Category: Uncategorized

Coin: Leave Home Without It.

Low Res - Coin Device

Coin debuted in November 2013, promising a single credit-card that can replace all of your credit and store cards (well, up to eight). 350,000 people backed the original crowdfunding campaign but it was plagued with delay, after delay, after delay.

In April 2015, 16 months after it was announced, mass production began. My Coin arrived last week.

The technology behind this thing is pretty incredible and the team should be commended. Although it feels pretty flimsy compared to a regular credit card, it has some pretty cool tech inside: an electronic strip, a 2-year battery, Bluetooth radio and e-paper display. There’s also a button that lets you cycle through your cards.

Low Res - Adding Cards to Coin

Setup was a bit of a challenge for me. Coin ships with a dongle you attach to your phone to swipe your cards into the app. Unfortunately, of the four cards I tried to sync, only one worked on first swipe (an Amex if that makes a difference). The others I had to manually enter into the app. Once you’ve successfully added your cards into app, you hold the button on Coin to sync. The sync process worked flawlessly every time.

High Res - Using Coin 1

A lot has changed since November 2013. Of course Apple Pay poses a real threat to Coin as it also lets you consolidate a number of cards. However, merchants accepting Apple Pay are still few and far between.

The most significant threat to Coin, however, is chip-enabled credit cards. By October this year, credit card manufacturers must transition from magnetic strips to chip-enabled cards. Instead of swiping cards, we’ll dip our cards into machines when we checkout (North America is one of the last countries in the world to incorporate this technology). When this switch happens, the chip-less Coin will be rendered useless.

So it has an expiration date but how does it work right now?

I have two Wells Fargo cards that are identical in design. The quickest way I can tell the difference between them is by observing the issue month and year so I was hoping Coin would make locating the appropriate card easier. However, when I tried to use Coin at a Wells Fargo ATM, the machine wouldn’t accept it.

Additionally, there are a number of organizations that are not compatible with Coin. I have no desire to eat at Applebee’s but my credit card shouldn’t influence my bad restaurant choices.

You might be missing out on Sizzling Double Barrel Whisky Sirloins, but if you frequent a bar that requires you to put your card down if you start a tab, Coin is not for you. It shuts down after seven minutes requiring a button-press to reactive it. Try explaining that to your surly server.

It’s really a shame because the technology is really cool. Unfortunately, if I want to carry it around with me, I’ll need a backup just incase it doesn’t work.

That being said, if you want a Coin, I’ll gladly sell you mine. Checks, no credit.

Photos from Coin.

Photos: Los Angeles

We recently travelled to LA for a wedding. We went for a long weekend and packed in a lot: Griffith Observatory, a drive out to Vasquez Rocks, Hollywood and Vine, dinner and drinks with friends, and a day at Universal Studios.

Photos: Scotland

The bulk of our trip was in Scotland. We packed in a lot over two weeks so it was great to relax and hang-out with friends.

Before I left, I debated bringing my camera but I wanted to challenge myself to see I could capture the trip via iPhone. I believe I succeeded.

Check out my previous blog that offers tips on how to maximize your mobile phone photography.

Photos: Dublin

Following Berlin, we spent a few days in Dublin. We stayed a cool little cottage we found on Airbnb that was a short 10 minute walk from the city center. Highlights included seeing Idlewild at the Academy (a band I realized I first saw 17 years ago), Guinness at the Guinness Storehouse, Dublin Castle (I saw Travis in that courtyard in 2001), late-night beer and pizza, and spending the evening watching Bullseye on TV. You can’t beat a bit of Bully!

Next up, Scotland.

Photos: Germany. Berlin. Oasis. Gallagher.

We kicked the trip off with a few days in Berlin. Everywhere around town we saw Apple billboards promoting their iPhone 6 gallery so this blog is rather fitting.

