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How to reset Philips Illuminate Lights

Posted in holiday, Household Tips, howto, repair by commorancy on December 1, 2018

img_4242When trying to connect to my Philips Illuminate strand of lights this year, for whatever reason the Philips Illuminate iOS app is no longer finding them. It took me a while to find these instructions to reset the control box. Here’s how I solved the problem. Let’s explore.

Philips Illuminate

This product had great beginnings, but unfortunately Philips has decided not to continue developing and improving either the app or the product. It is an expensive product which required the purchase of a control box and a strand of lights (startup kit)… the control box being the most costly item to buy. Typical strands of LED lights cost around half or less (even cheaper if you pick them up on clearance) compared to the Illuminate strands. However, the Illuminate strands of lights offered chasing lights and many colors, similar to Philips Hue. I think I may have spent $60-$75 or so to buy into the starter kit product with a small strand of lights. Pricey for the strand size. It also offers the ability to chain light strands together making the system expandable.

At the time, I invested into the Illuminate product because Philips had also created the Philips Hue system and I thought they might eventually merge the two product lines together. No such luck. Worse, the light programming options of the strand is far less programmable than one might hope. I was expecting improvements that just never materialized.

Improvements and Features

If you’re just hearing about Illuminate lights this year, then let me explain some of the gripes for this product. While the starter kit does come with the control box, the control box does not offer any kind of networking interface with IFTTT, Amazon Alexa or any other similar control systems. The control box is just a “dumb” box. Its purpose is only to allow for connectivity for the Illuminate app and to provide light effects for the connected strand(s) . The control box has no ability to turn the lights on or off. When power is applied, the lights always turn on.

You can still find the Illuminate lighting on sale at Target. However, the add-on strands themselves cost around $30-$50 per strand. If you need a starter kit, expect to spend about $75 or more.

To add the ability to control the power to the lights remotely, you’ll need to purchase a WeMo smart plug or similar networked plug sold separately. These plugs support Alexa, Apple HomeKit, IFTTT and other networking features. Adding a smart plug lets you control the lights on a schedule via their apps or by voice via a home assistant like Alexa.

Control Box

The control box itself is the heart of this system and allows for WiFi connectivity so the Illuminate app can control the light programming. It also handles the LED light sequencing. When the app was first released, they offered 17 different light patterns which include a variety of chasing options, fading options, twinkling and steady options. Today, we still have those same 17. There is a customize option, but it’s limited to Twinkle, Fade and Chasing.

Unfortunately, the one light programming option I wanted doesn’t exist. Specifically, I want the lights to each change from one color to the next individually and randomly rather than all at once. This one doesn’t exist. A small problem compared to what I faced when attempting to reprogram my strand this year.

For the last two years, I have been able to launch the iOS app and have it find and see the control box just fine on WiFi. For whatever reason, this year it no longer works. As a result, I can no longer program the lighting strand from my phone. I had also lost the instruction guide for this product long ago. Here’s what I saw when I attempted to control my light strand:

img_4243

I’m all, WTF? Rescanning does nothing. As there is no physical reset button on the control box to factory reset with a paperclip or similar method, I had to resort to scouring the Internet to find a solution. Unfortunately, the search engines didn’t turn up much right at the top for how to factory reset the Illuminate lights.

If you have run into the issue where your control box can no longer be found by your iOS or Android app, it’s likely that the control box is not registering itself properly on WiFi. Because there’s no troubleshooting as to why this is happening and after finding the reset instructions, I decided to use the Direct connection approach to control my lights. At least it works for the few times I need to make changes. It’s not handy for the audio/music feature, but it works for the standard light programming.

Resetting the System

To reset a Philips Illuminate control box, you’ll need to perform the following actions:

  1. Turn off or disconnect the power to the control box… wait 3-5 seconds
  2. Apply power to the control box… wait 3-5 seconds
  3. Perform steps 1 and 2 three or four times successively until the light strand begins flashing on and off. This signals that the control box has factory reset and you can stop this process.

If you find that after performing steps 1 and 2 multiple times doesn’t cause the strand to flash on and off, keep performing it until it does. If you can’t get the lights to flash, then you may not be waiting long enough or you are waiting too long between power off and on. Try waiting longer or shorter intervals between power toggling.

