Category Archives: Technology

Our Connected Home

I’ve always thought having a connected Home would be cool. We used to go to a lot of show homes and how intelligent they were impressed me. I saw controlling alot of features from a panel. Nice, but costly and not that convenient.

But the cost of a new build with that technology always struck me as too much to pay. So we’ve searched for more affordable solutions. I say we but it’s mostly me. But my wife recently gave me the best birthday gift of Google Home. What a sweetheart!!!!! It was her idea too, with no prompting from me.

We started a few years ago with no real plans in mind; just with the overall goal that it must be affordable with no major renovations required.

Nest

We discovered Nest first. We were moving in so we had some repairs to do. First thing was to replace the old thermostats. I wanted a modern appearance and the ability to create schedules to control our utility costs. Nest thermostats fit that need and allowed for remote control. I’ll talk about security later.

We had some electrical issues, what old house doesn’t. Our electrician suggested replacing the existing smoke detectors. Nest also has combined smoke carbon monoxide detectors with the additional features of built in night lights. As you walk around the house at night the detector will automatically turn on a night light. We have three of these devices in the house.

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Nest Smoke, carbon monoxide detectors with night light

We also have a couple of Camera’s that are pointed at the exterior doors. We can monitor the comings and goings at our doors no matter where we are.

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Nest Cameras & App

Legrand Light Switches

We wanted to update the appearance of our home and make it ours. I first discovered Legrand because of their unique appearance. Then I thought about the features that can be added. We settled on adding dimmers, fan switches and automatic lighting to some of the rooms. Our main floor bathroom will automatically turn on the lights as you enter and turn them off when you leave.  It’s handy for guests and at night.

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Dimmers & Light Switch Motion Detector

Google Home

Thats where we stood with our home automation for a couple of years. Then Della discovered Google Home and I got one for my birthday and a couple of Google Mini’s for Christmas. They were all easy to install. Once the first was installed the second and third took on the same settings. I love this concept. They were affordable; especially on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. They did not require home renovations. They are instantly useful. I especially like having music playing in all the rooms of our house. Just create a group and all the devices play music. You can also just play music in the room you’re in. They are voice enabled. So from your chair or bed you can control them. You can also connect devices from other manufacturers. The list is pretty long. The one I found had an immediate use is Hue Lights.

The feature I like best is in the morning. I can tell Google to turn up the heat on both furnaces. I can ask it to tell me about my day. It replies with the date, time, appointments on my Google Calendar and starts the news of my choosing.

Hue lights

I always think about lighting in terms of convenience and security. Sometimes fun. Hue lights fit those bills. Several of our lights are now voice enabled and connected to Google Home. We can turn on lights in our bedroom or family room with voice commands. I did elect to install a colored Hue light in the Family room. Costlier than LCD bulbs but they do say they have a long life. We’ll see. Using voice commands we can change the color of the light. It’s kind of fun when watching sports. Our red light didn’t help the Stamps at the Grey Cup but maybe next year.

Integration with Google Home is accomplished by installing a Gateway. I started with a Startup Pack that included the Gateway and 2 bulbs. Super easy to setup and done in an hour tops including integration with Google.

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White and Colour lights

Tower Garden

We have a hydroponic indoor garden called Tower Garden. It supplies us all winter long with fresh vegetables for salads and smoothies. It’s lights and pump are all controlled by timers so I don’t have to intervene.

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Tower Garden with lights and tomato cage

Security

It’s troubling to think about being hacked and putting personal information on the Internet. With any connection you establish check out the companies terms and conditions. Certainly protect your connection with a router, VPN and virus software. Then proceed as you see fit.

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What I’ve learned about social media

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Ipad setup for content creation

I really became interested in social media when I retired and my wife decided to become a distributor for Juice Plus+. When I was working as a Deputy Chief in Emergency Services I was aware of the value of social media in getting information out. It wasn’t until I started curating and creating content for Della that I really got my feet wet.

I started out using Avid Studio on the PC to create video content. I loved it. The problem I had was that I didn’t use it every day so that I practically had to listen to the training video with every use. A smaller issue was that I had to go back to my home office and create the video before publishing it. Still I loved the program and still use it.

I’ve learned about Pinnacle Studio on the iPad. Its what we use now to create, edit and post content. We can go from start to finish in 30 minutes. You can’t beat that kind of immediacy.

I’ve learned that content we create does a lot better with the Facebook algorithm’s than curated content. The results for our own video and photos are much higher than content we curate. I remember one superb post that got very little coverage because I used a photo I got from a site.

We have experimented with Facebook Advertising. For a very small cost, you can dramatically boost the number of people that see your post. The lesson I’m working on is creating a boosted post that spurs a call to action.

Here’s an example of our video’s:

Software we use:

  • Hootsuite. We use it to monitor our personal and fan pages on Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Instagram, Google+. I like it but I’ve not much experience with other programs. Occassionally, it looses a stream which is irritating. I don’t like that the iPad version does not have the same capability as the browser version.       Like
  • Avid Studio for the PC.  Full of features, longer learning curve.    Like
  • Pinnacle Studio for the iPad. Enough features for on the fly editing and posting to the Internet. Its what we use now for content creation.                          Like
  • Canva. It’s what we use to create images for our posts. After all, posts with images are read. Without an image, the post is less interesting                  Like
  • IoGrapher Hardware for the iPad. We use a frame with handles that the iPad fits into. The frame allows for lenses, microphones, lights and a tripod to be attached. Big Like
  • Filmic Pro. That’s the program running on the iPad in the photo. It assists with 3 different zooms, focusing and lighting.      Like

We have a couple of issues remaining:

  1. We’re not used to being on screen presenters. Showing the energy and excitement we feel is harder that we thought. Still we’re getting better. It helps to have a solid belief in what your doing.
  2. Developing engaging content.
  3. Advertising. No doubt that using Facebook boosts will get you in front of more people. We don’t yet know if that will translate to more site and page visits.

