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Wemo Switch Smart Plug, Wi-Fi, Works with Alexa
  • eggxpert iconEggXpert

5 out of 5 eggs Great preface to smart homes of the future. 12/22/2016

This review is from: Wemo Switch Smart Plug, Wi-Fi, Works with Alexa

Pros: This is easily a 5-egg device for what it is meant to do. It was very easy to setup! (Much easier than other IoT devices that rely on NFC to transfer WiFi credentials, for example.) There were no wireless signal issues, and the low cost is reasonable to use for many devices.

Build: Sturdy, doesn't feel flimsy or cheap.

Great organization: Timers/scheduling (by time or sunrise/sunset), device naming, "Away mode," and other more extensive modes of interactive control using IFTT.

Integration: Works with other IoT systems (Google Home/Nest, Alexa, and many others.)

Physical location (using Google Maps) seems disabled by default, for the privacy conscious consumers.

Cons: Email required to setup the device?

The plug is kind of bulky and the WeMo device itself might obstruct the lower power port on some outlets/plugs.


Not Cons, but noteworthy:

To Audio/Video users: The device seems to have power conditioning issues. (Currently, I haven't access to attenuators, an oscilloscope or CSA to see the results of the provided signal.) I tested with a guitar amplifier, and the sound had occasional/randomly static and fuzzy. Given these results, I'd say it's safe to use this device mainly with dumb devices that are not picky about the condition of the power signal. (US: 110V at 60Hz.)

Why didn't they include an on-board power meter? (With software monitoring, not display.) I'm sure it wouldn't have been too complicated, technically. Some Nest equipment detects power consumption and can schedule actions based on used wattage! This is great! (I had no such equipment. See the screenshots on the Android Market app page.)

Other Thoughts: This is my first experience with a power control device such as this one. I am impressed. They are inexpensive and have practical uses. I can certainly see devices such as the WeMo to a practical, affordable precursor to the "smart houses" that have been impending for years now. I didn't experience any bugs or other issues.

Also, I didn't test this feature, but it should integrate with other IFTTT devices, such as the EZVIZ camera (N82E16881389001). I imagine there could be a scenario like disabling a device and signaling to enable the camera. But, again, I didn't test this and I'm not an expert with IoT devices at the point in time.

Side note: Interestingly, in the release notes after a firmware upgrade, it mentioned using OpenWRT Sensor software. It's great to see such worthy FOSS software powering this Belkin device.

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EZVIZ Mini HD 720p WiFi Home Security Camera with Motion Detection, 130 Degree View, Night Vision, Works with Alexa using IFTTT (Special Offer 12 Month Cloud Storage w/ 7 day Playback)
  • eggxpert iconEggXpert

Pros: First things first: This is an Internet of Things (IoT) device, which is cloud-centric and requires other internet-connected devices (mobile phone) to setup and use through the web not local network. It is NOT simply an IP camera. This is an important distinction.

** If you can't get the Wi-Fi to connect, see the bottom of OTs **

Security and Privacy:
- Encryption. To remotely view saved footage or a live feed, it is encrypted with a default passphrase the user can change. (See cons.) Video saved to the microSD is not encrypted (or at least I could view the footage in VLC, the SD in my laptop.)

- "Access Configuration" setting on the website: "When enabled, only the verified and linked computers or mobile devices can login your account."

- Accounts can be deleted, deactivated or the data can be cleared easily.

- Device storage (saved footage and alarm history) can be wiped remotely from the website or the app.

Software plaform
- iOS or Android app is *necessary* for setup (See cons). On a PC, only Internet Explorer can be used (...which requires AciveX.) Chrome users: Find the "IE Tab" browser extension. It works.

- Recording codec: H.264 powered DVR (c)2003-2008 Hangzhou Hikvision Co., Ltd.1234

- QR codes: Connected to your WiFi, scan the QR code USING THE EZVIZ APP (not just any barcode/QR app) that is on the camera and/or sticker on the install manual. It asks to put your phone a few inches from the camera and it *should* load your wifi SSID and passphrase and connect (through, I'm guessing, NFC). MINE DID NOT on a Galaxy S4 or S5.. (See OTs #1).

