Nest Protect Generation 2 Review

In the next episode of Bad Voltage, I’ll be reviewing the Nest Protect Generation 2, a network capable Smoke + Carbon Monoxide detector. Tune in tomorrow to listen to the ensuing discussion and the rest of the show. In the interim, here’s the review:

Nest Protect Generation 2

As someone who travels quite a bit, a smoke detector that can notify me when I’m away is a compelling device. As a technology guy who has a fair amount of home automation equipment, a smoke detector that can integrate into my increasingly smarter home seems like a natural choice. So, why am I just now reviewing the Nest Protect? Well, the first generation Protect had quite a reputation for false alarms and a “wave” feature that was so buggy it resulted in a recall. And while I’m an early adopter who suffers through quite a few wonky first generation devices, when it comes to something as important as a safety device… I decided to play it safe. But when Nest recently released the Nest Protect generation 2, I decided to take the proverbial plunge.

While the generation 2 device is noticeably sleeker than its predecessor, its what’s inside that prompted my purchase. It uses an advanced smoke sensor, called a Split-Spectrum Sensor, to detect a wide range of smoke events, including both slow smoldering fires and fast flaming fires. That sensor is shielded against outside light and encased in a stainless steel screen, which has a hexagonal pattern designed to let smoke in and keep bugs, dust and fibers out. This should vastly decrease the likelihood of a false alarm. The device also has built-in sensors to detect carbon monoxide, heat, humidity, occupancy and ambient light, as well as (slightly disconcertingly for some I’m sure) a microphone. On the outside is a central button, surrounded by a colorful LED ring, which alerts you to the current status of the device: Blue during setup/testing, green for good, yellow for warning and red for an emergency.

Setting up the device was extremely straight forward. Download the Nest app (available for Android and iOS), select “Add product” and follow a couple simple prompts. Total install time was less than 5 minutes per device, although I installed the battery powered version. If you opt for the hardwired version it will take a little longer. You can enable a couple optional features during install, including Pathlight (which will turn the LED ring into a night-light if you walk by in the dark) and Nightly Promise (which will result in the device glowing green briefly at night, to let you know that it’s fully operational). Installation concludes with a final safety test.

As part of the install, you select where the device is located in your home. One thing that separates the Protect from a more traditional device is the Heads Up feature. If smoke or CO levels are elevated but not at emergency levels, the device will loudly say: “Heads up: there’s smoke in the hallway”. Once the levels pass a certain threshold, the full alarm is sounded and you will start to receive mobile notifications. Unlike the first gen device, you can silence the alarm from the app, although due to regulations there are some parameters around when you can do so. As a networked device, when one Protect senses trouble, all devices will alarm. That means if my Protect on the 3rd floor detects smoke, the device on the 1st floor will also alarm, making it much more likely someone will hear it. The device also regularly tests the battery and will inform you if it’s low, hopefully making the just-not-often-enough intermittent chirp of a dying smoke detector a thing of the past.

There are some additional features that more advanced users may take advantage of as well. The Protect can integrate with other Nest devices, so for example you can have a Dropcam send you a picture if the Protect alarms. There is also full IfThisThenThat support with quite a few existing recipes available. This enables scenarios such as “Text a neighbor when your Nest Protect detects a smoke alarm emergency” or “Add a reminder to my calendar when Nest Protect batteries are low”.

So, what’s the Bad Voltage verdict? At $99, the Protect is significantly more expensive than a traditional smoke detector. While I’ve only had the second generation devices for a little over a month, I haven’t gotten a single false alarm yet. If that remains the case, the additional features, notifications and integrations are compelling enough to justify the cost for me. Because I like redundancy, I also installed a more traditional (although Z Wave enabled) device on my second floor.