On our first night, we saw Noel Gallagher. There was a guy wearing the same denim jacket as me. But then he turned around and in a font which I assume was simply called “caligraphy.ttf”, he had stenciled on “ENGLAND MANCHESTER OASIS GALLAGHER”. So not quite the same as mine.

Noel was great. New songs sound excellent live. I Meerkat’ed it which you would have seen if you follow me :)

We also hung out with our good friend Matt; a Minneapolis expat, now living in Berlin. On our last night there, we got to visit his sister’s bar, John Muir. If you’re in town, you should check it out.

We even broke up a bar fight.

Onto Dublin!

Photos: Traveling With An iPhone

Following my recent tips about using an iPhone (or any other phone) to it’s photographic potential, I decided to put it to the test — on my trip home — by traveling sans-DSLR. I wanted the challenge but I’m also going to traveling on a few budget airlines where baggage fees are outrageous and I couldn’t justify the price and weight of carrying a camera bag.

So here goes. Europe on an iPhone 6.

Up next: Berlin.

Meerkat: For The Social Animal In Us

Paul McCartney at Target Field

Paul McCartney somewhere down there at Target Field – summer 2014

Meerkats are small, social animals that live in large underground networks and travel in clans. Sound familiar?

Meerkat — the app — lets you tweet live video and blends the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it spontaneity of Snapchat with a Facebook-esque newsfeed. It’s my favorite new app.

When you start up Meerkat, you’ll connect your Twitter account and that’s it. You can start streaming live video to your followers immediately. They’ll see a tweet with a link to the feed or if they have the app they’ll be alerted via push notification. It’s that simple and it’s the simplicity that makes this app a social gamechanger.

Five Guys. Oversharing and overeating.

Within “meer” seconds, I was overeating and oversharing

For news, this is huge. Anyone with a decent amount of followers can instantly become an influential reporter. For events, imagine the angles you’d see from a few hundred people live streaming Paul McCartney — probably a lot closer than my vantage point pictured above. Musicians themselves could stream impromptu sessions (I’ve already seen a few people stream themselves karaoke’ing).

Variety says, “right now Meerkat is virgin territory unspoilt by inevitable commercial exploitation”. What happens when brands get their claws on this technology? Coca-Cola has 3 million Twitter followers. Forget about the media buy and send live video to your loyal following. That has a lot of money-making potential.

In the wild, the meerkat lives about six years. The app with the same name might not last that long but live streaming is here to stay; Twitter has supposedly been in talks to buy Periscope. A company that is also pioneering live streaming technologies.

I’ll be playing with this app for the next few weeks so if you want to join my clan, follow me on Twitter and download the app.




The Macbook is the Future of Computing


My mockup: Is this what using the new Macbook will look like?

Following Apple’s “Spring Forward” event, the biggest stand out for me was the introduction of the new Macbook. It truly represents the next generation in computing. It reminded me of the Macbook Air introduction in 2008. Back then, I really wanted the innovative Air but — like the new Macbook — it didn’t have the screen size or horsepower I need from a laptop.

Although it lacks the power of a Pro, the new Macbook is incredibly thin and very light. Of course, being 13.1mm “thick” and weighing in at 2lbs comes at a cost. Namely USB, SD and Thunderbolt.

Following along via the live stream and on Twitter, the gripers did the same thing they always do when Apple remove hardware from a new release: they gripe (granted, it’s ludicrous that Apple is selling a $79 multiport adapter ($10 more than Apple TV)).

In 1998, Apple controversially dropped the floppy drive from the iMac. At the time, PC Pro said:

“The lack of a floppy drive is more of a concern. Many people use floppies as a cheap way of transporting and safekeeping files. Apple’s argument is that the built-in modem and Ethernet adaptor make the floppy disk redundant. If you want to transfer a file from system to system, you can do that via email or across a network. That’s true, but some of us still find a floppy disk more convenient. If your network falls down or your modem connection fails, it can be the only way of getting a vital document from one system to another, and it’s not as if a floppy drive would have been an expensive addition.”

