Review: Belkin WeMo

RadioCarla Review WeMo

The Belkin WeMo line works great with the new Amazon Echo. Review to come very soon!

One of the highest compliment a reviewer can give a product is an acknowledgement that they liked the product so much that they bought one. An even higher compliment is when a reviewer buys more than one. The Belkin WeMo is one of those products for us.

The Belkin WeMo line of products are home automation devices that also can help with home security. The Verizon Wireless store has three different WeMo products available. All of these WeMo products work with your existing Wi-Fi network and let you control your lights or home electronics anywhere that your smart phone or tablet has an Internet connection (3G or 4G LTE).

The WeMo Switch ($49.98) plugs into a wall outlet so you can control home electronics or lamps from your mobile device. Using the WeMo app, you can set schedules with your Android or iOS smart phone that can help reduce energy costs in your home.

The Belkin WeMo Light Switch ($49.99) lets you to turn lights on and off from anywhere you happen to go. Unlike the regular WeMo switch, the WeMo Light Switch replaces a wall light switch so some DIY skills are needed.

If you want to know more about the energy use of an appliance or piece of home electronics, the Belkin WeMo Insight Switch ($59.99) is the one you want. Trying to figure out which appliance is sucking the most electrity? Plug each one in a WeMo Insight Switch and you can get quick access to how much energy each device is using.

We had a WeMo Switch test unit to try out recently. We’ve always had a floor lamp in our living room that was on a timer. The timers got more advanced over the years, but it was still just a timer set to come on at the same time each day. And anyone watching our house would notice that the time the light went on and off was always the same.

The scheduling available with the WeMo is so much better. Instead of coming on at the same time each day, you can set the WeMo to turn on the lamp at an hour before sunset. Then it automatically adjusts as sunset times change throughout the year.

We usually have the lamp in the living room set to go off at a set time too. But some times, you want to go to bed earlier and the light is still on. Or you go to bed and forget to turn off the lamp. With the WeMo smartphone app, two clicks on your smartphone and the light is off. And it won’t change the schedule for future days.

We loved how the WeMo switch worked for us so much that we ordered two of them before we returned our review unit. The second one is on a floor lamp downstairs that comes on weekdays during regular working hours. It’s been working great and now I’m wondering what we can use a third WeMo for next!

More Thoughts on Walking and Zombies Run! 5K

Due to a bit of slacking off this weekend, I finished the fifth week of my Zombies Run! 5K training this morning. After my review of the app last week, I wanted to add a few more observations on using it as a walker.

Zombies Run 5K

1. I solved the problem I had with the app pausing over and over. Turns out the issue wasn’t the Mophie Juice Pack at all, but rather the juice pack headphone adapter. I ordered two replacement ones and they work like a pro. The old one has been pitched.

2. Because of my Chondromalacia patella, I am never going to be a runner. Even walking must be done carefully and usually combined with water aerobics.

Last year, when I was trying to use the Ease Into 5K app, I would try to walk faster when the disembodied voice told me to run. The problem was that I used up so much energy in those fast walks that trying to complete the entire workout was really difficult. One day, when the voice said to run, I said nope. And getting through the workout didn’t make me not to ever work out again.

With the Zombies Run! 5K, there are weeks where you are instructed to do heel lifts or leg lifts. While I ignored any run commands, I tried the lifts at first. But, I would lose my momentum and my pace suffered too. That’s when I realized what I really wanted to do was to build up my endurance and slowly pick up my pace.

3. So about my pace… Back when I was doing the training for Half Pig in 2009, my starting pace was about 18 min/mile and I was down about 16 min/mile after eight weeks of training. That’s when that nasty chest cold hit me hard and the few walks I had the next month were in the 17 min/mile range.

When I started doing Zombies Run! 5K, I was in the 21 min/mile range. This past week for the first time, I was under 20 min/mile for the entire week. That feels pretty good.