Note that factory resetting the device loses its knowledge of any WiFi devices it knew about including passwords. This means you’ll need to set this up again from the Illuminate app (instructions below).

Factory Reset

At this step, you’ll want to make sure you have the Philips Illuminate app installed on whatever device you’re wanting to use to control your lights. For Android, go to Google Play and search for and install Philips Illuminate. For Apple, navigate to the App store and install it. You’ll need this app for the next steps.

Once the control box is factory reset, it no longer attempts to connect to whatever previous WiFi network it once knew. The control box now goes back into initial setup mode and it creates an access point of its own. The new access point SSID will look like PhilipsACCF235B6838 or similar. For this article, I will assume the access point ID to be named PhilipsACCF235B6838. When you are performing this on yours, it will obviously be named something different. You can rename this SSID if you want, but I left it as it is because it doesn’t identify what the product is. It also doesn’t broadcast this SSID very far anyway, which is why you need to be close to it.

If you have installed multiple control boxes all handling different strands of lights around your property, then it would make sense to rename each SSID to a name that identifies which strand it is and where it is located. Renaming in this instance makes sense. For a single control box handling a single strand like mine, renaming is not important.

At this point, you’ll want to open your iOS or Android phone and navigate to the Android or iOS settings area where you can connect to a WiFi access point. Once in settings, wait for your device to scan looking for new access points. Once it finds PhilipsACCF235B6838 (or however yours is numbered), click on the it to connect. Note that you may need to be within a few feet of the control box for this to work. Don’t try to do this from a different room in the house.

Once connected, it will prompt you for a password. The default password is 12345678. Depending on which method you choose to try next will determine if you need to change that password.

WiFi Network Setup vs Direct Setup

There are two ways to go at this point. You can have your Illuminate control box connect to your local WiFi lan network or you can use a direct connection. I couldn’t get mine to connect to my local WiFi network for whatever reason. I think someone has set something up in my complex causing massive interference. I fill in the correct WiFi network details, but the app is never able to find the control box on my local WiFi network. So, I reset it again and this time I chose the Direct connection method to manage the lights. Slightly more of a hassle, but it at least works.

Network Setup

After connecting your phone to the WiFi access point PhilipsACCF235B6838 from your device settings, launch the Illuminate app. Once the app loads, it should find control box, the app may show you the control box screen (below) or it may jump into the setup screen. This screen below is what you should see each time you start the Illuminate app regardless of whether you choose Direct WiFi or connect the control box to your local lan via WiFi.

control-box

If not in the setup screen already, select the menu icon in the upper left of the screen and choose ‘Setup Wizard’. From here you can either setup the device for Direct connection or WiFi lan connection like so:

img_4237

If you want to use a WiFi lan connection, then click CONNECT CONTROL BOX TO LOCAL WI-FI. On the next screen, scroll the screen to find the access point you want to connect to and click it.

Illuminate-WiFi

Next, enter the password for the SSID you’ve chosen.

img_4240-1

Make sure the password you enter is correct. The Illuminate App should verify the correctness of the password you enter in this field, but if the password changes on the access point, it will no longer work. I can’t guarantee that the app will verify the password you enter here, so make sure it’s correct.

If you want to use the direct connect method to manage your light strands, then click USE A DIRECT CONNECTION and then follow the screen prompt that comes next:

direct-connect-control-box

From here, you’ll need to change the password you want to use on your control box going forward. This is the password change screen. It changes the password on the WiFi password you will use to connect to the SSID WiFi access point in the control box. You can also change your SSID for your control box on this screen, but I left mine as it is. After you CONFIRM the password, as the screen states, the control box will restart. Once the control box restarts, you’ll need to reconnect to your Philips SSID via WiFi settings on iOS or Android. You may need to forget the old network as it may have remembered the older 12345678 password. Then, reconnect and enter the new password you just entered in the screen above.

Security Tip: you should always change default passwords included with devices because anyone can easily find the default password on the Internet.

Once your WiFi has connected to the access point, relaunch the Illuminate app and it should take you to the screen that looks like so which should immediately find your control box:

control-box

Click the check box like above and press Enter to manage your light strands like normal.