–jeremy

LinuxQuestions.org Turns Fifteen

WOW. Fifteen years ago today I made the first post ever at LQ, introducing it to the world. 15 Years. I know I’ve said it before, but 5,354,618 posts later the site and community have exceeded my wildest expectations in every way. The community that has formed around LQ is simply amazing. The dedication that the members and mod team has shown is both inspiring and truly humbling. I’d like to once again thank each and every LQ member for their participation and feedback. While there is always room for improvement, that LQ has remained a friendly and welcoming place for new Linux members despite its size is a testament to the community. Reaching this milestone has served to energize and refocus my efforts on making sure the next fifteen years are even better than the first fifteen. Visit this thread for more on how we plan to do that. We can’t do it without you.

–jeremy

HTC One M9 Review

Here’s my review from the latest episode of Bad Voltage. Note that a slightly longer version, with some pictures and a quote is available at LQ.

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Android. As a result, I use and test a lot of different Android phones. I plan to start actually reviewing more of them. First up is the HTC One M9. You may remember that I mentioned the One M8 when I reviewed the Nexus 5. HTC’s 2015 top-of-the-line phone builds on the same sleek design as last year’s M8, sticking to the luxurious all-metal case and 5 inch Super LCD3 1080p HD screen while incorporating some key spec improvements, such as an upgraded Octo-core Snapdragon 810 processor, a 20 mega-pixel camera and a 2840 mAh battery. While it’s a bit heavy at 157g, especially compared to the iPhone 6 or Galaxy S6, I prefer the weight and balance HTC has created. At 5.69 by 2.74 inches, it’s about as large as I prefer a phone to be (For comparison, the iPhone 6+ is 6.22 x 3.06 and the Nexus 6 is 6.27 x 3.27) The M9 is one of the few flagship phones to still feature expandable storage via SD card, and it offers a unique Uh Oh one-year replacement program in the US. While the phone ships with Android 5.0, I’d expect a 5.1 roll-out in the next month or so. The device is priced at $649 unlocked in the US, with on-contract pricing starting at $199.

With the specs out of the way, let’s get to what’s important; how does the One M9 perform on a day to day basis. Let’s start with the first thing you’ll notice if you’re coming from a non-HTC phone, which is Sense 7. Sense is the UI skin that HTC puts on their Android phones. If you’re a Samsung user, it’s the equivalent to TouchWiz. My last couple full time phones have been from the Nexus family and I tend to prefer the stock Android experience. That said, Sense 7 is actually quite nice. It’s clean, performs well and has a few little touches that would be welcome additions to Android proper. An interesting new feature is a home-screen widget which dynamically changes which apps are displayed within it, depending on your location. (Work, Home, on the go). The theme generator is also pretty cool: you can take a snap of anything and the phone will analyze the image and create a full palette of colors to use with icons and app headers. Even the font and icon shapes will be altered to match the overall feel of the new theme.

While the screen doesn’t have the density or resolution of the Galaxy S6 or LG G4, its 441 pixel per inch screen looks better than the similarly spec’d Nexus 5. HTC has once again eschewed playing the number game here and opted for a non-2k experience which offers almost no discernible benefits to me at this screen size while eating up more of your limited battery. While the speakers haven’t changed much since the previous version, they are still far and away the best available in any phone. The camera is one area that has had a big change since the previous model. The 4-mega-pixel Ultrapixel sensor has been moved to the front of the phone and the aforementioned 20-mega-pixel camera now sits on the back. The phone produced quality photos in my tests, although low light scenarios are a bit of a weak point. I did notice some shutter lag at times, but there are similar lags on my Nexus 5.

While the battery is slightly more capacious than the previous One and HTC estimates you should get a full day of use out of the phone, I’d say that’s ambitious. To be fair, most Android flagship phones seem to be roughly equivalent in this regard and it’s really an area manufacturers need to focus on in my opinion. One other thing that’s changed, and this time not for the better in my opinion, is the power button transferring to the right-hand side of the phone. This may be a more natural place for it to be positioned and some people seem to prefer it, but the fact that it’s the same size and shape as the volume buttons above it results in me inadvertently hitting the incorrect button at times. It’s placement has also resulted in me accidentally powering the screen off. Perhaps I hold my phone in a different position than most people, but I suspect it’s something I’d get used to over time.

