Ring Video Doorbell 2

I recently got the opportunity to test out the Ring Video Doorbell 2. We’ve always had a “regular” doorbell at our house. It was a pretty and unique bronze butterfly that was absolutely perfect for our nature oriented home. There was no real reason to replace it. My only complaint was that about half of our guests didn’t realize the bronze butterfly was the doorbell so they would knock. And if I was in the basement I couldn’t hear anyone knocking. But given the opportunity to try out a new “smart” video doorbell I figured it was time to retire the butterfly, at least for a while.


Our original bronze butterfly doorbell

Ring is a California based smart home company that manufactures and markets smart doorbells, cameras and security systems. The Video Doorbell 2 looks to be a middle of the road entry in their lineup of doorbells.

Ring doorbells copy

The Ring lineup of doorbells as of September 2019.

The purpose of a video door bell is to be able to see who is at the door, via your smart phone, from anywhere in the world. You can also talk to them without having to come to the door, e.g. “No, thank you we aren’t interested.” or “Please leave the package by the door, thank you.” The voice feature is a great way to scare the crap out of people as well, so you can have a little fun with unsuspecting skittish kids and adults alike. You can access the camera at any time to see what’s happening outside your front door. Video is recorded and can be viewed via the website and app for future reference. The app on your phone can be set up to send notifications when motion is detected. I could be in my living room or the other side of the world and see and hear in real time what’s going on. Ring is also promoting safer neighborhoods by encouraging sharing of video with neighbors if you see something suspicious. Imagine a “ring” around your neighborhood via various cameras on everyone’s homes.

The doorbell comes with everything you need for installation including mounting hardware, several paintable faceplate options and even a screwdriver. The instructions and app set up are incredibly easy. The doorbell connects to the existing wiring and also operates off of a rechargeable battery. The app alerts you when the battery starts to get low on power. The removable battery recharges simply using the USB cord included with the doorbell kit in a couple hours.

I installed the unit in less than an hour. My biggest hang-ups were 1) trying to turn the power off to the current doorbell, I never did figure that out but I think it’s so low voltage I couldn’t really hurt myself, and 2) trying to figure out how to take the butterfly doorbell off (there’s a screw the wasn’t readily viewable). I left the new doorbell unpainted because the plastic (black) case matches our exterior superbly.

I love the new “smart” video doorbell. It allows me to check on the front door when I get an alert without having to drop what I’m doing and see who’s roaming around outside or I can see if something has been delivered. The video and sound quality is great day and night.  The app is easy to use and integrates beautifully all of my Ring products in one place. Setup and use is so easy that anyone can install and live with this doorbell.

It is sad to see the butterfly doorbell go away but I am extremely happy with the new doorbell.

Too Many HDMI Cords? Fix It With This…


I haven’t written since January?

Ugh, I’ve been stressed all year – work has been crazy so I haven’t had the energy to sit down and write. Which I kind of miss it. So, today I had a blank Saturday in which I could do anything I want to do, including putting off cutting the grass. Even if not a lot has been going on, there’s gotta be at least something to write about since January, right?

Alright I’ll throw some product reviews at you all, over the next few posts. And we can touch base on the mice and whatever else I can think of. I need to write.

First up, back in February I picked up a pair of these Techole HDMI splitter switches. They are about ten dollars (US) on Amazon and got decent reviews.


We use our living room as our primary living space. And our family time usually includes an hour or two at night watching tv or movies together. We also play video games…I think if I added it all up there are like ten devices in the living room cabinet…let’s see: two xBoxes, two DVD players, a Nintendo Switch…cable box…anyway it’s more HDMI cables then the Sony tv (the old ~50″+ version of this tv) has ports for. So I needed a splitter to take the HDMI from the tv and feed in two devices. I think I had 5 ports so I picked up two splitters or switches.

There’s not much going on here but these are solid metal switches (like I said, I ordered two) each packaged in some nice simple brown packaging.

Obviously super easy to install, just plug in your HDMI cables and you’re good to go. I believe because the devices I plugged into the switches are powered, the switches themselves are “powered”. This allows the number on the switch to illuminate so you can tell if cable 1 or cable 2 is hooked up at any given time.

Whenever you need to access a device just press the button on the switch and tune to the right input on the tv.

I also ordered these color coded HDMI cables from Cable Matters and love them as well. Good quality and very low cost. $12-18.50 for a three pack. Color coding is a blessing with all that’s going on behind the tv.

