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Amplifying Your Mesh Network with AmpliFi HD WiFi Mesh Router – Review

In Consumer Electronics, Gadgets, General, Hardware, Review, Technology by Michael Sheehan0 Comments

My parents’ house has a problem. It is not very well laid out for WiFi network coverage. It is 2-stories, an older home built in 1906, and is about 2500 square feet. While it is a box essentially, because of where the Internet modem is located, and the fact that my folks don’t want to ruin the historic architecture with holes for Ethernet cables, it has been a bit challenging for me to get fast AND reliable WiFi coverage throughout all corners of the home. That is, until I set them up with an AmpliFi HD WiFi mesh router.

AmpliFi HD Mesh Wifi Router Review - box

Previously, I had tried a variety of solutions. With a single router, I tried to position it so that it was high up and as centrally located as possible. This was great for the top floor where the cable modem was (actually, they had a DSL modem but I finally convinced them to upgrade to true broadband speeds), but the bottom floor did not have very good coverage, especially in the edges of their home. This was an issue because they have an Apple TV for streaming near one of those edge locations, but it kept disconnecting and buffering so much, it pretty much killed any TV-viewing experience whatsoever.

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These Personalized Tools from PG&E Will Help You Save Money & Energy

In General, How To, HTD Tech Tip, Sponsored, Technology by Michael Sheehan0 Comments

When you have a home (that is 70+ years old) and a bunch of kids (who produce a lot of laundry) and a pool (that has a pump running for many hours a day) and are a HighTechDad (with power gobbling gadgets), every month you are pretty much shocked by your energy bill. Yes, I have yelled at my kids to turn off lights, following them out of rooms switching the lights off. I have kindly asked my wife to turn off the paused TV when she’s not watching it. I have swapped out every light bulb with energy efficient LEDs. And even recently, prior to being sponsored to write this article, spent hours on the PG&E site analyzing my usage, comparing rate plans, and configuring my home’s profile for recommendations and tips. I’ve even recently installed an energy monitor to see the exact electrical usage of specific devices in my home. I haven’t done everything (I still have my beer fridge). But I’m trying. And I’m writing this article to talk about some easy things you can do just on the PG&E site that can save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars a year. Got your attention? I hope so!

First of all, if you aren’t a PG&E customer, much of the information below might not be super relevant. HOWEVER, I would guess that your energy provider has some similar tools. If they don’t, you may want to tell them to get with the program. While saving money on your monthly energy bill is always a huge plus, it’s also important to focus on energy-SAVING tips to help conserve power.

But if you live in California, and you receive your energy from Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), I want to tell you about two tools that they have that can not only save you money but also provide you with education specific to your own home and how it is set up. All that you have to do is log in to your PG&E account to access these personalized, free tools. But none of this would be relevant if it actually wasn’t personal and timely for me as well.

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A Review of a Product that “Sucks” – Dyson V8 Absolute Vacuum

In Consumer Electronics, Gadgets, General, Hardware, Review, Technology by Michael Sheehan0 Comments

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of writing a similar “sucky” review like this one. It was about the Dyson DC59 Motorhead vacuum, which, when I got and used it, I quickly fell in love with (my dog even became part of the review). And yeah, I’m using that same tired and probably over-played cliche about these vacuums “sucking.” Sorry. Well this time, I’m writing about the DC59’s grown up sibling, the Dyson V8 Absolute. Like the DC59, it is lightweight and battery-powered. And they both do a great job sucking up dirt and debris and dust and hair and anything on hardwood or carpeted floors. But that is where the similarities end. Let me explain.

Dyson V8 Absolute - with DC59

 

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Bamboo, Bluetooth & Bass! – Review of ARCHEER A320 Portable Bluetooth Speaker

In Audio, Consumer Electronics, Gadgets, General, Hardware, Review, Technology by Michael Sheehan0 Comments

There are tons of Bluetooth speakers available in the market. To review each and every one would take years. And even in my household, we have 5+ Bluetooth-powered speakers in various rooms. And these are of varying quality. Some are water-resistant. Others have clock-radios. And others are quite elegant. But for me, there are two important factors that make up a good Bluetooth speaker: design aesthetics and sound. I recently received an ARCHEER A320 Bluetooth speaker and was able to check off these two requirements.

