Category Archives: Favorite Things

Favorite Things –

ifttt-bannerIf this then that.  That’s a mouth full.   But this online site does a lot.   It basically allows you to connect different online sites and apps together.   It’s really incredible.

Basically, you go to the website and make recipes.  These “recipes” connect different apps and perform instructions in one app based on what transpired in another app.  The best way to describe it is just to give you examples of the “recipes” that I currently have setup.

IF someone tags me in a picture on Facebook, THEN THAT picture is automatically downloaded and placed into my GOOGLE DRIVE / PICTURES folder.

IF I star an email within Gmail, THEN THAT email is automatically placed as a TO DO Item in the software TODOist.

IF I miss a phone call, then that contact and number is automatically added as a TO DO Item (return phone call) in the software TODOist.

IF my Iphone detects I am within proximity of my house, THEN THAT Phillips Hue lights will turn on and perform a rainbow dance – letting everyone know that I am home!

IF my NEST thermostat detects I am away from the house, THEN THAT Phillips Hue Lights will all be turned off – automatically (and the door locks also).

IF I say “Alexa, I’m hot” to my Amazon Echo, THEN THAT will trigger my NEST thermostat to lower by 5 degrees.

IF my Iphone detects I am in the area where we walk our dogs, THEN my wife will automatically receive a text that “Shelly is walking the dogs”.

IF my Iphone detects I have entered Harvey’s, THEN my wife will automatically receive a text that “I am in the grocery store, text me any items that you know we might need.”

IF ESPN announces a final score involving Ga. Tech, then that score will automatically be texted to me.  And if Ga Tech is the winner, all the lights in the house will flash in excitement.

IF it begins to rain THEN change the light colors to blue.

IF I change my Facebook profile pic, THEN automatically change my instagram profile picture to the same.

These are just a few.  You get the idea.  There are hundreds and hundreds of apps that you can utilize.   Check it out!



Favorite Things – Blink


The ultra-affordable, totally wire-free smart HD home monitoring and alert system.

Meet Blink, the one-of-a-kind, battery-powered home monitoring system that’s simple to set up and equally easy to use.  Its stylish, totally wire-free design houses innovative HD video technology, plus motion and temperature sensors, to deliver instant home insight through the Blink app directly to my iphone.

Basically Blink is a video camera that takes short clips (10 to 30 seconds) whenever it is armed and detects motion.

When I leave the house, I can arm my blink cameras.   Then, during the day, should any of them detect motion, It will film a 30 second video and send me a text message.  I can then log into my blink app and see the video.   “Oh yeah, today is the day the exterminator comes, so its just him.”   “What is Kyle doing home from college?”   I have three cameras strategically placed around my house so if anyone enters – I’ll know it.   I can see them and hear them!  I can even click on my app and see LIVE VIDEO from any of the cameras – at any time from any where!

I really like Blink but it is brand new.   Currently, it does NOT integrate with IFTTT or my other home automation stuff.   I look forward to the day when it will – and I am sure it will soon.   I look forward to when I can program it so that when my NEST thermometer detects that no one is home, BLINK can be automatically armed.   Or visa-versa:  When I arm BLINK, then NEST should go to its AWAY settings.    Or maybe, if my DEN BLINK detects motion, then automatically turn on the lights in that room.



Favorite Things – NEST Thermostats

nest-thermostat-featuredThe Nest Learning Thermostat automatically adapts as your life and the seasons change. Just use it for a week and it programs itself.

If NEST learns that I wake up every morning at 5:30 and immediately hit the thermostat to raise the temp by 5 degrees, then NEST will begin AUTOMATICALLY having the temp adjusted so that it is the temperature that I desire at 5:30 am.

As NEST learns that the house is empty by 8 a.m. each day, it will automatically adjust itself so as to not run while no one is home.   Sure, I can program in a schedule, but why?  I let NEST learn our patterns and schedule itself to be the most energy efficient possible.

Let’s say I am leaving work on a cold cold day.  Before leaving, I can use my smartphone and tell NEST to have the house at 75 degrees before I get home.   It’ll do it!

Or why should I even have to tell it.   I can program NEST to automatically adjust to my desired temperature whenever my car leaves my office.   It knows I am on my way home, so let’s get the house comfortable.

NEST can also communicate with my other home automation systems.   NEST senses when no one is home, so I can have all my lights automatically turn off when NEST senses no one is there.

If I tell my Amazon Echo that “Alexa, I’m Hot”, it will automatically lower NEST by 5 degrees.  Or “Alexa, I’m Cold” will automatically raise the temp by 5 degrees.

The Nest Thermostat is just one part of my heating and cooling system. But it can keep an eye on the rest of it. I get an alert on my phone if there’s something wrong – like temperatures are so low my pipes could burst. And if it looks like my furnace is acting up, the Nest Thermostat will send me an alert.

Nest shows you how much energy you use every day in Energy History and every month in your Home Report. So you can see when you use more energy, like on weekends or Monday nights, and how to use less.

NEST not only saves me money by programming itself to be the most energy efficient possible, but it also makes my life more comfortable.


Favorite Things – Schlage Door Lock

Schlage Door LockAs I continue my quest to fully automate my home, one of my favorite things is my Schlage Door Lock.   This door lock connects to my other home automation devices and works in conjunction.

For example, when my car pulls into the driveway, In addition to my lights coming on, the back door will also automatically unlock for me.  This is great when you have your hands full with groceries or work stuff.

Whenever anyone leaves the house, the door will automatically lock itself.

In addition to working automatically or by a key, it also has a digital keypad.  This allows me to program in a combination so that if I don’t have my house keys with me, I can still get inside my house.    Vonnie loves to lock a door.   So often, I’ll step outside and when I return, the door is dead bolted.  Now, I can simply enter the combination and get inside without having a key.

If the exterminator calls me and tells me he is standing outside my house and needing to get in to spray, I can simply unlock my door from my smartphone from anywhere in the world.  After he leaves, the door will lock back automatically.

Or maybe I have a friend or family member that I know is stopping by at some point this week to pick up something that I am loaning them.   I can give them a temporary passcode that will allow them to enter – but the code will only work for this week.

Ever head off on vacation, get 50 miles from home and then suddenly worry, “Did I lock the door?”.  No worry now, as I can simply log in and check the lock condition or just click a button to make sure it is locked.   Really cool!



Favorite Things – Phillips Hue

Lumen-bulb-w-appMy family is constantly rolling their eyes at me.  Yeah, I like technical toys.   Phillips Hue Lighting System is a wonderful technical toy.   Basically you replace any light bulbs in your house that you wish with these energy efficient LED bulbs.   The lights can then be controlled by your smart phone or by very simple programming through IFTTT (google that if you don’t know what it is).

So, what’s the advantage?  I have my lights programmed at the house for the following:

Whenever my car pulls up into the driveway, the outside backdoor patio lights automatically turn on to light my way.   Also the indoor dining room light turns on as well.  As I walk into the house, all the lights will quickly go through a complete rainbow pattern to simply celebrate the fact that I am home. (This produces the biggest eye-rolling from my family).

At 2:00 am. each morning, all lights in the house automatically go off (in case we left any turned on).

At whatever time each morning I need to get up, my bedroom lamp will softly begin illuminating brighter and brighter.  Calm.   It’s like waking up with the sunrise.   And the color of the light is a soft orange (sunrise) color as well.

As I step out of my bedroom into the hall, I notice my hall light.  If it is BLUE then I can expect rain that day.  If it is orange, I can expect it to be hotter than normal.

Whenever my Ga. Tech Yellow Jackets win an event, all the lights in the house will flash and then go through a rainbow pattern in celebration.

When it’s movie time, the lights are lowered for a more theatre like effect.

Whenever I leave the house, after I exit the property, the back door patio lights will turn off.

If we are away on a trip, I can program the lights via a schedule or a random pattern to turn on and off to give the illusion that someone is home.  Or I can just control individual lights from my Iphone at any time from anywhere.

If I am REALLY in the party mood, I can even have the lights sync with the music I am playing on my Amazon Echo and the lights will dance with the music.

Since each individual light is fully programmable with millions of color combinations, I can set the mood that I want.  From a soft blue or soft red for romantic climates to a soft white in order to read a book.   Maybe a little brighter if I am writing in a journal.

