Jay Little - Software Obsessionist
Dumb Homes For the Win

06/02/2018 16:01:12

This morning a young man knocked on my door with the goal of selling me on a Vivint Smart Home System. Needless to say that if you know me at all, you know I put the kibosh on that in a hurry. My opposition to this idea springs from more than my fear of the cloud, though that is a factor to be sure. For starters I believe most of these mechanisms are over-engineered and consequently less reliable. In addition I just don't trust these companies. Finally, I'm a cheap bastard.

One of the key metrics I use to evaluate tech is reliability. I tend to prefer tech that works reliably and consistently over tech that is faster, flashier and more popular. Why is that? Mostly it's because I don't want to be bothered. I have also very recently learned that when smart home tech fails, it can be become a huge bother, as evidenced by my recent Air Conditioner and Thermostat drama. When I acquire devices and tech that work well, I hang onto them for as long as using them remains feasible. When I acquire stuff that doesn't, I tend to replace them pretty quickly.

That poor salesman was so surprised when I told him, "I prefer a dumb home". He responded with, "You don't want a NEST thermostat?" I laughed heartily and said, "No I need less Google in my life rather than more". It was at this point he realized that I was a lost cause and sought to move onto greener pastures. I wished him luck as he left. I wasn't being sincere.

But what's wrong with NEST? What's wrong with Google? Quite a lot actually. NEST and Google recently launched a new Smart Doorbell product that includes facial recognition that uses the "cloud" to figure out the identity of your visitors. That's some scary shit right there. You gotta wonder if that shares any tech with the now infamous Project Maven which Google claims to be abandoning after an internal and external uproar. This is kind of surprising considering that they recently took shit for removing the words "Don't Be Evil" from their official code of conduct. Nevertheless, I salute every Google employee who quit because of that project. I wish more people had the cajones to stand up for the rational and logical things they claim to believe in.

So yeah, I don't trust Google. In fact Google may now be the tech company which I fear the most. Thankfully I have managed to divest myself of all of their services other than Voice and YouTube. I've admittedly been pretty lazy on the Voice front as it would necessitate updating my "home" number in about a bazillion places. YouTube is just stupid hard to get rid of as it turns out. But at the rate they are going, I may not have to work too hard.

Of course I haven't even gotten to the best part. It's not like these Smart Home services are free. They cost quite a bit as it turns out. For Vivint you can spend $90 a month between the smart home and smart home video services alone. That's freaking insane. On the surface I guess that's better than offering free services and mining every single byte of data they manage to grab. Still, who the hell can afford this crap? On top which, who is willing to commit to paying that monthly rate in perpetuity?

Not me, that's for sure. I hope you aren't either. But ultimately you gotta make your own choices and ultimately we all have to learn the hard way. As for the salesman, he was just some young kid who really doesn't know any better. He probably thinks being able to control every aspect of the systems in your house from your phone is cool enough that it mitigates any and all other concerns. Hell, he's probably ambivalent when it comes to concerns.

So maybe I opened his eyes a little bit. That's probably not true, but I'm going to tell myself this little white lie because it makes me feel good about myself.

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