      . . . 

 

 

Update to Wifi Ranger review

We’ve put the R.V. away for the winter. I’ve been spending time updating and preparing for next March.

I’ve hooked up the WiFi Ranger Go and Elite routers to our home wireless network. They work beautifully delivering speeds nearing 18 meg. Even my old laptop performs well when connected. It appears a good Internet connection in the campground is the answer. Speeds are reported by the routers themselves and I have combined the signal from both routers. I’ll update this review when I can determine up and download speeds.

Last summer, we stayed in certain campgrounds where I found administering the routers a chore. At nights so much of one I turned them off. We did stay in one campground that had multiple WiFi antennas and that experience was a joy.

By the way, the Go router is built into the device you can plug LAN cables in. The Elite router is in the external antennae. The Elite Antennae makes a lot more networks visible.

With this experience, I’m looking forward to next summer. We’ll be able to stay in touch and run our Juice Plus business from the RV. We are going back to that certain campground. I’ll speak to their management about improving their WiFi connection.

. . .

Our latest event and Winter in Alberta

We recently assisted Jayena Collins present Cochrane Healthy Living with Michelle Ball. Our goal is to promote healthy living around the world. We’ve found that good nutrition has enriched our lives and drastically improved our retirement. Both Della and I are now healthy enough to enjoy our retirement. Consequently, we feel the need to share this information with our family, friends and the people we meet.

One of the ways this is accomplished is by having events to inform people about the benefits of good nutrition. We purposely ask people to leave their wallets at home as there is no obligation.

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Part of the crowd for the event

Last night,  we (Jayena, Della, and myself) secured a local theater and advertised the event. Then winter hit Alberta. Many of our guests couldn’t make it due to the first serious blizzard in our area. Also neither could our speakers. Fortunately, technology came to the rescue. Funny how often it doesn’t but this time the results were wonderful. (I spent 20 years in I.T. and had issues with technology at pretty much every demo. But perhaps I’ll save that for another time.)

We use a product called Zoom to have virtual meetings. It came to our rescue big time. So did Jerry at the Cochrane RancheHouse who got everything setup at the last minute. Thankfully, Jayena or perhaps someone else maintained a clear head and suggested the use of Zoom.

Our speaker, Michelle Ball took refuge in a hotel in Sylvan Lake during the areas’ first blizzard. Sylvan is 120 kms. (85 miles or so) from Cochrane. She set up her laptop and gave her presentation remotely and saved the day. In some ways, it was more impressive as the Cochrane RancheHouse theater projected her image on their screen. It was the largest projector I’ve ever been involved with. Michelle’s image towered over the room and her content held everyone’s attention.

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Jerry saving the day
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Intro by Jayena Collins
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Michelle giving her presentation

I dabble with recording our activities on an iPad, using iOGrapher hardware that allows lenses, lights and microphones to be added to the iPad. I use Pinnacle Pro software on the iPad that allows me to create, edit and upload all from the iPad within minutes.

IOgrapher camera hardware
IOGrapher for the iPad

Note: There were many people involved in the planning and execution of this event. Michelle Ball, Barb Kunst, Drew Pasay, Tamara Garstin are just a few I’m aware of. I’m certain that Jayena also relied on many people in her team.

Here is the summary reel of the event on YouTube.

Event Summary Reel

Wifi Ranger Internet Reciever Review

We’ve been using a Wifi Ranger Elite for the past month. It fulfills its promise and provides a secure network within our RV that we can use for our personal and Juice Plus+ business applications. It took a while for me to get a handle on all the options in the interface. I’m still not certain I have set it up to maximize our Internet connection speed. To be fair, I don’t read instructions well. I have used the company website to view videos though.

The issue is the speed of the networks within range of the antennae.  The speed of our current campground varies widely. Now, Sunday morning 08:00 AM the speed is great at over 8 Mps. Most nights, I find the speed so slow, I turn the equipment off.

I had planned on roof mounting the antennae. I’ ve postponed those plans until I find a spot that isn’t interfered with when we use the air conditioners and has the best shot at the campground antennae. At this park, the antennae is behind us so I’ve positioned the external antennae at the rear of the RV. TIme will tell if this is the optimum position and I mount the unit permanently.

I’m very satisfied with the Wifi Ranger but still plan on investigating a cellular modem to backup our wifi connection speed when the campground network speed falls to an unacceptable level. The wifi router software allows this to be managed automatically.

  Go Router inside the RV.
 Antennae and Elite Router on the RV roof

Williams Lake event summary

We had our first Juice Plus+ event on May 27th. Our mission is to improve the health of family and friends by telling them about the benefits. We had a good turnout, had some fun and reached some people. We used teleconferencing (ZOOM) to bring in a speaker from Camrose, AB. Four other speakers also told the crowd about their experiences. Each has had drastic improvements in their lives as a result of taking Juice Plus.

Parts of Della’s and Jessica’s speeches are in the attached video.

Photo 2015-04-08, 11 26 37 AM