I asked my parents to use a regular light switch in my room. You know the kind that I am talking about - it goes on and off, closing and opening an electrical circuit. It would have been less expensive and (in my opinion) more reliable since after all, it's just a few pieces of metal. I joked that "when everyone else's lights are flashing on and off at 3AM, I'd like to remain asleep". My father accused me (his resident technologist) of being a Luddite and they went on their merry way, finishing construction and installing a fully-computerized lighting system.
A few months after they moved in, I got a phone call from my father that started something like this: "Please don't say 'I told you so' but I have to tell you what happened at 3AM last night..."
(they flipped that house, and when they built their next one, it had regular light switches)
But also, centralized light systems are not new. Many corporate facilities have been using these for years and they rarely fail.
Maybe the problem is that your father just picked the wrong vendor/system.
If the hub died, the smart bulbs can still still be operated using the regular light switch. If the bulb is in standby (smart "off") just flip the switch twice to turn it on. Then it will act like a regular bulb until the hub returns.
Hue only has one big defect with regards to this... If there's an electrical outage and the smart bulb is in standby, when power is restored the bulb will turn on. Meaning if power goes out and is restored in the middle of the night the lights could suddenly turn on full brightness.
And as an aside, the nice thing about smartbulbs as a concept is that they require zero re-wiring or specialized wiring. So if the manufacturer of your bulbs went out of business or you wanted to change vendors, just replace the bulb and your work is done. Simple.
(I still love them and am happy I have them rather than regular LEDs though.)
You could go the whole hog and install enough UPS for the whole house and a backup generator.
We had a power flicker last week in the middle of the night and suddenly our bedroom lights were on 100% and our Echo was loudly complaining that the internet was gone. At 3am.
For smart lights you need "Return to previous state, and then see if the state was on a timer. If it was, wait until you get an NTP answer (i.e. the Internet isn't down) and set up the state requested by the timer."
Which is fine unless the previous state was a party, it's now daylight, and all the bulbs are still different colours.
Or someone was adjusting the lights and accidentally set them to 1% instead of 100% when the power went off.
Everything becomes an edge case. The most useful solution requires an intelligent default with timer support, with some awareness of what's happening in and around the house.
And it still has to allow for user overrides, because some people - like my partner - sometimes want the lights on during the day, even when the room is bright.
I also have analog switches and dimmers in my house. If I have the lights at the lowest setting when the power goes out, that's where they are when the power returns. If everything was on full when the power goes out, then that's where things will be when the power returns.
Why should smart things work differently than what a lifetime of experience has lead me to expect?
But surely the controller iwll sort this out when it gets back online a minute later?
So that everything comes on (annoying enough) but switched off within the minute?
If not that is just outrageously bad and imo ruins the product completely.
It's pretty common occurrence in many locales where I've lived.
And lights coming back on at full intensity after a power outage? Pretty common in analog houses as well. Who thinks to turn off a light that isn't on?
(Just like we have to do every 30 mins in the office when there's 3 or fewer in.)
One thing I really like about "smart" things, when the power is out at home I can check my phone to see if power is restored. I guess that's similar to calling your home to see if the answering machine is back on.
1. As good as they have gotten, they still aren’t nearly as instantaneous as a good old fashioned switch. Yes, there are ways to mitigate this, from having it decide when to turn on to alternative controls. But that latency really gets to me sometimes.
2. The system not recalling last state. If you are worried about not being able to default to lights being on, you can make it so that a quick toggle resets it. But I can be convinced of other options/opinions here.
In general, I think the import point is how smart/dumb an object it is. It is more important how “rock solid” it is, and simple to use. I love the mantra “don’t make me think”. Devices should become “invisible” for the task you care about.
I guess the reason you have to flip the switch twice, is to prevent this problem. Then, if you get an outage during the night, it should continue to be off...
I'm sorry but this is unacceptable. It's what keeps me from adopting Hue in my own home.
My lighting system literally has one job, if an advancement of this technology can't keep analog reliability, I don't want it (That's a bug, not a feature).
Don't get me wrong, I love the idea of Hue, color changing bulbs, ability to remote control, ability to dim, etc. is awesome, but maybe should stay in a switch format if loss of power can't be handled correctly.