4. Before today’s workout, I got looking ahead to some of the future workouts. I’ve been averaging 2.66 miles in the 50-52 minutes allocated to the most recent workouts. I knew the last workout was a 5K so I wondered how much time was set for that. 51 minutes. Ouch. That means about a 16 min/mile pace. I don’t see me getting to that pace in three weeks.

But it did inspire me. Today, I concentrated on keeping my momentum up while adding on as many little side trips to me route to see how off 5K really is. Plus, when the workout was finished, I just kept walking. And I came really close. 2.98 miles or 4.8 kilometers. I can do this! Add another loop or two and I’ve got it.
So Wednesday’s workout goal is to reach 5K. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I think that’s it for now. And I’ve glad to get this written down. Even if no one else reads it, I have something to refer back to later in my training.

And if someone else does this? Hey, thanks! 🙂

— Carla

Review: Zombies Run! 5K

Last year, I tried out an app called Ease Into 5K. While it worked okay at the time, there were some things that I didn’t care for and I decided I wanted to try something else. A friend on Facebook recommended the Zombies Run! 5K app and I’m so glad she did.

Zombies Run 5K

The idea behind Zombies Run! 5K is that it puts you in the middle of a science fiction zombies story. You are being trained as one of the runners used by a post zombie apocalypse settlement in England to retrieve needed items like medicine, food and so on. The program is eight weeks long with three workouts scheduled each week. There is also an intro workout that provides you much of the exposition for the story plot. And the British accents just add to the fun for an Anglophile like me.

Zombies Run 5K Workouts

Within the app, each workout is represented by a notecard pinned on a cork board. Before you do that workout, you can see what it will involve. After you finish it, the card shows a summary of what happened during that workout and the date you completed it.

Zombies Run 5K Week 2 Workout 2       Zombies Run 5K  Heel Lift

Tapping on the workout card gives you even more information.  When there is an exercise in the workout, you are shown instructions on how to do it correctly. Then, you tap on the “Start Workout” area at the bottom and go to one more screen before starting.

Zombies Run 5K Start

This was one of the things I liked better than Ease Into 5K. You have the option of changing your playlist each workout instead of having to go to the Settings for the app to change it. The Shuffle option is really nice too. You can even choose no music if you prefer. I also appreciate the GPS check before starting.

Zombies Run 5K Log Story

After you complete the workout, you can click on the workout to see the log and story update. For more detail, synchronize your data with the Zombies Run! web site using Zombie Link. There is also information there on the more substantial training program you can use after finishing the 5K version.

Zombies Run 5K - Problem

The only problems I’ve had using Zombies Run 5K were caused by issues other than the app. As you can see above, the app kept pausing on me one day. Turned out that the problem was with the ear buds adapter I have to use when my iPhone is in the Mophie Juice Pack Plus case. By switching to another case that doesn’t require the adapter, the problem was solved.

This morning, I finished Week Five Workout One. Once I got really going with the system, I haven’t missed a single workout. The story keeps me interested and I keep walking. And that’s what really matters.

— CG

Twist App Alternatives

It turns out that there are lots and lots of folks looking for Twist App alternatives just like me. I’ve been trying several possible replacements out, but each has its own problems.

1. cursor42 was mentioned by its developer in a comment on my original post noting that Twist had shut down. In this app, you set up meets or you can join an existing meet. The problem is that you are tell the app when you are going to arrive. That can be a big problem if you hit unexpected traffic or other delays. After you create the meet, you have to share an invite code “to allow others to join your meet”. You can text it, email it or a few other options. Sending it to someone else’s cursor42 app is not an option. And, if you don’t upgrade to the premium version, the code can only be used by one person. There are also ads on the free version. Sorry, Chris. Just can’t recommend this one.


2. en route was the next app we tried out. The user interface is… odd. It draws from your calendar and the receiver has to accept or nothing happens. All in all, it’s just too many steps and if old routes aren’t deleted, they can cause problems. We had planned on writing a more in-depth review, but Tom got so frustrated with en route’s weirdness that he deleted it from his phone.

en route   en route 2

3. beebump was another one mentioned. One look at it and all I have to say is “no”. I couldn’t even bring myself to install it to get screen shots of it.

