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Some Philips Hue Lighting Tips

I got back to Vermont and on my list was putting in some HomeKit gear for this house. I chose Philips Hue for lighting because I may want to take it with me to another location which is why Philips might be the choice for those that are renting or transient.

Right now, the best bargain in Philips Hue is the starter kit that includes the hub and two white bulbs. Grace was laughing at me because I also bought some color lights, light strips and other cool Hue gear. But in this article I want to go over the initial set-up of a Hue system and how to group your lights.

First step is to take the hub and connect it to your router. I have an Airport Extreme sitting on a shelf with a growing collection of hubs (Arlo, Kevo and now Philips). Fortunately, I haven’t filled up all the ethernet ports on the Airport Extreme so after running the power cable I just plugged in the ethernet cable to the Airport. The next step is to screw in the light bulbs. In this case, it took a couple of aging hippies to screw in a bulb.

Once you have the bulbs in place make sure they are switched on. Next, download the Philips Hue app from the App Store. Once you have the app, you can have it search for the hub. Once it finds the hub you are set to go. Press the button on the hub and the app will find your newly installed bulbs. You are done and you can use the Hue app to control your lights but what you really want is the Apple Home App and Siri to control them.

One thing to be careful about is naming. I started out naming my lights hallway for the hallway lights but Siri, HomeKit and Hue will be confused if you have two hallways or like me two houses with hallways so Grace and I spent a little time arguing about what the most appropriate name should be. For Siri or for Amazon Echo you want to make these names easily understood and usually one word.

So your lights are now connected and you can dim them and turn them on and off with the Hue. Next, in the settings section of the Hue app activate HomeKit and Siri. This will allow the lights to be controlled by the Home app. Since I also have an Amazon Echo in my house, I also went to the Alexa app and had the Echo also discover the lights. Once this is done you have a lot of control over your automated lights. You can turn them on by asking Siri on your iOS device (or Alexa). If you have set up your Apple TV as a HomeKit hub you can turn the lights on and off remotely, too.

You can also create scenes and automations. Things like having the lights come on at sunset or off at a certain time. You can also use geo-fencing so the lights come on when you arrive home and turn off when you leave. That works great if you live alone but is a bit annoying to your housemates otherwise.

So, I put in five Hue colored lights in our living room which actually used to be the Small Dog offices before we outgrew it. It sort of got the name “west wing” because it was west and no relation to the White House. So, as I was adjusting these lights I found that it was a real pain to have to adjust the color of each light individually. I could tell Siri “Turn west wing lights to purple” and that would work but if I wanted to fine tune the colors I needed to group all the lights together so they act as one light. I could not find out how to do this. I googled, I downloaded 3rd party apps but I really wanted Siri to control them as one.

So, I was up at our S. Burlington store and asked Erich to demo some Smart Home gear in our new Home Automation section. By the way, if you have not been into our S. Burlington store lately you should check out all the cool renovations that were done while I was in Florida. Anyway, as Erich was demoing he casually mentioned grouping. I said “whoa!” and had him show me. The googling was wrong, there IS actually a very easy way to group your Hue accessories if you are using HomeKit.

To group your accessories you simply go to the home screen of HomeKit and press on one of the accessories, i.e. a light. That gives you the control screen for that accessory. You can dim and turn on and off and adjust color for colored lights. There is also a “details” button. Press that button and you have more options including naming the light, assigning it to a room, toggling whether it is included in HomeKit favorites and if you scroll down you can group it. Clicking on “Group with Other Accessories” button will allow you to choose which lights go together. You can then name that group and you are ready to go. Instead of five individual lights, I now have one button for all the west wing lights.

I have a lot of fun setting up Hue lighting and it is very simple and very versatile but thanks to Erich for solving my grouping dilemma!

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Trash Files Instantly

This past week I’ve been thinking about how there are countless tasks I perform daily on my computer in the same way I have always done it, but is it the most efficient way? When thinking about this question I think I can easy say fifty percent of the time I could do a task faster with a shortcut or a keystroke.

Every Mac user knows that you drag files or folders you want to delete to the Trash icon in the Dock. And you probably even know that you can select multiple items by Shift-clicking (for a sequential range of items in a list view) or Command-clicking (for an arbitrary set of items) and then drag them to the Trash. But you’ll save yourself mousing time if you learn the quick shortcut that trashes selected files and folders: Command-Delete.

A quick little tip to hopefully make a common daily task just a little bit quicker.

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VPNs and You

History books of the future will refer to the mid-90s to early 2000s as the golden age of the internet. Why do they they think that? Well for starters, before I sat down to write this I googled “how to write a good tech article” and over 6 million results were found. Truly a marvelous time! However, it seems these days there is always something in the news about a hacking scandal or somebody getting their identity stolen, a bank account hacked, etc. With how open and cavalier some folks can be with their online activity and digital footprint, it’s no surprise there are so many instances of privacy crimes and security breaches taking place over the internet.

