I'm a little late with my Holiday Picks this year, but I hope this helps some of you shop for your family (or yourself).
Since our daughter was 6 we have followed a simple but effective philosophy for teaching her about money. This was inspired from articles we read (I mean my wife read) about targeting a weekly allowance tied to your child's age, in our case we started at $6 a week. Common wisdom among many parents we knew was to tie allowance to chores and start later than we did. We didn't follow that path and felt that we wanted our kids to have a meaninful amount of money that allowed them to save for things like legos (which are expensive) and also make good choices about small and big purchases. We didn't want to get nagged to buy things for them and wanted them to learn how to save and save up for things they wanted.
If you want to read more about this, I would point you to this article and this book called The Opposite of Spoiled by Ron Lieber. About 1 chapter into reading it was already armed with insight and understanding on how to raise kids who thoughtfully consider the value of money.
For the past two decades I’ve amassed a lot of travel tips and techniques. For context, I travel a decent amount, but I’m not a business road warrior.
About half my travel is with the family, and the other half is for business. I fly about 25,000 - 50,000 miles a year (but in seat). As such it makes sense to be wise about maximizing value, time, etc
If you are short on time, here is the TL;DR (that’s too long didn’t read):
- Signup for Nexus or Global Entry ($50 - $100)
- Signup for Clear ($170)
- Get a Chase Sapphire Preferred or Amex Platinum Card ($450)
- Enroll in all the Hotel / Car programs that come with the card benefits
- Get noise cancelling headphones ($300)
- Get a 4 wheeled spinner bag ($300 - $850)
A few weeks ago I was asked to describe the anatomy of my “smart home”. This is a work in progress, so what I will do is update this over time.
So much has been written about this phone. A lot of opinion about "should you get it or not". That kind of commentary is utterly useless to me.
Here is the thing. A long time ago, I decided that there was at least one luxury I wanted to enjoy. And that was a brand new iPhone ever year. There are a few reasons for this... some obvious now and some not so obvious. Beyond the fact that my team produces software for the iPhone, I also just want to experience everything new about it as soon as it's ready. It also means experiencing the changes Apple is making to the broader ecosystem (like removing the headphone jack). So with that said, I'll do a quick overview of why I think the iPhone 7 is an obvious upgrade.
Wifi has been with us for a very long time now. I'm fortunate that my house is wired for ethernet, which means I have generally had a glorious blanket of high speed internet everywhere... well almost.
For my family though, that's another matter. Wifi is infuriating to get everywhere in the house. These days with printers, and tablets and Alexa, Sonos and other devices, it's really critical that you have Wifi signal everywhere in your house.
However, the standard tech out there does not solve for this. I have tried every kind of wifi range extender and other things to solve this problem over the years and only been frustrated by the results.
Being away from their homes, and being "tech support" further complicated this.
To make matters worse, my own wifi needs have grown to require wifi to blanket the outside of my house to power things like my Ring Doorbell, Outdoor Dropcams and Sprinkler System. Heck, I also needed wifi in my garage for the Tesla! In addition, wifi has gotten faster over the years, and I also wanted the best / fastest Wifi everywhere. 802.11ac is the newest wifi standard, and with my 120 MBps internet service, I want all that data speed to get to my devices.
To date, the gold standard in simplicity, reliability and ease of use (manage from your phone) is Apple's Airport devices. But no more. Enter the new kids on the block, eero and luma.
I previously reviewed the August Smart Lock and gave it 3 stars. Back in that review I mentioned the following issues with the lock
- Auto unlock does not always work.
- The auto lock (ever lock) was not customizable enough
- The auto lock can damage your door frame if the door is not completely shut when the August attempts to lock the door.
- The battery door is held in by magnets, and often people in our house turn the lock and inadvertently unseat the battery cover
In the time I owned the original August, issues #1 and #2 were solved through better software. In that time the software has really matured a lot.
But August released a new version of their lock, and this review is about that.
