January 2015 - Gadget Guy MN

Archive for month: January, 2015


5 Things I Love About My IP Cam Baby Monitor

sleeping baby - baby monitoring

As a techie, I love gadgets. As a father, I love using those gadget for family purposes. When my first daughter was born, I of course had to have a video monitor. My wife and I were thrilled about the idea of peeking in on our new baby throughout the night and checking in as needed.

Needless to say, we got a lot of use out of that baby video monitor. About a year later, the video monitor no longer held much of a charge, and it had to be plugged in in order to use it. And that long cord trailing behind the monitor pretty much meant portability was thrown out the window.

But in our one-level condo, we really only needed the video monitor at night. So the dead-battery, long-corded video baby monitor became more of a bedside staple. And, much to my surprise, we made it another year without the cordless option.

But then, we began planning for our second child.

Of course, I did my research and looked into buying a second camera that was compatible with our video baby monitor system. I also looked into buying a new battery for the existing monitor.

The bad news… The battery was nearly the cost of a new camera. And the camera? Well the manufacturer had a new model of camera, which was unfortunately incompatible with our now 2 year old system. My options? I could search around and find another older model camera that would work with our existing system (and eat the cost of a new battery), or…

Or I could ditch the whole “out-of-the-box” video monitor system from Baby’s R Us and put together my own system.

I researched wide range of cameras – wireless, cloud-based, IP cams – along with smartphone apps, and I pushed forward with the DIY route. Since then, we’ve been using two smartphone integrated IP cams with night vision for each kids’ room. Both my wife and I love it!

So what do I love most about the IP cameras?

1. Pan and scan! I can look around the room and see where my kids are when they get out of bed. (My four-year-old resting/hiding under her bed was a bit of surprise once!).

2. Zoom. “Does she have something in her hand?”

3. Ability to view on my phone, my wife’s phone, tablets, PCs, etc. We can even leave a “guest” tablet for the babysitter so she can check up on the kids without waking them.

4. Ability to check in on my kids while traveling for business, or while out on date night. Point being, I don’t have to be on my home network to use the video cam.

5. Ability to use any smartphone app that fits my needs.

Yes, the option to go with an out-of-the-box baby monitor solution is definitely appealing, if you want to take the easy route. But, if you want the right features for your system and if you want greater flexibility for system expansion, then custom solutions are much better way to go.

I don’t know about you, but when it comes to my family, I want to make sure I am doing everything I can to protect them and using the right tools allows me to do that.

What baby monitor solutions have you found useful for your family?

wifi ip cam baby monitor minneapolis


How to Share Your Chromecast with Family and Friends

Chromecast_plugged_into_TV 2

I love my Google Chromecast! As a father of young kids, it is easy to play music in the house, share pictures, view Youtube, and even a handful of cable movie apps will cast to it. All-in-all, it’s a great little device for around $35, usually with some freebies thrown in.

When I have family and friends visit, I have no problem providing them with my wifi password. In the past, I’ve used a guest wifi router so they could join on that without being on my personal network. But I dropped that since my visitors are all family and friends – no one I’m wary of. And with my wifi password, those same family and friends have full access to cast to my Chromecast. No problems on my end.

With all of that said, I didn’t initially see the value of the Chromecast’s new Guest Mode (not currently available on iOS devices). Essentially, Google set it up so that others (not necessarily friends or family?) can cast to your Chromecast if you provide them with your pin. (The pin is actually the back-up method. Your Chromecast initially tries to send an audio signal to the device looking to connect). It keeps them from having complete access to your wifi, but still allows them to participate in casting media.

Why would I need this? It took me a bit and then it hit me… I am not the target market for this. Realizing that, I came up with a bunch of scenarios where it would be useful. First of all, I feel that this is more beneficial for millennials who may live in dorms or shared housing. Some of the great uses could include house parties, school/study related events, neighborhood/block parties, and other social gatherings.

There’s more info on Google’s Guest Mode Frequently Asked Questions.

How do you use your Chromcast? How would/do you use the new Guest Mode?

Photo by TAKA@P.P.R.S via Flickr, licensed under CC BY-SA

cutting the cable cord