One frustrating thing about the phone is that, while it supports QuickCharge 2.0, which can charge the phone 60% in just 30 minutes, the charger that ships with the phone is not QuickCharge enabled. That seems ludicrous for a phone in this price range. It should also be noted that during serious use, the phone tends to get a bit hotter than other phones I’ve used.

So, what’s the Bad Voltage verdict? The One M8 was one of my favorite phones last year. The slick design of the M9 is still amazing, but I will say the competition has upped its game considerably. While the M8 had the plasticky S5 and the small iPhone to contend with, the M9 has to compete with the also well designed S6 and the newer updated iPhone 6. A flagship phone has to score well in a lot of areas for me to consider it a phone worth recommending. It has to have solid performance, gorgeous design, a camera that will capture memories accurately and expediently, last through a full day of use and be reasonably priced. That’s a tall order to be sure. I think the HTC One M9 makes the short list (along with the Samsung Galaxy S6 and if you don’t mind a giant phone, the Nexus 6 or LG G4). If you’re looking for an Android phone I’d recommend you look at those phones and pick the one that suits your personal tastes best. As the Nexus 6 is too big for me, my personal choice would currently be the One M9. As a testament to just how good the phone is, I lent my review device to an iPhone user so they could get a feel for Android. They’re no longer an iPhone user.

–jeremy

My Frustration with Mozilla

I recently decided to stop using Firefox as my main Browser. I’m not alone there. While browser statistics are notoriously difficult to track and hotly debated, all sources seem to point toward a downward trend for Firefox. At LQ, they actually aren’t doing too badly. In 2010 Firefox had a roughly 57% market share and so far this year they’re at 37%. LQ is a highly technical site, however, and the broader numbers don’t look quite so good. Over a similar period, for example, Wikipedia has Firefox dropping from over 30% to just over 15%. At the current rate NetMarketShare is tracking, Firefox will be in the single digits some time this year. You get the idea. So what’s going on , and what does that mean for Mozilla? And why did I choose now to make a switch personally?

First, let me say it’s not all technical. While it’s troubling that they have not been able to track down some of the memory leaks and other issues for years, Firefox is an incredibly complex piece of software and overall it runs fine for me. Australis didn’t bother me as much as it did many, nor did the Pocket integration. I understand that the decision to include EME was a pragmatic one. I think the recent additional add-ons rules were as well. Despite these issues, I remained an ardent Firefox supporter who actively promoted its adoption. Taking a step back now, though, it is surprising to see just how many of the technical decisions they’re making are not being well received by the Firefox community. I think part of that is due to the fact that while Firefox started as the browser of the early adopter and power user, as it gained in popularity Mozilla felt pressure to make a more mainstream product and recently that pressure has manifested itself in Firefox looking more like Chrome. I think they’ve lost their way a little bit technically and have forgotten what actually made them popular, but that was not enough for me to stop using Firefox.

On a recent Bad Voltage episode, we discussed some of these issues (and more), with the intention of having someone from Mozilla on the next show to give feedback on our thoughts. After reaching out to Mozilla, they not only declined to participate, they declined to even provide a statement (there is a fair bit more to the story, but it’s off record and unfortunately I can’t provide further details at this time). This made me step back a bit and reassess what I thought about Mozilla as a whole. Something I hadn’t done in a while to be honest. Mozilla used to be a place where you were encouraged to speak your mind. What happened?

For context, I held Mozilla in the highest regard. It’s not hyperbole to say that I genuinely believe the Open Web would not be where it is today without what Mozilla has been able to accomplish. I consider their goals and the Mozilla Manifesto to be extremely important to the future of the web and it would be a shame to see us lose the freedom and openness we’ve fought so hard to gain. But somewhere along the line it appears to me Mozilla either forgot who they were, or who they were changed. Mozilla’s mission is “to promote openness, innovation & opportunity on the Web”. Looking at their actions recently, and I’m not just referring to the Bad Voltage-related decision, they don’t appear willing to be open or transparent about themselves. Their responses to incidents like the Pocket one resemble the response of a large stodgy corporation, not one of the Open Source spirited Mozilla I was accustomed to dealing with.

