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I have previously confessed to being a bagaholic. Show me a bag that is stylish, well-thought-out, and beautifully made, and I’ll be almost as happy as when discovering a new gadget. The Waterfield Muzetto I reviewed last year ticked all the boxes for me, so I was keen to try the company’s latest addition to its range: the Waterfield Outback Duo.
This is very often the case with me, especially when traveling. I do sometimes keep both in my carry-on bag, but that’s a bit of a pain if I want access to both devices at different points during a journey. I do, then, sometimes carry a separate laptop bag for these.
For quite some time now, this has been the sadly-discontinued Pad & Quill Valet bag which my colleague Jordan Kahn reviewed back in 2023. This accommodates both the 16-inch MacBook Pro and a 12.9-inch iPad Pro, and is a truly gorgeous bag. It does, however, have one drawback for travel: it lacks a rear slot to slide it onto the handle of a roller bag.
The Waterfield Outback Duo is an equally stylish and well-made bag that has that all-important rear slot.Waterfield Outback Duo: Look and feel
Let’s start with the one aspect of this bag you’re going to love or hate: the distressed leather.
Any leather will pick up marks and patina over time, so if you only love smooth, unblemished leather, you’re only going to be happy with any bag for about the first 20 minutes. But distressed leather – which already looks about 20 years old when you get it – does polarize views. Personally, I’m an equal opportunity guy when it comes to leather finishes: I rarely find a quality one I don’t love, and this is no exception.
The bag is available in two sizes, and three finishes:
Full size: Fits a 16-inch MacBook Pro, plus 12.9-inch iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard
Compact: Fits a 13-inch MacBook Pro, plus 12.9-inch iPad Pro with Smart Keyboard Folio
My tastes in bags usually run to full leather, but I’ll grant that a well-coordinated mix of waxed canvas and leather can also work well, and that’s what we get in the one I tested. Most of the bag is waxed cotton, while the front flap and handle grips are a gorgeous chocolate distressed leather. Together with a water-resistant zip, that offers a decent level of protection against rain, though isn’t completely waterproof. (Alternative options are ballistic nylon with either chocolate or black leather. Neither, to me, has anything like the same visual appeal.)
The design has that of a classic, timeless look that I think looks smart and stylish, without being in any way in-your-face.
Inside, there’s what’s become the norm for higher-end bags: a gold-colored lining designed to reflect light into the interior and make it easy to see what’s in the bag. There’s a laptop slot in the back, lined on the inside with a really soft fabric, and a tablet slot at the front, which is almost identical.
Between the two is a third compartment for charger, cables, and papers. There’s an additional compartment under the front flap, with slots for a phone, wallet, and pens.In use
The bag slides easily on and off wheeled luggage, making it great for travel.
It also has a detachable shoulder strap for when you want to use it on its own. This likewise snaps easily on and off. The center section which sits on your shoulder is a stretchy fabric that makes for the most comfy strap I’ve ever carried.
The metal two-way zip was a little stiff at first, but eased off with use. Both MacBook and iPad slide easily in and out. There’s also a slot in the MacBook compartment which makes it practical to charge the laptop while it’s in the bag, and a similar one in the iPad compartment, though that’s only accessible if you’re charging through the keyboard.
The bag has twin handles, and my one complaint is that they are a little bulky when held together as intended. It’s more comfortable to hold it by the outer handle only.
The magnet on the front flap snaps shut reliably, without having to hunt for the right position – solving a frequent complaint with press-stud fasteners.Waterfield Outback Duo: Price and conclusions
This is a premium-priced bag, with little difference in cost between the two sizes. The compact version is $229, and the full size $239.
As I’ve noted before in reviews of luxury bags, you’re either in the market for this type of price tag, or you’re not. If you are, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. The look, feel and build-quality are everything you’d expect, made by hand in a workshop in San Francisco.
My sole complaint is that the twin handles are a little bulky when held together. But this is otherwise the perfect accompaniment to a carry-on roller bag when traveling, keeping your MacBook and iPad easily on hand, while also serving well as a standalone hand or shoulder bag for everyday use.
