Posted on Thu 17 February 2022

smart homes are still for tinkers

There are two kinds of smart home enthusiasts: the kind who buy into a particular cloudy ecosystem and need to buy all new stuff every few years, and the kind who spend all their time tinkering on their in-house systems. Fairly often the tinkers also end up buying all new stuff, but they get to do it in incremental steps where everything works (more or less) during the transitions.

I’m not an enthusiast: I want a return on investment in money, convenience or fun.

There’s a thermostat in each fridge that keeps it at the right temperature. It’s never failed except when the whole house had a power outage, and I’ve never needed to obsess over the current temperature. The house thermostats get changed twice a year: when we start keeping windows open regularly, and when we stop.

The lights in the house are controlled by wall switches. There are precisely two places in the house where it would occasionally be nice to change the state of a light switch which is not close at hand. It’s not much of an inconvenience.

The electrical outlets have things plugged into them, most of which are either off or charging at any given moment. There is exactly one place in the house where I would like to occasionally flip power state from across the room. I could solve that with a remote RF power switch, and it would be reasonably cheap, but I haven’t.

I have extensive music systems, which don’t respond to voice commands because there are no permanently active microphones in my house. It’s stored in a central system, shared to all the computers that want to read from it, and can be accessed in several ways, including a web player that will direct sound to any set of speakers in the house. It’s not “smart”. It’s unobtrusive, and doesn’t do things on its own.

And that’s what I like.

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