Archive for the ‘Products That Work’ Category

Products That Work – Almond+

January 19, 2015

Not yet everything that was promised, but improved WiFi performance over my former unit.

I took a chance on the Kickstarter for Securifi Almond+ : (3 Minute Setup) Long Range Touchscreen Wireless AC Router / Range Extender + Home Automation Hub, and after some delay received and set up this Wireless AC Router. I immediately noticed a significant improvement in signal strength, data transfer speeds, and coverage now beyond the footprint of the house. Previously my Belkin N+ had never operated at this level of performance, but then it was generations old in hardware…

For the first 6 months I’ve used it basically as a wireless router and network switch, mostly because it was missing the Home Automation (HA) support. As a WiFi it performed well, with only very infrequent web page load issues (assumed to be the garbled data bug, now fixed as of the FW R069cb beta release) and just a few reboots required during the 6 months. I can recall only 1 time I rebooted it due to some failure in operation, and I wasn’t sure it was the Almond+ or the Comcast modem.

Although advertised as supporting HA, it wasn’t until this month that it has a fraction of the basics. As of mid January 2015 it still isn’t ready to support HA at the level anyone would expect as bare minimum. No Scenes, buggy Rule Editing, and a relatively short supported device list. Another release is due shortly that is expected to remedy this, but although the folks at Securifi are no doubt working hard, they have a history of over promising on deliveries.

Don’t let that stop you from picking this unit up if you are in need of improved WiFi and plan to add HA, as Securifi is responsive and continuing to improve their product. I expect it won’t be long before HA will be properly supported. I have purchased the Belkin WeMo LED Bulbs ( Belkin WeMo (F7C033) LED Light Bulb, Control Your Lights From Anywhere with the Home Automation App for Smartphones and Tablets, Wi-Fi Enabled (WeMo Starter Set Required) ), installed them easily and quickly, and can control them individually with the Almond+ Android App. However, I found that this Almond+ Lamp Controller is better for controlling lamps individually or in sets.

Why have I rated this a Products That Work? The non-HA aspects of the unit are as functional and reliable as any good WiFi I’ve used, and the HA is due shortly. Given that I was able to network install it in a few minutes and forget it for 6 months, it works.

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Products That Work – Cozy Products Toasty Toes

December 22, 2014

Have you ever wanted a footrest? Or warmer feet in the winter? How about both? Cozy Products has an answer. Cozy Products TT Toasty Toes Ergonomic Heated Foot Warmer

In the winter our building tends to run on the cooler side; which is fine, but I prefer a small boost temp, with a more ergonomic leg position to boot. This item does the trick.

Products That Work – OBDLink LX Bluetooth

December 10, 2014

Sometimes you just need an effective tool to complete a task and save some money. And have a little fun.

The OBDLink products from ScanTool.net will do just that. Although I haven’t personally tested all of their products, I recently purchased a ScanTool 427201 OBDLink LX Bluetooth: OBD Adapter/Diagnostic Scanner for Android & Windows diagnostic tool via Amazon.com. A few weeks after our first vehicle threw a code and lit up the trouble indicator on the dash, our 2nd vehicle also threw a code. After getting hit with a high fee by a local auto service shop to check and reset the 1st vehicle, I purchased the 427201 for less $$, including shipping.

It was a breeze to use; although it does take quite a few steps to configure, it is straightforward. I located the OBD port, which is usually near the driver’s knees, and plugged in the ScanTool. Next, I loaded the ScanTool app on my phone, paired my phone via Bluetooth, launched the app and set up a profile. I read out the codes, recognized the issue, and reset the codes. And saved money over using a shop. Of course, don’t take any code lightly, be sure to understand and promptly address the cause of the code, or you may be paying more later. But, for this example, sometimes a vehicle will throw codes that are caused by an issue such as low voltage from the 12V accessory battery, and is a nuisance. The shop fee would cover a new battery! Or perhaps you want to see if an issue was a transient, or will subsequently reproduce. After all, even cars glitch now and then despite the manufacturers best efforts; they’re a complex network of mini processors, sensors, and wiring. Any item in the network can cause the dash to light up.

And sometimes a tool can become a toy – I have since put the 427201 to use monitoring the health of a 2002 Toyota Prius, which has a high voltage traction battery pack. The dashboard exposes very little useful information so a CAN scan tool such as this combined with apps like TouchScan (OBD Diagnostics) or Torque Pro provides a window into the inner workings of today’s advanced vehicles. ScanTool’s free application is also useful, and Torque Lite is available for basic testing purposes prior to purchasing the Pro. I was happy to see the pack was still ‘balanced’ after 12 years.