The Waterfield Outback Duo costs $229 (compact) or $239 (full). It’s available for pre-order now, and ships by July 31.
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Film Both a Personal and a Global Journey COM filmmaker’s thesis finalist for Student Academy Awards
A frame from Snovi, featuring the main characters, the Dreamer and the Girl, played by Alban Ukaj and Zana Marjanovic. Photos courtesy of Reshad Kulenovic
Any graduate student is familiar with the challenges of completing a major thesis project, but those faced by Reshad Kulenovic were anything but typical. Aspiring filmmaker Kulenovic (COM’11) spent eight months flying back and forth from Boston to Bosnia to scout for and shoot his short film Snovi. Kulenovic’s debut effort has also earned him an extraordinary distinction. The film was recently selected by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences as a finalist for a Student Academy Award.
The film, whose screenplay was cowritten by Jonathon Myers (GRS’07), is based on the short story “Dreams,” by John Bernstein, a College of Communication associate professor. It is the fictional tale of a Polish Holocaust survivor whose memories of war begin to interfere with his daily life and prevent him from connecting with other people. Kulenovic, who was born in Sarajevo, adapted the story, setting it in Bosnia in the aftermath of the 1990s Bosnian War. The film’s title—Snovi—is the Bosnian word for “dreams.”
The idea of adapting Bernstein’s story came to Kulenovic when he realized that its themes resonated not only with his own past, but in a larger way as well. “The themes behind the story and the movie are so universal,” he says. “I just wanted to expand on them using what I know.”
Kulenovic was adamant about filming in his native country, despite the fact that he knew nobody in the Bosnian film community. “I basically spent three months finding people to work with,” he says. He also insisted that the actors be Bosnian: “To deal with a really sensitive and difficult subject, the actors have to have that conflict inside of them. They are all burned by the memory of the war.”
To raise the money necessary to film overseas, he sought funding from several organizations. He received a grant from the Heinrich Böll Foundation and additional assistance from the French-run Centre Andre Malraux Sarajevo. Working with two producers, Claire Wasserman (CAS’09) in the United States and close friend Azra Mehic overseas, Kulenovic shot the film over five months.
It was after arriving in the United States as a 12-year-old refugee that Kulenovic (above) became interested in filmmaking. He eventually attended the University of Rhode Island, studying international business and film media, before coming to BU for graduate work in filmmaking. He credits the COM program with helping him discover new influences and showing him the potential of narrative storytelling. “You see what film can do, all the possibilities that film has,” he says.
A screenwriting course taught by Bernstein was especially influential, he says, shaping his perception of how a script works. “He taught the basics of screenwriting, but was also open to experimental cinema. We combined classic storytelling with the kind that pushes the limits of what narrative can do,” Kulenovic says.
“Reshad is an extraordinary young artist blessed with a unique voice and vision,” Bernstein says. “Snovi is one of the most visually stunning films I have ever seen here at BU.”
Bernstein’s confidence in the film has been validated by a recent spate of industry prizes—the film was an official selection at the Talinn Film Festival, the Cinequest Film Festival, and the European Independent Film Festival. Most important, the film placed Kulenovic on the shortlist for a Student Academy Award in the best narrative category this spring. While he didn’t win, the filmmaker says just being a finalist has proved amazing.
“It opened doors,” he says. “I actually had agents getting in contact with me.” He hopes the recognition will make it easier for him to obtain funding for his next project—expanding Snovi into a feature-length film.
Kulenovic is now living in New York City and rewriting the screenplay, which he hopes to have finished by fall. He already has most of a team in place for the feature film, including the same cast as in the original short, a group he describes as “amazing, inspiring, some of the best actors in Europe, hands down.”
Snovi will be screened at the Rhode Island National Film Festival, August 9 through 14. A donation page for the project is here. More information on the cast, crew, and story is here.
Surface Duo 2 gives Android clamshell 5G and a big spec boost
Microsoft isn’t giving up on dual-screen Android, with the Surface Duo 2 taking a second shot at the clamshell tablet. Now packing a 5G connection, and a more potent Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset, the Surface Duo 2 promises a more usable, flexible upgrade to the original Surface Duo.
