Apple Updates the HomePod mini

I love my HomePod minis, and today there is a new one:

Today, Apple introduced HomePod mini in midnight, made with 100 percent recycled mesh fabric. At just 3.3 inches tall, HomePod mini offers big sound in an impressively compact design. With a seamless, acoustically transparent mesh exterior and a backlit touch surface that illuminates from edge to edge, HomePod mini is a stunning smart speaker that complements any space. HomePod mini in midnight is available starting Wednesday, July 17, and joins other bold colors, including yellow, orange, blue, and white.

A bunch of folks were left scratching their heads because they thought this was an existing color. Turns out, Midnight replaces Space Gray. Here’s a bit from a 2021 press release:

Apple today introduced HomePod mini in three bold new colors — yellow, orange, and blue — giving users more ways to express their personality and style in any space. At just 3.3 inches tall, HomePod mini offers a great music-listening experience, the intelligence of Siri, and smart home capabilities, with privacy and security built in. Its seamless integration across Apple’s products and services make HomePod mini the ultimate smart speaker for anyone with an Apple device. HomePod mini will be available in these new colors, along with white and space gray, with color-matched details throughout, including the tinted touch surface, mesh fabric, volume icons, and woven power cable, starting in November for just $99.

And from 2020:

Apple today unveiled HomePod mini, the newest addition to the HomePod family that delivers impressive sound, the intelligence of Siri to get things done, and a smart home experience that offers comfort and convenience without complexity. At just 3.3 inches tall, HomePod mini is packed with innovative technologies and advanced software that together enable computational audio to deliver breakthrough audio quality wherever it is placed. HomePod mini will be available in white and space gray at a great price of just $99.

This image shows the previous lineup on the left, and the new one on the right. I’m hard-pressed to see the differences between those two dark HomePod minis:

HomePod minis

I’m just glad the orange one has stuck around for so long.

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SpaceX Experiences Rare Falcon 9 Failure

Jay Peters, writing at The Verge:

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket experienced an engine failure after it launched late Thursday night from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The mission, Starlink Group 9-3, was carrying Starlink satellites and failed to reignite its upper second stage after developing a leak. “Upper stage restart to raise perigee resulted in an engine RUD for reasons currently unknown,” Elon Musk said overnight, confirming that the engine experienced a “rapid unscheduled disassembly.”

The Falcon 9 has proved to be a remarkably consistent launch vehicle in recent years, as Jeff Foust writes:

The incident is the first failure, partial or total, for a Falcon since a September 2016 pad explosion during a pre-flight test, destroying the rocket and its communications satellite payload. The last in-flight failure of a Falcon 9 was in June 2015, when the upper stage broke apart during the launch of a cargo Dragon spacecraft.

(I was present for the 2015 failure; it was a wild day.)

Until this failure is understood, the Falcon 9 is grounded, as Stephen Clark reports:

The Federal Aviation Administration, which licenses all commercial space launches in the United States, will require SpaceX to conduct a mishap investigation before resuming Falcon 9 flights.

“The FAA will be involved in every step of the investigation process and must approve SpaceX’s final report, including any corrective actions,” an FAA spokesperson said. “A return to flight is based on the FAA determining that any system, process, or procedure related to the mishap does not affect public safety.”

Two crew missions are supposed to launch on SpaceX’s human-rated Falcon 9 rocket in the next six weeks, but those launch dates are now in doubt.

Neo Network Utility →

The folks at DEVONtechnologies have a new free app out for Mac users, and it’s one that may seem familiar in some great ways:

You want to learn more about your Mac’s current network connection or test if a remote server is still alive or already swimming belly-up? Your connection to a server is slow and you want to find out more about what detours your data packages take on their way to their destination? Or you’re on the hotel Wi-Fi and plan to flip out on the poor network speed based on proper empirical data?

You could use the Terminal for all of this, of course, and type ping or traceroute. But there’s a more Mac-like way: Meet our new Neo Network Utility 1.0. It got you covered with a full range of networking tools for retrieving information about your network adapter and diagnosing common network problems. Netstat, Ping, Lookup, Traceroute, Whois, Finger, Port Scan, and Network Speed, they’re all here in a nice and clean user interface.

