Around the House (Sept. 20, 2016)

Around the House is a weekly roundup of news items related to smart devices, tools, kitchen gadgets and anything else worth mentioning that affects how we live at home.

Philips Hue Motion Sensor coming to Canada in October

Philips is adding more ways to control its Hue line of connected bulbs and lighting devices with a new wireless motion sensor. Available in Canada this October for $39.95, the Hue Motion Sensor allows users to run certain scenes during set times. This means that if you want your Hue bulbs to only turn on in “Nightlight” mode when motion is detected between midnight and 6 a.m., you can set it up that way. I can see this being very useful when my son wakes up in the middle of the night.

Hue Motion Sensor

The Philips Hue Motion Sensor will be available in Canada for $39.95 this October.

CraveTV scoops up Rolling Stones doc at TIFF

Right before its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last week, Bell purchased the exclusive rights to The Rolling Stones road movie The Rolling Stones Olé Olé Olé! : A Trip Across Latin America for its video streaming service CraveTV. The film follows The Rolling Stones during their 2016 Latin American tour, which saw them stop in 10 cities, including Havana. CraveTV subscribers will be able to stream the film beginning Oct. 14. Check out the trailer for it below.

Lay’s taking Chalet Sauce chips mainstream

It seems that Canadians love Lay’s Swiss Chalet sauce flavoured chips so much that the company has to ramp up production to meet demands. The chips have been selling out since they arrived at select Swiss Chalet locations earlier this month and now Lay’s says that along with restocking restaurants, the chips will be available in limited quantities at grocery stores across the country beginning Nov. 1. Expect to see a lot of these out at holiday parties this year!

Apple helping teach kids to code with Swift Playgrounds app

Learning to code is becoming more popular with kids and now Apple is helping with their new iPad app Swift Playgrounds. The free app allows users with no programming experience to get a better understanding of coding concepts and experiment with the Swift language, which is used by professional developers to create apps. Along with app templates, Swift Playgrounds also features lessons and challenges to keep users interested. Swift Playgrounds is available via the App Store.

Swift Playgrounds

Apple’s free Swift Playgrounds iPad app helps teach kids to code.

Amazon Echo coming to Germany and the UK (but not Canada)

Amazon announced last Wednesday its popular Echo device is coming to Germany and the UK this fall, giving us Canadians hope it will be available here at some point soon. Amazon also announced a new (cheaper) Echo Dot that gives users more control of the Echo throughout the entire home. It’s also not available in Canada.

Have something to add to Around the House weekly? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at facebook.com/bamcatBuzz.

Around the House (Sept. 12, 2016)

Around the House is a weekly roundup of news items related to smart devices, tools, kitchen gadgets and anything else worth mentioning from the last week that affects our home life.

Nest Cam Outdoor arrives

The highly anticipated Nest Cam Outdoor is now available to purchase for a cool $249.99 CDN. The weatherproof camera allows users to monitor the outside of their homes live 24/7 and also includes two-way audio. Users with a Nest Aware subscription can receive person alerts and have 10 or 30-day video history saved in the cloud depending on the package they subscribe to. Nest also added three new thermostat colour options this week. For those unhappy with only being able to purchase the standard stainless steel model, you can now get it in white, black and copper.

Nest Cam Outdoor

The Nest Cam Outdoor is now available in Canada for $249.

Apple shows off ‘Home’ app

During its iPhone 7 event last week, Apple briefly showed off its new ‘Home’ app in iOS 10, which will give users total control of HomeKit integrated smart devices in one location. Compatible devices include the likes of Philips Hue bulbs, the ecobee3 thermostat and Schlage Connect locks (among others). Besides the announcement that Mario is coming to the iPhone and iPad this holiday season (about time!), the ‘Home’ demo was the most exciting thing about the event.

Apple Home App

Apple’s ‘Home’ app.

PlayStation 4 Pro announced

The PlayStation 4 Pro is coming November 10. Along with a faster processor and a 1TB hard drive, it opens up 4K gaming. Unfortunately it does not not support 4K UltraHD Blu-ray titles like the XBOX One S does. This is somewhat odd since Sony Home Entertainment has been pumping out 4K UltraHD Blu-ray movies all year, including the Angry Birds movie (which, if you’re going to watch, it might as well be in 4K UltraHD).

PS4 Pro

The Sony PlayStation Pro 4.

Milwaukee Tool has a light for everyone

Four new lighting options are coming this fall from Milwaukee Tool. These include the M18 Rocket LED Tower Light/Charger, M12 ROVER LED Compact Flood Light, M18 LED Search Light and M18 RADIUS LED Compact Site Light w/ONE-KEY, which can be programmed via the ONE-KEY app and remotely controlled from up to 50-feet away. As a fan of the Milwaukee Tool brand I’m excited for all of these. All four options will be available in October.

Milwaukee M18 RADIUS LED Compact Site Light w/ONE-KEY

The Milwaukee M18 RADIUS LED Compact Site Light w/ONE-KEY.

Samsung Canada officially recalls Note 7

After some serious issues surrounding the Note 7 battery (like the potential of it to explode and cause a fire), Samsung Canada has issued a recall notice for the device. If you purchased one between August 19 and September 1, 2016, you are urged to power it down and register for a new one. There’s been approximately 21,953 of these sold in Canada (according to Health Canada) so if you know someone with one let them know about the recall.

Have something to add to Around the House weekly? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at facebook.com/bamcatBuzz.

5 reasons to add Philips Hue bulbs to your smart home

Philips Hue

Philips Hue bulbs truly add the “smart” to “smart home”.

For the last few years I’ve been attempting to turn my home into a “smart home”. Some of the products I have added or tested have been great, while others have had constant issues or just didn’t live up to the hype. My latest addition, the Philips Hue connected LED bulb, blows every other “smart” thing out of the water. Here’s five reasons why.

Easy to setup

For my review Philips sent me the Hue White Ambiance A19 Starter Kit. This kit consists of two connected bulbs, a bridge and a remote. Hook the bridge up to your router via an Ethernet cable, screw the bulbs into the light fixtures you want them in, download the app and you’re up and running (seriously, the setup took about 10 minutes in total).

Works with everything

There is nothing more infuriating than not being able to control a “smart” device the way you want. One of the standout features of the Philips Hue bulbs is it can be controlled from almost everything. The Wink Relay works with it as does Amazon’s Echo device (still not available in Canada) and it’s compatible with Apple HomeKit (meaning you can tell Siri to turn lights on and off). It also works with Nest (lights turn on when thermostat is in “Away” mode and turn on if your smoke detector goes off) and can also be controlled via the Harmony Ultimate One remote.

Total control

Along with it working with everything I threw at it, the Hue app gives you total control of the bulbs. You can set routines for the bulbs to turn on and off, change the brightness level (“Dimmed” is great for watching Stranger Things on Netflix) and even change the colour (only if you have a colour Hue bulb). The supplied remote (which can also be mounted to the wall) can be programmed and both the Android and iOS app are easy to use. You can also control it via certain wearables, like the Apple Watch, and use the IFTTT app with it. There’s also third-party apps available that opens up the potential of Hue even further.

RELATED: Nest aims to make your home safer with new outdoor camera

Great bulb

My entire house has been updated to LED bulbs and the Philips Hue bulbs give off some of the best light out of the bunch. The White Ambiance bulbs range between 2000K and 6500K, giving you the ability to have warm or cold light depending on your mood. They’re 800 lumens, use only 10.5 watts and can last up to 25,000 hours (comparable to most LED bulbs these days). Because you can dim them via the bulb there is also no need for expensive dimmer switches, which sometimes cause LED bulbs to hum.

Expandable

Philips makes a range of Hue bulbs and up to 50 bulbs can run off of one bridge. I’ve already purchased extra bulbs for around my house and added some colour ones to the mix (having my lights outside turn orange for Halloween or red and green for Christmas is going to be awesome). There’s also Hue light strips available, which are perfect for under kitchen cabinets.