In 2005, Apple removed the iMac’s dial-up modem which led to a pretty heated discussion on this archived AppleFritter thread.

In 2008, Steve Jobs responded to an angry customer when they dropped Firewire from the 13-inch Macbook:

“Actually, all of the new HD camcorders of the past few years use USB 2.”

With the same release, a review from Engadget griped:

“Still, we think the Air’s external USB SuperDrive is a necessity. There simply isn’t any way to transparently replace all the functionality of an optical drive yet, so we’re kind of bummed Apple didn’t just include the thing in box.”

The lack of USB, SD and Thunderbolt on the new Macbook should not come as a surprise to anyone. This is what Apple does.

I use Thunderbolt to connect to a display but the only time I use USB on my current laptop is when I need to download photos from my Canon 7D. Which I use way less these days since it’s more convenient for me to take photos on my iPhone.

I have no doubt that my next laptop will be a Macbook Pro modeled after the new Macbook. And it probably won’t have USB ports. And I’m ok with that.

The Smart Switch Switcheroo


Thanks to SmartThings, pretty much every room in my house is smart: if the living room is too cold, Nest turns on. When my car arrives home, the garage door opens automatically. When the washing machine finishes, my phone notifies me. Most significantly though, the majority of my lightbulbs are smart.

If a smart bulb is connected to a regular wall switch, there’s one big problem: the switch needs to remain on to keep the light powered. If the switch is turned off, the smarts are lost. One solution is to install smart switches but I ran into a significant issue in my 100-year-old home: most of my switches lack a neutral wire.

Neutral — or as I like to call it, Switzerland — is one of four connections you’ll find on a smart switch along with ground, load and line. If your house is relatively new, you should be okay but if you have an older house like me, I have some tips for what do when you have no neutral. These tips should also apply to Wink, VeraLite or whatever home automation solution you’ve adopted.

Big bold disclaimer: I’m not an electrician and some of these tips will involve ripping out old switches. If you’re unsure what to do, consult a professional.

Try A Dimmer Switch
One switch that doesn’t require a neutral wire is the GE dimmer switch. It’s a pretty easy installation process but it has one major drawback: you can’t use LED bulbs with this switch. If you’re using incandescent bulbs though, you’ll be fine.

Keep It Covered
Chances are, you’ll want to use LED bulbs. LEDs will work on regular on/off switches but it will need to remain always on. My lo-fi “hack” was to put “Don’t Turn Off :)” Post-Its on switches with smart bulbs. Elegant, non? A more refined solution would be to install switch-guards over the switches. Slightly more sophisticated but those who do not have access to an app are left in the dark (or… in the light).

The Loco-Motion
In some areas of my house, I have abandoned switches in favor of motion sensors. For example, when a motion sensor in my basement detects presence, the lights turn on. No switch needed. Or when I enter my bathroom in the middle of the night a light turns on to 10% — just enough to light the way. When motion stops, the light turns off.

Rip It Out
The solution that has worked best for me is to rip out the switch (see disclaimer!) and nut the load and line together, covering the switch plate with a blank. This means power is always going to the smart bulb. This works well if you add a few motion sensors but does limit interaction to the bulb’s app.


Tappa, Tappa, Tappa
If you employ the “rip it out” method and the majority of your bulbs are Hue, you could invest in Hue Tap. It’s a mountable puck that is powered by kinetic energy so it requires no power source. It’s supposed to last 50,000 taps so even in high trafficked areas, it’ll last you a long time. It has 4 buttons that you can customize to create scenes. Unfortunately, that’s all it does. Why it doesn’t integrate with IFTTT is a mystery. Is it worth $60? If you’ve invested in the Hue ecosystem. Possibly. However, I have a cooler alternative…

For maximum coolness, I replaced a switch with an Android tablet. I purchased a 7″ Digiland tablet from Best Buy for $50 that works well for this purpose. I installed ActiON Dashboard — a SmartThings SmartApp that lets you create customizable dashboards. This gives me easy access to not only the switch I replaced it with, but anything else that I want.

