Thinking about buying a Wink Hub?

A while back, I bought a Wink Hub, a futuristic device that allows you to control electronic devices in the home via the magic of Wi-Fi. I paid around $40 for the Wink Hub on Amazon and then bought two Wink compatible LED light bulbs locally at Home Depot or Lowes. I don’t remember which.

Basically, the living room lamps now turn on after a set time if the Wink Hub detects my iPhone in the near vicinity. In other words, if I’m home. I can then turn both lamps off by pushing a button on my iPhone or on my iPad.

That is, when everything is working.

Last night we couldn’t turn the lamps off with the iPad. We then noticed our Wink Hub was displaying an orange light instead of the normal blue light. We turned off the lamps the old-fashioned way (by hand) and went to bed.

When I woke up this morning, I found an email in my inbox from Wink. It reads:

Hi Rick,
We’re writing with some unfortunate information about your Wink home. Our commitment to delivering the most secure smart home platform possible has had an unintended consequence.Your Wink Hub is now so secure that it is unable to connect to the Wink Servers. This means that you are no longer able to control your Hub-dependent devices with your Wink app. It also means your schedules and robots will not function.To cut to the chase:  We need your Wink Hub back. We’ll update it and get it back to you within a few days. We’ve done all we can to make the process as simple as possible  — Just click hereWe’re terribly embarrassed by this whole situation. This outage was completely preventable and caused by a security measure that was put in place to protect you and your family. Unfortunately we failed to make an update to a security measure that was expiring, and therefore locked down your Hub’s access to the server.

As part of our response, we’re immediately suspending all sales of Wink Hubs across all retail channels and expect to resume sales within the week.

We are incredibly sorry for the inconvenience caused here. As an apology, we’d like to extend a $50 gift card to Wink.com (Valid only for the next 48 hours on wink.com to make purchases, not redeemable for cash) —  Use code “WESOSORRY” at checkout.

If you would like to talk to a service representative, call us at 844-WINK-APP or find us on Twitter @TheWinkApp.

The Wink Team

So if I understand this correctly, they failed to do something on their end, and as a result, my Wink Hub was bricked. What if we were out-of-town? One of the reasons I wanted to begin automating our home was so that even if we were out-of-town, in other words, on the other side of the country, we could turn the living room lamps on and off, giving any would-be robbers the impression that someone was home.

If I was in California now visiting my family, instead of Maryland where I live, our lamps would be on 24 hours a day.

We normally use an electrical timer when we’re in California, but one of the disadvantages to using a programmable timer is the lights go on and go off on set times. I wanted something that looked more organic and less programmed.

41RTRcgoT0L._SX425_
Wink wants $12.56 to ship this?

I took a look at the $50 gift code they extended to me to show how sorry they are. I think the code “WESOSORRY” sounds kind of flippant when it’s read aloud. Also, I tried to use it to buy a $50 wall outlet compatible with Wink Hub, and the good people of Wink, the same people who say WESOSORRY for bricking my Wink Hub, wanted to charge me $12.56 for shipping a wall socket.

They sure have a funny way of showing how sorry they are for something they say was “completely preventable” and caused by their negligence.

If I had it to do over with, I wouldn’t buy a Wink Hub. In fact, you can even say that ISOSORRY that I bought a Wink Hub.

A stud finder that actually works

I have a terrible track record with buying electronic stud finders: they never work. It never fails. I run an electronic stud finder over the wall and it lights up and beeps, telling me that it just found a stud. Then, after marking the exact spot it said there was a stud, I drill into it, only to discover there’s no stud.

My electronic stud finder just lied to me.

I installed some floating shelves last weekend and I was extremely irritated at the false-positives my stupid electronic stud finder, the Zircon StudSensor e50, was giving me. I decided I would look this week for something better. I was willing to spend any amount of money on a new stud finder as long as I was confident it would actually work.

81AKYY0VQeL._SL1500_My research narrowed on the CH Hanson Magnetic Stud Finder. Not only is it the greatest, most accurate stud finder I’ve ever owned, it was also the cheapest one I’ve ever bought. I paid less than nine bucks for it on Amazon.

The CH Hanson Magnetic Stud Finder is much different from the electronic stud finders I’ve used before. For one thing, it’s not electronic. It doesn’t use sensors or even a battery. It uses two powerful rare earth magnets that doesn’t need electric power.

Instead of looking for a stud, it looks for screws or nails that are embedded into a stud. Find a screw or a nail and you are going to find a stud. You run the CH Hanson Magnetic Stud Finder over the wall in a lazy “S” pattern and when it finds a screw, you know it. Instead of lighting up or beeping, it pulls strongly to the screw or the nail.

The pull is so strong that you can take your hand off the tool and it stays on the wall. The powerful rare earth magnets keep the tool fixed exactly to the spot on the wall where the screw or nail is. Not only does this prove there is a stud behind that exact spot, you don’t even have to mark the spot with a pencil.

The CH Hanson Magnetic Stud Finder will be the last stud finder I ever buy.

It felt good throwing my old electronic stud sensor into the trash. I hope it ends up in a landfill next to a used adult diaper and a VHS copy of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

I just love the CH Hanson Magnetic Stud Finder. It’s the best nine bucks I’ve ever spent.

Buy the CH Hanson Magnetic Stud Finder on Amazon

How to make better Amazon affiliate links

If you take part in Associates Central, Amazon’s affiliate program, you probably already know that the official tool for creating Amazon affiliate links is awful. It’s bloated and includes a lot of unnecessary code. Here’s the HTML code it generated to create a simple text link for Ancillary Justice, a sci-fi novel I’m reading:

Amazon affiliate link

This code generated by Amazon annoys me. This is a text link, but it has a lot of inline style information that’s not needed.

A better, most efficient way of adding an Amazon affiliate link is to just code it yourself the old-fashioned way. All you have to do is include the following URL to the title, word, product, or image you want to link to:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/ASIN/?tag=your_Associates_ID

Replace ASIN with the ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) of what you are linking to. Then, replace your_Associates_ID with your associates ID. Finally, replace Product Name with the word or the image you are posting to.

Clicking on the link takes you to the product’s detail page.

That’s it.

Amazon to start charging Maryland sales tax

If you live in the state of Maryland and purchase something from Amazon, an extra six percent will be added to your purchase price and funneled to Maryland in the form of a sales tax. This change goes into effect beginning today.

Until now, Amazon did not collect Maryland sales tax because they did not have a physical presence in the state. That’s about to change. Amazon is in the process of converting an old General Motors plant in Baltimore into one of its massive distribution centers. The new facility is not scheduled to open until next spring, but they will start collecting Maryland sales tax from Maryland residents beginning today.

I wonder how much taxes Amazon is paying to state and local governments for its new facility in Baltimore. Usually, when a business like Amazon comes into a location, it’s showered with tax incentives intended to attract them into establishing a presence. The idea is that they will hire lots of people who will then in turn pay taxes and spend their paychecks, thus stimulating the economy.

When I moved here to Maryland in 1994, twenty years ago, it was to work in a new gigantic Wal-Mart photo finishing lab that was being constructed in nearby Williamsport. The state and county essentially gave the land to Wal-Mart to build the facility. They also provided tax incentives for the next twenty years. After a few years, Wal-Mart sold all their large photo labs to Fujicolor. The lab closed in 2008, resulting in 125 people losing their job.

Personally I hate that I will now have to pay Maryland six percent of everything I buy from Amazon. I feel like they’ve done nothing to deserve it. I also feel like I pay Maryland enough without having to also pay a tax for the stuff I buy from Amazon. Oh well, what can I do about it, join the TEA Party?

Gre Hernandez

I don’t think so. I’d rather just pay the stupid six percent tax.

New comic retailer advocacy group named after a snake

Dennis Barger, owner-operator of Wonderworld Comics in Taylor, Michigan, announced on Facebook the formation of a new comic book retailer organization, the Comic Book Retailer Alliance, or COBRA for short. Here is the original Facebook post:

My frustration with much of what is going on in comics has at least in a large part been set in motion for a reversal. When the Beatles wrote “I get by with a little help from my friends” they had no idea the level of people that would one day join forces like a modern day superhero team to form a comic book organization like no other. This group of retailers are unsurpassed in their knowledge of the industry, fortitude of character and strength of their voices. It is my pleasure and honor to team up with Randy Myers, Dominic Postiglione, Larry’s Comics, Jetpack Comics, Jesse James, Chandler Rice, Aaron Haaland and Richard Nelson to start the Comic Book Retailer Alliance. An advocacy group for the protection of the local comic shop (lcs) and the for a future in print comics for all creators. Way more information to come.

There’s already an established comic book retailer advocacy group, ComicsPRO, but according to past Facebook comments made by Dennis Barger, ComicsPro is only looking out for themselves, whatever that means:

MY HERO Brian Hibbs, champion of retailers everywhere, has made a bold move (finally). He has come to the conclusion that ComicsPRO the “professional” retailers group founded by many of the biggest names in comic retailing is only looking out for themselves. I came to this conclusion 4 years ago and let the one year that I paid for lapse. They think that retailers cow-tieing to digital comics from ComiXology is the answer. I think groups like Comic Retailers who will NOT sign up with ComiXology or iVerse is the stance we should be taking. They say DC is our friend and Marvel is our enemy, they are clearly misguided. Brian has (as he usually does) restored my faith in him.

To some comic book shop retailers, individuals like Dennis Barger, digital comics are a threat to their very existence. When he’s not complaining about variant cover comics that he believes are too sensualized, Barger complains about digital comics. For instance, here’s something he posted recently on Facebook:

ahhh noooo ComiXology is still broken…guess what, my paper and staples didn’t get hacked, my bags and boards protected your passwords from getting hacked, my trade paperbacks aren’t going to attempt to spam you forever…how long before a hack wipes out your account and you have to conveniently rebuy everything? you are propping up a paper tiger that is giving you nothing in exchange that you can’t get for free on a bit torrent site. I SELL COMICS, Comics by comiXology for iOS sells 1s and 0s that can be taken away from you at a moments notice….good luck with that

ComiXology, the major seller of digital comics, recently suffered a security breach and as a precautionary measure urged users to change their passwords. ComiXology may have experienced a data breach, but at least they don’t run the risk of being condemned.

Like my local comic book shop.

Atomic Comics, located in downtown Hagerstown, was condemned by the city back in April of 2013. It still operates, sort of. There’s a note on the door (along with the official notice from the city inspector declaring that the building is not suited for habitation) instructing would-be customers how to get for their comics. The notice from the city stays in the window all the time. The note from the owner comes and goes daily.

Even before Atomic Comics was condemned, I hadn’t shopped there in years. It was freezing in the winter, hot in the summer, and smelled like cigarettes, dust, and Austin Powers action figures. If it weren’t for digital comics, I probably wouldn’t read comics, at least not the monthly floppies. I read most of my comics in the collected format, purchased exclusively from Amazon.