Archive for 2018

The Night Before, 2018 Edition

December 24th, 2018, 4:15pm by Jake

Twas the night before Christmas, and on our website
We had an absence of posting, no comments were in sight
WordPress still running Pyslent with due care
Only seldom we write, yet we still come & stare

Seven children were nestled, all snug in their beds
While visions of gadgets danced in dads’ heads
The stock market was tanking, the government shutdown
The whole thing orchestrated by the world’s largest clown

Chiefs and Pats were still winning, Red Sox were world champs
Giants fans counting days until Spring Training camps
Lebron joined the Chargers and Rams in LA
The Raiders in Oakland? They’ll never stay.

Out on the internet arose such a clatter
I sprang from the couch to see what was the matter
Grabbed my Apple Watch, don’t drop it this time
Fixing a screen is pricey, costs more than a dime.

The internet was crazy, I’d never seen such a flurry
But I must be quick, I must be in a hurry
Then I just saw him, almost did not catch it.
It’s Rotiveo– the patron saint of gadgets!

Rotiveo wore Mobile Pants, size extra tall
And his clothes were vibrating, must be a phone call
Brought a load of gadgets, and even a game
And he whistled, and shouted, and called sites by name

“Now Netflix! Now Target! And Amazon too!
To Best Buy! To Costco! And Kickstarter woo-hoo!”
All over the web, he searched high and searched low
To find all the stuff, now it’s ready to go!

All across the Internet, Rotiveo he flew
A storm of traffic he did see in his rear view
He found the best deals, on the very best gear
It’s so cutting edge, it will still be good next year.

The net’s overflowing with really good stuff
Getting it to work might be kind of tough
With all sorts of cords and fifty kinds of plugs
(For us early adopters, we’re used to the bugs)

Rotiveo’s got the stuff to make us all gloat,
No Cable, Trump Tower, nor ‘Galaxy Note
The home gets smarter with a Ring and Nest
With Sonos One, the music you pick is always the best!

Joanie and Mike getting ready with presents all wrapped
With enough extra Legos, Adam and Emma would like to get trapped!
Kelvin & Serena still looking down to their boy,
Next year looking up to him, it will still be a joy

Jake and Jen finished Hanukah weeks in the past,
With Jordan’s 6 little friends, they all had a blast.
He said bye to diapers, cribs & plugs
He’s going to school, so now it’s little boy hugs

Brandon’s teen years started off with a bomb scare,
With Tiffany & Evan, nothing will ever be fair!
At Tahoe again, two clans will ski & have fun
Lucas might just head down the scariest run.

Happy in doggie heaven, looking down with such glee
There is Montana, merrily running free
She still sleeps and when she does she still dreams
Mostly of eating, people food I believe

Rotiveo sprang to Roomba (hacked years before)
And away they went, after cleaning the floor
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

Drinks in the South Bay!

November 14th, 2018, 10:09pm by Jake

Grabbing a quick bite with Dr. Sung.

More Home Automation News

July 20th, 2018, 9:39am by Mike

Few fun things related to home automation / integration out there:

We continue our dive into Sonos — we now have a Playbase (at the TV), two Play:1s (basement and office), and two Sonos Ones (the Alexa-capable ones, bedroom and kitchen/patio). I really like them — the sound is a big jump over other speakers I’ve had, and it’s easy to move the sound around between rooms. Couple of new thoughts on this:

  • An important new development is that Sonos now has Airplay 2 on its newer models (Playbase, Beam, Play:5, and Sonos One), which means you can stream directly from your phone to the speaker(s) — great for podcasts or YouTube. Previously, you could play podcasts, Pandora, Spotify, etc through the Sonos app, but the direct way is much easier. In a network with older models, you can stream to one of the newer devices, then share the music across the network to any Sonos device — you just have to have at least one new model to stream to from the phone.
  • Sonos Alexa-capable devices don’t have all of Alexa’s capabilities — for example, I learned yesterday that the One doesn’t support music alarms via Alexa, which would have meant that I could use it as a clock radio that I could snooze by voice. I still can do this (using the Sonos App), but it’s a little less nice.

This brings us to 7 Alexa devices (I think — 3 Dots, 2 Sonos Ones, a Fire TV stick (that we don’t really use), a Dash Wand (that we haven’t used at all in months) — not to mention our phones). I know people are leery about voice control stuff — we’re comfortable with the voice stuff, but don’t have any video-enabled Alexa devices.

Other minor news:

  • All of our switches and plugs (except the one in the bullet below) are Wemo devices, and as of yesterday’s update, Wemo devices are becoming Homekit-enabled, Not sure I really care, since I’m pretty much on the Alexa bandwagon, but if you decided to go HomePod rather than Sonos, this could be useful. Of course, Homekit works with AppleTV as well.
  • My latest find, however, is a wifi-enabled power strip with 4 outlets and a bank of 4 USB charging ports — each outlet (and the USB bank) can be separately named and controlled by Alexa or an app on your phone, and it’s only $30!

I love having stuff happen automatically around the house — we have many lights on timers, our outside lights are proximity-enabled (when our phones come in range they turn on),  and our Nest thermostats and Protects do their thing pretty unobtrusively (the best feature of the Protect is the motion-detecting night light). I get notifications when our house door is opened, or when I leave the garage door open. I’m very reluctant to do locks, though. Still, living in the future!

Countdown to Infinity War

April 26th, 2018, 6:00pm by Jake

It opens tomorrow, so today’s my last chance to catch up on the marvel universe. So I’m at the movies for the 2nd time since JV arrived– during the middle of a work trip of course.