That's the same with regular bulbs, so...
Since the only UI is "hold the switch down for longer or shorter periods, or press it repeatedly", and there are no written instructions and no discoverability, nobody can reliably work it and we routinely hold meetings in the dim half-light.
It's like living in Clamp Tower from Gremlins II.
That way, you wouldn't have to shut down the entire system.
Adding a switch changes the assembly process, requires extra firmware and testing, makes manufacture more complicated, demands localised labelling (unless you can work out a symbol system which maybe 50% of users won't get), and requires changes to the manual.
That way, it would be more clear to the customer why the product with the physical stops and manual overrides is more expensive.
Each button could be in 4 states: hi, med, low, and off. To get from one state to the next, you had to hold the button for about a second or so. Simply holding the button an less of a time would automatically put the state in 'off' (which would drive you mad in it self). My parents were cheap and rarely used the A/C (in Texas!). I would normally leave the fan setting on medium over night. But that normally meant I would be awoken at 3am to the lights on the fan being fully on....
We don't know how the deal went down, so we shouldn't accuse them of wrondoing. The wording of "flipping the house" is not enough evidence. In the face of that, any accusations can be rejected by everybody, and many rejected your accusation by downvoting.
One area that I feel is also a "sometimes dumb stuff is better" that the article left out, is that (at least for me) hardware controls are almost always superior (tho certainly less flexible) than software controls. There's no better example than the physical keyboard vs. the soft keyboard. Recently I had to purchase a replacement stove, and I am amazed at how much worse the UX is on this stove than my old one. I don't want to slide my finger to determine heat intensity, and select which burner that applies to by pressing a soft button corresponding to the hotplate. Just give me a physical knob for each hotplate please. The UX there is excellent.
A more painful example is my Ford truck. Almost everything inside of it is software powered, and the bugs drive me insane. At one point my GPS/stereo touchscreen hit some bug, and the only way to "fix" it was to pull over at a rest stop and power cycle my truck (turn off, then back on again :facepalm: ). That is maddening. As a software developer I understand that bugs happen, but as a consumer I just can't tolerate that kind of stuff in my vehicle.
Without question tech has brought us nice things, but with complexity comes bugs (both security-related and non), and with bugs comes software updates (which themselves sometimes introduce bugs in something that was working fine before). Internet-connected things can also be a nightmare for security and privacy. Truly, sometimes the "dumb" version is much better (and way cheaper too).
You don't really think it would be necessary to turn off your plane then turn it back on again, but here we are.
I was on a turboprop flight about to depart the airport when we come to a stop and the pilot says that they have a problem with one of the bits of avionics -- I think he said it was for navigation, and that a mechanic was being driven over to swap it out.
This isn't unexpected per se; my knowledge of avionics is that a lot of design goes into making things easy to change out. If you can just swap the chunk that's not working out the plane gets into the air much faster and the electronics can be examined at leisure.
So we're sitting there about fifteen minutes, and the pilot comes on and says "Well, the mechanic says we should try powering down the plane and powering it back up before we exchange it."
They do so. It seems to take a good bit of time, probably five minutes. The pilot comes on and says "Well, that didn't work, but the mechanic wants us to try one more time."
Once again, everything on the plane shuts down, we sit there in the darkness, and then the plane starts back up.
The pilot comes on and says "We're all good now, so we're going to leave the airport."
I felt a bit nervous the whole flight.
Sad that this story's "thought experiment" https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16393740 from 8 days ago may be the future, not a joke. Sorry you couldn't drive to work, we're pushing an update to your car by the middle of the week.
I've never been in more of a white-knuckle situation in my life, including the time a tire blew while landing at IAD. We then sat on tarmac for close to 3 more hours while they replaced the computers and we took off again in the same plane.
Touchscreens in vehicles just seem like an accident waiting to happen.
I had a discussion the other day with someone who designs large, moving machinery. His preference is for the actual controls to be physical switches and knobs that are easy to user and learn. He relegates touchscreens for setup & configuration.
This drives me nuts as well. I'm the guy going to appliance stores and testing the knobs of every range just to see if they've managed to fuck up even that simple interface.
And some manufacturers have. :-(
You want to be able to turn the knob directly to max from 0, without having to go all the way around, but some have a stop in place so you can only turn it in one direction. Absolutely maddening.
