The Nest WiFi Enabled Thermostat

I picked up two Nest thermostats ( a while back.  One for my office and one for my home.  I followed their instructions, and before I bought it I took a picture of my old thermostats wiring.  Then going to the nest website, I plugged in my information to see if the Nest would work for my systems.  Both cases came back thumbs up.  So I ordered two of the 2nd generation Nests.

The install was super easy.  It came with everything I needed, including a screwdriver.  The Nest came with a sheet of stickers so I could label my current wires.  After that I removed my old thermostat and replaced it with the base for the Nest.  It even came with an integrated spirit level to make sure it went on level.  After that it was a simple matter of plugging the wires into their corresponding slots.  Then the Nest unit snapped on. 2013-04-18 18.43.20

In my home I just installed the round Nest unit.  At my office, since the old unit had a large locking case around the unit, I had a bit of ugly unpainted wall exposed.  The Nest comes with a rectangular plate that I installed and that covered up my unpainted area.  It finished it off nice and professional like.

Once the Nest was turned on, I used their very simple menu to connect it to the WiFi.  The outer silver ring spins to let you move between screens, and there is a black button at the bottom of the faceplate to select a choice.  Inputting the password for the WiFi made me feel a little like a safe cracker as I spun the dial back and forth.  The only thing that might ultimately make the Nest better is if it had a touch screen, but I honestly didn’t really need that.  Once connected it started a firmware update.  This took longer than the rest of the installation.2013-04-17 18.59.47

After the firmware update, I had to connect my Nest to my account.  This was a simple matter of going into a menu that gave me a 7 digit pin code (3 numbers and a 4 letter word which made it easy to remember) that I had to take back to my computer and enter in.  Once connected I could adjust my settings.  I set mine to keep my house within a set comfort range while I was there, no lower than 67 no higher than 76.  When I was away I told it to keep it within a temperature range of 57 to 80.  I also told it to start learning my habits.

Now on my account I was able to set two separate locations, Home and Office.  Each one got its own Nest which I am able to set independently of each other.  This makes it easy to monitor each separately.  The office can be on away while I am at home and vice versa. 

I also installed the Nest App on my Phone.  I am using an Android phone, so that is the App I am familiar with.  I can go in to see what the temperature is at each location and I can control it such as manually set it away or there, adjust the temperature up or down.  This comes in handy when we have been traveling when it has been cold out.  I can go on and wake up the Nest at home and tell it to start warming things up about an hour before I get back home.  No more coming back to a cold house, at least when I remember to turn it on.

The Nest has a motion sensor in it.  This allows it to detect if people are moving about.  If it detects movement, it keeps the temperatures at wherever I have set them to be.  If it has not sensed any movement for a couple of hours, it switches to the away temperatures.  After a while it can start to learn your patterns and can anticipate when to start heating or cooling your home or office.  It is amazing how much energy you can save by not having the AC running when there is no one in the house.

At the office, we used to have a large locking box that the thermostat was in.  this was so that people would not screw with the settings.  It was an old thermostat, so I had to check to make sure it was set for the evening and each morning when I got in.  With the away feature I am no longer worried about that, and leave it open and unlocked.  Though if I were concerned with people messing with the thermostat, I can go into setting and put the lock on.  Then I would have to enter a code to manually change the thermostat at the device.  This can also keep the kids from playing with it at your home, I am sure my parents would have loved that feature when I was growing up.

You can also manually program temperature settings.  You can do this by each day, and set different rangers for different times.  If you want to get obsessive about it you can program out your whole week.  I usually rely just on the home and away temps I programmed in and let the motion sensor keep an eye on which to use.  Though I will admit to more than once sitting in bed and thinking it was a little warm and using my phone to kick the temperature down a couple of degrees without ever leaving bed.

The Nest will send me an email report once a month.  This report tells me how long the Nest ran my AC and my heater.  If I was more detail I can go one the computer and get a breakdown of how long the AC ran and how long the heater ran and exactly when during each day it did each.  I have already noticed a significant decrease in my heating and cooling costs since installing the Nest.2013-04-18 18.43.07

I personally think the Nest is brilliant.  It is clean and modern looking.  It allows me to totally control my environment, without ever getting up from my desk or out of bed.  It lets me keep an eye on the temperature even when I am away, and it keeps me informed with monthly reports.  This is exactly how a thermostat should work while we are living in the future.


Pebble Smart Watch

So a while back I kickstartered the Pebble Smart Watch.  Sure it was a bit frustrating as the deadline came and went, but I did get periodic updates as to what was going on, so I had faith it would eventually come into my possession,  Sure enough, last month I got mine in the mail.  So I’ve had a while to play with it, and my impression so far has been more than positive.   While they are still making the various colored versions, you can pre-order a watch now, and have a hope of getting one in a bit from their website:

First off, for the TL;DR crowd.  Battery life is good.  Really like the features.  Instructions out of box could be more.  Some minorly stupid software interface choices.  Kind of big for a woman’s wrist, but fine on mine.  Really like it and use it daily.

Unboxing it.  Note lack of instructions.

Unboxing it. Note lack of instructions.