It’s fair to say that device was a mixed bag. First impressions were positively glowing, with the idea of the Android OS and Microsoft’s Office suite on a slimline, folding phone. While the Surface Duo may not have had the flexible OLED we now see on, say, a Galaxy Z Fold 3, Microsoft’s customizations did at least make Google’s platform reasonably functional on its twin screens.
In practice, though, the reality wasn’t quite so glowing. Mixed software support did the Surface Duo no favors, as did premium pricing at launch and an uncertainty as to whether the device was meant to be a small tablet, a large phone, or some hybrid of the two.
It’s a question Microsoft isn’t quite answering with the Surface Duo 2, though the general prospects seem better from the get-go. For a start, it’s more powerful: the Snapdragon 888 5G chipset makes this the thinnest 5G mobile device available, Microsoft points out, even though there’s both mmWave and Sub-6 GHz connectivity. Inside there’s a pair of 5.8-inch PixelSense Fusion displays, which combine for an 8.3-inch panel in total.
That’s a total of 2688 x 1892 resolution, with the AMOLED panels supporting HDR and the DCI-P3 color space. They have 90Hz adaptive refresh rates and 800 nits of maximum brightness; Microsoft protects them with Gorilla Glass Victus.
They’re joined by the Revolutionary Hinge, with a Glance Bar in-between that lights up to show volume, charging, and other select icons and notifications. That makes the Surface Duo 2 a little more user-friendly even when it’s closed. Shut, it’s 11mm thick at the hinge, and 284 grams; open, it’s a mere 5.5mm thick.
On the back there are three cameras in a protruding bulge. The primary wide camera has a 12-megapixel sensor with f/1.7 lens, dual pixel PDAF, and OIS. The 2x optical telephoto also has a 12-megapixel sensor, with f/2.4 aperture, PDAF, and OIS. Finally, the 16-megapixel ultra-wide has a 110-degree field of view, with distortion correction.
A 12-megapixel front camera takes care of selfies. For video, there’s support for up to 4K 30/60 fps capture, with HDR. The Surface Duo 2 will also do slow-motion video at 120 or 240 fps.
As for power, there’s a 4,449 mAh dual battery, which supports 23W USB-C fast charging. Microsoft says to expect “all day battery life” or up to 15.5 hours of local video playback. If you’re using the Surface Duo 2 for calls, you can expect up to 28 hours of talk time.
Along with the 5G, there’s support for gigabit LTE, WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5.1, and NFC; a USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 port is on the bottom, supporting DisplayPort 4K with an HDMI adapter. In addition to a nano SIM, there’s single eSIM support. Storage is either 128, 256, or 512 GB, and there’s 8GB of memory. Microsoft even finds space for stereo speakers and dual microphones, plus a fingerprint sensor.
Android 11 is Microsoft’s OS of choice, and there’s support for various generations of stylus: the Surface Slim Pen, Surface Pen, and Surface Hub 2 Pen. It also supports the Surface Duo 2 Pen Cover. Two apps can run side by side, you can drag and drop between select apps, and organize clusters of software into App groups.
If there’s a downside, it’s that we’re back to premium pricing. The Surface Duo 2 will go up for preorder today priced from $1,499, in a choice of Glacier white or Obsidian black.
Let’s address the two major issues from our previous article.
1) As we discussed last time, a mid- to fore-foot strike is a more efficient way of running than heel striking. Does running in the Newton shoes force you into a mid- to fore-foot strike?
That’s easy. They sure do. It’s those “actuator lugs” on the sole of the shoe, which make it very awkward to strike with the heel. You have to land mid-foot on the lugs or it feels like your foot is unnaturally tilting backwards. Running in the shoes does feel a bit odd at first, even for a mid-foot striker like myself, so if you try them, be aware they do take some getting used to. Because the lugs come down several millimeters below the rest of the sole, it feels like there’s a small but perceptible mound under the ball of your foot, upon which you are balanced while running. As with barefoot running, you feel most comfortable in the Newtons when you run “light on your feet,” landing mid- to fore-foot. However the feel is really rather different from barefoot running, due to that ridge of lugs underneath the ball of your foot.