Tonight it’s Black Panther. Let’s see if it’s worth the hype. Hope to see Infinity within a few weeks, once I secure a babysitter. Been waiting 10 years for this one. Anyone have plans to see the movie soon?

More March Madness

March 17th, 2018, 9:37pm by Jake

With the spike in entry fee and diapers, I entered only once in Lance’s pool this year. And keeping to form, sometime in the first weekend I have managed to claw my way to #1. I know it won’t last, and I will end up in my traditional 6-15th place after the final. But fun while it lasts.

Cord Cutting, Yet Again

February 7th, 2018, 5:26pm by Mike

Some among us have been cord-free for decades, at least as far as TV service is concerned. We all certainly spent time in the roof/attic at Caminito Amparo putting up and wiring dishes (which were still there as of the last time we checked, 13 years ago). Took our chances with OTA. Contemplated Sling. We’ve streamed from each others’ boxes. Tried BitTorrent and other semi-illegal approaches like Aereo (which, surprisingly, I never posted about). We’ve even contemplated online solutions like GoogleTV. And had lots of conversations about getting rid of cable.

Last week, we did it again. For the last several years, we’ve had basic cable ($20/month for about 15 standard-def channels), only so we could get a discount on our 25/5 MBps internet service. We took a plunge to YouTube TV, as soon as they released their new AppleTV app., for $35 per month, gives us about 50 channels including all the local networks, a bunch of sports channels (5 ESPN networks, 3 or 4 NBC Sports, FS 1  and 2, and importantly around here, NESN for Sox games), and a bunch of random others, all in HD and with free unlimited “Cloud DVR.” It was perfect for the Super Bowl (results aside).

We also upgraded our cable internet — Comcast is our only option, and we upgraded our internet to 200/25 Mbps service for $90. (As a side note, in researching for this post, I was reminded that 10 years ago, Jake was considering upgrading his home Internet to FIOS, but decided not to, meaning he had to give up the possibility of a 5Mpbs connection.)

We financed this partially by cancelling our HBO subscription, which we haven’t really been using.

What are you guys doing these days?




January 9th, 2018, 10:27pm by Mike


Any Sonos users out there? I’m up to 3 speakers now, and I’m really happy with both the sound quality and the overall experience. I got into it when I learned that Apple would be moving on from AirPlay, and that my ~8 year-old Pioneer AirPlay speakers would likely be obsolete.

Three parts to this write up — the hardware, the Sonos software, and the Amazon side (since Alexa support makes it really great). First the hardware — we have:

  • A Sonos One: This is their newest small bookshelf speaker, with Alexa built in. Lives on our kitchen counter, replaced our Echo Dot and Bluetooth speaker. Over the next year, it’s supposed to be updated with Google Assistant, as well as AirPlay 2 whenever Apple actually releases it. In other words, a Swiss Army knife with great sound. We’ve had a Dot in the kitchen for quite a while, and love it, mainly for setting timers while cooking. But now, we just say what we want to hear and it plays our music. More below…
  • A PLAY:1: this is the older version of the One, but without Alexa built in (and as such, can be found a little less expensively on sale every once in a while). I have the old Dot right next to it, by my bike in the basement. So while riding, I can say, “Alexa, play the album 101 by Depeche Mode in the basement.” Since the Sonos skill is on the Dot, the Dot can control even non-Alexa-powered Sonos devices.
  • A PLAYBASE: This one’s in our living room, and is under our TV (it’s like a sound bar, but literally a “base” for the TV rather than a thin bar). It has an optical connection to the TV, and is controlled by the TV remote. But it also acts as a Sonos speaker for music, and can be grouped together with the other units (or can play different stuff). We also have a Dot in the living room, so we can play music on it via voice as well. In theory we could get two more PLAY:1s and have a stereo pair as back channels, but I don’t think we’ll ever do this.

I can see us buying another speaker or two, it’s just nice to have music all over.

Next, the Sonos software. It’s overall pretty good, but not amazing. The main downside is that not everything works through Alexa, so you have to whip out a phone to do some things. My favorite features:

  • You can sign into all your music accounts (Spotify, Pandora, Amazon, Apple Music, your local music library, whatever), and then browse for a song, and it’ll search everywhere and just find it to play.
  • You can group speakers together, as above, on the fly, and add and take away speakers as music is playing. You can do this on Airplay, also, but it’s not seamless — the music stops for a second while the new network is being figured out.
  • Finally, I can turn down the TV from anywhere in the house — like if I’m in bed and the kids are blaring cartoons 🙂

And lastly, the Alexa support. I think it really makes Sonos worthwhile. The key here (for me) — I uploaded my music to Amazon Music — paid $25 a year to put up to 250,000 songs into the cloud (I use about 9,000). It felt like I shouldn’t need to do that, but I couldn’t figure out any other way to be able to talk to Alexa and have it play music on a server in my house over Sonos (note that I love subsonic, and use it to stream my music from my server to my phone for driving — I don’t store any music on the phone itself). So without paying for a subscription service (other than the Amazon music included with Prime), I have all my music, and a lot more stuff that’s free with Prime. Note that if you ever want to upload music to Amazon, they’re about to stop offering new signups (on the 15th — 6 days from now).

Also, the kids love to just yell at Alexa to play music that sucks, but I guess that’s my fault as a parent for not doing a better job giving them good musical taste (yet).

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