4. Glympse – And we’re back where we started. It was the location sharing app that we used before we found Twist. It’s been updating several times since I reviewed it last year and it works even better now. While it’s not as slick as Twist was, it’s still the best alternative out there for now.


It’s Not Too Late to Give to the 2014 ArtsWave Campaign

For the last couple of months, I’ve been blogging from time to time about ArtsWave and what it means to the Cincinnati area community. On April 22nd, they will be wrapping up their 2014 Community Campaign. As you can see in the message I received from them yesterday, they are very close to their goal. So they’re asking if you and I can give just $10 more. $10… that’s less than two craft beers at your favorite better beer location. Less than two glasses of wine too. I just gave $10 more. How about joining me in that $10 gift?

— Carla

In just six days, ArtsWave will announce the results of the 2014 Community Campaign.

Here’s some insider information… we are SO CLOSE to our goal of $12 million. Thanks to friends like you, we are almost there – the biggest campaign we’ve ever had.

BUT… we’re not there yet. And we need one last effort by everyone to make it.

We know many of you have already made your gift – THANK YOU SO MUCH!

Would you consider giving just $10 more? And asking 10 people to give $10 too? Your actions could create a wave of giving at the last moment that makes all the difference.

If everyone receiving this message gives just $10 more, we’ll make our goal. The beauty of this community campaign has always been that it is made up of tens of thousands of people – just like you – giving what they can to make our community an amazing place to live.

Your extra $10 helps connect neighbors at their local arts centers. $100 from ten of your friends brings arts into schools to help students succeed. It all adds up to $12 million invested in more than 100 arts organizations across the Greater Cincinnati region.

To sweeten the deal, if you give online between now and Monday, April 21st at Noon, you’ll be entered into a raffle drawing for either 2 tickets to the Cincinnati Ballet OR 4 tickets to a Cincinnati Symphony Lollipops Concert.

Please, if you believe in the impact of the arts in our community, click here to give $10 today. And then, please forward this email to 10 people and ask them to join you.

Thanks for believing in the power of the arts to change our community.


Your Determined Wave-Catchers and Friends at ArtsWave

Review: Nokia Lumia Icon

When you think about getting a new smart phone, usually the big decision is between iOS and Android. But there is a third option and no, I’m not talking about Blackberry. For a while now, I’ve been hearing good (and sometimes surprising) things about Windows Phone. On a recent episode of This Week in Tech, VentureBeat managing editor Jolie O’dell that she liked Windows Phone because, compared to other phones, “it’s pretty and twirly and sparkly. It’s the Disney princess of smart phones.”

The new Nokia Lumia Icon is a really interesting phone. With a screen size a full inch smaller than the Lumia 1520, it is still both taller and wider than a iPhone 5S. And similar to how the 1520 was only available for AT&T users, the Lumia Icon is only available for Verizon customers.

Nokia Lumia Icon

Available in both black and white, the Icon like other Windows Phone devices comes with three controls/buttons down the right side. First from the top is the volume control. Then, about in the middle, there is the Power/Lock button and finally lower down, the camera button. After using iOS and Android phones, it took a while to get used to the Power/Lock button to be on the side. The audio/headset jack is on the top and the USB/charging port in on the bottom.

Nokia LumiaI con - Lock Screen

The lock screen is customizable, of course, but it seemed harder to find photos that fit the aspect ratio. As you can see, both time and date are displayed as well as the next event on your calendar. Calendars and contacts can be easily imported from Gmail or Facebook.

Nokia Lumia Icon - Home Screen 1   Nokia Lumia Icon - Home Screen 2

All of the tiles on the home screen can be changed, moved around and re-sized. When you have new messages or notifications, the tile flips between the app icon and the new message like the Facebook tile in the two screen shots above. The People tile in the upper right hand corner also flips between profile images of your contacts.

