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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The 4 Best Bike Taillights to Keep You Safe on The Road

The LEZYNE Zecto Drive Max mounted on a gravel bike next to a cornfield.
Ian Slack

To stay safe as a cyclist, you have to be seen. There are many ways you can do this, but a bright, blinking red light is one of the best. If you ride bikes, you need a good taillight.

What to Look for in a Bike Taillight

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, hundreds of cyclists are killed each year by cars, and thousands more are injured. Just about every cyclist who regularly rides on the road has a close-call horror story to tell you, and the reasons are many.

Like motorcycles, bicycles present a smaller visual profile to drivers, which makes cyclists harder to spot. There’s also the problem of distracted motorists looking at their phones, and drivers who don’t know how to pass bikes properly.

It’s important to do anything you can to keep yourself safe, including always wearing a helmet and colorful clothing. NHTSA statistics also show that more crashes happen in daylight than after dark. This means you need a bike taillight that’s also clearly visible in bright sunlight, so drivers can see you when you’re ahead of them.

The good news is advancing LED technology makes it possible for bike taillights to get brighter each year. For a minimal investment, you can get a lightweight lamp that easily attaches to your bike and is bright enough for drivers to notice in any lighting conditions.

Here are some key things to think about as you look for a new blinky:

  • Replaceable or rechargeable battery: Many budget taillights on the market feature replaceable batteries, but we think rechargeable is the better choice. It’s difficult to know how long replaceable batteries will last, and you don’t want your light to die in the middle of a ride. With rechargeables, the manufacturer provides an estimate of how long the light will burn in each setting. You can also verify that on your own, so you know when you need to recharge your light. Or, you can just recharge it after every ride. It’s a safer, more reliable strategy. It’s also better for the environment because you won’t have to throw batteries in the trash constantly.
  • The lumens rating: The brightness of regular light bulbs is generally measured in wattage. Most people understand the difference between a 100-watt bulb versus a 40-watt bulb. For the new, energy-efficient LED technology, though, watts aren’t an accurate indicator of power. These are measured in lumens—a more exact measurement of the amount of light a device projects. There’s usually a correlation between how much you spend and what you get when it comes to brightness. So, how many lumens do you need? There isn’t a specific answer, but around 100 lumens (or more) is necessary if you want to be easy to see in daylight.
  • Battery life: Another important point to think about when you shop for a bike taillight is battery life. You’ll need to consider the kind of riding you do. For example, an urban commuter might only need one hour of life at a light’s highest setting between charges. However, if you do training rides of four to five hours, long battery life will be at the top of your list.
  • Mounting options: You attach a lot of bike taillights to your seat post or bike frame with convenient rubber mounting straps. These wrap around the tube like a rubber band, so you can mount and remove them quickly. Others have brackets, and you slide the light on and off to recharge it. If you want to attach the light to your helmet, backpack, or clothes, make sure the one you choose includes an appropriate clip to do so. Many lights offer a variety of mounting options in the same package to give you maximum flexibility.
  • Water resistance: If you get caught in the rain, your bike’s taillight will be soaked. The rear wheel also throws up a considerable amount of spray when it’s damp outside—just wear a light-colored jersey and check out the spray pattern on the back when you get home. So, a taillight’s water-resistance rating is important, too. Check out the customer reviews of the light you’re interested in. Find out if the light is well-sealed and if the cover over the recharging port protects it from moisture.

Rather than picking one “best” bike taillight, we recommend a range of options based on price and different needs. If you’re a casual rider, you don’t need to spend a lot to get a good rechargeable light. At higher price levels, you get more options, longer burn times, and some really cool safety features.

Best Budget: Cygolite Hotshot 100 USB

The Cygolite Hotshot 100 USB.

For less than $20, the Cygolite Hotshot 100 USB is a great rechargeable bike taillight. You’ll get 2.5 hours of runtime from the built-in Li-ion battery at its highest, 100-lumen setting. Cygolite claims on lower settings, you can stretch that to a remarkable 270 hours. There are six setting options in total for day and night: Steady, Zoom, SteadyPulse®, Triple Flash, DayLightning®, and Random Flash. Cygolite says the DayLightning mode “emits lightning-like flashes to highlight your presence in the brightest of daytime hours.”

