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Every gadget has a story. A new publication from Medium about consumer technology.

My laptop, Kindle, and toothbrush run on California sunshine

What would you do if your power went out for three to four days at a time, several times per year? My slice of the San Francisco Bay Area is subject to Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPSs), where our utility (PG&E) kills the power to whole communities for days at a time in order to prevent deadly wildfires. I know the shutoffs are an essential safety measure, but they’re also incredibly disruptive. In 2019, the town where I live lost power for several three- to four-day stretches.

To weather these shutoffs, I built a private DIY solar microgrid. …

Maximum effort?

AirPods Max Ear Cushions close up.
AirPods Max Ear Cushions close up.

I’ve said it over and over again: I had no plans to buy AirPods Max. I had absolutely no interest in them.

Okay, that last part was incorrect; I had no interest in paying $549 for them. Sheesh.

But I was definitely interested in them. I figured I’d be waiting for Apple to make a cheaper version of the AirPods Max, maybe an SE version or something. Considering that, I didn’t expect to have any version of the AirPods Max in my hands so soon after their release. But here I am, wearing AirPods Max on my noggin right now.

Change your lightbulbs, change your life

When I first bought my house in the San Francisco Bay Area late last year, the place was like a museum of energy inefficiency. Nearly every light fixture in the house used a different kind of power-hogging incandescent or halogen lightbulb. When we got our first monthly electric bill, I nearly fell over — it was $868.

I knew that we needed to make a change. So I researched, bought, and installed modern, highly efficient LED replacements for every fixture in our home’s motley collection of random lights. …

Has it become my least favorite Apple device?

I have always loved watches.

That’s not an exaggeration; as a kid, you could find me in the watch section of Wal-Mart as often as you could find me in the toy section. I’ve got cabinets full of cheap, dead watches that I don’t wear but I’ve stopped short of throwing out. I’m not sure why I’ve always been fascinated by timepieces, and it has for a long time been true that more often than not, you can find me not wearing any watch at all, but none of that ever stopped me from buying a new wristwatch.

Now, I’m…

But here’s why I switched anyway

Last week, I said goodbye to my (fully functional) Samsung Galaxy A70 and unboxed the iPhone 12 Pro. I would be lying if I said I didn’t look forward to it. Even though transferring data across platforms is a painstaking process, I was positively giddy: I couldn’t wait to see what I’ve missed during the past two years of iOS upgrades.

However, it’s fair to say that the iPhone fell short in several ways.

Android’s Main Long-Term Strengths

Price Point

I shouldn’t even have to say this, but I paid a fraction of the price for my Galaxy A70 smartphone. Using a cheap phone is incredibly…

How the command palette gives users superpowers

A new tool is quietly appearing in many new and old apps that makes it easier for users to get around and get things done quickly. It’s a supercharged search box that I’ve dubbed the “power bar” and is sometimes referred to as the “command palette.”

Similar to Apple’s Spotlight search on macOS, power bars are built into a specific app and generally summoned with a shortcut like CMD+K (or CMD+SHIFT+P) and then typing in what you’re trying to do. …

This DIY project probably won’t make you rich, but it will help you understand how Bitcoin works

Earlier this year, I wrote an article about mining Bitcoin on any PC and also shared the details of a cryptocurrency mining PC I built in 2018. In mining a little Bitcoin of my own, I developed a much deeper understanding of how cryptocurrencies and the blockchain work (and made over $1,600 in the process).

What if you want to graduate to the next level, though, and build your own basic cryptocurrency mining PC using modern parts in 2021? I decided to find out, so I enlisted the help of my friend Adam, a computer engineer at a security company…

My wife curses me with every watchOS update

The trouble started last year shortly after Apple launched watchOS 7 (along with the new Apple Watch Series 6 and Watch SE). My wife’s Apple Watch Series 3 ($199 GPS model), which I bought for her almost two years ago, did not like the update at all.

It should have. WatchOS 7 is compatible with all Apple Watches back to version 3, but it turns out it’s compatible in the figurative sense: Apple Watch Series 3 can run watchOS 7 but getting it on the wearable is like trying to stuff 16 clowns into an eight-clown car.

The issue boils…

Spam and robocalls have made this stalwart communication system unusable

“I called you, but I guess you didn’t hear it,” said my mother.

“This line?” I said, popping my AirPods Pros in my ears.

“No,” she said, sounding a bit concerned (or annoyed).

“Oh, you called the house phone.”

That’s when I realized my landline was unplugged. It wasn’t broken. I’d done this on purpose.

Let’s go back two weeks ago.

My home phone rang, and even though I suspected it was a spam or robocall, I glanced at the caller ID. …

How a Raspberry Pi will help you resurrect this classic communications device

Pagers were popular many years ago, and some people may still have one at home. Is it possible to test the pager now? Absolutely, and I will show you how to do it.

Let’s get started.

POCSAG — The Messaging Protocol

In the 90s, I was a student and the pager for me was something like a Star Trek Communicator, a piece of the cutting edge technology. It is fun to remember it because now I know that technologically the paging protocol is very straightforward. …

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