Drunkenly Honest Review: Coast FL72

So, I’m underneath the Honda Fit on an overcast day, searching for the dirty black oil plug. I’ve got a headlamp on, a nice Black Diamond ReVolt (although, it’s older) which is great for backpacking and fiddling around reading while outside. However my biggest complaint was that I couldn’t refocus the beam easily. While underneath the car I’ve got limited space and the beam is far to broad for me to see what I need. Fed up, I just took the darn thing off and used my Fenix flash light. I’m now on the prowl to find a new headlamp.

plain

Fast-foward a few weeks, the Wife and I are performing tactical Costco manuvers browsing aisle to aisle at Costco where I come acrss a pair of Coastal FL72 Headlamps in the tool aisle. Now, I’m a big fan of usually name-brand stuff or at least finding a cheap workable Chinese-knockoff, so I usually don’t pay much mind in this area of Costco. However, for $28 bucks for a pair of headlamps I figured I’d at least give them a try.

After getting home and trying to cut open the package for what seemed like 10 minutes I placed it upon my head. Wow, was I impressed.

First, let me talk about the operation. There are two buttons. One turns on the Red LEDs (Red-light allows you to maintain partial night vision at night) and the other turns the main lamp On. Simple as that. Pressing the button again goes to medium, then to low, finally one last press turns it off. Coming from my ReVolt, where I can push the button, hold it two secondsd, switch from two tiny LEDs to RED to the Main lamp, then hold again for the main lamp to dim, then forget how to turn it off turning on the strobe, this was a great improvement.

red
I don’t use the red LEDs often, but they’re a nice addition.

Next, the beam on the main lamp is able to be adjusted simply by twisting the lens. Well, really there’s not much to talk about that other than it can be done. Other headlamps allow this as well, it’s nothing new but for a $14 headlamp it’s a welcomed feature. It also pivots down to allow you to focus on working on something close up.

The brightness is up there boasting 405 lumens. Compare that to my $45 dollar ReVolt which only has 130, it’s almost too bright. The FL72 is easily adjustable with a simple press to go down to medium at 230 lumens or low at a 53 for general use. This blows away the my former pride and joy.

What’s best? You get two of them! I’m always forgetting where I placed my old one last. I keep one in my EDC bag and the other  in my toolbox in the house.

Now there’s a downside. Battery life. Because of the higher lumens, this light can only be on for 2 hours on high which is not a whole lot of time. You can get up to 20 hours on low which isn’t bad but compaired to the ReVolt which will reach upward of 300 hours (according to their website, I’ve had it for 3 years and I’ve replaced the batteries once) there’s no contest.

Overall, for $15 dollars a piece these are a great piece of kit for around the house or anywhere you can easily get to AAA batteries in case they’re low. Great for working in a dark corner or walking across the field at night looking for something you’ve dropped. (Guilty of that.) If you don’t have a Costco Membership, they’re ~$35 on Amazon for one, although at that price I would find something else. However, I wouldn’t take it backpacking due to the lack of strobe and overall battery life.

Final Vedict: No brainer at $15 dollars, but I wouldn’t pay much more north of that.

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Living In A Smart Home Part 3:

Get Money, Buy Switches:

With big pushes from Google, Amazon, and many 3rd-party companies in the Smart Home realm we’re almost getting to the point where it’s actually useful. The purpose in this series isn’t necessarily a review or a how-to guide and you may certainly take it with a grain of salt. However, I wanted to write about the who, what, where, how and why in my home and maybe you’ll get some ideas of your own. It’s meant for the novice and the curious. It is for someone who is slightly tech-savvy and someone who isn’t tech-savvy. Feel free to use it as a “drunkenly honest” guide but remember that not everyone’s experience is the same and your applications may be different. With that being said, let’s get started with this entry!

Don’t make the same mistakes I did:

Last entry, I brushed upon your choice of Hub and +1. I recommended a hub by Samsung’s SmartThings. I just wanted to start out with a little support as to why. Receiving some criticism it can look like I’m favoring them and it’s pretty much true. I do obviously favor them cause I have them in my home. So far my experience has been generally positive. The devices I purchase for it work either out of the box or the community has written some impressive code to allow it. However, don’t take me as a professional blogger. I just do this in my spare time. I do not have the unlimited funds that CNET has. If I were totally unhappy with it, I’d change but it seems to fit the bill perfectly. Moving on from that choice I also recommended a +1, a smoke detector. Actually, I said to focus on a safety item. You’re more than welcome to purchase whatever you like. The reason I chose a smoke detector was to solve a specific problem, which was to be notified in case of a fire while my wife and I were away. As I said earlier, this blog is more of a journal-style and the things I encountered. Things I have deployed. Problems I have solved.

