I may have a smart speaker problem

My home automation setup in February 2018


Amazon devices were my first foray into the world of home automation. In addition to working with almost all devices I own, they also have some other uses I didn’t originally intend to use them for.
One echo dot in our bedroom
-mostly used to turn bedside table lights on and off. This is because the iPhone had been generally unresponsive unless we were right next to each other.
-We occasionally set alarms with it as well. Usually a back up to the back up of our iPhone alarms.
The first echo (the original one) that we have in the kitchen
-At one time we had the echo only amazon music plan on this echo. We later cancelled that. We didn’t use it enough, though we wish we still had better music in the kitchen.
-KITCHEN TIMERS. This is the number one use of our echo in the kitchen. It works extremely well for this. Also, you can set multiple timers!
-My wife and I use an app called Anylist for our shared grocery list. This app has an amazon skill that makes it work seamlessly with an Amazon echo. Simply say , “Alexa, add carrots to my shopping list.” It updates the Anylist app immediately.
-Occasionally the kids will use it as a dictionary when doing homework. Although I try (unsuccessfully) to make them use a good old fashion dead tree version
-A new feature that Amazon relatively recently added is called drop in. It essentially makes the echo act like an intercom. Often my older child will be up in his room watching tv after finishing his homework and chores. Before we had to yell up the stairs and hope he heard us. With this feature, we simply drop in from the kitchen and say it’s time for dinner. It is truly a useful feature and actually made me by 2 more echo dots, one for each of my children’s rooms.


The google home devices surprisingly get the least amount of use in our home.
one in our middle child’s room
-for some reason my son is enamored with asking google questions. Google home devices work best for random questions.
-he also likes to ask it to say things in other languages. Until recently, this was only available on google home devices, though Amazon recently added this to the echo.
-Music: I wanted a way for him to be able to listen to music in his room. Since at the time apple offered no such device, the google home works well for this since I already pay for YouTube Red, which gives you free access to google music.
the dining room
-we have one in the dining room but honestly is is hardly used at all. I got it on sale 2 black Friday’s ago.

an extra mini I got on sale and haven’t even opened


The HomePod is obviously a new product in our home.
the kitchen
-This is where my wife and I spend most of our waking hours cooking for the family or just enjoying a cup of coffee. The HomePod is actually sitting right next to the echo at the moment. It can’t yet replace it as there are still some third party integrations that I use. Mainly Anylist.
-Any list is actually Sirikit enabled but it’s not as easy. Firstly, it will only work if my iPhone is in the house. Secondly, the syntax is not as easy as the echo. It requires, “Hey Siri, in Anylist, add carrots to my Alexa shopping list (the current name of the shared grocery list). Apple needs to make this more seamless.

-I’m sure you have read and watched the reviews, but it sounds amazing.

the Living Room
-this was my Valentine’s day gift from my wife. She knew I wanted another one and that eventually they could be used together. The Living Room is bigger than our kitchen and the HomePod sounds even better in that room.

In conclusion

It’s too early to tell if Apple will update Siri to add more functionality anytime soon, but for the improved speaker experience alone, we are happy with our HomePod purchase(s).

If you are all in with Apple devices, are an Apple Music subscriber, and don’t have a lot of Alexa or google home only smart devices, I think you will be happy with a purchase too.

Some initial thoughts on my HomePod

In no particular order

  • As nearly every review has said, the sound is amazing and really fills a room.
  • Much heavier and smaller than you probably thought
  • setup could not be any easier
  • Siri hears you very well even when the music is loud
  • there should be a setting that allows podcast syncing, but does not make it learn music. This would be useful as the whole family asks for music and I don't want my music taste to be skewed, but I still want to be able to play and sync podcasts
  • For the things that Siri does do, it works very fast (i.e. turn on/off lights)
  • Sirikit apps "usually" work but not always at least in my experience. Not sure if that is due to the HomePod, my iPhone X, or my eero's?
  • It could be the shiny new toy effect, but we are really listening to music more already. We still have echo's in the house, but they sound like garbadge.

Why I bought an Apple Watch with LTE

I have children. I also have an iPhone 7+. Sometimes, these things are at odds with each other. Let me explain...

Being a self confessed nerd, I’m usually on twitter or FB or reddit obsessing about productivity (I’m back on OmniFocus by the way) or every detail of the latest smartphone (ordering an iPhone X). When I say these things are at odds with each other I mean I sometimes feel guilty to be on my phone when I’m playing with my kids. I am sure all of you are super parents. You never let your children watch tv, feed them only organic locally sourced food, and bath them in unicorn tears. I am not that person. I sometimes struggle to put my phone away.

When I took my kids to the park today, things were different. I LEFT MY PHONE IN THE CAR. I knew that if anybody needed to reach me, they would be able to. It was so liberating to not be tempted to look at twitter, but still be able to be reached if an emergency came up, or work really needed to get a hold of me.

I know the Apple Watch has a lot of criticism. Not worth the price, battery life not good enough, etc. But for me at least, the cost was well worth it.

Things 3

Not any kind of review here, but a comment. It is absolutely inane to me that I can't complete repeating todo's early.

It is a common thing for me (and I assume others) to look at your bills for instance when you have time. Sometimes when I do this I decide to go ahead and pay a bill and then ..... you know .... CHECK IT OFF MY TODO LIST.

I love the design and many aspects of things 3 (like checklists). But cmon @culturedcode!

DEVONthink to Go search issues

Recently, I was having issues when searching my DEVONthink to Go database. I would search for keywords that I know were in certain notes, however, the notes were not being found. It only seemed to be searching on the note title.

I reached out to Devontechnologies and they were able to help. They even responded within a couple hours!

Follow the below pictures if you are having similar issues:

help menu




Configuring Hover to work with Mailroute

About 6 months ago I made the switch to FastMail and I love it. There was one aspect that I wasn't 100% satisfied with. Spam filtering. I had tried a service called Mailroute before and I liked it, but I thought I could do without it. After 6 months of attempting to train the spam filters, I still get 3-6 spam emails a day. I did not with Mailroute.

If you plan on doing this, one thing to remember... in addition to changing the MX record, you also have to change Hovers's name servers back to the default.

Evernote in the age of DEVONthink to Go

I have used evernote since 2008. I have almost a decade of information in the service. I was a paid member till 2016, where I took a brief break and then started paying again in April of 2017. There is a lot to like about the service but I am growing increasingly frustrated with certain aspects of the service. [^1]

For one, although the redesign on iOS was needed and welcome, I don't think it went nearly far enough. It didn't really add any new functionality. Most tasks on the iOS app are still way to slow and require too many taps. For instance, batch moving notes or tagging on iOS is still not available.

Probably the other biggest issue with the service is how it treats files(notes). I believe it is due to the way Evernote's database works, but evernote can't be used as a document provider the way DEVONthink to Go can.

All the short comings of evernote are solved in spades by DEVONthink to Go. One problem I still have is that the app can't search inside word docs. This is a not DEVONthink's fault but rather a function of iOS. Still, it would be nice if the developers could find a work around.

[^1]: I've actually been frustrated ever since roughly 2014 when my iOS use started to outpace my mac use