- Motion Detection Schedule: Can set times and days to disable the motion detection alarm (but no scheduling for the "sleep" function, to disable the feed entirely. That is turned on/off manually in the app.)

- The ezvizlife.com site has a live feed and messaging service. Users receive motion detection alerts, can message and share videos and feeds to other users (which still requires the encryption key to view). I have no need for any of this, but they are still nice pros.

- Can view the past recorded content (not stored on the cloud, but on the SD card) from the web remotely, the app and web interface save snapshots and can record video to a device.

- Integration with other IoT devices, home automation and Amzn's Echo. (Not only is it an extra "ear" for Alexa, but is the EzViz an eye so Alexa may see?)

General pros
- Very wide view! 130 degrees seems something like a 18mm camera lens. (There is even a slight fisheye effect with the cam under my computer monitor, which curves in the image.)

- All the advertised features work well: 720p, low-light and night recording (is excellent), the magnetic base, onboard MicroSD (limited to 64GB,) et cetera.

- The build is solid and it feels sturdy. (Although, it is Made in China, as most things are these days.) The packaging isn't too excessive but also is high quality. There is no unboxing a thin, brown paper boxor cutting through a sealed plastic pouch.

- Wireless and powered via USB (5v, 0.7A). Not only can the cam be placed anywhere without running ethernet wire, but I imagine the USB interface could connect to a high-capacity 10000mAh (or larger) battery pack as reserve power.

- 1 year warranty (not great, but acceptable) and "lifetime technical support." (Which will help address OTs #2 below.)

- 1 MONTH of free cloud (not 1 year.) I never plan to use it, since I prefer my own "cloud" products on private, cheap, self-managed VPS servers. This device is incompatible, being completely primary and closed source/closed API.

- Cover the display in a well-lit area and black text turns white. Uncover and turns black again. Date/timestamp font color changes on-the-fly for each individual character. So the time/date will never be invisible. On mine, currently all characters white except for a 1 and 3, which are black and over a lighter part of the image.

Cons: 1. The device runs very hot, regardless of whether it is in sleep mode. Basic rule of physics: more heat = more entropy. An electronic device that runs hot will not usually last as long as one that is cooler. When plugged in, my cam is always very hot to the touch.

2. The encryption key allows for only a 6 to 12 character passphrase, letters and numbers only. I really wish it could be longer and allowed symbols. Also, I didn't see any GPL information or anything hinting at what algorithm/hash is being used. If I had to guess, it is either some form of SASL or proprietary, but I have no way of dumping the camera's ROM/firmware to analyze it (also, doing so is against the Terms of Service.) Ettercap might offer hints in the raw network traffic, but I'm not invested enough to do such painstaking analysis...Those paranoid about encryption here likely wouldn't be using a proprietary cloud-based service anyway (let alone wireless). If it uses Amzn Web Service (AWS) to process encryption, then surely I can use a more complicated, higher entropy encryption key?

3. THERE IS NO LINUX SUPPORT. The EZVizLife website requires WINDOWS Internet Explorer/ActiveX, which I removed from all my Windows x86* devices and added back for testing. There is also a Chrome extension called "IE Tab" that emulates Internet Explorer and loads the site properly, with everything functioning. It was free until very recently.

4. I plugged the USB into my laptop to see what happens and nothing. I'd guess it is a hardware design limitation, rather than software update, stopping the cam from being configured, streaming or being used directly and locally. Still, it would have been a nice feature to allow the cam to plug into a USB router that supports USB networked cameras (I suppose it still can, connected wirelessly and powered by the router's USB).

5. Call me a cynic, but technically, the Terms of Service agreement is VERY restrictive. It is troubling, this trend where customers buy products and are prohibited from using them however they want. Legally, I can smash this camera in the street or take it apart and meddle with/fry the circuit. But I "cannot" (legally) reverse engineer it. I "cannot" (or, "am not to") locate the GPIO headers and extract the firmware and, if unencrypted, modify it to meet my needs. The notion that intellectual property rights now allow manufacturers to dominate how end-users use purchased products is appalling. EZVizLife (like some other networking manufacturers, this is systemic) jails users within its online platform, so they are unable to access the device directly/locally at all. Therefore, users are heavily constrained by the online (intellectual/software) Terms of Service. Challenge accepted. The battle is only beginning.

