Now that I’m working from home a lot, I’ve been updating my setup with work from home gadgets. The last post was focused on mobility within the home, this list focused on the work desk. It all started with me getting a Logitech web camera to hide my double chin…
I’m finnicky about the trash system in the house and so far it was manual, I wanted a smarter system, a smart trash can, to manage the compost disposal. This is America, there had to be a solution that complemented my journey to have a smarter home (read more here: general smart devices, smart vacuum cleaner and smart Wi-Fi, and smart switches). With some amount of focused searching, I found the smart trash can. To break this down, let’s start with my problems:
My quest to convert all my lights to be controlled by Alexa or Google or, at minimum, iPhone controlled led me to Switchbot vs Switchmate. I bought a few Switchmate rocker switches and it was a terrible product. After my terrible experience with the Deebot M80 robovacs, Switchmate switches were the next worst gadgets I’ve owned.
The Switchmate software and Alexa/Google Home integration is completely and utterly not usable and terribly excruciating to deal with. Switchmate is junk, $60 wasted.
BLUF: Amplifi Alien is a beast, in looks and performance.
I’ve been in love with my Amplifi HD Gamer’s Edition mesh. The Wi-Fi coverage, gorgeous LED screen showing network metrics, and simple web and iOS interfaces to manage the devices–everything was great. However, as I wrote in my review, the Internet speeds were often less than 1/4th my ISP bandwidth. At the same time, my ISP — Spectrum — had been very unreliable with consistent outages every few weeks and slow speeds on every device, this where comes Amplifi Alien.
Here’s the tl;dr:
Gorgeous screen with fun content being displayed
Very easy to setup
If you’re comfortable spending the money, get x2 individual Alient routers ($758 vs $699 for the kit) — more LAN ports but also, what’s better than 1 Alien router? 2 Alien routers!
Very expensive to begin with and very expensive to scale since you will have to buy another $400 (incl. taxes) Amplifi Alien main router to extend this
The mesh satellite comes with ONLY 1 ethernet port, like why just 1 port in a such huge tower?
The Amplifi HD cannot be connected in a wireless mesh to extend this
Performance is significantly better than the Amplifi HD mesh kit
2020 was a year of adapting new circumstances and making time for activities that aren’t work. Building an entry-level gaming desktop was not part of the plan till my group of friends who are into all forms of video games (from making them to playing them and analyzing every aspect of gameplay) started discussing strategies for AoE II. While I’m not a big gamer because it’s a singular activity (and I’m not that great at it either), our interests overlapped on Age of Empires II1. I’ve had a Surface Pro 2016 as my personal laptop since, well, 2016 and I tried to run AOE II on it. I instantly started having fun but the game play was just bad with the trackpad, so I bought the wireless Razer Basilisk.
The Roborock S6 MaxV is fantastic product. I hated my previous robo-vacuum. The Ecovacs Deebot M80 was a dumb and terrible device that was infuriating — it would never be able to find its way back to the base station, would keep going in circles and end up at the same spot where it got stuck; it was a bad device. As I started evaluating my next robo-vacuum I had the following requirements:
Must be able to find its way back home
Must be really really good at navigation
Must let me define custom mapping features like no-go zones
Must be good at not having hair stuck in it, and make it easy to remove the hair
Update 2/2/2021: The Amplifi HD mesh continued to throttle my Internet and the performance was so bad that I had to work with Ubiquity to replace this with the Amplifi Alien.
Setting Amplifi HD was extremely easy, the iOS app made it seamless. The router is also a centerpiece of my living room. The LED base and the live speedometer on the LCD screen always makes me happy. The popular Ubiquity features for building a topology and having a coverage heat map are available.
Early last year I got myself a new Netgear R6700 router to replace the Linksys router that kept dropping my Internet every couple of hours. Unfortunately, as decent as the Netgear reviews were, it is a terrible router — either it couldn’t handle the number of devices I have or it is just a bad router. (I think it’s just a bad router.)
Work from home started like a fantastic change of pace. I didn’t have to take early morning flights, I could be in comfort clothes, slide into bed when I wanted to, binge TV whenever I wanted to, work from my bed or couch — all these amazing comforts… And then suddenly within two weeks, every week felt like one looooong Monday. There is no difference between work hours and off-work hours. All of this coupled with laptops that overheat and video Teams call, having the laptop on the lap was becoming very uncomfortable, the laptop on bed would get very hot because the vents were would get blocked.
This article has been a few years coming, it was meant to be a follow-up to my article on the 5 smart gadgets but I just never got to it back then. So after a pause, here’s my list of some simple Amazon-bought dumb accessories to organize gadget wires in a smart / connected home: