I Want My Music To Follow Me.

Android: WiFi Speaker

When working around the house we oftentimes want to move from room to room cleaning, organizing, resting – but we feel limited because the music is playing off our laptop or stereo system and if we leave the room we won’t be able to hear the song anymore. If it is a laptop it isn’t too much hassle to move it to a new location – but sometimes you need to go back and forth between rooms or floors quickly and it would be silly to carry the laptop dozens of times between these rooms.

The standard answer is, “Go buy a Sonos. Then buy wireless speakers for each room in the house you want the music to play in.” This gets a bit pricey – and Bose and Samsung aren’t offering budget line items either. At least for me, Sonos wasn’t an option.

Screenshot of WiFi Speaker Server running on a Windows 8.1 machine.
Screenshot of WiFi Speaker Server running on a Windows 8.1 machine.

So what else? I’ve tried turning the music up real loud but two problems remain. First, if I enter the room where the speakers are my eardrums scream out in agony and second, at least my sound system can’t overpower the noise of a vacuum cleaner or other electric household tool that insists on making loud noises and which family members always seem to insist on using just as one is sitting down to relax and watch TV or talk on the phone.

For a while I didn’t have a solution…but then my sound system (which I’d picked up at a garage sale for $10) died (due to a mischievous cat loving to eat cables) and I was waiting for my new sound system to arrive (Logitech Surround Sound Speakers Z506)…so I became creative (it isn’t that I actually needed speakers at the moment – but that I don’t like my electronics to be broken…so that when I do need/want to use it, its ready to go) and did some searching around the Google Play App store. I found a nifty little application by William Morrison called “WiFi Speaker.” I installed it on my phone and then another little app onto my laptop. With a few mouse clicks my computer was now sending the audio over WiFi to my smartphone. I turned on Spotify, put in ear buds, grabbed the vacuum, and merrily went about my way.

The application is available in both free and pro versions. The pro version costs $3.99. Yes, I bought it. You can see the official website for the software (and links to download) here. There is also a helpful guide for those who might be struggling getting WiFi Speaker up and running.

A screenshot of WiFi Speaker running on my Samsung Galaxy S3.
A screenshot of WiFi Speaker running on my Samsung Galaxy S3.

I wondered if this could also be used to setup a smartphone (or phones) as speaker(s) for the laptop when watching a video (movie, TV, YouTube). I didn’t make any configuration changes and just started playing a video – but the mouths weren’t in sync with the conversation on the laptop.

I have tried making a few configuration changes since then with bad results. Sometimes the laptop began hissing static at me, other times it gave out little bleeps that I think where supposed to be music, and finally, I couldn’t get it to work at all.

What is the first thing you try when fixing a technology problem? Reboot the device. So I took my own advice and rebooted my Windows box and when everything came up, it worked just fine again.

I suspect that if I had closed out the server application before making these changes on the phone and then opened it again after making the changes, the problem would not have occurred. I’m planning to shoot the developer an email letting him know about the issue and hopefully a patch can be quickly produced.

iPhone: Airfoil for Windows/Mac

I don’t use an iPhone – haven’t for years and I’m not looking back wistfully either. I know many of you still insist on Apple technology (I really don’t have a problem with Apple, I just like to goad my friends and family who are Apple fans) – so here is what I found for you (and not surprising, it is more expensive).

Screenshot of Airfoil on a Mac.
Screenshot of Airfoil on a Mac.

Rogue Amoeba Software has written  “Airfoil for Windows” and “Airfoil for Mac” application which runs on your Windows computer. The application costs $25, you can download a free trial before purchasing. This software is installed on either your Windows or Mac computer. Don’t forget to grab the free app for your iPhone! If you do purchase this software and have the opportunity to utilize it, I’d love to be able to share some firsthand experiences about the iPhone app.

 

The State of IP (Web-Based Thermostats) 2013 Edition

Introduction

In June of 2011, nearly two years ago, I wrote an article summarizing the state of IP (web-based) enabled thermostats. I revised this article in April of 2012, over a year ago. Now, it seems appropriate, to create a new post reflecting the state of IP enabled thermostats in 2013.

This article will include all information still relevant from the older article along with new information regarding developments from 2012 until now.

I welcome comments regarding this post including:

  • Any IP based thermostats I may have missed.
  • Your experiences with various IP based thermostats.

Without further ado…

The Selection

ecobee

  • Offers 24% cost savings on heating and 21% on cooling as compared to leaving thermostat fixed on 72 degrees.[1]
  • I was unable to find an RSS feed using Feedly to keep up with ecobee’s blog…That is a big no no!
  • Offers solutions for home and business.
  • Website is very nice, apps, etc. appear well-finished – but no noticeable distinguishable features at consumer level, though business units offer administrative flexibility beyond that found in home units.
  • Prices appear to start around $200 and go up.
  • Conclusion: Might be worth considering for larger building where administration controls are needed, otherwise, seems neck-and-neck with competition.
Images of ecobee's thermostat and remote management.
Images of ecobee’s thermostat and remote management.

Radio Thermostat

  • Two different models are available direct from Radio Thermostat – the CT80 ($250) and the CT30 ($140).
  • Requires either a “C” or “Common” wire or an external power adapter.
  • 3M used to rebrand/resell these under the Filtrete brand via Home Depot, but appears to have stopped doing so.
  • They also lack an RSS feed (or even a real blog), the website design is outmoded, and the devices are not as slick as competitor options. That said, they do have online and public forums.
Radio Thermostat's WiFi thermostat.
Radio Thermostat’s WiFi thermostat.

