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June 14 2017

19:55
Survey finds 1/3 of people interested in Apple's HomePod, still more likely to buy Amazon Echo
18:57

Koogeek HomeKit-Enabled Smart Plug and Light Socket Review

Koogeek may not be a name brand that jumps to mind when you think about home automation, but the company has built a substantial lineup of HomeKit-enabled devices. I’ve had a Koogeek smart plug for about a year and recently received a Koogeek lightbulb socket for review. I’m fairly new to home automation and have found both products to be a good way to dip your toe into home automation despite some limitations.

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Of the two devices, the smart plug is the most versatile because you can use it to power anything you want. The unit is about the same size as an Apple 29W charging brick and comes in black and white. The version I have is the three-prong model that works with North American outlets. Koogeek also sells a plug designed to work with European electrical outlets that I have not tested.

Setup of the smart plug is simple using Koogeek’s free app or Apple’s Home app. In either case, all you need to do is plug in the Koogeek Smart Plug, confirm that its LED is glowing green, and then tap the plus button in either app. Both apps then prompt you to scan a HomeKit setup code to connect to a 2.4 GHz WiFi network. Koogeek helpfully includes the code on the plug, box, and in the manual for easy access. As with most HomeKit devices, that’s all there is to the setup.1

I set up my smart plug using Apple’s Home app and tend to use that app more often than the Koogeek app, mostly because I’m already familiar with it and the Koogeek app’s functionality is largely duplicative of Apple’s Home app. I also like that the Home app lets me schedule turning devices on and off based on sunrise and sunset times, which is great for lighting and something the Koogeek app can’t do. That said, one cool feature that the Koogeek app has that you cannot access from Apple’s Home app is monitoring electrical usage. I don’t use the feature often, but it’s interesting to tap the ‘Details’ button in the Koogeek app to see how much electricity I’ve been using with the lamp I have plugged into my smart plug.

The Koogeek smart socket works the same way as the smart plug, but is more limited in its functionality because it’s designed for lightbulbs only. The smart socket screws into a light socket and then a lightbulb screws into it. Other than that, the setup process is the same as with the smart plug. With the smart socket, it’s particularly nice that the network setup code is printed on the box and in the manual because it can be hard to access the code after the socket is screwed into a lamp or other light fixture.

There are a couple downsides to each device. The smart plug is just chunky enough that when I plugged it into a power strip beneath my desk to control a lamp, it used one outlet and blocked another. The smart socket suffers from a similar problem in certain circumstances. The socket is 74.5mm tall and 64.5mm wide, which is enough to make it a tight fit for some light fixtures. I initially installed the smart socket in a floor lamp with an open top, which worked fine. Later, I tried the socket in a recessed ceiling fixture above my back door, which also worked, but with very little room to spare. Another consequence of its bulk is that the smart socket is not something you would probably want to put in a light fixture where it can be seen.

The smart socket works best where it can't be seen, especially when paired with an equally chunky LED bulb.

The smart socket works best where it can't be seen, especially when paired with an equally chunky LED bulb.

Another limitation of both products is that they are HomeKit-only. You cannot control either with an Amazon Echo or Google Home. That’s not a show-stopper for me personally, but it is if you’ve consolidated your home automation devices around the Echo or Home.

I’ve moved into home automation slowly and cautiously as I’ve watched friends juggle competing standards and incompatible devices. In the past year, I’ve felt that HomeKit has gained enough traction that I’ve been willing to start incorporating a few items into my home.

Of the two Koogeek products I’ve tried, the smart socket has been the most useful so far because I installed it in a light fixture above my back door. If I’m away all day and come home after dark, I no longer have to fumble to get my house key into the door lock because the light comes on every day at sunset and turns itself off the next morning. It’s a small thing, but it makes a difference if it’s cold or rainy outside.

The smart plug is connected to a floor lamp in my basement workspace. It’s nice to have if I forget to turn the lamp off when I’m finished working. I no longer need to trudge back down the steps to turn it off, but it’s just one lamp, which got me thinking. What if I had a motion sensor and outfitted the rest of the basement lighting with Philips Hue bulbs that turned everything on as soon as I stepped on the stairs? It makes a lot of sense for a part of our house that isn’t constantly occupied by someone, but it’s also the type of geeky slippery slope that gets out of hand fast. Still, it would be nice…


The Kookgeek Smart Plug is available from Amazon in the United States, Canada, and Japan. The European version is available from Amazon in France, Germany, Spain, and Italy. The Koogeek Smart Socket is available from Amazon in the United States, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy.