2) As per the claim, do the actuator lugs really have superior elastic properties that conserve and return energy more effectively than “regular” running shoes?
This is a very interesting question, it turns out. According to the analysis from the previous article, physically it appears quite unlikely that the actuator lugs can store an amount of elastic energy significant enough to improve running economy. While the elasticity of the lugs may well be greater than in the sole of a traditional shoe, the amount of potential energy stored in the shoe itself will be negligibly small when compared to the total energy of the runner’s stride. Does this mean that the claim of greater energy efficiency is bogus? Not necessarily! One thing that stands out for me while running in these shoes on a smooth hard surface (asphalt) is that during the time between foot strike and push-off — that is, when my foot is in contact with the ground — the lugs grip really well. There is no slipping.
If so, then it’s possible that these shoes actually might improve running economy. My (highly subjective) experience during my test runs was one of less effort than usual at a given pace. This, of course, could be a purely psychological artifact — maybe I was just excited to try out a new pair of fancy shoes. To really determine if this is true would require a controlled experiment with multiple runners over a long period of time. (Well worth the effort, I think, by the way!)
With my current non-Newton shoes, I can often feel a small but perceptible slide during contact with the ground. The muscles have to work harder to make small adjustments every time this happens, which results in a decrease in stride efficiency. So with the Newtons, although the energy stored in the lugs themselves may not be a major factor in improving economy, the energy saved in the body due to less slipping — the result of a large amount of static friction between the shoes and the road — may well be.
Newton Running represents a relatively new innovation in the design of running shoes: an attempt to create shoes that facilitate a more natural and energy-efficient stride, an attempt to return us to our barefoot running roots without having to cut up our feet. Despite all of the cushioning and stability features of most “traditional” contemporary running shoes, the incidence of running injury is actually greater now than in the days of those primitive Pumas and Adidas. Is this because cushioned shoes with thick heel counters have taken us away from a more natural running stride? How well Newton Running shoes are able to resolve this and take us back to that ideal stride is not yet certain, but it’s a worthwhile endeavor and a thought-provoking new option in the world of running shoes.
Finally, what of barefoot running itself, the true au-naturel version of the sport? Its devotees swear by it. Look for an investigation into this controversial topic a few weeks down the road!
Adam Weiner is the author of Don’t Try This at Home! The Physics of Hollywood Movies.
If you want to sell your MacBook, it’s considered good practice to reformat the internal storage before reinstalling macOS. That reduces the chances of having any personal data compromised. But what if you can’t remember the password to your Mac’s user account?
Reformatting the internal storage on a Mac with a forgotten password depends on its model, and if you’ve signed into it with an Apple ID or not.
Table of ContentsYour Mac May Be Secured With Activation Lock
If you use your MacBook with just an offline user account, you can quickly reformat it in macOS Recovery and set up macOS from scratch even if you’ve forgotten its password.
But if you’ve signed into your Mac with an Apple ID and have Find My Mac turned on, that might complicate things. macOS devices that run on Apple Silicon or contain the Apple T2 Security Chip deploy a feature called Activation Lock that prevents unauthorized access to macOS Recovery.