Other Thoughts: For those wanting a simple, inexpensive and uninvolved surveillance setup this cloud-based cam "just works." However, for more serious home or business monitoring that requires higher data retention and more involved administration, there are more appropriate (expensive) options.

As the "mini" version of the camera lineup, I rate this a definite 5 out of 5 eggs. Despite its quirks, there are no systemic flaws I found. It requires internet and a mobile app, but the apps and interfaces perform beautifully and functionally. I personally don't plan to get into home automation and am skeptical of the privacy of IoT devices such as Amzn Echo, but it is very cool that this home camera integrates with home automation. (Let's just hope the NSA doesn't have an admin login and master key to the proprietary encryption, for those home users.)

1. Never fear, the EZViz camera itself scans QR codes! Your phone generates a code, you put your phone screen in front of the camera and it loads the network info, lighting blue when successful. I thought the use of QR codes here was very innovative and interesting. I didn't list this as a con because of the IoT purpose/design, which omits configuring the device locally or manually.

2. One concern I have is the single point of failure. There seems to be no alternative or manual way of administering the device other than through the internet or app (which still requires being logged into EZViz online.) This isn't a con since the cam is sold as cloud-based, simple and very nearly automated. Naturally, as an IoT device it requires the Internet conectivity and I can't knock an egg for not having offline controls.

Still, it is worth mentioning that if the device goes down, how can I troubleshoot it properly? The Ezviz website says "Searching for devices on the LAN" (even remotely or connected through a distant VPN) when I click to add a new device, but that is assuming it is connected to WiFi already and the site is accessed online.

What about MAC filters and other technical WiFi configurations? A user has to disable her MAC filter, let it connect and then whitelist the address since it isn't listed anywhere? The cam can't be configured via USB, no ad-hoc wireless with local web-ui or any other way. It *requires* the Internet, an EZVizLife account and, as far as I can tell, a mobile phone to at least connect to WiFi. With meeting all these requirements, activating and using the EZViz should be (and is) effortless and automated.

But, if something goes wrong then finding and fixing the problem is significantly harder when the user has no local interface with the cam directly. I haven't tested how the camera behaves when it is connected to WiFi but is unable to get online. I suspect I will not be able to administer it through LAN and the mobile app. With no local control, how can I disable or enable the cam when Internet is down? Perhaps users can talk Alexa into fixing the problem. :)


UPDATE: I found this. Joining your Wi-Fi network manually, using a MicroSD card (Troubleshooting)
1. Put a microSD card into a computer, phone or device with a text editor.
2. Create a text file named "ezviz" (lowercase, without quotes) in the root directory (not in any folder.)
3. Inside that text file include:
ssid:
password:
type:

SSID is your Wi-Fi network name, Wi-Fi password (leave blank if none) and “type” Wi-Fi encryption (leave blank and it will automatically select, or try to specify WPA/WPA2.)
4: With the EZViz cam POWERED OFF, insert the SD card.
5: Power on the device and the lights should start flashing blue only, indicating it is connected to Wi-Fi (no red light flashing).
6: In the EZViz mobile app, scan the QR code again or add the device on ezvizlife.com
7. Follow the instructions to complete the setup

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Silicon Power Slim S55 2.5
  • eggxpert iconEggXpert

Pros: More recent CrystalDiskMark benchmarks are in Cons.
Longer, verbose benchmarks (HD Tune Pro), measured immediately after unboxing, here: pastebin.com/raw/ES5zamqt

- SATA III 6GBPS, TRIM and RAID, as expected of modern SSDs.

- CHEAP! So, so so cheap for the capacity and speed it offers. (Around $0.22 per gigabyte)

- Total storage: 447.13GB.

- 3 year warranty! (I hope that means I can expect it to last a while!)

- Averages of all CrystalDiskMark Sequential tests (MB/s): 549.75 read, 506.25 write.
Probably the fastest SSD I've tested to date, out of OCZ and Crucial

- Low power 5v usage and 7mm form factor, perfect for an ultrabook.

- Small red LED inside the drive is barely visible but shows it is powered on. This is helpful where a spinning platter would otherwise indicate this on traditional HDDs.

