TheSa|nt's Blog

Reviews

Kwikset upgraded their z-wave smart locks I spoke about

by on Jan.15, 2015, under General, Reviews

kwiksetzwaveIt appears that Kwikset has came out with a new version of the locks I spoke about when I detailed on how to “Build Your Own Affordable Home Automation System Using Z-Wave“. The new locks offer a touchscreen with a host of security features. I am sure they also probably come with a quieter locking mechanism as well as better battery life, but that’s my own assumption.

The older version of the lock lasts a pretty long time on a single set of batteries. I don’t have anything to complain about there. The mechanism is a little loud, but that’s also good when it comes to creating a scene to lock itself. When you hear it lock, you know someone forgot to lock the door behind them…allowing you to effectively throw something at them as punishment.

My Z-wave network is still strong and current with all sorts of fun stuff attached to it. I wouldn’t mind upgrading the controller, but last year pooped me out a little as well as a fun X-Mas and starting January with (continue reading…)

Leave a Comment :, , , more...

(Review) Cookie Dough flavored Oreo Cookies

by on Sep.01, 2014, under Reviews

WP_20140901_003

Ok, so Nabisco has been on a crazy kick this year releasing custom flavored Oreo cookies and here they go again. This time with a cookie dough creme on the inside.

This review will be short and to the point. In fact, here is the conclusion: YUM! You need to snag some of these! Done!

Now I have to figure out how I left the house to get some fruit for healthy eatin…and instead left with this…..

Leave a Comment :, , , , , , more...

Buying a DJI Phantom 2 Vision+ Drone

by on Jul.07, 2014, under General, Reviews

DJI-Phantom-2-Vision-Plus

I am purchasing a Phantom 2 Vision+ Drone and will be hanging with the guys at Poc Network Tech Blog who will be doing a full review on it which I will share below once it happens.

This bad boy is ready to fly right out of the box and I look forward to sharing what it can do. Int he meantime, I’ll explain exactly what I am getting now so you get a head start at 1) knowing exactly what’s involved and 2) tagging along if you have the itch to get one yourself! The Phantom comes ready to fly and record (as long as you get a MicroSD card), with and extra battery (if you get the below one) and live video feed (iPhone or Android devices). Wait for the review or grab one now, the following four items is what I will be getting:

 

That’s it! I’ll share the review when it happens. I think they are waiting on additional intel from DJI before they make their move.

UPDATE:

The review has been published by them and can be found here! Looks like it got an 8/10. They also covered my costs due to some “crashing” that took place during their tests lol.

Leave a Comment :, , , , , , , more...

Some Interesting Halo Themed Clothes and Collectibles!

by on May.06, 2014, under Reviews

halochief Halo is one of the most breath taking games to have ever hit the Xbox gaming consoles. It is one of the top selling series of all times and is generally something you will find most of your “friends” playing when a new one hits the market.

Now I get to sound like a paid programming ad as I whore out something worth sharing. If you are a fan, you may have thought to yourself…you know…it would be nice to show my Halo pride by wearing a unique Halo T-Shirt that no one else caries, or to drink coffee out of a limited edition mug at work. Why not do it!

The following website has a number of Halo themed T-Shirts, mugs, pillows and more. They even have Valentine-themed products, for your special someone. Here are a few examples:

      
They even have clothing, glassware and collectibles from other themes such as Pokemon, Adventure Time, Pac-Man, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Jack (continue reading…)

Leave a Comment :, , , , , , , more...

Top Ten Anime Series of 2013

by on Jan.01, 2014, under Reviews

top10

The end of 2013 has come and like everywhere else, I think it is time to look back on the year to see what the top something of something is and today felt like a top ten anime series kind of day! I couldn’t just base this on my own opinion since…well…I’ve been a little behind in watching so there are a LOT of new series I need to set my eyes on. So I took my own opinions and then went around and collected data from many different polls and discussions around the web to bring you a valid top ten list based on not just my own opinion but the opinions of the many!

10 – Arpeggio of Blue Steel
(Aoki Hagane no Arupejio)

Arpeggio of Blue Steel

Kind of like an animated take of Battlestar (continue reading…)

383 Comments :, , , , more...

Vizio 80-inch 3D Smart LED TV Equals Awesome

by on Dec.05, 2013, under Reviews

This year Vizio launched an affordable 80 inch TV which it would be disrespectful to refer to as anything less than amazing. EIGHTY INCHES of screen packed with all of the features everyone is looking for. 3D support, 240Hz, smart apps and internet….EIGHTY INCHES!!

Now, this would mean nothing if the image quality was meh, but it’s not. The quality is superb and I hope to own one myself as soon as possible. Brightness is very customizable, image is sharp and clear (ESPECIALLY if you are watching a blu-ray), motion is smooth with zero drag and Avengers is worth watching over and over on it because it feels like it’s filmed live on the news or you are right there.

