5 Things - Week Ending 10/18/13

This is the 53rd post in a series called 5 Things. Each week I will share a combination of technology articles and apps that I have discovered and liked in the past week. Anything highlighted in blue is a link to an article, an app, or another section of my website.

The $129 Nest Protect, launching this fall, is a handsome white square with rounded corners and an op-arty sunflower pattern. When smoke or carbon monoxide reaches a government-specified level of peril, the device performs like every other alarm. But what sets Nest Protect apart is its vocal warning before things get that bad. This feature has the potential to save lives: Millions of people intentionally disable smoke alarms because they’re fed up when the alert blares at the slightest hint of charred bacon. Nest’s verbal alert gives owners a chance to head off a heart-palpitating klaxon call when none is warranted, making it less likely they’ll rip out the batteries in disgust. And the Nest Protect will never wake you at 3 a.m. to inform you that the battery is low—instead, when the lights go down at bedtime, its gentle ring of light provides a status report. A green glow means all is fine; a yellow circle tells you that it’s time to replace the battery.

Nest is a company started by Tony Fadell (inventor of the iPod). Their mission is to take the unloved products in your home and make them into simple, beautiful, and thoughtful things.

In 2011, Nest introduced the Nest Thermostat. This fall they are introducting their second product, the Nest Protect. The Protect is a smoke detector that can sense smoke and carbon monoxide. The Protect connects to the Wi-Fi in your house and can communicate with your phone or tablet.

The Protect also offers some really great features:

  • No more frantically swinging towels at the smoke alarm to quiet it down. If there’s a nuisance alarm, just stand under Nest Protect and wave your arm to hush the alert.
  • In addition to an alarm sound, Nest Protect speaks to you with a human voice. It tells you what the problem is and where it is.
  • If there’s an issue, like the batteries need replacing, the light ring will glow yellow. Just wave at Nest Protect and it will tell you what’s wrong.

I have mentioned numerous times in past blog posts that we will continue to see technology invade more and more areas of the home and Nest is one of the companies that will make that a reality.

I am going to attempt to convince our landlords to replace our smoke detectors with the Nest Protect because we deal with false alarms on a frequent basis!

F.lux Helps Computer Addicts Sleep Better

Jon Russell:

In short, if you spend evenings (and early hours) sitting in front of a computer screen for any reason, F.lux will help you sleep better, by calibrating your screen’s brightness to the rise and fall of the sun in your location.

I highly recommend F.lux for anyone that uses a computer late in the day. I have been using it for a couple years now and I love it!

I wrote a blog post called The Tech I Use - f.lux that goes into a bit more detail about f.lux.

Think You Can Live Offline Without Being Tracked? Here's What It Takes

Sarah Kessler:

But even as more people become aware they are being tracked throughout their daily lives, few understand to what extent. In a recent Pew Internet study, 37% of respondents said they thought it was possible to be completely anonymous online. From experts like Sell, you’ll get a different range of answers about whether it’s possible to live without any data trail: “100% no,” she says.

This article highlights the various ways that we are being tracked online and in the real world. I found it fascinating to what lengths some people go to avoid being tracked. In my opinion, it is pretty much impossible to live under the radar in today's world.

HTG Explains: Why Does Rebooting a Computer Fix So Many Problems?

Chris Hoffman:

Ask a geek how to fix a problem you’ve having with your Windows computer and they’ll likely ask “Have you tried rebooting it?” This seems like a flippant response, but rebooting a computer can actually solve many problems.

This article explains why rebooting your device is the first thing us geeks recommend you do when you are having a problem with your technology.

It won't solve every problem, but it will solve many of them!

A long way home with help from Google Earth

Peter Birch:

In 1986, a five-year-old boy named Saroo Munshi Khan accidentally fell asleep on a stationary train in India. He woke up hours later, alone and in an unfamiliar place. This fateful train ride ripped Saroo away from his home and family. For more than a quarter century, he searched for them before finding his way back home with the help of Google Earth.

This is an amazing story of a man that found his family 25 years after being separated from them as a child. Without the use of Google Earth, I don't think it would have been possible for hime to be reunited with his family.

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