RELATED: Netatmo Weather Station review: Cool device; far from perfect

Final thoughts

The initial cost of adding Philips Hue bulbs is a bit shocking (the starter kit I was sent is about $129.99) but once you see the control they give you you’ll realize it’s well worth the investment. I honestly don’t know how I survived this long without them.

Are you a fan of Philips Hue bulbs? Use something similar? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at facebook.com/bamcatBuzz.

You can now play solitaire and tic-tac-toe by doing a Google search

Google solitaire

Be prepared to waste time playing solitaire and tic-tac-toe right from Google.

Want to waste some time playing solitaire or tic-tac-toe without installing an app? You now can just by doing a Google search.

Googling “solitaire” or “tic-tac-toe” will bring up an option to play the games right from within Google!

RELATED: Nintendo releasing retro NES system loaded with 30 classic games

This works on desktop browsers and from the Google mobile app.

Google tic-tac-toe

Playing tic-tac-toe on Google.

What other games would you like to see be playable in Google? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at facebook.com/bamcatBuzz.

Netatmo Weather Station review: Cool device; far from perfect

Netatmo Weather Station

The Netatmo Weather Station is a cool “smart” device, but lacks a lot of features that would make it a must-have item.

The Netatmo Weather Station is the first personal home weather station I’ve used and from what I read beforehand, I expected a full featured connected home device. And while it has many great qualities, it lacks in a few critical areas. Here are my thoughts on the device after playing with it for a few weeks.

What is the Netatmo Weather Station?

The Netatmo Weather Station is a personal home weather station that connects via your Android or iOS device. The base kit consists of an indoor base station and an outdoor module that can detect heat, humidity, air pressure, air quality and carbon dioxide (CO2) levels. The indoor base station can also monitor those things as well as noise levels. Accessories like a rain gauge and a wind gauge can be added to give a user more information.

BELOW: Watch as I unbox the Netatmo Weather Station and its accessories

Setting up the Netatmo Weather Station

The indoor base station plugs into a wall outlet to get power and needs to be somewhere close enough to the outside module. Once it’s booted, you use the app to connect it to your home Wi-Fi and set it up. The outdoor module requires AAA batteries and needs to be mounted in a location that it won’t get wet or be in direct sunlight. It needs to be positioned close enough to the indoor base station for the two to sync. Getting those working together was a fairly simple task.

Netatmo Weather Station

The Netatmo Weather Station outdoor module mounted to my house.

Where I had issues was when connecting the rain gauge and wind gauge accessories. Both use AAA batteries and both need to be near the indoor base station as well. After a few hiccups, the rain gauge synced and I found a good spot to mount it where it could collect rain and still be in range. I fought with the wind gauge for about an hour and never got it to connect. I packed it up and never bothered trying it again as it was too frustrating.

Using the Netatmo Weather Station

Once the Netatmo Weather Station is set-up it pretty much runs itself. The app will notify you when CO2 levels are over 1,000 ppm or when there is a large amount of rain collected. You can of course load the app to check conditions whenever you want. The main indoor base station also lights up with different colours if CO2 levels are high.

What I liked about the Netatmo Weather Station

For the most part, the Netatmo Weather Station is a slick-looking “smart home” device that has a lot of information to offer. From the packaging to the slim design of the base station and outdoor module, it feels very much like an Apple product. I liked the fact the outdoor module and accessories took batteries and didn’t rely on house power. The app (I tested both the Android and iOS version) is well designed and I discovered having a super local forecast in my backyard really does make a difference. There’s also a nice weather map feature that shows other Netatmo Weather Station readings from around the world.

What I didn’t like about the Netatmo Weather Station

Besides not being able to get the wind gauge to work, I was irked that it and the rain gauge didn’t include a mounting bracket and that Netatmo sells the bracket as a separate accessory. I only had one bracket in my review kit, meaning that even if I got the wind gauge to work I would have had to decide on what accessory to use as I could only use one. This is a bit sneaky on Netatmo’s part in my opinion. Also, no matter how tight I had the bracket, the rain gauge tipped over a few times during heavy downpours making it seem like there was no rain at all.

Netatmo Weather Station

The Netatmo Weather Station rain gauge accessory mounted on my fence.