Best of all is that you can buy the TV for less than $4k. With how big it is and all the features it supports, you would think that it wouldn’t come anywhere near that price but they did…oh they did.

Move on over projectors as Vizio has just taken away your business! …unless of course you want an even bigger screen………then you may want a projector

I just thought this was worth bragging about as the TV is super big and super cool and I am sure they are selling off the shelves, especially now that Christmas is here.

It’s fracking HUGE!

You can find additional info, specs and what not here!

If you are nice, you could buy me one 🙂

Hoorah!

 

Leave a Comment :, , , , , , more...

Newsgroups Provider Newshosting Upgrades Their Retention to 1750 Days (and growing)

by on Jul.09, 2013, under Reviews

newsgroups6451561156I am always writing my many reviews for various services around the internet, and this one never gets old. I have mentioned them (Newshosting) many times in the past (including one of the most popular posts on this website: “How to use Newsgroups for Downloading Anime (for Beginners)“) as being one of the very BEST newsgroup services to use (without a doubt). They are the fastest, they are the most reliable, most affordable (especially for what you get) and of course they have one of the highest retention windows in the market (now towering in at 1750 days and growing!).

That means it retains post records for 1750+ days compared to the competition which still on average offers about a year…maybe two. So if you run across a post that you just really have to read or download, and it was posted over 4 years ago…it can still be yours. No more of having to set a year limit in your newsgroup reader for searching for posts. Newshosting has offered far more retention for a number of years now and it just keeps growing. Who knows what it will be by next year. Newhosting’s resources are massive and they don’t shed a single tear at sharing it with you.

So if you enjoy newsgroups, and enjoy not having a limitation to what you can find…and say…you want all the anime your heart could ever desire (or pictures, news, art, open source applications and whatever other media exists out there)…choose Newshosting. I myself have been using them for years and you won’t find me with anyone else! A big thanks to them! Keep it up!

…I got a little hyper in my thoughts there out of excitement but well worth it as I already have a post for the day 😀

NH *Specials 300×250 A

Leave a Comment :, , , , , , , , more...

Hisense Sero 7 Lite and Pro – Better Than The Google Nexus 7 Tablet

by on Jun.05, 2013, under Reviews

So I have been keeping my eyes open for both friends, family and myself…to find the great options for tablets. Some looking for power, some look for cost and like me, some look for both. Last year’s Google Nexus tablet was pretty nice outside of the fact that it was missing certain features…certain *important* features that in my eyes makes or breaks a tablet.

The biggest of these features was an SD card slot. How could they make such a great tablet but not include an SD card slot?? So naturally I never bought one.  It’s missing some other features like a rear-facing camera and decent speakers, but an SD card slot is a deal breaker for me. I *almost* bought one for my house last year until I read that.

Now! Enter the “Hisense Sero 7 LT ($99!!!) and the Hisense Sero 7 Pro ($149)! These capture everything the Nexus has but also has a camera on both sides (Update: the Pro has both cams, but not the Lite/LT) so you can both take pictures and do video conversations, it has HDMI out so you can connect it to a TV, AND…it has an SD card slot…AND….it costs less.

Sadly it doesn’t have much space on-board as I would like but it definitely makes up for it with the addition of the SD card slot so you can expand your space.

So for those on a budget yet still looking for a killer tablet…you’d be nuts not to give this a try. At the price, you might as well snag one even if you have another tablet already floating around the house.

Now let’s hope when Google launches a new Nexus tablet that they make the right move this time.

 

Here are the links again for the two tablets:

$99 – Hisense Sero 7 LT (Dual Core, base features)

$149 – Hisense Sero 7 Pro (Quad Core, base features +NFC, Bluetooth, larger battery, more space, higher res screen, cams on both sides)

Obviously the Pro is the way to go but if you just need something simple and don’t need the extra options…and want it to be dirt cheap, then the Lite/LT is for you!

As always, every time I see something amazing, I try to share the intel and I will never (hopefully) lead your wrong! I try never to review something I don’t feel *strongly* about! 😀

 

 

Leave a Comment :, , , , , more...

Greatest Tool for Assembling Video Projection Screens for Stagehands and AV Techs

by on Jun.03, 2013, under Reviews

A lot of stagehands and AV techs stroll through the day assembling large projection screens that contain these snaps that aren’t always the easiest on the thumbs and fingers to manage when it comes to stretching the screen out to it’s destination. Pulling and tugging, while trying to snap these things down over and over and over. By the end of things your hands and fingers are sore and numb.

Basically this tool eliminates it by giving you leverage. It gives you something to grab the screen with so you can easily pull to stretch it and just snap it into place without damaging the screen or it’s snaps (or your fingers). It can also be used to open the snaps that may be stuck (unusual but an example none-the-less). One of the greatest things I have ever seen in a category of work….that doesn’t have any tools to help you out.

The tool was actually created for boat covers that use the same concept and same size/type snaps. It helps boat owners stretch their boat cover easily and into place to snap it on. Thanks to the fact that the snaps are the same it becomes a hybrid tool 🙂

Click here for more intel!

 

 

Leave a Comment :, , , , , more...

Build Your Own Affordable Home Automation System Using Z-Wave

by on Apr.01, 2013, under General, Reviews, Tutorials

SmartHomeThis is something I have had a lot of fun with and since I took the time to really it break down for a good friend of mine who was interested in doing this as well, I figured I could share the content with everyone.

Currently if you hire a company to come to your house and build out an automation system in your home…it will run you about $5000 to $20,000+ depending on how crazy you want to get with it. That doesn’t have to be the case though. If you are a fan of tech, you could easily build our your own system without even having to run wires through the walls. Best of all, it could only cost you about $500 to $1500 on average with NO monthly costs.

The same goes for security companies. You can hire a company to come to your house and build out an expensive alarm system that they claim to monitor and make life easier for you, which of course you have to pay monthly for…forever. If something happens, they usually study the situation…call in a car to drive by your home (of course they aren’t allowed to enter or intervene), make a decision on if there is a problem and then finally call you to ask if you want to contact the police (meanwhile 30+ minutes have gone by). Or, you can build your own, manage it yourself with intel shot directly to your phone via txt or emails with the ability to respond instantly by calling the police or rushing home (to take care of the problem yourself heh). Once again, no monthly costs.

How do you do it? Z-Wave! Z-Wave is an open-source born approach to wifi/ip based devices that allows you to interconnect all of the devices in your home wirelessly via your home network. It can be used to simply control lighting, a simple alarm system or a full out automated home automation system. Your options are endless (or at least through time grow closer and closer to endless as new devices and approaches are discovered).

All of your devices can be used to communicate with each other to help control security, lighting, energy conservation, disaster awareness (ie flooding/leaks) and more. You can control your home theaters, living rooms or audio setups even (depending on your setup).

Here is a detailed break down of some of the products available to you and your options (prices based on the time I post this article, and may change over time although most likely would go down in price as new devices reach the market):

  • The Brain! (Vera Lite Controller) – This is one of the more affordable hubs that creates a control center for all of the devices (about 50-60 total). currently at $179 (sometimes falls on sale to $150-160)
    • You can also get the upgraded unit (The Vera3) which can control a greater number of devices and has it’s own wifi network so that you can have a sub network within your network that is dedicated just to your z-wave devices.
  • Foscam HD 720p IP/Wifi Cam – They come in black and white and are currently only $80-85 each usually depending on color (down from $159)
    • They also make a new HD/960p version of the cameras as well that runs about $105-120 range.
  • Honeywell Thermostate – Connects your thermostat to the network. Currently $123 (sometimes falls on sale to $103-109)
    • Allows you to view and control it remotely from vera’s control screen, or from an app on your phone or tablet, as well as for it to speak back and forth with other devices if you want to get creative (ie I have ceiling fans on z-wave switches that can be triggered on and off whenever the AC is turned on/off. I also have global scenes that control the power to all of these). Or you can also control the status of your A/C or heater based on the weather outside.
    • They also make more advanced z-wave thermostats that are more pricey but offer more features such as smart learning.
      • Example: Nest is a very popular one although I have never tried it out. It offers a futuristic interface and rocks a lot of advanced features (did I mention it looks cool?)
  • Kwikset Deadbolt – Connects your door lock to the network, comes in chrome, brass or bronze and also has other shapes/models (different locks for different people). Currently $188 (averages about $179-199 usually)
    • Other forms by kwikset: contemporary deadbolt, lever/handle (if you have a storage room, specialty room, etc you want to limit access to),
    • Yale also makes a super cool looking touch screen lock. It’s a little more expensive though but it at least has fallen in price compared to it’s original $400 price tag. Currently $235 (now avg price range of $220-240)
  • Outlet/Receptacle – Turn one of your wall outlets into a z-wave controlled outlet. Currently $29 and GE also makes one for about $40 (avg price).
  • Light Switch – Turn one of your light switches into a z-wave switch. GE also makes one as well that’s a little more. Currently $44 (averages about $38+)
    • Note: There are also 3-way kits (for lights with multiple switches) as well as dimmers. Some companies are working on stylish ones as well such as touch controlled switches and the like (these should be on the market later this year hopefully).
  • Plug Module – For when you don’t want to swap out the receptacle itself but want something that can move around to other plugs or be removed at any time. It just plugs into any outlet and turns it into a z-wave controlled outlet. Currently I use these and the receptacles to shut power to major devices that consume larger amounts of power during standby while away from home. Currently $32 (avg price is $29-39).
    • Let’s say you have a handful of devices throughout the houses such as amps, receivers, TVs, fans, blenders and cookware and other things that consume a power on standby (when they are turned off but still plugged in). Let’s say….in-all, it consumes about 100-150 watts of electricity and only 2 or 3 of these modules and/or receptacles could control them all…within a year or a little more you will make back what you spent buying these to control them and then start saving money from that point on. Sweet!
    • Extra tip: If you need to know how much power these devices are consuming on standby, buy this extremely affordable outlet monitor and plug it in the wall, plug your device (or power strip) into it and make sure the device is turned off. Then click on the “watts” button and see how much power it is still consuming to see if it’s worth controlling. If it’s 10 watts or 40-60+ watts…the 1-watt (usually) it costs to have one of these modules or outlets in use…outweighs the cost well (it pays for itself within 0.5 to 3 years and the rest is savings).
  • Strobe and Siren – So you can have a visual/audible alarm. Currently $40 (avg price $40-50)
  • Door/Window sensor – Can be used on virtually any door or window (some people even use it on their garage door as a way to tell if it’s shut). Currently $52 (avg price is $49-60)
  • Motion Detector – This is a 4-1 detector which has become popular. These sensors can be used where you don’t have camera or you want a different angle for motion detection than you want for the camera’s capture/view. They offer motion, lighting temperature and humidity sensor data which can be each be used in your scenes/triggers to control/trigger other devices with. Currently $60 (avg price $59-65)