If you’re like me, you probably enjoy being able to venture freely across the digital serengeti that is the inter-webs, all the while remaining protected and anonymous to anyone who may be lurking in binary-coded shadows.

So how can you stay protected?

The answer is VPN. VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and it is many things, but above all else, it provides safe and anonymous access to the Internet. When you are connected to your wifi through a dedicated VPN, all of your traffic and activity becomes encrypted and impossible to be read and understood,¬†essentially “scrambling” your IP address and redirecting its “origin” elsewhere, thus granting you total anonymity to anyone who may be looking. Thus, even if your communication is eavesdropped by malicious persons, they would be unable to decipher what site you are connecting to or what information you are exchanging. Acquiring a VPN is just as easy as a few clicks. I personally use Private Internet Access (PIA), which requires a monthly or yearly subscription to use the VPN service. Now, as far as setup goes, think of a VPN as just another application. It requires a download, a brief registration process, and that’s it! Once it’s downloaded and you’ve registered with the service, open it up and start surfing freely and privately. Keep in mind, a true, dedicated VPN runs in the background on your computer and is non-invasive, thus you shouldn’t even notice it doing its job. Remember this if you are setting out on the hunt for a reliable VPN service. Most importantly, do the research! There are dozens upon dozens of VPN services out there, free and subscription based, so take the time to make sure the one you go with is suited to your needs and desires.¬†

If you’re the type of individual who doesn’t do much online business and/or banking, you may have no need for a VPN, but of course it never hurts to add that extra level of security and peace of mind!

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We Don't Need No Stinking Badges

But stickers are sorta cool. iOS 10 brought stickers to Messages. With your iPhone or your iPad you can embed stickers in a thread, adjust their size, rotate them or peel and place stickers on top of bubbles or photos in your conversations. I found some animated stickers that look a bit like my dog, Jezebel but there are lots of stickers out there to buy at the somewhat hidden App store for stickers.

Apple is great about helping you create your own stickers without any coding experience. Stickers are created with image files in PNG, JPEG or GIF format. They can also be animated in APNG or GIF format. You can learn about creating your own sticker packs at Apple’s Creating Stickers for iMessage page.

Okay, where is this sorta hidden sticker store? First off, you can’t find it on your Mac. This is an iOS thing. The stickers will display in Messages on your Mac but you cannot send them. So, here’s how to find the sticker store on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch:

  1. Open Messages on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch and tap a conversation in the list or create a new one. You need to have a conversation going to find the store.
  2. Tap the Apps button (it resembles an App Store icon) to the left of the text entry field to access the Messages app drawer.
  3. Push the App Shelf button in the bottom left corner (it is four dots in a grid).
  4. Tap the Store button.
  5. The Messages App Store appears in an overlay, allowing you to:

    • Browse featured sticker packs

    • Browsing sticker packs by category

    • See all sticker packs in the App Store

    • Find specific sticker packs

  6. Buy by category or individual pack

To make sure you have this newly purchased sticker pack available be sure to set the toggle Automatically Add Apps under the Messages App Store’s Manage tab to the ON position. If you prefer, of course, you can individually manage each sticker pack to turn it on and off.

Now you have spent your $0.99 with ApplePay for that great sticker pack. How do you use them in a conversation? Easy peasy…

  1. Open Messages on your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch and start a conversation or pick an old one.
  2. Tap the Apps button to the left of the text entry field to reveal the Messages app drawer at the bottom of the interface.
  3. Now you can either pick a previously used sticker from Recents or choose a specific sticker from one of your installed sticker packs.

Then you just tap on that sticker to add it to the conversation. You can add some text to the sticker and hit send.

You can peel a sticker and stick in anywhere in a chat bubble. You just tap and hold the sticker and then drag it over your selected chat bubble. You can do the same thing with photos that you have sent in chat. Just tap and hold a sticker and drag it onto the photo in the conversation and let it go.

Rotate your sticker using two fingers. Tap and hold the sticker you wish to rotate and then tap and hold with another finger and swipe up or down to rotate the sticker. You can make it bigger, too, by swiping left or right.

There are a lot of stickers to choose from and while it does get boring after a bit at least for me it is a great way to spice up a conversation!

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Terminal Tidbits

Disk Usage Command

There might be a time when you need to know how much space is available on your hard drive and you need to do it without a GUI. When trying to do diagnostics to find issues, it’s good to know if your hard drive is simply at capacity. Hard drives filled to their limits can display some scary signs, making one think that they have serious issues. When your drive is just stuffed more then your family’s thanksgiving turkey you can run into some pretty troubling and difficult issues.

By opening Terminal and going into the Command line you can find out quickly what youR disk space is looking like. Within terminal enter the command, that is simply “df”.

Once you run “df” you are going to get a weird confusing result. There will be many blocks, so to help your sanity us the -h (human readable) flag so that the overall syntax is “df -h”. This will give the result of used space and available space in gigabytes instead of blocks.

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