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This smart light switch controls an entire home with one smartphone

(TECH NEWS) If you’re too lazy to get up and change the TV channel, you should never be expected to actually get up and turn on the lights. Am I right? Plum gets ya.

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Another way to never have to get up again

If you’re too lazy to get up and change the TV channel, you should never be expected to actually get up and turn on the lights. Am I right?

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Which is where the genius of the Austin-based Plum company comes into play. Named one of AustinInno’s 16 Austin Tech Companies to Watch in 2016, here at American Genius, we couldn’t agree more.

Flying off the shelves

Plum’s smart light switches, or “Lightpads,” are so popular they can hardly stay in stock, and are reasonably priced at $99 each.

The Plum Lightpad and its corresponding smartphone app allow you to change the lighting in any room in your home from the comfort of your couch, your La-Z-Boy, or whatever else you love to lounge in.

With a slide of the finger

Tapping or sliding your finger up and down on the actual Lightpad or on your smartphone will turn lights on and off or brighten and dim the lights in your home.

You can even customize the “glow color” of your Lightpad to match your color scheme to your personal preference.

Another helpful benefit of the Lightpad is that its constant glow serves as an adult nightlight – no more fumbling around in the dark for the light switch. You’ll always know exactly where it is.

In addition, the Plum Lightpad app also allows you to control multiple lights at the same time. This way you can turn several lights on or off at the same time. On the side of safety; you can control your lights while you’re out of town to keep the burglars away.

But for many in Austin, the best feature is being able to keep an eye on home energy usage in real time! No more waiting until the bill comes to find out your kids have been leaving every light on in the house all day, every day, all month, all summer.

Installation and use

Installation is simple. After you download the app, it’s very easy to set up the Lightpad itself. Start off by turning off the electrical power to the light switch, then remove it by unscrewing the plate and disconnecting the rear wires.

The next step is to attach the Lightpad by connecting the correct corresponding wires and screwing the new unit into place. Attach your faceplate and turn the electrical line back on. Follow the instructions from the Plum app in order to get connected, and it’s really that easy.

The Plum Lightpad is already doing extremely well, but this Austin-based product and company are definitely one to keep an eye on in 2016.

#Plum

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Staff Writer, Abigail White is a wordsmith who hails from the Deep South, having graduated with a degree in Journalism from Auburn University. She is usually reading three books at once, loves history, sarcasm, and arguing over the Oxford comma.

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How this tinkerer became a Full Stack Developer

(TECHNOLOGY) There are so many ways to become a Full Stack Developer – here’s the path a perpetual tinkerer took.

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brandtley mcminn

It all started with Legos. Long before he became a Full Stack Developer, Brandtley McMinn was a curious child with a mechanical mind, obsessed with Legos (as any mechanically inclined child is). He was a born tinkerer, raised in a home that was partially built by his father’s hands (a fellow tinkerer).

McMinn graduated from Legos to tinkering with lawnmowers, and eventually cars.

In high school, he picked up a programming course at the same time as digging into a book on game programming. Most stories would lead to someone becoming a world class game developer, but this combo was a false start for McMinn.

Like many others, he notes that false starts are common on the path to becoming a developer, and the key is to take a mental break and try again later.

And try, he did.

His senior year of high school, he joined the robotics club, and they needed a webmaster. On a whim, he took to the project and learned HTML and then CSS as the programming language was still new. This became his foundation.

Going to college for the game development program was another false start as he was blocked from taking those courses in his first year at Austin Community College due to prerequisite credits.

So the following year, he signed up for the Web Interactive program. He already had WordPress development under his belt, and he sought to add design skills and more technical knowledge to his repertoire, and to become a more well-rounded developer.

Today, McMinn is a Full Stack Developer for a company whose back end stack is Lumin with some PHP (which was already in his wheelhouse), and Angular on the front end.

He calls the combination comfortable and enjoyable.

His path was that of a curious tinkerer that blossomed into a skilled developer who is endlessly inquisitive and perpetually learning.

McMinn believes the biggest hurdle to becoming a Full Stack Developer is discovering your aptitude and interest.

He recommends experimenting with free or inexpensive online courses, asserting that someone that believes they’re interested in front end should to go to Udemy, find a course that has good ratings, and just try one – he says you could spend $10 on an afternoon-long course on Angular and know whether or not it’s for you.

Experiment. Dig. Keep digging. Keep testing.

McMinn says the trickiest part of becoming a Full Stack Developer is finding where you want to fit in, and then doing the work to discover your interests and aptitudes. There is no ideal path, but moving past this learning curve is tricky for many.

Self starters will thrive as developers, McMinn says, and will dive in and have a desire to learn. People that can move past the inevitable false starts will flourish.

Personalities that prefer to silo themselves away from the team or that believe they know everything, will not likely thrive in the ever-evolving world of development, he notes.