The downsides first.  It came with almost no instructions.  This meant that out of the box while it would sync with my phone for text messages and calls, it would not do so for Email.  I found the fix for that on their forums, but would have had a hard time finding it had I not been looking for it.  This was complicated by their poor choices in where they hid their menus in the Android App.  They had some menus that you get from a pull down at the top of the screen, and others you get to from using the phone’s menu button while in the app.  I would rather have seen them use one or the other, or possibly alleviated it all with some sort of written or pdf version of a users manual.

I like the size of the watch.  I have big hands and wrists.  The default watch band just barely fits on me, but I have ordered one of their longer straps, which has not yet arrived.  On the up side, it uses a standard watch band, so I can go and buy whatever one I want.  My wife, with her much smaller wrists, does not like it due to the size.  The looks of this watch are ok.  This is not a dress up watch, but a great replacement to a cheap casio or timex sort of watch.  I think of it as the old digital calculator watch all grown up and here from the future.  I will admit that between pagers and cell phones, I have not worn a watch with any regularity for the last 15 years, until now.

One of my favorite watch faces

One of my favorite watch faces

It has a proprietary charger, so DO NOT loose it.  I normally hate proprietary chargers.  I like that most of my devices can use the micro or mini USB chargers.  It is one thing I hate about my ipod, that I need a proprietary charger for it.  The watch, I can almost make an exception for.  I know why they did it.  The watch is water resistant.  Not a divers watch mind you, but feel free to take a shower, get rained on, or even hop in the pool.  To make it water proof, they had to modify their original plan for a micro usb port and they had 2 metal dots.  the charger has magnets in it that hold the charging plates to those dots and thus it charges.  Speaking of charging, it does not tell you that it is low on battery, nor does it tell you when you are charging the watch.  No indicators at all.  Pure guesswork on your part.  I am hoping that when the SDK comes out later this month (fingers crossed) that I can design my own watch face and add such a feature to it.

The good parts.  When you get it set up, it works.  The watch vibrates when I get a text, email, or phone call.  The screen gives me some basic information.  Who it is from, the subject, and a bit of the body of the message.  Not all of it, and I can scroll down to get some more, but there is a limit.  It also only gives you the last message that came through.  It seems to have no memory for saving multiple messages, so if you get a couple of emails and a text message all at once, it will only show you the last one to arrive.  For phone calls, it shows the phone number and a caller ID name and continues to vibrate until you answer it or stop your phone from ringing.

I love the backlight on this watch.  Sure backlight features have been around for decades.  Nothing new there, but I don’t have to hit a button to activate it.  I rotate my wrist back and forth a couple of times and the internal sensors turn on the backlight for me.  Brilliant.

Watch faces.  Right out of the gate I can choose a bunch of different watch faces.  In fact, they have added 3 new ones since I first got my watch.  Some of them are simple novelty faces.  Cute, but not useful for daily use.  Most are passable.  I have found 3 that I like and tend to cycle through.  I am waiting on the SDK so I can customize one watch face that incorporates everything I want to see on the screen at once.

The battery life in the watch is pretty good.  I recently went on a trip and didn’t charge the watch for nine days.  Now I was turning it off at night.  No need to waste the battery while I was sleeping.  Still, nine days before needing a recharge was acceptable to me.

The watch connects to your phone via bluetooth.  I have a Samsung Galaxy Note II phone, and my range is insane on this watch.  I can leave my phone on my desk and be outside my house and still getting alerts.  I find that with this watch I am leaving my phone on my desk more and more while at home, and when out I leave the ringer off on my phone.  If I get a call or an email, I get a discreet vibration on my wrist and can glance down to see if it is something to take right then or wait until a better time.  If you do go out of range from your phone, the watch automatically reconnects when you are back in range.

The screen is a smooth expanse of black.  So far I have not had any problems with scratches, despite daily use.  I have bought a skin for it from Skinomi: , the black carbon fiber version.  I will make a future post about installing it and how i like it.

One last thought on this watch.  I am not a huge music buff, but this phone can control your music right from the watch.  The controls are not huge, rewind, pause/play, and next song, but how much more do you really need?  I like that even though the ringer is turned off on my phone, the music still plays, and more than once I have used the music feature from my watch to turn on the music so I could find where I left my phone.

The last word on the Pebble Smart Watch?  It has drastically changed how I use my phone in my daily life, for the better.  I used to not wear a watch, and now I think I would be lost without this one.

Toys from the future

I guess while starting this out, I should have some sort of a mission statement.  Something to let people know what to expect.  Well, here it goes.

While we may not have the flying cars or jetpacks we were promised, and we are not living on the moon yet, I believe we are living in the future.  When I can tele-conference with 6 other people in 5 other states, while I am sitting in the parking lot at Disney World, then I feel that the future is officially here.  There are so many amazing gadgets and toys that make life easier or more interesting.  Not everything needs to be electronics and have flashy lights.  Some thing might not be physical at all, but a program, or an app, or something wondrous the internet can do.  It all comes together to remind us that compared to where we were 50 years ago, we might not be living on the moon or going to work in our flying car, but you know what?  I’ll take what we do have.

So stop on by, and I will post my thoughts, comments, and reviews of things I feel make me happy to be living in the future.