Chamberlain myQ Smart Garage Door Opener – 5 stars

Chances are, you have a garage door opener. Chances are it’s made by Chamberlain or Liftmaster (same company). Well if you want to catapult your garage door into the future of phone automated wonder, read on.

This past week I have entered the marvelous world of simple phone based home automation with the purchase of a Wink (more on that in a future article) and the Amazon Echo (Alexa – turn on the Kitchen Lights). Wink plus Echo is an incredible, in-expensive, way to connect all the mish mash of different home automation technologies (locks, lights, sprinklers, garage door, motion sensors, security, thermostat and so on). One product that Wink integrates with is the Chamberlain myQ system for controlling a garage door. This immediately set off a pavlovian response to acquire this device.

For reference, there are three different ways to gain home automation of your garage for the purposes of:

  • Opening the garage door
  • Closing the garage door
  • Checking status of the garage door
  • Setting alerts on open/close

The first way is the most expensive. Get a new Garage Door Opener. I did not pursue this since there is no reason to.


The second way, is to get the Chamberlain MYQ Garage Door Controller. This device basically works with any garage door opener but is less preferred to the next option. The reason being is that it’s harder to install, and is not really as integrated.


The third way, which is the approach I took, was to replace the existing wall control unit for my current Liftmaster Garage Door Opener with the Chamberlain myQ Connectivity Kit. That thing on the right there basically replaces the button thingy you use today to open and close your garage door. The thing on the left is the thing that connects the thing on the right to the internet, which allows for your phone to open and close the door (with an app).

This solution has the added benefit that:

  • It’s the cheapest of all options
  • It’s the same benefit of getting a new garage door opener
  • It’s hard wired to my garage
  • It has the new Security 2.0 wireless standard which means that I can get remotes with much better range than my old ones (another side benefit of this upgrade). I can  now open the door from my car (via HomeLink) from down the street. Before I would have real challenges on occasion due to wireless interference and poor range.

Install took me 5 min. I removed the old control panel, wires, connected to the new one and attached to the wall. Then I downloaded the app, created an account and connected the ethernet dongle to my network. Voila.

Now I have smart garage door with a lot of upgraded capabilities.

★★★★★
Exceptional. A spectacular product.

Global GS-29 – 5 inch Fish Bone Tweezers – 4 stars

We have access to some amazing and fresh seafood in the Pacific Northwest. We cook quite a lot of salmon around here, especially when Copper River Salmon is in season. But no one wants those pesky fish bones in your meal and using your fingers to remove them can be a hassle.

 

The Global Fish Bone Tweezer is the perfect device for yanking bones out of fish. It’s pretty much effortless and thanks to the stainless steel construction, it goes right in the dishwasher. It’s also very ergonomic and makes grabbing the bones simple and easy.

Makes for a great stocking stuffer for the chef in your family!

★★★★☆
Great. Worth purchasing.

Griot’s Garage Car Care Products – 5 stars

If there is one difference between California and Washington it’s the sheer lack of nice places to get your car washed. Also, if you own a black car, you’ve hopefully figured out that the surest way to surprise yourself is to take it to a car wash (especially non-touchless) as you’ll drive out with paint swirls.

A few years ago, I took to the internet and discovered an incredible (and local to Washington) company – Griot’s Garage – that makes some of the best car washing / caring products I’ve used. It’s the same product that Park Place Auto Salon uses (and they sell all their stuff). If you live on the East Side (or work there), Park Place is the best car wash.

In my experience with their products, I will say they are top notch. The micro-fiber towels, each custom designed for a specific purpose, are excellent at what they do. They are easily washable and will last years. The reviews on Amazon for all of these products back up my claims.

The way to get into Griot’s garage products is first to recognize that you don’t need to wash your car with water. You can do it in your own garage, and all year round.

Griot’s Garage 11285 Spray-On Car Wash Kit

Griot’s spray on kit is a waterless cleaning system. You basically soak parts of your car with this high volume bottle sprayer and then you wipe with the plush green micro fiber. Then after a minute you buff with the micro fiber. It takes 10-15 min to wash a car depending on how dirty it is. If you have kids, you can shave off some time!

The key with this kit is being very generous with your spray and working in small sections out of the sun. I’ve purchased an extra set of towels since they do get pretty wet and soaked.

Griot’s Garage 11262 Interior Kit

For the inside of your car, the interior kit is great. Doesn’t smell bad and won’t ruin any synthetic or leather products.

Griot’s Garage 11345 Speed Shine Quick Detailing Kit

The speed shine kit is a bit different than the wash. This is meant as a quick “wax” application to use after your have washed a car (either in an auto wash) or due to some dust and dirt that’s accumulated. Much faster than the Spray-On wash it’s even great to use after a wash. Your car will look detailed.

Griot’s Garage 11224 Wheel Cleaning Kit

For cleaning your wheels, this stuff makes brake dust melt.

Griot’s Garage 67255CSTBUC Ultimate Car Wash Bucket

However, now that it’s summer in Seattle, I’ve been enlisting my kid in washing the cars which they seem to enjoy. For this reason I got the Griot’s car was bucket. It is very fast and easy to wash your car the traditional way with about 4 gallons of water (between bucked and rinsing).

The Ultimate Car Was Bucket is really well designed. It has a tray on the bottom to keep the dirt under the wash towels and a special designed measuring system that makes it easy to dole out car was soap. Finally it has an upper shelf that’s good for a wheel brush or cloth. Also it has wheels and a big handle that make movement around the car easy.

Griot’s Garage 11102 Car Wash

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This stuff is amazing. If you use the Micro Fiber wash mit and drying cloth you will have a spotless shine. Simply pour into the small little reservoir in the bucked and fill with a hose.

Griot’s Garage 10268 Micro Fiber Wash Mitt – Set of 2

I have the pads (Amazon doesn’t seem to carry them) but the mitts are the same concept. These are super plush, super absorbent and required to get clean / and shine without spots. No swirl marks.

Griot’s Garage 11117 Micro Fiber Drying Towel

For drying your car, nothing beats having a huge absorbent towel. This towel is amazing. it has 4 hand pockets that let you cover a lot of the car in a short amount of time. I have 2 of these and I keep 1 in the car at all times in case I do go to a touch-less car wash.

Griot’s makes a TON of other products too which you can explore. For example, bug removal spray, glass cleaner (I just use micro fiber and water). The stuff above will go a long way to improving your car look.

★★★★★
Exceptional. A spectacular product.

Aquabot – High pressure water spray – 4 stars

One great reason to go camping is all the wonderful opportunities it provides me for researching gadgets!

This past weekend our team did an annual float down the Snoqualmie river. At the end team members were amazed by my Aquabot. I used it to wash all the sand off my feet before getting into the car. I may have sold a few that day!

What is the Aquabot? It’s a high pressure spray that attaches to a 32oz Nalgene bottle. With it you have a stream of water that you can use outdoors for things like showering, cleaning your kids, or just having an impromptu water fight. Our kids love them and so do I!

Aquabot is one of the more sucessful kickstarter projects I’ve funded (meaning I actually use the product). I’m currently in a self-imposed Kickstarted moratorium this year as I went overboard last year.


The spray itself is very powerful. I estimate about 30 ft.

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I recommend getting one with the bottle as it saves another purchase. But if you have a bunch of Nalgene bottles already, this will make a welcome addition.

Purchase direct from Aquabot for $20.

★★★★☆
Great. Worth purchasing.

Wally iPhone Wallet Cases – 5 stars

Lets face it. Apple Pay and Coin are not doing a good enough job replacing all the plastic cards we must cary. In the interim I’ve been super happy with my Capsule Wallet.

However, I also like to have the most minimalist setup – Driver’s License and one Credit Card. For this reason I have often turned to Distill Union, the maker of the Wally Wallet.

There are two versions. 1. The “Case” which I got for my wife, and 2. The Stick-On wallet which I use. I prefer no case, so this is a great compromise. Plus I like the way the leather feels on the back of my iPhone 6 Plus.

Here is the case. It comes in different colors and for all iPhone models. The sides are a nice siliconized rubber. The case holds 3 cards pretty easily.

 

My wallet uses a temporary 3M sticker to adhere to the back of the phone. The stick-on holds 2 cards easily.

 

If you are looking for a wallet solution for your phone, I highly reccommend.

Note: no iPhone? Not to worry. They also make a stick on card case.

★★★★★
Exceptional. A spectacular product.

Ring Doorbell – 4 stars

The Ring Doorbell is a wireless video camera and doorbell with mobile app. You simply replace your exiting doorbell and it even uses the same wiring (assuming you have 10VA wiring like most homes do).

Before the Ring I had the Doorbot, which was OK (made by the same company). Video quality was meh and it was a bit buggy. So I never wanted to review it. However, a few months back it was replaced with the Ring Doorbell.

If you have a doorbell transformer that looks like this:

You are in luck. I never really knew what this odd shaped gizmo is, but basically it connects to your home 120V AC power and converts that to low power for a doorbell chime.

The Ring doorbell has an internal battery that this low voltage power will keep charged. You can use it without hard wiring, but you will need to keep the doorbell charged every so often.

If you do not have a wired doorbell, there is a wireless solution too.

Once you install the Ring, you get the following features:

  • Motion at the door sends your phone an alert (you can customize the distance and sensitivity)
  • Rings of the doorbell chime your internal door bell and your mobile phone
  • You can see and talk to people at the door
  • You can optionally add cloud recording and see any previous motion activity or ring activity at the door

I find this product very useful to know when packages are delivered, and also when people are poking around my house (which happens more often then you might imagine).

My only real complaint with the Ring is that unlike Dropcam, you can not set up geofencing rules to disable motion sensing which I have found to be rather sensitive and bothersome when I am home.