At first I was thinking, "Well, when there's a stop in place, that's usually because that plate has one of those turn-briefly-to-11-and-let-the-knob-spring-back-to-10-in-order-to-activate-the-outer-area-of-the-plate" but then I realised how terrible of an interface that is, too! It took me years to figure out, and I have taught it to so many people since, who wish they knew about it earlier...
But what is more important than going from 0 to max, in my opinion, is being able to go in the opposite direction. When I'm holding a pot full of boiling water in one hand and stirring something with my other hand, I want to be able to turn off the plate really quickly.
But it could definitely be a one-way catch for quick turn-off:
0 \_| Max
I would pay thousands for a high-powered inverter microwave with two physical dials: power (measured in WATTS, thank you, not percentage), and time.
Commercial models have a dial and high power, but I haven't found such a one where you can control the power, which is a must for oatmeal and such.
Large and not cheap, but it's 1500W and has 5 power levels.
Oh, and every 6 months it crashes and I have to unplug and replug it to make it work again.
be glad you even have this option.
in my car, sometimes android auto freezes in a way that it will never recover from. this would be a minor annoyance if I could just reboot the thing while driving (and why not? it shouldn't hook into anything essential), but I can't do that. worse still, I can't even hard reset it by power cycling the whole car. the damn thing goes into sleep mode or something and maintains the broken state. only way to fix it is to turn the car off and then wait n minutes for the system to finally shut down.
The controls in my 1985 Saab C900 is almost ideal. Everything important at eye height. Direct manipulation analog controls with an immediate and tactile result.
Computers should be here to assist and get out of the way. Wiz-bang fancy too often takes precedence over pragmatism here.
Honestly, a giant attention sucking touch screen in the centre of the car is the opposite of the direction manufacturers should be going.
What you see is after all the workarounds that some poor application developers had to implement.
Frankly I'm amazed Bluetooth works as well as it does.
That said, I still don't understand why Bluetooth is still flaky after over 20 years of opportunity to improve it.
And the gap between almost everything and everything is huge.
I like the phrase I heard a few years ago from friends that played MMOs: “92 is halfway to 100”. Diminishing returns is a painful thing.
Your head unit probably has an aux connector in the back, either 1/8" or RCA input as part of video input. You can run a long 1/8" male-male wire from there out to the bottom of the dashboard (what I did on my most recent swap, can't lose the cable this way), or run a 1/8" male-female to an accessory knock-out cover or cut out part of the dashboard. I paid for a higher-quality Kenwood unit, and the Bluetooth, while actually managing to connect (not always the case in my experience, even for factory units), does have problems with interference that sometimes cause sound to drop out for 1-2 seconds. This is as bad as the worst CD-skip-on-hitting-pothole. Bluetooth IMO is complete garbage for car audio.
Amen. I get a lot of stuttering and random disconnections that drive me insane. Also that's a terrific tip regarding the aux input. Definitely gonna check that out.
I have an old car. All electromechanical controls with obvious functions and very pleasant tactile feedback. I don't have to take my eyes off the road to manipulate any of them. IMHO that's how driving should be.
See point 8: http://blog.tyrannyofthemouse.com/2008/07/setting-sync-strai...
When you talk about stovetops, the tradeoff between price points on a unit from physical / digital controls is generally if it uses a built in thermostat or not, and the need for more advanced features (built in timers, etc). Its fairly common for kitchens to use purely manual driven knobs that open on/off gas valves on the economy scale since they are reliable and work. For home use stoves, since it also doesn't go through as much abuse compare to a kitchen stove, manufacturers will veer towards digital controls to offer more features and selling points.
First example: in my experience, there is nothing better than a blackboard for explaining a subject. I have never seen a blackboard that does not work. I also have never had a smooth experience with a smartboard (for starters, it has to boot and the projector has to be on and connected which just takes some minutes), and I have rarely had a good experience with whiteboards (usually the markers just don't work well, and there's no way to see that beforehand, so you end up trying a lot of them).
It also irritates me intensely how often it is assumed that you're always connected to the internet. Games nowadays not only have mandatory updates, but also require you to be connected. I used to play games once a week with a friend, and the experience just sucked. Call of Duty almost always had a multiple gigabyte update waiting for us, so that we had to wait half an hour to play (even though we didn't play online). It has happened multiple times that the internet didn't work, and we just had to find something else to do.
