View this email in your browser
(320) 237-1789        

PC Publican Newsletter (#7)

July, 2019

Internet of Things

This is a term most of you have probably encountered, but what does it really mean? It means that devices everywhere will someday have the capability to collect, process, and transmit data.  Frightening? Yes, but there are many potential benefits.  This newsletter will highlight what I think are some of the best devices currently part of the "Internet of Things" universe.


Nest Thermostat

The Nest is a digital thermostat with wireless capability.  It performs the usual heating and cooling chores, but also can be programmed to preset temperatures and modes, customized for each hour and day of the week.   It also offers a cellphone app which can be used to control/program the Nest from anywhere you have an Internet connection.  I use this app to check the house temperature while I'm away, and to occasionally give the cats a break from the heat or cool during the day.

The Nest is easy to (self-)install, and can use the existing wiring in the vast majority of homes.  If you don't have a dedicated low-voltage power wire (like our house) the Nest will run the fan occasionally and harvest the power from that operation to power the device.

Note that Nest is now part of the Google Home family of products.  It's my understanding that Google will be removing support for many 3rd-party applications but will be sparing Amazon Echo (Alexa) (see below).  You can find the Nest Thermostat here.

Amazon Echo

Perhaps better known as "Alexa," the Echo comes in a number of sizes: the Echo Plus, the Echo, and the Echo Dot.  The former has a built-in "smart-hub" which allows it to control a larger number of smart home devices.  The Echo Dot is a hockey-puck-sized device with full voice recognition capability but with a (much) smaller speaker.

The echo recognizes a name, such as "Alexa," and then waits for your voice command.  You can ask it general questions (i.e. "What time is it?", "What's the weather forecast?"), or connect skills for more capabilities.  You can connect music accounts such as Spotify, Amazon Music, or Apple Music and then ask it to play songs, albums, or even genres.  I have a house full of Echos (6!) and interact with them every day.  Here's a sampling of how I use it:

  • Playing music from my Amazon Music subscription.
  • Listening to my favorite podcasts.
  • Setting timers for tasks in the kitchen.
  • Setting a backup morning alarm.
  • Getting the weekly weather report.
  • Setting the house temperature (through my Nest thermostat) when I wake up or fall asleep.
  • Playing "Jeopardy!"

You can find the full collection of Echo devices here, and the full list of Echo skills here.  PC Publican can help with purchase, installation, and configuration of your Echo(s).

Smart Plugs

Smart plugs are devices that plug into standard wall outlets and allow you to switch any device connected to them on and off.  They often include a pass-through outlet so you don't lose any usable sockets, and can typically pass as much as 12A of current, which makes them suitable (safe) for many small appliances.  Some interesting usages (think about voice-control via Alexa here):

  • Controlling a room fan.
  • Turning a heating pad on or off while you're tucked into bed.
  • Controlling home electronics (e.g. AV receiver).
  • Remote access to hard to reach outlets.
A more comprehensive list of uses can be found here.

You can purchase smart plugs here, and PC Publican can help install and configure these devices for maximum usefulness.

Light Bulbs

Light bulbs are another category where "smart" devices are useful and plentiful.  The basic connected light bulb is controlled via phone app and also by Amazon Alexa.  You can turn it on or off or dim it to any level in between.  The more advanced bulbs, like Philips Hue, can light a room in a near-infinite number of colors (you can choose from around 16,000,000!).  Possible uses include:

  • Turning off a bedside lamp with your voice.
  • Creating "mood" or "accent" lighting in a particular space.
  • Scheduling interior lights when you're away from home (vacation).

If you are interested in some really creative (and technical) uses check out this blog.

As I mentioned above ("Smart Plugs"), if you are going to be controlling devices through an Amazon Echo (Alexa) I strongly recommend the more expensive Amazon Echo Plus.  The Philips Hue bulbs, for example, will require an expensive hub (sold by Philips) to control its products unless you own an Echo Plus.  You can find a wide range of smart bulbs for purchase here.

Reviews & Referrals

Finally, if you have used our services in the past and were satisfied, please leave a review on Google and/or Yelp.  If you weren't happy please call, e-mail, or text and let us know how we can do better.

Recommended Products

Below are links to products I frequently use and recommend:

Antivirus & Anti-Malware External Hard Drives Wireless Keyboard/Mouse
Wireless Routers/Mesh Cloud Storage Providers DNS Providers VPN Services Computers Business E-Mail Domain & Web Hosting Internet Of Things/Smart Home


PC Publican is a limited liability company dedicated to providing residential and small-business customers with affordable, high-quality computer care. We strive for the highest level of customer service and satisfaction.



Friend on Facebook
Copyright © 2019 PC Publican, All rights reserved.

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp