Nest Thermostat – Not So Friendly

Written: April 30, 2017

My wife exclaimed, “Our thermostat won’t do what I want it to anymore. It’s time to replace it.”

She was referring to our 20+ year old Honeywell thermostat that came with our home. I agreed and had already researched the new crop of “Smart Thermostats”, deciding to go with the chic Nest unit, now owned by Google. My local Home Depot store had it in stock, although I had to visit the Service Desk to actually get the unit because they don’t keep them out in the open, just in case a thief wants to walk out of the store with one.

Nest Thermostat

Nest Thermostat

Removing the old thermostat and mounting the new Nest was straight forward, however during the setup process the Nest device tried to connect or our WiFi called PAYNE. First attempt to connect was met with the error message, “Failed to connect”. OK, so I re-type the password, still no connection. Next I tried a second network named PAYNE-5G, same issue of “Failed to connect” for two attempts.

I visit the Next web site, find the support page, and give them a phone call. The recorded voice says that I have to wait about 10 minutes. No problem. On the web I visit their FAQ section and click around on WiFi issues, where they have six recommendations, none of which helps my unit to connect. After 10 minutes my support phone call is abruptly disconnected, having never reached a live person. Huh, this is not going well today.

Then I started to wonder why the Nest device couldn’t connect to WiFi, maybe I could change something on my WiFi router to make it all better, so I login to my router and notice that I can choose which Channel my WiFi is using. So I change from channel 3, to 4 to channel 5. Bingo, because now I could finally connect the WiFi on the Nest device to my home network. No thanks to the Nest phone support system or their web site FAQ, I had to figure it out myself and that took about 60 minutes of sleuthing and trying various combinations of settings.

Now that the new thermostat is installed and working I’m supposed to achieve some energy savings as this system learns our heating and cooling habits and preferences. I also applied for $50.00 cash back from the Energy Trust of Oregon, so that will help sweeten the deal a bit. Our family can also use an App on our Android phones to view the thermostat settings and control it remotely, kind of cool. We have officially started to build our Smart Home, so let’s see where this journey takes us.

Eco mode for energy savings

Eco mode for energy savings

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Fingerprint For Login on Laptop and Phone

Written: April 28, 2017

My new MacBook Pro laptop has a nifty feature that at first I thought was a gimmick – the fingerprint scanner. Throughout my work day I may be on the phone, or leave the room, then when I return my screen has been locked for security purposes and I must authenticate to get back to work. With a simple press of my right index finger my identity is validated and I’m back to work on the laptop, quite convenient for me saving time and effort of typing a password on the keyboard and pressing the Return key.

MacBook Pro

MacBook Pro

My youngest son has been urging me to turn this fingerprint scanning feature on with my Galaxy Note 4 smart phone, so yesterday I finally agreed and started the process. I basically had to swipe my finger across the Home button for 10 strokes, and click the Done prompt to get things all setup.

Fingerprint scan setup

Fingerprint scan setup. Source: Androidcentral.com

My phone screen locks way faster and more often than my laptop screen does, so now I get to save even more time and effort to unlock the phone quickly with a stroke of my finger. All is well, but wait. Within several minutes of turning on this new fangled feature I started receiving emails that three of my credit cards saved on my phone for Android Pay had been disconnected. Uh oh, I hadn’t consciously removed those credit cards, or had I?

It turns out that Android Pay on my phone wants to be ultra-secure, so when the the security mechanism on my phone was changed from a password to a fingerprint scan it decided to be overly cautious and remove the cards. It was a simple matter for me to launch the Android Pay app and re-add my three cards, they really weren’t deleted from the device just disabled until I added them back again. So within a minute or so I had all three of my credit cards working again in Android Pay. I use Android Pay every week and it’s so convenient to not carry my wallet every place that I need to shop, I just wish that the retailers would update their POS terminals to accept Android Pay and it’s competitor Apple Pay.