I have seen some pretty cool mounting solutions but I opted for something a lot simpler. I added velcro to the tablet and switch plate to mount mine. I placed it nearby an outlet so one disadvantage is that I have a USB cable dangling from it. It’s hokey but it still looks cool.

Future Solutions
There are a couple of interesting new crowdsourced products that may help those with older houses.

Switchmate is an internet connected switch that you place over your existing switch. Installation is simple as it uses magnets. However, it’s currently unknown if it will connect to IFTTT or a SmartThings equivalent. It’s Bluetooth enabled but will require another hub to control when you’re out of range. It’s already achieved it’s 50k goal and will ship in December.

Flic can replace a switch but it’s also portable so works in your car or on your person. Again, it uses Bluetooth and will connect to IFTTT, SmartThings, and other devices including the Harmony Hub. It’s scheduled to ship in April.

Home automation is still a fresh concept and new products are being announced all the time. For the foreseeable future though, we’re going need to find ways to retrofit our old “dumb” homes. Hopefully some of these tips help and once again, I’m not an electrician!

Double Dribbble


For years, I’ve resisted blogging. For a while, I photoblogged religiously and I started accompanying blogs with stories attached to the photos because that’s what my contemporaries were doing. I realized quickly I suck at discussing my life: I got up. Went to work. Took photos of some Minneapolis punk kids (with fabulous hair). Processed photos. Went to bed. Lather (not so fabulous hair). Rinse. Repeat.

Then I got busy with work and I grew tired of late nights at the Entry guzzling PBR. Furthermore, it became difficult to find positive, compelling stories from my mundane, everyday life to discuss.

This new site was born to showcase my work as a Creative Director and Product Designer, but more importantly, as a medium to blog. I concluded that I don’t need to talk about myself so much and that I could discuss the things I’m passionate about: design and technology.

FullSizeRender 6

As a designer, I wanted to find a way to showcase my work and I know that people won’t just stumble across my site so I created an account on Dribbble.

Unlike most non-beta social networks the “show and tell for designers” requires an invite to get in and start posting. Once my buddy Mark hooked me up, I posted my “Debut” and I immediately started getting likes and comments. Validating? Sort of. I was hoping to connect with designers local to me but instead the likes came from all over the world and the pessimist in me suspects that my “fans” are actually trolls hoping I’ll click into their profile. So far, their strategy seems to be working.

When I started Dribbbbbbbbling, I noticed I was assigned a limited number of uploads per month. This is genius and I wish other social networks would adopt this. I love Instagram but do you really need to post 6 shots in a row of unappetizing lasagne from some shitty restaurant? I’ve often thought that Instagram should institute a timer so you can’t “livegram” that poorly lit band at the Triple Rock. Having a limit makes you carefully select your upload.

You can also post GIFs. That’s pretty cool.

I’ll keep at it for a while so if you’re a designer and want to connect, get at me.

The Internet of Hubs

When I moved into my house, I had a goal — beyond successfully failing at small-talk with my neighbors — to automate my home. Two years in and I have control over most rooms in my house, however, the Internet of Things feels more like the Internet of Hubs.


One unfortunate consequence of home automation is the requirement of a central hub to control specific functions. The promise of a truly wireless lifestyle is exciting but my office is a mess of cables thanks to my computer, hard drives, a modem, a router, SmartThings, and Hue.

Both SmartThings and Hue hubs need to be connected to a router but they essentially do the same thing. Are they both required? For the business, it’s a good way to monetize the service but for the consumer, it’s just another thing to plug in.

The release of SmartThings v2 is a big one: it’ll incorporate Bluetooth but most importantly, it will add battery backup when you lose power and it’ll be able to process SmartApps locally (as opposed to the cloud). However, it’s another piece of kit.

