Wemo Bridge Will Bring HomeKit Support in The Fall

Add this one to the "Finally." category.

Belkin announced today that a new Wemo bridge is coming to bring HomeKit compatibility to Wemo smart plugs and light switches. Home Kit compatibility has been one of Belkin's most requested features and was originally mentioned over a year ago but put on the back burner. 

The HomeKit bridge is a hardware accessory that connects to the home's network via an Ethernet cable. Unfortunately, there are still many unanswered questions in the somewhat vague press release. The bridge is said to release "late this Fall" with pricing to be announced. It is also unknown exactly which products the bridge will work with.  

I've had somewhat hit and miss luck with the Wemo line of products. Currently, I have several older Wemo switches (now replaced by the Mini Smart plug) that I use with the Wemo App, Alexa and IFTTT. It's uncertain whether the HomeKit Bridge will support older switches.

We're making progress, but it still feels like very early days for home automation.



No Assistant? No Problem. Using a Virtual Receptionist

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that last year I went out on my own and opened my own law practice. As an office of one, I no longer have the luxury of an assistant. This means I’ve had to rely on technology to fill in some gaps and increase productivity. One of the ways I’ve done that is by hiring a virtual receptionist to handle my phone calls.

In my business, if you don’t answer your phone people will quickly move on and call someone else. I knew very early on it was important to have all my calls received during business hours answered live by a friendly and helpful voice. However, I also knew that voice couldn’t be me or I’d never be able to get any work done. One of my first splurges as I was setting up my new office was to hire a virtual receptionist. There are a number of services available, I use Ruby Receptionists.

During business hours, my phones are forwarded to my virtual receptionist. A small team of receptionists, who have been trained with instructions on how I prefer my calls handled, will warmly greet my callers, determine the nature of the call, handle simple inquiries, pass calls along to me as necessary and take messages if I’m not available. They can even offer to book appointments using my scheduling service (look for a post on that later.) Most importantly, even if my callers didn’t get to speak with me, they feel like they’ve made a connection and are less likely to move on to the next attorney on their list.

Ruby is not the cheapest service available. I currently pay between $250 - $350 a month for the service and likely will have to increase my plan soon due to increased call volume. (Which is probably a good thing.) However, Ruby’s reputation for customer service is legendary. I regularly receive compliments about my receptionist and clients wanting to meet him/her when they come to my office.

Although the service is a significant monthly cost, it’s a fraction of the cost of an employee. Best of all my virtual receptionist never takes a lunch break, never calls in sick and is always at their desk to answer my calls.

If you’re considering a virtual receptionist you need to have realistic exceptions. This is not an employee in your office, they do not know your clients or your business. They can answer a few simple FAQs that you provide, but cannot provide a lot of information or detail to you clients. Their primary function is to triage calls and pass them along.

The virtual receptionist service has worked well for me and has become an essential part of my office. I can’t imagine answering my own phones or doing business without them. Maybe one day I’ll have an in-house receptionist. But for now, a good virtual receptionist service is money well spent.

Disclosure: This article was written independently. However, Ruby Receptionists has since become a sponsor and offers my readers $75 off their first full month’s service.

This article first appeared in the April, 2017 Issue of ScreencastsOnline Monthly Magazine. ScreenCastsOnline monthly magazine is packed with hints, tips, articles and links to streamable versions of ScreenCastsOnline tutorials and delivered monthly. Find our more at https://www.screencastsonline.com/membership_benefits

Mac Power Users #378: More iOS Hidden Features

This week on Mac Power Users Clayton Morris returns to share more underutilized iOS features, tips, and tricks.

This episode of Mac Power Users is sponsored by:

  • Freshbooks: Online invoicing made easy.
  • 1Password Have you ever forgotten a password? Now you don't have to worry about that anymore. Save up to 20% using this link.
  • The Omni Group We're passionate about productivity for Mac, iPhone and iPad. 
  • Marketcircle We help small business grow with great Mac, iPhone and iPad apps including Daylight and Billings Pro.

