Welcome back to me. It has been a bit of time since my last post, but it has been a long journey, even though I had a few things on my mind since then. Maybe a different post that I’ll probably never write. But one thing that seems to be a reoccurring theme is that I love new gadgets to play with, even though I don’t always get a chance to buy them. This is a gadget I could not pass up. It was a nice Black Friday deal that I got a couple of them for $29 each and to top it off $25 credit to use at Wal*mart(I know) through Google Express, though first $25 was easy but second is proving to be more difficult. But, I’m starting to like these little devices and am well on the way to making my home smarter in every way. Though, some people will always crap on it over “privacy issues.”

Let’s start with the deal. Most places that sell these were offering them away for $29, which I probably would have taken anyways. Though, the extra $25 credit makes it go over easier with the wife who thinks I spend too much at times. I know saving more is my 2018 goal. The only bad part of that is that it needs to be spent at Wal-Mart through Google Express which is proving to be a bit more difficult. Taking the $10 gift cards other stores were handing out would have been easier. First credit I received was easy and done with just like that as my plan was to buy myself the devices and use the credits towards Christmas gifts.  The first $25 credit went to buy a Lazer X Tower for my oldest son, which ended up taking only $5 out of my wallet. The Lazer X Tower sells for around $30-$40 in most places except for Amazon, which you can see by clicking the above link. Though like all Amazon links, I may or may not receive some commission from, though that one I would not recommend. Cheaper elsewhere, and the ones on Amazon are only third-party sellers which I avoid.

The problem with this deal occurred with the second credit, ironically from the first Google Home Mini I had in my hands physically. First one, I ordered online through Wal-Mart while second I purchased at Wal-Mart on Black Friday. Google was having issues issuing credits from units purchased in-store. Anyways, my plan was to buy the Lazer X Tower to go with the Lazer X blasters I was going to buy to go with it for both of my boys. I was going to get one for myself as well. At the time, Wal-Mart thru Google Express sold single units for $17 a piece which was a good deal in my eyes as the lowest I see for two was $37 at Costco. Buying 3 for $17 a piece brings it up to $51 for 3 but with the $25 credit, it would have brought it down to $26 which would have been nice. I would have 2 Google Homes, 1 Lazer X Tower and 3 Lazer X blasters for $91 instead of $177 if I bought all but 1 Lazer X Blaster while they were not on sale. $202 for the whole package if I could find a single Lazer X blaster somewhere. Still, $127 if purchased while not on sale. I think I couldn’t do better. Anyways, Google finally fixed the issue, unfortunately when I went to go use it, the Lazer X toys were nowhere to be found on Google Express thru Wal-Mart, just some “fishing hooks.” So now I have $25 to spend when I have no clue on what. I was thinking to buying an induction stove top(to use with my pressure cooker) through it, but found one I liked better on Amazon. I definitely need to start talking about my Project A(Pressure Cooker).

Anyways, I have spent way too much talking about the actual purchase and deals, but let’s continue with the actual units. So far, I am in love with these. My oldest son wants to marry them, but she politely declines even though she claimed to be committed to him. My son is going through the I want to marry phrase that I have no clue where he got it from. I know he’s not watch Arrested Development so it’s not from that. These units are awesome and I have one in my family room(I just decided to change the terminology of my “living room” to start calling it by the “Family Room.” Though Living room is still the more apt name, but why be so formal here? The other is in the master bedroom.

So far, I’ve only used it for listening to music, which I really enjoy the quality here though your opinion might vary as I’m really not an audiophile. But these do produce nice sounding music and nature sounds for when I’m on my way to dream land. I just need to figure out more variety on choices in that regard. I also need to find a way to get Google to add my music service of choice(Slacker Radio) on there instead of just having Google Music, Pandora, Spotify or YouTube Red on it. None of those services are good for my music tastes and I’m not going to spend more money on one just to use with my Home Minis. Luckily the free versions of the services they do provide do offer some sort of experience. Also, I have both Home Minis linked so I can play the same music on both. Now I just need a Google Home Mini to add in the kitchen to complete that experience, and I did check for one on Wal-Mart thru Google Express and that disappeared from there as well.

My next project with these was Home Automation or really just voice activated controls. My first step was to get the lights behind my couch to be more easier to control and have better dimming capabilities for a better Movie viewing experience. I simply purchased a Leviton Decora WiFi Plug-in Dimmer for $31.99 on Amazon though now it’s up to $39.05. I connected the lamp to that unit, plugged it in and set it up. It works good and now I can even dim the lamp without  the lights flicker. It already has a dimmer switch on it, but the lights tend to flicker when I use it. Dimming the lights with a simple command of “Hey Google, Dim the lights to 20%” works better with a slight dim with no flicker.  I also found I can control it using my Amazon”Alexa” Wand I basically got for free as well.

The next step with Voice Activation through Google Home was to replace the Dash Buttons I was using as Recording toggle switches as part of my Project B with my original plan was to re-utilize the Dash Buttons to toggle the corner lamp to make it easier for those who didn’t want to use voice commands. That plan was thwarted when I found out that my Dash Button setup was no longer working for one reason or another. I’m hoping Amazon didn’t close that loophole for those who would like that option. Though, I suppose they have that right. Still, it could be something I changed with my network as I made some changes there as well. More things I need to place on this blog that may never get here just like Project A. I will definitely explain how to set up the Voice Activation to control the camera recording system for those who use Xeoma or any other source that has the ability to toggle things via html calls.

The Voice Activation aspect of this will continue as I add more devices and hoping I can find some second-hand stuff through Goodwill and such. My next step is adding wi-fi control lights(being shipped soon) in the rest of my family room lighting, except for the dining room that is basically an extension of said room. The lights I’m waiting for is a Hub and Light set I found through Amazon via Slickdeals.net which are the Sengled Element Smart Light Bulb Starter Kit which I was able to buy for $24. I was already looking at bulbs that were going to call for about $25-$30 and by all accounts these seem to be decent lights, though they are typically used on other hubs like Smart Things rather than the hub they are providing. But in the end, I can continue to add more of their lights to the system which are decently priced at $10 a bulb and add them to a Smart Things hub if i ever find one cheap enough. And that was one other thing that I couldn’t find on Wal-Mart thru Google Express.