Maybe part of the issue is my perception. Many people, myself included, look at Mozilla as a bastion of freedom; the torch bearer for the free and Open Web. But the reality is that Mozilla is now a corporation, and one with over 1,000 employees. Emailing their PR department will get you a response from someone who used to work for CNN and the BBC. As companies grow, the culture often changes. The small, scrappy, steward of the Open Web may not exist any more. At least not in the pure concentrated form it used to; I know there is a solid core of it that very much burns within the larger organization. But this puts Mozilla in a really difficult position. They are not only losing market share rapidly, but doing so to a browser that is a product of the company that used to represent the vast majority of their revenue. With both revenue and market share declining, does Mozilla still have the clout it needs to direct the evolution of the web in a direction that is open and transparent?

I am a firm believer that the web would be a worse place without Mozilla. One of my largest concerns is that it appears many higher level Mozillians don’t seem to think anything is wrong. Perhaps they are too close to the issue, or so focused on the cause that it’s difficult or impossible to take a step back and assess where the organization came from, where they are and where they are going. Perhaps the organization is a little lost internally… struggling with decreasing market share of their main project, less than stellar adoption on mobile, interesting projects such as rust and servo taking resource and internal conflict about which direction is the best path forward. Whatever the case, it appears externally, based on the number of people leaving and the decreasing willingness to discuss anything, that something is systemically culturally amiss.

Or perhaps I’m wrong here and everything really is fine. Perhaps this is simply the result of an organization that has seen tremendous growth and this new grown up and more corporate Mozilla really is the best organization to move the Open Web forward. I’m interested in hearing what others think on this topic. Has Mozilla lost its way and if so, how? More importantly if so, how do we move forward and pragmatically address the issue(s)? I think Mozilla is too important to the future of the web to not at least ask these questions.

NOTE: We also discussed this topic on the most recent episode of Bad Voltage. You should listen to the entire episode, but I’ve included just the Mozilla segment here for your convenience.

–jeremy

PS: I have reached out to a few people at Mozilla to get their take on this. Ideally I’d like to have an interview with one or more of them up at LQ next week, but I don’t have any firm confirmations yet. If you work or worked at Mozilla and have something to add, feel free to post here or contact me directly so we can set something up. We need you Mozilla; let’s get this fixed.

Update: Gerv from Mozilla agreed to an interview with LQ, and a couple other Mozillians have reached out.

Bad Voltage Season 1 Episode 44 Has Been Released

Jono Bacon, Bryan Lunduke (he returns!), Stuart Langridge and myself present Bad Voltage, in which all books are signed from now on, we reveal that we are coming to Europe in September and you can come to the live show, and:

  • 00:01:39 In the last show, Bad Voltage fixed Mozilla, or at least proposed what we think they might want to do to fix themselves. We asked Mozilla PR for comment or a statement, and they declined. This leads into a discussion about Mozilla’s internal culture, and how their relationships with the community have changed
  • 00:18:14 Stuart reviews Seveneves, the new book by Neal Stephenson
  • 00:29:28 Bad Voltage Fixes the F$*%ing World: we pick a technology or company or thing that we think isn’t doing what it should be, and discuss what it should be doing instead. We look at a company who have been in the news recently, but maybe wish they weren’t: Sourceforge
  • 00:51:30 Does social media advertising work? We tried a challenge: we’d each spend fifty dollars on advertising Bad Voltage on Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and the like, and see how we got on and whether it’s worth the money. Is it? Maybe you can do better?