Dude, these aren’t problems… they’re wants.

A Reddit user stated that in the home automation there aren’t “problems”. I’ll respectfully disagree. It’s probably my mistake for not defining what I mean by problem but I implore you to take a “Problem” then “Solution” frame of mind. I’m referring to problems like in Math. (Boring, I know) “1 + 1 =” isn’t much of a problem, but it does have a solution. Part of my issue was shopping first. I knew I wanted automated lights, security sensors, automatic watering for my plants, automated sentry turrets… ya know the norm. What I should have focused on was solving problems. I would often see “Smart whatever on sale” and think, oh it just integrates into SmartThings, which simply isn’t true. There was a temptation to buy a whole bunch of switches and just change every one to be smart. (And not to mention costly.) There isn’t necessarily a need for that.

Okay, give me an example of a problem.

No problem! (I love puns) My first problem is my wife, (he said jokingly as his wife glances at him) not that she’s terrible person or anything but she’s actually the best case scenario for a good home automation setup and she keeps my grounded before I try anything extravagant. Whatever I do has to pass the “spouse” test, meaning if she can’t figure it out I am the problem. Specifically our front door was the problem. We came home late at night and our house was pitch black. She tripped over a shoe after trying to fumble to find which switch in a 4-way gang was living room light. Spoilers, it’s the one furthest from the door but try remembering that when you’re fumbling around.

Problem:

We come home late at night and it’s dark.

Solution:

Living room lights come on automatically when we enter the door.

Ah, but how to accomplish this? Well, my BIG mistake was going to buy a “Smart” lightbulb by Googling it. While this worked, it wouldn’t work with the light switch turned off. Remember my wife? Yeah, she turns it off and on to turn the light on and off. Guess what? She’s right. Home Automation and Smart devices need to feel natural. We’ve been programmed to turn lights on and off via a switch. We need to integrate our ideas with that. Hence the title of this week’s article.

Switches or bulbs?

In short, I will always recommend a smart switch over a smart bulb. There are a few exceptions though:

  1. You live in an apartment or rental and cannot make modifications.
  2. You do not feel safe or comfortable doing electrical work or do not wish to hire an electrician to do the wiring for you.
  3. You want different colored smart lights/moods.
  4. You have 3-way switches without the necessary connections.

This doesn’t cover everything of course, but those are some show stoppers when it comes to switches. (We’ll address #4 as it’s not always true.) Bulbs are great as well and I have no problems if you’d rather do bulbs just experience with people coming over is they’ll expect switches to turn on and off rooms, not apps or Alexa. There are other applications where bulbs may be a better choice, just not in any of the cases I personally have ran into.

Continuing our example, I ordered a GE-Z-wave On/Off Dimmable Paddle switch.

This was my first mistake and I lucked out. Always check your hub’s native compatibility list FIRST to ensure easy integration. I lucked out as it was supported by SmartThings, but I’ve ran into some trouble before. SmartThings is great cause chances are someone has already ran into the problem and there’s a solution but if you’re new I HIGHLY recommend checking first. When it arrived, I cut the power and took the plate off the wall.

Second mistake: BEFORE YOU ORDER: make sure you read about how they’re installed. In my case, GE’s Smart Switches REQUIRE a common-wire. (Generally white but could be any color). Once again, luckily I had that connection but I’ve got into 3-way switch installations without everything necessary being there. So once again, BEFORE YOU BUY: cut the power and verify you have all the necessary connections in both locations ESPECIALLY for 3-way switches. (I’ll write an article specifically about 3-ways since they’re very common in my home.) I wired it all up (well, I attempted to a few times and then found out what I was doing wrong) and was able to turn it on/off and finally sync it to SmartThings.

Using the Smart Lighting application on SmartThings I was able to tell the switch that anytime the front door was opened, between the hours of 5:30PM and 7:00 AM to turn on the lights. I’ll get into specific guides about this process later but in the main series I just want to address the big picture. We still had some problems based upon if the light was on already, however that came later.