However, if you own the Mac, you can simply use your Apple ID’s passcode to reset the passcode or bypass the Activation Lock. If you bought or received the Mac from someone else, you must ask the person to lift the Activation Lock remotely via chúng tôi It’s impossible to reformat the Mac otherwise.Try Lifting the Password Before You Start
Before you start, it’s always a good idea to try and reset the password to your Mac’s user account. That allows you to back up any data on your Mac, as well as sign out from your Apple ID to minimize iCloud-related complications later. If you don’t want to do that and just want to format your Mac quickly, jump ahead to the next section.Use Your Apple ID Credentials
The first method involves using your Apple ID credentials. Try logging in a total of three times into your Mac’s user account. After the third failed attempt, you should get a prompt asking you to reset the passcode using your Apple ID. Do it.Use a Different Administrator Account If You Managed to Lift the Password
If you managed to reset the password to your Mac, perform the following actions before formatting your Mac.Optional: Erase All Content and Settings
If your MacBook runs on macOS Monterey or later, you have a built-in option that lets you wipe all data and settings before selling it. This is purely optional; you can still format your Mac and reinstall macOS regardless.How To Enter macOS Recovery
MacBooks running on Apple Silicon and Intel chipsets require different procedures to enter macOS Recovery. The following instructions assume that you haven’t reset the password to your Mac. If you have, simply insert the password whenever it’s needed.Apple Silicon Macs
1. Shut down your MacBook.
2. Hold down the Power button to turn it back on, but do not let go of it until the Loading startup options message shows up on the screen.
3. On the Startup Options screen, choose Options and select Continue. macOS Recovery will load momentarily.
4. If you’ve signed into your Mac with an Apple ID, select Forgot All Passwords? on the account selection screen. Then, enter your Apple ID password to bypass the Activation Lock.
5. Choose Disk Utility and select Continue.Intel Macs
1. Shut down your MacBook.
2. Turn it back on, but immediately press and hold Command + R. Release once you see the Apple logo. macOS Recovery will show up momentarily.
3. If the Mac consists of an Apple T2 Security chip and you’ve also signed into it with an Apple ID, select Forgot All Passwords? on the account selection screen and insert your Apple ID to proceed.
4. Choose Disk Utility and select Continue.Formatting Your MacBook
After entering macOS Recovery, you can load Disk Utility to format your MacBook.
1. Select Macintosh HD on the Disk Utility sidebar.
2. Select Erase.
3. Set Format to APFS.
4. Select Erase to format your Macbook.
5. Select Done.Reinstalling macOS
After formatting your MacBook, you can reinstall macOS.
2. Select Reinstall macOS in macOS Recovery.
3. Select Macintosh HD as the target partition and work your way through the onscreen instructions to reinstall macOS.
Once you’ve finished installing macOS, you can set up your MacBook for personal use and restore backed-up data via Time Machine. Or, press Command + Q to leave the setup screen if you plan to sell it.Reformatting a Mac Without a Password Can Be Complicated
Think about cost
Smart home tech isn’t cheap. Not only that, but costs have a sneaky way of adding up over time. You start with a bulb or two, and a year later you’re well into four figures.
There are two financial aspects I think worth considering at the outset:
How much home automation is worth to you
If, realistically, the amount you can invest in smart home tech is very limited, then it’s particularly important to spend your money on the right things – the things that will make the biggest difference to your life.
But, ironically, it can be even more important to think about budget if you have more disposable income to play with – because there’s almost no limit to what you can do if you throw enough money at it. Which is where the second question becomes important. How much difference will a smart home make to your life?
Is waking up in the morning, saying ‘Hey Siri, Morning’ and seeing your home spring to life something that will bring you a frisson of pleasure each time you do it? Do you take the view that anything that can be automated should be automated? Do you love the thought that simply tapping a button on your iPhone when you go to bed saves you the trouble of wandering around your home switching off lights, closing blinds and ensuring the heating is off? If so, you can justify a significant spend, because it’s something from which you’ll get substantial value.
But if you think smart home tech is kind of neat but not that big a deal, you could end up investing a lot of cash in something that will make little lasting difference to your life, especially once the novelty has worn off. That money might be put to better use elsewhere.Think too about time, effort and reliability
Take it from me: configuring and trouble-shooting a smart home is something that takes a significant amount of both time and effort. There will be swearing involved.
Smart home tech is still something I’d consider bleeding-edge technology. Neither set up nor reliability is at a level I’d yet say is ready for mass-market consumers. If you’re not willing to do battle with Wi-Fi connectivity, delay your plans to go to bed to work out why one of your blinds isn’t responding or find the ideal positioning for a motion sensor via an awful lot of trial-and-error, then you may want to wait a while.