Then, smart TV's have some of the same problems too. I have had some new experiences since my roommate bought a 4k monstrosity with ambilight (which only purpose seems to be that ensure that no-one can concentrate on something else when the TV is on). I have never had to wait multiple minutes to turn the TV on before. I have never had a TV crash on me before. I have never been confused by a remote control before (the remote control has a button with a triangle symbol to go to all apps, and some other buttons with symbols I have never seen before, and there are two different places with apps - some of them are the same while others can only be found in one place). The TV also boots with the sound very loud, and I have to wait until the TV is fully booted until the sound can be adjusted. Which in practice means that I can't watch TV after my roommate goes asleep at 9:30.
Security is a nightmare and I don't want to be profiled by anyone.
But you know, except for a "do you want to update now" nagging that made it unusable for the first 2 hours after I plugged it on the net, and a immediate "please accept this EULA so we can display ads" that I declined, the smart features have been nice since then.
I am still wary of a future "we are shutting down our servers, this TV will be no more", but not of much more.
It's very nice to connect to the TV by Bluetooth. It's nice to plug stuff there and browse the web too, but does not make all that difference because there's a Kodi machine just under it (right now I'm not sure I will keep the computer).
I've never understood the need to be always connected to the internet for gaming. Especially if its a single player game, I prefer to have steam just run it offline, but I guess the counterargument for game companies is DRM (they want to validate whether you purchased the game or not).
I do IT all the time and I am always against putting too much functionality in everything. People don't appreciate the simple things until they have to repair it themselves. I never bought into smart homes, TVs, amazon echo/alexa products, etc. I just don't see the need to automate these things that provide little value in the long run.
Per article, my rule of thumb is to always resort to the simplest, dumbest thing possible to validate whether or not I actually need the high tech solution. A good example of this, not mentioned in the article, is a pomodoro timer (a timer designed to work on 25 minute work periods). You can download a slew of apps to do this on your PC. Or you could just buy a miracle cube timer off amazon for like $10. Another good example is a todolist. You can find hundreds of these apps that integrate everywhere that it doesn't need to be. I resort to just using sticky notes and shove them in my wallet / keyboard to remind me of tasks I need to do.
The game updates situation... eesh. So many times when I've got maybe 20 minutes free to play a game and it wants to spend 10 of them downloading updates. One of the reasons I've come to love retro console gaming is that nonsense doesn't happen with PS1, PS2, Xbox, or Wii games.
For a lot of things dumb is often better and more reliable, especially at home: lights (though I do crave a master switch by my back door) and door-locks spring immediately to mind.
I haven't seen motion activated taps - the kind you see in public toilets - creeping into homes yet, but it's only a matter of time. Those things have always seemed pointless and overcomplicated to me, so if I ever move into a house that has them they'll be getting pulled straight out. What happens if you have a power-cut? I assume they'll keep working for at least a while, but sooner or later I imagine they'll run out of juice, and then what do you do?
A normal amount of warm water encourages people to wash their hands correctly. I have to sit through around five on-off cycles to get a good hand washing.
If you can believe it, the Dyson Airblade V is even worse: it dries your hands by the clever trick of blasting the water from them and spraying it liberally over your trousers along with the wall and floor beneath the dryer whilst making enough noise to wake the dead. Total junk.
EDIT: And don't even get me started on the stupid Airblade tap/hand dryer hybrid. What a travesty of innovation. Got large hands? Prepare to confuse the thing as it can't decide whether to douse you in water or blow a hoolie. Talk about a solution begging a problem.
I would never spec these in new construction unless they were the kind with a purely mechanical flusher incorporated as a failsafe.
I have. It looks like a normal blackboard that doesn't have any chalk nearby. Smart boards are generally worse, but their chalk doesn't run out or disappear.
If your smart blackboard malfunctions, it's not obvious what the problem is (power loss/issue? Software bug? Something else?) and you definitely can't borrow a few ounces of chalk from your neighbor to fix it.
Besides, the chalk powder is a great health hazard, and the sound is a great distractor. There's a reason everybody switched into white boards, and it's not because of novelty.
