Update Needed

I have mentioned Google Home and automation tech a few times over the years. I’m extremely fond of how easy it is to use. Some of my favorite aspects are the schedules and routines. I have a few like “ok Google, Good Night.” And my bedside lamp goes on and Google says “Goodnight Josef.” Totally awesome.

This week, I added some plugs for the Christmas tree lights and created a routine that turns on every tree and plays Christmas orchestral music from Spotify. “Ok Google- Merry Christmas.” Pretty straightforward. Except that I wanted an icon for the trees that didn’t look like a plug or a lightbulb. But no such luck.

Instead I used the Kettle icon. It’s triangular and kind of works. But who uses a kettle or coffee maker on a smart plug? That makes no sense to me. Most of them have clocks and timers. It would be nice if Google updated their icons on the app to represent activities that make sense. Like turning on Christmas lights. Or the outdoor lights. A lightbulb or plug icon gets kind of lost in the app settings.

In the meantime, our nine foot tree is a kettle. That’s sort of festive… we like hot chocolate.

More Google Controls

I cannot stop automating our home. About a month ago I thought I was done. Our Google Home is feeling futuristic and connected. Today I added what may be the final item… for now.

The Nest was our latest item added. Basically an overpriced thermostat. But it has so many features that my wife really wants to utilize. Mostly watching the usage- that’s the sort of thing which has become a pastime for her. She is also starting to come around to how to use the automation of our home.

For me, it’s another Google app that will make life easier. Having access to everything in the palm of my hand is exactly what I always wanted. Controlling lights, television, music and temperature creates comfort. I love all of it.

I love the fact that I can control nearly everything now from my phone. The accuracy and instantaneous of it all astounds me. I have used some of the other apps and controlled devices while away from home. Pretty cool and dorky. Now I can be warm or cold- whatever I want.

Keeping our Nest controlled by Nest.

VR Sharing

Sunday Morning, our son decided that he was going to enjoy some VR gaming. For whatever reason, he also decided that he needed to cast it to our television.

It was odd that he did this, since no one else was around at the time. I walked downstairs and he was just talking away to thin air. When I asked who he was talking to, he said “the people in the game.” It turns out that when casting, he decided to turn the volume off because there was a bit of a lag/ delay and it was throwing him off.

I also asked why he was casting, and he said “So that we could watch him play.” I don’t think he realizes that we don’t all enjoy watching him play video games. especially on a Sunday morning when most of us wish to sleep in or have a quiet start to the day. At least he kept the sound muted, so I was entertained by his wild movements as he played a game called Gorilla Tag.

If we were taking turns playing a game, cool let’s cast. But he had already taken over the living room space, I guess he hoped we would enjoy watching his game that makes no sense? Wanna play tag? Go outside with friends and play tag. Why are you doing it in VR???

Google Home

A little over a year ago we got ourselves set up on Google Nest Wifi. Since then, I have been really happy with using it as a Wi-Fi and as the occasional speaker. We then picked up a Google Chromecast to enjoy watching videos and VR. But today, I stepped up my Google Game and incorporated a bunch of smart devices.

Costco has dimmer switches available in a pack of 3 and plugs in a pack of four. The plugs are great since you can just plug them into the wall and then add your device. The switches take a bit more work. I’m glad that our home had a neutral wire available at every switch. Thank goodness for new home builds.

After getting the switches and plugs all set up, it was time to create some routines. One of the routines is to turn the lights outside on and the off at scheduled times of the night and morning. Saying “Ok Google…” and a catchphrase will set the mood for a pool party, or even meditation lounging in the bedroom. I also set up a bedtime routine which will turn on a light and added some nature sounds to calm down before sleep.

I’m sure there is plenty more to do with Google Home. For now, it’s time to teach my wife how to use it also. She may not like my Enya playlist and salt lamp going on, so she can create her own routines.

Nerdy tech stuff like this is fun. It takes a while to set up, and then I swear it’s forgotten about for ages. I need to get myself in the habit of taking to Google and not just turning on the lights. Maybe it’s movie time and the lights need to dim. Better use my phone since it’s already in my hand.

Do you have any tips or tricks when using Google Home? Any favorite devices or products you would recommend? Let me know in the comments.

