exposing yourself to the mind of David Simmer II, a brilliant commentator on world events and popular culture (or so he claims).
Dave FAQ:
Frequently Asked Questions
Dave Flickr Gallery:
Dave Contact:
dave@blogography.com
Blogography Webfeeds:
Entries Feed
Comments Feed
Dave Social:
Blogography Tumblr
Blogography Instagram
Blogography on Pinterest
translate me
lost & found
Search Blogography:
thrice fiction
Thrice Fiction Magazine - March, 2011 - THE END
I'm co-founder of Thrice Fiction magazine. Come check us out!
free iphone app
Ask Dave iPhone App
Put Dave in your pocket with this FREE app for iPhone and iPod Touch. All life's answers await you with the Ask Dave app!
hard rock moment
Visit DaveCafe for my Hard Rock Cafe travel journal!
travel picto-gram
Visit my travel map to see where I have been in this world!
badgemania
Blogography Badge
Atom Syndicate Badge
Comments Syndicate Badge
Apple Safari Badge
Pirate's Booty Badge
Macintosh Badge
license
All content copyright ©2003-2017
by David Simmer II
   
Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under
a Creative Commons License.
ssl security
Comodo SSL