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June 26, 2006

I’ve Got Three Fans!

So over the weekend we hit a heat wave in Seattle. Oh man! I'm not used to this at all! I'm used to the cold and damp Seattle air. Myself and all the other Seattleites not used to this heat are moving in slow motion. So I was enjoying a cold adult beverage after mowing my lawn and looked at my dog…his face said it all. I needed to get some fans!

The wife and I went shopping for fans. It's been years since I've gone shopping for a fan. They even look different than they used to. They're not all round at the top, some are tall and skinny and I'm pretty sure I could stick my finger in one and not lose my finger. I didn't find any metal blades which is good. My uncle Rick had a mishap with a fan, some peanut butter, a bottle of Jack and a bad dare. That's a whole different story.

So while looking in this sea of breeziness at my local hardware store my wife points to this fan with a big fat $60 price tag on it. A 16" oscillating fan...with a remote. "Look honey it has a remote!" she exclaimed thinking surely Tony the gadget lover in me would jump at this. I didn't jump at this though. Instead I gave her a look that she now calls my X10 look.

She quickly understood the look and said "Oh that's right you have your remote." And she was right on the money. I showed her a $20 16" oscillating fan without a remote and let her know that I would pimp out the fan when we got home. So far with X10 stuff I haven't missed yet with my wife. Each suggestion has worked out to save us time or make life easier...well except for my idea for a dinner chime. It would work if it was used.

Back home I took three appliance modules and setup three fans. Told my wife what unit code each was set to and BAM! I was sitting in the living room with an iced tea with my fans on a timer as well as ready to go with my universal remote and keychain remote. So I have three fans with my existing remotes for the price of one of those fancy fans. Plus when go to bed I can turn off the fans in the other rooms by the touch of a button on my mini timer on my nightstand. Ah yes...it's good to have fans…even if we only get a week of summer up here.

-Tony McCarl
Superbowl Team Trainer

June 22, 2006

Jeff Attempts To Use Superpowers

A customer called and was apparently having some difficulty in getting his camera system to work properly. Looking to provide the best support to customers I was more than happy to help.

The customer said “I can only see my wall!” and asked “What is the range on the cameras system?” I let the customer know our cameras wireless transmission can broadcast up to 100 feet. To make sure it would work optimally I asked what kind of walls he was going through. Brick, concrete, or even a big metal wall can shorten the range slightly. The customer didn’t answer the question and reiterated “I can only see the wall!”

At this point I have no idea how to trouble shoot this. I asked the customer, Can you move the camera to look around the room? He told me no, that wasn’t what he wanted to do. I was quiet a moment as I tried to figure out what the customer was attempting to do.

The wheels were spinning in my head then it hit me. I asked…”Sir, are you trying to use the camera to look –through- the wall?” He answered emphatically, “Yes!, that’s exactly what I’m trying to do, why isn’t it working?”

I held back an embarrassed chuckle and stated, “I’m sorry sir, our cameras do not see through a wall.” He replied back somewhat disappointed “Your website said it could go 100 feet.” I reiterated, “Yes sir, the wireless signal between the camera and the receiver would travel 100 feet, but the camera cannot see through the walls” The customer thought about this a second thanked me for my help and said “you should come up with something that will do that… that would be great!” I told him “Yes sir that would be great…but until we have that you’ll just want to mount that on the other side of the wall.” He thanked me again for my help and went on with his day.

$79.99 for a camera that sees through walls! That would rule! We can package it with Xray Vision goggles and decoder rings…but until then we’ll just sell wireless cameras that don’t see through walls.

June 19, 2006

This Old Birdhouse

Like most married men I’ve spent a lot of time in the dog house. I’ve clocked in for at least several hundred hours in the dog house both figuratively and literally over the last seven years with my wife. Most of the time I’ve spent in the dog house has been over my lack of handyman skills. Growing up I would always be working on something with my parents who were very good at home improvement work. So I too thought I was the next Bob Vila. Turns out handing my dad a hammer or screw driver and holding up drywall doesn’t really strengthen my Darth Vila Jedi skills. “You said you were a handy man!” is a common phrase I hear.

