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Home Automation: Evaluating the Options

Home Automation: Evaluating the Options

    In Monday’s article, we discussed the various ways home automation can make life easier. Today we’ll look at the primary commercial methods of automating the home—a true and grand lifehack, in that it hacks the primary habitat in your life!

    At the end of the day, there are two main methods of home automation. The most popular is probably most popular because it is most affordable, and that’s plug-in automation provided by companies such as X10 (warning: annoying flashing lights if you follow the link) and Insteon. You plug these devices directly into the wall, and they form a network and communicate through the home’s power lines, and/or by radio.

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    The other solutions are hardwired. You need to build these into your house, whether that involves planning a new house from the ground up to integrate home automation, or doing some extreme retrofitting of your existing house. They provide a more seamless experience, of course—hard to call something seamless when modules sticking out of power outlets dot the landscape. Two companies that provide this sort of system are Crestron and Vantage.

    Weighing Up a Plug-in System

    Plug-in solutions such as the X10 or Insteon are cheap. They’re not just cheaper to purchase, but cheaper to install, since you just whack them into a power outlet (much of the time, at least). They’re also easier to move around—if you’re renting a house, it should be no problem to take your modules with you.

    Unfortunately, you get what you pay for. Plug-in modules have a reputation for being unreliable and doing strange things. You don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night to find all the lights around the house flashing on and off! Of course, many enjoy these products or they wouldn’t be so popular in the world of home automation, so it’s hard to say whether the problem is the product or the person using, and installing, the product.

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    I’m willing to bet that the reliability of such a system is dependent on the knowledge, skill and care of its owner and operator, if not just for the fact that if these systems were so unreliable that they barely ever worked, they wouldn’t be the most popularly selling systems with dedicated fanbases.

    That said, it makes sense that these systems would be less reliable no matter what. Instead of crafting a permanent, carefully planned system in between the walls of your house, you’re running things from power outlets. Simply knocking something as you walk by could put the system out.

    Weighing Up a Wired System

    Wired solutions are reliable by design. I’m not saying there are never problems with them. They run on electricity and they’re made by humans, so you can expect problems. But by design, they’re sturdy. They’re protected by your walls. They’re well-planned, carefully-installed, and properly-programmed systems that don’t change and aren’t modular. While the lack of modularity can be a nuisance for those perpetual experimenters who don’t have the ability to set it and forget it, it provides reliability.

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    The downside, of course, is that such systems are expensive. Far more expensive than other systems. And in the case of X10 and Insteon, the changes you need to make to your home’s wiring are minor and depend on what you need to do; even if you rent, the cost is minimal (so long as you get your landlord’s go ahead). When it comes to complicated, built-in wired systems, you need to have your own home. I’m sure the landlord wouldn’t mind if you added that sort of value to the house, but I’m also sure we all agree that’s a stupid way to spend your money unless you’re really fond of the person who takes your rent money.

    What Should You Buy?

    “Ah, here comes the conclusion,” you say. “I know what he’s going to tell us — that there is no one right decision and that it depends on personal factors.”

    Yeah, I know I say that a lot in my articles, but this time I have to say there’s a clear winner. If you have your own home, don’t waste your money on a plug-in system. The extra to wire up permanently will be well worth it.

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    That said, the decision is dependent on a variety of factors. Money, whether your home is rental or owned, whether you have the electrical skills. Add the factors up and see which is best for you, but I think if it can be helped anyone interested in good, reliable home automation should be prepared to do it properly. There’s no half-assery around these parts of town.

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    Joel Falconer

    Editor, content marketer, product manager and writer with 12+ years of experience in the startup, design and tech digital media industries.

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    Last Updated on January 13, 2020

    11 Brain Training Apps to Train Your Mind and Improve Memory

    11 Brain Training Apps to Train Your Mind and Improve Memory

    Whether at work or at school, people these days are under tremendous pressure to perform, perform and perform! Stress and pressure can have adverse affects on the well-being of a person, and need to be controlled.