About smart boards, they are great for remote conferences, and for mixing pre-made content with writing. I don't think they are worth the hassle (unless you do remote conferences a lot), but they are not all downsides either.
Nonsense. Some individuals with pre-existing breathing conditions may have those conditions exacerbated by inhaling chalk at unusual levels, but to say that chalk powder by itself is a great hazard is nonsense on stilts.
Unless they're stuck in an update loop, or the power is off, or sometimes the internet is down.
No, they just add 200 other failure scenarios of their own...
Once I had that realization, and identified how cheap replacement markers really are, the moment it starts to crap out it's tossed and replaced from a backup container sitting nearby.
I'm also biased against blackboards, having gone through school with them. I was all-too-frequently chosen to go bang the chalk dust out the erasers, becoming coated from tip to toe in said dust. Too much hassle for the value. Not to mention the need for a deep cleaning of the board periodically, though I guess it shares that with whiteboards.
Our teachers had a small bucket of water and simply cleaned the sponges themselves, if we had to do it it was fun rather than a health hazard.
> Not to mention the need for a deep cleaning of the board periodically
Again wet sponge technology comes to the rescue, plus window cleaning thingies to get the blackboard to dry before the next lesson. That school was ass backwards in so many ways, but even they didn't manage to mess up using blackboards.
> the moment it starts to crap out it's tossed and replaced from a backup container sitting nearby
How does all that plastic compare to some colored chalk and water though? What's involved in producing colored chalk versus producing whiteboard markers? It's a honest question because I have no clue, but of course the implication is that it seems likely to me, not having looked into it at all, that chalk is way more environmentally friendly.
I also think the skill ceiling for chalk, and the possible range of styles, is greater, so to speak. But I never really saw gifted whiteboard use, and did have some teachers who had beautiful handwriting on a blackboard and used little tricks to make neat graphs or images, who had a real sense of craftsmanship if not artistry about it, so I'm probably biased in the other direction.
Perhaps it's because the drying time would have been too long, since most teachers would be re-using blackboard space constantly throughout a single class period.
I can certainly imagine that the environmental impact of blackboards is overall lower than whiteboards, but even given the sponge-and-bucket method, I'd have to say that whiteboards fall on the "easier to use" side of the equation; something that's hard to dismiss when we want minimal friction when writing something out on a board.
> It's not really that difficult to learn six languages to a level of using them professionally. I've seen it happen. 
On the one hand you're arguing you can't become "Senior" in 5 years, but at the same time you can become professional with 6 languages with little effort.
Professional: "a person who is expert at his or her work". Are you an expert with every language?
> people who have been paid to write the same language for years but don't have senior in their title
Are they experts with the language / framework / tools?
So are you saying I should have a different job title for every language I use?
> Are they experts with the language / framework / tools?
So you agree that being proficient in a language is a separate issue from job title?
"A professional is a member of a profession or any person who earns their living from a specified professional activity."
"The term also describes the standards of education and training that prepare members of the profession with the particular knowledge and skills necessary to perform their specific role within that profession."
Also from wikipedia, the second paragraph:
"In some cultures, the term is used as shorthand to describe a particular social stratum of well-educated workers who enjoy considerable work autonomy and who are commonly engaged in creative and intellectually challenging work."
Can we please stop this nonsense now?
// Blackboard in this case would have been be far less practical as everything around it would be eventually covered in chalk.
@JobvdZwan: My mother called me the other day asking why I "installed Bing". Because she does not grasp that software can modify itself, it did not occur to her that Firefox itself switched after an auto-update. In this light it makes sense that family members blame you for "breaking" their computer if you helped them out months or years before: if you fix, say, a door, it will not spontaneously change after that. But fixing a computer is not like fixing a door.
@algoglitches: Interestingly doors will probably be computers a few years from now cf https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/09/you-a... . We will refer to them as "formerly fixable objects" and they will produce their own glitches.
@JobvdZwan: Did you just make up the term "formerly fixable objects"? Because that should be a term.
Soft touch buttons are the bane of my existence. With most buttons, there's no feedback as to whether or not the button has been pressed. It's also difficult to develop muscle memory so you can you use the buttons without looking. For this reason I can't stand typing on an iPad's screen keyboard. Also the reason turning on a modern TV involves me dragging my fingers all over the bottom hoping I hit the power button.
