Sunday, October 22, 2017

App Enabled Sprinkler Controller by Rachio

I had been meaning to install “modern” sprinkler controllers for the longest time. My daughter got me the Rachio 2.0 for my birthday, but honestly the project stayed pretty far down the list because I was a little daunted by the effort of it all. Then my neighbor put one in and told me “how easy” it was...he was right. 

I set out this morning to put the project into touch with a screwdriver and an iPhone. The instructions were essentially:

  1. Install the app on your phone
  2. Plug in the controller
  3. Walk thru setup for WiFi
  4. Take out the wires from the current controller, put them into the Rachio controller
  5. Walk-thru zone setup and testing
The whole thing took 20 minutes. 
I did end up ordering the outdoor cover for my backyard Rachio (its outside) and have put a 2nd one on my wish list for the front yard. 

The walk through on zone setups was amazing. 
And now, we are ready to save water (smarter watering by zone, time of year and current weather). 

And a side bonus: if the dogs are barking at your neighbors, a quick flip of your phone sends them out of the sprinkler zone (Jeff taught me that one). 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Inbox by Google

I've been trialing Inbox by Google since January. Previous to that I was a devout Apple / Mac / iPhone mail user. I was often conflicted between the features that worked well (VIP group, for example) and how poorly the features worked with Gmail (using the automated inbox rules often conflicted with Apple's approach).

InBox has iPhone and web-based clients. I was able to easily "import" my Gmail rules into my account. As the app has continued to improve over the past few months, they have added both the ability to adjust the rules on the fly as you drag messages to folders and the ability to auto-classify messages based on your behavior with them into a small set of standard categories. 

Admittedly, it took awhile to wean myself off my old approach, trying for a period of many weeks to use InBox and my primary interface but then using my old MacMail and AppleMail to ensure I didn't miss anything. 

Recreating key folders in InBox was easier than Gmail (the rule interface is just simpler).

But having fully switched over, I would tell you it honestly saves me at least an hour a day on my work email and makes it easy to check my personal email every few days.  Further, the facilitated triage helps me get to the right emails first--which makes all the difference.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Revisiting AT&T vs. T-Mobile

I have had about 6 month to experience T-Mobile both here in LA, around major cities in the US and Canada and in London (see my blog for the the switch experience).  The entire time I have done this, I have had an AT&T phone with me (I know, silly), but when I left the country, I would put a local SIM card in that phone (Vodaphone in London for example).  Some conclusions so far:

  • T-Mobile is significantly cheaper than AT&T for international travel.  Even after they responded to losing customers for international travel, implementing a plan similar to carriers in Europe ($10 per day but allowed to run off the normal monthly data plan), T-Mobile ends up being $100-200 cheaper per trip for me.
  • T-Mobile lets you tether in their unlimited plan, AT&T does not.  #FAIL for AT&T.
  • AT&T is still "faster" in most situations for downloads (i.e. trying to download the same video before a flight) -- even when both have same number of bars on LTE, etc.
  • AT&T has significantly fewer dropped calls.  T-Mobile will has dropped my call with 2-bars in a plethora of situation.  Ironically, in these locations (often my house), I switch to the IP phone client Bria (app on iPhone) and the data carries the call better than the voice plan.
What would make me move "back" to AT&T?  They would need:
  • Tethering for their unlimited plan
  • Reduce or drop the daily international data charge from $10 to $5 or less.
  • AT&T would have to stop "threatening" to reduce my data speeds to 2G after 22 GB have been used in the billing cycle.  Even though they appear not to follow-thru on my family, I cannot take the risk of need a critical file and having it take hours to download because they have throttled me on their "unlimited data" plan.

Stay tuned...

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Getting up to speed on AI

For the last 8 months, I have been an avid reader / listener to just about every decent book, podcast and TED talk on the subject of artificial intelligence.  During discussions about AI, I often get the question, "What would you recommend I read to get up to speed on AI?"  Since I have a long commute and like to hike / jog, Amazon's integration of their Kindle and Audible products (they stay in sync) is perfect.

Here are my suggestions:

  • Watch this 13 min TED talk by Andrew McAfee (2013).
  • Then read (or listen to) his book: The Second Machine Age (2016)
  • Read (or re-read) The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil (2006).  If you get bored from technical details quickly, focus on the first few chapters before he starts building a proof for his position.  I know its now 11 years old--trust me, worth the read anyway.
  • Kevin Kelly writes a great book (The Inevitable, 2016) about the 12 trends that will affect our lives.  There is also a good summary on Amazon here.  And a great TED talk for the relevant bits.
  • Calum Chace has 2 worthwhile books, but his book about the economic impact of AI is a better read.  The Economic Singularity, 2016.  Surviving AI, 2016.
  • If you want a scary read, try Nick Bostrom's Superintelligence, 2014.
  • If that isn't enough, these can round out your thirst for more perspectives: