• 05 Jan 2010 /  Upcoming

    Having all this time off during the holidays has given me the opportunity to get my home automation install going a bit and once I had a few more switches in the first thing i was itching to do was find some software to control it all.  snowfallDon’t get me wrong, I love having the switches talk to each other and being able to shut off all the lights from bed is great, but the real power of home automation comes when you can unlock things like conditional events and incorporate external data like weather forecasts (i.e. It’s going to rain later today so we won’t activate the sprinklers this morning).

    Unfortunately there’s not much out there in the way of a concise comparison for Insteon software, but I found a few reviews that led me towards either Indigo or HomeSeer.  I was worried that if I installed Indigo on my Macbook that everytime I took it with me the house would be in a state of helplessness, and I have a spare windows box so I’m going to try Homeseer and see how it goes.

    I’ll let you peeps know!

    Tags: , ,

  • 25 Nov 2009 /  Rants

    ThanksgivingFeastWell, the turkeys are being prepared and retailers are going into the black, which means it’s my wife’s favorite time of year – Shopping time.  Not quite sure how this holiday became such a big shopping trend, but I’ve really noticed the marketers taking advantage of it the past few years.  Even for obscure retailers like The Sharper Image and Smarthome black friday sales are big events.  Not that I’m tempted or anything…  I suppose if I buy myself something I can always make it part of my xmas gifts – if my willpower will let me.

    Tags: , ,

  • 13 Oct 2009 /  Upcoming

    snow

    I just got word that the city I called home until a couple months ago just got it’s first heavy dump of snow (over 10cm) and traffic this morning was insane as a result.  Over 2 hour commutes for most people since nobody bothered to get their winter tires on ahead of time or do any of the other winter car care checklist items.

    Personally I’m enjoying the cloudy day here knowing that it could be worse and it probably will be soon.  I have a bunch of things I planned on doing, like getting my new Insteon thermostat installed and raking up the pine needles but I’ll probably just grab a warm mocha and enjoy the day.

    This will be our little one’s first winter, so it should be neat to watch her in the snow as well – I guess we need a toboggan and a harness for our Samoyed to pull her now too…

    Tags: , , , , ,

  • 02 May 2009 /  Tips

    We’ve recently decided to sell our house and the process of getting things ready has caused us to pause and consider what a potential homebuyer would be looking for in a new home.  We spend considerable time looking through listings for our next house and as we do I’m keeping an eye on what makes us look deeper and what causes us to skip the house in the listings.

    Here are what we consider to be the top 5 things that home buyers look for when shopping for a new place:

    1. Cleanliness – At the top of the list is simply how clean the house is, beyond the simple organization of clutter,
      "There's a room under the mess, I promise"

      "There's a room under the mess, I'm sure..."

      this attribute goes down to the level of making the house appear new.  There are many reasons to buy a house a few years old rather than building or buying a brand new house (landscaping & fencing are done, construction noise at 5am is no longer present, amenaties are established, etc) but shoppers still want to feel like the home will be near perfect, and they can’t feel that way while looking at a pile of clutter or dirty baseboards.

    2. Location – While you can’t exactly pick up your house and move it, each spot has something unique about the particular lot or location.  Highlight the strengths of the lot – The fact that buyers have included the neighborhood in their searches pre-qualifies them as interested, now they just need to understand why this lot is better than the one for sale down the street.  For us, we have an unobstructed view out front and back, so we don’t look directly into anyone else’s house and have a nice view of the mountains from our bedroom – The house down the street for sale does not.
    3. Depersonalization – When looking through a house potential buyers are already a bit uneasy to be snooping through someone else’s belongings, but if they see pictures of you up throughout the house it just makes it that much harder to visualize themselves in the house.  Remove photos of people and pets, leaving only artwork and decorations.  This will remove some of the apprehension and feeling of possession leaving the buyers to see the house as a place they could call their own.
    4. Purpose - Many rooms become other things over time.  Garages become storage spots, bedrooms become offices and living-rooms become the catch-all location for household activity.  When preparing the house for sale, revert rooms to the typical state and give them a clear purpose.  A room with a solitary chair leaves the buyer wondering what the space is for, but a bed in the corner (even if the ‘bed’ is just an air mattress with some blankets on it) with a blanket and book placed on that same chair makes the room seem like a relaxing place to sit and read.  Removing clutter is a key part of this, so that when the buyers are walking through the house (most showings only last 10-20 minutes, that’s only a few minutes per room) they get a clear and immediate sense of what the room is and hopefully what it could become with their own furniture.
    5. Olfactory - The sense of smell is strongly connected to memory due to the olfactory bulb’s location in the Cookieslimbic system of the brain.  This correlation means it is especially important to be aware of the smells your house presents when walking in.  Don’t assume that you understand what a potential buyer might associate with ‘good’ or ‘bad’ either – I mopped our floors with bleach and water because I associate that smell with cleanliness, but when my wife smelled bleach she was immediately upset and mentioned that it reminded her of unclean places which had used bleach out of necessity.  Some people have recommended the smell of cookies baking in the oven is one that strongly links many people to their youth and feeling secure when growing up.  Obviously baking a fresh batch of cookies for each showing will be bad for our wastelines, but for open houses it could work wonders.

