Smart Stuff 2

After the unsatisfying attempt to install a smart light switch, I had some interesting responses. Mostly they are a variation on the theme, “so what did you do?”

Let’s start with why was I doing this at all? Usually, a good question and one what humans seem to be able to ignore.

I am, more or less, a simple user, despite working in “tech” for several decades. Even though I am not an early adopter, I have to install this technology occasionally for customers or have reasonable answers when they ask questions. Part of my goal was to try out some smart things because they are on the frontier of a lot of tech development.

However, I had a secondary reason, too. I was trying to make a couple things in our house more automated so we could leave our house and not have it obvious we were gone. Summarily, security.

My first reaction to any of the smart electrical stuff was why would I want to turn a light on and off with my phone? That sounds awful. I still do not have a phone in my pocket all the time. I’m that guy.


Programmable thermostats are not new. We have had a programable but “dumb” one in our house for several years. It worked great. UI was mediocre. The promise of a more flexible thermostat is to save energy and therefore, make you feel very good about your planet husbandry.

Honeywell Thermostat

Simple programming is not enough, however, as you can save MORE energy by having a vacation mode, a motion sensor, and a little robot inside who learns your patterns and who adjusts the heating and cooling. It sounds great. Plus, if I install this expensive thermostat, I can avoid going in the crawl space and attic to fix my insulation. Right!?!?


Smooth Jazz

My favorite example of smart stuff is the smart speaker. I was visiting a buddy who was effortlessly playing smooth jazz on his TV, in the kitchen, living room, in his garage and possibly in the bathroom. I can’t remember due to the hypnotic smooth jazz.

echo dot

Then, he just picked up a speaker, and we went outside to the patio – all while still listening to the smoothest of jazz. Low volume music, all synchronized – and no wires pulled in the house – and it sounded good. Maybe not I-only-listen-to-vinyl good, but good.

He was using Google components. I chose Amazon Alexa.

The Alexa speakers are fine. We have a couple different nodes in various rooms, but for some reason, the experience does not match the beautiful memory of my buddy’s smooth jazz house.

Alexa connector bluetooth audio connector

It is comical if you ask Alexa anything complicated. I always just give up after seven and a half minutes of struggle and go outside to listen to traffic sounds.

Wyze Camera

My brother works in hospital installing AV equipment. You know the giant screen your colonoscopy was on? He installed that. He was trying a Wyze camera at home because the hospital was considering using them for remote workers during COVID. They are amazing. They are $19.99. He set one up in my father’s house so we could keep an eye on the 80-something guy during COVID.

Wyze camara

I looked into Wyze and discovered they are headquartered in Kirkland, WA. It is staffed with ex-Amazon people. That’s interesting. I have had good experiences with local companies with similar origin stories, like Plugable.

Plugable docking station

This is not paid advertising for Wyze or Plugable, but both resonate with me. Wyze seems to understand that most thermostats don’t even control heating and cooling in our region. It is primarily heating. All the cooling stuff is just stuff I can’t use. Why does the Nest cost $130 to $250? The Wyze is $45. Mind you, the thermostat hasn’t come out yet. But the pricing sounds smart and a better match to my needs.

My solution

My solution for the porch lights was simple – I put two Wyze smart bulbs in the lights I wanted to turn on automatically. No extra wiring.

I put two Wyze plugs in the house on lamps I could turn on. No additional wiring.

I put a Wyze camera in place. I could see when a package was delivered. No new wiring. No new app.

This puts me squarely in the Wyze camp. Plus, I like the origin story. It is a place where I could imagine my daughter or son working and being happy about it.

I have also pre-purchased a Wyze thermostat because that allows me to jettison the Nest E that I have. And I’ll be able to remove another app from my phone. Perhaps, I will also send a little less data to Google.

I have also learned that for me, the Alexa is little more than a speaker that works fine and an occasional joke teller. I use a separate timer and weather stuff. I just don’t want to work that hard to get all this stuff to work together.

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