Weiser Premis smart lock review

With so many smart gadgets already in my home like connected lights, a Wi-Fi vacuum, and a smart space heater, adding a smart lock seems to make sense. Yes, security concerns have kept a lot of folks from investing in this technology, but I’ve got to believe that major manufacturers have this figured out. With strong confidence I installed the Weiser Premis digital smart lock with touch screen on my front door for testing and review.

What can Weiser Premis smart lock do?

Continue reading “Weiser Premis smart lock review”

D-Link Omna home security camera review

Home security is more important than ever, but so is general home surveillance. Need to know if the kids got home on time? If the gardener got the lawn cut or not, or if strangers have been creeping round the house?  Continue reading “D-Link Omna home security camera review”

Ring Stick Up Camera Review

If you’ve ever wanted to watch over your property, you know security systems can be complicated and expensive. But things are simplified with the arrival of the Ring Stick Up Camera. Continue reading “Ring Stick Up Camera Review”

Smart keyless travel lock – Locksmart by Dog & Bone

Travel locks get a bad rap; either they’re too puny to be protective, or they’re easy to pick. Or perhaps you’re the type that is always misplacing the key or forgetting the combination, while you’re a million miles from home.

Smart travel lock uses no keys, no combinations

A solution is digital locks. I’ve written previously about smart, cell phone-controlled padlocks by Dog and Bone. They’re easy to use and work well. Continue reading “Smart keyless travel lock – Locksmart by Dog & Bone”

This cable keeps snoopy spouses & grabby kids at bay

Ever wonder if your spouse if sneaking your phone while you’re asleep? Have you caught your kids sneaking into your room to recover their grounded technology? This new cable might be able to help.  The Skross Buzz cable will vibrate and sound an audible alarm if unplugged. It could also come in handy if you’re charging in an airport or cafe and need to turn your gaze from your phone.

Check out the video to see how it works.

New Ring Video Doorbell has smaller design, adds Live View

doorbell_proRing, makers of the very popular and easy to use Video Doorbell, are rolling out a brand new gadget dubbed Pro. Made as an upgrade from the existing doorbell, the new Pro version is smaller and slimmer than the original,  and has advanced features, like Live View.

Ring says the ability to peek in on homes at any moment, with a live video feed has been the number one most requested new feature, so it’s now available in the Pro model.

I’ve been a fan of Ring since first reviewing the original model and now one keeps watch over my home. Read my review here.

The new ultra slim wifi video doorbell with advanced features available today on pre-order for $249. Ring will now offer two choices for smart doorbells, Ring Video Doorbell, which offers dual power and super easy installation for $199 and Pro which requires doorbell power and has a handful of advanced features for $249.screen-motion-pro-b3c5ab536239238cce5b1e39e151f4bf

Interested in other home security options, like padlocks that work with your smartphone (no keys!) and wireless alarm systems? Check out those gadgets here.

pro-colors-31f91f13608b5561d672b9a837f7332a

 

No key? No problem! Digital padlock opens via your phone

IMG_9112Who hasn’t momentarily forgotten their combination on a padlock at the gym, the back gate, or on the shed? I’ve misplaced (or outright lost, forever) the key to the padlock on my bike, meaning I need to both buy a new one, and find some bolt cutters to take care of business.

Now, a new product out from Fuz Designs (they made the really cool felted case I featured on CTV Morning Live and the blog not long ago!) shows that you no longer need those keys, or your faulty memory to open a padlock! Check out the 3 minute video of how Noke Digital Lock works: either with your smartphone or a Morse Code-like series of long and short clicks.

If you’re looking for other neat security gadgets, check out the uber-easy MyFox camera, or the Gatekeeper key fob that makes unlocking your computer with a typed password obsolete!

 

Escaping the Cold at Couples Negril

img_8620It’s the bluest blue water you’ll find, on the softest white sand beach.  The water here is so shallow you can walk out almost a quarter mile and still only be shoulders-deep. I’m bobbing lazily on a pool cushion in saltwater that’s so warm, I haven’t the slightest chill, and in fact when some ocean water does splash on my skin, it’s refreshing. Opening my eyes to gaze back at the beach, it’s not crowded, and palms and coccoloba or ‘seagrape’ trees are speckled here and there providing cooling shade as the heat rises.