The Vacuum Wars

Vacuuming is unavoidable. In our old house we had a central Vacuum. About every six weeks or so we had to empty it. This was mainly due to all the dog hair that would accumulate. Dragging out the hose and attachments was an ordeal and a hatred when putting away.

Our new house is piped for a central vacuum. However, we decided to buy a small handheld vacuum. We picked up a Dyson V11 cordless vacuum. It is extremely powerful and lightweight. It has made vacuuming a tad more enjoyable and easier to do.

On Friday, my mother insisted on buying us a Shark bot vacuum. It does it’s little dance throughout our main floor helping to remove the dog hair. Today it got under my feet in the kitchen as I was attempting to make breakfast. I think this little robot is attempting an uprising already.

Since we’ve only had it working a a couple of days, we shall see how good a job it does. So far it has done an okay job just mapping out our floor. Hopefully it makes keeping the floors clean a bit easier and having to do it less often. We all love convenience.

Phone Upgrade Day

Every two to four years we upgrade our cellphones and plans. Today was that day. My wife and I and our two youngest kids each got our own iPhone 12.

My old phone taking a picture of it’s replacement.

We upgraded from the iPhone 8 so it’s kind of a big deal for us. Yes we are a family of iPhone users and have been since the iPhone 4. I like the simplicity and user friendliness of Apple products. The transfer of data is easy as well. Even with new features on the phone, I like that it has all my old apps laid out exactly where they were from my previous phone.

Of course we did our upgrade at Costco. Which was a fantastic deal. We got the phones for $0 down, free car chargers and ear buds for each of us. And $250 in Costco gift cards for each phone. Basically handing us $1000 which we promptly spent 3/4 of it.

Back to school sale and Costco is a great deal. Being at Costco for two hours to set up the phones is the only caveat. But new phone!

Billionaire Space Race

It may seem odd that space travel is finally reaching a level beyond scientific research. It’s beginning to blur the line between science fiction and reality these days. And the billionaires on earth are racing to get there.

Over the past few days, billionaires are exiting the earth’s atmosphere and spending time in space. Granted it’s not a lot of time in orbit, but they are reaching far beyond my limitations at this moment. And I’m excited for them.

They are paving the way for all of us to enjoy a potential freedom in future travel. I’m hoping within the next two decades that it becomes affordable for some of us- I’d excitedly jump on board.

Maybe you don’t feel the same way I do. But hear me out. It all has to start with someone investing money and resources into paving the way. Even if they make the money from the rest of us- I hope to create my own memories and enjoy the trip.

Think about where we are now and what we have that is all commonplace. Flying, Cars, televisions, computers, smartphones- the first ones went to the wealthy and eventually made their way to the general public.

One day- space travel will be within everyone’s grasp. “Straight to the moon Alice!” won’t be a phrase from 1955’s humor on domestic violence anymore. But rather something you can say to a loved one- and actually being going to the moon.

Lights, Now Cameras!

Since we moved in, we have been slowing making this house our home. I threw in a couple of ceiling fans for the kids. We added lights to the outdoors- along the railing and what we call our “Tokyo DisneySea Light” as well as a few others. Plus a tv and some outdoor furnishings.

It’s time to make us feel secure in all of those purchases. The weather cooled off enough today for my son and I to hit the attic and run some wires. It was CCTV camera install day. There are plenty of YouTube videos and how-to sites that I’m not going into those details.

My wife and I had bought six Lorex cameras and a hard drive a few months ago from Costco. I always wanted to have security cameras in our last house, but the undertaking would have been tremendous with all the brick work. So my wife indulged me and I got a set for this house.

First off, the install started off long and arduous. Having to find the best spots and figure out how to run the cables. After that- it was a bit of tinkering and we now have four of the six cameras up and recording. My wife was having fun with me while I set them up.

We opted to put the monitor in our laundry room. My wife didn’t want the screen to be front and center in our lives. I agree with her on that. The neat part is the hard drive connects to our internet and we can access the cameras remotely from our phones.

The hard drive allows us to have up to 8 cameras and we can also get the kind that you can move, zoom, pan and tilt with. That might happen in the future. Anyways, before next summer, I will finish adding the last two cameras to completely view our property.