This weekend for Father’s day my son gave me a birdhouse kit. He has been watching birds and other outdoor life at our home in the back roads of suburbia and I told him we should get a bird house a month ago. So for Fathers day I get a kit… not a birdhouse, but a birdhouse kit. I’m staring at a box full of wood, nails, screws, and other doohickeys (very technical term). Yikes! My wife offered to help me put it together but I decided why not try and put it together. I took shop in 7th grade! I can do this! So my son and I ran off to workshop (an air hockey table in the garage) to put together the best bird house ever.

After looking at these pieces of wood for fifteen minutes or so I decided to hammer in some nails to the wood and get’er done. To my surprise it started to look like a bird house! Even my four year old thought so! After nailing the final nails we finished the birdhouse and hung it up on a tree in the front yard.

“Now what Daddy?” my son said… I wasn’t really sure. Do birds just fly to it? Do we have to get a bird caller? I don’t know, but I don’t want to stand outside all day watching a wooden box. It was time to break out my X10 skills. Over the years I’ve had lots of customers talk about buying cameras for bird watching. Hey I’ve got a bird house to watch! So back to the air hockey table we went….I mean workshop.

I grabbed a camera, motion sensor and my handy screw driver and we setup our bird house cam. We mounted it on the house facing the birdhouse. Now while watching TV we can check out the front door cam, or the bird house. I also setup the computer to take snap shots of the bird house. Once I see some activity I’ll move that to video.

So for Father’s day I was able to show that I can hammer and nail in a pinch and If I ever need to make a bigger dog house I’ll be able to do so. Any tips or suggestions on other bird house accessories I should grab? Anyone have any birdhouse web cams?

June 07, 2006

My Personal Assistant

Wouldn’t that be nice if everyone had a personal assistant? Not only at work, but for everything you do?

“Hold my calls I’m going golfing.” Or “Change my daughters diaper it’s dirty.” I would love that! The best part would be if I was in trouble I would always have someone there to help me out. Like when my wife asks “Does this make me look fat?” My personal assistant can jump in and take over that conversation. More importantly if I fell off the ladder while installing my floodlights my personal assistant can come running to help me out.

That actually brings me to the point of this entry. Today I was on the phones helping out in support to relieve the backup of calls. I came across a friendly lady who was asking about adding additional heart pendants to her personal assistant voice dialer. I told her “Of course you can! You can add up to 16!” She ordered two more and told me a little about her situation. It turns out that she took a spill and used the pendant for help. The personal assistant voice dialer called her son who rushed to her house to help. She thanked me for making the personal assistant and said it saved her life. I couldn’t take credit for making the product, but it’s nice to know that we can make such and impact for such a little amount of money.

What do you wish you had a personal assistant for? Could the personal assistant voice dialer work in this situation? Have you used the personal assistant voice dialer?

Excerpt: Tony MCarl is a trainer at our Seattle Office.

June 06, 2006

Betcha Bottom Dollar

Last weekend was my wife’s big school production of Annie. The 7th and 8th graders have been working months to perfect the play and they were ready to go. I’ve helped with the school play for the last four years as a stage manager. It’s pretty exciting to rush props and sets on and off stage and ensure each of the performers have what they need when they get on stage.

Last year we put on a stellar performance of Guys and Dolls. Everything went great on stage, the problem was backstage. It was hard for the cast to hear what was going on so they would all huddle on each side of the stage causing nothing but trouble when it came time to move props on stage. People in the way, people raising their voices too close to the stage; it was a mess that only people backstage would ever notice. I was determined to not have this happen again this year.

The solution was a simple XCam2, two audio/video receivers and two of the school’s TVs. I placed a wireless camera above the stage looking down. It gave us a totally different view which made it really fun for the kids but more importantly gave us the audio offstage. So the cast huddled around the TVs rather than the sides of the stage leaving open a clear path for my stage screw to take care of business.

Next year I’ll have to record the XCam2’s video. It would make for a great Easter egg on the DVD. We also used an appliance module to turn the lights on and off on the Christmas tree for scene’s 10 and 11. After the play a few parents asked me about my “gadgets” like I was George Jetson or something. I’m pretty sure this December I’ll be making house calls to setup their lights. I didn’t have the heart to tell them it’s so easy.