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March 2009
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May 2009

Indigo 4 adds iPhone control of your home

Indigo, the Mac-based home automation program, officially reached v4.0 this week and has added support for iPhone, too. The Indigo Touch application is a native iPhone app that allows you to control your home remotely. If you're not an Indigo user, but you have an iPhone, Indigo Touch is still a worthwhile download because it can connect to a "demo house" that's fun to play with and wow your friends. The program looks and behaves exactly as iPhone users will expect.

The summary at Macworld is a good place to start your exploration.

UPDATE: Perceptive Automation also has a great screencast that's worth watching. Matt left this in the comments on this post, but it's too good to be possibly overlooked. Thanks, Matt.

Managing the paperless office

Two developments in the area of paperless offices caught my eye recently. The first is Unclutterer's Six tips for going paperless. I was pleased to see that they concur with my recommendation of the ScanSnap scanner. And I absolutely agree with the idea of only scanning paper that matters. I threw away months of old utility bills when I converted to paperless and today I don't scan them at all. My checkbook provides enough of a payment history for me, and if I ever needed to review past usage (which I have yet to really need) I could do so at the provider's website.

The related item of interest is the news that Mariner Software has acquired the popular ReceiptWallet and will release it as Mariner Paperless. You'll definitely need a filing solution for your scans, so this is worth a peek if you're a Mac user.

On Twitter, cupcakes, and automation

A London bakery, Albion Cafe, is using Twitter to inform customers when new baked goods are fresh from the oven. It's not an unusual story from the perspective of yet another business jumping on the Twitter bandwagon, but it does have two intriguing twists.

Firstly, the use of a Twitter as an automated, distributed notification system for status events continues to grow. It has been over year since I integrated Twitter into my home automation system and I've grown to really rely on it, which I'll write about again sometime. See Twittering Your Home for the scoop so far.

Secondly, the bakery project is interesting because they've created a dedicated Twitter appliance. It's a WiFi-enabled box that allows a baker to easily send pre-defined tweets as goods become ready for customers. A clever idea that would make it much easier to integrate Twitter even more deeply into daily routines. For details about their implementation see Baker Tweet.

In search of a good headset

As a home office kinda guy I spend a lot of time on the phone. So much that I consider a good telephone headset an essential piece of equipment, and over the last few years I've tried a lot of them.

Last November I finally found a modest headset that worked well. It was the Panasonic KX-TA60, which doesn't have noise canceling, a feature that I find hurts more than it helps when it comes to voice clarity.

Unfortunately, after less than 3 months of use, the headset's mic stopped working. I called Panasonic's Customer Service Department to see if it was covered under warranty. The rep confirmed my purchase date, said that it was covered and issued an RMA. I sent the headset and a copy of the receipt to the repair department the next day.

Two weeks later I get a letter in the mail. Panasonic asked me to either provide proof of purchase (which I had already done) or to send them $25 to "repair" the headset. That, dear reader, is 150% more than what I paid for the headset when it was new. So, I filled out their form and faxed another copy of my purchase receipt.

Two weeks later, Panasonic sends me back my broken headset. A form letter says that they won't fix it because I didn't cough up $25, so they're returning my broken piece of crap. (OK, I'm paraphrasing the form letter, but that's the message.)

What a huge waste of everyone's time and money! Between the customer service phone call I made (where, I repeat, my warranty coverage was confirmed), the $5 I spent to mail the headset and my time sending the fax, I was already losing money. Now, Panasonic throws more money into a hole by rejecting my legitimate claim and returning a broken item.

So I bought a slightly more expensive Plantronics headset as a replacement. To be honest, it's not any better, but it certainly felt good not to give another dime to Panasonic. In the mean time, I'm still in search of good headset to use with a wireless phone.