As I watch my children grow, and start to develop their own music taste, I've been thinking a lot about how I experienced music as a kid.
My music interests developed in the tape cassette world, and quickly shifted to the compact disk. I even toyed around with mini-discs for a number of years in order to make near CD quality mix tapes. I never had a turntable growing up, but at least I grokked the concept of an album and all that went into making it (album art, pamphlet, lyrics etc).
My kids, they just know Spotify and Pandora. I've been reading with interest about how Vinyl is making a huge comeback thanks to Millennials!
"It's definitely a bright spot for the business," said Josh Friedlander, RIAA's senior vice president of strategic data analysis. "In an increasingly digital age, vinyl records can provide a deeper, tactile connection to music that resonates with some of the biggest fans."
I agree wholeheartedly. Seattle has some incredible Vinyl stores, and so we decided to pull the trigger and drag our children back into the past, so that they could develop an appreciation for music that was more connected to the Artist and the Album.
And hey, another excuse to research the crap out of at least 5 different things to power a turntable :-).
I installed my first "smart" switch in 2010. It was a Leviton Z-Wave switch. Back then, getting automated "smart home" stuff was expensive, hard, and complicated. I was forced to do this as a result of some wacky wiring in my kitchen that required I have a smart keypad that can turn two lights on at once. The Leviton Viza RF+ products did the job for a number of years. But programming Z-Wave products stinks and interoperability is not perfect.
However, there has been a significant lighting change that required that I revisit much of my lighting: LED Light Bulbs. Lighting is the #1 consumer of energy in my home. We have over a hundred recessed lights in our home. Each room has 6-10 Par 30LN or Par38 bulbs each consuming 50W-90W of energy. Our kitchen and family room alone is about 1000W of energy for 10 hours per day. In a year that's about 3000kw of energy, roughly 15% of all my electrical usage or $400 a year. To light one room! I have been motivated to cut this down with LED bulbs to roughly 210w (vs 1000w).
My quest for high quality replacement LEDs throughout the house meant all new dimmers. LEDs don't usually work with traditional dimmers and especially not my Leviton Z-Wave dimmers.
Around this time, Lutron had announced their Caseta "home" products. Lutron is an old name in custom lighting and makes most of the commercial and high end products in the market. They are all branded and packaged differently, but customer builders will use products like Radio RA2 and HomeWorks (for new construction). In fact, the way that new homes are getting wired resembles nothing like how current homes are wired. Lutron HomeWorks allows you to discretely control each load in the house through a central control panel. 120V is run to every light and Cat5 cable is run to each switch or dimmer as a "home run" back to the electrical panels. From there the nonsense of multi-way lighting (3, 4, 5 way) is eliminated along with all the head scratching ways of doing the wiring. It also means a lot less copper 14 gauge wire running all over the place.
For me though, I went with the do-it-yourself Caseta system. Most of the components can be purchased from Amazon and the entire system is HomeKit compatible, meaning you can say "Siri turn off the Main Floor" and she will turn off all the lights on the main floor. Other neat thing I can do, are dim the lights to 60% when the TV remote is used to turn on the TV. I can also use IFTTT recipes to trigger other remote actions. Siri is really powerful here with lots of easy to use commands. You can even dim lights for movie night or guests.
So how do you get started?
- You need enough electrical knowledge to replace dimmers and switches, including finding the neutral wire and connect that to some of the switches.
- You need to have a basic understanding of 3-way circuits although you will not be using them as Lutron accomplishes 3-way to using small little remotes that run off batteries that replace your old 3-way switch
- A Lutron Smart Bridge
- Some Dimmers, Switches and Remotes
Welcome to 2016! I'm pretty excited about this year. 2015 was an awesome year for tech and gadgets and I have high expectations of 2016. So let's get into it. My 2nd annual list of what I use in life. This will mostly be an update of the What I use 2015 post. I'll note what's new and IN and what's OUT.