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Building a Smart Home From the Ground Up

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I’ve been loving my year-old IKEA remote-control lighting kit. And Alexa on the Amazon Echo has been a good friend during our first weeks together.

But I don’t know if I’m ready yet for a truly smart home: learning thermostats, video doorbells, smart locks, Bluetooth-enabled cookers, robot vacuums.

The Internet of Things is growing so quickly, it’s hard to keep up; for someone who is easily overwhelmed by too many options. Smart homes, frankly, scare me.

Don’t let my silly fears over an automated lifestyle spook you, though.

Building your own smart home is easier than it sounds: Like an actual house, you’ll need a foundation—or, in this case, a hub. The Wink Hub 2 connects to a mesh network, Bluetooth, or Wi-Fi and works with everything from lighting to cameras to speakers.

Amazon’s Echo family of devices (Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Spot, Echo Show) are a great add-on. User-friendly and expandable, the speakers pair with If This Then That (IFTTT) to create “recipes” for controlling gadgets with your voice.

Establish a routine, for example, that turns off your Philips Hue lights whenever your Nest thermostat goes into Away mode. Or set specific triggers for when you (er, your mobile phone) arrive at or leave the house.

The Apple HomePod and Google Home are also fairly foolproof alternatives.

For do-it-yourself types, Raspberry Pi is a burgeoning option. The tiny computer has been used to power a wearable computer, racing robot, Nerf Blaster (that can ID a target’s face), mini Game Boy, pocketable PC, and nostalgic arcade stick.

Now, you can link it with the open-source Talking Pi extension to manage lights, plugs, and devices via voice commands. Or pick up one of Google’s AIY (“Artificial Intelligence Yourself”) Pi-friendly kits for personalized programming.

And that’s just the beginning. From there, folks can bulk up their smart home with surveillance cams, locks, heating and cooling, lighting, kitchen appliances, sweepers, outdoor tools, and even health and fitness accessories.

For more, see PCMag’s lineup of The Best Smart Home Devices of 2018.

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Watch: Passengers Freak Out Over New Tesla Roadster’s Record-Setting Acceleration

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When Tesla announced its new version of the Roadster, which can accelerate in zero to 60 mph in 1.9 seconds, a lot of people were doubtful.

But a new video of the first test rides in the new Roadster, unveiled by Tesla on YouTube on Friday, shows that the “quickest car in the world” could actually be close to becoming a reality.

The video shows passengers’ hilarious reactions as the Roadster demonstrates its record-setting acceleration.

Reactions included a lot of “Holy S%!#” and “Oh My God” and “Holy F%!#”

According to Tesla, the all-new Roadster can travel 620 miles on a single charge – a new record for an all-electric vehicle.

“[It’s] the fastest production car ever made, period,” said Tesla founder Elon Musk. (Photo Credit: Tesla, Inc.)

The four-seater supercar can go from zero to 60 miles per hour in 1.9 seconds and from zero to 100 mph in 4.2 seconds, and it boasts a top speed of 250 mph.

The all-new Roadster will cost $200,000 at launch (the first 1,000 are available for a ‘Founders Series Price’ of $250,000), and will be available in 2020.

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Cuba Rolls Out Mobile Internet Service to Citizens for the First Time

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Cubans will now be able to access the internet on their mobile phones, according to state-run telecom agency ETECSA.

The announcement is a milestone for the Communist-run country, which has long been considered one of the least connected countries in the world, and one of the last without mobile internet.

Starting Thursday, December 6, citizens would be able able to start subscribing to internet access via a 3G mobile network.

In a news show broadcast on Tuesday, ETECSA executives announced a range of packages valid for 30 days from 600 MB for the equivalent of $7 dollars to 4 GB for $30. Without a package, 100 MB will cost users $10, Reuters reported.

With average state wages at around $30, the cost for mobile internet will likely be out of reach for most Cubans, even though users get a bonus 300MB use of local .cu domain websites.

The list of packages for the connection to mobile internet from mobile phones is displayed on a woman’s phone screen in Havana, Cuba on December 6, 2018. (Photo Credit: Yamil Lage/AFP/Getty Images)

Until today, citizens have mostly relied on Wi-Fi hotspots and internet cafes for mobile internet access, and the 3G service has been restricted to state-employed journalists and foreign businesses among others, according to BBC News.

“It was about time this became a possibility for Cubans too,” Havana resident Joaquin Montiel, 58, told Reuters. “But for some, like me, it’s still a remote one.” Montiel said he would not be able to afford a cellphone with 3G technology on his salary of less than $20 per month as a salesman in a state company.

Still, the launch is seen by many as a sign that the country is further softening its tough stance on individual freedoms. Internet was only largely available to tourist hotels and state-run clubs until 2013, when the island country began opening internet cafes.

It wasn’t until 2015 when the first Wi-Fi hotspot opened at a cultural centre, and other public spaces followed, the BBC reported. But many Cubans have complained about having to brave the elements just to use the Wi-Fi at the hotspots, which also lack of privacy. In 2017, ETECSA offered a limited number of home connections.

To reduce the risk of being overwhelmed with demand, ETECSA is rolling out the new 3G service will be rolled out over a three-day period.

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Robot Vacuum Showdown: Neato Versus Roomba

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Cleaning can be a pain sometimes, especially if you have to use a clunky vacuum to suck up nasty debris. Thankfully though, technology has gifted us with handy smart home devices, including Neato […]

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