Best All-Around Smart Lights: Philips Hue

I love these…

There are a lot of smart light systems on the market.

However, when I moved to Pennsylvania and in to a larger house, I thought it was time for me to jump on the smart home light train. Part of this was driven by the fact that our new house has about a million light switches that we can’t remember what turns what on.

Perfect time for a home technology upgrade!!

Photo by Vlada Karpovich on Pexels.com

The Options

Multi-color or standard dimming: I knew that I didn’t really want (rather need) to turn my living room a lovely shade of purple at dinner time, so I stuck with the more basic (and less expensive) option.

Most of these two-tone dimming bulbs give you the bright to warm option that you get with normal light bulbs.

Hub vs No-Hub: This one may depend on how big your house is or how many smart light bulbs you plan on purchasing.

I was moving in to a bigger house and had a bunch of lights I was going to be upgrading, so I went with the Hub option. From what I have read, this puts less traffic on your home wifi-router as well as all the smart lights access your internet via the hub rather than directly.

Also, since going with the hub system normally keeps the brand all the same, it’s easier to keep them all up to date. (from what I’ve seen)

Homekit vs Google Home vs Etc.: What system the smart bulbs are compatible with didn’t really matter to me since I already had a Google Home and Apple products.

Best choice is to get a smart bulb system that works with both…which is what I did.

Photo by Vlada Karpovich on Pexels.com

My Choice

Philips Hue smart bulbs.

Getting the starter pack gives you the hub and a few bulbs, and they are incredibly easy to set up. You can use Google Home or Apple Home Kit, I use both…which I really like.

I’ve got them set up with multiple rooms, both upstairs and downstairs. One of my favorite features (easiest to set up with Home Kit from what I can see) is timing downstairs lights to come on before I wake up and turning off all lights at midnight incase we forget to turn them off.

Also, Home Kit has a location aware setting where the smart lights will turn off if both my wife and I leave the house and turn on again when one of us returns.

All that to say…the name brand company is sure to stick around, is available almost everywhere, and I never have to fear they will go by the wayside.

If you’re curious, you can check them out over at Amazon.

You Want the Best Traveler’s Notebook? Start Here.

If you ever hunt for buried treasure…this is your notebook…

I jumped down this rabbit hole a while back and got lost in the sea of the “Traveler’s Notebook” community.

There is the “official” Traveler’s notebook from the Traveler’s Company based out of Japan, and then there are a bunch of others that have iterated off of their brand.

I had no idea that there were whole communities built around something so small…correction…something so complicated. I ended up with the smaller, blue version of the original that I use at work and then have the below larger version (from another company) for some personal journaling.

Check them out here and here.

Best USB-C Hub for MacBook Pro

One hub to rule them all…

One of the reasons I waited so long to trade in my 2015 MacBook Pro was all of the glorious ports that it had. From the SD card reader to the HDMI port, it had everything that I needed in that department.

However, as I leaned more heavily in to my Vlog, I began to see the need to upgrade my Mac for speed, hard disk space, RAM, and more.

When Apple came out with the 16 inch MacBook Pro (MBP), it fixed all of the major gripes people had (keyboard, ports, battery life, speed) since the legendary 2015 MBP. It was time for me to upgrade…and upgrade I did.

The only accessory I needed was one hub to rule them all.

I jumped over to Wirecutter for the best recommendation and decided on this hub. It does the trick, feels and acts high quality, is incredibly portable, and has every port I will probably ever need.

If you are in need of a great USB-C hub for your laptop, I highly recommend this one.

World Travel Map: Past Adventures and Lands Yet to Explore

A gorgeous way to display your adventures…

I am an absolute sucker when it comes to quality items like this that not only display where I’ve been…but remind me where I have yet to go.

The World Travel Map by Conquest Maps is a unique canvas map that comes in various sizes, with pins that let you show off where you have had the chance to travel to. As someone in the military (with my wife former miltiary too) this is pretty fun for us.

You can pick between a smaller map or larger panel style versions, like what I bought.

If you’re curious and want to ad a dash of adventure travel to your walls, these are so good.

Setapp for the Work at Home Save

The Netflix of apps pulls through in this “work-at-home” world we live in right now…

I have written about Setapp before.

Just the other day I had a great work-from-home use case and I thought I would share it with you.


At my work the software we are given to manipulate boring things like PDFs is lackluster to say the least. Last week I needed to convert over 200 pages of a word document (that was broken up in to 60 word files) in to a PDF.

Yes, I could have printed all 216 pages and scanned them to a PDF…or… I could make good use of the various Mac apps I have at home.

PDF Expert

My primary PDF reader/editor I use on my Mac is PDF Expert by Readdle. In my opinion it’s the best app that works across the Mac and iOS platforms. However, when I was trying to figure out the best way to use the software to open up 60 word documents and merge them in to one big PDF I was stumped.

PDF Expert

That is when I remembered some PDF software I used pay for before I found PDF Expert…PDFpen.

PDFpen by Smile Software

This was one of the first PDF editing/manipulating pieces of software I ever paid for a few years ago and it’s still a fantastic piece of software…but I eventually got priced out of the Pro version that had the advanced features I wanted.

When I was a recruiter I used to work from my home office a lot, and had to collect various documents and merge them and send them off for processing. PDFpen was my go to mac app to get this done.

As I was trying to figure out how to use PDF Expert to do just this, I remembered my past workflow…but I didn’t own PDFpen any more.

Damn!!

That is when Setapp popped in to my head. Did the “Netflix of Mac Apps” have PDFpen PRO?

Setapp search function

Setapp

You’re damn right it did!

I opened it up, searched for PDFpen and had it downloaded and open in less than a minute.

PDFpen let me open up the first word document directly in it, then all I had to do was drag each of the 59 other word document to the side bar. That’s it! Once I had them all over in the left hand thumbnails area, I just saved the document and boom…a 216 page PDF.

Easy breezy.

Worth It?

With the way that most apps are moving to subscription models, I would say YES.

Rather than paying $150 a year for various applications that you will use, you can pay about $100 a year (or $10/month) for those same apps and a ton more!

There is always the risk that one of your “must-have” apps isn’t in Setapp…but they’re updating their repertoire often.

Might at least be worth checking out.

Fujifilm X-100: The BEST Point and Shoot Camera on the Market

The perfect blend of old school styling and the newest technology…all in one unassuming package.

I bought the X-100F back when I first was downsizing my camera gear and wanted one super high-quality camera for my then budding family. There is a newer model now…the X-100V, that steps up the video shooting game of this amazing camera.

I sold my X-100 about 18 months ago and I really regret it.

When it comes to portrait shooting I think it is unbeatable for the colors it gives you and the slight softening of skin tones while keeping the crisp details that make your subjects pop.

Honestly, if I can ever convince my wife to let me buy this camera again I will.

I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Favorite Hiking Headwear and AdHoc Face Mask: the BUFF

Such a simple thing can be so useful…

I discovered Buffs quite a few years ago when I was hiking and camping a lot more. (translation: “before kids”)

These are great for a variety of things while you’re outdoors. So much so, I even had one stolen out of my Jeep once. (I used to keep it unlocked when it had a soft top)

With COVID-19 everywhere and CDC guidelines recommending face masks in public; I thought that sharing the versatility of the Buff would be perfect for those who can’t get their hands on a medical grade mask.

You can get them for a pretty reasonable price too.