  1. There are also physical on/off buttons on the smart plug and smart socket that are handy if you have network trouble and want to switch one off manually. ↩︎

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18:50
E3 2017: Supercell reveals 'Brawl Stars,' a team-based top-down shooter for Apple's iOS
18:28

NotePlan Calendar + Markdown + Notes Comes to iOS

When I first heard about NotePlan, I was intrigued. It was a Mac app that used a text format (Markdown) as a calendar-based system, a note for each day, allowing you to easily create tasks and take notes, then see it all in an organized calendar. NotePlan for iOS was released today, and it's enough to sell me on the idea.

I have a lot of side projects (I suppose my whole life is side projects these days), and organizing todo lists is vital. I love using the TaskPaper format, with TaskPaper on Mac and Taskmator on iOS, to track action items for individual projects. I also have a calendar, and a bucket of notes. Combining all of this in one place is appealing to me, and being able to use it on both Mac and iOS makes it truly useful.

In NotePlan, tasks are created as Markdown lists. You can have it recognize any list item as a task, or tell it that only lines with a checkbox (- [ ] Thing to do) are action items. There's an extra keyboard row available when editing that makes it easy to create items, complete or cancel them, or even schedule them for a future date.

Tasks can sync to Reminders lists as well, so it can incorporate into other workflows (and even shared lists). In the calendar view you can tap a day to see the note and associated task lists for that date.

Each day on the calendar gets a note, and you can add freeform notes in the All Notes area. A note can be bits of information, its own action list, or both. You can use #tags anywhere in the notes to organize, and wiki style links ([[title]] or [[YYYY-MM-DD]]) to reference other notes. Tasks added to freeform notes can be scheduled to the calendar with a tap, so you can use notes as a central project repository and schedule out the day's (or week's) tasks as you're ready to tackle them.

NotePlan on iPhone

NotePlan on iPhone

On the new iOS version, you can drag and drop tasks around by pressing a text block until it turns blue and sliding it into place. You can also press and hold until it turns blue, then release and press another one to expand the selection between them, at which point NotePlan will offer you a toolbar to allow batch completion, rescheduling, etc.

I'd label NotePlan as a day planner, not a task manager like OmniFocus or Things. It's ideal for planning out your day, Bullet Journal style. You won't find extensive project management features or perspective overviews, but the combination of scheduling, tagging, and (plain text, portable) notes in one place makes it a true productivity tool.

If words like productivity, GTD, Markdown, TaskPaper and Bullet Journal cause a stirring within you, you're probably the right audience for this one. Check out NotePlan for iOS, and then try out the Mac version for fully-synced productivity. Today and tomorrow, NotePlan for iOS is $11.99. After that, the price will be $14.99. NotePlan for Mac is $16.99.


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18:11
E3 2017: Mac games 'Fortnite,' 'Railway Empire,' 'Tropico 6,' 'Unto The End,' 'Tunic' announced
17:01
Apple partner Wistron says 'iPhone 7s Plus' will include wireless charging, improved waterproofing
16:36
Nativ ships touchscreen-based Vita music player with built-in Apple Music support
15:59
Largan confirms it will ship facial recognition 3D sensors this year, in time for Apple's 'iPhone 8'
15:03
Inside iOS 11: HomeKit gains multi-person geofencing, conditional triggers
13:56
10.5" iPad Pro teardown finds Apple's 120Hz ProMotion display requires four connecting cables
13:50