I don’t notice any reduction in quality and the switches (and cables) have worked fine since I bought them. I’d definitely recommend trying them out to help manage things and expand your cable capacity behind your tv.


Lawn Mower Review

As promised I’m going to tell you about my Father’s Day present.  Yesterday we picked up a new GreenWorks 40V 19″ cordless electric lawn mower at Lowes. As soon as our old Troy-Bilt mower kind of gave up the ghost, and coinciding with a comparison test in The Family Handyman magazine, I started researching a new mower.  Our old one was gas powered, and was giving me quite a few problems as of late. It would guzzle gas, belch out smoke and had a tough time maneuvering over the rough terrain of our yard.  Even though I’d just changed the oil it sputtered to a slow intermediate death earlier this week.  I could get it fixed up again but thought maybe it was time to rethink the mower situation. After all, I had previously reattached the front wheel axle when it fell off last year, but the axle still flopped around. And just this week I took off the front safety shield so the mower could clear the rough terrain.  Maybe after 9 years it was time for a new mower. Christine was never a fan of the old mower because the “self propelled” feature never even worked very well which meant she couldn’t mow the lawn.

I was intrigued by the idea of an electric mower after reading the comparison in the magazine. So I went online to Lowe’s and Home Depot’s websites to see what they had to offer. Pretty much all the mowers in the article could be bought at one or the other store. I focused in on the 19″ models, as opposed to 14″. This would mean fewer passes back and forth when cutting our 4,200 sq. ft. front lawn. I also keyed in on lithium ion batteries as opposed to lead acid; both are rechargeable. The lithium batteries are like the ones you use in your cordless power equipment.  In fact you can use the lithium ion batteries in the mower and also other power tools. They are interchangeable. The weight savings is 20-40 lbs. by going lithium vs. lead battery.  The lithium batteries also charge in and hour or two vs. 12 hours for a lead acid battery. I’m not sure what the advantage of a lead acid battery is other than it’s tried and true technology.

I was leaning to the GreenWorks 19″ mower from the get go because of it’s size, light weight and battery type. And remember, I was not a fan of the GreenWorks tiller, as the wheels literally fell off when I used it, but since then I’ve come to terms with that unit, and am wiling to give GreenWorks another shot based on my research. When I read the reviews on Lowe’s website (Lowe’s is the only place that sells them locally as far as I could tell, plus we had a $25 coupon), the mower got 4.2 out of 5 stars.  Many of the reviews spoke highly of its performance and I was willing to risk any of the negative reviews which focused on a few minor quality problems with the ignition. The magazine listed the price as $449, but Lowe’s listed it at $349…plus our coupon and it was available at a local store. All and all I was satisfied and went to the store to pick one up. Now the one in the store is model 25223, which includes two batteries, one regular capacity and one half the capacity of the other. Model 25312 includes two regular batteries, but that isn’t offered at Lowes. Based on the reviews I was fine getting the one and a half battery set. I like the idea of two batteries regardless of size so I can charge one while I use the other. I can always buy another battery, especially if I purchase an electric trimmer to replace my gas trimmer someday.

At the store I examined the mower and its construction. I know where all the weak spot are on a lawn  mower – handle where it connects to the body (same on this unit but more on that later), the metal frame which is good and a rarity on electric mowers. I even picked it up to see how much it weighed (not a one hand task but lighter than a gas mower, it’s specs say 49 lbs.).  The height adjustment lever was head and shoulders in terms of ease of operation compared to my gas mower.  One other nice feature is the large back wheel, much better than regular mowers with small back wheels for going over rough terrain, which we have plenty of in our young yard.

So we loaded up the box and took our new friend home with us. It was to late to do anything last night so this mooring was “go time” to test out the new mower. I unpacked the batteries and charger, read the manual briefly and started charging the big battery. An hour or two later I switched and charged the smaller battery. Then it was time to give it a go. I unpacked the mower and lifted it out (it has a handle on top), it was light and new and oh so awesome.  Happiness.  Set up was a breeze, just unfold the handle and slide in the battery and insert the red key to complete the circuit.  With the wife watching and taking photos I depressed the button and pulled back the bail.  With a subtle “whirr” my little green machine came to life. I quickly mowed the tall grass in the walkway eliminating the chances that ticks could hide there while we got in and out of the car. I then pushed the mower to the front yard to finish what my gas mower didn’t.