    Have any other useful tips for staging/selling a house?

    Tags: ,

  • 07 Feb 2009 /  Upcoming

    Today’s episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition showed the Girard family from Voluntown, CT and the incredible hardship and losses they faced.  Girard HouseAs is typical of the show, they received a beautiful, heavily customized house to help turn things around for the family.

    One of the things that I thought was really neat about this particular house was the whole-home automation they received, allowing the Girard family to control lights, thermostats and other appliances in the house.  It turns out the automation technology used is Insteon, probably the best system available today.

    Insteon has been gaining ground on its competitors for years now, partly because of the new devices they keep introducing while competitors like Zwave stagnate, and partly because of the strong enthusiest community there to provide support.  Remote

    A great example of this community spirit can be found in the Insteon reviews like this one, where you can really feel the passion the author has for the technology.

    I imagine the Girard family will really appreciate the ability to adjust the lighting, fireplace etc in response to things like turning on the TV or getting home after work – I know I do.  After years of using X10 and thinking it was better than nothing but not good enough, Insteon does everything we need and didn’t require us to hire an expensive electrician or home automation specialty company.

    Best of luck to the Girard family moving forward!

    Tags: , , , , , , , ,

  • 19 Sep 2008 /  Upcoming

    We went to the Calgary Baby Show this weekend and I must say I was horribly dissapointed.  Knowing that the show was held at the Roundup Center (which is huge) made us think that it would be a relatively large event, and the promotional materials promised “New technologies” and “latest baby innovations” so when we showed up and paid the $10 per person to enter and saw only a fraction of the vendors that would fit in the space (over 1/2 the space was just…empty), and NO new technology of any type it was very disappointing.  In fact, we were so unsatisfied leaving that we went to Babies-R-Us and had a much better time checking things out there.

    Afterwards we looked online and it appears that the vendors were charged over $2000 for a booth there.  The foot traffic there was light to moderate, but I can’t imagine too many vendors made their money back with the small crowd we saw.  With about 35 vendors at $2000 each plus $10 per person for entrance, I’d speculate that the only ones satisfied with the event were the organizers, counting their large stacks of profts for an event poorly done.

    Tags: ,

  • 10 Sep 2008 /  Upcoming

    Despite it being September, there’s pretty much a month left to find baby halloween costumes if you plan on ordering online and ensuring that your little guy or girl is wearing something unique for this halloween. 

    This one on the left cracks me up, it’s got a great set of fonts and the color of the onesie itself is perfect for converting that cute baby fat into a pumpkin-like appearance. 

    There are actually a few funny/ironic halloween costumes for babies that I’ve come across – Personally, I’d want my little pumpkin to be the focus at halloween parties but I also realize that halloween gifts are an increasing trend too so I suppose it’s good that there are a few funny ones available. 

    Now if I can just find a green hat that looks like a stem I’m set.

    Tags: , , , ,

  • 04 Sep 2008 /  Upcoming

    A new browser has come out, and as with most things related to Google the fanfare around the browser is coming from the eager technology junkees and not from the big G itself.  It’s only been out a few days, but the early reports are that the speed is the key benefit, with availability of plugins as the main counterpoint.