Finally, I’d like to address one specific thing: It doesn’t make sense to automate everything or at least turn everything smart especially all at once. At anywhere from 30-50 dollars a switch that’s costly and you might not really see a benefit. A good example is my half-bathroom light. I COULD put a motion sensor in there and I could replace the switch to have it automatically come on when occupied then turn off. That’ll run me somewhere between $50-75$ dollars for the hardware. Or, I could just turn the light on and off when I go in like I’ve been doing for years. It sounds nice that you’ll save electricity but it’ll probably take a good long while before you see any return on that investment and most people have an instinct to hit the switch before you enter anyways. My recommendation is that you make sure that when you automate it actually makes sense. Use the problem/solution method, do research first, make a flow chart (coming later) on how that automation plays out.

Cool, but how did SmartThings know when the door was opened?

Sorry this one was a bit long but we had a lot to talk about. One thing I didn’t mention is how we got the door to be automated. While you can just buy a z-wave door sensor I went the more advanced route we’ll talk about next time: Your Smart Home Security System. Thanks for reading and see you next time!

 

 

 

 

Living in a Smart Home Series Part 1:

Making a House, a Smart Home

With big pushes from Google, Amazon, and many 3rd-party companies in the Smart Home realm we’re almost getting to the point where it’s actually useful. The purpose in this series isn’t necessarily a review or a how-to guide and you may certainly take it with a grain of salt. However, I wanted to write about where, what, how any why in my home and maybe you’ll get some ideas of your own. It’s meant for the novice and the curious from someone who is slightly tech-savvy and someone who isn’t tech-savvy. Feel free to use it as a “drunkenly honest” guide but remember that not everyone’s experience is the same and your applications may be different. With that being said, tet’s get started with this entry!

Alexa… Write this entry…

Last year, my wife bought me an Amazon Echo for Valentine’s Day. Since then we’ve been using the Echo almost daily. However, like most things when we first got it we were excited and used it to answer questions randomly and made sure to use it. Now, she’s a glorified music player and egg timer in the kitchen. It’s by no means a bad thing. The Echo’s speaker is decent enough to give a good sound and setting timers is a breeze when your hands are full. The cost, being anywhere from $180 dollars normally down to ~$150 dollars on sale is comparable to a lot of Bluetooth speakers in that same price range. However, when we moved to our new house I started integrating with Samsung’s SmartThings. Slowly replacing light switches, adding in a Logitech Harmony remote, and several Amazon Dots (even a Amazon Tap) our house is slowly turning into a fully-featured smart home.

 

When she listens.. she’s great until she’s not:

“Alexa, play some music…” is probably the most common phrased uttered in my house out loud. This is probably the best service Amazon offers. When we’re in the kitchen making some Pizza Rolls our hands are generally full and finding a phone, hooking up a Bluetooth speaker or walking to our “Smart Panel” isn’t a very solid option. Alexa allows us to use voice commands for entertainment and control over our smart home and I would recommend an Alexa device first in your smart home.

     “Whoa, an Alexa-device first? What about a Smart Hub to control the lights?”

Great question random internet person! Why would I tell you to start with her? She can’t do a whole lot to your smart home without the other pieces, I.E. a hub, lights, smart remotes, etc.  Well, she does a million other things (exaggeration, she probably does hundreds or thousands of things) on her own. Namely, she gives your home the Star Trek computer theme. Smart Hubs are a GREAT start but you’ll need more than one component. A hub isn’t good unless you have things to manipulate with it. Alexa on the other hand can integrate with your Pandora account, set alarms, timers, reminders, to-do lists, a few shopping shortcuts, (I’ve yelled Alexa order more toilet paper on one occasion) and quick answers to questions like: “How many tablespoons are in a cup?” and “Which show is better, WWE RAW or the Bachellorette?”.  She can answer very simple questions but is limited on web searches. However, since Alexa has an open-ended API, (programmer speak meaning people can write stuff for it whenever they want) she can get new “Skills” like playing jeopardy. Put in a central  location in your home, you’d be suprised how much she’s used and how when you go into other rooms you’ll miss being able to shout things at her. Speaking of shouting…

The title of this is: She’s great until she’s not… So, what gives?

Well, I just said being able to shout things at her, Alexa listens VERY well when the environment is quiet. Too well, sometimes for some peoples taste but she picks up on Alexa rather keenly. There are occasions where she makes things difficult. For example, when she’s playing music somewhat loudly you’re going to have to overcome the volume to turn down or up the volume. When you tell her to “Play some Music” she tends to think your listening habits are the thing you listened to last time. Occasionally, she’ll mess up a timer with things like Fifty-minutes and Fifteen-minutes. She’s not perfect, but she’s close to it.