    Now, this doesn’t mean you make a dash to your nearest therapist. There are a number of wonderful and smart apps that you can use on your phone. These brain training apps have been scientifically designed to target specific areas of the human mind and control harmful emotions such as anxiety, as well as to improve memory and sharpness of the brain.

    Here are 11 iPhone apps that you will not only enjoy but also find useful in keeping your mental health balanced at all times.

    1. Lumosity

    This app consists of games that focus on improving the user’s memory, problem-solving capability, attention span, and thinking. There are three games in each session, and they challenge the brain by changing every time. The user has to complete the games while playing against a clock.

    Free of trial. $15 per month for the full version.

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    Luminosity Mind training apps-Lifehack

      2. Fit Brains Trainer

      This brain training app has 10 sets of games that work on different areas of the brain and improve memory as well as concentration. A user is required to finish a particular task from each category on a daily basis and the app tracks the progress by a color coded graph.

      Free.

      Fit Brains Trainer Mind training apps-Lifehack

        3. CogniFit Brain Fitness

        Developed with the help of neuroscientists, this fun app improves a person’s cognitive abilities, which includes memory and concentration. The progress made by the user over a period of time can be tracked. Users can also play challenge rounds with their friends. The app also modifies the difficulty level to suit the profile of the user and provide recommendations based on the results. Spending 20–30 minutes a few times every week can give measurable improvement in the performance of a user.

        First four games free, then $13 a month.

        cognifit-Mind Training Apps-Lifehack

          4. Brain Fitness Pro

          The makers of this app claim that it can improve the IQ of a user, and improve intelligence and memory. The app is fun and is user friendly, and 30 minutes a day can fetch you results in less than three weeks.

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          Buy for $3.99.

          5. Happify

          If nothing else makes you happy in life, this app will. Well, this is what the developers claim at least. This app comes loaded with lots of quizzes, polls and gratitude journals, which work on the fundamentals of positive psychology. The app also helps to control stress and emotions to make you feel better.

          Free to use.

          Happify-Mind Training Apps-Lifehack

            6. Clockwork Brain

            You will like the little gold robot that comes in every time to explain the next game you are going to play. While the games are not much different to those offered in apps such as Luminosity, the look and feel reminds me of a workshop from old times.

            Free.

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            Clockwork Trsin-Mind Training Apps-Lifehack

              7. ReliefLink

              Initially created as an app for suicide prevention, it has found its use as a great app for tracking the mood of the user by taking measure of all things relevant to the user’s mental health. In case the user experiences high emotional stress, the app has a coping mechanism that includes voice-recorded mindfulness, exercises and music for relaxation. There is also a map that informs the user of the nearest therapist and medical facilities for mental health treatment.

              Relief Link - Mind Training Apps - Lifehack

                8. Eidetic

                Eidetic is a memory enhancement app and uses a ‘spaced repetition’ technique to help users memorize information such as important phone numbers, words, credit card details or passwords. It also notifies you when it’s time to take a test to see what you remember, so that you retain information in your long-term memory.

                Eidetic - Mind Training Apps - Lifehack

                  9. Braingle

                  Braingle helps to maintain the sharpness of the brain and improve the reasoning ability of a person through riddles and optical illusions. It is different from other brain training apps that employ memory and reaction based tests. You can also compete with your friends and family members in figuring out the fun riddles.

                  Free.

                  Briangle- Mind Training Apps-LIfehack

                    10. Not The Hole Story

                    If you have a penchant for solving hard riddles, then this app is a must-have for you. Filled with exclusive riddles along with a simple-to-use interface, the app gives you riddles that you have to solve through a book. You will be given hints along the way, and when you give up, the answers will be revealed. This app will encourage you to broaden your thinking and put your mind to a challenging test.

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                    Free.

                    Not the hole story - Mind Training Apps - Lifehack

                      11. Personal Zen

                      This fun brain training app follows the journey of two animated characters who travel through a field of grass. Personal Zen is a nice app meant for reducing anxiety and trains the brain to focus on the positive aspects. The developer’s advice is to use the app for 10 minutes a day to see the best results.

                      Free.

                      personal zen- mind training apps - lifehack

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                        Featured photo credit: NeONBRAND via unsplash.com

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