The first thing that I was impressed with when I unboxed the ARCHEER A320’s was how heavy it was. And, that it was larger than I had expected (from only having seen the pictures). While heavy doesn’t always equate to a good thing, in this case, it did give the feeling of quality. All too often, I have found Bluetooth speakers to be really light weight and consequently feel cheap. This is not the case with the A320’s.

HTD ARCHEER A320 - front view

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7 Tips to Building a Brilliant Website

In Cloud, General, How To, HTD Tech Tip, Sponsored, Technology by Michael Sheehan0 Comments

When you build a new house, you start with a dream. You decide what you want in terms of layout, rooms, common areas, size, and much more. Once you have those wishes and desires mapped out in your mind, you get a designer or architect to put your ideas to plans and paper. After that, you begin building, tweaking and fine-tuning the design as the construction progresses. And finally, once everything has been built from the foundation and up to the roof, you can truly make it your own with furniture, paint, decorations, and the like. Essentially, you create the structure and fill it with the content and make it a living space. In much the same way, building a website, particularly a blog, goes through many of the same steps.

Build Something Brilliant - Liquid Web - Under Construction

Disclosure: This post was written by me through an activation with HireInfluence on behalf of Liquid Web. Although I received compensation for participating in the campaign, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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The Sense Power Monitor Uses Machine Learning to Make a True “Smart Home”

In Consumer Electronics, Gadgets, General, Hardware, Review, Technology by Michael Sheehan4 Comments

Many of us have Smart Homes but are we actually smart about our homes? That is to say, while you may be able to interact with a variety of connected devices around your home, do you know when anything is on or off from anywhere? Or do you know how much energy a particular device you have is consuming? Or do you know how much energy is being consumed at your home all of the time? These are the very questions a new connected power device called Sense is trying to figure out, day and night. And Sense is using machine learning to do so. I recently install the Sense in my electrical panel and the insights I’m already getting are making me check the Sense app many times a day.

Sense Power Monitor - in the boxWhat’s really interesting is I got a preview of this type of technology back in 2010 as part of an Intel Influencers program. Deep in the Intel Labs, a few others and I saw how an electrical device could be “identified” by the electrical fingerprint it put out. Essentially, when any electrical device is powered on and running, it puts out a digital signature. You can think of it like a voice print that can not only identify what is being said, even contextually, but also who is saying it. The voice of a child saying “I want to go to the zoo” looks differently than an adult saying “the garage is dirty.” And even more precisely, one person saying “I went to the WHITE house” is contextually different than someone saying “I went to the white HOUSE.” These types of nuances can be differentiated in voice, pronunciation, emphasis, and other nuances.

Machine learning actually unlocks a lot of potential when it comes to interpreting huge sets of data. And this is exactly what Sense is trying to do. As more Sense devices are installed and start sucking in vast amounts of data, and that data is compared, it begins to identify patterns and signatures of electrical devices. The more data that is uploaded and analyzed, the smarter and more precise the data analytics becomes, and the more accurate the device identification also becomes.

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How to “Mesh” Around with your WiFi Using the NETGEAR Orbi (Review)

In Consumer Electronics, Gadgets, General, Hardware, Review, Technology by Michael Sheehan4 Comments

Testing various WiFi routers is starting to become an informal hobby of mine. Although I recently removed multiple WiFi routers from my home and consolidated all of my SSIDs under one name to make things simpler, I do have two NETGEAR routers running currently, the Nighthawk X8 (my primary router – see my review here) and now a NETGEAR Orbi (model RBK50) which provides additional coverage in other areas of my house. The Orbi was added so I could experience a new trend in WiFi- mesh networks. So I decided to “mesh” around. (Sorry.)

NETGEAR Orbi Mesh WiFi Router - 2 pack

Before I dive into my review of the NETGEAR Orbi, let’s talk a bit about what a mesh WiFi network is. With a traditional WiFi router, your wireless network is broadcast from a single source, namely the router. Technology has evolved a bit with traditional routers, with new WiFi standards emerging. The latest mainstream standard is 802.11ac which many modern devices now have. There is a new standard coming, 802.11ad, and a few routers are emerging that support that, but for now, the 802.11ac router is the one to really consider the best for right now.Read More