Evernote and refrigerator repair

(fczuardi @ flickr)Our freezer is making a funny noise. Until of course the repairman came yesterday, at which point the lying machine was on its best behavior.

Evernote to the rescue, I created a new note on my phone and made an audio recording of the groan and rattle. Now I have it saved for ever, can play it back at will, email it to the tech, etc. Next time my car makes a funny noise I’ll use the same trick.

There is probably some other way to make an audio recording on my Nokia Lumia but it wasn’t obvious, and the Evernote app is simple and gets the recording to the cloud immediately.

The web interface for my house is woefully inadequate.

So “Nest”:www.nest.com is the newest shiny toy for the tech industry and media to get all excited about, a ton of coverage this week — for a thermostat. Obviously some of the ardor will fade — how long can anyone stay excited about a thermostat? But I do think there is a theme here which has some enduring value.

I’m not really that excited about the UI and learning features of the Nest thermostat. I am able to navigate my smart thermostat today, and I just don’t need to futz with it very often. In our new house it took me a couple days to get things where I wanted them but I’ve moved on and haven’t had to look back.

But I am totally excited about the remote access for the Nest thermostat, the web interface. Our houses are the biggest asset we own, and the cloud presence of our house is either missing or spewed all around the web in random places. There are so many things I should be able to do:

* Remote utility management. Remote thermostat is a nice start. I want remote utility management in general — what’s the temp right now, what’s my water usage, change my temp, change my water heater temp, turn on/off my sprinklers, check my power usage, turn on/off appliances/circuits, check my usage and billing history, etc. I can get pieces of this but it is hard hard hard to get it all and to integrate it all into a single cloud interface.
* Remote security. Webcam monitoring, alarm monitoring, history of access to house, “remote door lock management”:http://theludwigs.com/2011/10/anyone-have-experience-with-wireless-deadbolts-from-schlage-kwikset-yale/. Again you can get piece parts of this but cobbling together is a significant pain.
* Remote doorbell. When someone rings my doorbell, I want an instant notification on my smartphone, I want to see the video feed from my door, and I want to be able to talk thru the intercom. The person at the door should have no idea if I’m in my kitchen or on a business trip. This is part of the security topic but is more compelling than most of the security features.
* Bills. Utility bills, consumption history, how I compare to others, bill payment.
* Financial info. Mortgage status — balance, rate, is it time to refi. The estimated sale value of my house. Mortgage document storage. Tracking of improvements to the house — costs, documentation — so I can correctly calculate cost basis at sale time.
* Service. All the warranty terms and docs for all the appliances and other features of my house. A place to track service records, to record preferred vendors, to get vendor recommendations. A service advisor — what maintenance should I expect to do in the next year based on what is known about my house — time for roof inspection, approaching lifetime of water heaters, time to repaint, what is my likely cost in the next year for all this.

You can get a ton of this info today but it is spewed all over the web. To access all the info about your house, you would have to access the Nest site, any smart metering site, a remote security site (or several for webcam, door locks, monitoring service), each of the utility websites, your bill payment web site, your mortgage provider website, zillow, redfin, etc.

I’d love to have a portal that integrates all this via user configurable widgets into a single interface — my home at a glance. And gives me great mobile access to all the info and features. And just gets better as I add nicely designed devices into the house — a Nest thermostat, a great doorbell/webcam, internet-controllable door locks, etc.

I’m sure the Nest guys are thinking broadly about the entire space, with a general name like Nest they must have ambitions beyond thermostats. I’m excited to watch their evolution. I’d love to have better command of the largest asset I own.

Anyone have experience with wireless deadbolts from Schlage, Kwikset, Yale?

I’m going to try out a wireless deadbolt so that I can remotely manage and track access to a location. There are offerings from Yale (for instance this Yale deadbolt), Schlage (this deadbolt), and Kwikset. I am trying to understand the pricing and features of their remote access choices. Schlage seems to want $8.99 a month for remote access which makes me unhappy. The Yale product works with a Vera2 controller and seems to offer free monthly basic services, tho it seems like this controller might work with the Schlage as well?

Anybody have a positive or negative experience with any of these? I also wonder a lot about security of course, worried about creating a huge risky backdoor into the location.

Awesomely cool household items I want but can’t really justify

* “Magimix Vision Toaster”:http://www.coolhunting.com/archives/2010/01/magimix_vision.php. Our current toaster works just fine but this one just looks so awesome.
* “Wood Alarm Clock”:http://okthestore.com/gallery.php?id=73. I hate your typical alarm clock, this is pretty atypical.
* “Magisso Cake Server”:http://design-milk.com/magisso-cake-server/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+design-milk+%28Design+Milk%29&utm_content=Google+Reader. Don’t make that many cakes but this is a reason to start.
* “Shattered Glass Table”:http://blabitalia.com/en/products/b-glass/impact/ is awesome looking. Sign me up.
* “Suitcase Chairs”:http://design-milk.com/suitcase-chairs-by-katie-thompson/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=Google+Reader&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+design-milk+%28Design+Milk%29&utm_content=Google+Reader. Don’t love this color but love the idea.
* “Found lumber staircase”:http://www.coolhunting.com/archives/2010/01/gelitin_palais.php?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+ch+%28Cool+Hunting%29&utm_content=Google+Reader. There is something about this I love.
* “Canisters”:http://www.coolhunting.com/archives/2010/01/airscape_airtig.php. Ok what I really want is the indestructible French press mentioned.
* “Glass pendant lamp”:http://www.scandinaviandesigncenter.com/Products/usd0/Trademark/New+products/10627/One+pendant&VariantId=02&Image=img2. Dust will make me regret this but it looks awesome
* “Canvas Clock”:http://www.coolest-gadgets.com/20100207/real-tim-canvas-clock-shows-current-time/. I think everyone else in the household might barf on this one.
* “Flask salt/pepper shakers”:http://www.modestudio.co.uk/products-mode-earl-salt-and-pepper.php?g=earl. No idea if functional, but nice looking.

Interesting energy reads — Cogeneration At Home: Ceramic Fuel Cells And Bloom Energy; Solar as a Service; Vacuum-insulated windows; Solar roof tiles

* The Oil Drum | Cogeneration At Home: Ceramic Fuel Cells And Bloom Energy
* “Solar as a Service” — i like the phrasing
* Vacuum-insulated glass windows — makes sense, I wonder what the effective life of these are
* Solar Roof Tiles — nice notion. It will be interesting to see the degree to which we can embed solar and green technology into everyday materials.