I know the cameras may only be a bit of a deterrent for crime. Most criminals don’t care about cameras or security systems. If they want in your home, they will get in. I just like the sense of security the camera system offers my family.

Plus now I can decide if I want to open the front door or ignore people.

Vintage Love

I am a huge fan of all things retro and vintage. Sure, I still like my modern amenities and won’t give those up any time soon. But there are some things that just bring me joy and are unique in many aspects.

I do like when old mixes with new. I picked up a couple of Panasonic noise canceling headphones with Bluetooth capabilities. I love the look of these headphones and how they remind me of elementary school libraries. That “station” where you could listen to an audio book or watch those short little filmstrip projectors. Those headphones were indestructible. I’m hoping these new ones are equally as awesome.

But the greatest thing we got as a housewarming gift came from my in-laws. They gave us six new towels for our use in our pool. The towels are fluffy and the color scheme screams 1970’s. What’s even better? The towels are from SEARS. So either my in-laws had these in storage, or somewhere out there is a Sears that is still in business. No matter what the case, I love these towels.

Do you like vintage and retro style? What makes you think it is vintage? Let me know in the comments.

Life’s Good

We moved into our new place three weeks ago. For the last four months, I’ve been trying to figure out how to install our projector and motorized screen into our living room. But unless I want to dig into the ceiling and walls, I had to go with the alternative- a large TV.

The chaos of when we first moved in.

As you can see, our 55” tv looked sad in its new home. With a large frame around where the tv would be mounted, we had no choice but to go bigger. At least that was the argument I had with my wife. So for the past few weeks, I’ve been searching for a new tv.

Today I removed our old tv and measured to see what we could fit. Then it was off to Costco to see what they had in store. Today happened to be a good day for tv buying it seemed.

We bought an 75” LG tv. It dropped by $900 today. I joked with the cashier that we had only come in to buy paper plates and we were walking out with a new tv. But we used the money our real estate agent had given us back as a gift for “incidentals”. Incidentally, our tv was too small.

It’s a much better fit than the last one. I’m looking forward to enjoying some family movie nights on this big screen. We shall see how well an LG product is. I’m usually a Samsung guy since they’ve never caused me grief. Brand loyalty is something I’m proud of. But it’s worth a shot to try something new.

Especially for a wicked deal mid-summer!

Drone On

Our oldest child is about to finish her first year of post secondary education. Because she is attending British Columbia Institute of Technology, there has been a good variety of in-class and remote learning happening. Her area of study is in film.

She has been enjoying all the different aspects of being behind the camera. She has had an introduction to filming, editing, sound, directing, and everything else involved. I love hearing about it all and how excited she is when she successfully accomplishes one of the tasks or projects. She has been putting in long hours and determination.

Yesterday she was learning how to use drones to create professional images and movies. Using drones may not be exciting to some, but these aren’t the little ones you buy at Walmart. Her class had a good day to test them out and these are a few photos she took.

Unfortunately due to Covid restrictions, our daughter will be unable to take on any apprenticeships this summer. She is hoping that after next year things open up and she can utilize her skills in a more hands-on approach. BCIT has been good to her and her skill sets. I’m proud of what she has been doing so far and love to see her sense of accomplishment as her projects get completed.

Wasting Time

Sometimes an event or day drags on. Some of us have work meetings that last forever. It feels like there is no escaping it.

Some meetings feel like lectures. Where one person speaks and everyone else just sits there listening. Like a classroom setting with a teacher. Everyone having to listen and pay attention in hopes that you don’t get called on to answer a question that you weren’t even paying attention to.

Now with online meetings, it’s worse. There are video conferences that have people just blankly following along. We can all see it. And we can all feel it. To break up the doldrums of the topic, subtle side messaging begins. Jokes and insults and off topic subjects start to come out. Anything at all to keep your sanity as watching the paint dry and dreaming of a place that doesn’t quite resemble hell enters your mind.

Then a sigh of relief when it ends. A renewed energy comes back into you as you realize the last five hours are time you cannot get back. Time that, even though you are paid to be there, feels wasted.

Timex T80

Back in the early 80’s my father had a wrist watch. I don’t remember what brand it was- either a Casio or Timex. I do remember the watch being digital with faux gold. He was really happy when he got it, showing it off to my mother and I. I was maybe five years old at the time, but I remember the feel of the metal strap and how it flexed.

