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Home Automation Reviews, Insteon, Elk M1, High-tech Pet Gear & More!
WiFi Digital Picture Frame Review E-mail
Gadgets & Gizmos
Written by Peter   
WiFi Digital Picture Frames
WiFi Picture Frames
 

I wanted a digital picture frame.

After seeing them in stores I was always put off by the high price and hassle-factor of loading new images all the time. After all, what’s the point of having such a dynamic piece of technology in your living room if it can’t be updated frequently enough to keep you interested?


When frame prices dipped below the $100 mark, my interest was renewed however the issue of updating still plagued me. I thought “why hasn’t anybody integrated WiFi into a picture frame?” and promptly searched Google only to find out that they indeed had, and there were actually several manufacturers with such frames. Excited I began to ponder the possibilities: Updating the frame directly from iPhoto, potentially having new photos pulled from my computer automatically - no, wait...pulled from the internet automatically! Many of my friends post pictures up on sharing sites and social networks like Facebook, why not have those go to the frame as well?

With my new set of requirements I set off to find the perfect frame.

 

 

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ISY-99i Review - Insteon control system E-mail
Home Automation
Written by Peter   
ISY-99i Image
ISY-99i

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Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Home automation holds tremendous promise, however much of the excitement felt when installing the devices turns to frustration when dealing with the current array of software packages.  Difficulties with software installation, hardware communication issues and steep learning curves for many of the packages leave the uninitiated with little progress after hours spent with configuration.  All of this while the other members of your household are screaming at you to stop turning the lights off on them…  Is the ISY-99i the answer?  Read on to find out.

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Home Automation Review - Question & Answers E-mail
Home Automation
Written by Peter   

scratchinghead_border.jpgIf you're one of the many people considering home automation, but you aren't quite sure where to start or what the best technology is, this article is for you. It seems as though the majority of information about home automation is either extremely technical or focused on one specific product offering. There is no 'perfect' system in home automation, but that's the beauty of it too - the parts work together to achieve what you want your house to be like, not what someone else thinks it should be like. Read on for the top questions asked when starting out with home automation...

 

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NetLinc (Smartlinc) Review - Essential Insteon device or waste of money? E-mail
Home Automation
Written by Peter   

 

NetLinc Image
NetLinc / SmartLinc

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Rating: 3 out of 5

Summary: While I’m not convinced that the newly released NetLinc is a replacement for the PowerLinc Modem and a good software package, it likely fills another role in that it provides incredibly easy access to view your house cameras on a wide range of devices including the iPod Touch, iPhone or any computer with internet access. The fact that it offers Insteon control and is relatively cheap is a bonus.



Smarthome just sent out an email talking about the release of the new NetLinc product, as well as an Insteon motion sensor and an outdoor 220v switch. I follow the home automation scene fairly carefully, and in the past lack of devices has been one of the few downfalls of Insteon so when several new products are released I’m curious to find out how they compare.

First, the NetLinc – This device is primarily designed as an interface between your home automation devices (lights, appliances, sprinklers etc) and any web-enabled device. Smarthome seems to think the most popular use for this will be using your iPhone or iPod Touch to control your appliances, since they now have several packages which include a free iPod Touch. While I think it’s great that the NetLinc supports mobile technologies, and the interface on the iPod/iPhone looks quite usable, I’m just not sure how much use most people will get out of this beyond the cool factor.

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Insteon Review - PowerLinc Serial Modem E-mail
Home Automation
Written by Peter   
PowerLinc Modem
PowerLinc Modem (2412s)

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Rating: 4 out of 5

You may be looking to take your Insteon installation to the next level, or perhaps you’re just getting started with home automation and want to ensure you have all the pieces necessary to realize your vision. Either way, you need a way for your computer to send Insteon commands, and the PowerLinc serial modem is just that.