Failure is not an option

If after going through the above steps to reconnect the control box to your local WiFi network, you find that your Illuminate app still cannot locate the control box on your local WiFi network on startup (what happened to mine), you’ll need to use the direct connection to control your lights. If you cannot connect to the control box after a factory reset, your control box may be damaged.

As always, if this article was helpful to you, please consider leaving a comment and following my blog for future helpful advice. If you could please share this article on Twitter and other social media, it would help me out 👍.

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Randocity Tech Holiday Shopping Guide

Posted in giving, holiday, video game by commorancy on November 23, 2018

GiftBoxIn the spirit of the upcoming holidays, I offer the Randocity Tech Holiday Shopping Guide otherwise known as the How-to-avoid-technology-pitfalls Guide. Let’s explore.

Purpose

The purpose of this guide is two-fold. First, it’s designed to help you choose various electronics and video game gifts. Second, it’s design to keep you from falling into pitfalls with said gift purchases, to help minimize returns / exchanges by selecting an incompatible item and to help avoid making you look like you don’t know what you’re buying.

Let’s get started…

Xbox One Wired Microphone + Headset

Here’s one gift where you might think it would be easy to locate a functional item. Thanks to Microsoft, you would be incorrect.

🛑 Pitfall: Even though the Xbox One does have a 3.5mm jack on the controller, it only accepts certain compatible chat headphone accessories. If you’re planning on buying a chat headset for someone with an Xbox One, you should check the box for the words Universal, Xbox One and/or Samsung / Android compatibility. The problem… The Xbox One is only compatible with headsets wired for use on Samsung / Android devices or devices specifically labeled compatible with the Xbox one.

👎 This means you cannot buy any Apple compatible headphones with a 3.5mm jack and have the microphone work. The stereo output will work, but the microphone will not. If you’re unsure of the compatibility of the headset, ask the store, search the manufacturer’s web site or find another brand.

✅ Instead, look for and purchase wired headsets that list Samsung, Android, Xbox One or Universal on the box only.

🔥 Note that it is getting more difficult to find boxes labeled for Android or Samsung as most Android devices understand this incompatibility and have built their latest devices to support either headphone type. This has caused more confusion rather than helping solve the problem.

👍 Gaming headsets change yearly and offering a specific recommendation means this advice will be out of date by this time next year. I will say, Turtle Beach quality isn’t great so steer clear of this brand. If you stick with Sony branded headsets for the PS4, you should be good there. Microsoft doesn’t make high quality headsets, so you’ll have to buy from third parties for the Xbox One. I personally have a Plantronics RIG 500 Pro HC and can recommend this as a good basic quality headset. The fidelity is decent, but not perfect. Some reviewers of this headset have complained of the microphone breaking quickly.

PS4 or Xbox One Wireless Chat Headsets

Here’s another gift idea like the above, but it too has a big pitfall. I’ll break it out by console version.

🛑PS4 Pitfall: While the PS4 does have Bluetooth capabilities, it doesn’t support the AVRCP or A2DP profiles. Instead, the PS4 only supports the HSP (HeadSet Profile). This profile is a lesser used profile throughout the industry and it doesn’t support the same quality stereo output as AVRCP and A2DP. For this reason, you can’t go and buy just any Bluetooth chat headset and assume it will work. For example, the Apple Airpods do not work on the PS4. Randocity recommends not even looking at Bluetooth headphones for the PS4 as greater than 97% of them won’t work.

✅ Instead, you’ll need to buy headphones specifically designed for the PS4, and these typically come with a dongle for Wireless. For example, Sony’s Gold Wireless headphones. There are other brands from which to choose, but be sure that the box is labeled with either PS4 or Universal console compatibility.

🛑Xbox One Pitfall: The Xbox One doesn’t support Bluetooth at all. This makes it a little bit easier when gift shopping in that you can entirely avoid looking at Bluetooth headphones at all.

✅ Instead, you’ll want to look for wireless chat headphone boxes that have either Universal and/or Xbox One printed on it. As long as you make sure to look for this printing on the box, then this headphone will work.

