A Novel Widget: fit-statUSB from Compulab

Here’s a cute new widget from Compulab, makers of my beloved Airtop-PC. A first glance, fit-statUSB looks like a very small USB memory key, but it’s actually a programmable color status LED.

Costing just $12 this wee LED looks like a serial port to the host computer. You can send simple commands to the com port to set its color, brightness, make it sequence, etc.

fit-statUSB

It’s easy to think of many possible use-cases. I can imagine a rack of gear where a servers process status is indicated by a front mounted fit-statUSB. When a critical process goes down the LED indicates this immediately, without requiring a sophisticated management or monitoring system. Just a few scripts.

Might be fun to play with one (some?) of these one day soon.

Ye Ha! NoMo WEMO!!

About 18 months ago I succumb to my impulsive side and purchased a Belkin WEMO LED Light Starter Kit. That kit included the WEMO interface and two of their Zigbee remote controlled light bulbs. Since I had “grand plans” I also ordered another six WEMO bulbs.

I must admit that I had my doubts about Belkin‘s WEMO offerings, but since the starter kit was just $25 at the time, I thought it worth a try. With just $120 invested in WEMO I sought to revisit remote controlled lights for my office, and perhaps elsewhere in the house.

Jumping ahead in time….I’m very pleased to report that I recently sold that collection of WEMO products to a neighbor, recouping about a quarter of my original investment!

Seriously, that WEMO lighting was some of the most infuriating tech to cross my path in recent years. I cannot believe that a big company would offer such a cheesy product.
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IoT Idea: A Smarter Pet Door

LabradorBlackSome years ago I installed a MaxSeal pet door into one of the French doors that leads into my home office. This lets Shadow & Gwen wander in and out over the course of the work day. I opted for their dual-flap model, which aims to be more weather-tight. We get heavy rain, and there’s no point in attempting to air condition the back yard.

In general, we’re very happy with the pet door. Where “we” are the two quadrupeds, who like their independence, and the bipeds who don’t want to be pestered about every possible coming or going.

If there’s one complaint I have about the dog door it’s the clatter it makes when it closes. Each flap has six metal clips that swing past magnets embedded in the aluminum frame. This acts as a brake for the flapping action, and holds it closed between ingress/egress events.

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A Dead Ringer For DoorBot

DoorBot-Looking-Left.jpgThis week has seen the team behind the DoorBot pseudo-smart doorbell announce their second generation product. In so doing they’ve renamed themselves Ring.

Honestly, my experience with Doorbot and its creators was so bad that I can’t help but harbor some animosity toward their operation. Yet, I want to be fair. Design is an iterative process. Perhaps they just need a few iterations on the theme to get to more generally usable product.

On the other hand, the description of the new product seems to be an incremental improvement from DootBot. Jump from 802.11B type Wifi to the more recent 802.11N type. Jump from VGA resolution video to 720p video, the baseline for HD. Abandon push-to-talk audio, ala Nextel of old, for something more akin to telephony. It’s basically a reversal of some of the bad design decisions embodied in the first generation product.

On the other hand, they still seem completely wed to their own “cloud service.” My experience with that was expect massive latency on call setup. Expect video only on occasion. I rarely even had continuous audio. On this basis alone you probably won’t receive that Fedex Express package you’re expecting on the first delivery attempt.

I’ve come to understand that my mistake with respect to DoorBot was expecting the kind of performance that I could more reasonably expect from any standards compliant IP phone. The DoorBot team clearly doesn’t have that sort of experience or appreciate that kind of performance. Even if that’s what separates the tools from the toys. DoorBot is a toy. Nothing more.

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Algo Solutions 8028: A Door Phone Solution For Our Front Gate

A few years back when I installed the analog DoorBell Fone I considered the Algo Solutions 8028 SIP Door Phone. It was the most appropriate option that I had found, but at $500 it was well outside my budget for the project. That was the principle reason that I opted for the analog DoorBell Fon. Not long after I installed the DoorBell Fon I met Pat Byrne of Algo Solutions at ITExpo West.

When the DoorBell Fon eventually failed I was forced to reconsider the situation at our front gate. I let that situation remain unaddressed for some time, until I eventually stumbled upon DoorBot. When DoorBot failed to impress I reached out to Pat, who kindly provided one of their 8028 SIP Door Phones for me to evaluate.

It has taken some time for me to get around to installing the Algo door phone. I was delayed because I wanted to have a small metal plate welded to to the fence post to create a proper mounting platform for the device.

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DoorBot Selected as One of Wired’s 10 Best Gadgets of CES 2014

Doorbot-InstalledIt seems that the Wired Gadget Lab has selected DoorBot as one of it’s 10 Best Gadgets of CES. That’s certainly nice for Edison Jr.

As someone who has pounded the pavement at similarly vast trade shows, I certainly know how difficult it can be to ensure that you see everything that might be interesting. Moreover, it’s extremely difficult to get a real sense of a new product. Is what you’re seeing real? Or is it a presentation staged for the show? Will it work as promised when you get it back home? These are big questions, not easily answered.

Our DoorBot was delivered early in December. It was reported as part of lot 1c, the early backers. Despite some misgivings about it’s initial behavior I installed the device back on January 1st. It’s installed the fence along side our front gate.

We’re committed to using it for a period of a few weeks. It’s a new product from a startup, so we want to give it a fair shake. During that time we are engaging the company with feedback about it’s behavior.

It’s our hope that we can wait out the next software update, which was promised near the end of this month.