Let there be light (part 1)

Boy #1 has a loft bed and so it is awkward for him to adjust his light from bed.  With his birthday and Christmas both occurring in December, it seemed a good time to invest in new toys to solve the problem (and provide me with some entertainment).

For his birthday, Boy #1 was pleased to receive an Amazon Echo Dot.  The Echo has been a fixture in the kitchen for nearly two years so he understood the capabilities of the gadget.  After setting it up and pairing it with his Bluetooth speaker (also a birthday present) the music emanating from his room now sounds better than a slightly tinny cellphone speaker.

For Christmas, Boy #1 received a Phillips Hue starter set (containing a hub and two bulbs).  While light bulbs doesn’t sound like the best of presents, he quickly (and without assistance) realized the potential of integrating the Dot with the bulbs and having voice activated lights.

The setup of the Phillips Hue set wasn’t too difficult.  The biggest surprise for me was that there was no need to install any Hue app on my phone nor did I need to enable the Hue skill on the Alexa app.  After putting in the bulbs and plugging in the Hue hub (to both power and network) I just had to tell Alexa to search for devices and it found the bulbs.  Then I used the Alexa app to create a “group” and add the bulbs to the group.  After that the lights could be controlled by voice.

The boy seems to like the new setup.  Not only can the lights be turned on and off, but also can be dimmed via voice control.  Also, if necessary, the dimmer switch can still be used.  In this case, I think the Hue worked very well in solving the problem and in part 2 I will describe how I used a different implementation to solve a similar problem.

My Alarm Clock

2016-12-10-13-18-09My alarm clock was a Christmas gift from my older sister in 1984 when my family was living in Papillion Nebraska (just outside Omaha).  I wanted an alarm clock so I was pleased to receive it, but I do recall mild disappointment because it wasn’t a fancy clock radio combination.  The alarm clock has been used regularly for 32 years and I hope it keeps working.  Devices have supposedly gotten a lot smarter over the past three decades, but I really like my dumb device.

I didn’t get a clock radio, but that’s fine since I don’t listen to the radio much.  When I did listen to the radio a lot, I had my boom box for my room, a Walkman for riding the bus, and when I was older, a stereo in the car.  Instead, my alarm clock just displays the time.  The bright red display can be read in the dark.   The numbers are large enough that the time can be read from across the room and glasses are not required when peering from bed to check the time.

I hate the sound of the alarm–this is a good thing.  I can sleep through a lot, but my alarm is relentless.  Some alarm clocks stop beeping after a minute, but mine will keep producing its throbbing tones for as long as it takes for me to smack the snooze button or switch off the alarm.  The alarm does a good job in waking me.

Apart from setting the time (and alarm time), there is very little maintenance required.  Since it receives power from an outlet, there are no springs to be wound.  There is a backup battery that allows the clock to function if the power goes out, but that only needs to be changed every few years.  There is no need to configure a wifi connection or do any Bluetooth pairing.  There are no online accounts to be created to use it and the clock can be used by anyone in the family without difficulty.

Compared to the alarm clocks available today, mine is a dumb device and I like it that way.  My alarm clock tells the time and wakes me in the morning.  It is reliable and requires minimal effort to use.  I can see the appeal of the fancy, but I plan to stick with my alarm clock from 1984.