The extreme of this is newer Macbook touchbar. Vim is a nightmare to use. Did I even press ESC? Can't tell.
Another great example: http://www.homecrux.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/GE%E2%80%...
Especially the first few days were pure delight. A player with.. hardware buttons! I can skip tracks, jump back and forth, pause, everything without even looking at the thing! Several years of using touchscreen-smartphones for this had me totally forget how it is to use an MP3 player with physical buttons. Really, I didn't expect at all how much I'd love it. I've now gotten used to it again and going back to anything touchscreen-based is not an option at all anymore. And on top of that the joy of knowing that there's no ad-company tracking how/when/where I'm listening.
- had to hook it up to my Windows computer and download songs instead of just making a playlist on Apple Music or queueing up podcasts in Overcast
- if the sun was out, I had to hold the Clip right against my eyeballs to make anything out
- no 30 second skips, no chapter selection
And honestly, I'm not sure why you'd give up on the phone altogether without researching other podcast apps. Overcast is the best.
> And honestly, I'm not sure why you'd give up on the phone altogether without researching other podcast apps. Overcast is the best.
I looked at them, didn't find a single trustworthy one. Overcast is a good example of that: it's often recommended, but it wants me to make an account, which is completely superfluous and probably just a way for them to collect data about my podcast habits. No thanks. I only want podcasts, I don't want a cloud service to go with it.
It's very much worth it.
They don't (well, soft touch radio/heat/AC/etc. buttons). And in my opinion, this is one place where some more safety regulations really are needed to force a return to physical buttons.
But they _do_ provide an additional line item in the list of "comparison specs" to show a check-mark for their car and no check-mark for a competitors product. And that is the reason for the 'race' to add touch screens for everything that used to have a hard button. Look at our car, it has so many more "features" than theirs....
That, and the fact that a single touch screen can replace a whole host of hard buttons, eliminating the design, tooling, manufacturing, shipping, and assembly costs associated with all the old hard button devices.
Not only do I have a touchscreen radio, but the climate control section is a large array of buttons, with the exception changing the temperature with a knob.
Every single fucking action I need to perform in that area requires that I take my eyes off the road. Want the heat on my feet instead of my face or the windshield? Then I need to press up/down and iterate through the air directions. Need to increase/decrease the air speed? Find the left/right arrows and press them. Oops, I pressed the Defrost button which turns on the windshield vents full blast! Oops, I pressed the "Auto" button which does... something. No fucking clue what that button does.
As shitty as my old Yaris was, I had a knob for air position, another knob for speed, and a button right in the middle of the knob for rear defrost. The knobs were huge and clunked into place. After a week in the car I knew exactly what to do without ever looking down, and I miss it dearly.
And my touchscreen radio takes like 10 seconds to boot and it warns me never to look at it while I'm on the road or some bullshit. If I need to change stations I need to look down and find the touchscreen buttons. I'm all mad thinking about it now, wish I could return the car just for this shit.
...I've always wondered, if it weren't for some regulations, would manufacturers replace the steering wheel, pedals, and gearshift with a touchscreen? That would be really scary. The value of the feedback of physical controls can't be underappreciated.
Sadly, I suspect the answer is yes, some maker somewhere would do just exactly that.
Just to remind you how hypey it was, "tablets will replace PC-type computers for most consumers in the next few years" and "world's first iPad DJ". I wish I was making up the last one.
Smartphones are something else, they are the most useful computers given the limitation that they have to fit into a pocket. Touchscreens make good use of available space there, that's all.
In the meantime I recognise that there's some health value to getting up periodically to flick switches.
I wouldn't. What's the point exactly? Take smart lights, what are they for?? When I enter the room I switch lights on, when I leave the room I switch lights off.
I'm not sure when I would need to switch lights on while already in the room. I never stay in the same room for so long that the sun sets while I'm still there not moving.
At night in the bedroom there are switches near the bed (attached to the wall, which can't get lost, contrary to a remote, and don't need sound, contrary to voice control).
My point is, we tend to accept technology even when it doesn't solve any problem we are actually having.