Nokia Lumia Icon - Apps

If you want to access apps that aren’t on your home screen, just swipe to the left to see the list of all of the applications you have installed. Of all of the ones listed in the screenshot above, Facebook was the only one I added.

Nokia Lumia Icon - AppSocial2   Nokia Lumia Icon - AppSocial

To find new apps to install, you have to go to AppSocial. The set up is a bit different than the iOs App Store or the Android Google Play store. As you can see in the screenshot above on the left, when you search for an app, the first view you get is of app lists that other Windows Phone users have created that include the app you searched for. You have to select the Apps view to see the search results for your search. With a name like AppSocial, I get why they did that, but it can be confusing at first.

Nokia Lumia Icon - Dunkel

So what about the 20-megapixel PureView camera that the Icon comes with? It is pretty spectacular. Just be warned that you’re probably going to need to adjust the flash. I left all of the settings as it shipped and the flash startled both cats plus you can see the results were a bit harsh.

Nokia Lumia Icon - Dunkel 2

The Icon comes with Nokia Creative Studio installed. When you open a photo in the app, you’re first given a series of filters to chose from. You swipe up and down to see the effects of each one and then tap to select the one you want. Then you tap the Edit icon at the bottom (it looks like a pencil in a circle) and you have the edit options like fix, adjust, blur, play and so on. My first effort on Dunkel’s photo was only okay.

Nokia Lumia Icon - Porter   Nokia Lumia Icon - Porter 2

However, this one of Porter came out great. It’s definitely a keeper. I can see me getting better with the editing capabilities as I got used to it.

All in all, I have to say I’m intrigued by the Nokia Lumia Icon and look forward to taking other Windows Phones out for a spin in the future. I’m really curious to see what a Windows Phone tablet is like. I’m not sure it’s the Disney princess of smart phones, but it certainly is sparkly.

— Carla

Twist App Shuts Down as of 4/1/14

[Also check out our Twist App Alternatives post for more information.]

At first, it seemed like a cruel April Fools joke when the following message appeared on the Twist Facebook fan page:

Twist App Shuts Down

But, that announcement was the only official word that the Twist app was shutting down. The next day, Andy Ihnatko (“Chicago Sun-Times technology columnist and Internationally Beloved Industry Figure”) tweeted, “Looks like @MyTwist is dead. Their servers are down and the app’s not available in the iTunes/Play stores. Pouring out a 404…”. There was a glimmer of hope that perhaps they had been purchased, but later in the day, Andy’s contact at Twist confirmed our fears. As Andy put it, “yup, the app’s dead.” Then the web site was taken down and the app was removed from both the iOS App Store and the Google Play store.

I about had to sit down when I heard the news. We had just introduced my college student nephew to the joys of Twist last weekend. Throughout this horrible winter, the last words to my husband each morning as I was heading to work were always, “I love you and I’ll send you a Twist to let you know I got there.”

So what now? The Twist app is still on your iOS and Android devices if you already had it. But, when you try to set up a Twist, you will eventually get the message like the one below:

Twist App Not Working

I know I should just delete it, but I keep hoping it will come make somehow, some way.

I wrote my review comparing Twist to its not-quite-the-same competitor Glympse last June. Since then, it has consistently been the most popular post on Other posts have had more visits in one day, but none were so consistent in their views as that one post. There are a lot of people still interested in using this app and many of them went to check it out from here. I’m sure a lot of those Twist app users would be happy to pay for the app if it came back.

In the mean time, it’s back to Glympse for me. But I’d switch back to Twist or a Twist clone in a heart beat.

— Carla

Meow Meow Monday: Bock

When Tom and I decided to really take the plunge and get cats, we had already been talking about names for a while. We knew we wanted two cats so they each would have a buddy and we knew they would be named Bock and Saison. Then the kittens we ended up being all black and black & white. Change of plans! They became Bock and Porter.