There isn't much else to say. The benchmarks speak for themselves. This is an inexpensive 500GB drive that performs beautifully and has yet to corrupt or lose any data.

Cons: There are no cons, really.

I'd note that there is no on board encryption, but that isn't necessary. If anything, that would likely impact these epic R/W speeds. I've yet to experience any slowdown, data corruption or data loss. I will update this review if anything catastrophic happens.

Truncated benchmarks (Tested after 2 months of day-to-day use):
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
CrystalDiskMark 5.1.2 x64 (C) 2007-2016 hiyohiyo
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
* MB/s = 1,000,000 bytes/s [SATA/600 = 600,000,000 bytes/s]
* KB = 1000 bytes, KiB = 1024 bytes
OS : Windows 8.1 Pro [6.3 Build 9600] (x64)

Test : 50 MiB [C: 32.5% (54.7/168.2 GiB)] (x1) [Interval=5 sec]
Sequential Read (Q= 32,T= 1) : 548.921 MB/s
Sequential Write (Q= 32,T= 1) : 503.075 MB/s
Random Read 4KiB (Q= 32,T= 1) : 179.113 MB/s [ 43728.8 IOPS]
Random Write 4KiB (Q= 32,T= 1) : 168.880 MB/s [ 41230.5 IOPS]
Sequential Read (T= 1) : 487.586 MB/s
Sequential Write (T= 1) : 465.314 MB/s
Random Read 4KiB (Q= 1,T= 1) : 21.689 MB/s [ 5295.2 IOPS]
Random Write 4KiB (Q= 1,T= 1) : 40.096 MB/s [ 9789.1 IOPS]

Test: 500 MiB
Seq Rd: 548.444 MB/s
Seq Write: 512.187 MB/s
Rndm Rd 4KiB: 198.854 MB/s [ 48548.3 IOPS]
Rndm Write 4KiB: 170.126 MB/s [ 41534.7 IOPS]
Seq Rd: 495.051 MB/s
Seq Write: 405.830 MB/s
Rndm Rd 4KiB: 21.206 MB/s [ 5177.2 IOPS]
Rndm Write 4KiB: 39.794 MB/s [ 9715.3 IOPS]

Test: 1 GiB
Seq Rd: 551.489 MB/s
Seq Write: 501.428 MB/s
Rndm Rd 4KiB: 197.521 MB/s [ 48222.9 IOPS]
Rndm Write 4KiB: 139.784 MB/s [ 34127.0 IOPS]
Seq Rd: 496.971 MB/s
Seq Write: 474.397 MB/s
Rndm Rd 4KiB: 21.658 MB/s [ 5287.6 IOPS]
Rndm Write 4KiB: 40.035 MB/s [ 9774.2 IOPS]


Test: 2 GiB
Seq Rd: 550.970 MB/s
Seq Write: 508.022 MB/s
Rndm Rd 4KiB: 198.347 MB/s [ 48424.6 IOPS]
Rndm Write 4KiB: 169.530 MB/s [ 41389.2 IOPS]
Seq Rd: 497.090 MB/s
Seq Write: 469.104 MB/s
Rndm Rd 4KiB: 21.707 MB/s [ 5299.6 IOPS]
Rndm Write 4KiB: 39.265 MB/s [ 9586.2 IOPS]

Other Thoughts: I have to say, this is more than a decent SSD for the cost. Usually, I've seen benchmark speeds taper off or degrade when testing 1GB+ on other drives, but this one held strong. I can't speak to its longevity, but I've used it for a couple months now and tried my best to test it fully (even aggressively, at times.) There has been no data corruption, no speed degradation or any terrible data loss. I am dual-booting ElementaryOS (fresh install) and Windows 8.1 Pro (cloned from another SSD.) Windows boots up in under 6 seconds and Linux is half that (thanks to systemd.)

Also, this drive was tested in a low-end Dell Inspiron 15R-3521, Intel Core i3 (1.9GHz x2 cores and x2 threads), 6GB RAM. Needless to say, 500MB/s Read and Write speeds on this laptop are very, very impressive.

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Theodore P.'s Profile

Display Name: Theodore P.

Date Joined: 02/13/11

  • Reviews: 70
  • Helpfulness: 40
  • First Review: 03/02/11
  • Last Review: 12/22/16
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