I'm not in any rush to automate lights, but there are lots of people that would appreciate things like an "arrival mode" for their lighting, where lights switched on when they arrived at the house. Not really a big deal, but say you have poor night vision and reduced mobility.
This used to fascinate my wife. Now it just upsets her, she thinks I'm showing off to the kids. I'm not; I'm training for when the sun dies.
Which can be obtained with a basic 'motion sensor' light switch for one critical light near the door, with no need for internet connectivity or smart-phone apps.
There have been more than a few times in the last month where my hands were disgusting enough (pets, kids, etc.) that touching light switches, knobs, etc. meant I had to retrace my steps with cleaning supplies.
And how do you use a remote with greasy hands? You have to clean that afterwards.
If the smart house/ambient computing stuff ever works as described, it will be really useful for people with disabilities.
That's if you're lucky. I don't want to sound paranoid but if there are sensors in your house its only a matter of time before someone wants to use them.
I vaguely considered it - but honestly, what's the point? Light switches are excellent tech. I think I'll go for a home computer the day somebody makes a roomba that can pick up trash, and clean the bathroom. Before that, all the really time-consuming stuff has to be done manually anyway.
I'm doing that with some relays and LIFX bulbs using Openhab.
I would absolutely never install a non open-source monitoring device in my house - and I frankly think it's insane that people pay money to do so. It's really nice to know that when this technology matures, and becomes the kind of thing everybody has, I'm not going to have to be a luddite.
In short, you can simply use a dumb device, but you have to manage a smart device, and that requires much more mental bandwidth.
It's enough that sometimes I want to just give up computing and live in a cave.
1. With some more work it wouldn't be so, but when the power goes out it is like rebooting Jurassic Park to get my sound system back the way I like.
2. The proprietary power grab is worse than any video format war or chat program territory battle. I've tried to DIY as much as I can, but Google Home is a no go for DIY. I can emulate on/off Phillips Hue stuff for Alexa Scenes but for Google Home you have to go through the net.
3. I can't ask Alexa to do anything when the (rare) internet is out, but I can control everything fine with my phone or IR. Most automation projects seem to require outside the firewall stuff.
4. Would be cool if I could come up with a port knocking thing for Alexa Skills to talk back to the LAN with some kind of reliable security and encryption... But Skills seem to be only available to call out insecurely or to a running EC2 instance say but I don't have a free tier account being an early adopter of EC2.
5. In general, the products I will buy are ideally LAN only. Maybe that's unrealistic like a non smart TV?
So long as it has power (but a battery backup would be simple enough) it never fails to turn on "if this, then that". Daylight savings, changing seasons, solar eclipse.
It's never a device I have to think about.
And at home depot they sell $80 IoT light bulbs demanding a property app.
For instance our Whirlpool microwave - touch sensitive digital and achieving 5 or 10 minutes takes much longer and more clicks than our old one (no 5 min button, but the Panasonic's touch keypad didn't much like damp hands). Setting power or grill is especially unfriendly and rarely succeeds at first attempt. First microwave had a rotary control, now the preserve of absolute bottom of range rubbish, time setting always took one touch and under a second.
I find it's affecting my choices of cars though. Touch sensitive "improvement" of anything basic (heater or fan for instance) is a big negative mark for me as chances are I could formerly achieve it without taking eyes from road, but now I need to look, and you don't want everything on the steering wheel!
Reminds me of the old "ha-ha-only-serious" joke about how a computer scientist would design a toaster:
Unfortunately some people interpreted it as a plan for the future.
I don't see how a simple thermostat with no timer can do the job by itself.
Five years later we moved and I had to buy a replacement, and I found one model that had a digital knob, all the rest had the idiotic keypad instead.
The volume is now digital, so we have a choice between "too loud" or "too quiet". Turning the knob gives the same too coarse steps. No motor is required, saving Denon a few pennies and costing them a customer next time around.
The FM tuner (much better quality than DAB hereabouts), uses the digital stage somehow anyway, so analogue transmissions gain about a half second delay. As we often have the same radio station going in more than one room, this can be really annoying.
On the plus side, smart home automation is great for those with mobility issues or disabilities, the elderly. It also could save a lot of energy globally.