Solid black, Bock was always Bock. Affectionate, silly, both unpredictable and predictable. He loved to chase after the Beersaver bottle cap when I threw for him and he loved sleeping next to Tom at night. Weighing over 13.5 pounds, he looked like a small panther as his lean body moved across the floor.

Bock Close Up

We lost Bock suddenly to a blood clot caused by impossible to diagnose feline heart disease. One minute, he was fine. The next, he couldn’t move his rear legs. We rushed him to the vet’s office, but there was nothing they could do. The really odd thing was that Porter had been diagnosed with a heart murmur last fall. But, Bock? We thought Bock was healthy as the small horse he was built like.

Even though he has been gone almost three months now, Bock’s still an important part of our lives. And you can count on seeing more of Bock here on my Meow Meow Monday posts.

Arts Angle: ArtsWave Pinterest Boards

Though my work as an ArtsWave WeDidIt Ambassador, I’ve been learning even more about the wide variety of organizations that they support. Recently, they created several ArtsWave Pinterest boards including a map board with pins for the over one hundred organizations supported by ArtsWave. It’s really cool.

ArtsWave Pinterest

Because it’s a map board, you can see at a glance where each organization is based. Clicking on one of the pins zooms in on the map and also highlights the pinned information about the organization on the left (as you can see it the example below). There is also a button to click to learn more about each organization. It’s a great way to browse through the many different arts related organizations that ArtsWave supports.

ArtsWave Pinterest CloseUp

ArtsWave has several other boards on Pinterest including one on the Community Campaign 2014, ArtPass Partners, Art All Around, We Love Cincinnati, 2014 Workplace Campaigns, Macy’s Arts Sampler 2014 and Toast “2” the Arts Restaurants.

As I’ve been talking about for the last few weeks, I am hosting a campaign to support the wonderful work they do. Did you know that for a gift of $75 or more, you get access to exclusive discounts and offers to over 30 local arts organizations plus restaurants, shops and the Cincinnati Reds. Please join me in my campaign. Every contribution counts!


— Carla

Arts Angle: ArtsWave’s Amazing Arts Race Returns April 12

I’m putting on my ArtsWave WeDidIt Ambassador hat again to let you know about a very unique event that ArtsWave is hosting again. If you are a fan of the CBS show The Amazing Race and a fan of the arts, you will love the second annual Amazing Arts Race.

The Amazing Arts Race is a creative scavenger hunt for young professionals in Downtown Cincinnati. It will be held Saturday, April 12 beginning at 1:00 p.m. and registration is now open at

Amazing Arts Race

For this event, teams race to complete a series of arts challenges like finding works of art and architecture, answering arts trivia, and making art themselves. The challenges can also include origami, charades and dance breaks. The teams use their social media skills on Twitter to get clues and to actually complete some of the required tasks. Prizes will be awarded to the first, second and third place teams in addition to random prize drawings.

Maddie Grant, Manager of Residential and Affinity Group Giving for ArtsWave, says, “Last year’s race attracted more than 100 participants from all over the region. Our ArtsWave Young Professionals group and the Taft Museum of Art have teamed up again to make this year’s race even more exciting.”

ArtsWave partner companies are encouraged to form teams of 2 to 4 people, but the event is open to all young professionals. All participants must be 21 years of age. Individuals interested in being paired with a team can contact Ms. Grant directly at

Registration is $15 per person and can be completed online at Deadline to register is April 7. Teams will be notified by email and Twitter of the race details after registration closes.

According to their press release, “Teams will move around downtown and in surrounding neighborhoods by foot and/or by car to different arts organizations and works of public art. Running gear is not required, as creativity will be as important as speed.”

The Amazing Arts Race is generously sponsored by the Taft Museum of Art with support of The Thomas J. Emery Memorial and The Greater Cincinnati Foundation. This event supports ArtsWave’s annual community campaign for the arts which runs through April 22.