I’ve discussed the hub that accompanies the Harmony remote and that one makes sense: it’s required to send IR signals to nearby devices. However, when I turn a Hue bulb on from Harmony does it really have to communicate hub-to-hub? Isn’t there a more efficient way?

I don’t believe hubs will exist in a few years. We’ll still need something that drives all our devices but they’ll be integrated into other equipment we already use whether it be your TV, cable box or even your refrigerator. Or if the rumor turns out to be true, your Apple TV. Maybe Echo or Nest will be the hub?

One day we’ll truly be wireless and hopefully hub-less!

6 Ways To Take Better iPhone 6 Photos

Apple just posted a glorious page highlighting the power of the iPhone 6 camera. The carefully curated gallery is a wonderful example of what such a small camera do. However, it unfortunately promotes every photographer’s annoyance that it’s the camera that takes really great pictures. As much praise as I can give the tech, the photographer also helps.

The best camera IS the one that’s with you but you need to understand its limitations and harness its power. It’s no surprise that Apple’s heavily promoted new page lacks photos indoors or in low-light. I suspect some people will see this page and be frustrated that they can’t achieve similar results. Therefore, I’ve compiled 6 tips that will help you become a better mobile photographer!

The best composition is one that conforms to the rule of thirds. If you understand that concept, your photos will immediately look better. To help you out, make sure the grid is turned on.

Golden Hour
Also known as “magic hour”, golden hour is the ideal time to shoot photos. It occurs right after sunrise and just before sunset. Most of the photos you see above were shot on my way to or from work hence the oranges and pinks.

Edit Your Photos
People will often ask me what filter I most commonly use but I prefer to have complete control so I edit every photo before I post it. I use Snapseed, but the Camera app in iOS 8 is actually pretty awesome and offers advanced editing controls. This seems like a tedious step but it will help tremendously and the more you do it, the quicker you’ll get.

Turn Off The Flash
They’re making so many advances in LED technology but it’s still pretty underpowered and it won’t do you any favors. Turn it off. Please.

Don’t Zoom
The iPhone has a 10x digital zoom. This means it’s just enlarging the image. You’ll notice the more you zoom, the more pixelated the photo will look. Use your feet and get closer to the subject.

Focus and Keep It Steady
If you tap the screen, you’ll focus on that part of the image. To keep the phone steady, I purchased an inexpensive micro stand that works really well for timelapses. In combination with the stand, set a timer so the camera doesn’t get displaced when you take a photo.

I hope these tips help and feel free to follow me on Instagram.

Broke Shrugs-N-Harmony

21 years ago, I received a “smart” watch for Christmas: the Casio CMD-40. A bulky watch with fiddly buttons that could control your audio and video equipment from your wrist. I often dreamt of messing with the TVs at school to confuse the hell out of my teachers and be a playground hero. I never had the balls to do it obviously.

Nowadays, I rely on a universal remote to control the stupid amount of devices under the TV. Up until a few months ago, I had the trusty Harmony One. Then one morning I found the remote on the floor with a smashed screen, rendering it useless.


I sought out an alternative after I discovered Logitech discontinued the One and settled on the Harmony Ultimate Home. I was able to trade in my One for a $100 discount which was great because the Ultimate Home costs a crazy $350 (although you can find it on sale for $300 right now). Even with the savings, that’s still an insane amount of money but I figured was worth it for what it offers.

Who needs remote control?
The Ultimate Home allows you to control your entertainment devices and also control your home with integration through products like SmartThings, Philips Hue and Nest. As an owner of all of the above, this felt like a good fit for me.

First things first. You’re going to need to set up the Harmony hub. The hub converts RF to IR so you don’t need to point the remote at the TV to execute commands. This also means you can hide it and other devices out of sight.

Set aside an afternoon to evening to set this thing up. When I finally got everything up and running, I lamented the loss of my Saturday. It really took that long. In part, it was because of the number of devices I wanted to add but also, this thing is not intuitive. Be prepared for extreme frustration.