That’s cool, but she’s pricey…

Yeah, she is. She’s normally around $180 dollars on Amazon. We got her when there was only one option for a voice enabled speaker. However, with entries from Google Home and two other devices (The Dot verison 2 at $50 and Amazon Tap at $129) you’ve got some options. The Dot is a great beginning point. It’s basically a voice-enabled hockey puck with a speaker, Bluetooth connectivity, and audio out. Use this one if you’ve already got a decent speaker to connect to, (in example, our living room already had a soundbar we used for playing music) or just want to have voice-enabled commands. (We use our second Dot to automate actions in the Family Room such as turning the TV on/off or turning the lights on and off.) Google Home is another alternative at a cheaper price point. While I haven’t used it personally it’s better in someways than Alexa being connected to Google’s massive search engine. One thing I do not like, is the keying phrase of Google. Saying “Ok, Google” I find to be very difficult. It’s not that difficult where I wouldn’t and there’s a reason for having to say Ok, Google (Accuracy of trigger word) but it’s very harsh. Alexa, somewhat rolls off the tongue and you actually feel like you’re working with a companion not just shouting orders to a box. However, Alexa does get confused sometimes when I say my dog’s name, Lexie. (If your name is Alexa, you can change the key-phrase to Echo in the app).

Okay, so Let’s say I ordered one… or I don’t want voice in the home, what do I do next?

Simple, now you’re ready for the Smart Hub of your home. Which will be my next entry. Until then, if you have any questions or comments feel free to leave them! I try and answer everyone’s questions and comments so feel free! Until next time… Alexa, Goodnight!

Deal-Alert! Spigen selling S7/edge cases on the cheap!

phone-module1Thanks to a blog post by AndroidCentral.com, Spigen, through Amazon is selling quite an assortment of cases for your new Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge that you pre-ordered last week. No details on the en d of this promotion, but jump on them while they’re hot! Make sure you’re using the Amazon Prime Listing.

Please use the links below as they will give credit to Android Central.

Instructions: Click the link, add to cart, and upon checkout paste in coupon code:

 

Galaxy S7 Cases:

Galaxy S7 Case, Spigen® [Wallet S] Stand Feature [Black] Premium Wallet Case with STAND Flip Cover for Samsung Galaxy S7 (2016) 

Coupon code: ZKINZUPM

Galaxy S7 Case, Spigen® [Ultra Hybrid] AIR CUSHION [Crystal Clear] Clear back panel + TPU bumper for Samsung Galaxy S7 (2016)

Coupon code: RBUTFXSB
Galaxy S7 Case, Spigen® [Tough Armor] HEAVY DUTY [Gunmetal] EXTREME Protection / Rugged but Slim Dual Layer Protective Case for Samsung Galaxy S7 (2016)

Coupon: ORCII4EV

Galaxy S7 Case, Spigen® [Thin Fit] Exact-Fit [Black] Premium Matte Finish Hard Case for Samsung Galaxy S7 (2016)

Coupon: JGE5QOOD

Galaxy S7 Case, Spigen® [Rugged Armor] Resilient [Black] Ultimate protection from drops and impacts for Samsung Galaxy S7 (2016)

Coupon: CJY5T4UQ

Galaxy S7 Case, Spigen® [Neo Hybrid] PREMIUM BUMPER [Satin Silver] Bumper Style Premium Case Slim Fit Dual Layer Protective Cover for Samsung Galaxy S7 (2016)
*This is the one I chose

Coupon: RBFD7EUJ

Galaxy S7 Case, Spigen® [Neo Hybrid Crystal] PREMIUM BUMPER [Gunmetal] Clear TPU / PC Frame Slim Dual Layer Premium Case for Samsung Galaxy S7 (2016)

Coupon: WLP9ZLDE

Galaxy S7 Case, Spigen® [Liquid Crystal] Ultra-Thin [Crystal Clear] Premium Semi-transparent / Exact Fit / NO Bulkiness Soft Case for Samsung Galaxy S7 (2016)

Coupon: D669P6MG

Galaxy S7 Edge:

 

Galaxy S7 Edge Case, Spigen® [Wallet S] Stand Feature [Black] Premium Wallet Case with STAND Flip Cover for Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge (2016)

Coupon: XW3QR5GY

Galaxy S7 Edge Case, Spigen® [Ultra Hybrid] AIR CUSHION [Crystal Clear] Clear back panel + TPU bumper for Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge (2016

