Home Lighting

Shade light switch auto-dims lights, smartens smart bulbs

The lighting in any home can make or break a room. It’s best to have lots of light so as not to be left in the dark, but have the ability to dim those lights for dinner or intimate time with a spouse. However, constantly running to the light switch to adjust these levels isn’t very smooth.

Shade is a smart lighting system that adjusts light automatically. It will brighten or dim any room based on sunlight. With photocells, this product detects sunlight and brightens or dims accordingly. In addition, it uses Wi-Fi to allow for scheduling, remote control and geolocation settings. However, as Shade is used more and more, the product will learn common habits and adjust the lights to match them. For instance, if brighter light is desired on weeknights, Shade will customize itself to such a preference.

Unlike other smart light switches, Shade doesn’t require a smartphone to turn lights on. It uses a physical on/off switch. This is because the folks at Shade believe such a tool is much easier to use than having to get out the phone, a good thought. It’s easy to get caught up in the technology of it all without recognizing that sometimes the old ways work better.

Shade will definitely make a great addition to any home. For offices, however, it may not work as well. Workers need bright light to see whether the sun is high in the sky or not. Still, it’s great for setting the mood for dinner. Unfortunately, backers much purchase one light switch at a time, so rigging the whole house may prove costly. For one switch, Shade is asking for an $88 donation with estimated delivery in July 2015. This product is looking to raise an ambitious $125,000 on Kickstarter.

Music Tech Accessories

Brick and Bullet make Mac-based music simple and clear

The Premise. The performance stage has changed for musicians in the last few years, as many performers are finding it easier to just connect their equipment through a MacBook and play through AirPlay. However, going beyond what AirPlay was designed to support can cause a wealth of problems, certainly not the least of which is lag between the performance and the outputted audio.

The Product. Really two separate products, the Brick is a Mac mini-like Ethernet switch designed for professional digital audio that can connect to instruments, mixers, amps, and more, bringing it all together to be controlled with a single application. The Bullet is an adapter to connect audio jack-controlled instruments to Ethernet devices like the Brick, bridging analog and digital. The Brick and Bullet setup is natively supported by and MacOS device running Mavericks, including MacBook Pro, Mac Mini, or iMac.

The Pitch., creators of the Brick and Bullet, demonstrate the difference between using AirPlay with an AirPort Express and using a Brick through simply playing the keyboard. It can be almost painful waiting for the sound to come out after each of the keys is hit on the former setup, but with the Brick the two are simultaneous. While the technology behind the Brick and Bullet is certainly a little more than just end user-level stuff, the campaign for the Brick and Bullet keeps things simple and straight to the point, perfect for performers who just want to know if the device will fix their issues. has set its goal at $35,000, largely to finish development of the Bullet.

The Perks. The Brick Ethernet switch will launch in September 2014 and backers who pledge $300 can get their hands on one. For those that want to get the complete rig for live digital audio, a Brick with two Bullets is available at the $850 tier in November, and the set can be custom engraved for $1,500.

The Potential. For performers, adding a Brick and Bullet setup to the stage can certainly make things easier to handle DIY digital audio. For a similar price however, it’s not too much to expect to be able to set things up using a standard analog setup with amps and cables. If it’s digital or bust, then there’s certainly nothing wrong with picking up these items to get the most out of a simple MacBook-style performance setup.