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Smart Home: Philips Hue

Creating a smart home can be fun.  I've used my Insteon switches and Amazon Echo to control Christmas lights, movie lights, night lights, and just plain turning off and on lights.  But there is one thing that I couldn't get from Insteon - color changing lights.  How cool would it be to have your lights be able to change colors!  I decided I wanted to try them out.
Of course, if you're looking for smart bulbs that change colors, there are quite a few options out there.  I looked them over an decided to play it safe.  Philips has pioneered the segment and gets good reviews so I saved up my nickels and dimes and purchased a starter kit with the second generation Hue Bridge and 3 color changing bulbs.
My first problem was setup.  I have an Insteon hub already and a networked TV, BluRay player, Wii U, Roku, VOIP Phone, and probably a couple others I'm forgetting.  My router hooks up to a 5 port switch to hook up all of my devices and it was full.  Not only that, all of my …
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Insteon Hub - The Achilles Heel of Insteon

A couple of weeks before Christmas, my Insteon hub died.  There were no pyrotechnics or alarms and to the disappointment of the TV generation, nothing exploded and no people were thrown across the room.  What did happen is that I tried to turn on some lights with my Amazon Echo and it told me that it couldn't connect to the Insteon hub.  That's weird - so I took a look at it.

The Insteon hub is a plain, white, square device with a single light on the front that is green when all is well and red when there's a problem (usually a network issue).  I looked at the hub and the light was off.  That's new.  I unplugged it and plugged it back in.  Nothing.  I hit the reset button (which I had never before used).  Nothing.  It was dead as a doornail.

This was quite a surprise.  My hub had served me well for over two years.  Even worse, the two year warranty had expired a couple of months before.  Bother!

However, all was not lost.  All of my Insteon switches still worked.  All…

Wii U GamePad Range Issue Fix

My Wii U gamepad started telling me that I needed to be closer to the console - even when I was 6 inches away!  Here's how I fixed it:

First I found a YouTube Video that showed how to fix it.  I was able to do it fairly quickly since I had the same issue a year ago.  I bought the part for $7.99 from eBay so I assumed I would just do that again.

Wrong!  The cheapest I could find on eBay was for $28.99.  Ouch!  So I looked up my old order and bam! - they don't sell on eBay any more.  So I did a web search and found the same part from the same store for $7.99 - it was simply a standalone website vs an eBay seller.  Still not confident in some tiny website, I checked Amazon.com.  No love - it was $34.95 plus $4.95 for shipping.  Well, the site takes paypal, so I ordered it.

Well, it took about two weeks for it to arrive - it had to go all the way from California to Arizona so mostly I thought my order had been lost.

Oddly enough though, by the time the part arrived, my Wii U game…

The Death of the Nexus Phones

OK - for people following the goings on in the Android phone world, this is old news but Google has come out with their Pixel phones and have discontinued their Nexus phones.  This is more than just a name change.  The Nexus line had two phones, a midrange phone and a high end phone.  The Pixel line has two phones, a high end phone and a high end phone with a bigger screen.  For those of us not willing to spend $650 on a phone, we've just been priced out.

So why is it a big deal?  Can't I just get a midrange phone from somebody else?  That depends.  To me, a smart phone is a mini-computer.  It runs programs, accesses my private information (banks, emails, contacts, etc.), surfs the internet, etc.  Really, it's not much different than a desktop PC - just smaller.  So, would you buy a PC if you knew it wasn't going to get updated?  No security patches to prevent viruses, no upgrades to the operating system (in this case, Android), to bug fixes, nothing.  I wouldn't.…

Withings Activite Steel HR Fitness Tracker Review

I'm going to start with a little history.  I've been a Fitbit fan for quite some time. My first activity tracker was the Fitbit One.  I loved how it would give me a step count, stair count, and it's vibrating alarms.  I thought it was awesome but one day, after a couple of years, I lost it. I was bummed.  I liked it a lot but I decided that I wanted something that wouldn't fall off. I looked at the Microsoft Band but, at the time, it was sold out so I couldn't buy it.  A couple of months later, Fitbit came out with the Charge HR. So I moved to the Fitbit that wouldn't fall off and told me my heart rate. It replaced my watch and has been a good tracker for the past couple of years. However, it had a couple of defects. I couldn't read its display in bright sunlight and sometimes I couldn't get the display to turn on immediately. So it worked great as an activity tracker but, in my opinion, it wasn't a very good watch. So, when it started falling apar…

Insteon: Controller vs Responder

This entry is going to be more of a technical article.  If you're not planning on setting up scenes in an Insteon environment, this isn't for you.  If you are or like me, have been running into some confusion about what should be set up as a controller, what should be a responder, and what should be both.  Here's what I learned.

I've been using Insteon switches for a couple of years now and had set up a few scenes.  When adding a switch to a scene, you have the option of adding it as a controller, a responder, or both.  Not knowing the difference and wanting to cover my bases, I set all of my scenes to both.  Since my scenes were all timing type scenes (e.g. turn on night lights at sunset) it worked fine.  Then I added an 8 button keypad and started programming the buttons to control other lights.  The program for this, of course, is a scene.  Once again, I set every switch and button as both a controller and a responder.  Then I created a scene, specifically for my E…

Wii U - For an "Unpopular" Console, It's Really Fun!

We acquired our Wii U for Christmas last year in spite of all the doom and gloom that the press has been putting out.  Why?  We wanted a console that focused on family and kid friendly games (my kids range from 14 to 6) and the Wii U fit the bill.  Plus we loved our Wii and were excited to get the next generation console.

It does not disappoint.  We don't buy games prodigiously but the ones we have are a lot of fun.  Super Mario 3D, Mario Cart 8, and Splatoon have all been big hits in our house.  Plus the ability to play our old Wii games has been awesome.  My kids will play as much as their parents will let them.

We recently purchased Minecraft and the kids love the Mario skins and themes that are included in it.  They love playing multi-player and creating their own worlds.  Granted this is nothing new to them as we already own Minecraft for the PC and for the XBox 360.  However, they liked it enough to save up their own money to purchase it.

So, it's a fun console that foc…