Coupon: 8QNXC223

Galaxy S7 Edge Case, Spigen® [Tough Armor] HEAVY DUTY [Gunmetal] EXTREME Protection / Rugged but Slim Dual Layer Protective Case for Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge (2016)

Coupon: G4NQOG3H

Galaxy S7 Edge Case, Spigen® [Thin Fit] Exact-Fit [Black] Premium Matte Finish Hard Case for Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge (2016)

Coupon: AALT8PIF

Galaxy S7 Edge Case, Spigen® [Thin Fit] Exact-Fit [Black] Premium Matte Finish Hard Case for Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge (2016)

Coupon: OWQ8CMXZ

Galaxy S7 Edge Case, Spigen® [Neo Hybrid Crystal] PREMIUM BUMPER [Gunmetal] Clear TPU / PC Frame Slim Dual Layer Premium Case for Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge (2016)

Coupon: 7X77HYRN

Galaxy S7 Edge Case, Spigen® [Neo Hybrid] PREMIUM BUMPER [Satin Silver] Bumper Style Premium Case Slim Fit Dual Layer Protective Cover for Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge (2016)

Coupon: L3YVFPSO

Galaxy S7 Edge Case, Spigen® [Liquid Crystal] Ultra-Thin [Crystal Clear] Premium Semi-transparent / Exact Fit / NO Bulkiness Soft Case for Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge (2016)

Coupon: 4WLTCE66

Source: AndroidCentral.com

ManBeerTech v2.0

Hi Folks!

I’m happy to announce that after working out some kinks and time I can put more of my energy into starting back up with ManBeerTech LIVE! and ManBeerTech v2.0.

With this new found energy and devotion the format is going to hopefully increase as we ramp up production. I hope to acheive the following:

  • Increased audio production quality
  • LIVE! stream via Hangouts On Air
  • Video uploaded to YouTube
  • Audio podcast via RSS Feed
  • Weekly Tech podcast
  • Once a month beer cast
  • Monthly gaming cast

We’re still working on the timing but will also be bringing out some editorial and opinion pieces on the site. I’m very excited and look forward to growing this operation and interacting with our many fascinations.

 

 

Youtube Background and Offline options not in your settings? Try this!

 

UPDATE: It’s important to know that you need to have Google Play All Access subscription. This allows both access to Google Music but in addition, YouTube Music Key and by extension, Background and Offline Playback.

Hi folks! Dave here.

I recently re-subscribed to Google Play All-Access and I’m happy with it once again. When I first got it on my LG G3 the Background play options were available with no issues. After getting my Nexus 6 a few months later, I found that when I recently re-subscribed the background option was not around.

Here’s the Android Police article:
http://www.androidpolice.com/2015/04/15/some-paying-users-are-being-locked-out-of-youtube-music-key-and-google-has-no-idea-how-to-fix-it/

And the other XDA article:
http://forum.xda-developers.com/nexus-6/help/youtube-background-play-t3083961

Doing some web searches found some very vague results, some people just didn’t’ understand that you had to subscribe to All Access to get Music Key, others called Google and even google couldn’t help figure out why it wasn’t showing up for them. Frustrated I was about to turn it off till I was sitting at my computer one day and noticed something.

Despite only having one @GMAIL.COM address, I was missing subscriptions on my computer. Curious, I looked around a bit and remember that now Google has had a Divorce from youtube. So, I clicked my username (Kaizokudave) and saw my real name for when they were on that whole trip.

I clicked the top right corner (or usually in the YouTube app) where it selects your username or your real name. It appears that despite it being one “account” I always assumed when it asked you who do you want to use YouTube as that was just who/what showed in the comments. When in actuality it appears to be two completely separate accounts. Different subscriptions, different videos, etc. etc.

So, went back into app and did the following to get Offline and Background Playback back:

For verification this is what I saw as default:
Account Screen:

Screenshot_2015-08-21-10-38-36

Settings Screen with No Background options:

Screenshot_2015-08-21-10-40-01

Now go into your account tab and click on your username:

Screenshot_2015-08-21-10-42-58

You’ll be asked to change to your Real Name or whichever account its not working on should work.

Screenshot_2015-08-21-10-56-24

Now go back into your settings in your other account and check it out!

Screenshot_2015-08-21-10-38-55

I’m suprised Google hasn’t said anything about it but it is very clear that the whole Youtube/Google Plus divorce wasn’t very smooth. This sounds like pretty much par for the course for Google when it comes to it.

Till next time!

~Dave