Don’t worry though! That frustration will continue as an owner of the Ultimate Home.

The first thing you’ll notice how cheap it feels. It has no heft to it and immediately makes you question the price tag. The base is rounded like a Weeble. Unlike a Weeble though, it’ll wobble and sometimes fall down. Although, I’ve found it to be pretty durable in a house with two cats that like to knock everything off the coffee table.


If you’re used to the retina display of your phone or tablet, lower your expectations. I have old Blackberry from 2007 sitting around that looks better. The high resolution photos on the box very much do not represent what you’re actually going to get. You can customize it with your own photo via a very cumbersome process but every photo I tried clashed with the button labels. I ended up picking a flat grey as this helps the buttons stand out.

It won’t take you long to realize how grossly underpowered the Ultimate Home is. In its defense, it is trying to do a lot of things at the same time but when I tap the device menu, the remote is unresponsive until SmartThings, Hue and Nest load up.

The button layout is also slightly confusing. The touch screen resides in the middle and unlike it’s little brother, the Harmony Home, there are no number keys. Additionally, on the touch screen-less sibling the transport buttons (play, pause etc.) are placed in the middle allowing easy thumb access. With the Ultimate Home, it’s hard to get at those buttons without moving the position of your hand.

So why go for the Ultimate versus the $150 Home? The Ultimate controls 15 devices while the Home controls 8. 8 is probably more than sufficient but it doesn’t allow as much control over home automation devices. As I add more home automation to my house, I figured the upgrade would be worth it over time.

Home Is Where The App Is
The Nest integration is pretty sweet. When it finally loads, you can easily change temperature or set Nest to away.

SmartThings integration is a bit more complicated. Every time you add a new “thing” to your setup, you’ll need to add it manually through the Harmony app. Although, it’s rare that I want to turn off a single switch on the remote. The best advice I can give is to create virtual switches on the SmartThings side to control Hello, Home or mode changes.


The Hubbub
Another option is to purchase just the Hub for $100. The older Harmony remotes execute a string of commands one at a time so if you hit “Watch TV” triggering the TV, receiver and cable and you put the remote down or point it away from your devices, the action won’t complete. The hub mitigates that since it communicates via RF.

If you have just the hub, you’ll need to use the Harmony app in place of the remote. Most people in your household probably have access to a smartphone or tablet. But picking up a smart device, unlocking it and navigating to the app every time you want to change the channel away from “Two and a Half Men” — like the jokes — gets old fast.

The app does look good though. It matches the crisp vector graphics you see on the promotional material for the Ultimate, however, it is a major battery suck. I used it on and off when I was setting the remote up and my battery dropped 20% despite limited activity.

Logitech had the “ultimate” chance to release the best home entertainment and internet of things remote but it’s an expensive investment and could use way more horsepower.

Maybe I should trade it in for a trusty CMD-40?

Is There An Echo In Here?


IMAGE: Amazon

When Amazon gave me the opportunity to purchase their new voice command-activated device, Echo, I very impulsively hit the “buy” button.

Three months after I ordered it (I’ve read others were given shipping dates of June or July), it arrived in a nondescript, matte black box, about the size to contain a single shoe. Inside was the Echo itself, an Amazon-branded power supply, and a remote control identical to the one that ships with Fire TV.

Setup is performed via the mobile app and is pretty straightforward. You interact with Echo using a safe wake word, which, somewhat counter-intuitively, is not the word “echo.” Currently you can only say “Amazon” or “Alexa” (Amazon’s homage to the library of Alexandria, of course), who is Echo’s answer to Siri. But more wake words are promised for the future.


IMAGE: Amazon

It’s a tall, 9.25″ characterless cylinder. Characterless until you interact with it. During setup, the LED on top glows orange and after performing the wake word, the light ring animates a very satisfying blue. It’ll also glow white to indicate the volume level.

