SmartHome has opened their "Black Friday" sale early, so between now and Nov 30, 2009 you can get many INSTEON modules at a 45% discount. Now's a good time to pick up some extra goodies for your smart house.
My friend Fredrick asked me about which iPhone productivity apps I find most useful. I thought others might be interested too, so here's what I sent him:
ConsistencyA nice little way to ensure you do things that aren't driven by exact dates, but rather, intervals. That is, watering the house plants every 4 to 7 days. Or changing the furnace filter every 25-40 days. Try out the desktop version first to get a feel for it. I've been using it for many, many years.
Here are some articles that explain more about this unique application:
To get Consistency, use these links:
Sciral Consistency for iPhone OS
For regular task and project tracking, I use "Things". The Mac desktop version is an Apple Design Award winner, and I personally love it. The iPhone companion syncs with the Desktop so I use both together.
FoodleFor grocery shopping, I think Foodle is the best. Lovely, and my fave feature is that it uses the GPS so you can find things again in the store. I keep separate lists for Grocery, Liquor, and Hardware Stores. I use the paid version, but here's a link to the freebie so you can try it:
Password WalletI use Password Wallet to store the zillion user IDs and Passwords that we all have. The iPhone version syncs with the Mac version. It's not a very aesthetically pleasing set of apps, but it's very reliable. The app 1Password is more popular, but I shun it because on the Mac it hooks into Safari in an unofficial way that can cause problems. Password Wallet plays by the rules and causes no worries.
WriteRoomFor writing I use WriteRoom. It syncs with a cloud service (run off Google's servers) so it's easy to work on a document on the phone or at the desktop. There's a Mac version too, but it's not necessary to use them both.
HeyWayMy wife and I both have iPhone and we both travel, so we use the free version of HeyWay to let each other know when we've arrived at our destinations safely. We used to send SMS messages (and still do when time allows) but this is much faster when all you want to do is say "I've arrived". There's a paid version that lets you add a message, but we use the freebie.
FAA WaitFAA Wait taps into the FAA database of airport delays. Great way to know what the airline isn't telling you, or is about to tell you when they finally find the time.
InquisitorInquisitor is a very nice web searching tool. Seems like you don't need this, but try it, and you'll be hooked. Everyone I've told about this loves it.
Instapaper saves web pages, in nice readable text form, so you can read them offline later. You install a bookmark for it on your desktop, then add articles using your desktop we browser, and they show up on iPhone for later reading. I use the paid version I love this so much, but here's a link to the freebie to try.
My wife and and I both use this when traveling, it will show you nearby restaurants etc and you can peruse the reviews to see if there's a good place nearby. Invaluable when you don't really know the surrounding area.
So there you go, the most-used apps on my iPhone. Hope you find it useful.
The new Dual-band LampLinc dimmer from Smarthome is a very interesting device. Prior to this, INSTEON only used RF signals to bridge the power line. But this device responds directly to RF commands. (It also responds to commands on the power line.) This is a smart move by SmartHome as it should make INSTEON even more reliable.
An iPhone in an unbuttoned breast pocket is not as secure as you might think. On the plus side, though, I have conclusively proven that iPhone 3GS is not a witch, as it does not float.
The iXP3 Internet Messaging Clock is a persistence of vision clock that also receives messages from the Internet. This could be a handy thing for home automation, if the aesthetic of the clock is acceptable to you. I'm not so excited that you apparently have to proxy messages through a central website, though.
Fujitsu has released updated drivers for their ScanSnap line of workgroup scanners. See Snow Leopard Update for ScanSnap for details. Thanks to Dave P. for the tip!
For more about paperless offices, see My Paperless Office.
How to view webcam video from a remote location is one of the most frequent questions I get, so I'm pleased to discover a new option. RemoteSight is a new product from the makers of SecuritySpy, allows you to easily stream live video from an iSight camera to a web browser. One nice feature appear to be (I haven't yet tried it) that there's very little user interface--the only visible component is a menu bar item. See the Macworld article, RemoteSight turns an iSight into CCTV for another perspective.
See also Home Petcam Made Easy.
In 1989 I concluded a multi-year sociological research project about how hackers, phone phreaks, and software pirates--collectively known as "the computer underground"--organized themselves. That is, how they identified each other, collaborated, and mutually participated in their activities.
I studied this closed culture by using the tools of participant observation. That is, I became a member of their society, albeit solely as an academic. But I wasn't the only one interested in the computer underground, towards the end of my research period the U.S. Secret Service, and career-minded district attorneys had begun their own covert investigations. None of us knew it at the time, but the feds even went so far as rigging up a St Louis hotel room to secretly video tape a hacker meet-up called SummerCon. (To this day I sometimes glance suspiciously at hotel room mirrors, wondering if this one, too, hides a watching agent in the next room.)
Shortly after I published my master's thesis, the hacker crackdown generally known as Operation Sundevil began. The aftermath was incredibly damaging to several of my friends, and the case so mishandled by the government that the Electronic Frontier Foundation was created in response. It also inspired me, together with Jim Thomas, to create Computer underground Digest (CuD), one of the earliest, large circulation electronic newsletters before the age of the Internet.
Yes, it's true. Before the Internet existed (at least as we know it today), swapping hacking techniques, warez, or gossip required dialing into basement bulletin board systems, arranging voice chats on "borrowed" telecom bridges, and swapping printed issues of TAP or YIPL via snail mail.
In recognition of those halcyon days of only 20 years ago, I've created an anniversary edition of The Social Organization of the Computer Underground, and added a new introduction with background and commentary. The first edition is widely available, in ASCII, across the Internet. This new edition is reformatted for easier reading and is a free download in PDF. You can also purchase a printed or Kindle edition from Amazon, and I'm donating all proceeds from these to the EFF. For more information visit The Social Organization of the Computer Underground website.