HomeKit has gone a long way toward making things ready for prime-time, but Just Works is still some way off.How patient are you?
The somewhat flakey reliability of smart home devices means you also need to ask yourself how patient you are in the face of things that don’t work as they should.
You will see devices report that they are unavailable. You will see things that show themselves as constantly updating and therefore unresponsive. You will find that one of the seven lights that should have turned off is still stubbornly on for no apparent reason. You will find there are times when you lose full control of something until you update its firmware.
If you are someone who will simply roll your eyes and get on with it, no problem. If, however, a piece of misbehaving technology turns you into an incandescent ball of concentrated fury, maybe now isn’t quite the right time to create a smart home.Family considerations
Even if you’re the greatest technology fan in the world, and can think of nothing more interesting than the challenge of figuring out why your living-room lights don’t turn on when they should, you also need to consider the attitude of your partner and any kids or other household members.
If you have any technophobes in the home, they’re unlikely to be amused by swapping simple light switches for a Siri-controlled world that relies on you remembering the name of a particular light.
But even reasonably tech-savvy people may not share your enthusiasm for automating everything in sight. For example, my partner is more tech-aware than the average mass-market consumer out there, and she’s also reasonably embedded in the Apple world, with a Mac, an iPad and an iPhone. But she still wasn’t happy about having to use an iPhone to switch on lights.
That doesn’t mean you have to rein-in your plans, but you may have to adapt them. In our case, we added a bunch of Hue Dimmer Switches to the walls so that Steph had the option of using physical switches – even if they were Wi-Fi ones. That adds cost as well as effort.Start by dipping a toe into the water
Ok, so you’ve decided you love gadgets and you can afford them; you’re willing to put in the work; you have a laid-back attitude to uncooperative technology; and your family is on-board. Even with all this in place, I’d still recommend dipping a toe into the smart home water first.
With this, you’ll get the experience of all the key aspects of configuring and using smart home tech:
Setting up a bridge (needed for many HomeKit devices)
Adding a device to its app
Setting up one or more rooms in the Home app
Controlling devices using the Home app
Controlling devices via Siri
By the time you’ve done this, you’ll have a good sense of the amount of effort involved, and the benefit you see from using it.Buy the right thing once
Personally, I’d recommend sticking to major brands, for several reasons:
They are likely to work reliably (for smart home values of ‘reliably’)
The company is likely to stand by their products if they fail
They are likely to be around for a long timeWhich includes HomeKit compatibility
HomeKit support makes such a big difference to usability that I’d say you want to almost view this as a must-have.
For example, if your lights, blinds and heating are all HomeKit-compatible, then a single Siri command or button tap like ‘Goodnight, home’ can take care of everything that needs to be done before going to bed. For non-HomeKit devices, you can’t use Siri, and you’ll have to go into each individual app in turn to control their respective devices.
I say ‘almost’ as you may find you have to make some exceptions – especially outside the USA, where compatible devices aren’t always available. And sometimes the price difference between the same thing with and without HomeKit support can be dramatic.
For example, our heating system uses electric radiators, which can’t be controlled by the Tado system we had before. There aren’t any HomeKit-compatible ones, but it’s really not a big deal because – for the most part – they operate on timers.
With blinds, we took a bit of chance, opting for ones that are iPhone-controlled but not yet HomeKit compatible – with later support promised. Since the company’s app already supports Scenes (one-button ways to set the positions of multiple blinds), then we’re reasonably confident that it is all set for HomeKit – and in the worst of cases, it’s not a massive convenience to tap two buttons rather than one in morning and evening. The reason we did that? HomeKit-compatible ones were literally twice the price.Smart switches are likely to be cheaper than smart bulbs
Depending on how many lights you have in your home, and how they are configured, it will generally work out cheaper to replace dumb switches with smart ones than to replace dumb bulbs with smart ones.
For example, if you have a living-room switch that controls four lights, each with two bulbs, a single switch might cost you $50 rather than spending $200 or more on eight bulbs.
In the USA, there are quite a few brands to choose from now – but always check HomeKit compatibility for the specific switches.