Forty Years Later…

My wife bought me a Timex T80 for my birthday. But not just any Timex T80- the Fortieth Anniversary Pac-Man wrist watch T-80.

Timex came out with this watch last year to celebrate Pac-Man’s 40th Anniversary. This Timex T80 is a great combination of style and class. When I unboxed the gold watch and placed it on my wrist- I felt like my father did forty years ago.

I’m not a watch person. But the watch looks great and feels fantastic. I always wanted a Timex like this one. It was the perfect gift for me. My wife also remembered that I loved Pac-Man.

Besides a great retro look… my favorite bit of this watch is that it plays the Pac-Man theme when you press the top button!

Living Like The Jetsons

Looking for a new house has me realizing that technology has come a long way. Especially when walking through brand new builds.

Many of us just accept the fact that TV’s have moved from a large cabinet piece on the floor to a picture frame on the wall. And that the image has grown exponentially in size and the sound is immersive. This is in every house.

But now we can buy a fridge with a touchscreen and camera built in. That way one can connect to see what groceries they may need while out shopping. Or there’s a stove you can turn on remotely as well. Plus a number of other small appliances with similar features.

We are one step closer to living like The Jetson’s. Essentially we are on the cusp- minus the flying cars and buildings in the sky. Everything else is becoming commonplace in a similar fashion.

Is it making life easier or making us lazier? I think it’s a bit of both. But it allows for us to find the free time to explore more about the world. We can enjoy the arts more, create more, and just live in the moment more often.

Technology has come a long way for how we live. At least we aren’t on the Oregon Trail dying from dysentery.

Seven Minutes of Terror

Today NASA is sharing a live feed of the Perseverance Rover landing on Mars. It has taken a decade of planning to get to this point. And there is no guarantee that it will go smoothly.

Approximately 60% of the trips to Mars have failed. That’s huge considering this next trip has cost $2.7 Billion. It is set to touch down at 12:55pm Pacific Time (15:55 Eastern). NASA is providing a live feed on their YouTube Channel starting at 11:15 Pacific Time (14:15 Eastern).

The information I read online about the final few minutes, dubbed “Seven Minutes of Terror” is:

“The Perseverance will plow into the Martian atmosphere at speeds reaching 12,100 mph (19,500 km/h) at 3:48 p.m. EST (12:48 p.m. PST). The ensuing Seven Minutes of Terror will involve extreme heat, the deployment of a supersonic parachute, and the rover’s separation from the heat shield and back shell. By the time it hits the dirt—with the assistance of retrorockets and tethers—Perseverance will have slowed down to a walking pace.”

So we could be witnessing a historical landing or absolute destruction involving billions of dollars of research. Either way- I’m excited to watch it. If the rover is successful in its landing- it will share images with us within moments of landing.

NASA has a live feed on YouTube leading up to these events: NASA if you wish to watch.

Media Fridge

So you are probably reading my blog on your phone. Perhaps you were endlessly swiping up on your Facebook or Twitter feed and discovered the first line and an image of today’s post. Or maybe you subscribe via email and the little icon showed the inbox has a new message.

But are you going to read just a line or two before just scanning to the next thing? Probably. I do that it too. And I’ll scan through my feeds endlessly until I hit something that I recognized from the last visit to the social media app.

The I close my app. Just to open a different one. Until that gets boring also. The phone then goes away. Not for hours or days. But rather minutes. Until my brain thirsts for more “Social” sensations. And the cycle continues throughout my day. An endless consumption of stuff I don’t think I need to eat.

Thus the day ends. Unproductive except for all the useless fodder that fills a void that I somehow created. My social media fridge is filled with junk food that I gobble up. Leaving me feeling mentally bloated and lazy.

But that’s the way my life works. Holding my phone, keeping a keen eye on the battery level, all while using my pinky to balance my phone. With sound turned off and subtitles on- so as not to appear rude with my family in the same room as me.

Because they are doing the exact same thing. Consuming media content. Time to clean out the fridge.

The Future is Now

2020 may be a lot of things to a lot of people. It has certainly been a unique journey. For my family and I- it has meant skyrocketing into the future.