Android Pay

Android Pay

Many companies accept Android Pay (McDonalds, Jamba Juice, Apple, New Seasons) and even banks are starting to accept it. So I’m hopeful that in my lifetime I will no longer have to carry a wallet, rather just a fully charged smart phone with all of my cards connected to Android Pay.

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What to do when your email message gets bounced back

Written: April 4, 2017

I use LinkedIn every day and recently I connected with a new person living in Europe. We sent some messages back and forth using LinkedIn, then he sent me a direct email. When I replied to his email message then it quickly got bounced back. Have you ever sent an email message to a person that you know, however you quickly received a bounced back message telling you that you message wasn’t delivered? What should you do to remedy this situation?

Here’s the bounced email reply that I received today:

bounced email reply

Bounced Email Reply

Reading this email I discovered why my email didn’t get delivered:

We all hate to receive spam email messages, so our web hosting companies that provide email services have banded together to identify the spammers, and they do this by subscribing to lists of suspected or known spammers. A blacklist has the IP addresses where spam emails are coming from, so in this case the IP address of 74.208.4.197 has been known to send out spam emails.

My web hosting company is 1and1.com, and they offered something called a shared hosting plan to keep their costs low. What that means is that when I sign up for a shared web hosting plan that there are maybe 100 or more other customers using the same email server and web server that I am using. So even if I am not personally sending out spam, there is certainly another customer of 1and1.com that is also using our shared server and they are the ones sending out the spam.

Well, these blacklist companies cannot discern between email senders, so instead they just note the entire IP address, which in this case is now blocking email from 100 or more shared hosting customers, like me. My recourse is to phone up the technical support folks at 1and1.com and alert them to this blacklist issue, then they contact each of the blacklist companies and assure them that the real spammer has been identified and stopped, so please update your blacklist and remove the IP address of 74.208.4.197

This is a process and can take hours or days to get resolved, so my options to work around this issue for my one email address going to this one recipient are to:

The Internet is a complex place and sometimes our email messages will be bounced back, so take hope, call up your web hosting vendor and explain what has happened and get them to go and advocate on your behalf and get your IP address off of the blacklists.

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Charity Web Site Fail

Written: March 24, 2017

There are a handful of charities that I support and The Salvation Army is on that short list, so when I received their phone call for support I replied yes, and they mailed out a contribution letter. In that letter I saw that I could donate online so I browsed the site provided, www.tsacascade.org which oddly enough redirected me instead to cascade.salvationarmy.org.

Salvation Army home page

Home page

Next, I clicked on the Donate button which then sent me to a third web site at give.salvationarmyusa.org. Filling out the form I expected it to say Thank You, instead it did nothing, so I took a look and discovered that this secure form was throwing two errors and wouldn’t submit, so I was totally stuck:

Salvation Army, failed donation

Failed donation

At the bottom of the page there was a phone number of 800-725-2769 so I called and talked to a live operator and it went something like this:

Operator, “Welcome to the Salvation Army, how may I help you?”

Me, “My name is Daniel and I just tried to donated online, but your form is broken and throwing errors.”

“Uh, what page is that?”

“It was https://give.salvationarmyusa.org/. Can you tell me if the donation went through OK?”

“Wait just one moment. Please call us back in 48 hours to see if your donation was accepted.”

“Would I receive an email confirmation if the donation worked OK?”

“Wait just one moment. Please call us back in 48 hours.”

“Is there a procedure to report your broken donation page?”

“Yes. Please call back in 48 hours to see if we have fixed the page.”

So what did I learn?

  1. The Salvation Army has a hodge-podge of three confusing web domain names. Instead, they should use one name to earn my trust.
  2. Web sites with secure donation pages need to be tested for proper operation and fixed before the public wakes up, or else confidence and trust decreases.
  3. Telephone operators aren’t trained to help donors when the web site breaks.

So, do I still trust the Salvation Army? Yes, although their web developer needs to quickly fix this donation bug to restore my confidence.

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