🔥 Many places don’t allow you to listen to a gaming headset’s sound quality. You’ll have to buy the headset untried. Whether any specific headphone sounds good, that’s a personal preference. You can’t take into account your gift recipient’s personal tastes in how they like their headphones to sound. However, if you avoid buying headphones priced below $40, the headphones should provide fair to good sound quality. Below the $100 price point, don’t expect those deep rich bass drivers, though. Though, headphone drivers have drastically improved in recent years and the sub $100 price point tends to be much better quality than what you would have found in the early 00s and 90s.

👍 Randocity recommends a visit your local Best Buy or Gamestop or even Amazon and see which wireless gaming headphones are on sale. I might suggest a gift card which avoids the situation and lets the gamer pick their own brand.

Video Game Controller for iPad or iPhone

Here’s another area that would seem easy, but it isn’t. Apple requires a specific hardware certification for all game controllers called MFi. This makes it a little more tricky to find a controller that works.

🛑 Pitfall: There are many game controllers on the market including Microsoft’s Xbox One controller, PlayStation 4’s DualShock controller and even Nintendo’s Pro controller. Don’t be fooled into thinking you can get these to work. Even though all of the aforementioned controllers are Bluetooth, that doesn’t mean they’ll work on the iPad. None of them have the MFi certification. Avoid buying one of these “other” controllers as you cannot get it to work.

✅ Instead, look for and buy only MFi certified controllers, such as the SteelSeries Nimbus controller. Not only does this controller charge using a Lightning cable, it is fully compatible with all Apple devices including the iPhone, iPad, Apple TV and even MacOS.

👍 Randocity recommends the SteelSeries Nimbus controller for Apple devices as it feels the most like a PS4 or Xbox Controller.

Newest iPad and Headphones

With the introduction of the latest iPad using USB-C, this throws yet another dilemma into the works for gift purchasing. This problem also underscores why Apple should never have removed the headphone jack from its devices.

🛑 Pitfall: With the introduction of the current home-buttonless iPad, you’ll also find the unwelcome surprise of a USB-C charging port. This means that any Apple headphones (other than the Airpods) won’t work on this newest iPad. To use either a pair of Lightning or 3.5mm jack headphones, you’ll need an adapter.

✅ Instead, pick up a pair of Bluetooth headphones which will remain compatible with all Apple devices going forward.

🔥 Apple insists on changing its port standards regularly. As a result, you should not buy into any specialty jack wired Apple headphones. If you want to buy any wired headphones, buy the 3.5mm jack version and eventually Apple will create an adapter to its newest port. Since every other device on the planet still supports a 3.5mm jack, you can use these headphones on every other device. Buying Lightning or USB-C headphones means you’ll be extremely limited on where those can be used… and when Apple decides to change its port again, those USB-C or Lightning headphones will be useless.

👍 Randocity recommends gifting Apple Airpods for Apple devices. Not only do they sound great, they’re easy to use (mostly) and they’ll remain compatible with future Apple devices… unless, of course, Bluetooth is replaced with a wireless protocol of Apple’s design. The Bluetooth Airpods are also fully compatible with many other Bluetooth devices, including the Amazon Echo. Skip the wires, the hassle and the expensive dongles and go wireless with Apple devices.

DVD, Blu-ray and UltraHD 4K Blu-ray

I find it funny that we still have so many optical disc entertainment formats. DVD as a format was introduced in the late 90s and has survived for so many years. Yet, we also now have Blu-ray and UltraHD Blu-ray.

🛑 Pitfall: Be sure to read the disk case carefully. Even though DVD is typically sold in a different sized case, packaging standards in movie entertainment are loose at best. Be sure to read the package carefully so you are getting the disc you think you are getting. For example, both UltraHD 4K Blu-ray case packages and DVD use black plastic cases. If you’re eyeing the case strictly by color, you could accidentally pick up an UltraHD version of the movie when you wanted the DVD version.

✅ Choose the best format that can be played by your gift receiver’s equipment.

🔥 During the Holiday season, particularly on Black Friday weekend, you’ll find all sorts of content on Doorbusters. Take advantage, but be careful to read the packaging. You don’t want your gift receiver to be surprised that you bough them a Blu-ray when they only have DVD or that you bought them an UltraHD 4K Blu-ray when they only have Blu-ray. Be a careful shopper and read the box and also know what your gift receiver has.