I love my toys.   Phillips Hue is one of the best!

Favorite Things – Amazon Echo

amazon-echoAnother of my favorite things is the Amazon Echo.  Amazon Echo is a wireless speaker and voice command device from The device responds to the name “Alexa”; this “wake word” can be changed by the user (to also “Amazon” or “Echo” at present.).  The device is capable of voice interaction, music playback, making to-do lists, setting alarms, streaming podcasts, playing audiobooks, and providing weather, traffic and other real time information. It can also control several smart devices.

I use Alexa everyday.   “Alexa, tell me the news.”  “Alexa, Tell me a joke about Hillary Clinton!”, “Alexa, add Milk to my shopping list.”  “Alexa, turn on the back door lights”, “Alexa, turn up the heat.”, “Alexa, play me some Rod Stewart Music.”, “Alexa, what is the weather going to be tomorrow”, “Alexa, add fix outside light to my to-do list”, “Alexa, what is on my calendar for today”, “Alexa, read me from my Kindle Book”, “Alexa, When do the Ga Tech Yellow Jackets play next?”, “Alexa, wake me up in 30 minutes.”  These are just a few of the commands that the Amazon Echo responds to.   More are being added weekly.

Basically, Amazon put a Siri-like assistant into a tube that lives on your coffee table. After connecting it to Wi-Fi, it can answer simple questions like How tall is Barack Obama and Who are the members of Run the Jewels. Additionally, Echo is a voice-controlled speaker for listening to tunes and talk from Amazon Prime, TuneIn, and iHeartRadio, Spotify, or Pandora.  If you prefer to listen to your personal music collection, you can beam it over Bluetooth.


Favorite Things – WAZE

wazeWAZE is one of my most-utilized, favorite apps on my Iphone.   I use it all the time.   It is a GPS mapping program, but so much more.

Get the best route, every day, with real–time help from other drivers.

Waze is the world’s largest community-based traffic and navigation app. Join other drivers in your area who share real-time traffic and road info, saving everyone time and gas money on their daily commute.  If there is road construction ahead, WAZE will warn you.  If there is a Policeman ahead, WAZE will warn you.   If traffic is slowing down, WAZE will re-route you to compensate.   So it is extremely productive, but it’s also fun.

The voice navigation can be customized with voices from Stephen Colbert, C3P0, Jay Leno, or others.   The voice commands can be set for long detailed descriptions, to short TURN HERE descriptions.

Navigate to the cheapest station on your route, all powered by community-shared gas prices. By working together to report prices at the pump, Waze drivers can always save some gas money.

And you can even allow other WAZE users (like your friends or family) to see where you are and/or an ETA for meeting up with them.

I love this app.  It has saved me from hitting potholes and possibly even saved me some speeding tickets.   Try it out today!


Rocket Book Wave

RocketbookPaper Notebooks aren’t at risk of being completely replaced by laptops, tablets and computers just yet, but they could still stand to be a little smarter.  In comes RocketBook Wave!

I take notes in this notebook, just like any other notebook.   However, when done, I can open an app on my cell phone, take a picture of the page and the page will be instantly sent to either my email, another email, my dropbox, my evernote, my google drive, or other cloud service automatically.   Or it can be sent to any combination of the above.   It’s pretty awesome.

At the bottom of each of the Rocketbook’s pages is a set of seven icons, what the company calls magic buttons. Each button can be assigned to a location in the cloud, meaning that all your scribbles on that particular page will be sent directly to wherever you’d like them to go. Need those lecture notes compiled neatly in your university Evernote folder? Or perhaps that inspired series of illustrations sent to Dropbox? Then just mark the relevant magic button.

Best of all when my Rocketbook Wave Notebook is full, I don’t have to buy another: using heat-erasable Pilot Frixion pens to write, microwaving the notebook for a few minutes (and until its blue cover logo turns white) will erase all of its pages for a fresh start.

That’s right.   When my notebook fills up, I just nuke it for a few minutes and it’s empty again.    But since I saved everything to evernote and/or dropbox, my musings are safe forever!


Favorite Things

Listed below are posts regarding my favorite things.  These are items, gadgets, places, or people that I absolutely love and adore.   Maybe you’ll like them also…..

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