However …For light bulbs, consider color ones
Smart bulbs can do more than smart switches. For example, smart bulbs may allow you to select their color temperature, switching between bright white lighting when concentrating on something and a softer, yellower light when relaxing. They will also typically offer dimming – which smart switches do too, but don’t work with all bulb types.
However, the biggest benefit you get from opting for smart bulbs rather than smart switches is the option of color.
Attitudes to color bulbs vary. Some people are dismissive, seeing them as gimmicks that belong in nightclubs rather than homes. But many of us have come to love them.
For example, we often set the living-room floor lamps to blue or purple to provide enough light to see by without spoiling the view from the windows with bright reflections. In the bedroom, it’s nice to have the option of a warm and relaxing yellow-orange light.
The Philips Hue starter kit I recommended earlier gets you color bulbs, so you can then see how you get on with them and whether the added cost of color is worth it to you.Philips Hue Light Strips are worth a special mention
I’m trying to keep the piece as general as possible, but I think Philips Hue Light Strips are worth a special mention, as they are so versatile.
These are long multi-color LED strips designed to provide mood lighting. You can use them for under-cabinet lighting in a kitchen, for example, setting them to white when you are cooking and a color when you just want accent lighting.
Other common uses are for TV consoles, desks and bookshelves. We even use them as wardrobe lights as a single strip provides both overhead and side lighting.Smart plug sockets are another option
If you have floor or table lamps, another way to convert them to smart devices is to use a smart plug socket. Leave the lamp switched on, and then control the socket instead.
Elgato Eve Energy is the market leader here, and the app also monitors energy usage and costs into the bargain.Smart thermostats save money as well as adding convenience
If you have a central heating system, a smart thermostat can be a great buy. Presence-detection means that when the system sees there is nobody home, it automatically turns down the heating to save money. With the Tado system I had before, for example, it reduced the heating bills by around 7%.
Nest, Tado and Ecobee are three big names here. This is one category where I’d say HomeKit compatibility is less important as mostly you’ll leave it to its own devices.
However, these probably only make sense if you’re staying put for a while. The payback time on a system saving 7% a year, for example, will be a number of years.Smart locks are super-convenient but …
Walking up to your front door with your hands full and having the door automatically unlock when you approach it is undeniably convenient. Smart locks work by detecting your iPhone or Apple Watch via Bluetooth.
They also allow you to do things like allow timed access to specific individuals. For example, if your cleaner visits weekly on a Friday afternoon, the lock can be set to allow them in only between 1pm and 2pm on Fridays.
And if a friend is coming to stay and gets there before you do, you can grant them one-off access via a temporary code.
However, you do need to think about security. Even with HomeKit, which is designed to offer a very high level of security, there can be vulnerabilities – like the one we reported to Apple. You may consider smart locks to be one step too far.Smart cameras too
The same applies to smart cameras. If you have young kids, for example, these can provide a great way to keep an eye on them wherever you are.
Cameras can also be set to send alerts when they detect motion, and some even have face-recognition so that they don’t bother alerting you to familiar faces.
Again, though, you have to be aware of the potential privacy risks of a camera feed that’s accessible via the Internet.Smart speakers make a convenient interface
Finally, a smart speaker provides a really convenient way to control smart home technology. With this, you don’t need to have your iPhone or Watch with you as you wander around your home.
If everything you have is HomeKit-compatible, then a HomePod can control everything – but the cost only makes sense if you’re also looking for a decent speaker. Otherwise, an Amazon Echo Dot is a really low-cost device that will control most smart home devices – and is cheap enough that you could sprinkle a few around your home.In summary …
Think about whether smart home tech makes sense for you, your budget and your family
Dip a toe in the water first
Adopt a ‘buy the right thing once’ approach
Buy HomeKit-compatible devices wherever possible
Think about whether smart switches or bulbs make most sense for you
If bulbs, try color ones to see whether they add value
A smart thermostat likely makes financial sense if you have no plans to move
Think about the potential security risks of smart locks and cameras
Consider a smart speaker (or three) as a convenient means of control
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