Professor Rob: Summertime tech

Ideas to put your life in “cool mode” this summer!

Posted on Jun 19 2024 in Tipmont

Professor Rob


Heating and cooling are typically your home’s largest energy consumers. Smart thermostats differ from regular and even programmable thermostats by learning your behaviors and adjusting automatically to maximize your energy usage.

For me, the Nest lowered my monthly energy bill by nearly 20% by adjusting temperatures up or down when we weren’t home, then returning it when we came home. Don’t forget: Tipmont offers up to $50 in rebates for the Nest! Learn more at


Stargazing is one of life’s simplest pleasures. Whether you’re a casual viewer or seasoned astronomer, these apps will boldly go where no app has gone before. As usual, there are several choices. I’ve used Google’s SkyMap — free and easy to use on Android but lacking advanced features of other apps.

Want to go deeper into the cosmos? Try Star Walk 2 (the free version has ads, with a $2 cost to remove them). And if you really want to get serious, check out SkySafari Pro, which has a free version but puts many features behind a hefty $21.99 price tag.


Smart lightbulb

Smart lightbulbs resemble traditional bulbs but can change brightness, color, and hue with an app or voice command. Even more, programmed schedules can illuminate your home to your liking cued to specific times or actions (e.g., the garage door opening).

Among several options, I use Philips Hue, but RCA and TP-Link also make good products. Be sure to research compatibility with your devices, especially for outdoor or enclosed fixtures. Bulbs will also need to be within range of your home’s WiFi signal. Smart bulbs can also quickly add up, running from $30 to $50 per bulb.


AllTrails app

Last fall, my daughter and I tackled some of the country’s best hiking spots in Oregon. (I highly recommend Ramona Falls!) Yes, the point of a hike is reconnecting with nature. I like to have my hike and complete it, too.

Enter AllTrails, which lets you discover and save hiking maps for offline use. It can even alert you if you make a wrong turn, but I (proudly) didn’t enable that feature.

The download feature carries a cost ($35.99 / year), but it’s worth the expense if hiking a trail where losing your way can endanger you.

Perhaps the most useful feature is discovering new trails. I’ve been to Oregon several times, but AllTrails recommended new spots I didn’t know. We chose the Cape Falcon trailhead, which took us to a breathtaking view of the coast.