They also make z-wave controllable plug/power strips, smart meter readers, moisture detectors (ie for garage floor near your water heater) as well as water shut off valves, light bulbs, light bulb sockets, pool/pump/sprinkler controls, relays, in wall switch converters and so much more. There are also a HANDFUL of tech devices coming out this year and in the future that will support z-wave. For example you can see here on one of the manufacturer’s websites, they have a list of everything they make and all of the things they are working on making possible shortly (including smart film/privacy film for windows and doors). Some of the upcoming devices (as long as they actually do come out and are affordable) can or will change the way we save energy, live or brag about our high tech homes and toys. Garage door control is still fresh territory so hopefully by summer more companies will finally come out with a rock solid solutions (at the moment most of your options are DIY and require your McGuyver skills).

There are also many ways to control other wifi based devices such as receivers (ie Yamaha’s RX series and I think Pioneer’s connected receivers as well), media players and radios, computers (ie remote boot, shut down, opening of applications, playlist control of media players, etc), etc…etc…etc. Some of these options are driven by plugins you can download from the vera lite controller’s app store which are all free but they do require some user interaction, and some other options are driven by custom code. These options of course are optional and would fall into the advanced usage category of z-wave networks but at least act as an example of the crazy things you can accomplish. For example, you can add wifi-based radio that can play back sound files in a playlist so the house can have a voice for certain things (ie, door or window opened, door left unlocked, certain door code users, temperature changes…the options are endless. You just record whatever sound or voice you want for *any* event you want. If you want it to call your roommate a dingle berry every time he turns on a specific light….it can be done. So far the radios I have heard that work best are: Logitech Smart Radio and Sonos devices such as this one.

All of the devices, scenes and triggers can be setup within the controller’s (brain) built-in web based admin center. They can be controlled from there, an app on your phone or various physical controllers like hand remotes (example 1, example 2) (works best for lights on/off as they don’t play nice when it comes to advanced scenes) and wall remotes (example 1).

Also, stay away from devices by “Schlage” and ” Trane” as they are proprietary and want you to use their custom version of z-wave through Schlage which you have to pay monthly for if you want to take advantage of any of the devices (this makes no sense and it’s an insult to the world of open source and z-wave). Also “Ecobee“…although their thermostats are pretty cool looking, I have no intel on if they will work on z-wave yet). Even though some of these devices can be “forced” onto your network…you are limited in access to the features they offer. This paragraph may be biased as I don’t believe you should have to pay to use the services that all the other companies offer for free through their devices and controllers…but I’ll let you determine the best solution 😉

Your options are endless and trust me when I say…it is addicting to keep expanding it larger and larger.

So there you have it. Have fun with your automated house and the things to come that will support it. Name it Jarvis and indulge in it’s awesomeness. When you leave for the day, feel secure in the fact that locking your door now could do more than just…lock the door…but also arm the house…shut off power to your A/C, lights and outlets…and so much more. Then go to your friends and ask tell them: I can control my entire house from my phone. Can you?

 

Update – Nov 2014: corrected some links and added some new examples.
Update – Dec 2014: updated a few links and added new verbiage to better explain a few things. 

1 Comment :, , , , , , , , , , more...

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!

Visit our friends!

A few highly recommended friends...