One of the Problems with Smart Thermostats – ecobee3 Extra

Check out the video for a more in-depth description of the problem, but the short of it is that most smart thermostats (and a lot of smarthome devices) rely on someone else’s servers in order for them to be accessed remotely. And because of this, “remotely” doesn’t just mean when you’re out of the house, but inside the house as well. If the “smart” device company ever goes out of business or decides to stop supporting whatever you own, then you effectively will no longer have an internet-enabled thing.

This isn’t true for all devices. Some do not require servers-that-are-elsewhere (or “the cloud” as it’s known) so that they can operate. But a surprising amount do, and that’s something to consider when buying an appliance, thermostat, Echo, or full home automation system. Will the company running those servers still be around in 5 years? In 10 or 20 years? And even if they’re in business, will they support it? With something like the Amazon Echo, that’s not much of a concern. But with a $250 thermostat from a “new” company it could be a factor.

ecobee3 Smart Thermostat Install & Review

My old style programmable thermostat died last weekend, and so I rushed over to Home Depot to get a replacement. I wanted a smart thermostat mainly for its wifi connectivity, but also wanted to try out the truly “smart” aspect of it: Optimizing heating and cooling cycles to suit my needs.

They did an excellent job with the user interface, making setup really easy. And their app, though slow to connect at times, is overall well-designed and easy to use. So far I like the ecobee3, but my main concern is with reliability/longevity, and that of course remains to be seen.

Crazy USB Cable Packaging – Anker Powerline+ USB-C Cable

I decided to start another YouTube channel. Not because my main channel was getting out of hand, but because I want to bang out a bunch of quick videos just to get practice. And also there’s stuff that I cut out of some of my main videos that I wanted to share.

Annywhoo.. This video is about an Anker Powerline+ USB cable that came in a needlessly elaborate package.

NiMH Battery Roundup – Eneloop, EBL, Sunlabz, Amazon, and Other AA Cells Tested

This video goes ridiculously in-depth on the subject of 10 particular models and brands of popular NiMH cells. It covers my recommendations, as well as an extensive dive into my testing methodology.

Downloads

As promised, here’s the spreadsheet that I mentioned in the video. Both links are to the same document, just in two different formats.

Google Docs: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1fu729GXZJybWR0VWNHeDFTWHc/view

Excel File: NiMH_Capacity_Analysis-Scott_Dotdot.xlsx

My Recommendation

Not to spoil the video, but if you’re here for a recommendation: At the current price of $21.99 for a sixteen pack, the EBL 2300mAh cells are the way to go. However, I’d also recommend the high capacity cells by Amazon and Sunlabz.

I own a bunch of Panasonic Eneloop cells, and they are reliable, well made, and meet or exceed their advertised capacity. I’d absolutely recommend Eneloops or Eneloop Pros, at the right price. They can be catastrophically expensive, which is the only reason they aren’t my first recommendation. The EBL and Sunlabz cells give much better value for money.

Razer DeathAdder Button Swap (Left- to Right-Handed Mouse)

Razer DeathAdder Button Swap

I’m a leftie, but all my life I’ve used right-handed mouse in my left hand. I needed to replace my old Microsoft Optical Mouse, and found the DeathAdder Left-Handed Edition. It’s the perfect size and shape for me, but they did the weird thing of switching the left- and right-click buttons. It’s easy enough in most any operating system to swap the buttons in the settings. However — at least with Windows — the buttons are only changed locally. So when connecting to other hosts via Remote Desktop the buttons revert to their hardware configuration. That’s a no-go for me, but I liked the mouse so much that I decided to mod the hardware instead. Fortunately, it’s very easy to … Continue reading

Let’s [Quickly] Open: AEDILYS Motorola Nexus 6 USB Dock

This is so close to being a good charging stand, except that the USB port is used to hold the phone in place!

Its design is quite simple, as it’s just a USB 2.0 pass-through from a micro-USB port on the back of the dock to a male micro-USB on the front.

There’s not much more to say about it in text, so check out the video to get a full look at it! And this does have the benefit of being one of my shortest videos, so you only need to invest about 2.5 minutes into it. :)

Let’s Open: Japan Crate Review

Hey look! A crate from Japan! (California, technically.)

Japan Crate sends a box of surprise Japanese candy, chips, and other edibles to your door every month. For a fee, of course.

The missus got a 3-month subscription for me as a birthday gift, and I’ve been sitting on the third crate for over a month waiting to do a video on it (much to her chagrin). It’s now come to pass.

I like the Japan Crate crates quite a bit, to spoil the whole review right now.

Update: In retrospect, I probably should have tried everything on camera, and then just edited out the uninteresting items.

The stuff that I thought was root beer flavored hard candies were in fact similar in texture to very rapidly dissolving Smarties that tasted like maple syrup and butter. Basically it was like licking the top of a stack of pancakes from I-Hop. I didn’t care for it, even though in theory I like those two things. What it needed were the pancakes.

My friend Vin (the Kit Kat guy) points out that my detail on the matcha and condensed milk candies was lacking, which is fair enough. But I don’t know how to accurately describe the taste of matcha because it’s fairly unique. It’s got an earthy taste, I suppose. That’s really not enough to go on, so next time you’re in a Japanese restaurant ask if they have green tea with matcha. Ever since I had it for the first time at Arata Sushi in Syosset, NY, I can’t drink regular green tea anymore. It just doesn’t compare.

And I probably should have shown this DIY thing from the previous month’s crate:

It’s called Nomucco Jelly, and comes with a bag of powder plus the plastic dish and straw you see in the video. Add a little bit of water and stir and a minute later you get… melon flavored mucus!.

The texture only becomes unpleasant when you think of it as mucus, a fact of which Amanda reminded me quite gladly. The flavor is lightly melon-y, though, and “pretty good”.


Note that I’m not paid to endorse this, and have no vested interest in Japan Crate. I just happen to like it.

Let’s Open: Creation Crate’s 1st Monthly Project (an Electronics Project Subscription Service)

The folks over at Creation Crate got in touch and asked me to do a review of their monthly electronics project subscription service. I like the whole “crate” concept, and I like electronics, so figured I’d go for it.

This is an unboxing, review, and assembly of the whole thing, cut down to an unusually-short 16 minutes or so.

Overall, I like the Creation Crate, though there are a couple of minor points with which I took issue. But if you’re looking for a gift that’s educational and fun (for those that find electronics to be fun, at any rate), then you could do a lot worse. I’m kinda basing this on my own childhood, but this seems like it would be perfectly suited to pre-teens and early teens, but would be good for anyone just starting out with basic electronics and programming.

If you’re interested, they can be found at mycreationcrate.com.

And in full disclosure: The kit was provided to me for free by Creation Crate, but this is not a promotional video.

I would have made the very same video and said the same things if I’d paid for the kit, and at a value of ~$30 bucks it’s not exactly enough for me to sell myself. On the other hand, if anyone from Tesla ever reads this, I will guarantee you a good review if I get to keep the car.