My wife was already working for Shopify for a while before Covid restrictions came into play. She was working remotely and had a good handle on things like Zoom meetings and Google Docs. She was able to help out teenagers get used to the “new normal.”

This summer I got my first 3D printer. I have enjoyed printing a bunch of plastic stuff. All it takes is a file and a spool of filament to create something from almost nothing. It’s not just doing the printing, I’ve also enjoyed painting the items and adding mechanisms to create movement. Robotics and electronics have been brought back into my world after a near three decade hiatus.

This past weekend we entered a new level of futuristic lifestyles. For my wife’s birthday, I picked up an Oculus Quest 2 VR headset for her. Immersing oneself into the virtual worlds is mind boggling to say the least. From active games like Beat Saber to simply painting in a 3D world- this is possibly one of the greatest escapisms I have ever seen.

As the winter arrives and 2020 draws nearer to the end, I for one have enjoyed more of this year in captivity than I expected. We even adopted another dog- Maki who entered our lives right when we needed her to.

How do you feel about technology these days? Are we moving too fast, or too slow? Let me know in the comments.

2020 Wrapped

Spotify released their regular update of what you have been listening to for the year. Since this was my first year of using Spotify- it was interesting to see what my style was.

Even though I knew my choice in music is eclectic- having it backed up with evidence proves my musical taste is odd.

I knew before this Spotify list came out what my number one song was. “I Don’t Feel Like Dancing” is a great dance/disco/pop style of song. It ended up being one of my top five songs of the summer.

Even though that song was my number one song, I ended up having Gorillaz as my number one artist. I was also the top 1% of their listeners this year. One of my favorite songs was inductive of the feelings of coping through 2020:

Humility

“Calling the world from isolation
‘Cause right now, that’s the ball where we be chained
And if you’re coming back to find me
You’d better have good aim
Shoot it true
I need you in the picture
That’s why I’m calling you (calling you)”

Watch the video here: Humility on YouTube. It’s a great song with vibrancy throughout. It also made me miss our yearly trip to California. Soon this Covid life will be in the past. But in the meantime, I’m going to see if I can keep enjoying 500 or more genres well into the next year.

What was your 2020 Wrapped? Share your playlist in the comments- I’d love to hear what you hear.

Staycation- All I Ever Wanted…

Today I am starting my 11 day vacation. I booked this time off in January as a “back-up” trip to Disneyland when I realized that July’s trip may get affected. And July’s trip did get affected. But so did my back-up dates. So now I am having a Staycation.

Today will be an ever increasing lazy day of sleeping and napping. Over the next few days the rest of my family still has school, online courses and work. I will have the freedom to do whatever I want. You know what that means…

That means time to get really invested in my 3D printing! Download files, prepare the files, print the files, curse that there is a failure, reprint the files, sand the print, paint the print, sand the print, paint, assemble the print, print another file, fail at that and reprint it… the list goes on. But I will have all the time in the world (or at least daylight hours) to work on my prints.

Since I am a Star Wars fan- I actually intend to print a life size droid. This week will give me a good jumpstart on my first one. I suspect it will take me the better half of the year to really get an R2 unit put together. So I may start with something smaller or easier. Yes- I plan on having a few droids built. Don’t tell my wife.

Having time for me is going to be nice. It’s been a very long time since I’ve really focused on what I want. Usually I put the family first and enjoy the ride. We will still hang out this weekend together, but during the week- that will be my time. Or rather, my 3D printer’s time.

3D Printer Part 3: Wanting More

My list of possible 3D builds keeps growing. My family and a few friends have some requests that I plan on making. I also plan to do some 3D prints for donating to people’s betterment.

For me- I mostly want to do movie prop replicas. There’s something profound about building and owning a piece from a film. To me it feels as if I am a part of something bigger.

It also hits the nostalgia feels. I mean, honestly- who wouldn’t want a Proton Pack to fight ghosts back in the 80’s? Or open a can of shaving cream to find dinosaur embryos? Or find out who really shot first when you hold a Han Solo blaster?

I worry that it’ll be a rabbit hole of unfinished projects and a desire to own bigger and better printers. From the forums I am on, it seems that is the way of the 3D modeler. I have already been obsessing about getting another print going. I just need to wait for my spools of plastic to arrive.