Proliphix

  • Has a blog with RSS feed.
  • One of the oldest IP thermostat manufacturers.
  • Pricing is not available on the website.
  • Used to have residential solutions, but there is no mention of them on the site anymore.

Bay Controls

  • Site is pretty horrific.
  • No blog.
  • Installs in 30 minutes.
  • No recurring costs.
  • Has an iPhone client.
  • Looks to have significant customizability but at cost of user friendliness, a geek’s friend, but perhaps not for the average consumer.
  • Pricing starts at $220.
Bay Controls' Scary Geeky Thermostat
Bay Controls’ Scary Geeky Thermostat

Network Thermostat (Net/X)

  • Receives disappointing site award alongside Bay Controls.
  • Offers web-based and PC based management software which looks nice and feature-filled.
  • The web management console is a server built into the device, no cloud services.
  • Pricing starts around $450.
  • Offers special pricing for non-profits.

Intwine Energy

  • Company website was slow, consumer facing site appears to be down.
  • Most recent press release is from 2011.
  • Wouldn’t recommend due to lack of activity on site, though devices look fine.

Nexia Home (Formerly Schlage LiNK)

  • Appears to be rebranded via American Standard and Trane.
  • Offers the advantage of also supporting cameras, lighting, locks, and sensors.
  • Monthly fee of $9.
  • Utilizes Z-Wave technology, not WiFi per say.
  • Pricing starts at $150 for just the thermostat, but you’ll also need a bridge. A bundle is available for around $230.
  • No blog.
Nexia's Thermostat, Bridge, and Power Bundle
Nexia’s Thermostat, Bridge, and Power Bundle

Nest Thermostat

  • Created by former Apple folks, has gotten a lot of the recent press and consumer love.
  • Website and device appear beautiful.
  • Has partnered with energy utilities to offer the device for free if you sign up for select providers (only available in some states).
  • Has a blog, including RSS feed.
  • Devices are available from Amazon as well as Lowes and Home Depot.
  • Price is $250.
  • This system does not require a C wire.
The beautiful Nest thermostat.
The beautiful Nest thermostat.

Enphase Energy

  • Seems like Enphase is moving away from focusing on intelligent thermostats and focusing more on solar panels?
  • Uses the ZigBee protocol and thus requires a bridge device.
  • Website is slick and has a blog with RSS.
  • Only sells via distributors, no pricing easily available.

Venstar

  • Offers both residential and commercial solutions.
  • Offers the Surveyor product which allows for HVAC, lighting/electrical, and mechnical systems monitoring.
  • Claims (for Surveyor) “Go Green for No Green” (no cash up front, no capital expense, cash flow positive from day one). Didn’t see details on this program.

Energate

  • Has a blog, but no RSS.
  • Appears to work only through utilities.

EcoFactor

  • No blog.
  • Appears to work through utilities.

Trane

  • Offers the ComfortLink and ComfortLink II – both of which are web enabled.
  • The Nexia branded home thermostat starts at $150.
  • Thermostats are full color (except Nexia).

LockState Connect

  • Pricing starts at $170 for IP thermostat.
  • Ongoing monthly costs of $.99 for basic services for first device or $1.98 for premium (this includes email/sms alerts). Additional devices are $.99/mo.
  • Uses WiFi, not ZigBee or Z-Wave.
  • Also supports cameras, locks, and power strips.
  • No blog.
  • Requires a “C” wire, but also supports a 24VAC transformer.
Nexia's Thermostat, Bridge, and Power Bundle
Nexia’s Thermostat, Bridge, and Power Bundle

Honeywell

  • Full color available from $250 from Home Depot, monochrome from $120 for button-based and $150 for touchscreen. Appears slightly better pricing is available via Amazon.
  • All of these units require a “C” wire. If you have an older home/business you may not have this wire run to your thermostat. There are instructions on how to check on the website. It is quite unfortunate, there WiFi-less models have batteries that allow them to operate without the “C” wire, but these apparently don’t.
Full Color Honeywell WiFi Thermostat
Full Color Honeywell WiFi Thermostat
The Monochrome Honeywell Touchscreen WiFi Thermostat
The Monochrome Honeywell Touchscreen WiFi Thermostat
The Button-Based Monochrome Honeywell WiFi Thermostat.
The Button-Based Monochrome Honeywell WiFi Thermostat.

Hunter

  • Used to offer the Hunter Universal WiFi Internet Thermostat for $100, but it has been discontinued.

Lennox

  • Offers the icomfort Wi-Fi Touchscreen Thermostat.

Insteon

  • Requires a hub ($130~).
  • Pricing starts at $150 for thermostat.
  • Also supports lights, dimmers, switches, cameras, security, sprinkler and so on.
  • No blog.

Residential Control Systems (RCS) Technology

  • Has Z-Wave, ZigBee, and native WiFI thermostats.
  • Products are monochrome
  • No blog.

Evolve Guest Controls

  • Thermostats start at $150.
  • Monochrome.
  • Has a blog with RSS.

2GIG Technologies

  • Uses Z-Wave.
  • Pricing around $150.
  • No blog.

Vaporware?

Conclusions

I’d be hesitant to utilize anything that runs over Z-Wave, ZigBee, or Insteon. I think WiFi is the wave of the future – but that might just be me. What do you think?

The Nest, LockState Connect, and Honeywell options look the most attractive to me. I just signed up with a new energy utility and they are sending me a free Nest…so that is what I’ll be using at home.

  1. [1]Not that anyone with a programmable thermostat does that anymore.