Ring of Fire

When I ordered the device, I immediately regretted my decision because I wasn’t convinced I really needed it, but ultimately figured I’d give it a chance. A few days in and it’s actually pretty awesome. The voice recognition is pretty remarkable and beats the capabilities of Kinect and Siri by a mile. Maybe it’s because of my screwed up Scottish-living-in-America-for-10-years-accent but I haven’t always had a lot of luck with other voice command devices. Echo is different. Alexa — unlike Kinect and the ladies of my youth — understands me.

Echo is essentially a glorified, but decent-sounding Bluetooth speaker with seven always-on, always-listening microphones. Unlike other flawed devices, you don’t need to shout. You can talk at a regular volume and the microphones can pick up your voice from any direction – even a room away in my tests. It also has enhanced noise-cancellation so it can hear you over music.

Speaking of music, Echo gives users a couple of options. You can pair the speaker to your phone and stream over Bluetooth or you can use Prime Music, iHeartRadio or TuneIn. It’s pretty cool that I can say “Alexa, listen to The Current” and the radio station will immediately start streaming. Whether or not I have followed that up with, “Alexa, stop listening to Hozier” is another story.

You can also ask for weather and news briefings.

Here’s the best feature though: shopping lists. You can add items to a shopping list or to-do list and they immediately update on the Echo app. I placed the device in my kitchen so it has proven to come in pretty handy. It had no problem hearing me when I added “toaster strudels”. However, saying it out loud made me question why, in my 30s, I still eat toaster strudels.

Of course it has its flaws. It’s an Amazon device so obviously it heavily relies on Amazon’s services and while the shopping list feature is cool, you can only add one item at a time.


The biggest issue is how limiting it currently is. It just doesn’t do enough. Had they launched with third-party, out-of-box support for products like Hue or WeMo, it would be a much more compelling purchase. It would be awesome if I could use SmartThings to check if my garage door was closed or to lock my doors. They have put the call out for developers to email in their ideas but it really needs recognizable partnerships to get off the ground.

I’d also love to see more synchronicity with the mobile app. Last night, I set a 8-minute timer but left the room and didn’t hear it when the time was up. Emily has been using the shopping list feature a lot but unless I check the app, I’m not aware that she has added to it. I’d love to be able to be alerted to these via push notification.

Walt Mossberg criticized Amazon’s Fire Phone for being too reliant on the Amazon ecosystem and I fear the same fate could be in store for Echo. Echo could be ultimate Internet of Things companion but Amazon needs to make that their focus. In the meantime, “Alexa, does Amazon sell ‘toaster strudels’?”

Automatic For The Prius


I purchased Automatic over a year ago. It’s a little gizmo that plugs into the OBD port in your car and connects to your phone via Bluetooth. It gathers data that can warn you about issues with your vehicle (like telling you what’s really up when your check engine light comes on) and can improve your driving habits (Spoiler Alert: for me, it hasn’t).

Automatic’s launch was driven by a Kickstarter campaign but it’s now available at Best Buy and Amazon. Being obsessed with data, I backed it immediately. One year in and $99 later it’s cool, but not something I particularly need.

So what does it do?

Check Your Head
If a problem occurs in your car and the check engine light comes on, Automatic can decode the issue and tell you what’s up, potentially saving a trip to a mechanic. Thankfully, I haven’t had such a problem but it’s reassuring to know I could potentially save some cash getting an issue diagnosed.

Gas Panic
Automatic boasts that it can improve your driving habits by issuing you gentle alerts if you drive too fast or brake too hard – two traits that can cause greater fuel usage. For instance, when you go over 70mph, Automatic will beep at you. I turned that feature off after a few weeks. In theory it’s a good idea, but in practice it’s pretty annoying. Or maybe it proves that I drive like an asshole.

Day Tripper
I drive to multiple meetings every week and Automatic has been helpful in tracking where I go, so I always have the most accurate expense reports. In addition to the native app, they launched a website a few months ago that details your driving history. Handy if you want to track every burrito excursion.


This feature is pretty cool. Automatic is now supported in IFTTT so you can create your own recipes. For example, I have a Google Spreadsheet set up that tracks all my driving and is a much easier way to track business travel. You can also run tasks based on location. When I leave the office, I can turn my Nest on to ensure my house is heating up on my drive home. Or when I turn my ignition on within the geofence at home, I can make sure SmartThings has locked my house doors.

Here’s the thing though: it doesn’t always work. There is sometimes a significant delay between Automatic firing a trigger and IFTTT executing it. So if a recipe relies on location, you may be out of luck (in Automatic’s defense, this sometimes happens with other IFTTT recipes).

Another issue I’ve noticed is that Automatic does not always pair with your phone. I’ve noticed it’s particularly bad in the miserable Minnesota winters. So if you’re using it for any security features (like locking doors) make sure you have a backup.

One consequence I’ve found is that Automatic makes me question whether I even need a car. Considering my monthly car payment, it’s pretty depressing to see how little I drive in a typical week. Home. Work. Home. Work. Target. Home. Work. Chipotle Gym. Home.

The $99 price point is pretty hard to swallow but it’s a pretty cool gift though for the gadget guy with a penchant for tracking useless data or for someone who drives a lot for work.

Full Disclosure: I don’t drive a Prius but the pun drove me to write the blog.

All-New 2015 Ford Edge Showcases Technology, Design and Craftsma

New Look

You know that feeling when you wake up on a Sunday morning and you’re like, “I’m gonna redesign my website today”? That was me 3 days ago.

The previous site was focused on photography but I’m getting old and I’ve been spending less times at divey bars on Tuesday nights.

Don’t despair! I still love music (check out the new Frankie T single) but of late I’ve been more focused on my web work and I wanted my site to reflect that.

I admittedly rushed the site so don’t critique it for not working on IE8 or whatever. I doubt you’re looking at this in IE8 or whatever anyway. There’s still some bugs but I’m working on them.

I’m also going to be blogging more regularly.

Just. You. Wait.

Let It Snow

I’ve spent the past few weeks developing a pretty cool game for The Shinebox holiday celebrations. It combines the power of SmartThings, a Dropcam and some hastily written PHP and jQuery to produce a live, interactive, virtual snowball slinging extravaganza.

Read more about it on our blog. Oh, and the good folks at SmartThings were cool enough to promote the game calling it, “one of the coolest and most fun uses of SmartThings we’ve seen to date”.



The decision to drop Kinect is an admission of failure. When it was first announced in 2013, Kinect 2.0 showed a lot of promise including some pretty neat voice features.

The voice commands, however, have been totally hit or miss. Kinect 2.0 was supposed to learn your voice patterns and evolve.

I’ve owned the Xbox One for over a year now and by now it should know that I want to watch TBS as opposed to PBS (it’s very funny). We have a good understanding when it comes to “xbox on” but “xbox turn off” doesn’t work that well for me. A sceptic could surmise that Microsoft doesn’t want me to turn the console off.

Now, Microsoft has ditched Kinect from it’s base package and developers have that integrated the sensor have been few and far between so it looks like for now it’s “kinect off”.

Kinect.. off.



I just got back from the Liferay Symposium in Boston and I’m delighted to announce that we picked up Website of the Year and Best Mobile Experience for a gigantic, enterprise-level product we’ve been working on for the past 18 months.

I wrote more about it over at The Shinebox. I can’t believe they let me get away with that headline :)


New York, London, Paris, Munich

Everybody talk about… Poptoberfest.

If you’re free on the 24th, stop by The Shinebox for one of our regularly scheduled happy hours. I designed the poster and if you want one, there will be some available. My buddy Jake Rudh will be spinning tunes all night.

Clearly The Sex Pistols heavily influenced the chosen color palette.