Lightning Adapters in the Elevation Dock

Remember my last post where I was talking about 3D printing? After writing it, I contacted my friend Michael Buffington, who recently won a Makerbot at the XOXO conference.

I showed him a few basic lightning adapter designs on Thingaverse, which he printed, but then we realized in testing them out they all had drawbacks. The fit wasn’t perfect in any of them, one was great at holding a cord but you could push the cord out of the device when connecting it on a table top. None of them dealt with the bend of a new Apple lightning cable very well.

Buffington tweaked some things and made a new second part that holds the cable down while also forcing the hard bend. Photos of the dock with the parts mounted are here in a Flickr slideshow:


and here is video of the dock being used on my desk:

It’s just two pieces of printed plastic and a couple off-the-shelf nuts and bolts going into existing holes to put it all together. Buffington’s design is now on Thingaverse, my hope is anyone else with a Elevation dock can upgrade it to allow for iPhone 5 charging.

As always, 3D printing your own parts in real-time is totally awesome and I can’t wait until everyone has a desktop 3D printer at home.

3d Printing and the speed of progress

image from thingiverse-production.s3.amazonaws.com

This is fascinating, someone has made a 3d printed insert for the Elevation Dock to hold a new lightning cable. In August, I received a few Elevation Docks after funding it earlier this year, and I loved using it each day as my phone finally had a nice bedside charger. Since I replaced my iPhone I've missed using it and disassembled an Elevation Dock the other day to see if I could wedge one of the new iPhone cables into it. Unfortunately, the plastic trim that holds the 30-pin connector in place is too narrow to squeeze/hold the lightning adapter high enough for charging in the dock.

I was considering cutting some of the plastic and trying to get it to work but found out Mike Hellers already solved this by putting up a design on Thingaverse which you can get printed/shipped for about $10 from Shapeways.

This is great for owners of a new iPhone that backed the Elevation Dock. I'm impressed at how quickly this 3d model was conceived and printed and is now available. As I was disassembling my dock, I looked at the electronics that Casey, the designer behind the Elevation Dock created and realized it was mostly unnecessary if you could just bend/hold an existing iPhone charger cable. Casey told me at the XOXO conference he was working on a new connector for the lightning connector, but rumors are there's a chip in the cable that would make 3rd party cables impossible.

The most interesting aspect is how 3d printing disrupts things. Casey built these heavy, beautiful docks and spent months creating a circuit board to support charging that is now incompatible and likely impossible to replicate for the new connector. In some industries, I could see a company/creator going after someone making rogue parts like this printed cable holder, but I really hope in this case Casey partners with Mike and figures out a way to print/ship these to existing Elevation Dock owners. It would reduce the Elevation Dock to basically a hunk of heavy aluminum that simply holds a cable inside, but from the outside the existing dock isn't much more than that. (via jdd)

Ten months with a Nest

With the recent news of a new version of the smart thermostat Nest coming out, I figured I should finally write up what it has been like living with the first version of the product since last November, when mine arrived.

Overall, it's been a great little tool, smart in lots of smart ways and dumb in just a very few and eons ahead of similar products I've used. Back in the early 2000s, I spent some time in my first house trying to automate everything. I used x10 to control my lights and set up schedules to turn lights on and off at certain times and I bought a programmable thermostat in the hopes of not only saving energy but also allowing me to wake up to a pre-warmed house in the winter.

I recall how quickly my adoration with home automation faded when I decided to stay up 15 minutes later than normal only to have the entire downstairs lighting shut off to pitch black per the schedule I created. I also remember spending hours programming the thermostat with complicated weekday versus weekend programs, and how after a couple months I just gave up and used it like a normal thermostat that sat at fixed temperatures.

When I heard about the Nest, I immediately ordered one and patiently waited the months until it arrived. It came with a free professional installation that would be scheduled a couple weeks later, but I decided to try it myself and like my last house it was pretty easy to do and 20 minutes after I started, everything was running and it was downloading software updates from wifi (pictured above).

In use

After about a week of using the thermostat to adjust temps (fun bonus: cranking up the heat on a cold December morning from the comfort of your bed, using the Nest iPhone app), it started to realize our patterns and follow them (I rarely have to run the iPhone app these days). It was a nice change from the hours of programming I did in the past and it just seemed to work for my family, realizing that we woke up around 7am most days, went to sleep around 11pm, and started shutting itself off whenever we were gone for the day. After about a month, I went onto the Nest.com website to check the schedule and it only required a minor amount of tweaking to follow a perfect pattern.

Let me say straight up that the motion sensor in it is pretty amazing. It realizes when no one has been home for a couple hours and sets your thermostat to auto-away mode, saving energy by going to prescribed temp extremes (colder than normal in winter, warmer than normal in summer). I've never had it go to auto-away while I was home working even though it's in a different room. I should also say that if I had a normal office job, the Nest would be doing an even better job. I'm at home about five days a week so it doesn't get tripped into away mode as often as typical houses where most people are gone during the daytime weekday hours.

It's hard to say what the bottom line is on energy savings for me. I don't watch our electric bills super closely and our bill includes charges for water too (which usage fluctuates wildly), making quantifying the post-Nest world a bit tougher, but I do know the system goes into auto-away mode reliably several times a week and it's been great to set the whole system to away mode when we've been on vacation. Having a vacant house heated and air conditioned is a lot like running your lawn sprinklers during a rainstorm, a total waste of money. It's also great to have the iPhone/web connections to control it even though I don't need it very often. I remember bringing up the phone app and taking the house out of away mode at the airport when we landed from a vacation, and arriving to a cool house in the summer an hour later.

About the only downsides are how it sometimes acts a bit too eager to please. You might have a dinner party and turn on the air conditioning a few degrees cooler than normal to keep guests comfortable, and the thermostat is supposed to ignore one-off moments like this, but I found it slightly adjusting itself at odd times that reflected short term changes. This also happened when I left the country for a week while the rest of my family stayed behind, introducing a new schedule where I wasn't home all week in my home office that had to be adjusted later when I went back to my old schedule.

Apart from those minor schedule nits, the Nest has been great, warming the house on winter mornings, shutting down each night about an hour before we typically go to sleep, following our coming and going patterns appropriately and being completely controllable in real time from either the web or our phones (and also by the nice weighty dial on the unit itself) if we need to change things. I won't be buying a new one (for the same reasons Marco states here the software updates make getting a new one unnecessary) but I can wholeheartedly recommend it to all my friends as a neat way to save a bit of energy and turn a dumb appliance like your heating and air conditioning into an automatically configured smart object that works with your own patterns of behavior.