After several years of more active vacations like road trips and traveling to Europe, my husband and I decided it was time to slow down and plan a do-nothing holiday.

With the Caribbean in mind, we chose Jamaica as the destination, but which resort to pick? I’d been to Couples Negril more than a decade ago for a wedding and it was, at that time, the finest resort I’d ever been to. I remembered its gorgeous, endless beach, and marveled at the small size of the resort while it still had amazing service.  The food was also absolutely delicious, well off the charts for the average all-inclusive.

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Beach grill and veggie bar.

Wanting this to be an easy vacation both to take and to plan, my husband and I chose Couples Negril again, hoping we’d still find the same level of service. Of course, we checked online reviews, and found the resort still ranks highly among beach vacationers. Confident, we booked it.

 

Screen Shot 2015-12-20 at 10.02.05 AMBook Club Mobay for Arrivals and Departures: Fast and Easy

We used a travel agent for this trip, something we don’t usually do, but she earned her commission when she recommended we book into a service called Club Mobay at Jamaica’s Montego Bay airport where we’d be flying in via Toronto.img_8918

Club Mobay is a lounge where travelers can find comfy seats on arrival (and departure) while waiting for ground transportation, our agent explained. She also told us (though I’ll admit I wasn’t fully paying attention to this part) that we’d receive priority access to immigration and customs on arrival.

Skip the Lineups by booking with Club Mobay

When we landed a lovely young lady met us at the gate holding a sign with our names on it. She immediately whisked us through the airport, dodging lineups of passengers as we went instead through special access points. When we arrived at the customs and immigration lineup, it was a sea of humans and their luggage. What a mess!  We figured we’d be an hour getting through the line, but our escort led us to another priority access point where we were the only ones in line.  In about 3 minutes we’d cleared customs, and been led to a lovely private room where she brought us rum punch.

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Happy author on arrival in Negril

The Club Mobay lounge was comfortable and not crowded, but had the latest Jamaican newspapers, some sandwiches and snacks, as well as drinks and TV. We were only there about 15 minutes before we were told our bus was ready, and we were again led through the airport, to the correct bus. About 25 minutes after landing, we were en route to our resort.

Couples Negril is about a 2 hour bus ride from Montego Bay, but it was a great people and scenery-watching trip.  The highway runs along the water so there’s beautiful views of azure ocean nearly the whole way. The bus chugged through small villages and bigger towns and looking at the variance in homes and architecture was amazing.  While small corrugated metal shacks lined the highway, as the structures climbed up the hillsides, they got increasingly more elaborate and colourful.Jamaica quote 2

The bus seemed to speed its way along, and I wondered why the drive would take 2 hours. That’s about when we arrived in Lucea.  Lucea is the capital of Hanover Parish and was founded in the 1700s. It’s a tiny town that clings to the shore, and it’s very crowded and very busy. The highway attempts to wind through it, but when the buildings close in on the roads, and Jamaicans dash across constantly, our travel grinds to a crawl.

Nearly 2 hours later (though it feels much shorter thanks to the people watching) we arrive at our destination and are greeted with glasses of champagne and cool citrus-scented towels. A light breeze is fluttering the palm leaves and I’m instantly relaxed. Check-in is fast since there are only 3 couples in the bus, and we’re whisked to our rooms with bags in tow. The young man who helps us waves off a tip, and we’re immediately on the balcony, overlooking the ocean from our 3rd floor room.

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The hedge-lined nude beach

Spacious room, with a (nude) view

The room is open and airy with cool tile and a king-sized bed. The sliding balcony doors open wide to let the breeze in and we have a nice view of both the water and the nude beach! The nude beach is a mandatory fully-nude beach, screened with hedges, with its own bar and swimming area. Not our cup of tea, but it was quite well-attended each day.

Our minibar was stocked with pop and beer, and the gentleman who’d brought us to the room explained that if we wanted anything else for the fridge, to fill out a card and it would be restocked as we wished each day.