    Just how fast is it though?  Cnet reports that when dealing with Javascript it’s no contest, Chrome (the new Googlebrowser) is an order of magnitude faster than anything else out there including the beloved Firefox and especially the lethargic Internet Explorer.  In other tests, user comments indicate that anywhere from 2 to 5 times the speed is typical.  Sounds great, right?

    Two downfalls to Chrome exist currently – first, no Mac support exists.  As Mac users, we’re used to waiting for commercial releases to trickle down but I must say that I’m a bit disappointed given the relationship between Google and Apple.  I understand the business reasons for targeting the highest volume market first, it’s just more of an emotional sting given that many Mac users see Apple and Google as the ‘dream team’ that will change the world, dethroning Microsoft from it’s tyranny over desktops everywhere (Although I’ll admit that MS Media Center is higher on the WAF (wife approval factor) than anything else out there right now).

    That may be a bit melodramatic, and I’ll still be able to try Chrome out via Parallels, but testing for speed in an emulated environment is a bit…pointless.  Still, it’s interesting to see Google trying new things to bring the web to it’s next plateau of potential.  Faster browsing means more advertising for Google, but more rich experiences for users and less dependency on local hardware and storage.

    The second downfall is a lack of plugins to enhance the browsing experience.  Plugins are a necessary evil – they fill gaps in the core application and allow each part to focus on what it does well, but at the same time amature coders and those unfamiliar with the methodologies used for the core application can cause instability in the application which of course is blamed on the browser and not the plugins.  For this reason, Google may choose to limit the plugin set, however that wouldn’t be very ‘open’ of them either.

    Early reports are that Chrome has taken a 3% market share already (2.6% according to clicky) which is huge, but growth will likely slow dramatically after the early adopters have done their testing.

    All-in-all, an interesting day on the internets…

    Tags: , ,

  • 03 Sep 2008 /  Upcoming

    I can haz a bucket?

    Perhaps it’s because I’m going to be a dad soon, but much of my focus lately has been on finding funny or nerdy baby clothes for the upcoming little one.  Sure, there are lots of other items we need to research and purchase like strollers, cribs, playpens and such, but they’re not quite as fun as the perfect onesie.  The first few months are no doubt going to be filled with “awww, let’s see the baby” type moments, but let’s face it – Newborn babies are a bit boring.  They don’t really interact, so that’s why it’s the perfect opportunity to put some hilarious phrases on personalized baby clothes and allow your friends and family to have a laugh while they check out the newborn.

    Many of the shops I checked out will do personalized text, but not images and sometimes you really need a picture to get your point across or make the impact you want.  I found a site that will do whatever you want on a onesie or toddler tee, you just checkout with the personalized baby onesies or personalized toddler t-shirts you want and then email the text/design.  They do a great job of designing things if you have something in mind as well, for us “creative, but not so great at photoshop” types.

    I still need to figure out what the best car seat is, what gadgets are necessary and which are a waste and a bunch of other things, but the baby should be very well dressed now and I’ll have no problem finding a personalized baby gift for friends in the future…That’s gotta count for something.

    Tags: , , , , , ,

  • 30 Aug 2008 /  Upcoming

    This picture is hilarious.  I can barely write because it’s distracting me with its hilarity.

    The topic for today is nerdy babies and the popularity lately.  Many people around me are having babies – I’d wager that it’s the perfect storm for babies and we’ll see the result in the census results 5-7 years from now.

    Gen X’ers have expressed their angst and apathy with the world, and now their rebellious and creative outbursts have landed them decent jobs (partially due to baby boomers retiring en mass).  The financial security which these jobs offer now leads them to consider having a family.  At the same time, Gen Y is bored with working for the man and feels that a life dedicated to working is no life at all.  Struggling to find balance, many focus on relationships and family, and still more have the ‘oops’ moments where it may not have been planned but they make the best of it.

    Ok, enough psudo-analysis.  The commonality between these groups is that we now have the largest emergence of geeks with families we’ve ever had, and this gets passed down to the babies.  Obviously, babies can’t be nerds yet, but there’s no sense in fighting genetics either…  There are already some really funny nerdy onesies out there.  I’m really curious to see what the next generation of toddler toys will be.  Massive Multiplayer Stroller Games (MMSG)?

    Tags: ,