Install is super quick and the product is high quality. It’s a really awesome home addition.

★★★★☆
Great. Worth purchasing.

Apple Watch – 60 days – 4 stars

After writing up my Apple Watch – First Impressions review, I was asked to revisit in 60 days. Well it’s been a bit more than 60 days and I’m still wearing it. Here are my updated thoughts.

I should mention a few things though. My Apple Watch had a minor defect with the sapphire crystal. The coating applied to the crystal had some defects which appeared like scratches. I took the watch to the local Apple Store and they sent it back to Apple. I got a brand new replacement watch 5 days later. That experience was exceptional.

Apple Watch as a watch
The Apple Watch is a superb watch. The build quality, the feel, the utility are there. I think of it like I do my previous watches and it does this job really well. You forget you are wearing a computer. On top of that it has a few features watches don’t have: changing watch faces, user swappable bands.

Charging
Not a problem. Not once have I gotten even close to the end of the battery. I end each day with about 50-60% battery life. Given all the noise about this pre-launch I’d say Apple more than exceeded expectations here.

Charging every night is also not a problem. I don’t sleep with my watch and never have. I got an inexpensive Spigen dock from Amazon and it feels natural to just slap the watch on the stand and go to bed. No problem.

For travel I got myself a Dodo case that charges my watch and phone in a nice stand.

Bands
I ended up buying the watch with the leather band and like how it looks and feels. Since then I’ve aquired the sport band (black) and the milanese loop. The sport band is way more comfortable than I imagined. And the milanese loop looks incredible, and feels incredible. And I love that it is infinitely adjustable.

I find that I wear the sport band on the weekends and on my workout day. I then go back and forth between the two other bands.

The ability to change bands easily, and in less than 10 seconds is to me what makes this watch better than a watch. I think this is probably one of the best innovations Apple has delivered.

Experience
The watch is not without its flaws. I expect these all to be addressed in the watchOS 2.0, but for now here are the big issues I encounter

  • Launching apps is basically impossible using your finger. I find using Siri the fastest way to do this (“Siri launch Stocks”) or setting up glances for my favorite apps
  • Siri doesn’t talk back to you which kinda stinks
  • Glances load slowly
  • Apps load slowly, and sometimes don’t load before the screen times out
  • Watch and or Phone require reboots every few weeks when battery drain on phone gets excessive or notifications stop working
  • Navigating glances is poor

Not a huge list. Now lets talk about the positives

  • Siri, Calendar and iMessage and notifications are the heroes
  • Being able to answer a call on the watch is surprising useful and delightful. I was in the garden the other day without my phone and was able to answer the call
  • Changing watch faces is also quite awesome
  • Setting an Alarm on the watch is better than the phone (the wake up ramp is better)
  • The Activity stuff, while not critical to me, is nice to have. I like the progress report on standing and moving and find that I hit my 12 hour standing goal every day (I have a standing desk at work).
  • Turn by Turn GPS navigation is super handy
  • The sketch and send heartbeat stuff is mostly useless. No one sends me these any more and I don’t send them either.

Apps
I thought I would list out what I think of as my go to apps on the watch

  • Weathernerd – I love this app for weather and I get a daily alert each morning with the forecast relative to yesterday.
  • Overcast – I started to use this after getting the watch for podcasts as Apple doesn’t have podcast support. I wish I had done this sooner. I use this Glance the most as well since it’s the fastest way to get in my car and start playing a podcast
  • Todoist & Wunderlist – I have both. Not sure which one I’ll stick with long term.
  • Reminders – no watch app but I love telling Siri “Remind me to research blah when I get home”. Killer feature
  • Trello – we use this heavily for work and the apps + notifications are great
  • Deliveries – my go to app on iOS and Mac for tracking delivery status
  • Passbook – when traveling or paying at Starbucks this comes in very handy. Having gate information and boarding details on the wrist is great
  • PowerPoint – presenting from your iPhone and using the watch for next and previous is kinda Ninja. Note that for this to work well you need to change the watch setting to resume to the last app when waking and not the watch face.
  • Apple Pay – when it works… it’s awesome.

Final Thoughts
I really like this watch, and see a bright future ahead. Apple has already announced a few nice features as part of Apple Watch 2.

The big ones are:

Nighstand mode – watch will tell time on its side all night. Unfortunately every dock maker out there now is thinking DAMMIT! This will require docs to be redesigned for the watch to lie on it’s side.

Native apps – today all apps are basically run through the phone. Apple’s apps are native (stocks, weather etc) and you can see the difference

New Watch Faces – I wish Apple would allow 3rd party apps to populate a watch face background like our OneDrive app does on Android Wear. This would be a killer feature for me.

HomeKit support – with my forthcoming Insteon Hub and Light switch, I cannot wait to say “Siri turn off the bedroom lights”

It’s clear to me that in 2-5 years, this will just become more and more incredible. I am really looking forward to the journey.

★★★★☆
Great. Worth purchasing.