Listen to 1×44: Bad Voltage

As mentioned here, Bad Voltage is a project I’m proud to be a part of. From the Bad Voltage site: Every two weeks Bad Voltage delivers an amusing take on technology, Open Source, politics, music, and anything else we think is interesting, as well as interviews and reviews. Do note that Bad Voltage is in no way related to LinuxQuestions.org, and unlike LQ it will be decidedly NSFW. That said, head over to the Bad Voltage website, take a listen and let us know what you think.

–jeremy

 

Bad Voltage Season 1 Episode 43: Got The Om On

Jono Bacon, Stuart Langridge and myself present Bad Voltage, in which Bryan is sadly unavoidably absent, we discuss relationships between the Ubuntu and Kubuntu community councils, we ask you to tell us which bits you like, there are once again accusations that eating yoghurt is a bad personality trait, and:

  • 00:01:57 Bad Voltage Fixes the F$*%ing World: we pick a technology or company or thing that we think isn’t doing what it should be, and discuss what it should be doing instead. In this first iteration, we talk about Mozilla
  • 00:28:40 Meditation is reputedly a good way to relieve stress and stay centred, and we look at HeadSpace.com who offer a purchasable digital set of meditation tapes and guidebooks, as well as some brief diversions into the nature of relaxation and the voice of Jeff Bridges
  • 00:44:45 Rick Spencer, Canonical’s VP of Ubuntu engineering and services, talks about Canonical’s focus, the recent announcements around phones and “internet of things” devices, and how community feelings about Ubuntu’s direction dovetail with Canonical’s goals
  • 01:06:12 We’ve talked about 3d printers in the past, in the context of you owning one, but there are online services which allow you to upload a 3d design and then will print it in a variety of materials and send it back to you in the post. Could this be the way that 3d printing really reaches the mainstream?

Listen to 1×43: Got The Om On

As mentioned here, Bad Voltage is a project I’m proud to be a part of. From the Bad Voltage site: Every two weeks Bad Voltage delivers an amusing take on technology, Open Source, politics, music, and anything else we think is interesting, as well as interviews and reviews. Do note that Bad Voltage is in no way related to LinuxQuestions.org, and unlike LQ it will be decidedly NSFW. That said, head over to the Bad Voltage website, take a listen and let us know what you think.

–jeremy

Bad Voltage Season 1 Episode 41: Second Lunch is my Favourite Lunch

Jono Bacon, Bryan Lunduke, Stuart Langridge and myself present Bad Voltage, in which hell may be slightly chillier than previously. Featuring the uses for abundant graphical power, the nature of what “cross-platform” really means, and:

  • 00:02:15 Google announce Google Fi, a new MVNO-style mobile network joining together wifi, Sprint, and T-Mobile for US customers and allowing international roaming and a pay-what-you-need rate for data. Is this actually a good idea? What about how it only works on the Nexus 6?
  • 00:18:00 We speak to Mashable senior tech correspondent and podcaster Christina “@film_girl” Warren about the Microsoft Build conference announcement that the Visual Studio Code editor is newly available for Linux as well as other platforms, and MS’s apparent increasing friendliness to open source. Is it real? Is it good?
  • 00:37:16 Bryan reviews the NVIDIA Jetson TK-1 development kit, a Raspberry-Pi-style small board but with 192 GPU cores
  • 00:51:12 A blog comment from Glyph suggesting that “Linux is not, practically speaking, more tweakable” than alternative desktop OSes starts a discussion about whether that’s the truth and why Linux desktop automation tools aren’t (or are) as good as AppleScript and Windows COM automation

Listen to 1×41: Second Lunch is my Favourite Lunch

As mentioned here, Bad Voltage is a project I’m proud to be a part of. From the Bad Voltage site: Every two weeks Bad Voltage delivers an amusing take on technology, Open Source, politics, music, and anything else we think is interesting, as well as interviews and reviews. Do note that Bad Voltage is in no way related to LinuxQuestions.org, and unlike LQ it will be decidedly NSFW. That said, head over to the Bad Voltage website, take a listen and let us know what you think.

–jeremy

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