I was also disappointed with the lack of integration with other “smart home” devices, such as the Nest Learning Thermostat and Wink Relay. Both of these would make the Netatmo Weather Station a much more valuable tool for the connected home.

How the Netatmo Weather Station could be better

It would be great if the Netatmo Weather Station included a wall-mounted display panel as having to always load an app is a bit tiresome, especially when there’s a whole family involved. This could easily be solved if it could integrate with other devices better, such as the Wink Relay. I would also like the ability to have the Netatmo data sync with other weather apps. I also think that the wind gauge and rain gauge could be merged into one unit for space and cost savings.

Final thoughts

The Netatmo Weather Station is a cool “smart” device, but with the lack of a wall display and no integration with my other devices, it’s not an essential tool for my connected home and I won’t be running out to buy one anytime soon. It did open my eyes to the potential of having a personal weather station though and I do now want one.

The Netatmo Weather Station base package retails for $179.99. The rain gauge is an extra $79.99 and the wind gauge runs for $99.99 (the mounting bracket is $24.99). An additional indoor module is also available for $79.99. For more information, visit netatmo.com.

Do you use a Netatmo or other connected weather station at home? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at facebook.com/bamcatBuzz.

iRobot releases smarter Roomba 960 vacuum

Roomba 960

iRobot Roomba 960 Vacuuming Robot helps keep floors cleaner throughout the entire home with intelligent visual navigation, iRobot HOME App control, and 5x the air power over previous generation Roomba vacuum cleaners. Photo credit PRNewsFoto/iRobot Corp.

The Roomba 960 went on sale in Canada and the United States Thursday and according to manufacturer iRobot, it’s a much smarter, more connected vacuuming system.

RELATED: Ryobi’s ONE+ 18v EVERCHARGE hand vacuum a game changer

Besides having five times more air power than previous models, features of the Roomba 960 include intelligent visual navigation and wireless cloud connected app control. It also has the ability to detect and focus on extra dirty spots and can recharge and resume vacuuming if the battery runs low before it’s finished cleaning.

“This is a significant milestone as we are now able to offer a more accessible Roomba with mapping capabilities and cloud connected features across multiple product lines. iRobot will continue to build upon its connected robot technologies moving forward, allowing for an enhanced customer experience and for our products to play a larger role within the smart home,” Colin Angle, chairman and CEO of iRobot, said in a statement.

The company also announced Thursday that the iRobot HOME App is now available for the Braava jet Mopping Robot, giving existing and new users more cleaning control. The app can be downloaded now for Android and iOS devices.

The Roomba 960 retails for USD$699. The Braava jet Mopping Robot retails for USD$199. For more information on both products, visit irobot.com.

Do you use or want a robot vacuum like the Roomba 960? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at facebook.com/bamcatBuzz.

NES retrospective ‘Playing with Power’ hitting shelves in November

Playing with Power

This could be the coolest book ever!

Did you grow up in the ‘80s playing Nintendo games? If so, you’re going to be excited for Garitt Rocha’s retrospective Playing with Power: Nintendo NES Classics.

The hardcover book, which has a slipcase that makes it look like an NES cartridge, takes an in-depth look at 17 NES games, including Super Mario Bros. 3 and The Legend of Zelda.

RELATED: Nintendo releasing retro NES system loaded with 30 classic games

Hitting shelves on November 18, Playing with Power also features interviews, vintage ads, Nintendo Power excerpts, character art and hand-drawn maps.

Earlier this month Nintendo announced it was releasing a retro NES system loaded with 30 games. It comes out a week before the book, making the pair the hot gift this holiday season.

Playing with Power: Nintendo NES Classics is currently available for pre-order on Amazon.ca for $33.25.

Are you excited for Playing with Power: Nintendo NES Classics? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at facebook.com/bamcatBuzz.

Anti-snore pillow now available in Canada and the U.S.

goodnite anti-snore pillow

The goodnite anti-snore pillow can detect snoring in order to stop it.

A ‘smart pillow’ that can stop someone from snoring? Yes, this is real and it’s now available in Canada and the U.S.