We requested some vodka and some wine, expecting airplane bottles, but instead, the next afternoon we found a full size bottle of each waiting for us. Bottle service to the room! This was a new highlight!

Negril’s Best Beach, and no fighting for loungers!img_8856

The beach at Couples Negril is fabulous.  It’s raked and tidied daily, while others long this strip appear not to be, and are littered with leaves and seaweed. While the ‘natural look’ isn’t bad, the extra effort at grooming really adds to the beauty of this little section.

There are lounge chairs aplenty, unlike most all-inclusive resorts where you need to get up early or bribe a staff member to snag you a spot. The staff take time to arrange all the chairs in tidy rows, each with its own cushion, and there’s always enough for everyone with plenty of extras so you can come and go as you please.img_8822

For the security conscious, it’s worth noting there are guards at either end of the beach, as well as a lifeguard in the middle. A small group of peddlers walks the beach, hawking parasailing and tubing rides, as well as coffee and other things, but they’re not bothersome or aggressive.

It was funny to note that almost all the hawkers “represent Bob Marley” which is code for they’ll sell you pot or hash or presumably whatever other drugs float your boat. While some of them are charmingly subtle about it, other will just full on offer you dope and flash the good for inspection.  Fortunately, they take no for an answer pretty easily.Jamaica quote

The occasional musician will play for tips at the water’s edge too. The staff distributes flags to folks on the beach, and when you’re ready for a drink, you just stick your flag in the sand, and someone is quickly at your feet taking your order. Again, unlike most all-inclusives, here there was no expectation of tips. img_8908

We alternated days at the beach and at the beautiful tree-lined pool. Here too, loungers were plentiful, and we could seek shade from either the trees or the umbrellas provided. The main pool (there’s another pool on the north side of the resort, but it’s mainly for scuba training) is a sapphire-hued two-tiered oasis with a waterfall in between that spills into the swim-up bar area. It was so relaxing being able to sit in the shade of the bar’s palm roof, listening to the waterfall, and sipping Appleton rum or cold Red Stripe beer. When we tired of the pool bar, we could also visit the beach bar/grill, or the main bar in the reception/restaurant building.

Yes, it will probably rain. Learn to like it.

img_8849I’ve been to Jamaica twice now and on both trips it rained at some point each day. Sometimes just for 30 or 40 minutes, other times for a couple of hours, and on one day there was a helluva storm which led to significant water pooling everywhere. While some vacationers may find this upsetting (how dare it rain on my holiday!!) we found it nice.  After spending hours on the beach or baking at the pool, the rain was cooling, and it broke up the day.  We found ourselves heading to the beach grill, sitting at the bar and playing scrabble or backgammon while sipping cold beer, or just going back to the room, throwing open the balcony doors and napping to the sound of a tropical rainstorm.

The food is great

Most people I know don’t go on all-inclusive vacations to eat well, but fortunately at Couples Negril, you will anyway. img_8926There’s always fresh baking on hand, whether it’s breakfast pastries, dessert, or the cookies that you’ll find at several of the bars and in the lobby. The day we arrived it was lobster night and we were treated to fresh grilled lobster tails with butter. Another night there was both tenderloin and lobster on the menu at a special dinner for “repeaters” or returning guests. I’m guessing the food is just one of the things that keeps people coming back to this resort, as the repeater crowd was quite large, about 60 or so. Everything we ate, from the buffet, to meals at the easy to book fine dining restaurants was fresh and deliciously flavourful.

It’s the little things

There were so many other nice small touches that made our stay so memorable; the fresh cookies and the new veggie bar that’s just opened.img_8689 It features juices, veggie tips and dip, as well as grilled sandwiches. There was nightly turn-down service and towel changing.  An ice bucket and water pitcher in the room were constantly full and cold. The staff are friendly and say hello as they pass. It was also nice to be able to trade our towels in as often as we liked, without a special ticket required.

Even on our last day as we waited in the lobby for airport pick-up, one of the staff members was dressed as an elf trying to cheer us up, as a small band payed goodbye songs for just 6 of us who were departing. Nice touch.