On the other hand, a lot of things just don't need to be smart, and making them smart often means that they are not directly servicable by owners. When something breaks, you need a whole stack of knowledge about software to figure out where it went wrong. A lot of us here might have that knowledge, but even then it's a giant hassle. It seems insane that in the future it might require arcane knowledge of Python, bash, and Linux to get your lights on. That's some kind of fail.
The most cynical view, which I sometimes dare myself to consider, is that all of this smart home/internet of things is just another bubble where hardware manufacturers are pushing their chips into literally everything because they have to keep making more money...somehow.
In the latter case, well. Civilization doesn't need more hucksters, even if they are selling little black squares of silicon this time around.
I can't resist to draw a parallel with programming. In the early days, where binaries consisted of carefully handcrafted code, they were in the range of kilobytes. Nowadays programs are in the range of megabytes to gigabytes due to all the libraries that are statically included (and possibly duplicated). When I install Xilinx ISE (no support for anything above windows 7) or Visual Studio (both 2015 and 2017, because both have features that the other one does not contain), I have already used more space on my SSD than I'd like.
It's the last Kindle made before someone got the bright idea that people would rather have a touch screen instead of buttons. Because apparently, when I'm reading a book, the thing I want to do is use my thumb to cover up the screen (you know, the thing that is displaying the text that I'm reading), and hold the device in a very specific way such that I can press the page when I need to while avoiding accidental touches before I've reached the end of the page.
Recently, they decided to re-introduce the majestic "button" feature into some of the newer Kindle models. You can get it if you opt for the premium deluxe "Kindle Oasis" which for some reason has an asymmetrical bezel and costs $250. (The Kindle 4 originally retailed for $80, which is where pricing for current Kindle models also starts.)
I love my Kindle 4. I use it every day and take it with me everywhere, and whenever I misplace it and need to buy a replacement, I find myself going to ebay to look for a used version of the old model so I can have a device with buttons.
It's not much I have to move my fingers to change page on the paperwhite, but it's still so much more than should be necessary, the old model just fit like a glove.
(I would still get the paperwhite even with no buttons, and it has not been as annoying regarding accidental page changes as I had initially feared. And i really love the background lighting)
So I had to buy a new kindle. I looked into the Oasis, and the kindle paper white, and the voyager. I ended up going with the kindle paper white for $80, despite the fact it doesn't have tactile buttons
I actually prefer the kindle paper white. I actually find that pressing a tactile button on every page is kind of tiring with my old Amazon Kindle 3. Swiping back and forth is much easier if you do it constantly, and doesn't really take long to get used too
So you go to drink fountain, puts your cup in, LCD display nicely says your name (wow) and then you click which drink you wants and the cup fills in, while the display tells you from now on it remembers your favorite drink. Can't be better huh?
Five minutes later I go for a refil: "Sorry but you drank a cup less than 45 minutes ago. Please come back in 39 minutes".
I came back, but to the front desk to get a refund. Instead, I replaced it with more expensive regular cup that you could go to cafeteria and get refils of pretty much anything you want to as often as you wanted to.
It can be, but for bad TVs you have to do "remote tai chi" to get LoS between the remote and the TV sensor from wide angles or when there are people or things in the way. I wouldn't call digital signalling better, but there are some benefits.
But it’s not so small that it gets lost.
I never use my Apple TV remote. It’s not practical enough.
Truly worth the money. I suspect the greatest value of these things is that they seem like nice gifts. The same thing seems true of the cheaper drones.
Jerry buys his parents a personal organizer, lies about how expensive it was, and then they want to buy more "tip calculators" for their entire condo board.
Also the infrastructure in a major city is usually much more reliable than someone living in the suburbs (especially in non-1st world countries). And I'm not even talking about internet, but electricity as well
See the Tesla remote unlock fiasco, people think it's a good idea to lock their car using a device which needs a recharge every day (and could break, has a higher chance of getting robbed than a key, etc), and needs access to cell towers to unlock the car? Compare this to other manufacturers where the mechanical keys will work even if the battery in the remote dies
See the bluetooth locks fiasco, you're putting a cheap and unreliable device between you and your house? Do people realize how stupid is that?!
Smart tends to mean complex, and complex usually means more things to fail. Some things only need shafts, pulleys and gearwheels -- there is no need to bring a microprocessor into the picture...