43% off Dyna-Glo DGO1176BDC-D Vertical Offset Charcoal Smoker - Deal Alert

For a truly distinct flavor, smokers offer you a wealth of custom cooking options. Simply choosing a different type of wood chip can vastly alter the flavor of whatever food you’ve placed on the grates. This Dyna-Glo smoker offers you not only these delicious benefits but those associated with using charcoal as your fuel source as well. This product’s vertical design includes six height-adjustable cooking grates and 1,176 inches of cooking space. The offset functionality of this smoker is designed to keep direct heat away from the food, helping to prevent food on the bottom racks from cooking too fast. The heavy-duty steel body construction features a high-temp, powder-coat finish that ensures a long life, while the smoker’s charcoal and wood chip tray is made with heavy gauged, porcelain-enameled steel for hours of maintenance-free cooking. It averages 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon from over 600 people (read reviews). The list price of the smoker is currently reduced 43% to a very reasonable $124.44. See this deal now on Amazon.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

13:44
E3 2017: 'The Elder Scrolls: Legends' card game for iPad to expand, iPhone version arrives this summer
13:36

$71 Off Samsung Chromebook Plus Convertible Touch Laptop - Deal Alert

The Samsung Chromebook Plus adapts to whatever you’re doing. Use it like a laptop to reply to emails or to work on a paper. When you need a break, flip the screen so you can play games or catch up on your latest book. Make your ideas personal and your notes clear with the built-in pen. Whether you’re doodling, sketching, or personalizing a photo, the built-in pen will help you get every detail just right. You can even use the pen to take a screenshot, magnify, or unlock the screen. The sleek metal body of the Samsung Chromebook Plus is comfortable to carry as a tablet and easy to fit in your bag while you’re on the go. Samsung's Chromebook Plus has 4GB of RAM, a 32GB hard drive, and a quad HD 12.3” screen (2400 x 1600). Its typical list price has been reduced by a generous $71 to $378.74. See this deal on Amazon.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

12:00

Apple's Thunderbolt Display doesn’t work with a 12-inch MacBook’s USB-C port

While the USB-C connector type has a lot of advantages and it’s now guaranteed with Intel’s full support at being the dominant peripheral format for the next many years, there’s still a lot of confusion about the difference between USB-C and Thunderbolt 3.

That comes up in an email from Simon Shaw, who can connect his 24-inch Apple Cinema Display to a 12-inch MacBook (2016 release) using a Mini DisplayPort to USB-C, but finds his 27-inch Apple Thunderbolt Display doesn’t have a solution. It probably seems even more arbitrary when MacBook Air models dating to 2011, including the ones still on sale, can work with both Cinema Displays and Thunderbolt Displays with no problem.

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

12:00

Wi-Fi Alliance introduces a certification program for new smart home construction

Wi-Fi Certified homes will feature integrated wireless networks designed with the same level of detail as the home’s electrical and plumbing systems.
10:30

ChargeHub review: Goodbye power strip, hello multi-device charging

In my family, there are a total of six iOS devices: A pair of iPhones and iPads for the wife and me, and another pair of iPads for the kiddos. That means we’re often scrambling to find AC adapters and spare outlets when it comes time to charge everything.

Super charger

Enter ChargeHub, billed as “the power strip for the 21st century,” a bold claim that’s more than marketing hype. After all, for most smartphone and tablet users, it doesn’t make sense to use wall outlets and traditional power strips with bulky AC adapters when a few simple USB cables get the job done.

chargehub x3 connectedLimitless Innovations

Short, flat USB cables work best, but require more space on your counter or desk. (ChangeHub X3, pictured.)

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

10:00

Why QR codes are important to iOS 11 and China

Why on earth would you want to use your iPhone’s camera to scan a two-dimensional block-and-dot code? How could this possibly have a benefit worth the trouble? Why would Apple have any interest in building this in as an automatic feature within its Camera app?

Ask folks in China—and Japan, where advertisers, handset makers, and cell carriers pioneered 2D codes over 15 years ago. Apple says its listening to the Chinese market in adding 2D code scanning, but the benefits will be there for users worldwide.

Apple’s addition to iOS 11 will let you open URLs, add contacts, and even join Wi-Fi networks with just the Camera app plus a tap to confirm. While it’s common to ridicule QR codes, that was because of pure inconvenience. With ease, will usage grow?

To read this article in full or to leave a comment, please click here

01:46
Watch: 2017 12" MacBook with Intel Kaby Lake vs. 2015 version

June 13 2017

23:18
Review: Apple's new 12" MacBook boasts incremental speed improvements
22:44
First look: Apple launches iPad Pro in new 10.5" form factor with vibrant 120Hz screen
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