Overall this vacation was amazing.  It ticked all the boxes for us; great beach, delicious food, not crowded, lovely people. I can highly recommend both Negril and the Couples resort here for a fun and relaxing getaway.

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img_8787This is not a sponsored post. My review is 100% my own thoughts and experiences at this resort, paid for with my own money. If you’d like more info, check out Couples.com 

Spy on your pets? Watch over your kids? Record intruders? New Myfox camera can do it

IMG_7768 Personal use cameras are becoming much more popular. From dash-cams in cars, to smaller home security cameras, it’s now easier than ever to monitor your environment for security, safety, curiosity, or to keep an eye on pets or children.

That’s the premise of the Myfox home security camera. This device is described as a “high performance home security camera remotely controlled by a smartphone app and is the only camera with a motorized, mechanical shutter to guarantee total privacy.”

Hands On with MyfoxIMG_7772

The camera is a very unique shape.  It’s just a bit bigger than a standard size hockey puck. The lens is in the side edge of the device, and features a sliding shutter that can open and close over the lens when you want it. The camera comes out of the box with a very long USB cord for power, which is a great unexpected plus, allowing the camera to be placed anywhere, at a good distance from any power source.

CLICK HERE to read the rest of this review on Best Buy’s Plug in blog.

For more awesome tech news, click here!

Okidokeys Smart Lock: Great idea that needs some work – Update: Okidokeys responds to review

okidokeys lock** I originally posted this review July 10.  On July 14 Okidokeys posted a comment below regarding this review.  It was quite surprising, because for one they called a Tweet I sent “inflammatory”, and for another they imply the facts of this review are not accurate, and in essence that I lied. I’ll respond to their comments at the bottom of this page.   **

I love the idea of a smart lock.  In my head I envision approaching the door, laden with groceries and bags, only to have the door unlock audibly and allow me to slip in without dropping everything and fishing for keys.

That’s what I’d been hoping for when the Okidokeys Smart Lock arrived on my doorstep.  But, much to my disappointment, that wasn’t quite what I got.

The Okidokeys kit looks simple enough, and the instructions seemed straightforward.  It comes with the automatic lock mechanism, 3 different colours of back cover, batteries, (4 AAs) and the tools needed to install it. The instructions says to just remove the back of the deadbolt from your door, leaving the rest of the locking hardware in place, slip the Okidokeys motorized locking system over top, screw it in, and voila! Except that’s not at all what happened.

(Bear with me.  I’m going to give some detailed info here about the problems I encountered, in the event my troubles can help others.  If you’re looking for the straight up ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’, go ahead and skip to the bottom)

Installing Okidokeys Smart Lock

Replacing the back of the lock with a new plate.
Replacing the back of the lock with a new plate.

While all you need is a screwdriver to do the installation, and it doesn’t mark or ruin your door, Okidokeys did not fit over top of my existing lock. Some adapters are included with the kit, but none of them seemed to fit right.  No matter which I used, the lock would not sit flush with the door.  Finally I realized the correct adapter was included with the package, but it did not fit properly on our lock; the deadbolt post was just too long. When I called customer service for assistance, I got a rather surly woman, who finally told me the only way around this was to buy a new deadbolt, or to try to file the lock bolt mechanism down so the Okidokeys lock would fit over top of it.

Not wanting to go out and buy another lock just so this new lock would work, I eventually located a file and spent a good amount of time grinding down the post.  It was a lot of work, extending the installation by a good hour.

Once the installation was done I downloaded the app for iPhone 6. Except then I found out you can’t download the app and sign up for an account on your phone.  For that you need a computer.

Once the account was set up on the laptop, I signed into the app using my newly created account, and nothing happened.  while the app loaded, there appeared to be no way to actually tell the app which deadbolt I had. Plus, when I manually engaged the lock, it made a horrible loud grinding sound. After another frustrating 45 minutes trying to sort that out, trying to get the deadbolt to connect to the phone, I put the whole thing away for the night to resume in the morning.

Was It a Dud?

Turns out the next day it was no easier. I went through all of the set up again but had no luck getting anything working. I finally decided to call the Okidokeys support line again. The customer service rep could not seem to figure out what the problem was and said she did not know what was going on, and I was kind of left hanging.  What was I supposed to do with a non-functional lock, and someone who was out of ideas to help me?