Some Early Impressions of the Aqara U200 Smart Lock

Earlier this week, it was announced that Aqara was shipping its new smart lock, the U200.

For a while, I’ve been thinking about a product like this for the door to my studio, so I jumped on it, ordering the $269 lock from Amazon.1

Aqara U200 Smart Lock

I got that scar on my thumb running Ethernet cable through my old house like 12 hours ago. Be careful with knives!

I don’t have much experience with products in this category, but I do have a bunch of Aqara water sensors stashed around the house, under sinks and in the pan for our hot water heater. I’m also a fan of their smart home switches for triggering HomeKit scenes easily.

The U200 integrates with your existing lock by motorizing the interior side of it. In my case, the U200 interfaced with the inside of the deadbolt directly. I pulled the lock apart, mounting the U200’s mounting plate using the screws from my original, old-fashioned lock.

U200 mounting plate

This was pretty easy for me, given two facts:

  • This door and lock were installed only a couple of years ago, so everything is nice and modern.
  • I’m handy and know my way around a deadbolt.

Sadly, Aqara’s installation guide is pretty lackluster, and doesn’t really talk about some of the adjustments that may be necessary in some cases. The package comes with a custom-cut piece of 3M double-sided tape and a few spacers of various thicknesses, but not a lot of detail is given on when to use them. If you’re patient, you’ll work it out, though.

(The other janky part of the experience comes to the Aqara hub. In setup flow for the lock, the app says the new M3 hub is required for Matter integration, but if you have an M2 hub like me, you can expose it to Matter if you drill into its settings. Aqara should make this clear so people don’t needlessly upgrade their hubs.)

Once the plate was attached, the large motorized component screws on. It’s chunky, and a lot of the space is taken up by a removable battery that recharges via a USB-C port.

Aqara Interior Component

The other part of the equation is the keypad, which includes a fingerprint reader and an NFC reader. The keypad can be used outdoors, but I opted to mount mine in between the PodCabin’s main door and its outer screen door to keep it out of sight. As long as its within 2 meters of the lock, Aqara says placement is flexible.

Keypad

This thing runs on several AAA batteries, and slides off a mounting plate that is affixed to the wall with a combination of 3M double-sided tape and screws.

Once everything was in place, I fired up the Aqara iOS app and added the lock to my existing setup. As I mentioned above, I wasn’t able to enable its Matter connection, but everything works just fine without it.

Well, mostly fine. I know this thing has been out for like 2 days, so I can forgive some weirdness, but I had to pull the battery from the lock side of the device to get it to pair with HomeKit. Once it did, iOS walked me through creating my very first HomeKey. Jason Snell wrote about this feature of iOS and watchOS back in 2022, but in short, you can use your device to unlock the door using NFC.2

This means I can unlock my office with my fingerprint, a PIN code, the Aqara app, the Home app, and with my Watch or iPhone. I love that flexibility.

This is obviously not a full-blown review, but I am excited to finally have a reason to explore this part of the smart home landscape. I’m living in the future!

I’ll keep you posted on how all of this goes over the coming months.


  1. With iOS 18, Apple is adding ultra wideband support to HomeKey, but it will require new hardware on the lock side. 

Sofa Launches on Vision Pro and Mac →

Shawn Hickman’s excellent app Sofa has arrived on two more platforms:

I’m happy to announce that Sofa is now available on the Mac and Vision Pro!

I had originally planned to have Sofa ready for Vision Pro when it launched in February, but I was deep in the middle of working on Sofa 4.0 (which launched in April). During May, I was focused mostly on 4.0 bug fixes and prepping for my trip to WWDC in early June.

Up to this point, you’ve technically be able use Sofa’s iPad app on the Mac and Vision Pro, but this new version of Sofa is built specifically for the Mac and Vision Pro. There is still a lot more work to be done for these apps, especially the Mac, but this is a good improvement over the existing iPad versions.

Sofa is one of those cool indie apps that just exudes care. If you’re looking for a way to organize the books you want to read, media you want to watch, and more, Sofa is the perfect app for getting them out of that old Apple Note you’ve been using.