I always love creating and making things to display and show off for fun. I shall accept my fate for my new found hobby. I only hope my wife and family also accept this burden I have bestowed upon myself.

You have been warned! When I obsess about something, I beat it into the ground. Just like a new song that I like. It falls into repeat for weeks on end. Or perhaps this will be similar to my love of disco. A variety of fun dance moves and love songs.

Spotty Wifi

Today it seemed that our wifi suddenly went spotty. No reason at all. It just decided to crap out and reconnect. I love being connected to the world, so those three minutes were really tough. There were also tough because they happened a few times.

Since getting Google Nest wifi we have rarely had issues. We also upgraded our internet plan a couple of weeks back in order to get us faster speeds and connect more devices. So it was strange that our wifi was choosing not to connect.

Restarts all around! All devices and routers. Seems like our problem was just as simple as Turning it off and on again.

Yay! Time to stream more shows!

3D Printer Part 2: Building On The Obsession

Back in May 2018, I wrote about wanting a 3D Printer. 3D Printer Part 1: The Obsession It really did become an obsession. Where I joined numerous Facebook groups, watched tons of videos reviewing 3D printers, even got so far as putting one in my Amazon Cart. But I could never get myself to own one.

Until Now.

A few weeks back I was talking with my friend, Matt Harding about how I still want a 3D printer. Turned out he has a coworker that was also enjoying 3D printing. So much so that he owns numerous printers. His coworker also had one that he was kind enough to donate to me in order to fulfill my obsession.

I cannot thank my friend enough for his help in getting me a 3D Printer. I look forward to getting it running and attempting my first 3D Printing of… pretty much anything. Which will probably be a test print to level the bed.

But who cares? I now possess a 3D printer! Let’s get this thing making stuff!

Time For A Tech Break

Getting the family ready for a camping trip is challenging. Even if you’re only gone for a couple of days, it takes hours to get packed up. No matter how much you tell everybody when you want to leave, you always fall behind.

It may seem odd to pack up the necessities of life in order to live outside temporarily. But I like camping. Most of my technology stays behind. Obviously I keep my phone for pictures and music. But the connection to the outside world via the interwebs is severed.

I like taking mental breaks always from the world. It keeps me sane. Plus I love the outdoors. I almost don’t need to leave our home as we have a lush and beautiful yard that seems to go on forever. We own an acre of solitude, just far enough away from the hustle and bustle of the cities and suburbs.

Taking a break from technology is important. I appreciate the world a little more when we do go away. A chance to see the natural wonders out there.

Google Nest Wifi

My wife had Google Nest Wifi delivered to our home today. I thought for sure it would take a long time to set up. I was wrong. It took under 15 minutes including unboxing.

As usual, I was excited to have new tech in the house. My kids are stoked as well to have Google Assistant at their fingertips from almost anywhere in the house. We can also play music through the speakers in the WiFi Points.

We don’t have a Spotify, Youtube Music or Google Music account. So there wasn’t any option to really “skip” or choose songs. But I was able to choose a genre or style. I started by requesting Queen. Then moved on to Ska. And wow, I really enjoy Ska, who knew?

I’d be more excited about the idea that instead of saying “Ok Google” I could say “COMPUTER” like I am living in the Star Trek universe. But at least there’s some music to enjoy, and I love tech, maybe one day we will be closer to the Star Trek life.

Catered Ads

Doing internet searches can have an unwanted side effect. The bots track what you search and cater “Ad Preferences” online. These bots are supposed to be clever and track your ip. I’ve run into something unique though on our home internet.

My wife works from home for an online company called Shopify. She is what they call a “Customer Success Guru”. She is often looking at people’s sites in order to assist them. This has created an adverse effect to our home internet. We are getting ads “catered” to us that have nothing to do with what we are really interested in. It also happens on our phones/ iPads when we connect to our house WiFi.

Now instead of just scrolling and ignoring regular ads, we have ads popping up in Facebook or Instagram that are completely whacky. I never knew there was so many plush toy, jewelry and led lights that people could buy. But the sex toys and lawn furniture had me worried that I was spending too much time looking at porn.

In the end, it’s kind of interesting that the online computer world doesn’t know what my interests are. Just some strange logarithm trying to cater sales to customers but failing miserably.