I asked to speak to a supervisor or someone with more detailed tech-support background to help me, as I felt that “I don’t know” was not an adequate customer service response. Instead, the CSR asked me to email her a still photo of the lock, to prove it was mounted flush against the door. I declined, because it was flush, and because I was getting annoyed at the non-functionality of the unit. In the end I left a message for a supervisor to call me back at the first available opportunity. In the meantime, I uploaded a video to Twitter of my problem, and hoped someone would be able to help me. Turns out Okidokeys is monitoring their Twitter account rather well (kudos), and within an hour they had called me back to say they had seen my video, and thanks to that they could tell the lock itself was malfunctioning. They offered to send me a new one right away.

Meantime, I decided to get my account set up and ready for when the new lock arrived.
Once signed in to the company webpage on a desktop computer I was able to get logged in and get started. I finally figured out you need to put in the serial number of the lock on the computer (not your phone, again). One small frustration with this is that I went through the process of entering the serial number, door name, door time zone, and a picture to apply to it, but I chose not to select the optional “door group name”, and when I went to click “next”, it gave me an error message for not picking a door group name, and it had reset half of the settings. Annoying since I had to go through and re-set up the lock all over again.  Once that was done I was able to start assigning people to use the door. That process is fairly straightforward you can give certain users a key tag, wristband, or plastic credit card style key, and then you can then assign certain hours of the day they will be able to swipe their ‘key’ to open your door.

The separate Smart Reader and additional keys.
The separate Smart Reader and additional keys.

Setting up the smart keys, like the included key tag, the credit card key, and the wristband, was easy, thankfully. You simply go to the drop-down menu on the website for smart devices, register smart tag using the  serial number that is very clearly printed on the smart tags, and you’re good to go. Then it’s as easy as creating new user profiles, and assigning those people whichever keys you want them to have.

Try, try again

When the new lock finally arrived about a week later, I was already very similar with how to install it, so it went quickly. When I did the self test, everything worked smoothly and the lock was able to turn on it’s own quite easily with no grinding, although the lock is quite loud. Then I decided to try locking the door with the app. The app told me that I first needed to ‘sync’ the door to the app.

Locking Not So Easy

IMG_2551Trying to get the lock to sync took about six attempts, before it randomly worked. Then I tried locking again, but kept getting an error message that I was not standing near enough the door, when I was probably about a foot and a half away from it. Then I tried to manually lock and unlock the door using the buttons on the back of the door lock. That didn’t work either, although I got a helpful looking blue light each time I tried.

I decided to close out of the app and restart it in hopes this would jazz things up a bit. Only then to my frustration I realized I needed to log in again. But when I tried to do that I kept getting an error message saying my login credentials were invalid. At this point, admittedly I was ready to throw the damn lock out the window. To me, a product should not be this hard or this frustrating to set up.

Buggy & Frustrating App

Fortunately, after another attempt at logging in I got back into my account. This time when I went to lock the door using the app it worked! Hallelujah! But my joy was short-lived. The next time I tried to lock the door, I got an ‘operation timeout failure’. I decided to do an experiment and standing next to the door I tried to lock the door or unlock it ten times from a couple distances. The lock only responded four out of those ten times. This is an enormous frustration. No one has time to stand around in front of the door holding loaded bags of groceries waiting for three or four attempts at unlocking the door before it listens.

26 seconds to open

It’s also worth mentioning that the lock, when it actually functions, takes a long time to engage and open.  I timed it, and on one occasion when trying to unlock the door it took about 26 seconds before the lock would finally respond. Again, I could have unlocked the door in about two seconds flat with the old fashioned key in that time.IMG_2554

At this point I was pretty much done with this device. But I decided to give customer service a call one more time to see if perhaps there was something strange going on they could easily remedy. Alas, it was Saturday, and Okidokeys voicemail hopefully told me that their customer service office closes at 2 PM MT on Saturdays. Great.