So what’s next for McMinn? He has ample side projects and hobbies that he enjoys, that allow him to continue creating with his hands, and has the entrepreneurial itch, so we anticipate he’ll someday soon be the boss as he continues to tinker.

Connect with McMinn on GitHub.

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Brandmark makes branding and re-branding a breeze

(TECH NEWS) If you’re a small business looking for branding or to re-brand but don’t have the time nor budget, this tool can help you get it done!

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AI brandmanaging

AI is growing, now it can even be your own personal graphic designer.

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The new company Brandmark uses AI to create custom brand identities in minutes. All you need to do is describe your business and leave the designing up to them.

Brandmark

Brandmark describes their system as “more than just a logo,” as they aid people in developing an entire brand identity. This includes a complete style guide, color scheme and even a WordPress compatible website template.

It is the perfect tool for small businesses and entrepreneurs who may not have the budget to hire an in-house designer to join their team.

The creators of Brandmark have attempted to give the platform personal elements as well, so that you can understand the design decisions and even have the chance to make it your own.

Easy peasy

The process is as simple as it can get. All that Brandmark requires is for you to type in a few keywords that best describe your business. For example, a coffee shop might type in “coffee, hot, lounge, mocha, books, relaxation.” These keywords are anything that can be associated with your brand so it is important to include adjectives as well. Consider how you want customers to feel when they see your product or walk into your shop for the first time.

All of these details will help Brandmark create a unique and personal identity for you.

The creators of the tool wanted it to feel like a true designer. That is why they have developed a system that understands design principles. After creating a look, Brandmark will explain the design choice and how it relates to your brand. In addition, you have access to features that allow you to customize the design.

Just like any professional service, Brandmark provides a style guide that can be used to apply your brand - including logo, color scheme and font - to various type of products. Click To Tweet

For instance, the same coffee shop would know how to apply their logo to coffee cups, bags, mugs and menus by following the guide. In addition, website layouts are offered to get your online business started. It’s an all-in-one package to get your business up and running with a professional look.

Give it a shot

Brandmark is currently in beta testing and is available for anyone to sign up and try.

#Brandmark

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Yodatai: the intelligent chatbot that is will wind up any data lovers’ gears

(TECH NEWS) The newest chatbot is about to change your world for good. Yodatai is all about helping you, not pretending to.

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Makin’ waves

The digital data gurus at Knoema have recently announced their release of their messenger-first chatbot, Yodatai.

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This is exciting, as even though chatbots themselves are not new, Yodatai is the “first-ever AI interface to connect with both public and industry data corporate BI databases.”

Awwww, yeah!

Unless you are an analyst or data maven, you may be curious as to what is exciting about this release. After all, for many, the term “chatbot” does not have the best connotation- often bringing up memories of the essentially useless chatbots so commonly found in the “Help” section of a website. And, you know, spam.

But nay, dear reader, this isn’t that old AOL Instant Messenger chatbot you interacted with when you literally had nothing else to do (except for homework).

Yodatai, as far as I can tell, actually seems incredibly useful.

Yodatai

As Yodatai is a messenger-first bot, you can ask her (him? it?) questions directly from your messenger application of choice. Currently, Knoema states that the bot is fully compatible with Slack, Facebook Messenger, Skype, Telegram, Twitter and E-Mail.

It is likely that more messenger-services will be added to this list over time.

Need some information regarding crude oil manufacturing in the Middle East? Ask Yodatai. Need to fact-check a tweet? Send a tweet @Yodatai so the bot can lay the fact down on these fools. (Get it? Like lay the smack down? People still say that, right?) Drawing from Knoema’s ever-increasing database of public information (which the company quotes at “2.5 billion time series from thousands of sources”), Yodatai is sure to have information on pretty much whatever you need.

Connectivity: A+

Even more useful, however, is her ability to connect with private databases. Currently, the bot integrates with the Amplitude analytics platform and more pre-built integrations are in the works.

So, for example, if one needed to know the number of registered users for their website, they could ask Yodatai.

Similarly, if they needed some more in-depth information regarding a product or project, they could, theoretically, ask Yodatai. And, unlike the Jedi Master with whom she shares an eerily similar name, answers are provided in a full sentence, easy-to-read format. Proper syntax and everything.

She’s not a know it all… yet

There will be, of course, questions that Yodatai may be unable to answer. These more complex inquiries may require human assistance, and in the event of such a question being asked, the chatbot will transparently get Knoema’s data experts involved.

As stated on the website, “she learns from them.”

Maybe it’s just me, but images of an ultra-high-functioning, eerily coherent digital baby cannot help but spring to mind.

Yes, please

Needless to say, Yodatai will likely save a ton of time regarding data research and acquisition. No word has been given yet how much access to the chatbot will cost, but many will likely find the cost to be well worth it.

And, as a bonus, as she primarily deals with data, it’s unlikely she will attempt to eliminate humanity! Pretty solid win, if you ask me.

#Yodatai

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