Star Trek Discovery Trailer

The First Look trailer for Star Trek Discovery dropped last week on YouTube. I’ll admit I haven’t been particular excited about this new Star Trek Series. It’s the first time Star Trek has been on the air since Enterprise (which I also wasn’t initially a fan of) went off the air in 2005.

The fact that this series is exclusively airing on CBS All Access in the US and Canada feels like the show has been handicapped out of the gate. I can’t expect anyone but die-hard fans will subscribe to the $6 per month subscription service to watch the show. Candidly, I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to pick up an All Access subscription to watch it.

The show is being produced in partnership with Netflix. Other countries will be able to watch the show on Netflix 24 hours after the CBS All Access premiere. Presumably, Star Trek Discovery will be available on Netflix and other services after some delay - but no official word.

As always, there’s an Incomparable Podcast episode dedicated to an analysis of the trailer that’s worth a listen.

Somewhat related, There’s also a trailer for the upcoming comedy series The Orville - which is a Galaxy Quest-esque Star Trek spoof starring Seth MacFarlane coming to Fox next year that looks quite entertaining.

CMD-D Automation Conference

Sal Soghoian is the master of automation on the Mac. David and I were privileged to speak with him on Mac Power Users earlier this year.

Last week Sal announced the first-ever CMD-D: Masters of Automation Conference. Taking place at the Santa Clara Convention Center on August 9, 2017. CMD-D is designed for anyone who uses automation, creates automation or develops software.

Attendees will learn about powerful automation capabilities hiding in plain sight, user-friendly Automator power-tricks, the latest developments for cutting-edge dual-platform automation for macOS and iOS, and more. Registration for CMD-D is open today at http://www.cmddconf.com/.

CMD-D has a few powerhouse names behind it. In addition to Sal, Jason Snell is slated to host a discussion on automation and its future as part of a live Six Colors Podcast. Paul Kent, who has decades of experience producing macWorld expo and Naomi Pearce are collaborating with Sal on the project.

For more information or to register, visit http://www.cmddconf.com/.

Katie's Week in Review: May 21, 2017

I’ve been a bit behind in posting these as it’s been an incredibly busy few weeks. Much to catch up on so here are the links of note (and a few I missed from previous weeks) for the week ending May 21, 2017.

Mac Power Users #377: Audio Media Managment - Relay FM

This week and Mac Power Users David and I take a good look at dealing with audio on your Apple gear. Topics include traditional music management, the best streaming services and why David loves them, podcast management, and playing audio in your car and home.

This episode of Mac Power Users is sponsored by:

  • TextExpander from Smile Type more with less effort! Expand short abbreviations into longer bits of text, even fill-ins, with TextExpander from Smile.
  • Pixelmator Powerful image editing that gives you everything you need to create, edit and enhance your images, now on iPad and Mac.
  • Sanebox Stop drowning in email!
  • Casper: Because everyone deserves a great night sleep. Get $50 off with the code ‘MPU’

Mac Power Users #376: Notifications!

This week on Mac Power Users, Myke Hurley joins David and me to discuss notifications. We discuss how notifications have become a problem, dealing with distractions and wrangling the various notifications to optimize our devices.

Guest Starring: Myke Hurley

This episode of Mac Power Users is sponsored by:

  • 1Password Have you ever forgotten a password? Now you don't have to worry about that anymore. Save up to 20% using this link.
  • The Omni Group We're passionate about productivity for Mac, iPhone and iPad. 
  • Gazelle Sell your iPhone for cash at Gazelle! 
  • MindNode MindNode makes mind mapping easy.

Mac Power Users #375: More Big Questions - Relay FM

This week on Mac Power Users, David and I cover some big questions including the Workflow app, secure cloud storage, email sharing, moving data, managing your network, and how they scan. Also, we learn that under no circumstances will David get access to my Synology.

This episode of Mac Power Users is sponsored by:

  • Making Light Get (or give!) a candle subscription and make some new habits. Use offer code "MPU".
  • PDFpen from Smile With powerful PDF editing tools, available for Mac, iPad, and iPhone, PDFpen from Smile makes you a Mac Power User.
  • Squarespace: Make your next move. Enter offer code MPU at checkout to get 10% off your first purchase.
  • Freshbooks: Online invoicing made easy.