Later on, feeling optimistic, I decided to try to use the app to lock my door when I left. When I went to load up the app, it wanted me to login from scratch again. Uggghhhh!
I gave up.
Turn On Automatic Login, for gosh sakes!

Another constant frustration was the fact that I needed to input the username or email and password to access the app every time I tried to use it. Making that even more frustrating, is despite entering the username and password correctly at least half a dozen times, I kept getting an error message saying that the ‘user is invalid’. When I left the phone to sit for a few minutes, and tried again by simply hitting ‘enter’ on the information I had already put in, for some reason it would randomly allow me access. Very frustrating. Eventually I figured out that by turning on “automatic logins” in the settings menu in the app, I could forgo logging in every single time I wanted to use it.
Also, in what almost seems like too much security, every time I logged into the Okidokeys webpage on the computer to access my account, it emailed me a security code that I had to input before I was able to login. More steps, more frustration.

smart-lockokidokeysNo remote access

Another thing I found frustrating about this lock set was that there’s no way for me to open the door from a remote location. It would be so handy if I could let the cleaning lady, neighbour, or even a key-forgetting spouse in from my smartphone kilometers away in my office, but that’s not an option.  To let someone else in if I’m not at home (and have not given them a key previously), they’d need to download the app, and I’d have to email them access permission.  But since getting the account working in the first place was such a hassle for me I was not comfortable foisting it on someone else. It would be great if I could just press a button on my phone from far away, and the lock would open for whoever I needed to let in.  But alas.. no.  Okidokeys also says it has a Hands-free Mode where it will unlock your door when your cell phone gets close to it, but (noticing a pattern?) I couldn’t get that to work either.

The Verdict

The Okidokeys Smart Lock was not easy to use.  In my experience it was buggy and unreliable, and took far too long to perform the simple task of unlocking the door. I’m not going to fault the first lock for being a dud, but I also didn’t have great experience with Okidokeys customer service folks on their phone help line.

Having tried some products like the Ring Video Doorbell recently, or the Nest Learning Thermostat which worked perfectly from the moment the box was opened (and reliably from then on), this product appears not quite ready for use by an average customer. It’s just too frustrating.  I’ll be interested in seeing further software updates, but until then, it’s back to using my key.

UPDATE:

I recently wrote the above review of the Okidokeys Smart Lock. It was not flattering, but it was fair, and I stand by it.  Since then, I received a comment on the blog from ‘Okidokeys Team’.  I was rather surprised at the content.  For one it implies I lied in my story; that when I say I spoke to two different customer service reps by phone, that I did not, since the company claims to have no record of this.

Secondly Okidokeys Team calls my Tweets about the installation problems I had “inflammatory”.

Here’s the blog comment :

Dear Erin,
We regret your experience. However we believe it is important to point out that according to our records you did not reach out to us for support, we found your inflammatory twitter post of 2-3 months ago and proactively reached out to you.
According to your responses, we solved your issues as we shipped additional adapters at no charge which are now part of our standard package.
Also, as your test dates back to 2-3 months, we precise we have had a completely new version of handsfree mode with geo fencing available for 3 weeks now.
Best Regards,
OKIDOKEYS Teamokidokeys tweets

Here are the facts:  I keep notes on my calls and dealings with any customer service departments I encounter during each review, and make notes too, as I work on installation and setup as I’m testing products.

I called Okidokeys twice, and my description of each interaction above is factual, and accurately reported. Why they don’t have a record of it I can’t say. I’m also not sure why they indicate they sent me ‘adapters’, when what they sent me was a whole new unit.  Perhaps these ‘records’ are not quite as accurate as they think? As for my “inflammatory” tweet, well, you can see for yourself what I said, and even the follow up kudos I gave.

I find it offensive that instead of addressing the problems with the product’s operation and non-functionality in their blog comment, the customer service response to me was to call my credibility into question, and dub my factual tweet “inflamatory”.

I deliberately don’t read other reviews before I test products, so as not to colour my judgement. However since receiving the comment, a simple Google search showed me other reviewers having the same problems I encountered, to varying degrees of frustration.  While it would have been nice to be able to post an update with the fixes and updates Okidokeys has done, instead I must respond to their other comments.