It’s small, water-resistant, and weighs only 59 grams. The package includes a seat post and seat stay mounts. There’s also a clip on the back of the light you can attach to a backpack or your clothes.

The Best Ways to Secure Your SSH Server

A stylized SSH prompt in a terminal window on a laptop.
Eny Setiyowati/Shutterstock.com

Secure your Linux system’s SSH connection to protect your system and data. System administrators and home users alike need to harden and secure internet-facing computers, but SSH can be complicated. Here are ten easy quick-wins to help protect your SSH server.

SSH Security Basics

SSH stands for Secure Shell. The name “SSH” is used interchangeably to mean either the SSH protocol itself or the software tools that allow system administrators and users to make secure connections to remote computers using that protocol.

The SSH protocol is an encrypted protocol designed to give a secure connection over an insecure network, such as the internet. SSH in Linux is built on a portable version of the OpenSSH project. It is implemented in a classic client-server model, with an SSH server accepting connections from SSH clients. The client is used to connect to the server and to display the session to the remote user. The server accepts the connection and executes the session.

In its default configuration, an SSH server will listen for incoming connections on Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) port 22. Because this is a standardized, well-known port, it is a target for threat actors and malicious bots.

Threat actors launch bots that scan a range of IP addresses looking for open ports. The ports are then probed to see if there are vulnerabilities that can be exploited. Thinking, “I’m safe, there are bigger and better targets than me for the bad guys to aim at,” is false reasoning. The bots aren’t selecting targets based on any merit; they’re methodically looking for systems they can breach.

You nominate yourself as a victim if you haven’t secured your system.

Security Friction

Security friction is the irritation—of whatever degree—that users and others will experience when you implement security measures. We’ve got long memories and can remember introducing new users to a computer system, and hearing them ask in a horrified voice whether they really had to enter a password every time they logged in to the mainframe. That—to them—was security friction.

(Incidentally, the invention of the password is credited to Fernando J. Corbató, another figure in the pantheon of computer scientists whose combined work contributed to the circumstances that led to the birth of Unix.)

Introducing security measures usually involves some form of friction for someone. Business owners have to pay for it. The computer users may have to change their familiar practices, or remember another set of authentication details, or add extra steps to connect successfully. The system administrators will have additional work to do to implement and maintain the new security measures.

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Geek Trivia: The First Real Astronaut To Appear On Star Trek Was?

The First Real Astronaut To Appear On Star Trek Was?

  1. Sally Ride
  2. Neil Armstrong
  3. Mae C. Jemison
  4. Yuri Gagarin

Think you know the answer?

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Monday, October 14, 2019

5 No-Carve Ways to Decorate a Pumpkin

Pumpkin wrapped up with ribbons
Jenn Huls/Shutterstock

Halloween’s not complete without the requisite jack-o’-lantern grinning on your front porch. Carving a tough-shelled gourd can be a frustrating endeavor, though, especially with young kids. So leave the knife behind and check out these five no-carve ways to decorate a pumpkin.

Sharp objects and small children don’t go together. Honestly, sharp objects and some adults don’t go together. While a carved pumpkin is traditional, it’s not always the smartest, or even the sweetest, way to decorate your front porch on Halloween.

From many, many non-traditional ways to decorate a pumpkin, we’ve narrowed it down to our five favorites. So whether you’re celebrating with children this year, or just don’t want the mess that comes with carving a gourd, we’ve got you set with these simple, no-carve ways to decorate a pumpkin.

Paint Your Pumpkin

DIY marbled Pumpkins
Lori, PopofGold.com

Painting a pumpkin is an obvious choice. Basic craft paint turns a pumpkin’s hard shell into a canvas. And with the large variety in pumpkin sizes, shapes, and colors, you won’t have to settle for an oblong and orange canvas either.

For an effortless and creative take on painted pumpkins, try the nail-polish technique: Swirl a few drops of your favorite polish in water. Then run your pumpkin through the water, picking up the colored polish as you do so. The effect is sleek, dark, and creepy—perfect for a haunted house or spooky soiree.

For more detailed instructions on the nail-polish paint technique, check out PopofGold.com.

