Thursday, October 22, 2015

Chalkmaster Bright White Liquid Chalk Marker Set - Review

Love these ! ! We have tried several other similar pens but none have stood up to this ! My wife is the talented one and she loves chalkboards and doing calligraphy! It is amazing what she can create with these! The adjustable and reversible nibs (plus extras ) are great and help you get those extra lines that make it hard with some other markers.  Great value and amazing outcome with these! They look great on chalkboard and don't fade or wipe off (unless you use alcohol based cleaner then it comes off clean)  and are the perfect addition to anyone that is trying to up their chalkboard game! My wife used these at her work to create a really neat chalkboard for the entrance I received these markers in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

They are available here

Friday, October 9, 2015

OG Instant Read Thermometer - Review

It's meh....I received this in exchange for an honest and unbiased review . I wish I could say more about this but I just can't . I would buy this maybe at a .99cent only store but that is about it. The digital display is hard to read, not backlit and only faces the one way so forget grilling at night and trying to use this. I used it for a few times and gave up and went back to my oldschool cheap meat thermometer. This is as "instant" as about a bag of instant popcorn....It takes several seconds to get the proper temperature and again is so hard to read that it makes it not usable. I will keep this in my kitchen tools and probably use it if i forget to wash my other one but beyond that , I can't honestly recommend anyone spend the money on this that it cost. I know several others really like this but again for 17$ (now for 11.99) there is a lot better thermometers out there... I received this in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. The item is available at Amazon for $11.99 as of 10/9/15

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Samsung SmartThings HUB V2 - Review (as of now)

Good day my peoples! As many of you know, I am somewhat obsessed with technology and gadgetry ( and have been since I was a lil kid).  I am pretty sure that I drive my wife crazy with all the gadgets and gizmos I have but she loves me still #Blessed . I remember watching the Jetsons as a kid or Lost in Space and thinking , "How cool would it be to actually have the ability to control things in my home remotely and automatically ?"  Well, this has actually been a "reality" for many years but up until recently, has not been connected in ways that we all have wanted. Such as the ability to remotely lock you door (from your phone or internet ) , turn on/off your lights if you forgot to , close your garage for you automatically when you leave the neighborhood and endless other things.  But NOW we have come into this age of "the internet of THINGS" which is essentially many different "things" that all communicate together to allow for the above mentioned actions to take place.  I did a brief review previously on the Wink Connected Hub so forgive me if some of this is similar.  I liked the Wink but it was almost too simple for what I wanted the potential for . So I bit the bullet and jumped on the SmartThings bandwagon for a nice price of $99.

                  I already had bulbs, siren, motion sensors and door sensors from my wink and was told that they "should" all work with the SmartThings hub.  I received my hub next day (Via Amazon ) and ripped the box open to check it all out.  I knew that since I had an existing Smart Home network (via Wink) that I would need to disassociate  all my devices from that hub before they would connect so I went about my way to Exclude all items from my Wink hub (this is somewhat time consuming since , at least for me , I had to actually "exclude" each device 1 by 1 from the wink hub)  Once I did this , I shut off my Wink hub and then put in my batteries in the SmartThings hub v2 , hooked it up to power and plugged it in to power and Ethernet (there is NO WIFI ) .  I downloaded the iOS app and went through the setup process , well attempted to .  My first try was a no go, the app just kept sitting there on the Waiting screen while it looked for the hub .  I power cycled it and it came right up after that (I was worried because I had read that several people had the same issue and it had ended up being bad units that were sent out) .  I did open a ticket with Samsung in the meantime but figured it out in minutes.  (Another note is that they have no phone support and the Tech Support is anything but speedy...took a day to get any response and another few days after that for another response so be prepared to read a lot of forums if you are lost on anything) .   I was able to enroll all my devices, Schlage Connect Door lock, my GE z-wave Dimmers, All my GE Link Bulbs, My TCPConnected Bulbs, door sensors and motion sensors (Re-branded 2gig z-wave units), and rebranded 2gig Siren (although it showed up as a switch only) fairly simply. Everything seemed to pair quickly and showed up on the app.  At this point, I had all my items on the app and was ready to start the Automation part.  This is where things get "sticky".  The possibilities are endless or seemingly with the Samsung Smart things, but the execution is a bit overwhelming and can be confusing. An example would be setting something up to turn on lights automatically when walking into the room.  The initial setup of this is pretty simple via something called "smart app" (their way of calling an automation rule ) There are ones that are created by Samsung SmartThings team and ones that the "community" creates.   The thing with these are that every persons situation and setup is different so it is not always a cut and dry setup. Sometimes you will have to create an SmartApp for 1 set of lights to turn on , then create another one to turn off but again its really difficult even here to try and explain it.  My biggest issue I kept running into was that my lights would turn off while I was still in the room (even though I had it set to turn off automatically 15 min after motion stopped)  What I didn't realize was that the way it is currently setup is that ,this particular "App" starts that 15 min timer after motion stops but doesn't start over if it senses motion in between so imagine you sit down on the couch for a few min and lay there for only 2-3 min, at that point the app thinks no one is there ,so it starts the 15 min countdown to turn the lights off so even if you get up and move, it doesn't register that and then ends up turning the lights off.  I realized this after a while of tinkering and reading online that this is an issue with the current software and they are working to resolve it.  The cool thing though is that these devices actually have the ability to have programs written for them and "coded" so if you are good at Coding , these are quite the amazing little tool.  They have an open API that lets the user configure all types of settings .  The thing is , they don't really directly tell you about this and you have to do a lot of reading and understanding before you can jump into it (I am a techy person and even for me it confused me )   I eventually was able to run a custom " Smart App"  and get the lights working for me but even then with the only 2 sensors I have for motion, I am limited as to what I can do.  This has a ton of potential but is not generally "consumer friendly" in that I can't imagine most people picking one up and making "just work" which is why things like Wink, ADT Pulse and IRIS exist and do quite well.  For the price , this has some really cool features and the future is looking bright,  See below for a brief list of Pros and Cons and some pictures of the HUB itself.


-Fairly reasonably priced at $99 
-Seemingly Endless possibilities of things to control
-Works with ALOT of different "Smart Things" such as z-wave , zigabee and potentially others down the road.
-The fact that it works with different "things" means you don't have to purchase the "Samsung" branded "things" 
-Version 2 has Battery backup so it will still communicate with your battery powered items in case of power outage
-Has the ability to work "offline" meaning that if you lose internet , it will still function locally (most others like Wink , will not work at all if no internet)
-Has ethernet connection
-Has a large community online of willing users and tons of apps and info


-App is too confusing to navigate ( I really preferred the Wink one to this as of now) Also no support for multiple users which defeats many of the built in options 
-No wifi which means you have to have it plugged in to Ethernet to communicate so if you want to connect new devices , the unit itself needs to be close to that item while doing the initial "inclusion"  (there are ways around it such as long Ethernet cable or putting it in inclusion mode then disconnecting Ethernet but it is still a pain)
-To have your house running properly , you will need to spend a considerable amount of money on devices to make it work as you like ...primarily sensors which are average of 40-50$ each and you will need one in every room or hallway and/or every windows.  Then you still need to get things like door lock (200+),  Thermostat (120+), garage opener (100+) and so on and so forth.
-Support sucks and is pretty much non existent but they do try the best they can.
-The whole process can become overwhelming and confusing (even for a seasoned tech person)