It’s likewise just as bad if you buy a DVD for someone who has an UltraHD 4K TV and Blu-ray player. They won’t want to watch your DVD and will return it for credit towards something else.

Additionally, if you give a DVD or Blu-ray, you may find that they have access to Amazon Prime, Hulu or Netflix. They might already have access to the film or have already watched. So, be cautious.

👍 I’d recommend a gift card intended towards the purchase of a movie. This allows the recipient to buy whatever film they want in whatever format they have. Though, you’ll want to go look up the film and determine its price, then give a gift card that covers that purchase price.

Video Games

Here’s another one you might think can be an easy gift. Unfortunately, it isn’t.

🛑 Pitfall: Video games are very much personal to the gamer. Because there are so many genres and types of games, it can be impossible to choose a game that not only does the gamer not already have, but impossible to choose a game they might actually like.

✅ Instead, because most games are $60, you’ll be safe to give a gift card in the amount of $60 to cover the purchase of the game.

🔥 If your recipient is an adult, the purchase of any game shouldn’t be a problem. However, if your recipient is a minor, then you’ll want to give a gift card to avoid any ESRB rating or content issues that a parent might not want within the game. Avoid becoming “that aunt” or “that uncle” by buying an inappropriate game for a minor. Because video games are a personal taste situation, buying any game blind could end up with a return. I do realize that gift cards are an impersonal gift, but in some situations like video games, it is well worth it to play it safe.

👍 Randocity recommends buying gift cards over buying physical game copies, particularly for minors. If you happen to have a specific game request by the receiver and the parent has approved the game, then by all means buy it. If you’re simply shopping blind, then a gift card is Randocity’s recommendation to avoid this pitfall.

Giving the Gift of Music

Here’s another one that should be easy, but it isn’t. If you’re thinking of buying CDs for your tech savvy friend, you might want to ask some questions first.

🛑 Pitfall: Because of music services like Apple Music and Amazon Unlimited where you get access to nearly Amazon and Apple’s full music catalog, subscribers no longer need to buy CDs. As long as they remain subscribers of these music services, they now have instant access to the most recent music the day of its release.

✅ Instead, it might be wise to avoid this type of content purchase, particularly if you know the person is affluent and a music buff.

🔥 Be careful and ask questions if you’re thinking of gifting a CD. If they have access to Apple Music, Spotify or Amazon Unlimited, buying them a CD may result in a return.

👍 Randocity recommends giving gift cards to iTunes or Amazon instead of buying a specific CD. If you give a gift card, they can apply the amount towards their membership or whatever other merchandise or music they wish. This avoids the awkward look you might get once you find out they already subscribe to Apple Music.

Giving the Gift of an Apple Watch

Thinking of giving someone an Apple Watch for the the holidays? You need to understand the pitfall here.

🛑 Pitfall: An Apple Watch is entirely dependent on an iPhone to function. In order to even get the Apple Watch setup and working as a watch, it must be configured using an iPhone. Further, because the Apple watch only pairs with an iPhone, don’t give it to someone who only has an iPad, iPod touch or iPhone 4 or below. It won’t work. It also won’t work for someone who owns an Android phone.

✅ Instead, if you’re not sure if your gift recipient has an iPhone that will work, I’d suggest getting them a different watch. If the person owns an Android, you’ll want to choose one of the Android watches instead. The Apple Watch doesn’t work at all with Android.

🔥 If you do decide to chance that they own an iPhone, be sure to give them a gift receipt as they may need to return it if they don’t have one.

👎 Randocity recommends avoiding the purchase of an Apple Watch as a gift, particularly if you know the person doesn’t have an iPhone or has an Android phone. This is a particularly tricky gift item and is likely to end up returned if the person doesn’t have an iPhone. If you know the person doesn’t have an iPhone, then you’ll need to gift them both an iPhone and an Apple Watch… which is a whole lot more expensive of a gift than you might have expected to give. For this reason, I thumbs down 👎 giving the Apple Watch as a blind gift. If you are absolutely 100% certain the person you are giving the Apple Watch to has an iPhone, then go for it.

Gift Receipts

👍 Randocity always recommends asking the store for a gift receipt. Then, include it with any gift you give. This allows the recipient to trade it in should they happen to get two copies of the same item.

Happy Holidays!

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