Use a Stick-On Craft Kit

The easiest way to avoid carving pumpkins is to use a craft kit. Kits are sold in all the major big-box stores this time of year, or you can use Amazon to find a favorite. If you’re decorating with kids, we recommend buying a few extra kits. They tend to be cheap, and having a few extra of the prized pink pompoms or giant stick-on eyes means fewer rare treasures to fight over.

Make sure you do this one indoors. Kits tend to have a lot of lightweight, stick-on parts that are just as likely to be blown away in the breeze as they are to be stuck on your pumpkin.

Put Your Cute Office Supplies to Use

thumbtack pumpkin designs on teal and white pumpkins
Bruce Cole/DIY Network

RELATED: What’s the Deal with All These Teal Pumpkins?

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What to Expect from Google’s Big Pixel Event Tomorrow, October 15

The leaked Pixel 4, from Google's tweet.

The yearly smorgasbord of Google-branded consumerism, aka the Pixel Event, is nearly upon us. And in typical Google fashion, pretty much everything has leaked well before the event arrives. We’ll be on-site to break down everything as Google unveils it, but in the meantime let’s look at what we expect to see there.

To be fair, it’s entirely possible that Google will pull out some major surprises—Microsoft certainly did last week at its similar event. But we can say with about 99 percent certainty that we’re going to see this year’s refresh of Google’s flagship Pixel phones and a new self-branded Chromebook. We’ll probably see a lot of new information on forthcoming Google software and services, too. Other things, like a refreshed Google Nest Home Mini and a closer look at the upcoming Stadia, are less certain.

Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL

The 2019 Pixel phones might just be the most-leaked Google phones ever, which puts them high up on Michael’s Scale of Massive Tech Hardware Leaks (that I just invented). Pretty much every aspect of these phones’ hardware design, and a good chunk of the new Android 10-based software, has been leaked, some of it in the form of early promotional material from Google itself. The highlights:

The Pixel 4 phone on a black background.
Google “leaked” a more or less complete image of the Pixel 4 months ago. Google
  • One big phone, one little phone, with 6.3-inch and 5.77-inch screens, respectively. The big one will be 1440p, the little one 1080p, with super-smooth 90 Hz refresh rates.
  • The rear-mounted fingerprint sensors are gone, replaced by Google’s brand of face recognition, much like FaceID on modern iPhones. It’s using a front-facing array of cameras and sensors.
  • Speaking of front-facing stuff: That unsightly notch from the Pixel 3 XL is gone, replaced by a thicker top bezel to hold all those IR cameras and sensors. Unlike the 3 and 3 XL, the small and large Pixel 4 phones will look more or less the same, complete with a distinct square-shaped camera cluster on the rear. Multiple unconventional colors will be offered, but that two-tone glass from all three previous pixel generations seems to be gone.

  • Gesture control: Another new tech goodie hidden inside that bezel is a special sensor for detecting hand gestures, which will allow you to perform frequent actions like answering a call or advancing a music track with a wave of your hand. Google calls it Motion Sense, and it’s an offshoot of Project Soli.
  • Cameras: Expect two rear cameras on both phones, 12 MP and 16 MP, with standard and telephoto options up to 8X zoom. (This is probably a combination of some solid sensors and glass, combined with Google’s best-in-class camera software.) A single front-facing conventional camera is hiding in the bezel.
  • Internals: Expect the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset (very snappy, but not the absolute latest model) and 6 GB of RAM (50 percent more than last year), with storage options at 64 GB and 128 GB for both phones. As with previous Pixels, they won’t have MicroSD card slots or dual SIM card slots, and the headphone jack is a thing of the past. Batteries are 2800 mAh and 3700 mAh, with wireless charging.
  • 5G: We’ve heard late-breaking rumors of a 5G model. That will presumably be a spruced-up Pixel 4 XL—those advanced radios are big and power-hungry—and might come later at a much higher price. Speaking of which . . .
  • Prices: We don’t know yet. We would expect them to start at around $800 for the Pixel 4 and $900 for the Pixel 4 XL, with higher prices for storage boosts and that possible 5G variant.
  • Release date: Presumably less than a month after the October 15 announcement, with pre-orders opening day of.

Pixelbook Go

Google has always tried to position its self-branded Chrome OS devices as the cream of the crop, and they have been. But after the critical and sales flop of the Pixel Slate tablet, it looks like they’re hoping to score with a more conventional and less expensive form factor. Hence the Pixelbook Go: a less expensive Google-branded laptop, with a regular (non-convertible) hinge and some cheaper materials.

the Pixelbook Go, a leaked laptop, held up by a model.

According to leaks from 9to5Google, the Chromebook Go looks like Google’s answer to the MacBook Air or Surface Laptop, a step down from the premium notebook category filled by the Pixelbook that’s still more than capable of getting the job done for most users. The leaked hardware uses a 13.3-inch 1080p screen, an Intel Core i3 processor, and 8 GB of RAM. Processor, storage, 4K screen, and memory upgrades should be available too.

The design has a fingerprint sensor for easy unlocking, dual USB-C ports for charging, video out, and accessories, and support for the Pixelbook Pen on its touchscreen. The speakers are front-firing, something that’s becoming rarer as laptop designs continue to slim down. Colors are rumored to be “not pink” (sort of baby pink or salmon, depending on the light) and black.

While it’s certainly more pedestrian than either the Pixelbook or the much-maligned Pixel Slate, the Pixelbook Go seems to be using more premium materials than you’d expect from a budget machine, including a unique ridged plastic insert on the bottom replacing the more usual laptop “feet.” It’s also using the excellent Pixelbook family keyboard. Pricing and release info aren’t available.

New Nest Devices

An updated Nest Home Mini (nee Google Home Mini) has been spotted in regulatory documents, featuring a slimmer design, a headphone jack for connecting to more powerful speakers, and a built-in option for a wall mount. Which is something a lot of people will be happy to see, if the accessory market is anything to go by. We’re also expecting a next-gen version of the Google Wifi mesh networking hardware, this time branded the Nest Wifi. It might feature a built-in speaker, combining Wi-Fi routers and Google Assistant smart speakers into a single, roundish, plastic blob thing.

The G2 wall mount consists of two pieces: a wrap for the plug and a tray for the Home Mini.
Michael Crider

Other New Announcements

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What Is Leetspeak, and How do You Use It?

1337 or leet spelled out with Nixie tubes.
Mark D. Adams/Shutterstock

The internet’s full of weird words like “1337” and “hax0r.” These are forms of leetspeak, a stylistic way of typing that’s been around since the 80s. But why was leetspeak invented, and how do you use it?

English Words Spelled with Numbers and Symbols

Leetspeak is an internet phenomenon that predates the World Wide Web. It’s a style of typing that replaces English letters with similar-looking numbers or symbols, and its closely tied to early hacking and gaming culture.

You’ve probably run into some of the more common examples of leetspeak, like 1337 (leet), n00b (noob or newbie), and hax0r (hacker). But these are just the most basic forms of leetspeak. Advanced leetspeak often omits any English characters, and it can look a bit like this: |D|_3453 |-|3|_|D /\\/\\3.

Leetspeak is nearly forty years old, and it isn’t relevant to modern internet conversation or culture. Using leetspeak today is like saying “dude” in a hippie’s voice, and most people stick with basic, legible leetspeak to avoid confusing people (or looking like a dork).

Where Did Leetspeak Come From?

During the early 80s (before the launch of the World Wide Web), computer users connected via bulletin board systems (BBS). These BBSes were similar to modern websites, and computer hobbyists usually operated them in their own homes.

BBSes usually centered around a topic or hobby chosen by the system operator. So it’s only natural that some BBSes focused on illegal activities, like file sharing and early forms of hacking. They were sometimes called elite boards (or leet boards), and they spawned an “elite” computer subculture.

A desk full of floppy disks, old computer hardware, and crumpled up paper.

This is where leetspeak comes in. Elite BBS users invented leetspeak as a sort of cipher. On public boards and chats, leetspeak was used to talk about nefarious topics that went against the rules. It was also used to get around the automatic censorship programs that ran on most public BBSes (a BBS might censor any mention of “porn,” but it won’t notice “pr0n”).

Leetspeak was also used to identify other elite computer nerds, and it was used in the registration process for some elite groups (to weed out anyone who wasn’t a hax0r). The use of leetspeak as a cipher continued into the 90s, where it was used as a calling card by the Cult of the Dead Cow.

This isn’t to say that leetspeak should be taken seriously, but it did serve a purpose for a while. That purpose (a cipher) started to erode in the 90s, and leetspeak devolved into a weird joke. Some people used it to mock children online while other people used it to mock nerdy internet subcultures. Today, leetspeak is basically the internet equivalent of talking in a surfer’s voice.

How to Use Leetspeak (Gosh, You Really Want To?)

A man stares at his computer and tries to decipher some leet speak.

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Geek Trivia: The First Post On Snopes.com Was About?

The First Post On Snopes.com Was About?

  1. Charles Manson
  2. Bill Gates
  3. The Nigerian Scam
  4. Cheeze Whiz

Think you know the answer?

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Sunday, October 13, 2019

5 Trendy Workouts You Have to Try This Fall

A woman in a yoga pose being held in mid-air by aerial yoga straps.
Sport Photo/Shutterstock

If you’ve been more flexible with your workout schedule over the summer, it’s time to get back to it. If you’re ready to try something new, here are five trendy workouts you should try this fall!

Aerial Yoga

Yoga and hammocks; if this doesn’t already sound amazing, I don’t know what does! The gravity-defying moves decompress your spine, improve your blood circulation, and stimulate your lymphatic system to flush toxins out of your body. Aerial yoga has quickly gained popularity over the last few years. In the beginning, it was pretty hard to find a studio with silky threads hanging from the ceiling. But today, most people would be surprised if a yoga studio didn’t offer aerial classes. You can even buy and install your own hammock!

If this sounds interesting, but you’ve never taken a single yoga class, have no fear! Even advanced yoga practitioners and teachers are clueless about how to maneuver in the silk threads when they get in the hammock for the first time. It’s fun, exciting, different, and you can safely flip and fly around. You’ll also discover new ways to twist, bend, and extend your spine.

Give it a shot—you might absolutely love it!

Trampoline Workout

A group of women's legs as they jump on individual trampolines.

Remember when you were a kid and jumping on a trampoline was one of your favorite things to do? Well, trampoline workouts are now a popular fitness trend, so if you want to recreate that joy you felt as a kid, check it out!

In addition to being fun serotonin boosters, trampoline workouts are a full-body strengthening and conditioning challenge. It fires up your cardiovascular system, seriously works your leg muscles, and activates your core, so you can keep your balance and keep jumping. Whether it’s a 20-minute High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) sequence or a 60-minute full-body endurance session, a trampoline workout can challenge you on many levels.

Celebrity trainer Simone De La Rue swears by it.

“Bouncing helps drain the lymphatic glands and boost your immune system,” said De La Rue. “It especially protects your knees, hips, and lower back, and you are forced to use your core to stabilize so that you don’t fall off. It also challenges your coordination and skill. Over time, these add up to incredible holistic health benefits for both your body and mind.”

To quote famous hip-hop group, House of Pain, it’s time to, “Jump up, jump up, and get down.”

Bungee Workout

Group of women doing a bungee workout in a studio.
Coreo Fitness

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Lockly Secure Pro Brings a Fingerprint Reader to Your Smart Lock

A Lockly Secure Pro with keypad activated.
Josh Hendrickson

Between PIN, fingerprint reader, voice commands, an app, and a physical key, the Lockly Secure Pro smart lock has no shortage of ways to unlock your door. And while more options usually mean more convenience, it also means more complications.

Lockly’s Secure Pro is unlike other smart locks I’ve tried. It doesn’t have a standard keypad. Instead, it features a touch screen that randomly generates numbered circles for you to push.

It also features a fingerprint reader on the side so you can skip the PIN entirely, which is a faster way to unlock your door. For added convenience, the touchscreen serves as a lock button, just touch it anywhere and the door locks. With so many features, this should be one of the most convenient smart locks on the market. But it’s not quite there.

Installing is Fairly Easy for a Smart Lock

When I opened the Lockly box, I felt a little intimidated despite having installed many locks and multiple smart locks. The box includes a giant instruction booklet, complete with guides for measuring your door’s holes and cavities. The good news is, the book is a little bit overkill, I was able to install the lock without much trouble.

Typically the most challenging part of installing a smart lock is balancing the keypad and battery pack on either side of the door before you get them fully secured. The sheer weight of the two pieces will fight you and want to fall out of the door, leaving you trying to clamp them while driving screws awkwardly.

Lockly addressed that issue with two options. They added extra screw holes to the top of the two components so you can secure them directly to the door, which should add stability. I didn’t like that idea, so I went with option two: 3M sticky tape, which worked surprisingly well. Thanks to the tape, I installed the lock in 15 minutes, and without any feelings of frustration.

A Simplisafe, Wyze, and Lockly contact sensors lined up vertically on a door.
In order from top to bottom are Simplisafe, Wyze, and Lockly contact sensors. Lockly’s sensor is huge. Josh Hendrickson

After installing the lock, you plug in the included Wi-Fi hub and connect the largest contact sensor I’ve ever seen to your door. The sensor helps the lock track your door’s open and close state for automated locking.

The battery compartment hardware isn’t very inspiring. It’s plastic, which gives the lock a less premium feel. And the thumb turn is incredibly small, which is only emphasized by the giant plastic box it’s attached to. Every time I turn it to lock or unlock the door, I feel like I’m going to snap it off. To be clear, I highly doubt I could snap it off, but it feels like I could.

The outside hardware, on the other hand, screams smart gadget and feels a little more premium with its large black touchscreen that displays the keypad.

The Keypad is Unique and Mildly Frustrating

A closeup of the Lockly Secure Pro lock, showing four circles full of numbers.
You touch the circle that contains the next number of your PIN, not a number itself. Josh Hendrickson

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Ask Yourself These Questions Before Setting Up a Smarthome

A two story home with a well-manicured garden.

Are you thinking about starting up smarthome? Great! But don’t jump directly in without a plan. That’s how you end up making common smarthome beginner mistakes. Instead, before buying anything, you should ask yourself a few common-sense questions.

What Changes Can You Make to Your Home?

Creating a smarthome involves varying levels of installing new tech. Some gadgets, like smart plugs and voice assistant speakers, are as simple as plugging the device into an outlet. Others entail making a physical change to your home, like changing the locks or doorbells.

But depending on your home situation, you may not be able to make those changes. If you rent, for instance, you may not be allowed to change the locks without permission. In some cases, the answer might always be no.

In other instances, installing tech may call for a particular expertise. Are you comfortable with electrical work? What about working with the plumbing of your home? If you aren’t, that limits you from installing devices that are wired directly into your home or connected to your pipes.  You would have to pay a professional to complete the install, which adds to price.

What Do You Want to Accomplish?

A Nest Hub, wireless charger, lamp with smart bulb, and kindle.
Do you want smart lights you can control by voice? Josh Hendrickson

Once you know what kind of changes you can make, it’s time to ask yourself what you want to accomplish. These days, manufacturers seem willing to slap a radio on nearly anything just to call it smart and sell it to you. For that reason alone, there are all kinds of smarthome devices you should avoid.

But to figure out which ones are right for you, you should have a good idea of what you want your smarthome to do for you. If your chief concern is cutting back on power usage, then smart bulbs, plugs, and a thermostat is your starting point.

On the other hand, if security is your goal, you’ll want to invest in smart locks, video doorbells, and other cameras. Smarthomes technology can meet a variety of needs and desires, and in most cases, they even solve more than one problem. But start simple. Pick one goal to accomplish and go after that first. Then expand.

Do You Want to Do it Yourself?

We often focus on do-it-yourself smarthome tech at How-To Geek, but you don’t have to do it yourself. Various companies like Control4 and Savant offer customized smarthome systems you can purchase. Typically you’ll buy a centralized hub (sometimes a traditional smarthome hub, but more often a full computer like a Mac Mini) and a series of devices like smart plugs, bulbs, and even smart shades for your home.

Control4, Savant, and others offer a single app solution to control your smarthome. And they usually do work with outside services like Google Home and Alexa. These companies do all the hard work for you, but at a premium cost.

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