 

For a bit of background, Insteon computer interfaces originally came in two flavors: USB, with an integrated “memory” of settings and the serial version, which is essentially a direct link between the computer and the powerline. The USB interface, which is sometimes referred to as the PLC (PowerLinc Controller) was the preferred device initially, as USB is the dominant interface on today’s computers. As developers attempted to work with the PLC however, the integrated memory began to cause erratic behavior and for a variety of reasons (some political, some technical) the serial interface began to become the favorite with its simplistic style of interaction.

 

For the average Insteon purchaser, this all boils down to two things:

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Littermaid Review E-mail
For Pets
Written by Peter   
Littermaid
Littermaid

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Rating: 2 out of 5

Summary: The Littermaid is a well-constructed litter box which turns the chore of daily litter cleanings into a simple weekly container emptying.  It runs on batteries or with the included AC adapter and with a simple trick (explained below) it will run without problems, automatically doing kitty’s dirty work.


Note: For an at-a-glance view of Litter Robot vs Cat Genie vs Littermaid vs Scoop Free click here.


 

They named it appropriately. 

With two cats and one litter box, you basically become a maid to the litter box, tending to it daily.  So, when I found out that a product existed that would reduce the frequency of scooping litter from my schedule, I was very very interested.


The premise is that the litter box has a rake at one end and an airtight container at the other.  An infrared sensor (much like the ones on garage doors that prevent people from getting squished) detects when the cat is in the box and when it leaves.  About 10 minutes after the cat leaves the rake scoops through the litter, collecting the kitty mess along the way and drops it into the airtight container before going back to its resting spot.

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Internet in your pocket - iPod Touch Review E-mail
Mobile Technologies
Written by Peter   
iPod Touch

Apple iPod Touch

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Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary: Adding to the features of the iPods before it, the iPod Touch adds one critical feature that made the purchase a no-brainer: WiFi with a fully compliant internet browser. The ability to carry the internet with you everywhere at a price that's several hundred dollars cheaper than a full-fledged iPhone makes the iPod Touch seriously worth looking at.

 


 

 

It makes a great birthday gift, apparently. After hearing for weeks about how my wife would just love an iPod, and how she would play games and video and music on it if I got her one - I figured the hints couldn't get much more obvious. This, coupled with her birthday coming up in a week and myself without any other bright ideas led me to seek out one of the oh-so-trendy music players.

 

I started at the Apple site, checking out the spectrum from the iPod video, mini, nano and…wait, what was this – The new iPod Touch. First of all, the thing looks cool. It looks like an iPhone, all dark and with a distinct lack of buttons making the operation appear enigmatic – like a traveler from the future would carry with him (or her). The second thing I noticed, which pretty much immediately sealed the need to immediately own one: the built-in WiFi and full browser.

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Remote Control Review -The struggle for Harmony E-mail
Home Theatre
Written by Peter   

 

Logitech Harmony 880

Logitech Harmony 880

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Rating: 4 out of 5

 

 

Logitech Harmony 880 Remote Review

Summary: The Logitech Harmony 880 is a capable remote that works well. The software to program it (the same software as all the Logitech Harmony remotes use) is fairly intuitive but can be challenging when trying to create more advanced sequences. When evaluating different Harmony remotes, look for one with a charging station as the battery life makes changing batteries constantly a nuisance (and the charging station avoids this.) The Harmony 890 adds RF support for use when line-of-sight isn't possible.


 


For me, it was the lights. Having a tv-tray full of remotes was a pain, sure, but I could survive…What got me was the thought of integrating my lighting scenes with my tv activity. Pressing one button to watch a movie and having the lights dim, projector and receiver turn on, and the pvr display the available movies on screen is one of those geek nirvana moments. It’s the kind of moment where others go “ooh, ahh” and marvel at your technical prowess to coordinate such an orchestra of technology.

The Harmony remote is one such offering that allows this consolidation of remotes, and from most accounts it’s the best out there. I did my research before purchasing a Harmony, and that included talking to anyone I knew with one about the pros and cons. I quickly discovered a common trend among those that had it – The advice they gave can be summed up in two points:

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