Ring Video Doorbell 2

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Within the past couple of months I purchased two Ring video devices to monitor a property. The first device I decided to get was the Ring Video Doorbell 2.

This device can replace an existing doorbell or be installed where there isn’t one. It provides video and audio recording and can be used to record motion events and interact with someone at your door, live and remotely, from a devices using the Ring app, which works on iOS, Android, Mac OS and Windows.

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Using a Smartphone App to Verify Solar Panel Placement

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Distant-Suns

Prior to installing the solar panel for an attic fan I selected two candidate locations for mounting the panel. The first location was up on the main roof of the house. Though this seemed like the natural choice there were a couple of issues with this plan. The first is simply that it would be a bit of a challenge to safely access that part of the roof. I was also hesitant to do anything that would potentially compromise the roof.

The second location was on the west side of our back porch roof. By placing the panel there it would be easier to install and it also wouldn’t be visible from the street.

Placing it on the back porch roof became the more desired location but I was uncertain whether or not the panel would end up being shaded by the house during most of the day.

How could I determine if the panel would be exposed to direct sunlight most of the day?

Well, it turns out that I already had an app that could do this. It’s an astronomy app called Distant Suns. Typically, I only use it the night of an annual meteor shower in order to determine where the radiant for the meteor shower is.

Fortunately, the app can also calculate positions of celestial objects, including the sun, at different times of the year. Using the app I was able to advance the time and also the date to find the exact position of the sun relative to where I was standing (and oriented). For example, I was able to advance the time to 11 AM and then hold the phone up and move it around until the marker for the sun was visible.

Sure enough, I was able to determine that the solar panel would receive direct sunlight most of the time when mounted on the back porch roof.

 

Pebble Smartwatch Update (and a general opinion of smartwatches)

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It’s been almost eight months since I first acquired a Pebble Smartwatch. So, after all this time what do I think of the watch? It’s very good at providing it’s basic, out-of-the box features. My experience seems to have been better than some. Others have had more issues with firmware updates, reliability, and connectivity. I’ve experienced some of these problems myself though I was able to overcome them.

Initially, I had more issues with connectivity. For a while it would refuse to connect to the phone about once every two weeks and the process required restarting both the phone and the watch (and sometimes resetting configuration settings) to get it working properly. Over the past few months those problems have nearly dropped to zero.

Yet, I have elected to not take full advantage of the additional features available via the installation of apps. The few times I’ve tried them I’ve noted an increase in problems with both connectivity and stability. Early on I simply chose to avoid them and I suspect that’s the main reason that I’ve experienced fewer issues.

For the most part, I’m only interested in the clock, a few custom watch faces, and the notifications.

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Pebble Smartwatch

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Pebble-BoxPebble-Smartwatch

I’ve carried an iPhone around for some time (probably since a year after they were first released). Overall, it’s been a good choice for me and most of the initial annoyances I dealt with have been resolved over the course of several generations. However, one problem I’ve dealt with is sometimes not realizing when I’ve received a text message or have an incoming phone call (I usually carry my phone in my pocket).

This wasn’t a constant problem but it did happen often enough to be an issue. A couple of years ago I started searching for a wristwatch with Bluetooth capability that would vibrate or provide some other form of notification that was obvious. I did find devices that were almost what I was looking for but they were too expensive (several hundred dollars), had poor reviews, or they looked more like bracelets than watches. I had no interest in wearing two devices (for example, a watch and a device just for notifications) so I didn’t bother acquiring any of the devices available at the time.

Then I become familiar with the Kickstarter project for the Pebble Smartwatch. Sometimes I’d read about the progress of the project on tech sites or hear it mentioned in the TWiT podcast. I was interested, but not interested enough to become an early adopter so I waited. I also wanted to see the watch in person before deciding to find out just how big the watches really are.

This year the Pebble went into full production and was eventually available for sell at Best Buy stores. On a recent visit to a store I remembered to look for one. Sure enough, a couple were in stock. After seeing it in person I decided it wasn’t too large to wear (I didn’t want to walk around with a clunky box attached to my wrist) and finally purchased one. In Best Buy stores they sell for about $150. They are also listed on Amazon but are usually much more expensive.

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It’s Nothing Personal (Software Updates Changing Preferences)

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I’m departing from the usual purpose of this blog to take a moment to rant about software updates changing settings, especially when previously selected options still exist in the updated software.

My annoyance of the week goes to Apple for changing the security setting that permits the installation of any third-party software. I changed this setting in Mountain Lion a long time ago so I wouldn’t be restricted to using only software developed by Apple partners.

Sure enough, on every computer we installed Mavericks on, this setting had been changed. Previously, we had it set to allow apps downloaded from “Anywhere” but after the update it was set to the second option of “Mac App Store and identified developers”.

I suppose this might be an effort to curb future malware problems though, even if that is the case, it shouldn’t be reset after any update. I realize this is a minor annoyance but it’s not uncommon to experience similar problems with iOS updates and these particular options seem, in my opinion, to be modified in order to “encourage” a specific end-user behavior.

A long-time offender includes Mozilla with Firefox updates, which is why I created a post with specific settings that I could refer back to after installing browser updates.

Airplay Wireless Headphones (Apple TV & Jailbroken iPod Touch 4th Gen)

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I’ve had a wireless headphone set for a couple of years, which I use to listen to TV late at night in our bedroom. The set has worked great but we recently rearranged some areas of our house and though I like the headset the charging base took up a lot of space on the mantel and its cables added to some additional clutter.

Rather than put the wireless set back in place I decided to go a different route and instead use a relatively-unused iPod touch as an Airplay speaker for the Apple TV in the bedroom.

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Will Apple Become an Innovator Again?

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It’s a question that runs through my mind every time that I consider purchasing a new Apple device. That’s also a mode that I find myself in much less often these days. I’m certainly not stating that I won’t buy any more Apple products or that I even dislike the ones that we already have in our house. It’s my interest in Apple as an innovative company that is waning.

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t even bother commenting on whether or not a company is innovative. It’s a very competitive business that struggles to compete with the expectations of consumers, technological advancement, and the simple goal of making a profit.

In the case of Apple I think this question is deserved. They’re good at building hype and now they’re having to deal with a failing interest in the hype. As many have often said, Apple has settled for being evolutionary rather than revolutionary of late. In some cases, they even seem to have simply “jumped the shark” (for example, the new Mac Pro design).

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