The goodnite anti-snore pillow is designed to inflate an air-chamber when snoring is detected in order to move the user’s head without disturbing their sleep. This movement helps straighten the soft tissues in the upper airways of the user, which in turn stops them from snoring.

RELATED: Philips launches Sonicare connected toothbrush

“There is no other anti-snore product on the market that is so comfortable, easy to use, and has no side effects,” Dora Lin, Director of Sales for Nitetronic America LLC, said in a media release.

Available in Europe since 2012, the goodnite can also sync with the Nitelink2 smartphone app to monitor sleep habits and the effectiveness of the pillow for the user.

A 2013-2014 study at the University ENT-Clinic of Mannheim in Germany analyzed the goodnite pillow’s claims and found a “significant reduction of snoring and no deterioration of relevant respiratory parameter during sleep.”

The goodnite anti-snore pillow retails for $369.00. For more information and to purchase one, visit nitetronic.com.

Would you buy an anti-snore pillow for you or your partner? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at facebook.com/bamcatBuzz.

Apple Pay now available to PC Financial MasterCard customers

PC Financial Apple Pay

PC Financial MasterCard customers can now use Apple Pay with their cards.

PC Financial MasterCard customers can now use their card with Apple Pay, the bank announced Tuesday.

“We know the PC Financial customer wants simplicity, convenience and, most importantly, security when making a payment, and we look forward to offering Apple Pay as a digital option that delivers on all of these values,” Barry Columb, President of PC Bank, said in a statement.

Apple Pay allows users to easily pay for items in select stores and from within supported apps with a connected debit or credit card. Because the card number is not stored in your device (or on an Apple server), your info is secure and private.

RELATED: New Walmart Canada app aims to help customers shop better

Major Canadian retailers, including Canadian Tire, Indigo, Tim Hortons and all Loblaw grocery and drug stores (which PC Financial is a division of) all accept Apple Pay. Apps from the likes of UBER and Starbucks also accept Apple Pay.

Apple Pay works in stores on the iPhone SE, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Watch. The iPhone SE, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPad Air 2, iPad mini 3, iPad mini 4 and iPad Pro can all be used to make purchases using Apple Pay within supported apps.

CIBC, RBC, TD Bank, Scotiabank and BMO all offer Apple Pay support to their clients (as do some other Canadian banks). Tangerine also announced Apple Pay support Tuesday.

PC Financial has not indicated if they are going to extend Apple Pay to banking customers at this time, but did confirm PC Points will still be collected when using Apple Pay with a PC Financial MasterCard or PC Financial World Elite MasterCard.

For more info on Apple Pay and how to set it up on your device, visit apple.ca. To learn more about PC Financial services, visit pcfinancial.ca.

Are you excited that PC Financial MasterCard now supports Apple Pay? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at facebook.com/bamcatBuzz.

Free Windows 10 upgrade offer ending July 29

Windows 10 free upgrade

Microsoft will stop offering Windows 10 as a free upgrade on July 29 and begin charging $149 for the home version of it in Canada.

It’s been almost a year since Microsoft released Windows 10 and if you’re a Windows 7 or 8.1 user who hasn’t accepted the free upgrade offer yet, as of Friday you are out of luck.

Microsoft will stop offering Windows 10 as a free upgrade on July 29 and begin charging $149 for the home version of it in Canada. Then on Tuesday, Aug 2 – the same day the new XBOX One S is released – they will begin rolling out the Windows 10 Anniversary Update to users.

RELATED: XBOX One S available in Canada August 2

While there has been some hesitation from users to upgrade to Windows 10, Microsoft claims it has been installed on more than 350 million devices worldwide. They also say this is going to be the last version of Windows (aside from updates of course), so it might be worth grabbing now just to get the free license (InfoWorld has a great article on how to install it then roll back your machine).

To upgrade to Windows 10, visit windows.ca or follow the steps in the “Get Windows 10” app on your PC.

Have you upgraded to Windows 10? Plan to before the free upgrade expires? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at facebook.com/bamcatBuzz.