While we wait for the weather to get less yucky, I’ve been focusing a bit on making our house more comfortable. I mentioned on my main blog yesterday that I’ve been investing in some new technology. In the past few weeks, I’ve acquired two new Alexa Echo Dot devices. One is in my office, and the other is in my bedroom. I have an Alexa Studio in the living room. I don’t use it very much. I bought it mainly because sometimes Siri on my HomePod goes kerfluey and it makes a good backup.
I have some Amazon music purchases that I can’t play on the HomePod, and some Apple purchases that won’t play on Alexa. I don’t want to subscribe to a streaming service, so I have two “assistants”. For years, I’ve managed to avoid succumbing to temptation regarding the Dots, but finally gave in when I realized that Alexa does more than music. But then, so does Siri.
Anyway, after Bill gave me a Dot for my office, I got one for the bedroom… then I realized it might be interesting to be able to control our lights from my phone. I bought three new smart power strips, some smart outlet plugs, and smart light bulbs.
All of these items can be connected via a phone app to the Internet. Then, I can make them do things I never thought I’d be able to get them to do. 😉
Last night after dinner, we tried out the new smart bulbs. I bought four of them, so we put them on the four lamps they fit. Then we connected them to the Internet via the app. Now, I can adjust the color, intensity, and even set them to music. I can program them to turn on and off on a schedule. I didn’t have to plug the lamp into a smart outlet, either. All we had to do was change the light bulb and pair it with the phone and/or tablet.
I remember when we first moved to Germany in 2007, we quickly learned that using US made lamps in Germany is pretty simple. All you have to do is use a plug converter and a German bulb and you’re good to go. That’s not the case with other electronics. I once fried a computer because I forgot to change the voltage switch from North America to Europe. The voltage in North America is 110 volts; here, it’s 220. So, when you don’t change the voltage settings or use a transformer, you can end up blowing up your device.
Our former landlady, who accused us of “dumping” an American fridge in her house, obviously didn’t know that we have different voltages in the USA. That crappy fridge, which was there the day we moved in, was plugging into the wall. If it were an American appliance, we wouldn’t be able to do that. The plug itself is different, so it wouldn’t have fit the outlet. And the voltage is different, so we’d need a transformer, which would not be worth it. High voltage transformers are very expensive and, in my experience, don’t work very well. They tend to trip the circuit breakers.
This is less of a problem with computers. Nowadays, they are built to automatically detect electric current and adjust accordingly. That wasn’t always the case, though, and it’s still not true for a lot of electric devices. That’s why most of our American small appliances are in storage.
We need to do some more study and find out all of the things we can do with our gadgets now. Today, I have a new HomePod Mini coming to me. I’ll use it in my office for now, for when my computer gets overwhelmed and music stalls out. Then, I’ll probably move it when I get a new desktop computer, which will probably be pretty soon. I also ordered a new HomePod, which was recently “souped up”. That will get to us in March, when it’s available in Europe. I will move the old HomePod to our entertainment room and hook it up to the TV, so we can get better sound.
I still wish we had a couch for in there. First world problems…
Anyway, if people are reading this blog looking for information about actually living in Germany, I can reassure you that many of the techie comforts of home are easily found here. Sometimes you have to wait a little longer and pay a little more, but you can still get most of that cool stuff here. A bonus is, some homes have some pretty awesome features you won’t find in a lot of US homes, like heated floors, saunas, and indoor pools. But, most of them don’t have closets, which is a real bummer.