Not all "Smart Home hacks" have to be automated, or even high-tech. Sometimes the handiest, most useful hack is also the simplest. Consider, for example, the Big Jammer Door Brace. It's a fantastic security device that I've used for almost 20 years, in 3 or 4 different homes. In addition to working with any door that opens inward, it works with sliding glass doors too. Well worth having and provides much peace of mind. It's also available from Amazon.
I'm clearly a bigfan of Keyboard Maestro. I've known about its built-in web server for a while, but never had a good reason to use it, despite having spent some time considering the possibilities. (And I'm not unfamiliar with remote control over the HTTP, having used X2Web for home automation quite a bit.)
But the other day it suddenly dawned on me; it's a simple way to solve a frequent inconvenience. You see, I live and work in a loft. This means that my computer is basically in my living room, dining room, kitchen, and so on. This is a benefit when I'm waiting for an incoming chat message, or email, or FaceTime call. I can hear the ring tone no matter where I am. But when I'm not expecting an important missive, it's a drag hearing the other beeps and bongs that go off for various reasons. I'm not mindful enough to mute the computer when I walk away, so I inevitably end up having to dash back and silence it when it starting making noise at an inopportune time.
But now that problem is solved. I created a very simple macro that toggles the mute setting. I then turned on web access for that macro, and of course turned on Keyboard Maestro's web server. Now, from any other computer, iPhone, or iPad in the house, I can trigger the macro without walking a step. Ahhh, sweet, sweet silence.
I continue to dig my Hamilton Beach The Scoop coffee maker. After a year's use, I have a couple of tips to pass along:
If a cup comes out weak or light, it's likely because the grounds were not evenly distributed in the scoop. To prevent this, give the scoop a little shake after filling it so that the coffee is level across the entire surface. If it's not level, the water runs down the hill and only soaks through part of the grounds. (You can verify this problem if you empty the grounds and some of them seem unused.)
If you're using a filter, as I suggested in Hacking the Scoop Coffee Maker, try putting the filter in the middle section (so that it sits on top of the built-in filter) for an even stronger cup.
Although the Fake TV is advertised like it's infomercial junk, it turns out to be a nice product. In brief, it's a small sophisticated LED light that emulates the patterns and colors emitted by a television. It's sold as a burglary deterrent, because it makes it looks like a home is occupied by someone watching the boob tube.
The device is smaller than I expected; about the size of a medium coffee cup. This turns out to be an advantage when it comes to proper placement of the device, but it was a surprise when I opened the box.
Fake TV really does generate a convincing illusion. But there are a couple of things you should be aware of, both positive and negative. On the plus side, because it's LED powered, it should last for a very long time and is inexpensive to operate. Although I use it with a timer so my neighbors don't think I"m an insomniac, it would be safe and efficient--but perhaps less convincing--to leave it turned on all the time. (There is no off switch, you have to unplug it to turn it off.)
On the negative side, the lights aren't very bright. This means that the Fake TV has to be positioned close to an uncovered window; it definitely isn't bright enough to shine through most window coverings. I also ended up putting the Fake TV on the inside window sill because my windows are covered with a UV-filtering film that has a slightly dark tint. The Fake TV's small footprint and light weight made this easy to do. (Just make sure that outsiders only see the light from the device, not the unit itself.)
The bottom line for me is that Fake TV is a useful and inexpensive home security addition. Amazon has the best price by far, and check out the reviews if you want more opinions. It has a large number of mostly 4 or 5 star reviews.
Update: After writing this review I noticed that there is now a brighter model, the FTV-11. I have the FTV-10. It costs about $10 more, but I'd get that one if I were buying today. The new one also has built-in timer and dusk options. The timer options remain unchanged from the first model.
According to the listing on Amazon, there have been a number of recent firmware updates that, hopefully, address the reliability problems cited by many customers. This is similar to the problems I had with the WeMo switch, but after several updates the switch is now reliable.
Wow, I'm a big fan of Withings Smart Body Analyzer and Baby Monitor, but their new Smart Kid Scale seems a bit too expensive at $249. I have it on good authority that kids tend to grow larger and will soon not be able to utilize this device. But I certainly won't judge you if you consider it worth buying, you can't go wrong with connected devices from Withings.