Several of the reviews online commented that this electric mower actually made mowing “fun” and “enjoyable”.  After ten minutes of back and forth I was beginning to agree. The mower is so lightweight and quiet that it’s essentially like vacuuming your living room in terms of ease. And there is no belching grey smoke or loud noise like a gas lawn mower. The large wheels and light weight also allowed the mower to get over ruts and obstacles easily compared to my lumbering “self-propelled” gas mower. This mower is not self-propelled, but there is no need because it’s so easy to push with very little effort. One cool trick with an electric mower is you can flip it over to inspect the underside. I ran over some bird netting and got it all tangled up. I removed the key, literally flipped it over and extracted the netting, no problem and no worries that gas would come pouring out of the top of the mower or that the heavy mower would flop back onto my foot.

I had mentioned the handle attachment is the same as on other mowers. This area broke multiple times on my old mower. When you go to turn the mower at the end of a pass, so much torque is applied that eventually the handle snaps. I’ll spare you the details but take it from me, it’s a bad design, driven by cost savings. Well, with my new mower it’s so easy to turn because it’s light weight, there isn’t nearly the torque on this part of the handle so it should last for some time. My only complaint on the handle is the length isn’t quite long enough for my 6′-1″ frame, but I would have that issue with almost any mower I suspect.

I always cut in mulching “mode” and this mower mulched very well. It comes with a side chute and bag attachment but I rarely if ever use those.  Both looked easy to install though. The mower starts with a buildup “whir” then settles into it’s cutting rhythm. It will seemingly adjust the power if it starts to get bogged down. I did not get it to bog down so much that it stopped. Though when the battery runs out, it stops automatically, no perceivable wind down of power.

The great thing about the electric mower for our new yard is that is does not pick up rocks or branches. The old mower would just destroy it’s blade on picked up rocks and tree branches that I would “forget” to move. This electric one isn’t powerful enough to lift up the debris and rattle it around, which is actually a good thing. And if you do have to stop, you just release the bail to shut it off, move a stick or whatever and then just press the button and pull the bail back to start it whirring again. No cord to pull, or starter key to turn. This eager mower owned our uneven yard.  It cut even the gnarliest weeds and tall grass. For fun I even blazed a trial to the septic field and back with it; I just didn’t want to stop mowing plants, it was that much fun.  It did leave the occasional grass or weed sticking up but our grass was super long.  The regular mower did the same under these conditions. The damp grass proved no hindrance to our new green mower either. And I could even mow our mulch covered “paths” without throwing mulch everywhere. Awesome.

The sound was amazing. The mower becomes more of an appliance instead of this loud thing you have to fight around the yard. I mowed right around the bee hives (with my suit on just in case) and the bees didn’t bother me one bit. You could run this thing at 7am on Saturday morning and your neighbors wouldn’t mind a bit I bet. Heck you could have guests hanging out in your yard and be like “Hey, I gotta mow this grass real fast, carry on about your business” and you wouldn’t bother them in the least, other than them thinking you were weird for mowing the grass during a party.

I did go through both batteries, and had to take a lunch break to recharge one of them to finish the bee area. No big deal.  I wasn’t nearly as tired as I would have been pushing the gas mower and the forced break was good for my heart health too I suspect.  If I had two large batteries I would be fine. Plus with the gas mower I have to stop at least once to refill it with gas, so changing a battery out midway is no big deal. At the end of the day the handle flips down and you could store this thing on a shelf if you were so inclined.

Overall I can’t get over how much I like my new electric mower. No more messing with gas, and oil changes. It’s light weight provides it with several advantages and makes it perform better than the old mower on our lawn, which I have to say, our lawn is probably a harsher environment than any suburban lawn out there. We have weeds and ruts everywhere and the mower was perfect.  I’m pretty sure my four-year-old or mother could use this mower, it’s so easy to push. I don’t see any viable reason why I would ever go back to a gas mower.  Maintenance wise all I’ll have to do is replace the batteries every few years and sharpen the blade. This is the future of lawn care in my (virtually professional) opinion. It’s already great and only going to get better. I’m really happy with the mower, granted I’ve only used it once.  I’ll keep you posted if I have any issues but so far so good.

(Note: I have a video showing how quiet the mower is but I can’t post it on WordPress without paying $60 to post videos. If I post the video to YouTube (presumably for free) I’ll let you know.)